16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1942.
Maternity Allowance Bill 1942.
Child Endowment Bill 1942.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1942.
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1942.
Excise Bill 1942.
– Will the Leader of the Senate state whether it is a fact that the Government has, during the last few months, promulgated three different sets of regulations having as their object a continuous production of coal? In view of the fact that yesterday eight coal-mines in New South Wales were reported to be idle, can the Minister say what action has been taken by the Government to implement any of those regulations, and when the people of Australia may expect direct and effective action by the Government in place of the present vacillating and procrastinating attitude displayed towards this vital industry?
– I am not aware of the number of regulations issued for the purpose of obtaining a continuous production of coal. I do not know that eight mines are now idle, as alleged. I am not prepared to disclose details of the Government’s policy in this regard, as its policy generally is already known. The adjectives used by the Leader of the Opposition in the concluding portion of his question put the whole of the question out of court, because, as he knows, he is not permitted to express opinions under cover of a question.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has furnished the following answer : -
– Will the Leader of the Senate say when he intends to make the statement promised by him with regard to making public the effect of the numerous regulations that have been promulgated under the National Security Act?
– That matter is under consideration, but finality has not yet been reached regarding it.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army state whether any information has been made available recently concerning the welfare and treament of Australian prisoners of war at Singapore?
– No information has been received from the Allied High Command on that matter.
– When important statements are made in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister or by other Ministers, will the Leader of the Senate see that those statements are made simultaneously in this chamber for the benefit of members of the Senate ?
– My action in that regard will be regulated according to the nature of the statements, their relative importance, and the times at which they are made in the House of Representatives.
Secret Meeting of Senators and Members
– Will the Leader of the Senate state whether any decision has been reached regarding the holding of a secret meeting of senators and members for the purpose of hearing information with regard to the progress of the war?
– I am not aware of any decision having been made in that matter.
– Does the Government propose to hold a secret meeting of the Parliament during the present sittings ?
– I am not aware of any such proposal, or of any decision having been reached in the matter.
Fresh Fruit Supplies
– On the 13th May
asked the following questions, upon notice -
The Minister for the Army has now furnished the following replies: -
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army is it a fact that prior to the Canteens Central Control Board taking over control of Army supplies, 500 or 600 cases of apples were supplied each day to the Army? Will the Minister ascertain the quantities of apples that are now being supplied to the Army through the Canteens Central Control Board?
– I know that there has been a falling off in the supply of apples to the Army since the Canteens Central Control Board took over distribution. I shall have inquiries made and will furnish the honorable senator witha reply to his questions as soon as possible.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been drawn to the copy of J obson’s Investment Digest which I presume has been forwarded to all members of Parliament by the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales “ in accordance with its policy of distributing informative data on taxation and public finance, with the object thereby of formulating an informed public opinion on these important subjects “ ? Is the Leader of the Senate aware that the attention of readers of the pamphlet is drawn, by means of a red encirclement, to an article headed, “ Government mine loses £2,337 a week “, which, in effect, is a veiled attack on the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will the Government take steps to ensure that documents such as this, which make snide attacks upon Ministers, are made the subject of a report setting out the names of the publishers? Will the Leader of the Senate ascertain the names of the publishers of Jobson’s Investment Digest, and the executives of the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales, in order that honorable senators may judge the fitness of these people to castigate the Minister for Labour and National Service in a way calculated to make his colleagues believe that he should be removed from office? Does the Government propose to take some action in regard to this matter in view of the fact that this publication is one of those journals which are participating in a conspiracy to oust the Minister for Labour and National Service?
– I did see the publication to which the honorable senator has referred, and if all honorable senators were to treat it as I did, no further action would be necessary. I promptly consigned my copy to the wastepaper basket.
– by leave - The question of the remuneration of nonofficial postmasters was raised last week by Senator Lamp and Senator Herbert Hays. This is a matter that has been discussed in this chamber on many occasions, and representations have been made to me personally. At present payment is made on a uniform basis according to the volume and nature of the business transacted from year to year. As new items of business are introduced, for example, the issue of petrol ration tickets, and the payment of Army allotments, they are added to the scale, and payment is adjusted accordingly. Special allowances are paid for the provision of accommodation and light, and for services rendered after hours and outdoors.
There are approximately 6,700 nonofficial post offices in operation throughout the Commonwealth, and the volume of business transacted at the offices varies considerably. In some cases the number of mails handled is very small, amounting to only one mail weekly, consisting, perhaps, of less than twenty postal articles for distribution to the local residents. The volume of other business in such cases is usually inappreciable and the postal work would occupy only a very small proportion of the postmaster’s time, perhaps less than one hour a day. In other cases, however, the work is sufficient to require the full-time attention of the postmaster, and one or more assistants. Where only a small community is to be served, or the post office work is insufficient to occupy the full-time attention of the person in charge, the only practicable method by which the department can provide postal service is by placing the office under the control of a local resident who conducts a private business which necessitates his, or her, attendance at the premises in which the office is to be established, or who is able to carry out the duties in conjunction with household work or some other form of activity. The great majority of the non-official post offices in operation is conducted under such conditions.
The department has appreciated the need for revision, in the light of presentday conditions, of the basis of payment to non-official postmasters generally, and recently undertook a thorough investigation of the matter. In the meantime, however, and shortly before the completion of the departmental investigation, the Non-official Postmasters’ Association of Australia, which had secured registration under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, lodged with the Public Service Arbitrator a plaint concerning the rates of remuneration and conditions of employment generally. A preliminary conference before the Arbitrator in connexion with this plaint was held on the 30th April, and as agreement between the parties was not reached, the conference was adjourned to a date to be fixed. At the conclusion of the conference the association asked for an opportunity to discuss certain aspects of the plaint with the department with a view, if practicable, to reaching agreement on the main points at issue. Discussions on this basis are continuing at present, and the indications are that within the course of the next few days the department will be in a position to put forward proposals which will be acceptable to both parties and which in due course can be incorporated in a determination of the Arbitrator.
The department fully appreciates the valuable and loyal service which is being rendered to the community by this large body of public-spirited people who have agreed, often at great inconvenience to themselves, to provide facilities for local residents. Consequently, I am very hopeful that the present discussions, which are being held in a spirit of cordiality and co-operation, will result in an agreement which will be satisfactory and equitable in all respects.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he will give consideration to the provision of a public telephone and postal box at North Ainslie in order to meet the convenience of a large number of residents as well as members of the fighting services in that district ?
– Application for the provision of those facilities in any locality should be made to the department in the usual way.
Motion (by Senator Collings) put -
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended up to and including the 5th June, 1942, for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
– There being an absolute majority of members of the Senate present and no dissentient voice, I declarethe question resolved in the affirmative.
– On Wednesday, the 13th May, Senator Allan MacDonald asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, three questions regarding the granting of man-power protection to omnibus services throughout Australia. Answers were provided at the time to questions Nos. 1 and 2 but I promised to obtain and convey to the honorable senator a reply to question No. 3, which read as follows: -
Have any applications for man-power protection been received from Western Australian omnibus services?
The Minister for Labour and National Service has advised me that he has been informed that an application for protection from omnibus services in Western Australia was received on the 13th May, 1942, by the Deputy DirectorGeneral of Man-power in Perth. Manpower officials in Perth have been assisting these services by granting temporary reservations, and a recommendation on permanent policy to be adopted has been sent to the central man-power office in Sydney.This recommendation will be the subject of early consideration.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
With reference to the reply given to Senator Cooper on Wednesday, the 6th May, concern ing the fixation of the price of beer and spirits in the Australian Capital Territory, will the Minister state -
What action was taken by the Prices Commissioner to fix such prices?
