15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 11a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate state whether the Government has received any reports from the members of the ministerial delegation now overseas regarding conferences attended by them, and when will the delegation return to Australia?
– Reports have been received from the Ministers. Several conference have been attended by them, and their reports are being considered by the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet. It is believed that the delegationwill be able to leave London towards the end of July, if not sooner.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
With reference to the Prime Minister’s statement that the export of iron ore from Australia is to be prohibited, but that 146,000 tons canbe exported, under contract, before the end of the year -
What company or companies are tobe permitted to export this 140,000 tons of ore?
Where is its destination.
Is any of it to be exported from Yampi ; if not, why not?
– The Prime Ministerhas supplied the following answer: -
The Government has ascertained that, if the prohibition of exports of iron one is rigidly enforced as from the 1st July, shipping companies and consumers, who may not, in the short time available, be able to make any alternative arrangements, may suffer hardship. Some boats arc already on the water to lift ore, and certain of these boats are expected to carry other commodities from Australia. In these circumstances it has been decided to permit the export, under licence, of quantities of ore which were arranged for prior to the Prime Minister’s announcement on the 19th May, and which will not have been shipped before the 1st July, provided that the shipments are made on or before the 31st December. The current contracts affected by this decision arc between Messrs. Brown and Dureaa of Melbourne and Japanese interests for 80,094 tons, and between the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limitedand United States of America interests for the shipment of from 55,000 to 60,000 tons. The whole of the ore will be taken from Whyalla, South Australia.
Housing of Public Servants
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
How many Commonwealth public servants residing in Canberra are awaiting the construction of homes? If this number exceeds the number of homes proposed to be erected during the year . 1938-39, will provision be made on the forthcoming Estimates for a home for every public servant requiring one?
– The Minister for the Interiorhas furnished the following answer : -
The number of public servants requiring accommodation is 28 including seven who, it is understood, are to be married during the financial year 1938-39. There will be ample accommodation for these officers. Besides the public servants who are permanent officers of the Commonwealth, there arc 53 temporary employees requiring accommodation; also 30 exempt employees. It is anticipated that the number of homes proposed to be erected (luring the year 1938-39 will he sufficient to accommodate the public servants and temporary employees employed by the Commonwealth in Canberra.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In connexion with the King’s birthday parade of troops in Melbourne recently -
What was the parade strength of the permanent army units, Royal Australian Air Force,Royal Australian Naval Reserve and militia, omitting bandsmen and cadets, respectively?
What was the parade percentage strength to establishment of the infantry, omitting country centres, bandsmen and cadets?
– The information will be obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers: -
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 23rd June (vide page 2594).
Clause 4 (Definitions).
– I move -
That, after the definition of “ employed contributors “, the following definition be inserted : - “ employer “ means any person whose taxable income within the meaning of section six of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1937 exceeds Two hundred and eight pounds for the year next preceding a contribution year.
In my second-reading speech, I drew attention to the fact that I intended to submit this amendment, the main object of which is to give relief from contributions under this measure to about 260,000 primary producers, who have no taxable income at all, and also to othei’3 engaged, in the agricultural, pastoral and dairying industries, whose taxable income does not exceed £4 a week. Official statistics supplied to me show that 110,450 farmers, who are classified as employers, are engaged in wheat-fanning, fruit, sugar and tobacco-growing, market gardening and other farming pursuits, including grazing, and dairy-farming. These employ outside labour regularly. There are a further 162,170 farmers who are classified as working on their own account, which means that they carry on their farms almost entirely with their own labour, and that of their wives and families, a family often including two or three sons. I find it hard to believe that many, even these 162,170 primary producers who are working their properties on their own account, do not employ some labour at seasonal periods. In addition, none of the 272,620 producers, many of whom are to be called upon to contribute ls. 6d. a week for each employee for the first five years, and after that 2s. a week, is to receive any insurance benefit under the scheme. There is also a large number of small employers throughout Australia who have very small incomes. I refer to such persons as small country and suburban shopkeepers, dressmakers who may employ one or two girls, and owners of small businesses who, owing to depressed conditions in the agricultural industries, often have very small or no taxable incomes. If they have not an income of £4 a week, they should not be asked to pay the employer contribution, particularly when it is remembered that those who will receive the benefits of this bill as wageearners earn up to £7 a week. The figure which I have placed in my amendment, £208 a year, is about the basic wage in most of the States, and that is a fair limit for the exemption of small employers.
I think that the Minister (Senator A. J. McLachlan) said yesterday that this measure, in its present form, was undoubtedly unjust to small farmers and small employers. If that is so, my amendment would provide the only real relief that could be given to this section, which comprises 372,620 employer farmers and graziers, and others working on their own account. These are the very backbone of Australia, for this country depends chiefly on the export industries. What supports the big cities more than the small rural homesteads scattered throughout the length and. breadth of Australia, in which the farmers eke out a frugal existence by working long hours? Their employees work long hours, too. This exemption should be given to the whole of this worthy section, which is so largely responsible for the success of our economic structure, and on which, more than any other, the burden of meeting our overseas responsibilities rests. This section, comprising over a quarter of a million people, includes all the farmers and graziers and other land-holders who are engaged in the unsheltered export industries, and cannot pass on any of the costs which they will be compelled to bear in regard to the employer contributions under this measure. A great deal of those costs will, however, be passed on to their already overburdened shoulders by the people in the secondary and other sheltered industries, who cater for the Australian market under our protective tariff, and can pass the burden on to the consumers, generally, and to the workers and the producers, particularly.
I have before me a return prepared by the Bureau of Census and Statistics showing the number of farmers and pastoralists assessed for Federal income tax purposes during 1934-35 on incomes earned in the financial year 1932-33. In that period the number of farmers who paid Federal income tax was 9,404, many of whom are receiving under £208 per year, and the number of pastoralists was 3,573 or a total of 12,977 taxpayers. It will be seen that of the 272,000 engaged in the farming, grazing and agricultural industries only 12,977 pay any Federal . income tax at all. A great majority of them - conditions are better now than they were in 1933 - have no taxable income at all. Seeing that the primary producers are the main bulwark of the Commonwealth those receiving under £4 a week should be relieved of the responsibility to contribute to this scheme as employers.
– The Federal exemption is exceptionally high.
– If the honorable senator does not wish to assist the primary producers he can oppose my amendment or move another amendment. If the Government will not exempt persons receiving £208 a year it should at least exempt the 260,000 who have no taxable income.
– A married man earning £365 a year with a wife and two dependent children does not pay any Federal income tax.
– If the honorable senator is opposed to my amendment he is at liberty (to move that those who have no taxable income shall be exempt, and should my scheme fail T shall support him. Is it -fair to our primary producers to exempt city workers and others and, at the same time decline to grant a similar exemption to those who are carrying out rural work under most arduous conditions? If the Government does not accept this amendment it will be performing the “ cuckoo “ act on the Australian farmers. Honorable senators are aware that the cuckoo is a bird that selects the nest of a bird about onehalf of its own size, casts out the eggs that may be in the nest, lays its own eggs in the nest and leaves upon the small bird the responsibility to hatch the eggs and feed the young. If the Government does not give this exemption to the small farmers of Australia it is acting as a political cuckoo by placing the responsibilities of others upon the 272,000 farmers, graziers and pastoralists. I ask the Government not to treat the farmers of Australia in the way in which the cuckoo treats other smaller birds by placing the responsibility of the strong upon the weak, that is, by placing a cuckoo’s insurance egg in the nest of the struggling farmers. Every farmer in Australia will understand the parable when he has to pay heavily for the insurance of others and receives no benefit for himself or his family from his payments. Many of the producers on whose behalf I am speaking are on the breadline, and the wheat industry alone has a debt of £151,000,000. ‘ I confidently commend the amendment to honorable senators who in the past have always been sympathetic towards the under-dog. T claim that the 270,000 producers whose incomes are le3S than £20S a year, and 260,000 of whom have no taxable incomes at all should be granted the exemption sought by this amendment.
– During my speech on the second reading of this bill I said that I welcomed the promise that had been given by the Government that consideration would be given to that important section of the community to .whom Senator. Johnston has referred. The arguments adduced by the honorable senator are in the main sound, and, as a representative of country interests I cannot do other than support the amendment. I am however paired on this amendment with Senator Crawford, and although I shall not be voting I should like honorable senators to understand that I support the principle which it embodies.
– I intend to support the amendment moved by Senator Johnston, but I am not sufficiently “ cuckoo “ to believe that it will be sympathetically considered by the Government. I also believe that some farmers are “ cuckoo when they persist in returning representatives to this Parliament who are pledged to assist the primary producers, but who, when the opportunity occurs, decline to assist them. The members of the United Australia party and of the Country party speak sympathetically of the farmers but they are always in the front trenches with those who are farming the farmers. Senator Abbott is adopting the usual attitude.
– I am supporting the amendment.
– I am pleased that such is the case. It is somewhat unusual for a member of the Country party. This amendment is worthy of the most serious consideration by the Government. The supporters of the Government in this chamber, as in the House of Representatives, have said that the exclusion of certain small. farmers and others is unjust, but they have not yet been exempted from paying the contributions for those whom they employ, or provided with any means by which they can benefit from this scheme. We have been informed that the Government intends to provide for them in some other way, but no definite pronouncement in this respect, has been made; at least, it has not been made to the Opposition. The Government may have been able to satisfy the members of the United Australia party and of the Country party, but no definite assurance has been given to the Opposition; and I am, therefore, not prepared to accept the statement of the Minister that the primary producers will be relieved under some other scheme of the unjust burden it is proposed to place on them. Possibly the exclusion of small farmers may upset the actuarial basis, but it is unjust to ask persons earning only a small income, many of whom have been struggling along under adverse circumstances, to contribute towards benefits for others, many of whom are financially in a better position than they are. The adoption of a policy of economic nationalism in other countries results in the products of primary producers having to be sold on the markets of the world at unprofitable prices. It is unwise of the Government to inflict this additional burden on people who are quite unable to bear it. In the House of Representatives the Government gave sympathetic consideration to the request of its supporters, but when the test was applied the farmers, as usual, were left to “ stew in their own juice “.
– I fully appreciate the attitude which Senator Johnston always adopts towards a very deserving section of the community, but as I informed the Senate yesterday, if we include other sections we must also increase the rate of contribution in order to have a stable scheme of national insurance. If we fail to keep that fundamental principle in view we shall be getting into serious trouble. I trust that this amendment, which is closely associated with certain economic problems, will be discussed calmly and dispassionately, and that we shall do the right thing in the interests of a very important section of the people. Senator Johnston cited the number of farmers who paid Federal income tax, but I remind the honorable senator that a married man with a dependent wife and two children, earning £365 a year does not pay any Federal income tax, therefore, the number cited by the honorable senator who pay Federal income tax does not carry very much weight. One of the greatest problems which this Parliament has to face is the degree to which it can assist the primary producers who have to carry the burden of shorter hours in other industries and excessive taxation, and who are now being asked to carry the additional burden imposed under this measure. Generally speaking, farmers work 70 hours a week and not 40 or 44, as is the case of workers in sheltered secondary industries. The great problem confronting the man* on the land to-day is how to reduce his costs of production. The wheat-growers have, to sell their product in the markets of the world at world parity and are unable to make a profit while world parity remains low. They are handicapped not only by the added costs resulting from the reductions of working hours in some industries and by excessive tariff duties, but also by having to make contributions in respect of social services the cost of which will be greatly increased as the result of this bill. Their difficulties have been further increased as the result of the adoption of policies of intense nationalism by Germany, Italy and France, once good customer countries for Australian wheat, resulting in the placing of tariffs on imported wheat ranging -up to 7s. 6d. a bushel. The primary producers in this country are in a precarious position largely because of the absence of a home-consumption price for their products. I congratulate my honorable friends opposite from Queensland on their efforts to have placed on the statutebook legislation to fix a homeconsumption price for wheat. Owing to the failure of the marketing proposals submitted to a referendum of the people, however, the efforts of the National Parliament to provide for a home-consumption price for wheat have been negatived. Every honorable senator appreciates the difficulty of providing Commonwealth assistance for the wheat-growers this year except by the payment of a bounty out of general revenue. My honorable friends opposite do not favour the imposition of a flour tax. This year the total invalid and old-age pensions hill of the Commonwealth will reach the enormous sum of £16,000,000. The total quantity of wheat produced in Australia in a normal year is 160,000,000 bushels. If we were to provide for the wheat-growers an amount similar to that provided for the invalid and old-age pensioners it would be possible to pay a bounty of 2s. in respect of each bushel of wheat produced in Australia ; but if it were announced that, in view of the depressing state of affairs in the wheat industry, the Government proposed to provide a bounty of 2s. a bushel on all wheat produced in Australia involving an expenditure of £16,000,000 what would the taxpayers of this country say? Yet, in my opinion, the wheat growers are entitled to that measure of assistance. I have never been able to understand the attitude of the Labour party that additional costs can be passed on. I venture to say that this new-fangled idea of a 40-hour week will place upon the primary producers greater . burdens than any other innovation we have had in recent years.
– Order! I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the bill.
– In . order to weigh properly the effect of the amendment moved by Senator Johnston, we must consider the economic position of that section of the community which he desires to assist. Though I favour the assistance of primary producers to compensate them for the added cost brought about by the introduction of the 40-hour week in certain industries, and by excessive tariff duties, I am unable to support the amendment moved by the honorable senator because, in my opinion, it will not place the primary producer on a sounder financial basis, and because it is not in keeping with the established policy of this country. The problem of the wheat-grower should be kept entirely separate from the question of national insurance. Let us for a moment analyse the effect of the amendment on this bill. In every scheme of national insurance in operation in other countries of the world it has been found impossible to include employers. If we follow the effect of Senator Johnston’s amendment to its logical conclusion, what will be the posi tion of the primary producer during the year in which he makes a profit of £1,000? What would be the position of some of our great manufacturing industries whose operations result in a profit in one year and a loss in another?
– The honorable senator may exclude companies.
– If companies are excluded during the year in which they make a loss and included in the year in which they make a profit, what would be the position of General Motors-Holdens and others who have made losses as well as profits?
– Companies are not included in my amendment but the honorable senator can move to include them.
– I suggest that differentiation of this sort can only result in an unholy muddle. Would the honorable senator suggest that because an employer makes a loss during one year he should not be compelled to pay the basic wage? I ask honorable senators to consider the position that arose as the result of this Parliament saying to the wheat-growers, “ If you paid income tax last year you are not entitled to the wheat bounty.” The efficient, hardworking wheat-grower who made a profit was denied the bounty, and some of the money he made was used to pay the bounty to his inefficient nextdoor neighbour who made a loss. The result of this was merely to make the efficient farmer carry his inefficient next-door neighbour.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that small farmers generally are inefficient?
– Ido not; but in my opinion the best way to assist the small farmer is by the fixing of a homeconsumption price for his product. That would put all farmers on the same basis, with the result that the efficient farmers would continue to make a profit and inefficient farmers would go out of business. Eollowing the passing of the legislation providing for a wheat bounty prior to last elections, an inspector of the Farmers’ Assistance Board visited the farm of an efficient, hard-working farmer who worked from daylight till dark. The inspector said that, as the farmer had paid income tax in the preceding year, he was not entitled to assistance from the board. When the inspector visited the next farm he found the farmer in bed. Though the second farmer was inefficient and was unable to make a profit of £208 a year, under the legislation passed by this Parliament he was entitled to the assistance of the wheat bounty at the expense of his efficient neighbour.
In my opinion, unless this amendment is rejected, the administration of the national insurance fund will be very difficult. The amendment strikes at a fundamental principle of the scheme and should not commend itself to honorable senators generally. As I have already said, if a home-consumption price for wheat were fixed, justice would be done to all wheat farmers, efficient and inefficient alike. If that were done the inefficient farmer who could not make £208 a year would be well advised to join the ranks of the employees. I can see in this amendment an attempt at vote-catching, because if it were carried, a large section of the community would benefit; but in view of its effect on the great masses of the people of this country and the injustice it would inflict on efficient farmers, I ask honorable senators to reject it.
TheCHAIRMAN- The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– Before embarking on the discussion of the amendment itself, might I suggest that it should appear in a slightly different form. Although it proposes to exempt certain employers, it does not exempt the employees of those employers, and the contributions otherwise payable by employers in respect of those employees would therefore have to be made by the Commonwealth, which would impose an increased burden on the revenue of the Commonwealth. While it is competent for honorable senators to move amendments qua amendments, under the provisions of the Constitution some amendments will have to take the form of requests, and I ask the honorable senator to submit his proposal in the form of a request.
– I ask leave to do so.
Amendment - by leave - altered to read -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment, after the definition of “employed contributors” insert the following definition: - “ ‘ employer’ means any person whose taxable income within the meaning of section six of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1930-1937 exceeds Two hundred and eight pounds for the year next preceding a contribution year.”.
– In my opinion the figures relating to the non-earning capacity of farmers, quoted by Senator Johnston, do not provide a basis for useful comparison. I realize, of course, that they were taken from the census return of 1933, and were the only figures available to the honorable senator. I am, however, not concerned with farmers, butchers, bakers, applegrowers, or any other classes of persons qua their vocations. The honorable senator’s contention is that some employers are not earning as much as those whom they employ, and that consequently they will suffer an injustice under this legislation. The Prime Minister has already made certain statements on that point. The same difficulty has been encountered in the Mother Country, where the burden on small farmers is heavier. I think that in Great Britain the primary producer pays1s. 7d. a week. Only after a considerable lapse of time has a remedy been devised there. I realize, as well as any one else, that small employers sometimes will not get under this legislation what Australians call “ a fair go “. I shall presently show that to attempt to provide a remedy in the bill would destroy the basis of the scheme. Senator Courtice has intimated that he will not accept any assurance by the Government, but I venture to believe that many other honorable senators will accept an assurance by me that a measure of justice will be given to these people, irrespective of whether they are wheat-growers, other primary producers, or pastoralists. The Government intends, however, to meet the difficulty, apart from this legislation.
– It will be more difficult to do it elsewhere than in the bill.
– It would be much more difficult to do it in the bill. I have no desireto discuss cuckoos,either as to where they lay their eggs or as to where they have them hatched. The most reliable figures available, which were taken out after an exhaustive examination, point to the conclusion that there are a little over 250,000 persons of this class, including primary producers, who will have to be considered. Experts have advised the Government that the only way in which justice can be done, while maintaining the scheme intact,is to allow these persons to come into a contributory scheme by themselves. They can then be covered just as their employees are covered. On behalf of the Government I give the assurance that that will be considered. The scheme will be purely voluntary. Notwithstanding the Doubting Thomas, Senator Courtice, from Queensland, I can tell honorable senators that the Government has been so impressed by the facts as outlined, on one side of the question only, by Senator Johnston, that it has already set in motion machinery for the preparation of a scheme. The scheme is now at a fairly advanced stage. It will cover two classes - those working on their own account, including small employers, and those on the same economic level as the compulsory contributors. In fixing contributions consideration will be given to employers whose financial circumstances are not much better than those workers who are on the basic wage. I think that is a very proper tiling to do. The problem is not so simple as perhaps I or some other senators may think. On the contrary it is very complex. The Taxation Department has no facts or figures on which a scheme can be based, so we are obtaining from overseas the assistance of a gentleman who is on his way to Australia. He will help to complete the scheme, which in bold outline has been prepared by Commonwealth officers. The suggested amendment strikes at the very root of the contributory system. Give us this scheme, I say, and Ipledge the word of the Government that what I have said shall be done. I appeal to the honorable senator who has moved the suggested amendment not to persist with it. I point out to him that five members of the Government belong to his political party, and are closely associated with and deeply interested in the welfare of men on the land. There are also others in the Government who are deeply interested in the welfare of men on the land. The Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, represents an electorate in which there are large numbers of fruit-growers and small farmers, and in which there are small employers of labour in remote centres of population. Is the Government accused of endeavouring to put a confidence trick over these people? That would be unworthy of any government, and no government that did such a thing could live.
– We are verywell used to confidence tricks.
– The honorable senator is an expert at that game The first reaction to this proposal in the House of Representatives was an amendment by Mr. Curtin that all employees on the basic wage should be similarly exempted from payment of contributions. Obviously, if the principle is admitted, the demand for exemption will steadily grow until the Government will eventually be left to carry an estimated burden of £30,000,000 a year with a gradually diminishing contribution income. No country in the world with a national contributory insurance scheme has done this sort of thing. Great Britain is endeavouring to overcome the difficulty in the way I have indicated, and Australia is preparing to legislate on similar lines.
– Farmers are willing to contribute for their own insurance, but not for the insurance of others when they arc not in a financial position to do so.
– Very good. Then let us kick off with that - the farmer is prepared to pay for his own insurance. That is quite a. good beginning. If we can build on that, there is no necessity for the requested amendment. The Government has made, the most exhaustive inquiries and has ascertained that no machinery exists by which the Taxation Department can distinguish between employment of the different classes mentioned in the requested amendment.
Special machinery would Lave to be created, and tlie check would have to be made annually. It would be rather invidious to have to check over the incomes of all small employers every year. In an endeavour to avoid these difficulties the Government proposes to deal with the problem by separate legislation. Exempted persons would have to furnish details of the names of employees throughout the year, and the number of weeks each employee was engaged. There would have to be rebates, and some differentiation would have to be made between the different stamps attached to the cards. I realized, when I first considered flic scheme, that there were classes of persons who would have to be considered specially. The Government is prepared to consider thom, and to deal with them generously. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have given an assurance, and I repeat that assurance now. I am as vitally interested in the welfare of persons in rural areas and small towns as is any Labour senator.
.- The Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has stated that the officers concerned would be placed in an invidious position if they had to check the incomes of persons referred to in the requested amendment. Will not the cocky farmers also find themselves in a most invidious position if they have to raise the money to pay the tax imposed by the scheme? They will probably have to approach financial institutions and obtain increased overdrafts. There will certainly be increases in overdrafts, and a consequent increase of interest charges against the farmer. It seems to me that the Government has not taken that aspect of the matter into consideration. The Government, and particularly Parliament, should take into consideration the incidence of any taxation it is proposed to levy. Does the Government consider the probable financial position of the taxpayer and his capacity to pay the tax when it is being levied? If so, it is not being done in this case. The majority of the wheat-growers of Australia are maintaining their operations by means of overdrafts from banking or other financial institutions, or by monetary assistance from various governments. If we levy this additional tax, they will be forced to request their bankers, or their other financial agents, and, possibly, the branches of rural or agricultural banks with which they deal, to grant them extra assistance so that they may be able to meet this annual charge. This committee is well aware of that fact.
asked what would be the position of a farmer who had made £1,000 a year. My reply is that it would be miraculous. But even those farmers arc simply notified by their banking authorities that that amount of money has been placed to their credit; that is all they see of it. I am happy to be able to clear up this point for the honorable senator “in such a few words. I trust he will appreciate my doing so. Apparently, the honorable senator’s conscience has been troubled about those mythical farmers. The fact is that the farmers of this country are constantly hampered by financial stringency.
– Do not shorter working hours contribute to that end ?