What was the result of the investiga tion which the Minister undertook to have made into prices charged in the Australian Capital Territory with a view to preventing excessive prices being charged?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
On 10th December, 1940, approval was given for the elimination of the 20-oz. pot, 20-oz. schooner and10-oz. pot in public bars. These were replaced by the17-oz. schooner and 9-oz. pot which were sold at the old prices of10d. and 6d., respectively. These variations were to offset to some extent the full effect of an increase in excise in September, 1939, of 3d. a gallon and a further increase of 9d. a gallon in November, 1940.
In December, 1940, following the imposition of a further 12s. a proof gallon duty on imported and Australian spirits an increase in the prices of bottled spirits was permitted in accordance with a formula which decreased gross profit margins. Nobbler prices were increased1d. a1-oz nip.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Will the Minister expedite payment for impressed rifles handed in to the military authorities some months ago, and for which the owners have received official notification of the value placed upon such rifles?
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : -
Instructions have been issued that payments are to be made promptly.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Why were non-returned soldiers in the Public Service stationed in Melbourne and elsewhere appointed national service officials at Swan Hill and Kerang, when competent returned soldiers in the Public Service living in these two towns were available?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer: -
By mutual agreement with the Commonwealth, State Governments undertook, as far as practicable, to start the National Service Offices by loaning the services of State public servants. The officers appointed at Swan Hill and Kerang were selected after consultation with the heads of State departments and the State Public Service Board as the most suitable officers available in the particular localities. In filling positions in the manpower organization in Victoria the claims of returned soldiers have not been overlooked and many positions have been allotted to them,
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In its first interim report the Joint Committee on Social Security suggested payment of pensions to widows with dependent children, widows in ill health, widows over 50 years, widows in destitute circumstances immediately following the death of the husband, deserted wives, a wife whose husband is an inmate of a hospital for the insane, and to children under the age of sixteen years. I presided at meetings of the committee during the hearing of most of the evidence, which convinced the committee of the necessity for a plan of this nature, and whilst naturally the Government’s decision to adopt this proposal gave me considerable pleasure, the fact that I am privileged to submit the bill to the Senate also affords me considerable gratification. The Premier of New South Wales readily assented to the Government’s request for the temporary services of experienced officers who have a full knowledge of the widows’ pensions scheme operating in that State. Without their help and advice it would not have been possible to prepare this legislation so promptly and efficiently. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) intends to communicate the Government’s appreciation to the Premier of New South Wales, but in the meantime I wish to make this public expression of our appreciation.
Few will be prepared to quarrel with the principle of granting financial assistance to those provided for in this bill. There is practically universal recognition of the fact that premature death of the breadwinner almost invariably involves his dependants in hardship, and it is undeniable that the vast majority of widows find the responsibility of providing food, shelter, clothing and education for a young family beyond their slender resources. Frequently the unhappy result is the separation of the family, dependence upon relatives or friends, admission of children to institutions or their transfer to the care of foster parents. Even though these children may be well cared for, in most instances they reach maturity without the advantages of home life associated with the family group; they are condemned to a lonely existence, and prevented from giving expression to motherly instincts. Is seems beyond doubt that the absence of maternal training in many cases results in delinquency demanding corrective treatment in institutions established for this purpose.
Since its formation the party I rep reBent has advocated allowances of the nature contemplated in this measure, and [ doubt if any one feels- a greater satisfaction that this Government has submitted these proposals to the legislature, than does the present Prime Minister, who represented the Labour party on the Royal Commission on Family Allowances which carried out investigations in 1927. I feel sure that all honorable senators agree that legislation designed to keep the home intact, that is prepared in the hope that a widow may rear her family in some degree of comfort and security, and that will to some extent at least remove the fear of dire want, is worthy of all the support that we can give it. The youth of this generation may face a hazardous future; from their ranks will emerge the leaders of this nation, and upon them will rest the responsibility of guiding the destinies of this country. That they will need courage, both moral and physical, good health, tenacity and all those qualities which combine to make worthy citizens no one will deny. The proper preparation for this supreme task is of national significance. If through lack of material considerations it cannot be supplied by a widow then the State has a direct responsibility which it should not seek to avoid.
There should be no need to help all who become widowed; many widows remain in comparatively affluent circumstances, others have remunerative occupations, and consequently in such cases aid from the State is unnecessary.
Most civilized communities have accepted some degree of responsibility towards widows with children, or in ill health, and for the information of honorable senators I shall make brief reference to schemes operative elsewhere. In nearly every case benefits accrue through the deceased husband’s insurance under invalid and old-age proposals. Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark pay allowances to widows. In Great Britain in 1939, of 3,900,000 persons in receipt of pensions, including 650,000 widows, and 275,000 dependent children, there were 550,000 non-contributory pensions. In Denmark, there is a noncontributory scheme under which indigent widows receive a contribution towards the support of their children under fourteen years of age. At first, the social insurance schemes in Great Britain provided for the workmen, but eventually the necessity for making provision for the family when death removed the breadwinner claimed increasing attention, with the result that in 1925 the Widows, Orphans and Old-age Contributory Pensions Bill was passed, covering persons insured under the National Health Insurance Scheme; but an Assistance Board, reconstituted in 1940, ensures that uninsured persons are given monetary assistance where it is justified.
I do not propose to speak at length concerning other European countries, but most of them do support widows with children, and in most instances the schemes are of a contributory nature. Nevertheless, provision is also made for those not covered by some form of insurance. The United States of America has a scheme which is full of complications, but in essence it closely resembles that in force in Great Britain. The main exception is that contributions are graduated, and benefits depend on the amount contributed. The Dominion of Canada has not a full widows’ pensions scheme, but allowances are given in respect of dependent children of mothers or to foster-mothers. Generally, before the money is made available the recipient must be without adequate means to maintain the children properly. In South Africa, under the Children’s Protection Act, maintenance grants may be secured for children committed to private institutions or to the care of child welfare societies, whilst those ordered to remain in the care and custody of their mothers who are widows or wives of husbands who, owing to circumstances beyond their control, are unable to maintain their children properly, are also provided for.
Coming a little nearer home, I can inform honorable senators that, prior to the passing of the Social Security Act in New Zealand, there was a noncontributory widows’ pensions scheme in that dominion, and whilst widows there now benefit under the Social Security Act, there is an important departure from the recognized principles of insurance in that a means test is imposed. Every person who is resident continuously in New Zealand is liable to pay the social security contribution, which consists of a registration fee and a charge on all salaries, wages and other income amounting to Is. in the £1. By reason of this contribution many benefits are available, and among them widows’ and orphans’ allowances occupy a prominent position. Usually, the rate of widows’ benefit is £91 per annum for a widow with one child under sixteen years, plus an amount of £26 a year for each additional child under that age. with a maximum benefit of £234 a year. A widow may have an income of £7S per annum from other sources without reducing the benefit, and when her youngest child attains the age of sixteen years her benefit may continue at £52 a year throughout widowhood. Childless widows are also provided for, the maximum amount payable to them being £52 per annum, with an additional allowed income of £52 a year, subject to certain restrictions.
In the Commonwealth, both New South Wales and Victoria pay pensions to widows, the former on a far more generous scale than the latter, the maximum allowance, subject to a means test, being £1 a week for the widow and 10s. a week for each child; in Victoria the respective amounts range between 6s. and 15s. and 6s. and 12s. weekly. According to recent statistics, about 7,000 widows are benefiting in New South Wales to the amount of £600,000 per annum, and 1,000 widows in Victoria to an amount of £20,000 per annum.
As the Commonwealth scheme has been modelled on the one operative in New South Wales, a little more detailed description will prove of interest to honorable senators. Widows’ pensions were first paid in New South Wales early in 1926, the maximum being £1 a week for the widow and 10s. for each eligible child under fourteen years of age. Benefits were also granted where a child under sixteen years was suffering from mental or physical disability preventing work, or was possessed of special scholastic ability and dependent wholly or mainly upon the widow for support. If a widow is not under 50 years of age and is in destitute circumstances, or where on the death of her husband she is left temporarily unprovided for, a pension is payable for a maximum period of six months. All claimants are subject to a residence test, as well as means and character tests, and the pension is reduced by £1 per annum for each £1 per annum exceeding £39 a year, and portion of the earnings of her children are deducted from her net income. A bill recently introduced into the New South Wales Parliament raises the maximum rate to £1 5s. a week, and the provisions are slightly liberalized in other directions, notably concerning income from children and extension to twelve months in cases of destitution.
In the other States most inadequate provision exists for the welfare of widows and children. The Commonwealth Government believes that residents of all States should enjoy social benefits on a reasonably liberal and uniform basis, and in pursuance of that belief it submits this measure which provides a notable advance in Commonwealth social legislation. Thi3 beginning makes no pretence at perfection ; no doubt the legislation will be amended from time to time, and it will assuredly be followed by further federal social services in an endeavour to provide social security for those sections of the community which require it.
The object of the bill now before honorable senators is to provide pensions and allowances to widows and unendowed children, subject to compliance with prescribed conditions regarding age and means. Those eligible widows in class A mentioned hereunder will not benefit greatly if they reside in New South Wales, but all other widows in that State will do so, whilst those in other States will benefit to a considerable degree by the introduction of this legislation. It has been decided to include as widows a de facto widow who lived on a bona fide, permanent domestic basis for the three years immediately preceding the death of the man with whom she lived; a deserted wifewho has taken legal action against her husband for desertion; a woman who has not remarried, and whose marriage has been dissolved; and a woman whose husband, or de facto husband, is an inmate of a hospital for the insane. So far as divorcees are concerned, it is important to note that the decree absolute must have been pronounced. There are three groups -
For this class the maximum allowance is £78 per annum, and the means test closely resembles that in force in New South Wales. Owing to the fact that children are involved, the Government has made this a reasonably liberal test, and in addition to excluding personal property, including the house in which she resides, and furniture, it has permitted the ownership of £1,000 without seriously affecting the maximum rate of pension.
In this class the maximum rate is £65 per annum, the means test being the same as that which now exists for invalid and old-age pensions purposes, and with which all honorable senators are familiar.
For this class an allowance at the maximum rate of 25s. a week will be provided for a period not exceeding six months immediately following the husband’s death. The Commissioner will take into account the circumstances regarding income, property and earning capacity. Generally, it is intended that if, after payment of reasonable expenses, such as hospital, medical, funeral or other debts of the deceased husband, the amount remaining for the widow does not exceed £50, a temporary allowance will be granted.
Whilst the conditions vary somewhat according to each category, the following primary qualifications apply in all instances : -
Senator Keane. permissible income of £32 10s. per annum as provided in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is disregarded when granting widows’ pensions.
It is intended to pay pensions monthly in arrear as from the 30th day of June next, the first payment falling due on the 27th July. In Victoria such allowances are now paid monthly in arrear and in New South Wales fortnightly. For the convenience of recipients it is intended to merge the payment of child endowment and widows’ pensions where possible, so that the total amount due will be drawn on the one visit to a post office.
Claim forms will shortly be obtainable from all post offices or at the office of the Deputy Commissioner for Pensions in each State, and on completion they should be forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner for Pensions at the capital city of the State in which the claimant resides. Those from the Australian Capital Territory should send their claims to the Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales, and those in the Northern Territory to the Deputy Commissioner in Adelaide. Pensions and allowances will be subject to review from time to time, but generally speaking it is hoped that, except in cases of re-marriage, once an allowance is granted it will be continued for lengthy periods. I feel confident that no honorable senator will place any obstacle in the path of this legislation, which is calculated to help about 30,000 widows and 21,000 children, and is estimated to cost in the neighbourhood of £1,600,000 per annum.
, - I had an opportunity to peruse the bill as presented in the House of Representatives, and I have read the ministerial speech on the second reading of the measure in that chamber. I understand that some amendments were made in the House of Representatives, and that they have been incorporated in the bill now before the Senate. Up to a few minutes ago, it was impossible for me to obtain a copy of the bill as now presented to honorable senators. I do not think that the amendments are vital, but I hope that the Minister in charge of the measure (Senator Keane) will supply the necessary information when the bill is in committee. In addition to the amendments made in the House of Representatives, I notice that further amendments have .been circulated in the Senate. As the Government is anxious to push on with this legislation, I do not propose to hold up the passage of the .bill; but, if any member of the Opposition desires to secure the adjournment of the debate until a later hour of the day, I suggest that he would be entitled to do so. I again remind the Government of the financial commitments in which the Commonwealth is involved for the year ending the 30th June next. When we remember the cost of child endowment, widows’ pensions and the increase of the invalid and old-age pensions, as well as war expenditure, and the fact that the Government is anxious to relieve from taxes a large number of persons whose taxable income is below £400 per annum - 70 per cent, of the wage-earners of Australia fall within that category- it appears that the Government is proceeding blithely ahead without taking into account the fact that a day of reckoning must come. A former Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin, had the unfortunate experience of having to face a financial crisis, and I repeat, for the benefit of members and supporters of the Government, the suggestion made by members of the Opposition from time to time that widows’ pensions, invalid and old-age pensions and social services generally should be financed on a contributory basis at the earliest possible opportunity. When the Parliament had under discussion the proposal for a comprehensive scheme of national insurance, members of the present Government opposed it bitterly, chiefly because the benefits were to be provided on a contributory basis. 1 hope that the Minister will not lose sight of the fact, aa stated in his second-reading speech, that in most other countries in which pensions have been provided the schemes are formulated on a contributory basis.
– Why did not the Government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member go ahead with its national insurance scheme?
– Because honorable senators opposite did not give to the measure the support that .we desired. The honorable senator knows well the attitude he adopted on that occasion. I shall support this bill.
.- I did not rise to express objection to the bill, but I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) in showing my concern at the persistence with which social measures are being presented to this Parliament without any provision being made by the Government for the financing of them. It is an easy matter to say that we are in favour of widows’ pensions, an increase of the invalid and old-age pensions, or any other social benefit; but, if the schemes are to be placed on a proper basis, the real problem is to provide the finance whereby effect can be given to them.
– We are providing £1,000,000 a day for the war effort, and we can do it for a peace-time measure.
– I claim that the Government is not providing £1,000,000 a day for war purposes upon a basis that will prove entirely satisfactory to this country in the future. In introducing a scheme of this kind, the Government means that members of the community who are not subject to financial misfortunes shall be called upon to contribute to the welfare of less fortunate citizens; This necessarily involves a transfer of income from people who have it to those who have none. That is the problem that this Government refuses to face. It is not enough merely to pass a bill providing that a pension of 25s. a week shall be paid to widows.
– But the widows will get the 25s.
– That is perfectly true.
– Where will it come from?
– Probably it will come from that mythical source of which we hear so much, bank credit; so far as I can see, that is the only source from which it could come at present, but ultimately, if the pension is to maintain its value of 25s., and is to continue to purchase 25s. worth of goods, it must represent an extraction from one section of the community in order to support another. That is a situation which cannot be escaped- but which this Government is not prepared to face.
– We are facing it.
– The Government is not facing it merely by introducing a bill providing for the payment of 25s. a week to widows, without telling the community the source from which it is proposed to obtain that 25s. Honorable senators opposite are running away from the real obligation, which rests upon any government that introduces measures of this kind. I have no objection whatever to legislation such as this, but I do object to a government which is not prepared to face the obligations which such legislation involves. The Government is not prepared to say that it proposes to take certain money from the pockets of the more fortunate members of the community, and to transfer it to the pockets of the more necessitous people.
– We are doing that.
– The Government is not doing anything of the kind. We all know that this year’s budget is to be financed very largely by means of bank credit, and not by extracting money from the pockets of the people. In my opinion this continual resort to bank credit is entirely unsound. Ultimately we shall have to face the fact that the war must be paid for out of the income of every body in the community. To the degree to which the Government refuses to face the situation, it is building up a problem for the future. There is no escape; some day the difficulties will have to be met. It is impossible to pay millions of pounds out of the public exchequer to certain beneficiaries without extracting an equivalent amount of money from the taxpayers.