– I suggest to the honorable senator that he should do his best to recover from his nightmare of last night. He should try a lighter diet. It would make him feel better tomorrow. Farmers, as we all know, have to contend with droughts, bad seasons, insect pests, hail, fire and other adversities too numerous to mention. A farmer has so many obstacles to surmount that he is not able, at the beginning of the financial year, to estimate what his position will be at the end of it. If the request of Senator Johnston is not endorsed, undoubtedly heavier burdens will be placed upon our farming community. I should like to see not only small farmers but all small employers as well in receipt of less than £20S per annum, granted exemption from the obligation to contribute, as employers, under this scheme.
– The request covers all small employers.
– If that is so, it suits me and I shall support it.
– I must have a word to say about the small farmers to whom Senator Johnston has so specifically referred. I strongly object to this section of our community being spoken of, as they have been this morning, as poor, weak, crawling individuals who are unable to do anything for themselves. It is all nonsense to speak of them in such a way. The majority of the farmers of Australia are active, reliable men who want not charity but justice. They do not ask for sympathy. They are quite prepared to take care of themselves and, as has been said frequently in this chamber, they are the backbone of the country. They pass through trying ordeals at times, but they are a self-denying and hard-working people. I object to the remarks of Senator Courtice, who said that only the members on his side of the chamber had sympathy with the farmers.
– We want more than sympathy; we want action.
– I say to Senator Courtice and to Senator Brown that supporters of the Government are both active and sympathetic in relation to the farmers.
– So are we.
– I challenge Senator Courtice and Senator Brown to name one government in our history which has done more than the present Commonwealth Government has to assist the primary producers.
– I name the Queensland Labour Government.
– Queensland is in a happy position in that the majority of its primary producers receive a home-consumption price for the commodities they produce. That is not the position of the wheat-growers of Australia in general.
– The Labour party is favorable to the fixing of a homeconsumption price for wheat.
– So am I. I was about to say that I hope I shall be in the Senate when a Labour government introduces a measure to achieve that desirable end; but it will be so long before a. Labour government is in office that I shall probably be too old to occupy a seat here. The Government has given us an absolute assurance that consideration will be given, in the near future, to the position of small employers in relation to this measure, and I am prepared to accept its word on that point. I do not believe that the assurance was given merely as a gesture of goodwill. It will undoubtedly be followed by early and appropriate action. If Senator Johnston’s request is agreed to, a complicated administrative machine will have to be evolved to determine which employers are to be included in the scheme and which are to be excluded from it. I prefer to accept the Government’s promise to deal with the matter in a more effective way, and I expect that within a very few months a bill to achieve that end will be placed before us. In such circumstances, we should, if we accepted Senator Johnston’s view at this moment, be called upon then to scrap a great amount of legislative machinery. I can quite appreciate that some small employers may be placed in a position of temporary difficulty; but a line of demarcation must always be placed in a measure of this description. We should remember that we are dealing with the 1938 model of national insurance. It has been devised by gentlemen who have expert knowledge, not only of the British national insurance scheme, but also of similar schemes in other countries. If we accept this model I expect that we shall need to make improvements to it in 1939, 1940 and 1941. But in due course we shall undoubtedly evolve the best national insurance scheme in the world.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.10]. - While I agree heartily with the principle of the requested amendment, I direct attention to the fact that not only small farmers, but also small employers of every description will be affected by this measure. In my opinion it is not possible to accomplish what Senator Johnston desires in the way he has chosen to bring it about. To accept his view will merely perpetuate other injustices. Take the building industry, for example. I was closely connected with it at one period of my life and I know, as other honorable senators must also know, that a building contractor may make only a very small taxable income one year, whereas in the preceding year, or in the following year, he may have had or may have a taxable income of as much as £10,000. This is due to the fact that in one year he may complete a big contract while in the following year he may not obtain a contract of any great dimensions. Such contractors should not be granted exemption in respect of the years in which they make large incomes. This problem is of sufficient magnitude to justify consideration in a separate bill. It cannot be adequately considered in dealing with one clause of this measure. Farmers also may make a large income in one year and practically no income in the next year. This statement is, in fact, applicable to employers in all industries.
– “Would the right honorable senator support a request for an averaging system to cover, say, five years?
– I am not opposed to the averaging system, but I think the subject should be dealt with in a separate bill. We have recognized the averaging system in our Income Tax Assessment Act and it may be that some regard will have to be paid to it in dealing with the problem which we are now considering. I have no doubt that the Government has given us an assurance that the subject will be dealt with at an early date because it realizes that it is impossible to deal with it adequately by simply amending this bill.
I am not .prepared to throw any bouquets at the Labour party for its alleged consideration of the poor farmer, or the poor any one else.
– We do not expect the right honorable gentleman to do so.
– While Senator Cunningham was speaking this morning he said that he had great sympathy with the poor farmers; but he was a member of the Collier Ministry of Western Australia which introduced the amendments to the Workmen’s Compensation Act of that State to which I made some reference yesterday. The increased payments which employers were called upon to pay under the. measure involved the poor farmers and many other employers in considerable hardship, and no provision was made to grant exemptions in cases of hardship. Senator Johnston must be well aware that many struggling primary producers were seriously embarrassed by that measure in the year or two following its introduction.
– Even though one mistake has been made, we need not make another of the same kind.
– In my opinion the Labour party is not sincere in the sympathy which it expresses from time to time with the small farmers or small employers generally. Can Senator Brown say that small employers of labour are exempt from the provisions of the Workmen’s Compensation Act of Queensland ? We know very well that they are not. Yet such measures are merely another form of insurance. Therefore, I take no notice of the protestations uttered by members of the Opposition. I do not impute lack of sincerity to Senator Johnston in respect of this amendment, because I recognize that he is animated by the best of motives, but at the same time I do not think that the support he is receiving from the members of the Opposition is sincere.
– The honorable senator used to think differently about the Labour party and its sincerity.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.At any rate, the two instances which I have just given in respect of similar legislation by Labour governments make me suspicious of the support of the Opposition for the amendment. I support the principle of the amendment, but I accept the assurance of the Government that it will give effect to its promises in this respect in a supplemen tn ry measure.
– I am not in the habit of asking honorable senators to withdraw remarks which 1 might consider to be offensive, but I resent Senator Pearce’s imputation that members of the Opposition are not sincere in their support of this amendment. , In plain language, he meant that we are a pack of hypocrites. I am not, nor is’ any one . of my colleagues, a hypocrite. . We are absolutely sincere in our efforts to do something on behalf of the small farmer, the small employer and the loss fortunate worker under this scheme, and it is for that reason that we support an amendment which seeks to exclude as contributors small employers and small farmers whose net income does not exceed £208. The amendment does not propose to exempt any one whose taxable income only is less than £208 a year, after allowing for the statutory exemption, in which case the gross income would be as high as £408. We are not supporting a proposal of that kind. We say that small employers, small farmers and workers whose net income is less than £4 a week should be exempted.
SenatorFoll. - That is not what the amendment means.
– I have discusssed this matter with Senator Johnston, and I know that his amendment was drafted with that object in view, namely, that only small farmers and small employers whose net incomeis less than £208 a year should be exempt.
– That is the object of my amendment.
– We feel we should support the amendment, because small employers who come within this category are doing very useful work in the community. In this connexion I refer, not only to small farmers, but also to small shopkeepers and small manufacturers. I deplore the tendency on the part of some honorable senators constantly to pit the interests of the farming community against those of the city, and it is time that such a practice ceased. The Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has given a definite promise in respect of what the Government proposes to do at a later date as regards small employers, but we do not know the details of the Government’s proposals in that respect. It may be that under the supplementary legislation the farmer may have to pay something additional to that which he is called upon to pay under this scheme, and thus will be placed in an even worse position. If the Government were really sincere in this matter, it could assure, not only honorable senators who merely sympathize with the farmers, but also those who really endeavour to help them, like Senator Johnston-
– And others.
– It could assure us that the total amount which any farmer or small employer will be asked to pay under the supplementary scheme for the insurance of his employees will be returned to him in some way or other as, for instance, by deducting the amount involved from his income tax. Senator Pearce stated that an employer who engages, say, half a dozen employees may have a good year in. which heshows a profit of £1,000, whilst in the next year he may lose £200, his net profit over the two years being only £800. That point was well taken, but in reply to it Senator Johnston said that the method of averaging incomes could . be applied in respect of all persons coming within the scope of his proposal.
-i am prepared to agree to that if the Government will accept the principle underlying my amendment.
– The whole object of the amendment is to afford small employers relief under this scheme as soon as possible; it is designed to avoid any waste of time in that respect.In my second-reading speech I pointed out the anomaly under this scheme whereby a small employer is obliged to pay a contribution of £3 18s. annually in respect of each of his employees, whilst at the same time many people who do not employ any labour at all, but draw a considerable sum mainly in the form of interest on Government bonds, are exempt from paying such a tax. The owner of a block of flats in a city, for instance, may employ only one person, perhaps a janitor, yet he may draw a net income from such property of as much as £1,000 a year. Under this scheme such a person will be called upon to pay only one contribution of1s. 6d. weekly, whereas a farmer, who may not himself be receiving as much as £4 a week in return for actual labour throughout the year, and not in any shape or form as income from an investment, will be compelled to pay a similar contribution in respect of each of his employees. I shall not go so far as to say that supporters of the Go vernment are hypocrites, but if they were really sincere in their desire to help small farmers and small employers and workers, who are doing really useful toil in the community, they would agree to embrace these persons within the scheme without unfair cost to themselves by making the rentier class pay in that direction. It is a disgrace to this Government, and a sad commentary on our sense of justice, that the Government should inflict such hardship upon small men who are struggling for a livelihood, and, at the same time, allow the rentier class to go scot-free. In supporting the amendment, I take the opportunity also to urge that a greater measure of justice under the scheme should be meted out to the relief worker and the man whose income amounts to only £1 a week. A person who draws £1,000 in interest on bonds is exempted, whilst the poor devil whose income is no more than £1 a week is obliged to pay contributions.
– What does he get in return for his contribution?
– Admittedly, he will get his bottle of medicine when he is sick, and, if he lives to the age of 65, he will be entitled to a pension of £1 a week. But he would be entitled to that pension whether he contributed under this scheme or not. I support the amendment because it represents a sincere attempt to get justice for the small farmer. It has been proposed by an honorable senator who has always shown himself to be not only sympathetic with the farmers, but also active in their interests, and it will give honorable senators as a whole an opportunity to show that they alsoare prepared to translate their sympathy for the farmer into action.
– But members of the Opposition voted against the second reading of this measure.
– I have already explained that the Labour party is anxious to improve this bill, and that we voted against the second reading, mainly in order to express our grave displeasure at the injustice which this scheme will inflict upon certain sections of the community. We are not opposed to the principle of the measure, but we are anxious to make it clear that the Labour party wants an insurance scheme which will be truly national in character.
– I should like tohave more information as to what is actually involved in the amendment. I confess that I am still at a loss in that respect. I thought that the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) would have given us some idea of the amount which would be lost to the fund were the amendment carried. I recognize, of course, that all the statistics we might desire on the point are not available. Both the Leader of the Senate and Senator Johnston put the number of farmers affected by the amendment at 250,000. Obviously, some of those would not be employing anybody at all, whilst the incomes of many of them would vary considerably from year to year. Honorable senators who have so far spoken to the amendment have confined their remarks mainly to the position of the small farmer, but this amendment, I point out, embraces every class of small employer. So far as I can see it also embraces any man with a wife and two children although he may be earning an income of £500 a year.
– That is the point.
– That is not intended under the amendment.
– I cannot support a proposal of that kind. As to the welfare of the small farmer, I point out that I lived on the land for 40 years.
– And the honorable senator had enough sense to go off it.
– For40 years I lived in a farming community, and made first-hand acquaintance with the circumstances of this section of our people. Some of them were hard up, but most of them made a fairly comfortable living. Certainly their experience was not that which Senator Cunningham pictured this morning. If their position is as bad as the honorable senator has stated, we may expect every small farmer to visit his bank manager each week to ask that his overdraft be increased by1s. 6d. so that he may be in a position to make his contribution to this fund. The argument has been carried to such an extreme as to become ridiculous; it has defeated its purpose. Such appeals leave me unmoved. Senator Johnston’s amendment would exempt farmers who grow many of their requirements, including vegetables and fruit, and live comfortably on incomes of £500 a year.
– I amwilling that the amendment should apply only to incomes under £208 a year.
– Is it intended that the employees of exempted employers shall not be called upon to pay1s. 6d. a week each.
– No; the amendment applies only to employers. It a ff ects the definition of “ employer “.
– I am not sure that that is so. In any case, rather than agree to the amendment, I should prefer that certain areas be exempted. Before I can agree to the risk of the fund losing huge sums of money, I should like to know approximately the amount involved. In a scheme of this kind, the first consideration should be the solvency of the fund. I am not prepared to support any amendment which might endanger its solvency. Probably the actuarial calculations have been made on a conservative basis. That would be wise; the reputation of the actuaries as well as the success of the scheme is involved. As the years pass, it may be found possible to revise the estimates, and to grant a measure of relief byeither reducing the contributions or increasing the benefits. Instead of rushing in now with amendments which, if carried, would reduce the fund, we should wait until the scheme has been given a fair trial. I realize that, after the pathetic appeals that have been made on behalf of small farmers, my remarks may be misunderstood, or even misconstrued. I know something of the problems confronting many farmers, but, whilst I yield to no man in my sympathy for those who are experiencing hard times, as a business man I cannot support any amendment without knowing something of its effect on the fund to be created.
– Iregret that I am unable to inform Senator Leckie of the amount involved in the amendment. In rural districts, conditions would vary according to the seasons, and there would be variations also in the metropolitan areas. A fundamental principle underlying the scheme embodied in this legislationis that each employer shall collect the contributions of himself and his employees. If the employer were exempted, all sorts of difficulties of administration would arise, indeed, it would be almost impossible to administer the scheme. The advisers of the Government are unable to make a reliable estimate of the effect of exempting small employers. The Government’s intention is that each employer shall affix to cards a stamp, or stamps, covering the contributions of himself and his employees. The granting of the concession asked for in the amendment would undoubtedly lead to requests for other concessions, which, if granted, would result in only the shadow of a contributory scheme. As I have already said, the burden of collecting contributions will, in the first place, be placed on the employer. If, however, Senator Johnston’s amendment be carried, certain persons who employ others will not “come within the definition of “ employer “, and consequently the machinery for collecting the contributions may break down completely. That is one of the reasons why the complementary scheme to which I have already referred will be introduced.
– The Minister means that an employer who was not a contributor could not be a collector.
– The proposal is that each employer shall place on a card a stamp for himself and one for each of his employees. In practice, he will probably use one stamp of greater value. The amendment would exempt an employer who is not a’ contributor from the necessity to attach to the card a stamp for any contribution by himself.
– The amendment would merely mean that the employer would place on the card a stamp valued at1s. 6d. instead of two such stamps, or one valued at 3s.
– Any departure from the contemplated procedure in this respect would lead to wholesale evasions. I ask honorable senators to accept the assurance of the Government that justice will be done to these small employers. At this juncture, it is impossible to estimate the cost of giving effect to the amendment to exclude them. Obviously, the carrying of the amendment would increase the burden on the Treasury. That cannot be contemplated with equanimity, because the actuarial solvency of a scheme must be beyond question. During the luncheon adjournment I shall again consult with the experts on this matter. At this stage I point out that the scheme is complete within itself. If relief is to be given in the direction desired, someother way of giving it will have to be devised. Any serious interference with the Government’s proposals might cause the breakdown of the whole scheme. At the inauguration of national insurance, both employer and employee must contribute. If relief is to be given, a separate measure will have to be introduced for that purpose.I am informed by the experts that the carrying of the amendment would necessitate an alteration of the machinery proposed to be set up to collect contributions, because if an empl oyer ceases to be an employer within the meaning of the bill, the obligation on him to collect contributions from his employees would disappear. The economical working of the scheme depends largely on the form of collection set out in the bill. An army of collectors would be required to gather collections from door to door. I regret that I am unable to give even an approximate estimate of the cost of acceding to the amendment. Various guesses have been made but none of them can be said to be reliable. Obviously, the cost to the Government would be considerable.
– I estimate it at £1,000,000 a year.
– That is probably an extravagant estimate.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Under the Queensland legislation, no exemption is made of any class whatever. That is an illustration of the impossibility of exempting any person under a contributory scheme. The whole basis of this bill, which is one of a series of bills, will be destroyed if the amendment be carried.
– I should not have risen at this stage, becauseI am anxious to expedite the passage of the bill, but for the provocative statements of honorable senators opposite. That provocation has been emphasized by the remarks with which the Leader of the Senate has just concluded his speech. I do not wish to appear in the light of a mentor, and much less a tormentor, but I wish to correct both Senator Pearce and the Leader of the Senate in regard to what they have said concerning what happens in Queensland under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. Both of those gentlemen have had greater parliamentary experience than I have had, while the Leader of the Senate is also an experienced and learned lawyer. Surely they should know that there is a big difference between a health insurance act and a workmen’s compensation act. There is nothing whatever in this bill relative to the risks of unemployment or accident. That is one of the complaints that we make against it.
– My reference was to the Queensland unemployment insurance scheme.
– We are asking for the exemption of needy employers, and because we happen to be labour men we are told that in Queensland the Workmen’s Compensation Act does not exempt employers.. That is perfectly true. Everybody is aware of the fact, and there is no need to “ make a song” about it. Employers are not exempted under a workmen’s compensation act because an employment risk has to be covered by it. Honorable senators are aware that the risk of damage by accident, and of death, in connexion with employment, is ever present. What is the amount which the farmers of Queensland are charged by the allegedly cruel Labour Government of that State? It is 30s. 6d. for each £100 of wages paid. What would happen to the farmer if he were not covered by the Workmen’s Compensation Act? If one of his employees were killed or seriously injured as the result of an accident, or contracted sickness directly as the result of his employment, the responsibility would be on the employer. The Workmen’s Compensation Act is a benevolent measure, which assumes the risk of the employer upon payment of a small . premium. Senator Leckie sought to belittle our action in this connexion, because of the lightness of the impost .on the small employer, namely £3 18s.
– I did not; I was merely talking about the picture which had been painted of the overdraft.
– I am coming to that. The honorable senator referred to his experience on the land. Another honorable senator on his own side interjected, “ How long ago was that “ ? I do not propose to inquire into that aspect; but I wish to tell the honorable senator something that occurred only last month and, therefore, is not ancient history. I can take him to a sheep selection,- the lessee of which is working on an overdraft from one of the pastoral investment companies. It is in outback country, where road transport is extremely difficult and there are none of the ordinary amenities of life to which we are accustomed in the cities. The wife of the lessee is approaching confinement, but is afraid of the ordeal on account of the rough and ready methods of assistance available in the outback. It was suggested that she should be taken to the nearest town in which qualified doctors and nursing facilities are obtainable. Before her husband could incur the expense of transport, he had to consult the investment company and obtain its permission to sign a cheque, so that his loved one might have what he regarded as additional security when approaching motherhood, concerning which the President (Senator Lynch) made such an impassioned address last night. Therefore, even an amount of £3 18s. in the case of the man who is working on an overdraft, and has no other financial resources, lias to be considered. We propose to consider it, and to see how much truth there is in the frequently-uttered slander that we who sit on this side of the chamber are never available when the primary producer needs assistance. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite is the truth. Not once has the party which I lead in this chamber failed to take part in a division upon any proposal for the relief of the primary producer, even though it is twitted on such occasions with having supported the Government. Sympathyis of no use; action is wanted. Sympathy has been poured out by the bucketful during the discussion on clause 4. We intend to see how many honorable senators opposite will support Senator Johnston and the Labour Opposition in this matter.
I was astounded this, morning when the Leader of the Senate declared that it was his wish that this bill should leave the Senate exactly in the form in which it was introduced. What does that mean ? If it means anything at all, it means that the taxpayers of this country should demand the abolition of the’ Senate. For what purpose are we here? Is it merely to criticize? If, as .we are sometimes told, we are here merely to obstruct, to register our opposition to Government measures and then allow them to be passed because the Government wishes to have them returned without alteration, we are merely a collection of “ yes men “, and as such are being paid extravagantly by the taxpayers of this country; in those circumstances, the Senate is quite unnecessary. The Government has a majority in the House of Representatives; let it go ahead and abolish the Senate, I know that this is a painful subject, but I have no wish to shirk ]nv share of responsibility in the matter.
The Leader of the Senate said this morning that the amendment, if carried, would place insuperable difficulties in the path of the administrators of this scheme. It will be their task to overcome those difficulties; they will he paid to do so. What is the stupid difficulty that is apprehended? We are asked, if an employer does not stamp a document on behalf of both himself and his employee, how are the contributions to be collected? The argument is that there will have to be an army of insurance collectors running around the country to see that the matter is properly policed, and that the insured employee is having his stamp affixed, or is himself affixing it. What nonsense that is! The farmer, who will be exempt if this amendment be carried, will have to affix one stamp in respect of his employee, instead of one for himself and another for his employee, or a stamp of the denomination of ls. 6d. to cover the employee instead of one of the denomination of 3s. to cover himself and the employee, lt is silly to suggest that a man cannot be a collector of the necessary premium unless he is also a payer of it.
The Leader of the Senate also said that this scheme must operate as a whole, or break down; that immediately wo interfere with the structure in any way it must crumble and fall. Such a suggestion is positively ridiculous, and in my opinion unworthy of the honorable gentleman who made it. If this were a truly national health insurance bill, I should agree with him, but there is no reason whatever why the incidence of either the contributions or the benefits should not be altered. If the benefits were made greater <than they are, of necessity the contributions from Consolidated Revenue would have to be greater. If they were made less, the result would be the reduction of the contribution from Consolidated Revenue. As my colleague, Senator Cunningham, said yesterday, taxes are derived from, only one source, namely the industry of the people of this Commonwealth. If this were a truly national bill, the whole of the charge would be accepted by Consolidated Revenue.
– I have no desire to harass the Government in this matter, because I realize that it will have worry enough in placing this bill on the statute-book, but I have not been able to make myself believe that it will be just to compel one man to insure another whose income may be greater. I believe that the Government realizes that. Even if Senator Johnston, who has always been an advocate of the farmer, has raised this matter only for the sake of discussion, he has done good work. But I cannot get away from the fact that the Minister has promised that full justice shall be done in supplementary legislation, and has given substantial reasons why the matter cannot bc dealt with in this measure, which- embraces such a variety of persons that it would be almost impossible to make an actuarial calculation of the probable cost. The Minister ‘made one statement which appealed to me very much. It was, that the matter will be considered by a cabinet in which the farmers have very large representation. The Prime
Minister, Mr. Lyons, himself represents u constituency which is composed very largely of small farmers, and four or five other Ministers represent country constituencies. Having had a full discussion, and having brought all the facts before the Government, we can leave the matter in its hands. There is a tremendous number of small farmers who find it very hard to make a decent living. They are deserving of the greatest sympathy, and I am sure’ that they will receive it from the Government. On the Minister’s promise, which of course I accept, that he will treat the matter sympathetically and do justice to the farmers, I shall support the bill.