– “Would the honorable senator give these unfortunate people the dole?
– I am quite prepared to assist them to obtain that which is provided in the bill. I am also prepared to support a measure designed to finance these proposals, but the Government has not the courage to introduce it.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– I suggest that we should do what is done in other parts of the world, and place the scheme on a contributory basis. It is ridiculous to suggest that any one can get anything from the community without placing a burden upon some one else. We all desire that pensions and other similar benefits should be paid, but my confirmed opinion is that such schemes should be on a contributory basis. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who introduced this bill, referred to what was being done in other parts of the . world, but I submit that pension schemes in operation in other parts of the world support exactly what I am saying now. In practically every case when legislation of this kind has been introduced, provision has been made for the payment of contributions. The Minister referred also to what had been done in New Zealand. In my opinion, what has been accomplished in that country is meritorious compared with what we have done.
– It has been done properly in that dominion.
– Yes. The New Zealand Government did not say to 70 per cent, of the people, “ We shall tax you as lightly as we can “, nor did it say as this Government has said, in the midst of a war, “We shall relieve you of some taxes “. It has said, in effect, to members of the New Zealand community, “ If you want social security, you must pay for it at the rate of Is. in the £1, irrespective of your income”. The Labour Government there has recognized that, if a person has any income at all, and is a potential beneficiary under the scheme, then he or she should make a contribution. That is in addition to a war tax of Is. in the £1.
– It is now Is. 6d. in the £1.
– If we were to tax the Australian community on the same basis, we should be collecting from people in receipt of £400 a year or less approximately £28,000,000, or perhaps £30,000,000 a year. If that were done, we should have some justification for a social service scheme of this kind. The Government would then be able to say, “Not only are we prepared to propound an act of Parliament under which money is to be paid out for this benefit, but also we have the courage to provide that any one who is in receipt of an income must make a contribution to the scheme “.
– Has the honorable senator ever heard of the pensions that are paid to members of the judiciary without any contributions?
– At present I am dealing with widows’ pensions. Judges’ pensions have to be paid for by the community just like other pensions. My complaint is that, realizing that pensions have to be paid for by the community, a government which introduces the scheme under which they are paid should have the courage to say to the community : “ This i3 the way in which we propose to raise the finance.” But this Government does not do that.
– Yes it does; we propose to pay these pensions out of Consolidated Revenue. The honorable senator does not like that.
– All of us know that Consolidated Revenue comes from taxes. But if Consolidated Revenue is not sufficient to meet ail the demands that are being made by the Government upon revenue-
– Then we use hank credit.
– In other words, the Government runs away from the problem; that is exactly my complaint. The burden is there, and it is not carried by some mythical thing known as the Commonwealth of Australia, which does not exist in reality. The only thing that exists in reality is men and women.
– And their work.
– Yes, and their work and services. This money cannot come from anywhere else. It is not bank credit. The Leader of the Senate now runs away from that issue. He recognizes that these pensions must be paid for by men and women. He does not solve the problem by saying that it is going to be paid for by bank credit. Somewhere or other, by some men or women, the money represented by bank credit has to be paid.
– Of course.
– I am glad to have that admission from the Leader of the Senate. But does that not place upon the Government the responsibility of working out a scheme to extract from the pockets of one section of the community money which it will put into the pockets of another section of the community? “We cannot solve the real problem by talking about bank credit. That is the burden of my complaint.
– There is only one problem, and that is to give £1 5s. a week to certain widows.
– No; it is not merely a problem of giving £1 5s. a week to widows; we must also raise that £1 5s. That money has to be raised.
– The widows will receive it.
– The honorable senator is not game to oppose the bill.
– I am not opposing the bill, and I have no desire to do so. As a matter of fact, were the Government to go more fully into the matter, it might find many other people who should benefit under a scheme of this kind. This scheme is to benefit widows over 50 years, without children; but what about the spinsters over 50 years of age?
– They are not widows.
– That is so; but what logical distinction does the honorable senator draw between the two classes? What does he say about the needs and claims of spinsters who are over 50 years of age and in necessitous circumstances?
– We shall look into their claims later.
– I merely mention spinsters in this respect in order to show that the Government has made no attempt to examine this problem carefully with a view to submitting a well-designed plan to Parliament. The Government has submitted this scheme because it is politically popular, and because it will not directly cost the Government anything. It simply takes the view that so long as it is not obliged to tax the people who will benefit by this measure, its popularity will not be affected. It seems to think that it can simply run along to the Commonwealth Bank, and obtain another million. I repeat that the perpetuation of this kind of conduct must mean that a day of reckoning is inevitable. At a time like the present, when we are faced with tremendous expenditure for war purposes, we should not, at any rate, act irresponsibly in handing out money in this way. A government can very easily get into the state of mind that another million, or ten million pounds, does not matter so long as the Government itself does not have to take the responsibility of saying that Bill Jones, or Tom Smith, must pay more taxes in order to meet these pensions. That is easy ; but do not let us delude ourselves that we can really solve the problem in that way. Some day we must face up to the problem. We may reach a stage when the Government may find that it cannot continue to finance these pensions, and must reduce the rate of pension. That happened in 1931. I should not like those circumstances to recur. It is for that reason that I now contend that the Government should place social services of this kind upon a proper foundation, and that it should say from the start that the money which has to be raised in order to provide these pensions must be taken from the pockets of certain taxpayers. That can be done most effectively by placing widows’ pensions on a contributory basis in order to ensure that the financial structure of the scheme will coincide with realities. Then, regardless of difficulties that may confront us in the future, we shall be able to say to recipients of financial assistance of this kind, that the rate of assistance need not be reduced, because the scheme rests upon a proper and sound financial basis.
– Although I am of opinion that this measure could be improved in one or two respects, I wholeheartedly support it. It is 50 years overdue. It will grant much needed financial assistance to 30,000 widows and 21,000 children of those widows, who to-day are in necessitous circumstances. I know of many eases in which the health of not only the widow, but also her children, has been broken in their struggle to make a living. This measure will prove of great benefit to those people. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Spicer oppose the Government’s method of financing these pensions. Both of those honorable senators made their attack, and immediately left the chamber. They failed to substantiate their arguments. They contended that this scheme should be on a contributory basis. I should like their colleagues who still remain in the chamber to explain exactly what they mean by a contributory basis. I point out that the widows and their children contribute to those pensions through the payment of indirect taxes included in the purchase prices of every article of food and clothing which they buy. I refer to sales tax and customs and excise duties. To that degree do they contribute to these pensions. The only objection Opposition senators opposite can offer is that those who have the wealth might be required to contribute a little more money towards the financing of the scheme than those who do not possess wealth. They claim that the money required should be taken from those who can afford to pay so that it could go into the pockets of those who really need it. That claim fits the Government’s proposal. The taxes of this country are levied according to ability to pay, and accordingly the people who earn small incomes are not taxed to the same degree as those who are better off. It is proper that those who have the higher incomes should be required to pay the heaviest taxes, and that money contributed by them to the national income should be diverted to meet the needs of those who require assistance. If that is not a contributory basis, I do not know how else one can describe such a basis. Senator Spicer cited New Zealand where, he said, regardless of the income, even an income of £1 a week, Is. 6d. is taken as a contribution towards the pension scheme. Even though it takes £2 a week to keep a widow and child, a widow receiving £2 a week is still required to contribute 3s. a week towards the pensions scheme. If a widow is earning a little more than £2 a week, and is therefore not eligible to receive a pension, she still has to provide 3s. a week out of the £2 towards the pension scheme. That is the basis of the scheme which Senator Spicer suggested as an alternative to the Government’s proposal, but I would point out that the New. Zealand legislation compels every citizen to contribute whether or not he or she can afford to pay the tax. . The scheme proposed by the present Commonwealth Government is to be financed on a contributory basis - in other words, those in the best position to contribute are to provide the money for financing the scheme.
There is no suggestion in the Government’s proposal that bank credit will be used to finance the scheme. If any Opposition senator can point out to me one word in the bill suggesting that bank credit is to be relied upon for this purpose, I shall withdraw every statement I have made in my speech. Opposition senators know< that the suggestion of bank credit being used is merely a red herring that they are attempting to draw across the trail. They are” aware that every citizen contributes directly or indirectly to Consolidated Revenue. The Government did not introduce the bill without making provision for the necessary ways and means of financing the scheme. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) would not be so stupid as to introduce a bill providing for the expenditure of £1,600,000 per annum on widows’ pensions without having full knowledge of the source from which the necessary money is to be obtained. Provision was made prior to the introduction of the bill for the financial scheme upon which the legislation is based.
– My main reason for taking part in the debate is my opposition to the statement made by Senator Spicer. He adheres to the old conception of finance. He and those who hold his view do not realize that it is possible by economic organization to overcome the disabilities of ordinary finance. There are limitations to ordinary capitalist finance, and these limitations confront us when we go to war. If any honorable senator had suggested before the outbreak of the present war that the amount of money that has been raised for war purposes could be raised, the answer of the then government would have been that the country would go bankrupt. In times of peace, when reforms involving the raising of large sums of money are proposed, tory governments usually ask: Where is the money to come from? Over the years, the Labour movement throughout the world has been trying to put Christianity into actual operation according to the golden rule of doing unto others as one would be done by. However, when governmental action was necessary, governments, although their members are Christians, have invariably used the excuse that it would be impossible to finance great reforms. Immediately we go to war the ordinary financial methods are cast aside. We do not ask: Can we or can we not finance the war ? The question is not asked because the vital need is to meet the enemy with all the force we oan command. In Australia, since the outbreak of the present war, the community has been organized so efficiently that in terms of finance the achievement has been almost a miracle. We have used all the powers of a united nation to defeat our enemies, and in organizing those powers we have departed radically from the financial methods that are employed in times of peace. If we have been so successful in organizing the community to meet our military enemy, I and my colleagues on this side of the chamber consider that it is possible to organize the community to meet successfully the enemy of social insecurity.
– My complaint is that the party to which the honorable senator belongs will not do the organizing.
– I shall not enter into political recriminations now, because . I consider that the question I am discussing is too serious for such recriminations. I think I see clearly that in war-time it is possible to organize the entire community on a united basis and meet all the essential commitments. A united nation can go so far in time of war as to take three-quarters of its population from their ordinary avocations and place them in w’ar activities and, at the same time, feed and clothe the whole community and produce guns, aircraft, munitions and other requirements for the fighting forces. The reason is that there has been intense scientific organization of the whole community. Our financial system has undergone a complete change because ordinary methods of finance would not fit in with the new organization.
– Nevertheless » liability is being incurred.
– In war-time the soldiers do the fighting and others provide for them and for the rest of the community, as directed by those at the head of affairs. If it be possible to do that in war-time, why should it not be possible, when the Avar is over, to do all that is necessary to maintain the community as a virile body? If in war-time we can provide guns, ammunition, and the other requirements of the fighting forces, as well as maintain the rest of the community, why should we not be able to do something of the same kind in times of peace? Yet honorable senators opposite say that the money could not be provided.
– I did not say that.
– They argue that when peace comes again there will be such a tremendous liability to meet that we shall not be able to feed the widows and orphans in the community. Two thousand years ago the lowly Nazarene said that we should care for the widows and the fatherless. Surely provision for them is a part of the new order. If we can provide the means for men to kill one another, should we not also provide for the widows and orphans in the community? There is something wrong with the mathematics of honorable senators opposite, or with their understanding of the position, when they say that the money cannot be raised.
– I did not say that.
– I have not suggested that the honorable senator spoke in that way, but the remarks of honorable senators opposite convey the impression that, in their view, we shall find ourselves in a financial morass if we attempt to pay 25s. a week to every needy widow and a few shillings a week to her children. We on this side say that if during the war we can raise money for war purposes we can provide for the widows and orphans of the community when the war has ended.
– Of course we can.
– There has been some talk of bank credit. If he were here Senator Darcey would say that he is opposed to the banks having the power to issue credit, because by so doing they are establishing a debt for the community as a whole to pay to certain favoured individuals. The private banks have assumed the sovereign right of the people to issue credit, which really is based on the activities of the whole community. The present financial system, which allows for the issue of credit, means that for ever and ever interest has to be paid to certain individuals.
– Nonsense !
– I am astonished at that interjection from an honorable senator whom I have always credited with having a certain amount of intelligence. His interjection, however, indicates that he is merely emulating the parrot which, although possessing no brains of its own, is able to repeat phrases which it hears. I remind the honorable senator that the money advanced to pay for the Napoleonic wars has never been repaid, and that interest is still being paid on that money. Does the honorable senator think that Australia’s national debt will ever be paid? It now amounts to about £1,400,000,000, and it i3 being added to every day.
– It is being repaid.
– Before the last war our national debt was less than £300,000,000, but before this war ends it will probably be £2,000,000,000. Since we have not repaid the money obtained to fight previous wars, it is evident that we shall have to pay interest in perpetuity on the loans which have been and will be floated. It is true that some individuals will be paid back the money that they advanced; but the war debts as a whole will never be repaid, and, therefore, interest on them will have to be provided in perpetuity. In some instances, interest will be paid to persons who have never done a decent day’s work in their life, yet honorable senators opposite are upset when the Government introduces legislation to provide for a pension to the widow of a workman who loses his life. We do not say to men who go out to fight for their country that things are in such a deplorable state financially that we want them to pay 2s. a week out of their pay, so that money will be available for their widows in the event of their death. It would not be right for any government to ask a soldier to provide a pension for his widow should he be killed while on” active service for his country.
– They get repatriation benefits, as the honorable senator knows. He is attempting to confuse the issue.
– I am not. My point is that, just as we provide for the widow of the soldier, so we should provide for the widow of the industrialist. If, for instance, a miner is killed while at work in the bowels of the earth, his widow should receive a pension. Under this legislation she will do so. Senator Spicer would tax the workers directly in order to pay pensions to widows.
– I would tax the whole of the people.
– They are being taxed. There is a distinction without a difference. The pensions will be paid, and the money must be raised. The Government can mint coin and print notes, but it takes no real part in production generally. A widow is able to purchase food and clothing because of the work being done on the farms and in the factories, yet Senator Spicer paints a harrowing picture of the situation that will arise because a new organization has not been set up for the collection of so much a week from members of the community in order to pay for this pension. Such redundant methods are quite unnecessary.
I was referring to national credit and was about to point out that no complaint comes from the Opposition because of the fact that in times of peace credit is issued by the private banks. It is common knowledge that the many millions of pounds’ worth of assets shown on the books of the banks are not fully represented by coin or notes. The banking system has power to increase bank credit at will.
-Of course it has not.
– That is an astounding statement.
– The honorable senator was talking of private banks.
– I am referring to the ordinary trading banks and to the Commonwealth Bank. The banking system has power to increase its total credit, and it uses that power. Bank credit has been increased at the will of the private banks.
– No; that is where we differ.
– Honorable senators opposite say that no objection can be taken to credit being increased for private profit in times of peace ; but, immediately a Labour government suggests that £1,600,000 a year should be found for pensions for widows and orphans, they contend that it would be radically wrong to effect the necessary increase of credit. Personally, I should like the sole control of the issuance of credit in Australia to rest with the Commonwealth Bank. That function should be taken out of the hands of private profit-mongers, I am not losing sight of the fact that all of the people cannot live on pensions. Otherwise, who would produce the necessary food, clothing and machinery? It is not impossible, even in war-time, to provide widows who are in need with a modicum of comfort, and see that their children are adequately fed and clothed. If it be possible to do that economically in a time of war, it is also possible in times of peace. Senator Spicer and other honorable senators opposite have raised a bogy. The real reason for their attitude is that they desire the whole of the cost of these pensions to be provided by the poor. That has always been a bone of contention between the Labour and Tory parties. There has always been a great gulf between those who represent the interest-mongers and those who represent the workers. The former class wishes to transfer its financial burdens from the shoulders of its friends and place them on the backs of the great majority of the people. The question under consideration is whether the cost of the scheme should be provided from the pockets of the poor, or by those who can afford to pay for it.