– My sincerity in supporting the amendment moved by Senator Johnston was challenged by Senator Pearce and, in order to demonstrate, as he said, my insincerity, he referred to the * fact that the Collier Labour Government in Western Australia, of which I was a member, passed a Workers’ Compensation Amendment Bill through the State Parliament. That is true. It was found that the old act contained anomalies and the Labour government introduced an amending bill for the purpose of remedying them. Another purpose of the bill was to increase compensation payments. Furthermore, for the first time in the history of the State, provision was made in that legislation for compensation to be paid in respect of occupational diseases such as silicosis in miners. I am proud of my connexion with the Ministry which introduced that bill to the State Parliament. Senator Pearce forgot to tell the committee that, whereas the Labour party holds the reins of government in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, it has only seven of the 30 seats in the Legislative Council. Most members of the Senate are aware that the Legislative Council of Western Australia is elected on one of the most restricted and privileged franchises in any part of the self-governing dominions. The bill referred to by Senator Pearce became law after a. majority of the Legislative Council had voted for it. Therefore, if there is to be any charge levelled by Senator Pearce against myself, and any criticism of my sincerity, let him also remember that his political friends in the Legislative Council, with whom he has been associated for a number of years, must also carry a share of the responsibility for that legislation. The Labour government had the privilege to introduce the bill into the Legislative Assembly, but, before it became law, it had to receive the approval af the Legislative Council.
– My point was that the legislation does not exempt small farmers.
– I am glad that the right honorable senator mentioned that, although I had not forgotten it. The provisions of the act certainly apply to the small farmer and cover his employees. But for the purpose, of relieving the small farmer the Labour Government of Western Australia set up an industrial branch of the State Insurance Department.
– The small farmer still has to pay the premium.
– Yes, but as the result of the creation of that department, insurance premiums were reduced considerably, not only by the industrial branch of the State Insurance Department itself, but also, for the first time in the history of the State, by privately owned and controlled insurance companies. The action of the State government, therefore, resulted in great benefit not only to the workers but also to those persons who were paying high premiums for other industrial insurance. It is just as well to tell the whole story. There is something to add. The Labour government went to the aid of the mining companies operating in the State. The Minister in charge of the bill (Senaton A. J. McLachlan) will remember that at one period gold-mining suffered a depression, and for the purpose of assisting those companies that were operating in Western Australia, the Collier Government paid for them the premiums on the insurance policies of their employees.
– But it did not pay the premiums of the small farmers.
– That is just where the right honorable gentleman is wrong. The Labour Government of Western Australia was a true friend of the small farmers in times both of drought and of depressed prices. . It furnished them with the necessary financial assistance to enable them to carry on. So the right honorable senator is wrong again. I interjected during his speech that he did not know what he was talking about, meaning that he was not acquainted with the facts of the matter. I remind the right honorable senator, who has been for so long removed from the activities in Western Australia, that he should become more acquainted with what is going on in that State before venturing to speak on behalf of the small farmers.
Senator Leckie stated that I had drawn rather a gloomy picture of the farmers of Australia. If that be true, I am not the only guilty person. I remind the honorable senator that for some years the combined governments of Australia have been endeavouring to adjust the farmers’ debts. To that end this Parliament passed legislation under which £12,000,000 was appropriated for distribution to the various States inorder that farmers’ debts might be adjusted. Who got the relief from the amount expended to date on this account? Some of that money has been made available to poor farmers who have been struggling on overdrafts, being carried by the private financial institutions or the government instrumentalities. I, therefore, have not drawn the long bow or exaggerated the disabilities of the section of the community which Senator Johnston seeks to relieve by his amendment.
– Has the honorable senator’s State paid out the money which it received for the purpose of farmers’ debt adjustment?
– Yes ; the Government of Western Australia is businesslike and it is waiting for more money. This assistance arrived too late, in many instances, to prevent a good number of farmers from being forced off their holdings. Rural rehabilitation is of no use to persons who have been starved off their holdings. If the relief had arrived earlier they would have been able to remain on their farms. What I have said disposes of the charge by Senator Leckie that I exaggerated the conditions under which the farmers are struggling.
The amendment seeks to exempt from financial obligations under this bill those employers whose income is less than £208 per annum. Some of those persons are i hey for whose benefit the debt adjustment legislation was passed by the Commonwealth and State parliaments. Something more than is provided for in Senator Johnston’s amendment is necessary to prevent them from being forced to walk off their holdings, but what the honorable senator seeks to achieve is a contribution, however small, to their benefit, and, accordingly, I adhere to my decision to support the amendment.
– In my second-reading speech I referred to the needs of the small farmers, of whose difficulties I am in a position to know as well as is any other honorable senator. The revelations made by Senator Pearce convince me, however, that the amendment moved by Senator Johnston would exempt not only the small business men, but also the big contractors who, although they may have no income in one year, make a huge income in another year.
– Some provision could be .inserted to avert that if the committee accepted my amendment.
– That may be so. The point is. however, that if the Government, has to create organizations to deal with too many exemptions there will be not only further expense, but also the danger of the breakdown of the scheme. I rely on the promise that the Government has made to bring down legislation to give relief to the section of the community referred to in the amendment. I should have liked something more concrete than a promise, but the promise compels me to vote against the amendment. It would be better if we knew something more about the proposed new legislation, but it appears to be not worth while to grant a large number of exemptions, the policing of which- will involve considerable expense.
– We must all agree that this bill envisages a huge undertaking which, generally speaking, it is most desirable that we should put in hand; but I must admit that I am disappointed to find so many anomalies in it. These seem to me to be so glaring as almost to justify us in saying that the bill is “ half baked “. I was disappointed also that the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) was unable this morning to answer this, that and the other question about the bill or to indicate the probable result of various suggestions that were made. Senator Johnston’s request has much to commend it. We should endeavour to grant as much relief as possible to our small farmers, who are, in very truth, the backbone of the country. We have in Australia 60,000 wheat-growers, 95,000 small graziers and a/bout 5,000 graziers operating in a large, or comparatively large, way. The position of these people is, in many respects, unenviable. Australia has adopted a policy of high protection, which, while advantageous to our secondary industries, is detrimental to our primary industries in that everything that they need to buy is more expensive than it would be under a moderate policy of protection. Of course, no one is suggesting that we should adopt freetrade measures, but, as farmers cannot obtain protection through arbitration courts or other wage-fixing tribunals and have to sell most of their products in the open markets of the world, we should strive to help them as much as possible. The position of our wool-growers is far from satisfactory. The average price for the Australian clip this year will be not more than ls. per lb. gross, which is equivalent to lid. at rail. Possibly the official figures for the yea]- ending on the 30th June will show slightly more than ls. per lb., but this will be due to the comparatively good prices obtained in the first ten months of the statistical year. To-day’s market price is not more than lid.’ per lb. gross, which means lOd. per lb. to the growers, an amount which is hardly- payable. Wheat is being sold at country sidings to-day at less than 3s. a bushel. Although our farmers and graziers cannot be said to be creating wealth during drought years, and are securing only low prices for themselves, they are in a very real sense, creating the only real national wealth, of Australia, for., official statistics reveal that 9T per cent, of the value of our exports consist of primary products. The farmers throughout this great continent are working, not 40 or 44 hours a week, as do the people in cities, but more like SO hours a week, and for their labours they receive, in many cases, a miserable pittance much below the basic wage. Moreover, their womenfolk and children have frequently to work for nothing, and are deprived of the amenities of city life. In all the circumstances, I shall support Senator Johnston’s request.
It is obvious that the people outback will not benefit to any great extent by the medical services to be provided under this bill, for it cannot be expected that a medical practitioner will travel out into a country district 10, 20 or even 50 miles, often at night, to attend an insured person in respect of ‘whom he is receiving a per capita payment of only lis. In my opinion, the medical profession is not being given a fair deal, in that the proposed fee is a totally inadequate recompense to the doctors for the years of study that is necessary to qualify them to practice their profession.
– I must ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the clause before the committee. He may not, at this stage, deliver a second-reading speech.
– Having said something of what I wished to say, sir, J. shall, in the circumstances, resume my seat.
– I shall support the request. I have listened to the discussion to-day with much interest. I resent the statement of Senator McLeay that some farmers are efficient,, and others inefficient and consequently failures. The honorable senator suggested that it was because of inefficiency that farmers needed bounties and other forms of financial assistance. In my opinion, there are no inefficient farmers. The whole trouble with our agricultural industries is that the land is too dear. Land is never worth more than its productive value. We all know what happens in this country. During good seasons farmers buy land at high prices either to increase their own holdings or to provide farms for their sons. Almost always, .these transactions occur when commodity prices are high. Immediately prices fall to their normal level, those whose farms have been purchased at unduly high prices find that they are unable to make a living. In those circumstances . the farmers do not earn the basic wage.
Senator Pearce challenged the sincerity of Senator Cunningham’s assertion that the Labour party was deeply sympathetic with the farmers of Australia. In fact, the right honorable gentleman called into question the sincerity of all honorable senators of the Labour party. Of course, those views, coming from Senator Pearce, are not new. I wish that he could have heard Senator Cunningham’s address yesterday, in which he referred to thrift among pensioners. According* to a press report of a few weeks ago, Senator Pearce made a public statement that, although he had been a member of this Parliament for more than 30 years, he would retire on the 30th June without a competence.
– He did not define a competence.
– What the honorable senator is now saying ha3 nothing whatever to do with the clause before the committee, or the ‘request moved by Senator Johnston. I must ask him to confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair.
– I am complaining that, in speaking to this clause, Senator Pearce challenged the sincerity of Senator Cunningham and other honorable senators of the Labour party. Surely, I am entitled to reply to such remarks.
– The honorable senator may not at this stage make a second-reading speech. He must confine his remarks to the clause and the request.
- -Senator Pearce does not consider that any relief should be given to the small farmers or the workers generally.
– That is not correct.
– According to press reports, the right honorable senator, though not able to provide himself with a competence during his membership of litis Parliament, is to retire on a pension of £2,000 a year as a member of the proposed Inter-State Commission.
– The honorable senator’s remarks are entirely out of order.
– I rise to order. Is Senator Ashley entitled to impute motives to another honorable senator?
– He may not impute motives. I ask him to withdraw his statement.
– I bow to your ruling, sir, and withdraw the statement, though I contend that I was not imputing motives.
– I rise to order. I wish to knowin what way Senator Ashley imputed motives to another honorable senator?
– Order ! Senator Ashley suggested that Senator Pearce was about to retire from the Senate on a pension of £2,000 a year as a member of the Inter-State Commission. That was en- tirely out of order. Senator Ashley must confine himself to the business before the committee.
– I assure you, Mr. Chairman, that I am not deliberately trying to be disorderly. If my remarks are in conflict with the Standing Orders, I regret it. A few weeks ago, I asked a question of the Leader of the Senate concerning the position of small farmers, and I consider that an evasive reply was furnished to me. I travelled extensively through the back country of New SouthWales during the last election campaign, and saw for myself the plightof many struggling farmers. The men engaged in small scale operations were trying to save the lives of their stock by hand-feeding, whereas, other persons engaged in large-scale operations did not seem to be unduly concerned, though many of their sheep were dying in corners of remote paddocks. It was for this reason that I asked the Leader of the Senate whether something could be done to assist the small farmers to save their stock. When I complained that the reply given to my question was not satisfactory, the
Minister promised to make further inquiries into the subject. I must admit that I have not asked him whether he has yet received additional information. When I speak about the men on the land, I know what I am talking about, for I was reared on the land. I know of the trials and tribulations that country people have to suffer. I notice that Senator Leckie is smiling; but he is a representative of the manufacturing interests in this chamber.
– I am not a representative of the manufacturers only
– A short while ago, the honorable senator made a statement to the effect that pig iron was being produced in Australia at less than the price of the imported article. It is remarkable that almost immediately the price of pig iron was advanced by 15s. a ton.
– Order ! That has nothing to do with the subject before the Chair. I must ask the honorable senator to help me to confine the discussion within proper limits.
– I only wish to add that I shall support the request, and hope that the committee will endorse it.
– This request will certainly affect small farmers, but its effect will not be confined to them. However, as the discussion has concerned, mainly the farming community, I also shall deal principally with that aspect of the subject. I wish to make clear the real effect of Senator Johnston’s request. When I first heard it, I did not realize that it was intended to affect only persons with an income of £208 per annum after all deductions had been made. Under the Income Tax Act there is a statutory exemption of £250 for the taxpayer, and a deduction of £50 for his wife and £50 for each child under the age of sixteen years. The Harvester award was based on the family unit of a husband, his wife and three children. That basis ought to be reviewed, because I understand now that the average family consists of only about 2.7 persons, instead of five. What I have said means that in addition to the statutory exemption of £250, the taxpayer witu three children is granted exemption in respect of his wife and children to a total of about £450, to which is to bc added the £20S exemption now proposed under Senator Johnston’s amendment. I am not quite clear if that is what Senator Johnston meant. I have been in this chamber for six and a half years, and I know that whenever the interests of the farmers have been under discussion, Senator Johnston has always been a strong advocate of granting assistance to them in some form. In this respect he has been more liberal than I have been, because I believe in going to the source of their troubles, instead of trying to get them out of difficulties by granting concessions. Members of the Labour party have also been ready to assist farmers by way of concessions, but they have never been disposed to vote for proposals to reduce the tariff which I regard as the most effective way to help the man on the land. On the contrary, they have always voted for the highest tariff possible though, as I have said, they have been willing to help with rebates and similar palliatives. I hope that Senator Cunningham and Senator Courtice, who apparently favour lower tariffs, will go a step further, and while they are in this Parliament-
– I doubt that we can help the farmers by reducing tariffs.
– I think we can. I should add that one or two members on this side of the Senate also approve of the highest tariffs and rather grudgingly give assistance to farmers by way of rebates. I well remember, the long tariff debate which we had in 1933, and I recall that when we were discussing items imposing duties on agricultural implements, galvanized iron, wire netting, which especially concern the farmer, and items in which the general public were interested, such as boots, textiles, medicines,. &c, members of the Labour party and some of our own party always voted for the highest duties.
– What has all this to do with the amendment?
– I think the reference is most material. Some honorable members on this side are being accused of having no consideration at all for the small primary producers, and I say that we have always stood for the farmers in a way that Labour senators have never done, at all events since I have been in this chamber. I give to Senator Johnston full credit for his sincerity and his desire to help our farmers, but I am afraid that this attempt to remedy their troubles as well as those of other self-employed persons whose incomes are limited by this bill, by including a provision that is quite foreign to it, will ham-string the scheme. There are many ways in which the small farmer may be assisted. His troubles will not be eased by the amendment. I intend to vote for the Government on this amendment, and I do so without the slightest hesitation, because I believe that the granting of exemptions is not the best way to do what Senator Johnston has in mind. Suppose the exemption is fixed at £208 a year. Why - should it not be increased next year to £30S, or in the following year to £408? Whilst I would not commit myself not to grant a few exemptions, as for instance in the- case of Christian Scientists, I am not prepared to remove from the scope of the scheme such a large section as will be affected by the amendment. Senator Guthrie, I know, does stand for the man on the land; but his position is untenable. He has told us that he would grant exemptions not only to small farmers but also to small employers in secondary industries, the strength of which, as every one knows, has made them, in effect, our primary industries. They have impinged on our primary industries to their very great detriment.
– Neither can live without the other.
– Tha t may be true, but it is no reason why the cart should be regarded as more important than the horse.
– I intend to oppose the amendment, not because I object to it in principle but because of the definite undertaking given by the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) that the Government intended to introduce further legislation which will contain provisions to do what Senator Johnston wishes to do in his amendment. I am puzzled at the attitude of Labour senators. In the second-reading debate they brought the whole of their strength to bear in an effort to destroy the bill. Having failed to do that, their intention now appears to be to assist any amendment which, in their opinion, will kill the scheme.
SenatorCourtice. - That is only the honorable senator’s opinion. We have been asked to assist to improve it.
– Senator Johnston was actuated by the highest motives in moving his amendment, but I do not think that he realized its true significance until Senator Duncan-Hughes enlightened him.
Senator Courtice objects to the proposal because under it small farmers and other self-employed persons with incomes below £208 a year will pay the contributions of their employees whilst they themselves will not participate in the benefits of the scheme. That is the principal ground of his objection. I invite him to tell the cane-cutters and industrialists in Queensland that he opposed the scheme on those grounds, and see how they take it. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), following upon an interjection made by Senator Pearce, enlarged upon the principle of exemptions and made some reference to the Worker’s Compensation Act in Western Australia, comparing the provisions in that measure with those contained in the bill. He said that there was a difference. That is not so. The Worker’s Compensation Act in Western Australia was introduced to protect the employees. That, too, is the underlying principle of this scheme.
– As a matter of fact, I did not mention Western Australia in my speech.
– The Government and its supporters are just as anxious, as perhaps Senator Johnston is, to make adequate provision for small farmers and other self-employed persons whose incomes are limited. Therefore I shall vote for the clause.
– I am afraid that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) did not quite understand what I said on the point which Senator Dein has just raised, namely, the absolute necessity for the committee to stand by the bill as it is. I also remind the honorable gentleman that the Unemployment Workers’ Insurance Act of Queensland contains no exemptions, as has been suggested. Section 4 enacts that every employee in Queensland whose rate of wages, salary or allowance is fixed by the Industrial Commission, and every employer of such worker, shall be liable to pay a contribution to the fund at the prescribed rates. There is no exemption there, because the Government of Queensland realized that it was impossible to frame legislation of this nature on any other basis.
.- I desire to correct an impression that may have been caused by Senator Ashley’s statement that I am a representative in this chamber of the manufacturers. It is true that I am a manufacturer, but I am no more a representative of manufacturers than is Senator Ashley a representative of the particular trade or calling which he followed before his election to this chamber. There are about 3,000 manufacturers in Victoria, and as I was elected by the votes of nearly 400,000 electors, the influence of the manufacturers’ vote was negligible. I object to being accused of representing the manufacturers only. I represent the whole of the people of Victoria. The suggestion that I have no sympathy for the small farmers is entirely unwarranted. I was amused to hear Senator DuncanHughes’s little jibe about the manufacturers and the tariff. A few days ago, the honorable senator condoled with Senator Payne, because the latter is retiring from the Senate without having brought his life’s work to a successful conclusion.
– The honorable member should direct his remarks to the clause.
– Sympathy for either small farmers or manufacturers is not confined to those who are prepared to support this amendment.
– On the whole, I am pleased with the measure of verbal support given to my amendment by practically every speaker. It is generally agreed that the small primary producers, numbering over a quarter of a million, most of whom had no taxable income during the year of the last census, should be relieved of the burden which this bill will impose, but the Minister (Senator A. J. Mclachlan) and many of the members of his party say that they will be assisted at some other time and in another way. It is said that sympathy without relief is like mustard without beef, and I have found from experience that sympathy without votes is very unsatisfying. If small farmers are to be freed from the employer contribution which the bill imposes, action should be taken now under this measure. I have read of a somewhat indefinite promise of assistance, which, I feel sure, will be honoured by the Government, and I thank the Minister for his endorsement of that promise to-day; but, as far as the details of the proposal have been published, it seems to rae that it will not meet the needs of the small farmers and other small employers to whom the amendment applies. I understand, ‘from the published details, that persons over 45 years of age will not. be included in the scheme and that the voluntary contributions will be four shillings a week.
The point was taken by Senator Duncan-Hughes that a taxable income of £208 will mean a net income of that amount after the statutory exemption of £250 and the deductions for wife and children are allowed. If the committee approves of the spirit of my amendment, but objects to the income limit of £4 a week, I invite the Government, with the assistance of the learned senator, to suggest an alteration of the amendment which would qualify for relief from the payment of the employer contribution, those farmers and other small employers whose business ordinarily returns them an income under £208 a year.
– Wait till next year, and then see if the honorable senator can satisfy them.
– If’ I did, I should not have the very valuable assistance of the honorable senator who interjects. I urge the committee to accept the .principle of my amendment. If the
Government considers that some married men with large families should not receive the exemption provided for in the amendment, in addition to the exemption and deductions allowable in the income tax law, I ask the Minister to move for an alteration to that effect, provided the committee will accept the principle of my proposal for an exemption of ordinary incomes of £208 per annum. I was interested in the Minister’s speech, because he suggested that the acceptance of the amendment might seriously disturb the financial structure of the scheme. If it would, that is the very reason why the committee should carry the amendment. If a huge burden is to be placed on the shoulders of 270,000 primary producers, only five per cent, of whom had any taxable income in the’ year of the last census—
– The extra burden must not bc thrown on this scheme. It might have to be carried by the Treasury.
– The Treasury can bear it easier than can the producers. If the amount involved is large, it is essential that this section of the primary producers should not have this heavy burden thrown upon them. If, however, as I believe is the case, the total ‘sum involved is comparatively small, there oan be no harm in the acceptance of the amendment. In either case it should be accepted. Acceptance of my proposal would have a good effect in regard to the employment of young people. In most of the States, the appeal has been made that employment should be given to young men and women who are now out of work. Small farmers and others, the majority of whom have no taxable incomes, are asked to give employment to an extra, boy or girl in their homes, and the contribution which the small employer is required to make under this scheme would undoubtedly reduce opportunities for employment of this kind. The almost universal practice in regard to all our taxation and social legislation is to protect the weak.
Senator Pearce pointed out that an employer might have a large income in some years, and little or no income in others. For the purpose of my amendment, I should have no objection to small farmers’ incomes being averaged over five years.I do not desire to relieve the contractor mentioned by Senator Pearce who earns £10,000 in one year and has no income in the next. We could deal with such cases by averaging their incomes; but the possibility of such variations of income in a few cases is no reason why relief should be refused to 272,000 primary producers, of whom only 13,000 had taxable incomes in the year of the last census. In 1935-36, of the farmers and pastoralists in the class with which I am particularly dealing, only 18,142 had taxable incomes.
– My remark was not offered as an argument why relief should be refused. I am in favour of giving relief to this section.
– The honorable senator’s remark was not helpful to me in regard to my amendment. I hope that he will vote for my amendment. If the definition I have proposed is not acceptable to the committee, would the honorable senator be prepared to accept the substitution of the following: - “ Employer “ means anyperson who has a taxable income within the meaning of section 6of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1037.
If the argument submitted by Senator Duncan-Hughes with regard to exemptions induces the committee to reject my amendment, perhaps the Minister will meet the case by asking the committee subsequently to accept the further definition which I have just indicated.
Question put -
That the amendment (Senator E. B.
Johnston’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator B. Sampson.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to insert after the definition of “ health insurance benefits “ the words “ ‘ incapacity for work ‘ means incapacity for continuing the employment in which, at the commencement of his sickness, the insured person was engaged “.
The object of the requested amendment; is to protect persons who by sickness, accident or any other disability are prevented from following their normal occupations, and to ensure that they shall not lose sickness or disability payments because, although unable to follow their normal occupation, they are capable of performing other work. Under the bill in its present form such persons may be refused benefits because they can perform light duties. The requested amendment is similar to a provision in workmen’s compensation legislation in connexion with which I have had some experience. Very often a medical practitioner will contend that a person is fit to undertake certain classes of light work, and I wish the position to be clarified, so that we shall know exactly what “incapacity for work” means. This has always been a very contentious matter in connexion with similar legislation, and I should like this new definition inserted to protect, so far as is possible, an incapacitated person, who, while unable to perform the work on which he is usually engaged, may be fit to do other work.
. -I regret that the Government cannot accept the requested amendment moved by Senator Courtice. The definition proposed would, in practice be used for short periods of incapacity from which the insured person may be expected to recover full capacity for his ordinary occupation at a fairly early date. It would not be used ‘to cover a long period of incapacity for a particular employment during which capacity for other remunerative employment had been restored or had been present throughout. Has Senator Courtice seriously considered tho implications of the requested amendment? Incapacity to continue employment sometimes arises from the result of an accident in that employment. Any loss of earning power in that respect is covered by workers’ compensation acts. This scheme does not include the workers’ compensation risk. The effect of the requested amendment would be that although ii man might turn to another occupation on account of his disability, and possibly earn equally good wages, he would, while so employed, be entitled to sickness or disablement benefit right up to the age of 65. It would be a direct incentive to malingering. A labourer might get an attack of rheumatism, which might render it unwise for bini to continue as a labourer, and he might be employed as a liftman at the basic wage - plus full sickness or disablement benefit. A sempstress might get cramp in the fingers, a telephone operator might get dull of hearing, or a clerk might fall off his bicycle and injure his right arm. Are those persons not to work again, or, if they! are engaged on other work and receive the ordinary wage, are they to get full sickness and disablement benefit right up to pension age? Some friendly societies have the criterion proposed by the honorable senator in respect of inability to follow usual occupation, but they have an automatic check in the low rate of benefit, often 2s. 6d. a week, paid after prolonged incapacity. This bill provides 15s. a week disablement benefit, however prolonged the incapacity, to which must be added 3s. 6d. allowance for each dependent child.
The honorable senator will realize that it would be very unwise to amend the definition in the direction indicated. The administration will’ be conducted by approved friendly societies, and care will be taken to see that contributors are adequately protected. To impose upon the scheme an undertaking so far reaching in its effects would be quite impracticable. 1 could, if necessary, cite instances which have occurred under the British scheme in order to show the possible effect if the requested amendment were adopted. Having regard to the facts which I have placed before the committee,, it is impossible for the Government to accept the requested amendment.
– Naturally the members of the Opposition are interested in the requested amendment moved by. Senator Courtice. The mere refusal of the Minister to accept it does not end the matter. Under the workmen’s compensation acts, the onus is on the employer to prove that the employee is capable of doing other work, other than that on which he was engaged when he became incapacitated, and also that such work is available. If the proposal of Senator Courtice be rejected will a similar onus be on the commission? It is easy for the Minister to cite a clerk falling off a bicycle and breaking an arm, and saying that he could perform a liftman’s work, when every one knows that there are hundreds of men looking for a liftman’s job, and that such jobs cannot be found. We are accepting the challenge of honorable senators opposite to improve the bill, and we do not wish to be silenced by the mere statement that the adoption of this requested amendment would increase the cost of administration and weaken the whole structure. The recent division shows that our voices, somewhat lusty, I admit, are crying in the wilderness. If the requested amendment be not pressed, will the Minister give the committee an assurance that when the scheme becomes operative the onus will be upon the employer and the commission to prove that an incapacitated person is capable of doing other work and that such work is available?
– The matter raised by Senator Collings is one for determination between the approved society and the individual who is ill or has been injured. He has to satisfy the approved society that he is not capable of working.
– Upon whom will the onus of proof rest? If it is, to rest upon the injured person we shall not agree to that,
– Does not the same position arise every day in connexion with friendly societies? Under this bill the matter must be determined by the approved society and the doctor’s certificate. If an insured person feels that he is unjustly treated he can, under clause 171, appeal to the commission, which will then have to determine the issue. If a member of a friendly society, trade union, or other society suffers an injury, and is not fit to resume his occupation, from whom is he likely to get fairer or more kindly treatment than from his own society and the doctor of his own election?
– I regret that the Minister’s explanation is completely unsatisfactory to me. I think it will be understood by all honorable senators that matters of this sort will be determined strictly in accordance with the terms of this measure, and to ensure that the rights of insured persons are protected in this respect the bill should be amended as has been suggested. It is interesting to note that in the English workmen’s compensation laws, the onus of proof of ability to earn a livelihood is placed on the employer. Dealing with this matter W. Addington Willis, in his work The Workmen’s Compensation Acts 1925 and 1026, writes-
The workman’s ability to earn must be proved by the employer who alleges it. The extent of the onus of proof depends upon the circumstances in which the workman is loft as the result of the injury. On the one hand, his injury may have left his labour in such a condition as to be nondescript or “ odd lot “ in the labour market, so that hu had little or no prospect of obtaining employment in the special line of work within his capacity. On the other hand, his range of work may be so wide that his physical injury differentiates him but little from competitors in the field of ordinary labour.
Many border-line cases have resulted in decisions which arc difficult to reconcile, and it is conceivable that the legislature had those cases in mind when they have empowered the judge in certain circumstances to treat partial incapacity as total. The power is exercisable when the workman can show that he is unable to obtain employment in the work for which he is supposed to be fitted, and that such inability is wholly or mainly a consequence of his injury. The section, however, does not affect the principles stated in the following paragraph which justify the treatment of partial incapacity as total, although there may be no evidence of having attempted to obtain suitable work.
The decisions of the commission will be strictly in accordance with the terms of the bill itself. Is there any logical objection to including in the bill now a provision which states that the onus of proof that the insured person can do some other work and that some other work is available if he is prepared to undertake it, shall rest, not on him, but on the approved society?
.. - The only question is that of the man’s ability- to work. If the suggested amendment were incorporated in the bill it would go further than the honorable senator realizes. For instance, an engine driver who suffered an injury to his eye, or from nerve trouble, might not be fit to continue his occupation as an engine driver, although he might be quite fit for another job. If he is to be allowed to draw disablement benefit for the rest of his life-
– We are not asking for that. We say that the onus of proof that he cannot undertake his former work but is fit for some other work, and that such other work is available, should rest upon the approved society.
– That will not be accomplished by the request, moved by Senator Courtice. I submit that the only question to be answered is whether an injured person is able to do some work or other. No question of ability to obtain employment arises. In the case of’ the engine-driver whom I cited the society might say, “You can accept a job as a porter or guard.” If he takes such employment is he to continue to get disablement benefit under this bill until he reaches retiring age? If the honorable senator wishes to deal with onus of proof as between an individual and his own approved society, that is another matter. But that is not covered by the requested amendment which I ask the committee not to accept. I undertake that if the honorable senator can find any oilier clause more convenient for the insertion of an alteration covering onus of proof, I shall re-commit it in order that his proposal may be considered. But his request, as drafted, goes beyond the point which he has been expounding. What the honorable senator desires to obtain is something entirely different from what his proposal expresses.
– That does not dispose of the requested amendment.
– We are anxious to do our best to safeguard those workers who may be injured in the course of their employment. We know that under this bill workers will be entitled to sickness and disablement benefits. The. question is, what constitutes disablement? Suppose a railway worker lost his leg as the result of an accident in the course of his employment, and, «t the end of a certain period, regained his health. Would that injury constitute disablement within the meaning of this bill, and entitle him to a disablement benefit for the remainder of his life, or would it be possible for the National Insurance Commission to say to him, “ You are now again fit for work, but not at your former job; you can get another job”.
– The honorable senator is now wandering into the realms of workmen’s compensation and accident insurance.
– Am I to understand that under this so-called just measure a railwayman who has his leg cut off and receives a certain amount of compensation will be debarred from receiving disablement benefit?
– There is provision in the bill to that effect.
– Then, after contributing to the insurance fund for 40 or 50 years such a man, simply because he received compensation under another statute, would be entitled to no disablement benefit?
– He cannot have it both ways.
– If an insured person contracts a vocational illness which prevents him from returning to his former job, can the doctor or the society, in order to conserve the’ funds, tell him that he can get no further disablement benefit because he is fit for work in some other occupation? I remember a case in. point under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. An old friend of mine was practically dying on his feet; it took him a quarter of an hour to get out of a tram and reach my office, a distance of only a few yards. He applied for the pension, but was refused on the ground that he could sit on his verandah and do light work. He asked what light work he could do. The doctor told him that, as he had the use of his hands and brain, and could walk about, he was not totally and permanently incapacitated. If ever anybody deserved a pension that man did. What we are trying to do by this amendment is to safeguard any individual who may suffer disablement from being the victim of circumstances in which his doctor might say, “ You can engage in some other occupation.” The doctor may know very well that work which the man is fit to do cannot be found.
– The approved society, not the doctor, makes the final decision.
– My object is to safeguard the interests of an individual who has been incapacitated to an extent that he is prevented from following his normal occupation. It would be quite easy for the authorities to say. “ You are unable to follow your previous occupation, but you can follow some other occupation.” They ought not to be able, in that way, to cast him out and make him a burden on society.
– I have to admit that the remarks of the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) have removed some of my doubts. I was prompted to move my request because of my knowledge and experience of compensation cases. The Minister has indicated that the approved society will have a lot to do with determining the fitness of a sick or injured person, and that fact, to a large extent, overcomes my objections. I realize that there is a difficulty in clearly defining “ incapacity for work “. I certainly object to a doctor solely deciding the extent of incapacity. That power has been abused in the past, and the possibility of abuse in the future should be guarded against. I am glad to know that the provision will be sympathetically administered. It is of no use for a doctor to say to a navvy, “You cannot do pick and shovel work, but you are fit enough for a clerical occupation.” Even if he was’ fit for clerical work, such employment might not be obtainable. The sick or injured person should be protected to the greatest possible extent. A doctor alone should not be allowed to determine the claim of the injured or sick person. In cases that have gone to the courts, it has sometimes been disclosed that doctors have exceeded their responsibilities, and have not carried out their duties in accordance with the law.
. - I want to recapitulate, for the information of Senator Courtice, the extent of the protection provided for an incapacitated person. The man will first go to the arbitration tribunal of his own society - a society of which he is a member. If he is dissatisfied with the decision of the tribunal, he may appeal to the commission, and after that he has the further right to submit his case to a legal referee. When the case is before the referee, the society and the insured person will each submit medical evidence, and the legal referee will decide between them. It would not be fair to approved societies to open the door too widely. Senator Courtice has been very reasonable in his attitude, and he will understand the views expressed in reports from Great Britain about the administration of the national health insurance scheme there. A memorandum I have received deals with certain aspects of great importance, including the potential effect of sickness and disablement on the benefit funds, and lays down when other conditions need to be taken into account. The memorandum then proceeds -
At varying stages in the course of different diseases, or after the occurrence of particular injuries, it will become clear that there is no reasonable prospect of the patient again becoming able to resume his ordinary occupation. This may be apparent in some cases almost from the outset, for example, where a person whose work requires some particular manipulation has sustained an injury which immediately renders him permanently incapable of carrying out that manipulation, or where a personhas become blind. When this condition of permanent incapacity to resume the ordinary occupation has supervened, a different criterion from that of fitness for that occupation must, it has been held, be applied, and the patient should not be certified as “ incapable of work “ unless in the practitioner’s opinion he is physically unable to perform any other suitable kind of remunerative work, whether at once or after a short course of training.
If a man who has lost a leg or an arm is incapable of following his previous employment, he may be employed at something else, and he is given a reasonable time to test himself. Is it not fair that when he goes back to work he should cease to receive benefits? The safeguard is that his own society will watch his interests, while watching its own interests, and. the interests of members of the society generally. I do not want to exalt the commission, but I do emphasize that it will endeavour to do abstract justice to sick and injured men and all other beneficiaries.
– It is better that 99 men should receive too much than that one who is injured and has a just claim should suffer wrongful deprivation.
– I urge the honorable senator to withdraw his request.
– All we demand is that the definition of “incapacity” shall show exactly what we mean - not at some other time, or somewhere else, but now and in this bill. I suggest to Senator Courtice that he should add to his requested amendment the words - “ or any other employment of which he is capable, and which is available to him.”
If the intention of the Government is to prevent malingering, every member of the Opposition will support it. Malingering is a crime, not only against the individual or society, but also against the community. If my suggestion is agreed to, the requested amendment will then read - “ Incapacity for work “ means incapacity for continuing the employment in which at the commencement ofhis sickness the injured person was engaged or any other employment of which he is capable and which is available to him.
My suggestion gives nearly everything away to the Government, and is essentially reasonable.
– The suggested addition to the request is quite superfluous, because the effect of it is in the law already. It will merely stress the obvious. I would emphasize once again that the scheme is not an unemployment insurance scheme.
– There is no definition of disability.
– lt is not necessary to define something which is defined in legal decisions filling ponderous tomes. A man may be incapable of following his own calling, but may be quite able to follow other callings, because they may not be so .strenuous oi may not require the same mental or physical qualities. He may be suffering from partial disability, but he may not be disabled.
– I agree to the addition of the words suggested by Senator Collings.
Request amended accordingly.
– The definition of “maximum age “ reads - “ Maximum agc “ moans, in the case of a man, the agc of sixty-five years, and in the case of a women, the agc of sixty years. 1 move -
That the word “sixty-five” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ sixty “, and that the word “ sixty “ be omitted with :i view to insert in lion thereof thu word “ fifty-live “.
There are several reasons for moving that amendment. Under the present noncontributory old-age pension scheme, men are entitled to draw a pension at the age of 65, and women at the agc of 60. The national insurance scheme provides that contributors shall pay into the scheme from the age of sixteen to 65 in the case of males, yet they will receive in return, so far as pensions arc concerned, only the same as tire person who pays nothing, and who, at the age of 65, qualifies for the old-age pension. It has been pointed out by Senator Dein and others that a person may have been drawing an income of £1000 up to the last few years before reaching the age of 65, and, then, because he goes “ broke “, will become entitled to a pension of £1 a week ; while the worker, who never received more than £4 a week, and who had been paying into the insurance scheme from the age of sixteen to 65, will draw only the same amount of pension. We have frequently been told during the debate on this measure to follow the example of the law in Great Britain. Well, I point- out that in England there are two pension schemes, one contributory, and the other non-contributory. Under the former, the insured person may draw his pension at the age of 65, while, under the latter, which is analagous to our present old-age pension system, a person cannot qualify for a pension until he reaches the age of 70. Thus, a distinction is made between the two classes, the contributors enjoying an advantage of five years. That, I suppose, is an incentive to insured persons to keep up their payments. Under our scheme, women are entitled to draw their pension five years earlier, but no distinction has been made between those “who contribute foi’ a pension and those who do not. I understand that in Great Britain the wife of a contributor is entitled to a pension without having to submit to a means test. She receives her pension simply by virtue of being the wife of a contributor, but under our scheme, although the contributor is entitled to his pension of £1 without a means test, his wife, if she desires to draw the old-age pension, will have to submit to an inquisition by the pensions authorities, and will have to prove that she is without means.
We cannot overlook the fact that, under the present industrial system, there is a tendency for men to be forced out of employment once they pass the age of 50. Years ago, there existed a close association between employers and employees. When I first went to work as a boy, although I was one of 2,000 at the place where I was engaged, our employer knew every one of us, and many of us by our Christian names. That system has died out. To-day, the worker is only a cypher. When he gets a job he is given a number. He gets a check and he clocks in and clocks out. When business is bad, and the employer must shorten hands, the old men go first, and there will be a grave danger that a man, after paying his contributions regularly for perhaps 30 years will, beforehe can qualify for a pension, be dismissed from his employment. The bill states that a person, inorder to qualify for an oldage pension, must have been insured for at least five years, must have made a total of 208 contributions, 39 of which have been in respect of each of the three years immediately preceding the date upon which he attained the age of 65. Honorable senators can see how easy it would be, in those circumstances, for a man, after having paid his contributions regularly for years, to lose the benefit of them by becoming unemployed in his declining years.
– But he could still take advantage of the present old-age pension.
– I admit that, but honorable senators who support the Government have been at great pains to point out that the present old-age pension is a charity. We, of course, deny that; we say that it is a right. Once the contributory scheme is in operation, Senator Dein and his colleagues will point the finger of scorn at the man who draws the ordinary old-age pension, because he will not have contributed for it. Honorable senators opposite have had much to say regarding’ the virtue of thrift. Not long ago, Senator Pearce made an attack on old-age pensioners, accusing them of thriftlessness. The Tories have always urged the workers to practice thrift, but we are not encouraging thrift by making the pension conditions exactly the same for the contributor and the non-contributor.
– How would the Labour party’s scheme of non-contributory pensions induce thrift?
– I am now discussing a measure which is the child of the present Commonwealth Government. We are trying to improve it. I am offering some constructive criticism, and I believe that, if the age limit for pensions were reduced, it would be an encouragement to insured persons to keep up their contributions. It would also be some safeguard for the old men who run the risk of being thrown on to the industrial scrap-heap before they are able to qualify for pensions under the scheme. It would be interesting to know the proportion of the population who attain the age of 65.
– The trend is upwards.
– Admittedly, and because of the danger of their being thrown out of employment before they reach the age of 65, the pension age should be reduced.
– Only one in every three of those over pension age is at present receiving the old-age pension, largely because of the indigency provisions.
– It is true that because of those provisions many persons are prevented from drawing a pension. In this bill it is proposed to overcome that difficulty, but the scheme, as at present drawn, does not encourage insured persons to maintain their contributions. The honorable senator himself, in his second-reading speech, pointed out that a person could qualify for a pension whether or not he or she had contributed under the scheme.
– That is in certain circumstances.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I point out that the age at which contributory old-age pensions are awarded in Great Britain is 65, alike for men and women, whilst the non-contributory pension begins at the age of 70. Under the British scheme the husband and wife each receive a pension of 10s. at 65, with no children’s allowances, whereas under this scheme, the husband receives 20s. at 65, with children’s allowances in addition, and the wife has the right, if eligible, to receive a non-contributory pension at 60! In order to enable honorable senators to refresh their memory in this respect, I shall read paragraph 60 of the report furnished by Sir Walter Kinnear, on the15th June, 1937, on which this scheme is based -
It is also suggested that a statutory oldage pension should be given to all persons (men and women) who are in insurance at the pension age, and who fulfil the statutory conditions.
The age at which contributory old-age pensions are awarded in Great Britain is 65, alike for men nml women. The ages for the present non-contributory pension scheme in Australia are 05 for men and 00 for women, and it is suggested that these ages should be adopted for the new contributory scheme in Australia. As already pointed out, a striking change in the age distribution of ‘the Australian population is taking place, with the result that the number of persons in the present old-age pension group will probably lie more than doubled during the next 30 to 40 years. A reduction in the pension age for mcn to 00 would involve a very serious increase in the cost of the scheme and, therefore, in the contributions, and in view of the continuous improvement in the health, and consequent working capacity of the people - in improvement which should be accelerated by the introduction of a health insurance scheme - n reduction in the present ages for old-age pensions is not recommended.
This scheme has been worked out on an actuarial basis, and we are in a position to estimate the extra cost which any advance in pension age in respect of both men and women, would cost, and I need hardly add that such a proposal would destroy the financial foundations of the whole scheme. In the sixth year the extra cost would bc £3,800,000, in the ninth year £4,500,000, and in the eleventh year £5,000,000. Thus such a proposal would, cut right across the actuarial structure of the scheme, and for that reason I am unable to accept Senator Brown’s request.
– We of the Opposition hare already emphasized that the purpose of the scheme, so far as pension benefit is concerned, is –purely to enable the Government to relieve the Treasury of future pension payments. We must remember that this is a contributory scheme, under which pensioners will be obliged to contribute during their lifetime to the fund from which they will receive their pensions. This represents a pronounced departure from our present system under which the pensions are paid solely out of Consolidated Revenue. In view of this change we should give consideration to the reduction of the present pension age. Senator Brown has pointed out that the mechanization of industry has resulted in the displacement of increased numbers of workers in industry, and he has also shown that the first to be retired from industry are the old employees. In the future, therefore, an increasing number of old persons will be . thrown out of employment. No provision is made under this scheme to meet that difficulty, but, I suggest, we should meet it by reducing the pension .age in respect of both men and women. That is only logical. In reply to the Leader of the Senate, who pointed to the rules and regulations governing the British pension scheme, I ask: What have these to do with us? As to the argument that Senator Brown’s proposal will cut across the actuarial basis of the scheme, I point out this basis was arrived at by the actuaries under the instruction from the Government, that it was not prepared to go beyond a certain limit. Again, I must protest that this legislation is being hurried through this Parliament. In view of the many faults found with the scheme by the Opposition in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, it should be postponed for fuller consideration. I repeat that, owing largely to the mechanization of industry, an increasing number of people will be thrown out of work. It is all very well for supporters of the Government to answer that objection by suggesting that the matter of unemployment insurance will be given due consideration at a later date. We have no assurance, however, that legislation for that purpose will be brought before this Parliament at all. We should, therefore, make provision in respect of unemployment under this scheme. I heartily support Senator Brown’s request.
– Although the request has everything to recommend it, I do not imagine for one moment that the Government will accept it. Already, the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has contended that it would upset the actuarial basis of this scheme. Once again, I am impelled to state that the Government has failed to face the real problems of national health and unemployment. Consequently, we must make a choice between giving pensions to our aged people or doles to our youth. It would be far better to give a pension at 60 instead of at 65 if, by doing so, we could reduce the numbers of our young people who must pass their time in enforced idleness on street corners because they are unable to secure employment. This is a very real problem, and one of the most tragic of the economic difficulties confronting this country to-day. We of the Opposition contend that the problem of unemployment must necessarily be considered in any national scheme of health and pensions insurance. We might find it preferable to provide even a lower old-age pension than that fixed under this scheme, but at an earlier age. I do not, of course, mean that we should do anything to reduce the standard of living of our old people. We should,, however, deal frankly with this problem as best we can within the limits of our financial capacity. It is unreasonable to expect people of advanced age to continue to shoulder the burdens of industry while so many of our youth are unable to secure employment, particularly when extra taxation is being levied in order to provide a dole for the latter. Notwithstanding the cost involved, the time has arrived when . we must consider this problem. After all, costs can often be misleading. We should give our old people a pension at the age of 60 instead of 05 if, by so doing, we can provide more employment for our young people. From that aspect alone, Senator Brown’s request should be carefully considered by the Government, and for that reason, principally, I support it.
.- I cannot understand the contentions of honorable senators opposite that this scheme will relieve the Government of some of its obligations in respect of the present invalid and old-age pensions system, because, as all honorable senators are aware, the pension scheme under this measure will involve the Government in additional cost, over and above its bill for invalid and old-age pensions, at the rate of £1,000,000 annually for the next five years, and, thereafter, its grant will rise at the rate of £500,000 a year until it reaches its maximum of £10,000,000 a year in 1961. From these figures, it would not appear that any saving will be effected by the Government through this scheme as suggested by the Opposition. In fact, the reverse will be the position.
Furthermore, the scheme now before us has been worked out on an actuarial basis, and any amendment of it along the lines of the proposal now submitted by Senator Brown will completely upset that basis, with the result that the scheme itself will have to be discarded. Apparently, that is what honorable senators opposite desire to happen.