– The honorable senator is not proposing to take the funds for this scheme from anybody’s pocket.
– That is a most remarkable statement. It is proposed under- the bill to provide widows with the means by which they can purchase food and clothing, but, according to the honorable senator, the necessary funds will come from nowhere. The honorable senator has the exponents of financial legerdemain beaten to a frazzle!
– J. McLachlan. - Then the honorable senator does not listen to himself a great deal.
– If I did that, 1 should be listening to a more sensible person than the honorable senator. On occasions I have listened to the honorable senator, and have left the chamber feeling like the lunatic who consoled himself by saying, “At least, when I am talking to myself, I am talking to somebody intelligent “. I think that most honorable senators will agree that on all occasions I endeavour to put forward a reasonable argument. I view this matter from the economic standpoint, and I say that, economically, it is possible to feed our widows and orphans. Surely that is not stupidity; surely, even Senator A. J. McLachlan will give me credit for having some intelligence! I realize that it is impossible for some honorable senators opposite to understand a man when he is talking intelligently, but the ordinary folk outside. Parliament have a clearer appreciation of these things. They know what it is to go short of food and clothing. In Queensland to-day, even under a Labour government, some people are going short of the necessaries of life. Ample evidence of that can be obtained from Christian organizations, such as the Salvation
Army, which feed and clothe people in necessitous circumstances. Some years ago, when 400,000 people were out of work, we saw the unfortunate spectacle of huge numbers of men, women and children going without the things they needed in a country which was quite capable of feeding and clothing them. I may be a lunatic, but all this talk of a new order means nothing to me unless some practical steps towards it are taken now. The result of this legislation will be that the least that we can expect of that new order is that the widows and children will be provided for. I have been endeavouring to convince honorable senators opposite that this scheme can be undertaken now economically, and if it can be done economically, it can be done financially.
– That is so.
– Apparently I have convinced ‘Senator Spicer, so there is no need for me to say anything more.
.- I am afraid that a good many red herrings have been drawn across the trail in the course of this debate. Much has been said about various systems of finance which actually have very little to do with this measure. The theme of Senator Brown’s song was that we could afford to feed the widows and the orphans; but who said that we could not?
– Senator Spicer said that we could not.
– He said nothing of the sort. He simply said that, when legislation such as this was introduced, some indication should be given of the method by which it was to be financed. The honorable senator did not say that he objected to the payment of a pension to widows. In fact, he agreed, as I do, that this is a very worthy bill; but he objected, as I do, to the Government refusing to disclose the source from which it is proposed to obtain approximately £1,600,000 a year to finance this scheme.
– The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) said that it would be financed by means of bank credit.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– It was suggested, In the first place, that the money would come from Consolidated Revenue - that great unknown quantity which is supposed to be inexhaustible - but the financing of a scheme such as this would leave a big hole in Consolidated Revenue, and all that honorable senators on this side of the chamber desire to know is how does the Government propose to fill that hole ? The money must be obtained from somewhere. Senator Brown said that it could be obtained by means of bank credit.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– The honorable senator said also that banks create credit, but banks cannot create credit unless they have adequate security in the form of goods.
– All the banks put together have never produced a ton of potatoes.
– But they can issue the credit represented by a ton of potatoes. If there be security in the form of goods which are of a certain value to a bank, then credit can be created and distributed through the ordinary channels. Senator Brown argued that if we could afford to feed and clothe widows and orphans, as well as members of our fighting forces, in war-time, we could afford to feed them in peace-time. The honorable senator seems to visualize an interminable state of war. Does he suggest that we are suffering no inconveniences and no hardships as a result of this war; and that we can go on fighting the war indefinitely, pouring out millions of pounds and employing man-power in non-productive work, without foregoing some of the amenities of life that we enjoyed in peace-time? Surely he knows quite well that that is a fallacy. Members of the fighting forces represent units of production, and unless they are pro.ducing something, the rest of the community must suffer. Senator Brown also said that the national debt would never be paid. I do not know whether b% that he meant that it should be repudiated, but he knows perfectly well that in connexion with every loan which is floated, provision is made for contributions to a sinking fund by means of which millions of pounds is paid back every year.
– But the debt remains.
– It does not remain, unless new debts are created. The debt is not paid out of the loan itself, but out of the sinking fund which is financed from Consolidated Revenue, and Consolidated Revenue in turn comes from the pockets of the taxpayers. There should be no misunderstanding about that. ‘When the previous Government introduced a child endowment scheme, it provided a proper basis of finance; every body in the community is called upon to contribute towards the scheme. The same thing should apply to this proposal. It is all “ tommyrot “ to suggest that under a contributory scheme, the widows would have to pay their own pensions. After all, widows are only a small section of the community. Under a contributory scheme, a beneficiary would have the satisfaction of knowing that she could claim her pension as a right because she had subscribed to it in better days.
– That is what she will be able to say under the present proposal.
– No. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are not objecting to the payment of a pension to widows. We recognize, however, that it is the duty of any government, when introducing a proposal such as this, to indicate the method by which it is intended to raise the necessary finance. It that were done, we should have no objection to the scheme at all. In everyday life, before a person makes a purchase he must, first of all, know where the necessary money is to be obtained.
– Does the honorable senator want us to tell him that it is to come out of Consolidated Revenue?
– I have been told that a dozen times. The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) seems to regard Consolidated Revenue as son, e inexhaustible source of money, which the Government can tap continually, and need not replenish. This money must come out of some one’s pocket.
– It will come out of industry.
– The source of all revenue is production. It cannot corns from anywhere else. This debate has resolved itself into a discussion on finance. The contention of honorable senators on this side is that the Government should clearly indicate how it intends to meet this expenditure, which is entirely new. That is all we ask.
Several clauses of the measure will require considerable explanation. It would appear that in some respects the Government is adopting new principles. Senator Spicer pointed out that, whereas the qualifying age for an old-age pension is 60 in the case of females, and 65 in the case of males, pensions are to be paid under this measure to widows at the age of 50 years. In effect, the Government declares that no widow should be obliged to work after reaching the age of 50 years. At the same time it does not make any provision in respect of spinsters of that age. It says that, at <50 years of age, no widow is capable of working.
– Does the honorable senator think that a widow can do very well on 25s. a week?
– No; but what is the reason for this distinction in respect of spinsters, who, apparently, must wait until they reach the age of 60 years before they can qualify for financial aid from the Government? That is an entirely new principle, and requires very careful consideration. Several of the definitions contained in the bill also require explanation. The payment of pensions to de facto wives and divorced women appears to be a direct incentive to what might be called immorality. A woman who is divorced may have been divorced through her own fault. Should she re-marry she will lose her pension. However, she can retain her pension if she lives with a man without marrying him. Admitting that the de facto wife has a just claim for this assistance, T point out that such a woman may later become the de facto wife of a second, or third, man. Will such a woman still be entitled to receive this pension? Matters of this kind must be fully explained.
Honorable senators on this side do not oppose the measure. They object to the method by which the Government brings forward a bill of this kind, and leaves the Senate entirely in ignorance, in spite of the airy speeches and promises of honorable senators opposite, as to how it proposes to raise the sum of £1,600,000 required to finance the scheme. The remarks of some honorable senators opposite concerning bank credit reveal alamentableacquaintance with the first principles of finance. I repeat that several clauses of the measure will need to be very carefully considered. I ask the (Government to take the Opposition into its confidence, and to explain exactly how it proposes to raise the money required tofinance this scheme.