– Although I shall oppose the amendment, I hope that my action will not bo construed to mean that I have no sympathy with the aged .people ‘ in the community. I realize that in these days of the mechanization of industry the difficulties of aged workers are increasing, and I believe that in the near future this Parliament may be forced to do something to meet the situation. Whilst I realize that there is some unemployment in that class, and also among youths, the position is not so bad as the Opposition would have us believe. In New South Wales, at least, there is no problem of unemployed youths, unless young men between the ages of 20 and 25 can be termed youths. Owing to wise and sympathetic administration of the apprenticeship laws of the State by the Stevens Government, the problem has almost been solved. The talk of unemployment among youths is greatly exaggerated.
Throughout the discussion of ‘this bill there has been ample evidence of the desire of the Opposition to ruin the scheme of national insurance.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to adhere to the amendment, which relates to aged persons.
– I have referred to unemployment among youths only in reply to exaggerated statements by members of the Opposition who were not reproved by you, Mr. Chairman.
– Order ! Is the honorable senator imputing unfairness to me, in that I showed favour to Opposition speakers?
– No. I regret that you misunderstood me, Mr. Chairman. I merely said that I should not have mentioned the subject of unemployment among youths had not other honorable senators been allowed -to discuss it.
– Order ! The question before the Chair is the amendment proposed by Senator Brown.
– Confining my remarks to the amendment, I repeat my former observation that the object of the Opposition is to destroy the bill.
– The honorable senator is out of order in imputing motives. He must confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I regret that, by your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I am debarred from replying to statements made by Opposition members.
– Order !
– The attitude of honorable senators opposite to this clause allows of only one possible interpretation, namely, that they wish to destroy the bill. I sympathize with aged workers, but I shall not let my sympathy induce me to accept an amendment which would ruin the bill. I am not prepared to do anything which I think will endanger thi3 measure. We must be guided largely by t lie calculations of the actuaries, although I think that the time is fast approaching when steps will have to be taken, by cither the Commonwealth or the States, along the lines suggested by the amendment. As, however, the amendment would endanger the whole scheme, I shall oppose it.
– In moving his request, Senator Brown drew attention to the fact that, as industrialism proceeds with everincreasing intensity, men are being retired from active work at an earlier age than previously. It therefore seems to me that in this request the Opposition is offering to the Government something which it should accept, because its acceptance would improve the bill by widening its scope and contributing to the solution of some of the economic problems associated with a capitalistic state of society. In order to illustrate that point, I shall quote from the 1933 census. In that year only about 47S,000 mon over the age of 50 years, including many self-employed persons who would not come under this legislation, were in employment. The same returns show that in that year approximately 128,000 women above the age of 45 years were employed. The number of persons who will remain in employment long enough to qualify for pensions under this bill - those who reach within three years of the maximum age - will be only a small proportion of the total of those who will contribute for years to the pension fund.
As the discussion proceeds, honorable senators are constantly reminded that the actuarial basis of the bill must, on n’o account, be upset. In fact, the word “ actuarial “, like the word “ Mesopotamia “ in former years, is employed whenever the Government finds itself in difficulties. I want to lay the actuarial ghost.
– Does the honorable senator think that any considerable number of men or women will be keen to’ give up employment at full wages five years earlier than is necessary, merely ‘ to obtain a pension of £1 or 15s. a week?
– The Minister suggests that I am proposing to- include in this bill a clause providing for compulsory retirement at certain ages. I am not. The .1933 census revealed that fewer than 500,000 men, including selfemployed persons, were in occupations at the age of 50, or over. Nothing is further from the truth than the argument, which has been repeated on many occasions during this debate, that if the actuarial basis of the scheme be upset the scheme itself will be destroyed. I say that the actuarial basis of the scheme can be upset and a better bill result. That can be done by drawing a little more on the Consolidated Revenue of the country in order to re-establish the actuarial basis. That would merely mean drawing a little more on the results of industry which are made possible only by the industry of the people. By providing a pension for men at the age of 60, and making it unnecessary for them to’ travel backwards and forwards to work every day, we could turn to the other end of the scale and do something for the unemployed youth of this country. I do not believe that -the Stevens Government has got rid of the tragedy of youth unemployment in New South Wales, as Senator Dein claims. That happy position has not been reached in other States which are better governed. Anything- which we may do to improve the lot of the unemployed youths is worthy of consideration. So much has been said about the actuarial basis of the scheme that I have consulted a dictionary in order to ascertain the meaning of the word “ actuary “. I find “ actuary “ defined as “ an officer of an insurancecompany whose duty it is to compile statistics, tables, etc. “. I say, without meaning to be disrespectful, that actuaries earn their living by juggling with figures and compiling statistics. It has been said that “figures cannot lie, but some liars can figure “. That is not a dictionary definition. The dictionary defines “ actuarial “ as “ of, or pertaining to, the profession of an actuary “. In these amendments, the Opposition asks the Government to forget, for the time being, all about actuarial calculations and statistics - those cold-blooded things which, at every stage of the world’s history, have been produced whenever a reformer or reform party has asked that social injustices shall be removed. It is time that we instilled into this bill fewer actuarial calculations and more of the milk of human kindness. Senator Brown would be a proud man if he could say to every aged person that he meets, “We have taken five years off your term of penal servitude; here you are, old chap, a pension for you at 60 and one for the missus at 55 “. How awful it is that such a possibility must not even be considered, because it might disturb the foundations of this measure!
Amendment negatived. “ pharmaceutical chemist “ means a person who is registered as a pharmaceutical chemist or pharmacist under the law in force in the State or part of the Commonwealth in which he supplies drugs, medicines or appliances in pursuance of a contract made under this Act;
. - I move -
That, after the word “ supplies “, the words “ or proposes to supply “ he inserted.
Clause 53 provides - (1.) The Commission may, as prescribed, enter into contracts or agreements for the supply to insured persons of proper and sufficient drugs and medicines. (3.) No contract or agreement under this section shall be made with any person unless -
As the bill as it stands provides that contracts for supplies of drugs and.medicines can be entered into only with pharmaceutical chemists, who are defined as persons who have already entered into such contracts, the amendment is necessary to avoid a contradiction.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 16 agreed to.
. - I move -
That, after clause16, the following new clause be inserted - 16a. Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, no person other than a natural born or naturalized British subject shall be entitled to be insured for, or to receive benefits under, this act.
I have already stated in my secondreading speech my reasons for submitting this proposal. It appears to me that the matter should be viewed having regard to the benefits to be received by insured persons. The contributions that would be received from persons other than natural born or naturalized British subjects might eventually make a very large sum, and, with the greatest friendliness towards people of foreign races, I do not think that this country can afford, or is called upon, to give the benefits contemplated in this bill to those who do not belong to our own race, and who do not choose to become naturalized citizens. There are bars of various kind in Australia to those who are not British. For instance, they are not entitled to vote at parliamentary or municipal elections, and, I understand that in no State, except Queensland, may a foreigner hold land. One of the strongest arguments in favour of restricting the benefits of this measure to British people is that that procedure has been adopted in connexion with the invalid and old-age pension. It is laid down clearly in the act that “ aliens “ are not to be entitled to the pension. Therefore, we shall be proceeding on similar lines if we provide in this bill that the benefits are to be for British people, but not for the world at large. Whilst it may not appear logical or fair, in. some respects, that the employee should, in every instance, take precedence over the employer, it would be a great deal more objectionable if an employee from overseas, who, perhaps, had never previously contemplated coming to Australia, should come and get a job in this country, and, without becoming naturalized, immediately be granted the benefits of the scheme.
– Even if he pays for them ?
– The contribution is relatively small, having regard to the benefits to be received.
– Would the honorable senator exclude the foreign employer?
-I have submitted my proposal in a positive, not a negative, form, and it provides that only British persons should be entitled to the benefits. If a foreigner desires them, he should become naturalized. I realize, of course, that the foreigner in Australia enjoys certain benefits, other than the right to own land, without qualifying for them by becoming naturalized. For instance, he has access to the courts.
– He might come to Australia at the age of 55 or 60 years.
– Quite so. I had that point in mind.
– A person’s employees might all be aliens, and he might enter into business competition with another employer who would be compelled to contribute to the cost of the scheme.
– Yes. I drew attention to that fact in my second-reading speech, but that is a relatively minor point. It does not seem reasonable to place foreign employees on a better footing under this bill than Australian-born selfemployed persons who have, perhaps, been here for several generations. Migrants are likely to come to Australia in large numbers, and probably this legislation will offer them a real inducement to do so. A number of them would be very glad at present to leave Europe and live in a country far removed from it, knowing that they could get employment here, perhaps, with members of their own race, and automatically become qualified to enjoy the privileges to be conferred by this bill, without becoming naturalized. Senator Dein pointed out that a number of them might almost have reached pensionable age on their arrival in Australia. They might draw sickness and disablement benefits, and then go back to their own country and become voluntary contributors, eventually drawing the pension for the rest of their lives, without having become naturalized. I shall bear no resentment against my fellow senators if my proposal is rejected, but I point out that, if it is, we shall be departing from the principle observed with regard to the old-age pension.
– Under clause 101, the sickness and disablement benefits cannot be enjoyed by any person in respect of any period during which he is outside Australia.
– I shall look into that point. It may be argued that thisbill is on the same basis, in this respect, as the British scheme, under which aliens may obtain benefits. But the position of the two countries is not analogous. There is a much freer flow of people to and fro betweenGreat Britain and Europe than between Australia and Europe. A large influx of aliens from continental and other countries to Great Britain seldom occurs except in a time of emergency. It is possible, however, that very large numbers of alien people may, in the future, arrive in Australia.
Let us look at the arguments on the other side. It may be said that the scheme of the bill is likely to do something to improve international relations. We all desire such improvement, but does this committee imagine that if an Australian were to go to Germany or France to work he would automatically become entitled to benefits under national insurance schemes there similar to those enjoyed by the native people? I cannot believe it! Nor do I believe that aliens coming to Australia expect to become entitled at once to social benefits of one kind and another without qualifying for them, seeing that qualification is so easy.
Senator Massy-Greene at once thought of another objection to my proposal. He suggested, by interjection, that employers might engage foreigners to the detriment of local people, and thereby escape the responsibility to contribute to the fund. I cannot believe that the employers’ contributions will, in a general way, be regarded as so heavy as to cause any serious situation of that nature.
– A contribution of £5 4s. Od. a year in respect of two employees would be very heavy for some employers.
– I cannot regard that argument as very strong. After all, it is not a question of a man joining, or not joining a trade union. Many foreigners working in Australia are not members of trade unions, and. I think it may be truly said that, in numerous cases, they do not’ receive award rates of wages. There is no power to make a common rule in Australia in that regard. I suggest, in all friendliness, that that argument i.s not worthy of serious consideration. The third point to be considered is that the aliens would pay some contribution to the fund. I do not think I need waste much time on that point. The main consideration is whether it is wise for us to depart from’ a principle which has been in operation in this country for many years in relation to invalid and old-age pensions. 1 propose this new clause without any hostility whatever to people of foreign races. 1 believe that this country has not the means to make this provision ; nor do I think it should be expected to provide wide social benefits for people of other than British stock.
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN (South Australia - Postmaster-General) [5:20 1. - I have listened with considerable interest to the remarks of Senator Duncan-Hughes, and I appreciate his motive in moving this amendment. I suggest, however, that he, himself, has shown by casual remarks in the course of his speech that he appreciates that this scheme of insurance is entirely different from our existing invalid and old-age pensions scheme, the one being, a contributory measure, and the other a measure of bounty to which the recipient does, nor contribute in any way. Lf we. were to exclude aliens from this scheme we should be out of step with every other national health and pensions insurance scheme in the world. Aliens are not excluded under the British scheme.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that British people who go to Germany, France or Russia to work would be allowed to participate in national insurance schemes in those countries on a basis comparable to that of this scheme?
– We are not including any reciprocal provisions in this bill, but I do not believe that British artisans who went to work in the countries mentioned by the honorable senator would be excluded from available benefits of this kind. Unless we include aliens in our scheme we shall undoubtedly be “ the odd man out “. Moreover, we shall not be complying with the Geneva convention, although that i.not a matter of any serious import at the moment. Senator Massy-Greene suggested that employers might take advantage of the provision proposed by Senator DuncanHughes in order to employ’ only alien workers.
– I made that point myself the other day.
– I admit that the honorable senator made it against himself ; but, in any case, I ask : Is it not desirable that all the workers of Australia, whether alien or otherwise, should have the benefit of any national health service that is provided?
– We want the workers to be as healthy as possible.
– That is so.
– Why are not alien employers included in the scheme ?
– Probably they will be included later on. Seeing that an alien employee will be obliged to pay his contribution and that he also has to pay his taxes and contribute indirectly under our tariff laws, it seems to me that there is good reason for permitting him to participate in this scheme. I can see a safeguard against any dangers. Before a person may obtain any of these benefits he must join an approved society - a trades union, a friendly society, a provident society, or any one of numerous other approved societies which are likely to be formed under the provision of this munificent legislation. Only by joining an approved society may a person participate in these benefits. Arrangements will be made to keep a very close check upon all proceedings under this measure. The very point to which Senator DuncanHughes has directed attention was considered when the bill was being drafted. If a large influx of aliens occurred and any attempt were made to manoeuvre Australian workers out of their jobs, the Government would take steps at once to deal with the situation. The adoption of Senator DuncanHughes’ proposal would be ill-timed.
– I have a good deal of sympathy with Senator DuncanHughes’s point of view. Had his proposed new clause been worded a little differently, I should have supported it. I suggest that the words “ entitled to be insured “ should be deleted.
– The clause was drafted in consultation with the Parliamentary Draftsman.
– But I have no doubt that the drafting was such as to suit the honorable senator’s own desires. If employers had to pay the contribution of1s. 6d. a week in respect of all aliens employed by them, and if the alien employees also had to pay a contribution of1s. 6d. a week each, even though they failed to bring themselves within the ambit of the scheme, all danger would be avoided. Aliens who found themselves in that position would be encouraged to take out naturalization papers. I do not think it is too much to ask that aliens should contribute on an equal basis with British workers, par- tic ularly as it would be easy forthem to qualify for the benefits specified. Every alien may become naturalized after he has been in Australia for six months.
– Thousands of unnaturalized aliens are living in Queensland.
– An alien who comes to this country to make a living should be prepared to become a naturalized citizen, and if he does so he becomes entitled to enjoy the benefits of whatever social legislation is in operation. If alien employees are exempt from contributing to this fund, and if employers are not obliged, on their part, to make contributions in respect of such employees I am afraid alien employment will be encouraged.
– I wish to point out some of the anomalies that may arise if no provision such as Senator Duncan-Hughes has proposed is made. An alien might arrive in Australia when 50 years of age. If he obtained work at once and contributed under this scheme until he was eligible to receive a pension at 65 years of age, he would have paid into the fund £46 16s. If he lived ten years after reaching 65 years of age he would receive £520 in old-age pension alone, and he would also be entitled to all the other benefits provided under the bill. An alien 58 years of age on his arrival in Australia who immediately obtained work and contributed to the fund until he was 65 years of age would pay in only £20. He also would draw out £520 in old-age pension if he lived for ten years after his retirement. He would even then be only 75 years of age. In addition, he would be entitled, during the whole period, to all the other benefits provided. If such an individual lived for only seven years after his retirement at the age of65, he would receive £364 in old-age pension. I do not think it is fair to expect the Australian community to accept a provision which would have that effect in relation to aliens. The Government makes its contribution, so it is not fair that the taxpayer should foot the bill. Our position is entirely different from that of European countries which have adopted systems of national insurance. There is no likelihood of any influx of aliens to European countries. We cannot imagine Australians, for instance, endeavouring to settle in Italy or Germany, because there is no room for them there; but it is easy to envisage large numbers of aliens coming to Australia, becoming contributors; to this scheme, and qualifying for pension and all other benefits which the bill gives to employees. The Leader of the Senate mentioned also that payments would be made only to contributors who are members of an approved society.
-Hughes. - An approved society is not likely to reject any application.
– I doubt that an approved society would have authority to do that. I am glad that Senator Duncan-Hughes submitted his amendment, because it is not unreasonable to expect that aliens who benefit from this scheme should be naturalized.
– I should like to correct an impression that may have gained currency that it is possible for an alien to become a naturalized citizen after only a short residence in this country. I think that Senator James McLachlan mentioned a period of six months as being sufficient. That is not so. An alien, before applying for naturalization, must have a residence qualification of five years.
.- I am not satisfied with the explanation of the Leader of the Senate with regard to pensions schemes operating in different European countries. When I visited Europe some time ago I made careful inquiries about the position of aliens in national insurance schemes, and was informed that they were barred. Will the Minister give the source of his information to the contrary? Senator James McLachlan’s suggested alteration of the amendment moved by Senator DuncanHughes is more to my liking. Some distinction should be made between a naturalized and a British-born subject. I can understand the desire of Queensland senators not to approve of any such proposal, because when last I was in Queensland I found large communities of aliens in different areas, and I have no doubt that they exert an important influence at elections.
– Aliens must be naturalized before they are enrolled as voters.
– Queensland is still 99 per cent. British.
– Perhaps it is, but I saw a funny lot of Britishers in some parts of that State, and we all know that, for some years, there has been a considerable influx of aliens into the sugargrowing districts.
– Aliens are now settling in all of the States.
– I feel sure that Queensland gets 90 per cent. of the foreigners who come to this country.I shall support the amendment.
– Senator Grant has asked me for the authority of my statement that aliens participate in national insurance schemes operating in continental countries. My information is that if these schemes exclude aliens from the benefits, they are not ratified at Geneva. I am further informed that several countries have their insurance schemes so ratified.
Senator COURTICE (Queensland; [5.39]. - Since aliens are allowed to come to Australia, they have a right to participate in all the privileges as well as the responsibilities of citizenship. It would be unfair to exclude the wives and children of aliens from the so-called benefits of this scheme. As has been indicated by Senator Massy-Greene, this exclusion would give rise to some difficulty in regard to employment; it might mean some saving in labour costs to employers who were not called upon to pay contributions in respect of their employees. No one” denies that, in the past, large numbers of foreigners have settled in Queensland; but it is true to say that recently there has been an increase of the number of British settlers in that State, and a decrease of the number of aliens employed in the sugar industry: I also remind Senator Grant that many Italians are leaving northern Queensland for Tasmania. We have heard a good deal lately about the need for better relations between Australia and other countries. This seems to me an appropriate time to do something in that direction. I hope that foreigners who settle in this country will not be prevented from participating in the benefits of this scheme.
– Apparently, Senator
Courtice holds that it is desirable for any foreigner who conies to this country to participate’ in all the benefits of the scheme without any qualifications and without becoming a citizen of the community. Apart from that, the whole of the discussion has concentrated on one only of the half-dozen arguments which I used in support of my amendment. It has been objected that the exclusion of unnaturalized aliens would free their employers from the payment of contributions and thus cheapen the cost of employing alien labour as compared with Australian labour. That does not seem to be of sufficient importance to overrule the principle involved. The further amendment suggested by Senator James McLachlan would completely rule out that objection. His proposal is that the contributions shall be paid in respect of alien employees and shall go into the common fund, but that aliens will not get any benefit from the scheme unless they become naturalized citizens.
– In some instances applicants are refused naturalization.
– I have no doubt that there is good reason for such refusal. I am willing to accept Senator James McLachlan’s amendment of my proposal if the committee is agreeable. The Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) said that if this amendment is carried the Commonwealth will be out of stop with other countries that are operating national insurance schemes ; that it will not be registered at the International Labour Office if it excludes aliens from participation in benefits. It does not appear to me to be a matter of profound importance whether or not this scheme is so registered. In my view, it is far more important that we should have a sound -scheme than one which would involve us in commitments to people who are not, and who will not become, citizens of this country.
– Australian citizen may contribute to national insurance for almost the whole of his working life, lose his employment for more than the free insurance period, and pass out of insurance very shortly before he would qualify for the old-age pension. Yet an alien who is approaching the pension age may come to this country, take employment, such as yard sweeping, from a friend or a relative who is willing to contribute1s. 6d. a week on his behalf to the fund, and for the outlay of a few pounds qualify for pension benefits which may be worth £1,000. I know enough about human nature to know that if the new clause proposed by Senator Duncan-Hughes is not inserted, aliens of advanced years will turn their steps to Australia because they will have a good home and a reasonable pension in their old age. That places in an invidious position the Australian who is thrown out of work, and consequently out of insurance, just before he reaches the retiring age.
– I remind honorable senators that there are restrictions on the admission of aliens into this country. First, they must pass health tests, and, secondly, they must possess a certain sum of money; I am not sure that there is not an age limit. Consequently, it will not be easy for aliens to walk into Australia simply because it has an insurance scheme. I assure honorable senators that, after having studied one of the forms to be filled in by applicants for admission to this country, they will realize that it is not so easy for aliens to leave their country and enter Australia as Senator Dein would make out.
Another aspect, one which should interest Senator Duncan-Hughes, is that frequently specialists in certain branches of industry are brought to Australia under contract for a specified time. Not long ago some experts from Czechoslovakia were brought to New South Wales to assist in the cut-glass industry. I impress that upon Senator Dein. The wages that they are paid would not be at the rate of £365 a year, and, consequently, they come within the ambit of this bill. The Australian Glass Company brings these men out to Australia first to assist in the efficient establishment of the industry, and, secondly, to teach Australians the finer points of the trade. Those men work side by side with Australians. Would honorable senators say to one man, “You shall pay and be eligible for benefits “, and to the other, “ You shall be deprived of ihe advantages of insurance “ ? I know of many cases in which men with specialized knowledge have been brought to this country to assist in industry. For instance, quite recently, men have been imported as shift bosses in the mining industry. They are under contract for terms of from three to five years.
– “What salaries are they paid?
– They are only foremen, and many of them would not be on more than £365 a year. If they receive more than that amount they do not come within the scope of the bill. It would be unfair to deny them the right to benefit tinder this measure. They cannot be compelled to become naturalized because, in a great many instances, they are brought here only for a specified period, at the expiry of which they return to their own countries.
– The Government proposes to take their payments knowing that they will not qualify for the pension.
– That is not so. I would give them the same right to participate in the health benefits as is to be given to the Australians alongside whom they work. They know that they cannot receive the pension benefits for the simple reason that pensions are only paid in Australia. They do not intend to stay in Australia. In many cases these artisans bring out their families. Are those families to be deprived of the benefits of this measure?
– Wives and dependants are not included in this bill.
– No, but they will be in need of the breadwinner’s sickness benefit when he is overtaken by illness. We should at least be fair. It would be unfair to do as has been suggested by Senator Duncan-Hughes. I have heard Senator Duncan-Hughes, on many occasions, urge the necessity to bring people, even though not of British stock, to this country. I am not one of those who would knock back people of alien stock, even people who may be a little older than we should like,, so long as they pass the requirements of the immigration act. People of the right type are needed in Australia.
– If Senator Duncan-Hughes’ new clause is agreed to, junior mechanics from the United States of America and Germany will be debarred from participating in national insurance when they come to Australia, because they are foreigners. What would be the attitude of the United States of America if we decided to do that? Companies in Adelaide to-day are inviting junior mechanics from the United States of America and Germany to come to this country in order to assist in the development of the air-craft manufacturing industry. They are migrants of a type we should encourage. We are short of skilled engineers and tradesmen.
I support the argument advanced by Senator Foll, and I can endorse what he has said concerning the difficulties encountered by alien migrants to Australia. The Minister for the Interior takes every precaution to ensure that only persons of the right type are admitted. Moreover, no matter how hard one might try to bring into this country a person from another country, if his entry will mean that an Australian will lose employment, he cannot come in. Restrictions a3 to health are rigorous, and a foreign migrant must have £200 in his possession, or there must be a guarantee that he will not be a charge on the state’ for five years. The skilled men from Germany and the United States of America are needed in South Australia to provide industry, and when they come they are often accompanied by families. If a migrant of that description were to die, say, as the result of an accident in industry, would Senator Duncan-Hughes be so harsh as to say that his sorrowing dependants should be denied the pensions for widows and orphans? To agree to the honorable senator’s proposed new clause would be a retrograde step. If it were agreed to, Australia would be viewed in other parts of the world as being narrow-minded and parochial. I remind the Senate that migrants of the class that I have mentioned contribute to the taxes of this country; so do those aliens who have established a profitable enterprise in Australia and employ men under good conditions, paying them the basic wage or better. They will have to contribute to the National Insurance Fund in respect of their employees. If we debar Germans, Americans, or other nationals we shall not be acting in the best interests of Australia.-
– Under this bill we are laying the foundation of important social legislation, and if the present unsettled conditions in Europe continue, before long there may be a heavy influx of Europeans into Australia, seeking political and religious liberty in this free land. In these circumstances it is reasonable to assume that within the next 100 years Australia will go through a process of evolution as has the United States of America, and, consequently, a large influx of Europeans into Australia may be expected within the next few years. In framing social legislation we must insure that it has a sound foundation, and that there shall be no differentiation as is proposed in the new clause moved by Senator Duncan-Hughes. If that clause be adopted we shall be making undesirable class distinctions which are to be deplored. We should take a long range view, and recognize that we are legislating not for the present but for possibly a century ahead. I urge the committee not to agree to the proposed new clause.
– When Senator Duncan-Hughes moved the proposed new clause I thought that it had a good deal of merit, but on giving it consideration I visualized the position in which I would be placed should I settle in a foreign country. Even if some nations do not treat Australia fairly, we should not penalize their nationals by hitting back. I was impressed with the statement of the Minister (Senator A. J. McLachlan) that all the countries which are operating schemes of national insurance do not impose such unjust conditions upon foreigners as are suggested in this instance. There is need for reciprocity in matters of this kind, and, if othernations treat us fairly, we should also protect their people. Australia is in a different position from overpopulated European countries, and we should exercise all our energies in the direction of improving our industrial and social conditions in order to attract, migrants of the right type.
– If we admit them we should treat them as Australian citizens.
– Undoubtedly. Our Immigration Restriction Act is sufficiently stringent to prevent other than . migrants of the right type settling in Australia, and should undesirables come to Australia we should impose rigid restrictions under our immigration laws and not under this bill. We have adopted a White Australia policy to keep out undesirable aliens, but when foreigners are once admitted they should receive reasonable treatment. During recent years, the departures of Britishers from Australia have exceeded the arrivals, and generally, Australia’s population is not increasing at a satisfactory rate. The Government should improve our industrial and social conditions, and, in that way, attract suitable persons to settle in Australia. Some of the German migrants who have settled in Queensland are of a fine type, but greater efforts should be made to attract members of the Nordic race who have proved most desirable settlers. Under improved social conditions, an increased number of persons would settle in Australia, and the authorities would then have a larger number from which to make a selection. It is true that in Queensland there has been some heart-burning owing to the heavy influx from certain European countries; but if conditions in Australia are improved we shall attract people who will become desirable citizens and be an asset to the country.
– A majority of the foreign migrants who have settled in Australia recently have been nominated by relatives or friends already living here.
– I realize that. If I were working beside an unnaturalized person I should feel that he should bc subject to the same conditions as were imposed upon me. Persons allowed to settle in Australia should be on the same basis as other Australian citizens. If a foreign employer is to be compelled to contribute, why should not foreign employees also contribute? I am opposed to the suggestion of Senator James McLachlan that benefits should be conferred upon foreigners only when they become naturalized, because there are many desirable foreigners in Australia who have found it exceedingly difficult to become naturalized. A friend of mine, who is a member of an organization with which I was closely associated in my revolutionary days 25 years ago, came to Australia when I did ; but he has been refused naturalization. All that he has done since his arrival in Australia, beyond living the life of a reputable citizen, has been to become a member of the Russian Association. Apparently for that heinous crime he cannot become naturalized. Membership of that body is the only charge which the authorities can lay against him, and although he has a wife and family and is in every way a desirable citizen, naturalization has been refused. Senator James McLachlan believes that alien employees should contribute to this fund but should not receive anything in return.
– Senator McLeay, who referred to the position in which certain American citizens would be placed if the proposed new clause were adopted, should remember that the Government of the United States of America admits only a certain quota of foreigners into that country within a specified period, and allows others to remain only a certain time. Although the Minister said that only selected migrants are allowed to settle in Australia, the controversy which has been proceeding in Queensland during recent years suggests that a wise selection has not been made. Every alien settling in Australia’ should become naturalized at the earliest opportunity, and should he fail to do so he should not be entitled to the benefits available to other citizens. Senator Duncan-Hughes has moved to insert the following new clause : - 16a. Notwithstanding anything contained in this act no person other than a natural-born or naturalized British subject shall be required to pay contributions or entitled to receive benefits under this act.
I move -
That the following sub-clause be added to the proposed new clause: -
The employer of an employee who is exempted from paying contributions and excluded from benefits by virtue of the last preceding sub-section shall not by virtue of that sub-section be relieved of his obligation to pay the amount of the contribution payable by the employer in respect of that employee.
If that amendment be adopted an alien will not pay a contribution or receive any benefit until he is naturalized; but an employer will not be exempted from paying1s. 6d. weekly in respect of each unnaturalized employee.
Silling suspended from6.15 to8.15 p.m.
– I thought that Senator James McLachlan’s original suggestion was that both the employer and the employee should pay their contributions. I understand that that is not so, and that the proposal is that the employer shall pay his contributions but that the employee shall not be required to do so. I have no objection to that, and I am quite prepared, with the permission of the Senate, to withdraw my proposed new clause and support that moved by Senator James McLachlan.
Proposed new clause - by leave - withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator James McLachlan) proposed -
That after clause 16 the following new clausebe inserted: - 16a (1) Nothwithstanding anything con tained in this act no person other than a natural born or naturalized British subject shallbe required to pay contributions or entitled to receive benefits under this act.
The employer of an employee who is exempted from paying contributions and excluded from benefits by virtue of the last preceding sub-section shall not. by virtue of that sub-section, be relieved of his obligation to pay the amount of the contribution payable by the employer in respect of that employee.”
– This amendment breathes the same spirit as that just withdrawn by Senator Duncan-Hughes. Subclause 2 of the proposed new clause will saddle an employer with the burden of paying his own contribution but not that of an employee. If the employer himself were not a naturalized British subject, what then would be the position? Apart altogether from the more or less technical considerations, which can be got over, the main consideration is that this is a scheme of insurance which must be paid for by way of taxation. An insurance measure connotes that some one will receive benefits from the premiums paid. I have an idea that when a levy is imposed on a man to provide specific benefits for some other person - and that would be the effect of the honorable senator’s amendment - it is hot insurance at all.
– It is robbery.
– I ask honorable senators is not this amendment just a little paltry from an international viewpoint? I readily admit that the proposal had its attractions for me the other night because it looked as though it was an attempt to do something for our own people and them alone, but when aliens are admitted into Australia under the provisions of the Naturalization Act and the Immigration Act, surely it is our duty to place them as far as possible on an equal footing with our own people, giving to all the same rights and privileges. Do we not tax the aliens and make them amenable to our criminal and civil laws?
– We do not give them a vote.
– And quite properly so, because the right to vote would give them some control over the Parliament; that is a right which only citizens of Australia should possess.
– Aliens cannot hold land.
– That is so, but I venture to say that many of them have considerable interests in land, not directly, but by subterfuge. As I have said, on the international score alone, we should leave this amendment alone. I have been endeavouring to ascertain during the dinner hour the number of unnaturalized people in employment in Australia.
– It is about 60,000.
– I do not know how many of that number will come under this scheme because aliens have to wait about five years before they can apply for naturalization. If there is any abuse by these people coming in at the ages which the honorable senator has stressed, we can take steps to deal with them. I think it would be an unfortunate gesture on the part of this Parliament to say that we are doing this for our own people, and that, while we shall take the contribution from the employer, we shall provide no benefits for the employee or for his family, merely because he comes from another country. As a young man I held very strong views regarding the necessity for the preservation of racial purity, yet I was always hurt when I came across evidence of the restrictions that were placed upon aliens entering this country. There is another angle of the matter which should not escape consideration. This clause would have to be very closely policed, because if an alien employee were working under an award his employer would be1s. 6d. a week better off than he would be if employing an Australian-born or naturalized Australian worker. That would conduce to the employment of aliens as against Australian citizens.
– Is not the first sub-clause open to the construction that an alien employing British or naturalized British subjects would not have to pay contributions?
– That is the first point to which I drew the attention of honorable senators. I ask the committee to reject the amendment.
.- The first thing which I wish to bring to the notice of honorable senators is the remarkable vein of similarity that runs through the converging arguments, that is, that there is something good in the bill after all, because, although it is hot said in words, the meaning is clearly evident, that the provisions of this bill will confer some boon, some benefit, some advantage, upon our people. Hardly anybody will dispute that, notwithstanding that only yesterday, during the second-reading debate, a. number of honorable senators in this chamber voted against the bill, and led us to believe that there is hardly a speck of virtue in it. I am glad to think that this bill will confer some benefit to contributors. The amendment proposes to shut out all except British subjects from the provisions of the bill ; that means that the citizens of the United States of America will be excluded. What will be the result? The population of that country, numbering approximately 120,000,000, is equivalent to the combined populations of eight or ten European countries to-day. Et” aliens arc shut out, people of our own flesh and blood will be shut out, and this at a time when we arc endeavouring ro encourage closer relationships between r,his country and that great republic of” the West. The defeat of the amendment will be a very small price to pay for the friendship of that great nation. Although there may be advantages and disadvantages on one side and the other, wo should look at this matter from the point of view of foreign people; we should, as it were, look at this country from the other end of the telescope. If it be found that the residents of foreign countries can come into this country without hindrance so long as they are employers of labour, and so long as we are able to pile burdens on them, but that we impose embargoes and restrictions upon their fellow-nationals who are employees, they will be entitled to regard this as a very curious act on the part of the Australian Parliament. Naturally they will say that Australia is anxious to admit those aliens who will bring money into the country, but has no desire to admit those who have only their labour to sell. That policy would not be likely to engender friendship for Australia. I therefore urge that in view of what we may lose by the proposed embargo, and in order to encourage the. members of the Labour party in their new-found faith in immigration, the amendment should be rejected.
– Those honorable senators who are opposed to the amendment should not lose sight of the fact that the Government will be committed under the scheme to make a substantial contribution towards the benefits which insured persons will receive. Aliens entering this country must have guarantors who will undertake that they will not be a burden on the State for a period of five years, and they must, in addition, possess a specified sum of money. It cannot be claimed, therefore, that they are encouraged to enter the country. Aliens are not allowed to enjoy the rights of citizenship, and they are not allowed to vote or to sit in parliament until they become naturalized. They are not even allowed to own their own homes, because they may not hold a title to land. Yet, under the national insurance scheme as it is drawn, they are to be given all the benefits to which Australian citizens are entitled, even though such benefits are in part provided out of general revenue. Even a British subject entering this country does not become eligible to draw the oldage pension until he has been resident here for 20 years, and if that degree of discrimination is exercised against British subjects, it is not too much, surely,, to discriminate against aliens in the manner proposed. The effect of the amendment would be to encourage aliens to become naturalized British subjects. There is nothing in it that is suggestive of international ill-will. Seeing that the benefits under .the scheme Will be so great, it is not too much to ask that aliens be required to qualify at least by a period of residence before they are allowed to participate.
.- Though I have a certain amount of sympathy with the opinions expressed by Senator Duncan-Hughes and Senator James McLachlan, I feel that there would be practical difficulties in giving effect to what they propose to do. If an employer were approached by a. person who said that he was an unnaturalized alien, what ought the employer to do? The obligation is on the employer, not only to pay his own contribution to the scheme, but also to deduct the contributions of the employee from his wages. The obligation would be on the employer to find whether the employee was or was not what he claimed to be. It is well known that in certain trades, where competition is very keen, aliens are employing aliens, and in those trades it is extraordinarily difficult to police the awards, and to ensure that the prescribed rates of wages are being paid. Those employers come into direct competition with Australians employing Australians. A difference of ls. 6d. a week in the wages paid is sometimes sufficient to take the trade away from the Australian employers and give it to the.- aliens.. After all, our immigration laws are very well policed. Though a few aliens are coming in, the number is not great in comparison with the total population, and I do not think that it is worth while to run any risks with this scheme on their account. The only safety, as I see it, in the practical working out of this scheme, is in the universality of its application. So long as it is generally applied, everyone will be on the same level and all those competing in the country for business will be subject to exactly the same charges. But once we open a loophole of* this kind it will bc very difficult to police. For that reason, apart from anything else, I am not prepared to support the amendment.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [S.3S]. - The committee is under a disability in that this amendment, which is a very complicated and important one, has only now been circulated ; consequently the committee has not had time to study it. In my opinion, the amendment goes much further than the mover ever contemplated. For instance, sub-clause (1) reads: - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this act no person other than a natural-born or naturalized British subject shall bc required to pay contributions or be entitled to receive benefits under this act.
That is to say, a British subject who is an employer will be required to contribute under the scheme in regard to an alien whom he employs, although that alien will himself not contribute. But what about the alien employer? Under the proposed sub-section which I have quoted: he will not pay any contribution in respect of employees, even though they be British subjects. As I read the amendment, the alien who employs British subjects will be relieved of his obligation to contribute in respect of them. I know that the honorable senator who moved the amendment did not intend that, but as the amendment is drawn that scorns to be its clear meaning. I am certainly not going to vote for an amendment that will have that effect. What I have envisaged is by no means unlikely to occur. It is notorious that in the clothing trade, for instance, many aliens in our capital cities are employing British subjects, and in respect of those employees they would, if the amendment be agreed to, be freed from the obligations to pay any contributions under the scheme. I suggest that, if the honorable senator intends to .proceed with the amendment, he should have it re-drafted.
– I have been very pleased with the tone of this debate. It has, indeed, been gratifying to me, as an enthusiast in the cause of good feeling between nations, to find that the international spirit here is so strong. I admit that the amendment is open to the interpretation placed upon it by Senator Pearce, and I have suggested to the mover that it be re-drafted so as to place it beyond all doubt that the clear intention is that the employer shall not escape the obligation to contribute. The amendment was not drafted by me, but by the Crown law draftsman.
– I am going to suggest to the mover that the word “ employed “ be inserted before the word “ person “.
– I think that would meet the situation. There is a danger oi the Senate getting away from the real .question at issue, and becoming befogged over a matter of drafting. The Leader of the Senate spoke of reciprocity as between nations in this matter, but he spoke in such general terms that I should like more details from him in that respect, I recall that last night he made a statement with respect to the income limit of £365. I questioned the figure at the time, and I have since found it to be quite incorrect.
– If that figure is incorrect, then all our information is wrong.
– The figures which I gave in that respect on the spur of the moment, and from memory, I have found to be substantially correct. Senator Mcleay suggested that, as a reprisal for a provision of this nature, American mechanics, for instance, might be debarred from coming to Australia. I am not approaching this matter in any spirit of antagonism towards any foreign country, but to anybody who has studied the subject, it is elementary knowledge, as I said in my second-reading speech, that the United
States of America has been most severe in its application of the quota system against foreigners. This was so much the case two years ago, that if an American citizen married an Australian woman she lost her British nationality and became an American by British law, but could not become an American by American law until she had been admitted to the United States of America - which was difficult under its restrictive quota system - and had resided in that country fortwo years. If the United States of America applies so restrictive a quota system as that, how can it be suggested that a proposal of this nature, which simply proposes that, in order to obtain certain definite benefits, an alien must become a British subject, is a hostile reply to that quota system? I was delighted to hear Senator Massy-Greene speak on this subject, but I cannot agree with his contention that, under the amendment, the employer would be obliged to pay both contributions. I take it that the employer would simply pay h is own contribution and mark the card to show that it was in respect of an alien, who would not payany contribution at all, and that the contribution in respect of the latter would presumably be paid by the Government. In view of the Government’s desire to attract more migrants to this country, it would hardly worry about having to pay so small an amount in this respect.
– Suppose a man says he is an alien when he is not?
– One cannot reject the principle of a proposal of this kind simply because of certain possibilities which may arise in its application. If we were to adopt that course we should have to reject this scheme immediately, because it is perfectly obvious that it bristles not only with difficulties, but also with inequities, and what the average man would call injustices. I hope that those honorable senators who feel that the amendment is substantially justified will take the opportunity to put their vote on record, not in any sense of hostility to any one, but out of the feeling that this country and the people who have made itseek under this scheme to provide certain tangible benefits for Australians as a whole, and if any one wishes to share in those benefits, they should first become members of the Australian family.
– The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat discussed this matter on the basis of reciprocity with other countries, and in that respect I draw his attention to clause 187 of the bill, which deals with reciprocal arrangements. If we wish to reciprocate with the Mother Country, we must adopt a scheme which does not differ fundamentally from the British scheme. If the amendment were adopted, it would create a fundamental distinction between this scheme and the British scheme, because the Mother Country allows to aliens all the benefits which it gives to its own people.
– I thought that the Minister was speaking about reciprocal schemes with foreign countries.
– We do not reciprocate with foreign countries except indirectly. The reciprocity we desire is between our own people, and it is doubtful whether we shall get that reciprocity if this proposal is carried, because it cuts right across one of the fundamental principles of the British scheme. In reply further to the honorable senator, I shall be only too pleased to give him all the information the Government possesses with respect to the current agreements between the friendly societies. Whether the honorable senator’s information, with regard to the income limit, is up to date I do not know, but I may be pardoned in the circumstances for mentioning that I am not in the habit of misleading honorable senators. The information which I gave last night was based upon proceedings which took place at a conference between representatives and officials of the Government, the friendly societies and the British Medical Association. I shall deal more fully with this matter, however, when the relevant clause comes up for consideration. In respect of this amendment, I take broadly the same objection which I have taken all along. I suggest to Senator James McLachlan that he amend his original proposal by applying it specifically to employed persons so that the question may go to a vote forthwith.
– I ask leave to amend my proposed new clause by inserting after the word “ no “ subclause (1) the word “employed”.
Amendment - by leave - amended accordingly.
– I do not desire to debar all persons who are not British subjects from the benefits of this scheme as suggested by the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan). Indeed, I wish to attract as many people here as possible, but I contend that when they arrive in Australia they should become naturalized subjects as soon as possible, For that reason I should be prepared to reduce the residential qualification period under our naturalization laws from five years to one year, in respect of aliens who, we could rest assured, would make desirable Australian citizens. We require a guarantee from an Australian citizen that he will look after a migrant for a period of five years after his arrival, and at the expiration of that period, should he so desire, the migrant may become a naturalized subject; he would then qualify under my proposal to come under this scheme. To those honorable senators who contend that this would be unjust, I reply that the present residential qualification of 20 years in respect of the old-age pension is a far greater injustice, and it applies to British subjects. There are to-day 60,000 unnaturalized persons in Australia, and I feel sure that the benefits offered under this scheme will offer an effective inducement to them to become naturalized at the first opportunity.
Question put -
That the proposed new clause (Senator James McLachlan’s amendment) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator B. Sampson.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 17 to 23 agreed to.
Clause 24 (Exempt and partially exempt employees).
.- I move-
That the following sub-clause be added: - “(7.) The Commission may issue a certificate in the prescribed form to a contributor who makes an application for exemption and establishes to the satisfaction of the Commission that he is a bona fide adherent to and member of a duly constituted Branch of the Christian Science Church or Society and thereupon during the currency of the said certificate the provisions of this Act relating to medical benefit shall not apply to such contributor and the amount of contribution payable by such contributor shall be reduced by such amount as the Commission shall from time to time determine.
Provided that such certificate may at any time be cancelled by the. Commission if the Commission is satisfied that the holder thereof is not such an adherent to and member of such Church or Society and shall be so cancelled at the request of the holder thereof “.
I do not propose to repeat what I said on this subject in my second-reading speech, but I point out to honorable senators that the governments of many countries, including several State governments in the United States of America, have, by various forma of legislation recognized the special claims of the Christian Science Church for exemption from laws which apply to other citizens. Therefore I think that we should hesitate to cut across the religious beliefs of any genuine religious society. I believe that it is possible to meet the request of the Christian Scientists, and I should like to hear the Leader of the Senate on this point. Perhaps he will be able to tell us that it is possible for the Christian Science Church to be registered as an approved society under the scheme, and apply the medical benefits to its members in its own way. If the Minister will give mo this assurance I shall not press my amendment.
– A representative of the Christian Science Church interviewed me in the presence of Sir Walter Kinnear, and we discussed the matter mentioned by Senator Abbott. We pointed out to him that great administrative expense would be involved if wc were obliged to set up special machinery with separate contribution cards and special insurance stamps to meet the objections of the Christian Scientists to inclusion in the scheme. I was informed that the only objection which- they had to the proposal was in relation to the contribution, of approximately 2d. a week, for medical benefit. I asked him what was the membership o’f the church in the various States, and upon being told, I suggested that there were more than sufficient to form an approved society which could administer this portion of the scheme to its members, so obviating any expenditure on cash benefits for sickness and disablement. Some objection has been taken to the pooling of the surpluses in the various funds, but in this instance there will be definite relief to Christian Scientists because this approved society would be credited with 50 per cent, of the surplus in its own fund, so that actual payments by its members would be infinitesimal. I cannot accept the amendment, but I have indicated the way out of the difficulty. We levy taxes on other groups or sections of the people and use the money for purposes which they may not approve. For instance we levy taxes on Quakers and apply some portion of the proceeds to defence purposes. I may add that the gentleman with whom we discussed this matter left Canberra quite satisfied, I understand, that what we had suggested could be done.
.- I thank the Leader of the Senate for his clear statement. I should like to make it clear that the objection of Christian Scientists is not so much to the contribution of 2d. a week, but to the principle involved, and I do not think that we should force any section of the people to do anything to which they have conscientious objections. The suggestion made by the Postmaster-General is a good one. I may add that I took the trouble to interview independently the Christian Scientist who visited Canberra and he confirmed what the Leader of the Senate has just said. I therefore ask leave of the Senate to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 25 to 34 agreed to.
Clause 35 (Contribution payable in respect of any employment in a week).
– This clause enacts that a contribution shall be payable for each week during the whole or any part of which an employed contributor has been employed. Does this mean that if a man is employed for only one day in a week he will be required to contribute ls. 6d. to the scheme ?