. -I am indeed happy to support this measure, because it is one of the most humane that has ever been introduced into this Parliament. It is a tardy recognition by the Government of its responsibilities to these unfortunate people. That aspect of the measure, apparently, has escaped the notice of the honorable senators opposite. The more advanced States of the Commonwealth have recognized their responsibilities to the widows, but the governments of those States have been providing financial assistance to that section of the community in competition with other States commercially. I support this measure notbecause it will afford relief indirectly to the trading community of New South Wales, a State which for some time has had a most progressive system of widows’ pensions. I support it because it will afford a measure of protection to a section ofthe community which has for too long suffered as the result of omissions from man-made laws. I favour any measure which will ameliorate the conditions of the widows and the female community generally. Honorable senators opposite claim that they are just as sympathetic towards the widows as supporters of the Government. They certainly give lip service to that view; but they do not assist the widows in any material way.
Much of this debate has revolved round the term” bank credit”. That is a misnomer. Honorable senators on this side are concerned not with bank credit, but with national credit.
-What is the difference?
– Briefly, national credit is made available by a nationallyowned bank, and bank credit by privately controlled financial institutions. The source of national credit is the nation’s power to produce. Honorable senators opposite contend with great concern that, under this scheme, the Government merely proposes to take money from one section of the community for the benefit of another section. The recipients of these pensions have been the wives of the wage-earners, who really create all wealth by their labour and service. Credit is measured by wealth; and the source of all wealth is labour applied to land and raw materials. Yet, honorable senators opposite are very concerned that the section of the community which produces the wealth of the nation is to be afforded some measure of protection under this bill. Any person in necessitous circumstances, whether she be a widow, spinster or old-age pensioner, provided she has led a lawabiding life, is entitled to a measure of security in her declining years. I would regard such a proposal as a measure of the new order which we on the Government side of the chamber desire to see ushered in at an early date. It says much for the popularity of this bill that the only opposition that can be raised against it is that it does not provide for a scheme of widows’ pensions on a contributory basis. If the people produce all the wealth of the nation they contribute by that production at the source of the wealth. It is not a correct statement of fact to assert that the intention of the framers of the bill is to take money from one section of the community and hand it to another section. Each honorable senator on the Opposition side who has so far taken part in the debate has made that assertion the burden of his argument.I listen always with keen interest to the speeches of Senator Spicer, but debating the bill this afternoon he painted a picture of some sort of calamity that would befall us if the bill were agreed to in its present form. He did not paint his picture clearly, and I thought the zeal that he displayed was worthy of a better cause. I feel that the honorable senator, able as he is, is not a success as a calamity howler, for that was the role he adopted this afternoon. My sincere belief is that the enactment of this measure will make this Parliament honoured and revered. In years to come, the people of Australia will realize that this Parliament, by placing the measure on the statute-book, infused a ray of sunshine into the black outlook of the working class of Australia. No doubt it is a socialistic measure, but the community is gradually developing on socialistic lines. Forty years ago, the mere mention of” socialist “ conjured up visions of men wearing black caps and cloaks lurking in dark corners armed with lethal weapons. Since then, a marked change of view has developed, and now a man described as a socialist is regarded as one possessing intelligence and an understanding of economics. Honorable senators on the Opposition side are gradually coming around to the implementation of socialistic principles. The very conduct of the present war is an object lesson of the efficacy of the socialistic ideal. Invariably, when the capitalist system has been placed on trial in a great war, it has collapsed, and the community has found it necessary to discard the production for profit and apply instead the principle of production for use for the general welfare of the community. In time of war, we safeguard our transport and foodstuffs and other facilities necessary for the expenditure of the nation’s best effort.We do that in the interests of the nation, and it is an expression of the socialistic ideal. Having added my tribute of praise to those who initiated the bill, and expressed my pleasure at being a member of the Senate when it is receiving its sanction, I add the hope that the principle of the pension of £1 5s. a week, which, after all, is only a token, will be extended to the invalid, old-age and child endowment schemes until at least what is regarded as a proper basic wage is given to all those people who find it necessary, through adversity or old age, to lean on the goodwill of the community.
– That will be when a proper national insurance scheme is secured.
– Every person should be given a policy of national insurance when born into the world.
I hope that the principle enunciated in this bill will be extended through our national life until every person who has led a decent life will be guaranteed against the fall of that sword of Damocles which is suspended above the head of the poorer section of our community.
– Even though Senator Large hinted that honorable senators on the Opposition side of the chamber who have taken part in the debate were speaking with their tongues in their cheeks, I propose to discuss the bill critically.
– I did not say anything about Opposition senators speaking with their tongues in their cheeks.
– Honorable senators on the Opposition side of the chamber are just as keen to safeguard the interests of widows and children as are honorable senators on the Government side.We believe that the bill is a step in the right direction, but we claim the right to criticize the bill in its entirety. Several of my colleagues have pointed out that the bill applies only to widows. I consider that the application of the measure might well stop at the widow left with children. If a widow without children is to be given a pension when she reaches the age of 50, I see no. reason why a spinster should have to wait until she reaches 60 years of age before she can claim it. The debate so far has been concerned mainly with the financial aspect of the bill. It is not so much a question of the payment of £1,600,000 per annum in widows’ pensions as the source from which the money for pensions is to be obtained. Senator Spicer suggested a contributory scheme, and I support such a scheme for invalid and old-age pensions and unemployment insurance. But I cannot subscribe to the view that our present system of taxation provides for such a scheme. I realize that it is the money of the people, and that therefore it may be distributed among the people; but most countries whose social legislation has proved successful have adopted a contributory basis for their schemes. We have heard a good deal to-day about the system of finance in operation in Australia. Senator Brown said that as money can be raised in war-time it should be possible to raise it also in times of peace. It is true that when a nation is at war money is raised more freely than in normal times. The explanation is that a nation at war is similar to a home in which there is sickness. In normal times, the breadwinner of a home may have to disallow certain expenditure contemplated by members of his family ; but should his wife or any of the children become ill, he spares no expense, but takes all possible steps to ensure their speedy recovery. The health and happiness of his loved ones means more than anything else in the world to him. That is our position to-day as a nation; we are fighting for our very existence, and are indeed sick unto death. Irrespective of cost, we must ensure our national safety.
– The nation was sick when it had thousands of unemployed, but no such view was held by the Government then in office.
– The nation was not so sick then as it is now. It was at least free, but now we do not know how much longer we shall be free. In the circumstances which now confront us, even the unemployed mus 1 take second place to the ensuring of our freedom. Senator Brown spoke in some detail of bank credit; he said that it is based on the activities of the whole community. I say that under present conditions the raising of money is based on the necessities of the nation - the need to preserve our freedom as a people. When the honorable senator said that the loans which were being floated for war purposes would never be repaid, I am afraid that he overlooked the terms of the Financial Agreement with the States, under which a sinking fund has been created. Into that fund about £10,000,000 is paid each year, so that the debt may be repaid in some 54 years from the institution of the fund. There is only one way to create credit, and that is by a means which is entirely in the hands of the Commonwealth Bank, as it alone is authorized to issue notes. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) said that the private ‘banks could not produce potatoes ; but they have done so. Frequently it is money obtained from a private bank which enables a landholder to crop his land with potatoes. During the last six months, the issue of notes by the Commonwealth Bank has so increased that the note issue to-day is greater than at any previous time in the history of the Commonwealth.
I shall support the bill, although in committee it may be found that some of its provisions can be improved. That we on this side claim the right to criticize a measure of this description does not justify the charge that we have no real sympathy with widows in the community and speak with our tongues in our cheeks.