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN (South
Australia - Postmaster-General) [9.14]. Speaking broadly, intermittent casual employment is exempt. If intermittency becomes regular, that is to say, if a man is employed regularly on one day in each week, he will come under this scheme, but if employment is strictly occasional, he will not be deemed to be employed and therefore will be exempt.
.- The Minister might explain who will be held responsible in respect of, say, a gardener, who is employed by different persons on each day of the week. If the man who employs him on Monday is to be held responsible, no one will employ him on that day, and so on throughout the week. There must be some better arrangement than that.
– I was puzzled by this very point. A gardener probably is employed for five and a-half or six days a week at one place and another, and the man employing him on Monday would strongly object to paying the extra amount. In England, a book of rotation is used, and the cost is allocated among the different employers. There is probably more of this sort of employment in England than in Australia.
– Is there not provision in the bill to meet special cases of this sort?
– It is by virtue of such power that this will be done.
– According to clause 36, where a contributor is employed by more than one employer in any week, the employer who first employs him in that week is to be deemed to be the employer for the purposes of the provisions relating to the payment of contributions.
– That is so. The liability has to be imposed on somebody, but under the special provision to which I have referred the matter will be arranged in accordance with a book of rotation.
– What will happen in the case of a man who is employed for two days a week on relief work?
-I understand that relief work is dealt with in the first schedule to the bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 36 to 45 agreed to.
Insured persons shall, subject to and in accordance with the provisions of this act, be entitled to the following benefits: -
– In accordance with notice which I gave during my second-reading speech, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment: - after paragraph (b) insert the following paragraph: -
I move this request purely on the ground of necessity. The logical course for the framers of this legislation to adopt was to determine what benefits were necessary, and then to fix the amount of contribution at a figure which would enable those benefits to be provided. The bill makes provision for medical benefit, sickness benefit, disablement benefit, additional benefits, old-age pension, widow’s pension, orphan’s pension, and dependant child’s allowance. One very important benefit has been omitted, and I am now seeking its inclusion. Perhaps the actuaries, and those who had to consider the framing of the bill, felt that it was unnecessary to provide a contributor with a funeral benefit. The contributor himself will not need such a benefit, but those who will be responsible for the disposal of his remains should be assisted in respect of this liability. That it is the widow’s responsibility in nearly all cases, no one will deny. What resources will she have with which to meet an expenditure ranging from £15 to £30 ? She will have a pension of 12s. 6d. a week, in addition to an allowance of 3s. 6d. a week in respect of each child. If she has two children, she will receive 19s. 6d. a week. What chance will she have of meeting an expenditure of, say, £20 immediately she loses her breadwinner? I do not know what the cost would be for a simple but decent funeral, but I feel that if provision were made for the fund to be drawn upon, the expense would be reduced by onehalf. Many thousands of persons in humble walks of life provide funeral benefits for themselves by contributing to a fund administered by a friendly society. Hundreds of thousands take out industrial policies for the sole purpose of covering funeral expenses. They may pay a weekly premium of1s. for 20 or 30 years in order to draw roughly £30 or £40 when the money is needed. I contend that they are getting a very bad deal, because the benefit is out of all proportion to the premium they are asked to pay. In New South Wales, and I presume also in other States, public companies have been formed which accept subscriptions on the undertaking that they will provide either a burial or a certain amount on the death of the subscriber, but there is no guarantee that such companies will remain solvent. A person might contribute for a number of years and be unable to collect when the money was needed. During the last five or six years, many old-age pensionersin New South Wales have been sufficiently thoughtful and thrifty to subscribe to a privately-controlled fund about 6d. a week to cover funeral benefits. Here again, however, there is no guarantee that the payment will be made. Considering that, in a scheme of national insurance, the only certain payment which the dependants of a contributor will need is the funeral benefit, the fund should make provision which will enable them to dispose decently of his remains. I do not suggest that, at the moment, any one can say what amount would be necessary to meet such demands, but I know that it would be large.
– No provision has been made for it.
– Nevertheless, I contend that such a benefit should be provided. I do not think that the calculation of the cost would be nearlyso formidable as have been other calculations which the actuaries have had to make.
– Does the honorable senator propose to specify what sort of funeral shall be given ? Shall there be plumes and three mourning coaches?
– Funeral benefit could be provided on a flat rate and, if it were desired to improve upon the arrangements which the insurance payment would permit, the further cost would be a liability on the relative concerned. It would be acceptable if the fund could make available even £5 to the widow or nearest relative, but I think that the amount should be greater. I do not think that the interjection of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) was serious, but I am serious, because I know the difficulties that often confront a family when the breadwinner dies. In New South Wales, and I daresay, in other States, government charity often has to be drawn upon for burials. If a person contributes for many years to national insurance there should be available from the fund when he dies, a sum. which will give him a decent burial. The governing principle of this bill is that a person must have made 104 contributions to the fund before becoming eligible to participate in the major benefits, but I can see that payments for two years would not be a sufficient qualificationfor funeral benefits. Many persons will contribute for 30 or 40 years without return. I think that they should have the knowledge, at least that when they die they will be buried at the expense of the national insurance fund, and not at the expense of. their widows or of charity. In my opinion, if a person has contributed to this fund for, say, ten years, his widow, at his death, should be entitled to a specific sum to meet the cost of his burial. At the start the amount would not need to be great, but, as the position of the fund improved more generous provision could be made. I have no idea of what will be the cost of this benefit, and as I have no intention to do anything that would upset the actuarial basis of this measure, it would be idle to persist with the amendment, but I point out. to the Leader of the Government the necessity for the Government to make, if not in this bill, then in a subsequent bill, just provision to meet this important and urgent question. I do not contend that the fund should bear the whole of the funeral costs; a contribution towards the funeral would help a widow. It would be fair, neither to the Senate, nor to the fund, to persist in the requested amendment and, if the Leader of the Government will undertake to place my representations before the Ministry when the matter of national insurance is next discussed, I shall ask leave to withdraw the request.
– I undertake to convey the honorable senator’s representations to the Cabinet.
Request - by leave - withdrawn.
– I move -
That the words “ old-age pension “be left out with a, view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ superannuation “.
This amendment is small, but important.
– Does the honorable senator intend to move a similar amendment in respect of the widow’s pension ?
– No. The term “ widow’s pension “ is understood in every part of the world. It is entirely different from “old-age pension” as I shall proceed to show. If the amendment be carried, the paragraph will set out in plain English what is meant. To me the difference between “ old-age pension “ and “ superannuation “ is vital. The oldage pension as we know it, is a payment from the Consolidated Revenue, to which no direct contribution has been made, upon the fulfilment of certain conditions. The principal conditions, upon compliance with which the old-age pension is paid, are as follows: - (1) Provided that the claimant has reached the age of 65 in the case of men, and 60 in the case of women; (2) provided that the applicant has lived for twenty years in Australia and is naturalized; (3) provided that the claimant is in indigent circumstances, which is determined by the hateful means test.
Superannuation is different. It implies contributions to a special fund in order to receive a certain payment on reaching a certain age. That payment is made as a right, and no means test is applied. Superannuation, moreover, is not paid, and will not be paid, in the unfortunate manner in which the old-age pensions are paid. It is not a pleasing sight to see the old-age pensioners line up at the post offices to receive their pensions.
-The honorable senator wants to make the position worse by distinguishing too much between the two classes of pensioners.
– No. If the honorable senator contributed to superannuation he would expect his pay to be sent to him. That would be his right. If the present method of paying pensions is wrong, the Labour party, on the words ofits own supporters, is responsible.
– According to the honorable senator, the Labour party was responsible for the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The lining-up of the oldage pensioners at the post offices every fortnight is a distasteful part of that act. A person who contributes to superannuation should receive it in the same manner as do the public servants.
– It is sometimes called a pension in the Public Service.
– That may be. At the same time, in asking the Senate to accept this amendment, I feel that I am asking for something reasonable. A person is compelled to contribute in order that he may receive a due payment on retirement. That sort of payment is known throughout Australia as superannuation. All I ask in this amendment is that the words “ old-age pension “ be left out with a view to the insertion of “ superannuation “. I realize that the words “ old-age pension “ occur many times in this bill, but, if the committee decided that those words were to be struck out, where occurring, and replaced by the word “ superannuation “, the revision of the bill would be simple. As one who contributed for many years to a fund in the Public Service, I do feel that one should have the payment that is due properly designated.
– I trust that the good sense of honorable senators will turn down this suggestion. The only effect of it would be still further to stigmatize the oldage pension as something which is given, not as a right, but as a charity. That is definitely the motive of the mover.
– I take a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) said that the motive behind my amendment is to perpetuate the distinction between the two classes of persons.
– That is not a point of order. It is a personal explanation. The honorable senator will have an opportunity later to correct any misrepresentation of his attitude.
- Senator Dein has entirely misunderstood what I said. Last night, speaking on this very subject, on the second reading of the bill, Senator Dein definitely said that the old-age pension was a charity, and that he wanted to make sure that the pension to be paid under this bill did not come under that category. He proposes, by his amendment, to put that idea in concrete form in the bill, so that everybody will understand that thepayments to be made to the aged under this bill are superannuation, and that the ordinary oldage pension is a charity. If he did not mean that, I do not know what he meant.
In further emphasis of his point, the honorable senator said, in effect, that he was grieved to see the line-up at the post office on pension1 pay-days. As an. old man who fought to have the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act put on the statute-.book, and has lived long enough to see it in operation, I never see the post offices on pension Thursdays without having a feeling of great pride. L have purposely walked in and out of the post offices and mixed with the pensioners, accosting those whom I knew, so that they would see that there was one well-dressed person who, with no suggestion of poverty’ about him, was proud to move among the pioneers. None of us has any reason to object to the people getting the old-age pension. They have paid for it, not in cash, but, over and over again, in service in the industries of this country. The judges of our Supremo Courts and other public servants, who receive far higher salaries than any of us in this chamber receive, retire on pensions. They have no objection that the “ pension “ bears the stigma of charity, although they have paid for it only by service. Does a judge feel any stigma of charity when he accepts a pension of, say, £1,000 a year upon retirement, after having enjoyed a good salary for many years?
– He does not go to the post office to obtain it.
– Surely every honorable senator knows that if an oldage pensioner has any objection to going to a post office to collect his pension he may, by signing a simple form, authorize any person he cares to name to collect it for him. This sudden development of a spirit of overwhelming benevolence in relation to pensioners, and the suggestion that they might come to the conclu- sion that they arc the recipients of charity, is degrading in the extreme. I hope the amendment will not be carried, especially if it may tend to emphasize further the difference between a pension given by law as a right and a pension given by law to persons who have paid into a fund. The pensioners of Australia have paid over and over again in service for anything they receive. They will have paid £1,000, where many contribu tors to this scheme may pay only £100. I hope the amendment will be given short shrift.
– The acceptance of this amendment would necessitate the consequential amendment of at least twelve other clauses and three schedules of this bill. It would also cause confusion because the word “ superannuation “ is used in clause 99 with a wholly different meaning to that which Senator Dein now proposes to give to it. Senator Dein is surely actuated chiefly by sentiment in moving this amendment. He has suggested that some indignity, or disability, or even stigma-
– That is the word used by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). I did not use it.
– I used it because I believe in using honest language.
– If the word “superannuation” is inserted in this clause instead of “pension” a great deal of confusion will occur. I ask honorable senators to bear in mind that this bill, when it becomes law, will have to be administered in such a way as to harmonize, as far as possible, with our existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. It will be difficult enough, as things are now, to co-relate the two systems, but if the word “ pension “ in this bill is replaced by the word “ superannuation “, greater difficulty still will be encountered. Senator Dein has said that the word “ pension “ conveys to him a certain meaning ; I think I am safe in saying that it does not convey that meaning to many other honorable senators. In any case, I appeal to the honorable gentleman not to persist in his proposal, for if it were accepted it would add to the already numerous complexities of this, scheme. I have been wrestling with this bill for a considerable time, and I feel that if additional difficulties arc created in it, I shall be more or less paralyzed. As the amendment, involves sentiment more than substance, I urge Senator Dein to withdraw it.
– If the word “pension” is altered to “superannuation”, we shall not only have to make consequential amendments to twelve other clauses and three schedules of the bill, but we shall also have to find another meaning for the word “ superannuation “.
– Notwithstanding what the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has said,. I cannot believe that it would be such a very difficult task to accept this amendment and then make the necessary consequential alterations to the bill. I appreciate the manner in which the honorable gentleman has put the case from the point of view of the Government. It was in marked contrast to the offensive way in which the Subject was discussed by the Leader of the Opposition. Why should that honorable gentleman attack me simply because I wish to make an alteration in the verbiage of the bill, in order to alleviate the distress which certain sections of the community have assured me they will feel if the bill remains unaltered in this respect?
– The honorable senator cannot bear criticism.
– Senator Collings claims that he and his colleagues are the only members of this committee who are entitled to speak a word for our invalid and old-age pensioners. That is characteristic of him and his party. Apparently no one else has any right even to mention this subject. The Leader of the Opposition has had a good deal to say about his advocacy of invalid and old-age pensions years ago before the present pensions system was introduced. I challenge him to direct our attention to. one word that he uttered on this subject at that time. What the honorable gentleman has said on that point to-night is all humbug. I claim to have just as much sympathy with the invalid and old-age pensioners as he has. I have never cast a stigma on these people. Such a thought has never entered my mind. Senator Collings apparently cannot express his opinion on this or any other subject without abuse and misrepresentation.
I have given expression to my mind on this point, as I did in my second-reading speech ; but I shall not press the committee to a vote on the issue, although I feel strongly upon it. Had it not been for the offensive manner in which Senator Collings discussed the subject - a manner which he frequently adopts - I should not have spoken a second time.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 47 to 55 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 55a.for the purpose of enabling the commission to determine the terms of any contract or agreement proposed to bo entered into by it under this part for the supply of drugs, medicines and appliances, the commission may, by notice in writing, call upon any manufacturer or wholesale distributor of drugs, medicines and appliances to furnish to it, within such time as is specified in the notice, such books and documents and such information as the commission thinks necessary in relation to drugs, medicines and appliances the subject of any such contract or agreement.”
The need for such a provision seems to me to be perfectly obvious. The Minister gave us to understand in his speech in reply in the second-reading debate that a clause to this effect was already in the bill, but I have been quite unable to find it. The point may be covered by some general clause. The object of my proposed new clause is to apply a check on the cost of drugs and medicines supplied by pharmaceutical chemists. It will be obvious to all honorable senators that the wholesale cost of these drugs and medicines is of first-rate importance. Indeed, it is more important than the small sum which the chemist himself may charge.
– The amendment as drafted by the honorable senator is practically complete, but we should have to rely on clause 175 to enforce it. I do not think that the powers contained in that clause would be sufficient to do so. I have consulted with the draftsman, and I now suggest that the honorable senator add the following subclause to his amendment: -
Penalty: £50, or imprisonment for three months. if the honorable .senator will make that addition I shall accept the amendment.
– I understood the Minister to say that there was no need for my amendment.
– At first I did not think that there was need for it. This business will be done by retailers. In order that they may know the prices at which the drugs are to be supplied, the wholesale houses will supply to them a list of drugs and prices. I could see from the debate that had already taken place that variations might occur from time to time. This is a more direct way to deal with the matter.
– I am prepared to add to my amendment the sub-clause suggested by the .Leader of the Senate. The amendment was originally in that form, but I struck out the provision relating to penalty because I did not think that, in dealing with wholesalers and manufacturers, it should be necessary to provide for a penalty of £100 or a year’s imprisonment. I think that we can fairly rely on them to answer questions asked by the commission. “They could be dealt with by mandamus or otherwise. There are other ways of dealing with them than by prescribing a penalty. However, I have no objection to the additional subclause. It seems to me that if we are going to have a careful scrutiny of the agencies acting in regard to national insurance, it will be essential, in the matter of drugs and medicines, to go back to the origin of such drugs and medicines, and consider whether they are being supplied wholesale at a reasonable figure. That means that we must take the tariff into account in arriving at the price at which they are supplied to the retailer. In most cases, the retailer is a relatively small agency. What the retailer has to charge must eventually be governed by the wholesale price of the drugs, medicines and pharmaceutical preparations*. That price is not touched on by the bill. 1 1 covers the doctor, the chemist, and the approved society; everything else seems fairly well provided for except what seems to be one of the most important things of all. How are we to know whether the original cost - the wholesale cost of these goods as distributed - is reasonable or not? I think that that is rather a different question from the one with which we are dealing now. The duty on medicines, particularly those which come from Great Britain, is too high. If the Tariff Board has submitted a report on drugs and medicines, it certainly has not been presented to Parliament. There should be a report by that body on these commodities, so that we might know whether everything connected with the supply of these important requirements is, or is not, as it should be. As these goods have to be bought in large quantities, enormous sums of money are involved. Any extravagance in regard to purchasing, on the’ one hand, or exorbitant selling charges, on the other hand, will eventually re-act heavily on the taxpayers of this country.
– Particularly with a high rate of exchange.
– Exchange will affect it to some extent. I have heard enough on this subject to know that, like other portions of the bill, this is a most intricate provision. -Many drugs are similar or substantially similar to other drugs; they are produced in different places and by different people; some are higher than others in price. I think that we can leave the straightening out of these things to the commission, for I am sure that it will deal with such matters carefully, in order to see .that not more than a reasonable profit is made. There are certain points which should be considered. I have mentioned some of them. It is laid down that the pharmaceutical chemist has to charge wholesale prices plus a fair dispensing fee. But the wholesale prices vary. Some chemists have contracts to purchase at certain rates. If a man has bought medicines or drugs at a high figure, is he to be allowed to charge the wholesale price that he has paid, or has he to take an average figure over general wholesale prices of the commodities? How is the calculation to be made? The point that I urge is that, if a retail chemist has to sell goods at prices based on the wholesale cost, the only fair way to ascertain that cost is to have regard to the price at which he actually obtained the goods. This subject is closely associated with the cost of glass. Medicine bottles are generally made of glass. As honorable senators know, there is in Australia a glass company which has something approaching a monopoly. One aspect of this subject which might be worth considering is the fact that the manufacturers of glass will not sell their products to some of the dispensing chemists. Such chemists must obtain their requirements of glass bottles from the wholesale houses, and it has been suggested that they are charged rates above those that they should be called upon to pay. That is a point worth considering. I do not wish to over-emphasize this matter, but the information which I have been given makes me think that the supply of glass bottles for medicine is a matter which might well be looked into by the commission. I am glad that the Government has accepted the amendment, because it seemed to me that, without it, the commission would have only indirect power to inquire into what is really a vital portion of this bill. I appreciate the action of the Minister in accepting the amendment.
Proposed new clause amended accordingly and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 56 (Medical Benefit Council).
– It is well known that chemists are not so well organized as are doctors and friendly societies. Can the Minister assure the committee that chemists will have easy access to the commission on matters in which they are particularly concerned ?
. - The commission and the Medical Benefit Council will meet periodically to deal with the broad aspects of the scheme. Clause 60 provides for the appointment of a Pharmaceutical Chemists Committee, and there will be co-operation between the interested sections.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 57 to 60 agreed to.
. - Pursuant to an undertaking which,I understand, the Treasurer gave in the House of Representatives, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by leaving out the word “ seventh “, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “fifth”.
This would enable sickness benefits to be claimed on the fifth, instead of the seventh day of incapacity for work.
Request agreed to.
Clause agreed to, subject to a request.
Clauses 62 to 65 agreed to.
Clause 66 consequentially amended and agreed to, subject to a request.
Clauses 67 and 68 agreed to.
Clause 69 (Inmates of public institutions).
.- I should like to know what will be the general position of public hospitals in relation to this scheme. This clause provides that sickness benefit and disablement benefit shall not be paid to any person who is an inmate of any hospital or other institution which is supported wholly or in part by public funds, charity or voluntary subscription, but shall be paid to his dependants.What will be the position of hospitals, other than government institutions, which depend for financial support largely on the liberality of the general public, and to some extent on government subsidies? If a hospital relies mainly on private contributions, are there no means by which a portion of the money to which the insured person will be entitled can be used in payment for the hospital services received by him? It seems to me that such hospitals are to be rather shut out in the cold. I am told on good authority that, far from this scheme causing a reduction of the number of patients in private hospitals, the number will either be affected very little or even increased. As a member of a hospital committee, I am well aware of the difficulty experienced in raising the necessary funds to finance private hospitals. Some people contend that all. hospitals should be financed entirely by government subsidies, but that is absurd. Hospitals conducted by private committees are liberally supported by the general public, and the care and attention received by patients in these institutions is usually superior to that obtainable in public hospitals.
– That is not our experience in Queensland.
– Are the public hospitals in Queensland more efficient than the others?
– Much more.
– Do they receive legacies from private citizens?
– They do not get contributions through that channel.
– I have in mind a hospital which has expanded greatly in recent years, and it has received legacies from persons in various walks of life.
– At one time hospitals inWestern Australia received private legacies, but, immediately a hospital tax was imposed, such contributions ceased.
– That is to be expected. I know of hospital committees on which the ablest business men in the community have given their services voluntarily for years.
– The underlying principle of sickness benefit is compensation for the loss of earnings, and next in importance to the curing of the patient is the care of his dependants. Any balance will be handed to the hospitals. It is believed that the hospitals will be in a better position under this scheme than they are at the present time, because that has been the experience under the British scheme. In Great Britain, the work of the out-patients’ departments has considerably decreased, because, if persons seeking medical attention at the hospitals are insured under the scheme, they are advised to consult the panel doctors. Sickness or disablement benefits are primarily designed to make some compensation to the man and his family for the loss of his earnings due to his incapacity for work. The sickness benefit is regarded essentially as a home benefit, and special provision is therefore necessary when the person entitled to the benefit is in an institution. The principle adopted in this clause is first, that the first claim on the amount which would otherwise be paid to the insured person, is for the support of the insured person’s dependants; secondly, that the insured person should be assisted to defray expenses of keeping his home while he is in the institution; only when these two classes ‘ of expenses are dealt with should payment be made to the institution itself. That is the underlying principle of this clause. Experience in Great Britain has disclosed that the outpatient service at hospitals has been relieved considerably, and doubtless, that will be the experience here. This feature of the proposal was closely examined by Cabinet, particularly in view of the experience in connexion with hospital administration in Melbourne. The Government has been assured that hospitals in countries operating under a similar scheme, have had fewer calls upon their services than previously, particularly in respect of out-patients.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 70 to 72 agreed to.
Clause 73- in old-age pension shall, subject to this act, be payable to any person -
– I move-
That the House of Representatives be re quested to leave out the words “two hundred and eight “, paragraph (b ) , with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the words “ one hundred and four “, and to add at the end of paragraph (b) the words “or the date upon which his last employment ceased whichever date is the earlier “.
The object of these requests is to liberalize the conditions under which old-age pensions shall be paid. The first request follows the British act which provides that 104 contributions shall be paid before the contributor becomes eligible for a pension. The second request is also to improve the conditions, and to ensure that no unreasonable obstacle shall be placed in the way of payment of a pension to a contributor. I trust that the Minister will accept these requested amendments.
. The request of the honorable senator is to reduce the number of contributions required from 208 to 104 to establish title to an old-age pension. If this concession could be given, it could be done more readily by omitting the first two and a half lines of paragraph b. The average of 39 contributions ‘for three years required by the latter part of the paragraph already requires a total of 107 contributions before title to old-age pensions is secured. It is, therefore, without substance to reduce the preliminary qualifications to fewer than 117 contributions. The purpose of the requirement of 208 contributions is to secure that a person who enters insurance within a few years of the maximum age and becomes entitled to a pension, which under the bill he will secure for contributions representing a mere fraction of the value of the pension, shall, during his comparatively short period of insurance be fairly regularly employed and shall make some reasonable contribution towards the cost of his pension. For other insured persons, who enter insurance early in life, there will be no difficulty in acquiring 208 contributions. It should be remembered that the position of persons who, by reason of their age at the commencement of this act, are unable to pay contributions is dealt with in clause 86. The object of the second amendment is apparently to deal with the case of the worker who ceases insurable employment some years before he reaches pensionable age. In order to secure his title to pension, the amendment proposes that the “ average test “, laid down in paragraph b, shall be based on three contribution years before that in which hi3 last employment ceased, if those three years precede the three years before that in which he attained pensionable age. Presumably, the effect desired is that title to pension shall be secured even if insurable employment ceases some years before pensionable age is reached. The amendment will not secure that end. Paragraph a of the clause requires that the claimant shall be insured on reaching pensionable age, and shall have been insured for the five years immediately before attaining that age. The amendment does nothing to keep the claimant in insurance for any period longer than is already covered by clauses 20 and 21 of the bill, and offers no substantial contribution to the problem. In due course, not earlier than five years from the first operation of the scheme, it will probably be necessary to make some provision for persons who have been continually insured for a lengthy period, but find difficulty in retaining insurable employment when they approach the pensionable age. Provisions for this purpose are embodied in the English act, and give concessions to elderly persons who have been insured for ten years. Similar provisions could have been embodied in this bill, but it was thought preferable to await experience of the working of the scheme, in order to see whether the provisions of the English act are suitable to deal with the problem which might arise here, or whether some other form of concession would be more suitable for Australian conditions.
A more technical difficulty - in connexion with this amendment is that a man who ceases employment, with a satisfactory average of contributions in the years before that in which he ceases employment, will risk losing his pension rights if he has a week or two of employment shortly before pensionable age. The “date on which his last employment ceased “ would be the end of that week or two of employment, and the “ average test “ would he transferred to a period of three years, most of which might be a period of unemployment. He will be penalized for getting an odd job or two as he approaches pension age. I suggest to the honorable senator that he should not press further with his amendments. The latter amendment we shall take into consideration when the time arrives; the earlier one will not attain the end he has in view.
– After listening to the explanation of the Minister, Ihave no desire to persevere with the requested amendments.
Requests - by leave - withd rawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 74 and 75 agreed to.
– I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment: - Leave out the words if and when she remarries”, insert the words “during the period of any second or subsequent re-marriage “.
As the clause stands at present, when a widow in receipt of a widow’s pension under the scheme re-marries, her pension will cease, and if she again becomes a widow her pension will not be revived unless her second husband was a contributor to the scheme. The object of the amendment, the justice of which should be obvious, is to ensure that the pension shall be revived on any subsequent widowhood, whether or not the last husband was a contributor to the scheme.
– A computation has been made of the increased burden which the amendment would place on the scheme. Commencing at about £4,000 per annum, in ten years the cost would increase to £20,000, in 20 years to £60,000, in 30 years to £90,000, and in 40 years to £100,000. I point out to the honorable senator that a widow will be entitled to a pension as the result of contributions made by her first husband. If she re-marries, it is obvious that she will not marry some one whose death will leave her in a worse position than she occupied as a pensioner.
– She will still be a widow.
– By her own choice on the second occasion. At her second essay, she should be able to look after herself. Apart from that, the amendment would be difficult to administer and I must oppose it.
– I regret that the Minister cannot see his way to agree to my proposal, which appears to me to be a perfectly reasonable one. The object of the bill is to provide a pension for widows. I realize, of course, that it does so under certain conditions; but I am unable to understand why a widow’s pension cannot be paid to a lady who becomes widowed the second time. The term “ widowhood “ still applies, and we should not presume that as the result of her first experience the widow will marry a wealthy’ man on her second venture. This request has been tendered in all seriousness, and I regret that the Minister in charge of the bill is unable to accept it. It is unfortunate, because the clause as it now stands will penalize a woman who marries a second time. After listening to the eloquent address which we heard last night upon the need for increasing the population, honorable senators should think carefully before placing obstacles in the way of the remarriage of widows. However, I shall not press the request, because no amount of argument can increase our numbers on this side to more than four. I ask leave, therefore, to withdraw the request.
Request - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 77 to 94 agreed to.
A person in receipt of a benefit under this act shall be entitled to receive, at the same time, a pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1937, to the extent to which the benefit under this act, including dependent child’s allowance, is less than the pension to which, but for this section, he would have been entitled under that act, but not otherwise.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment: -
Before the word “ including “ insert the word “ not “.
The effect of the request, if agreed to, would be to ensure that a dependent child’s allowance would not be taken into account when assessing the amount to which an insured person would be entitled under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions
Act. As tlie clause now stands a person who had one dependent child and who would otherwise he entitled to a pension of £1, would, because of the wording of this clause, receive only 16s. 6d. by way of pension, the balance being accounted for by an allowance of 3s. 6d. in respect of the .child. My contention is that the insured person shall be entitled to a pension of £1 plus an allowance of 3s. 6d. for each dependent child.
– The object of the request is to leave child’s allowance out of account in deciding whether a supplementary payment can be made under the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act. This request is inconsistent with the purpose of the’ clause, which is to fulfil the undertaking given that the operation of the insurance act should not result in a person receiving a smaller amount than he would be entitled to receive under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The clause fulfils that undertaking, and there is no ground for distinguishing between the different parts of the total benefit under this bill in considering whether there is any interference with the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– We are not denying that the clause as it stands, like every other clause in this measure, will fulfil the only contract the Government is prepared to make with the insured person, but this particular clause expresses a rather mean actuarial calculation. In calculating the difference between the benefit payable under this scheme, and the pension of £1, payable under the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act, the small allowance of 3s. 6d. for a dependent child should not be taken into account. Under the clause as drawn the insured person will receive 15s., plus 3s. 6d. in respect of the child, and ls. 6d. extra to bring the benefit up to £1, whereas, under Senator Brown’s request, tlie pension would be £1, plus 3s. 6d. That is all that we are asking. Of course, if our request upsets the actuarial basis, it is doomed, but we think that, in a matter of this kind, we should be influenced by other than actuarial considerations.
– I cannot accept the request, and, in rejecting it, I think I am acting in the interests of those whom Senator Brown desires to assist.
– This matter should not be dismissed so casually. The Minister is obviously under a misapprehension as to what is involved in the request. The object of the clause, apparently, is to guarantee that the insured person shall not get less benefit under this scheme than the pension of £1 that is payable under existing pensions legislation. But it takes into account the child allowance, so that the insured person, instead of receiving 15s. from this fund, plus 5s. from the existing old age pension fund, plus 3s. 6d. for the child, will receive 15s., plus 3s. 6d. for the child, plus only ls. 6d. under existing legislation.
– I, also, am somewhat at a loss as to the full meaning of this clause.
– We want an insured person with one dependent child who becomes eligible for the old-age pension to receive £1 3s. 6d. instead of £1.
– If an insured person becomes ill, he receives 15s. a week as disablement benefit, and if the disablement becomes chronic, the person becomes entitled to the ordinary invalid pension of £1. Why should he be be asked to forfeit a portion of the additional benefit to which he would automatically become entitled as an invalid pensioner? That is what will happen if the child allowance of 3s. 6d. be taken into consideration in making up the difference between the disablement pension of 15s. and the ordinary invalid pension of £1.
– Under this clause, the commission guarantees to give to a beneficiary who qualifies for the invalid pension a minimum of £1. If the insured person has two dependent children, he or she will be entitled to receive the benefit of 15s. payable under this scheme, plus 3s. 6d. in respect of each dependent child, making a total payment of £1 2s. But, in order to provide that an insured person with only one dependent child will not receive less than £1, a sum of1s. 6d. will be added under this clause in order to bring the total benefit up to £1. The point is that this clause provides to the insured person with only one child a minimum invalid or old-age pension of £1.
– But this scheme also guarantees a payment of 3s. 6d in respect of each dependent child, and if the child allowance of 3s. 6d. is taken into account when calculating the difference between the benefit payable under this scheme and the normal pension of £1, we shall repudiate our liability in respect of child allowance under this scheme.
SenatorFOLL. - No. Under the provisions of this measure, an insured person with two or more children will be entitled to receive a pension of 15s., plus 3s. 6d. in respect of each dependent child, but this clause provides that nobody will get less than the pension of £1 payable under the invalid and old-age pensions legislation.
– A widow with one child will receive a widow’s pension of 12s. 6d., and also a child allowance of 3s. 6d. Should she become an invalid, she will be entitled to claim an extra 4s. to bring her total benefit up to the ordinary invalid pension of £1. That is the position as it now exists, but, if my request be accepted, such a widow will receive 12s. 6d. widow’s pension, plus 7s. 6d. to bring her benefit up to the level of the invalid pension of £1, plus 3s. 6d. child allowance, making a total of £1 3s. 6d. instead of £1.
– All the Opposition asks is that the Government shall keep its contract in respect of the child allowance, and not take that allowance away from the widowed mother when she becomes an invalid.
– Under this measure, a disabled insured person with three children will receive 15s. disablement pension, and 3s. 6d. in respect of each child, making a total of 25s. 6d. ; but, if the child allowance be ignored the insured person will receive an additional 5s. from the existing invalid and old-age pensions fund, or a total pension of £1.
– We are asking that he should receive £1, apart from the child allowance.
– If, in addition, he is to receive 3s 6d. for such dependent child his total benefit will be 30s. 6d. Under the Government’s proposal, a minimum pension of £1 is assured, but a person with three children will receive 25s. 6d.
. - Surely it is obvious to Ministers that under this bill an injured contributor with three dependent children, as has been suggested by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll), will receive 15s. a week pension and 10s. 6d. for the children, or a total of 25s. 6d. a week. The point I emphasize is that the Government, under this bill, contracts to pay that person 15s. a week and 3s. 6d. for each dependent child. A dependent child does not become less dependent or less expensive to maintain merely because its father has become a chronic invalid. Therefore, what we are asking is that when a man’s disability becomes chronic, entitling him to the invalid pension of £1 a week, the Government should also honour its contract to pay the allowance in respect of his dependent children. I know that if the proposal be accepted it will increase the charge on the fund, but its non-acceptance will mean that, in order to decrease the charge on the fund, the Government will ignore the existence of the three dependent children. We on this side will not stand for that.
– I am not disputing the right of the Leader of the Opposition to ask for these additional benefits. The only point I wish to make is that we cannot disregard the child allowance in one case and take it into consideration in another. If a man goes off this fund by claiming an invalid pension, he will get £1 a week, but no child allowance. What the Leader of the Opposition is asking is that in such cases the amount payable on account of dependent children shall be added to the 5s., which represents the difference between a pension under this scheme and the invalid pension.
– All we ask is that the Government shall observe its contract to a man who becomes ari invalid. It definitely undertakes, in this bill, to pay a disablement pension of 15s. a week to male contributors, plus 3s. 6d. a week for each dependent child. Of course I expect that the Minister will say that the Government cannot afford this extra payment. But that is another matter.
– I am afraid that I did not completely understand, what the Leader of the Opposition was saying. I now do, and I put it to 1 1 i in that we cannot increase the invalid pension to 30s. 6d. a week as kas been suggested.
– The Leader of the Senate still does not understand the position. We are not asking the Government to increase the amount of the invalid pension. I thought that I had demonstrated beyond all possibility of misunderstanding that in this bill- the Government contracts to pay a disablement benefit of 15s. a week, and 3s. 6d. a week in respect of each dependent child. We say that when disability becomes chronic, the Government should not take from this unfortunate man payments which it had contracted to make in respect of his children. To do that is not only unfair; it is also dishonourable.
– Under this measure the Government is making contracts with different people. In the first place it specifies what contributions shall be payable and what benefits shall be given. If a male contributor dies, the Government contracts to pay to his widow a specified sum by way of pension, and so much for each dependent child. I ma in tain that the payment in respect of dependent children is a contract made with those children, and not with the father. If, therefore, the father’s invalidity becomes chronic, and he makes application for an increase of pension payments to £1 a week, the amount payable under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, the Government should not withhold payments in respect of the dependent children.
– The honorable senator -is making a mistake in that he states as a claim what is really an option given’ to contributors under clause 95.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Why should this option be exercised at the expense of dependent children ?
– Let us consider the case of an invalid who is not covered by this scheme. Even if he had ten children, he would receive only £1 a week as an invalid pension.
– There would be no contract in that case.
– Under this scheme, the contract entered into is for a payment of 15s. a week in respect of the insured person and 3s. 6d. a week in respect of each of his dependent children. To all intents and purposes, that is the end of the contract. But under clause 95, if he comes under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, he is to receive not less than the minimum amount provided in respect of the invalid pension.
– The clause says nothing of the kind.
– That, in substance, is the argument of the Government. The payment under this bill to a man with one dependent child will be 15s. plus 3s. 6d. To this ls. 6d. will be added, to bring the total up to £1. That carries out the undertaking that he shall receive less than he would receive in the form of an invalid pension. Honorable senators are confusing the two acts. If, as Senator Brown suggests, the amount of 3s. 6d. is to be disregarded, then in every case in which there was only one dependent child the amount of 15s. a week given under this scheme would be supplemented by a further 5s. a week, which would be a charge on the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The Government says that if cannot accept the liability for the payment of that additional 5s. in the case of an individual who swings over from this legislation to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– At last we have the facts. The Minister says that the additional amount would come out of the invalid and oldage pensions fund, and that the Government cannot afford to pay it. This particular clause deals with entitlement to a pension under the Invalid and Old-age
Pensions Act. We are pressing for the full amount of the invalid pension to be paid. The Government says to the contributor to this particular scheme, “We contract to give you 15s. a week if you become disabled “. If he has no children, and is totally and permanently incapacitated, he is to receive an additional 5s. a week under the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– That is correct.
– But if he has one child, he is to receive 3s. 6d. a week under this scheme and only1s. 6d. a week under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– That is so.
– We say that he should not be penalized by reason of the fact that he has a child. If the Government contracts to give to a contributor in certain circumstances 15s. a week in respect of himself and 3s. 6d. a week in respect of a child, that 3s. 6d. should stand and he should receive the additional 5s. a week under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– He is guaranteed a payment of £1 a week if he goes from one fund to the other. When a child passes the age of fifteen years the 3s. 6d. a week will be no longer paid, but the pensioner will still receive £1 a week.
– Let me deal with a concrete case. I have mentioned the case of a widow who is to receive 12s. 6d. a week. If she has a child, she is to be paid an additional 3s. 6d. a week.
SenatorFoll. - That is right.
– That is 16s. a week. If she becomes a chronic invalid, she can claim an additional 4s. a week, so as to raise the total to £1 a week. We say that no woman should be penalized because she has a child. The child has to be kept. Therefore, we contend that she should be paid under this scheme 12s. 6d. a week on her own account and 3s. 6d. a week in respect of her child, and an additional7s. 6d. a week by the Invalid and Old-age Pensions department. The Minister says that that cannot be afforded. If he were to say that the proposal was not sound actuarily, we might accept the position. But from the viewpoint of ordinary justice, such a woman should receive the invalid pension of £1 a week as well as the allowance of 3s. 6d. a week in respect of each child.
– The actuarial position referred to by Senator Brown does not enter into this argument. If we were to disregard the allowance of 3s.6d. a week, there would have to be an additional grant of 5s. a week in respect of an individual who transferred from this fund to the invalid pension fund. The honorable senator knows that. The principle embodied in this amendment is no different from that which would be embodied in a proposed amendment to an invalid and old-age pensions bill to increase the pension from £1 to £1 5s. a week. That is notreasonable. No Government could consider such an amendment without first investigating the financial obligations involved in it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.29]. - This clause has somewhat puzzled me. I take it that, if an insured person who has children becomes disabled he will be entitledunder this bill to benefit according to the number of his children. The amount paid might be more than £1. If the aggregate payment under this bill to a man who is totally and permanently incapacitated is less than £1 because there is only one child, he can then apply for the invalid pension and the amount of the pension will be made up to £1. If a person had so many children that, under this bill, the amount which he would collect would be more than £1,he would not apply for the invalid pension, but would continue to draw the pension under this bill. As I understand it, Senator Brown’s amendment is unnecessary, because this clause is really of benefit to the disabled person with one child ; in reality it gives him an option. The clause, as I understand it, means that, if a person is receiving weekly 15s., - in the case of a widow, 12s. 6d. - plus 3 s. 6d. for each child, and then becomes totally and permanently incapacitated, that person has the right to apply for the invalid pension, which would bring the amount received up to £1.
– That is correct.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That being so, I am satisfied with the clause.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Brown. We know what we want. The Government has made up its mind in accordance with its belief that the maximum should be £1.
– No, that the minimum should be £1.
– No, the maximum. This clause means that if a person is drawing 15s. a week under this bill and then qualifies to draw the invalid pension, the amount of that person’s pension would be increased to £1, including payments made in respect of children. The benefit of this clause to which honorable senators opposite have referred, is an illusion. The Government will take into account the 33. 6d. a week paid to the child for the purpose of keeping an illusory promise.
– At the pensioner’s own request.
– That is a misrepresentation. All ambiguity should be removed by putting the clause in plain language. It should say straight out that the 3s. 6d. a week for childrenis taken into account. The Government is endeavouring to give the Senate to understand that the 12s. 6d. or 15s. a week will be increased to £1 a week, but in the process the child will be robbed.
– Who but the parent is robbing the child?
– The Leader of the Government (Senator A. J. McLachlan) was so incapable of interpreting this clause that he threw up the job of explaining it and called in his assistant, Senator Foll. I strongly advise the Minister, in order that he might become better acquainted with the clause, and be able to make an intelligible statement to the committee, to postpone further discussion. I admit the truth of Senator Foll’s statement that what the Opposition is seeking is an increase of the benefit. We do not want the 3s. 6d. for each child to be taken into consideration.
.- At first glance, every one will agree, this clause is rather confusing, and for a while I was inclined to yield to Senator Brown’s reasoning. I now think that the clause means that if a pensioner under this bill is receiving 15s. a week and becomes totally and permanently incapacitated he will elect to draw the invalid pension of £1 a week. If he has one child, under this bill, he will draw 18s. 6d. a week, or under the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act, £1 a week. If a person is entitled to £1 2s. a week under this bill because he has two children, he will, naturally, not apply for the invalid pension, and will keep his £1 2s. Similarly, a man who has three children and is receiving £1 5s.6d., will remain under the provisions of this measure.
– That isso.
– Leave the children out of the consideration. If a person is receiving 15s. under this bill and qualifies for the invalid pension he will receive another 5s., and if he has three children he should be entitled to another 3s. 6d. a week in respect of each of them, which would bring the amount to £1 10s. 6d. a week.
– Yes, there is the difference between £1 5s. 6d. and £1 10s. 6d. But it seems to me that this clause will be of benefit to a great many more people than it will be detrimental to.
– There is a catch in this amendment. Senator Brown wishes that, in certain circumstances, the father shall come under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and the family remain under the national insurance scheme.
– That is quite right.
– The real objective of honorable senators of the Labour party is to give a man the option to select those sources of pension which will give him the greatest benefit.
– The clause provides that a person shall be entitled to benefit under both acts.
– Surely it is obvious that such a state of affairs would be impracticable. I would be surprised if honorable senators cannot see the real purpose of this amendment. All I can say is that they cannot have it both always. . They must make their choice.
– The clause reads -
A person in receipt of a benefit under this act shall be entitled to receive at the same time a pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1937.
– Read the rest of the clause.
– What I have read is simple English. Contributors under this scheme will also be entitled to claim certain benefits provided under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
Question put -
That the request (Senatorbrown’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator Sampson.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 96 agreed to.
Clause 97 (Persons entitled to benefit under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1937).
– I should like some information about the effect of this clause on certain classes of returned soldiers. What will be the position of a disabled returned soldier who is drawing a 75 percent. pension? I am thinking of an exsoldier with one leg who is employed on a lift at a wage prescribed by an Arbitration Court award. Would he be an insurable person, and be entitled to full benefits under this scheme, irrespective of his pension under the Repatriation Act?
– A returned soldier is given an opportunity to contract himself out of the benefits of this act if he is receiving equal or more substantial benefits under the Repatriation Act.
– What if he does not do so?
– He is given the option to do so.
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.
The returned soldier will have the option of coming under the scheme, or of remaining out of it. Moreover, in the event of a pension being reduced, he will be given a second option to come into the national insurance scheme. However, as about 90 per cent. of the pensions have been stabilized, that option is not likely to be availed of to any great extent. In reply to the honorable senator’s specific question, I can inform him that if the liftman mentioned desires to contract himself out of this scheme, he may do so, but should he desire to remain in it, his wish will be granted.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 98 to 101 agreed to.
Clause 102 (Benefits to persons in remote areas).
– When I read the marginal note to this clause and saw “ Benefits to persons in remote areas “, I expected something different from what the clause actually provides. Instead of granting benefits to persons in remote areas, the clause really relates to the lack of benefits. This clause, which links with paragraph j of Part II. of the first schedule, and also with clauses 52 and 55, deals with one of the outstanding problems to be faced. Although the commission will have to deal with these problems, the Government surely has some idea of how the problem of applying the scheme to remote areas is to be met. If the bill is to be passed in its present form, wo arc entitled to know what is intended. It may be that in areas which lack doctors the Government intends to appoint its own doctors. I imagine that probably three-fourths of Western Australia and one-half of South Australia could be regarded as remote areas for the purposes of this legislation. I should be glad to know what is intended.
– The problem has already been recognized by the Government, and it will necessarily receive the attention of the commission, because some outback areas will present difficulties in’ administration. The commission will probably bring the pensions scheme into operation simultaneously throughout Australia, but there may bo some delay in respect of the medical benefit in remote areas. One of the first duties of the commission, when appointed, will be to make a medical survey of Australia, particularly its outback areas.
– That may take years.
– In some instances, it may be found necessary to appoint doctors where they do not now exist in sufficient numbers. A complete medical survey will have to be made, and these outback areas will receive special attention. [ direct attention to clause 116, which reads -
There shall be kept in the health insurance fund a central administration account to which shall be credited in accordance with the regulations such amounts as are determined from time to time by the commissionas being necessary to meet the expenditure of the commission - in assisting in the provision of health insurance benefits in remoteareas.
I can assure the honorable senator that this matter will receive the attention of the. commission, when appointed.
Saturday, 25 June 1938
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That the Senate,at its rising, adjourn till 10 a.m. this day.
Senate adjournedat 12.7 a.m. (Saturday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19380624_senate_15_156/>.