– Like other honorable senators on this side of the chamber, I welcome this bill; it is a measure which I hope is merely the forerunner of other social legislation which will be introduced into this Parliament. In the near future, I trust that the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Social Security, of which I am a member, that social security legislation, to be administered by the Department of Social Services, shall be passed, and that its provisions will be sufficiently comprehensive to embrace all social legislation now in existence in Australia; and also that from time to time other legislation, which will provide greater social security for the people, will be enacted. After the war, the social legislation of both the Commonwealth and the States will have to be consolidated in a Commonwealth measure and made to apply to the whole of Australia. At present, only two States have passed legislation providing for pen.sions for widows and children. The rate of pension in New South Wales is similar to that embodied in the legislation before us, but the Victorian scheme is much less liberal. In the other States no special provision is made for widows and children.
Most of the debate on this measure has been directed to the method of financing the scheme. In this connexion, I shall read from the introduction to the first interim report of the Joint Committee on Social Security, wherein the committee states -
In a democratic community, the right of an individual to share in community production must be accompanied by an obligation to contribute to community welfare to the utmost of his physical and mental capacity.
When further social security measures of this kind are introduced, it will be necessary to make adequate provision for financing the schemes. The Joint Committee on Social Security, in dealing with a proposal similar to that now before the Senate, recommended that the simplest and most equitable plan in the present circumstances would be to impose a general tax on every income earner in the community with the exception of those on the lowest scale. It suggested that the tax should be graduated according to the income of the taxpayer, and that there should be a small exemption limit varying in accordance with the income and family responsibilities of the taxpayer, the proceeds of the tax to go to a special fund, to be drawn upon only for the purposes specified. That recommendation was subscribed to by three Labour members and three members of the Opposition. It will be necessary to adopt some such method, or to follow along the lines of the New Zealand scheme, which provides for a straight-out tax of so much in the f 1, in order to enable social security measures, which I regard as most necessary, to be placed upon a sound financial basis. A graduated tax, as has been pointed out by the Joint Committee on Social Security, would spread the burden to a far greater degree than would a straightout tax. Senator Aylett, referring to the New Zealand scheme, remarked that a tax of 2s. a week on widows in receipt of £2 a week would be most unfair, but the Opposition does not intend that widows should be called upon to pay 3s. a week out of their earnings by way of tax. Under the New Zealand scheme the recipient of. the pension is not taxed at all, but even a small contribution would help to provide some security for the fund available for the payment of the pension. In 1930, when a Government of the same persuasion as the present one was in charge of the treasury bench, there was insufficient money available in the Treasury to pay invalid and old-age pensions and war pensions at their full rates and pensions had to be reduced. All that is desired by the Joint Committee on
Social Security is that the necessary funds shall always be available for the payment of the pensions provided under social security legislation. A graduated tax would result in persons with the larger incomes making a greater contribution to the fund than those in receipt of the smaller incomes. It is essential that all members of the community, except those on the lowest incomes, should make some contribution towards their own social security. I believe that the great majority of the people would prefer to be independent, so that when adversity overtook them they could draw a pension as a right.
– And then the pension could not be cut down at the whim of a government.
– That is so. Their position would be more secure than it is at present. This country is involved in the greatest conflict in which it has ever been engaged, and we should endeavour to imbue a spirit of independence in the rising generation. People should not he encouraged to imagine that they need only to ask for financial assistance in order to have it provided by a benevolent government. I have always derived the greatest pleasure from those things for which I have had to work hard to obtain, and a spirit of independence among the people would be developed by requiring them to take a share in the building up of the funds necessary to provide social benefits. It is generally agreed that widows and children are particularly deserving of the protection of the community, because children are one of the best assets that a country can possess.
– The only problem that needs to be considered in relation to a proposal of this kind is that of production and distribution. Is it not possible for the manhood and womanhood of this country to produce sufficient food, clothing, shelter, and the small amenities with which they are so easily satisfied, to provide for the widows? I do not think that any honorable senator will deny that it is not only possible to produce sufficient of those commodities to meet our own requirements, but also it is possible to produce them greatly in excess of our needs. That being so, why is it that so many people have gone without in days, gone by ? That brings me to the question of finance. Finance is only of secondary importance compared with production and distribution. Money is simply a medium of exchange and distribution. Therefore if there be no scarcity of natural resources, or of labour required to produce the commodities to which I have referred m excess of our own requirements, there is no justification for forcing any one to accept less than sufficient to satisfy his or her normal needs. But that is what is happening. That is the tragedy of the present system. Before the war started, many thousands of men, women and children depended on a dole, and we on this side of the chamber could not obtain anything by means of argument from the government of the day to benefit the lot of those unfortunate people. Always it has been asked in the past, “Where is the money to come from”, and because learned, astute, and well-informed gentlemen such as university professors, legal practitioners, and other professional men, claimed that finance was not available, then, in spite of the fact that ample supplies of essential commodities were at hand, hundreds of thousands of people were compelled to live under semistarvation conditions. Then the war came, and one of the most pressing demands was man-power. Before the war manpower was dispensable where it existed in excess of the requirements of those who controlled the means of production, with the result that men, women and children starved. With the expansion of essential war production, man-power became indispensable, and the longer the war lasts the more indispensable it will become, so we find now that because manpower is indispensable, and is in constant demand for our fighting forces and for the production of essential commodities, the question of finance is not the insoluble problem that it was before the war. There is no longer a scarcity of money, which proves that it never was the desire of those who were opposed to Labour to do any more for the men, women and children of this country than they were forced to do either by weight of numbers at elec tion time, or by the exigencies of the war situation. So, when these people speak of being sympathetic, and wishing to do this or that, I accept what they say, but I find it very hard to believe when 1 compare what has happened with what is happening to-day. Senator Spicer asked the old question, “ Where is the money coming from “ ? I point out to the honorable senator, and to other honorable senators who support hi3 views, that the wherewithal to pay all direct and indirect taxes is provided by the workers who are engaged in production. Nobody else produces wealth, and unless wealth be produced, taxes cannot be paid. Actually, taxes form the very basis and machinery of government, and without them no government, Commonwealth, States or local, could exist for any time. But what do the workers who are engaged in production receive? In times of peace when labour is so enormously in excess of demand, they receive the basic wage if they are required, but if they are not required, they receive the dole, and the ever-increasing surplus production which is due mainly to the mechanization of industry and more efficient organization, is appropriated in the form of rent, interest, or profit by rich individuals and groups, who thus become possessed of great wealth. Yet, when legislation of this kind is introduced, honorable senators opposite suggest that it should be on a contributory basis, entirely ignoring the fact which cannot be denied, that the whole of the surplus has been produced .and contributed by workers.
– Who are the workers ?
– Those individuals who are actually engaged in production. If they are working, they receive a wage; if they are not working, they receive a dole, because it is considered too dangerous to let them starve altogether. Honorablesenators opposite say to them, “ Although you have made it possible for us to accumulate this great wealth which we possess to-day, you should be prepared to contribute towards widows’ pensions and old-age pensions, and all social services “. In other words, they say that the workers should be prepared to accept less than they received previously. At the same time, they know that only the minority will actually participate in the benefits provided, because many die before they become eligible for a pension. In any case, not every one who contributes towards a pension is permitted, or, owing to circumstances over which he or she has no control, is able to participate in it. But that is the reasoning of .Senator Spicer. That is his specious and special pleading on behalf of vested interests, and those who have always received considerably in excess of their need?.
Senator Cooper said, in effect, that people should be taxed according to their ability to pay. I doubt whether he realized the significance of his words. It cannot be said that at present, taxes are levied according to the ability of the taxpayers to pay, because those who receive the least pay the highest tax in proportion to their income.
– That is nonsense.
– Let us examine the matter. If Senator McBride, who receives an income considerably in excess of his parliamentary allowance, wishes to buy a packet of cigarettes, he pays Sd. for it. The tax on a packet of cigarettes is approximately 4£d. At the same time, a humble attendant, who receives the basic wage, plus a small margin for skill and a few extras, pays the same amount as Senator McBride for the cigarettes, and also the same amount of tax. Whereas the humble attendant receives a few paltry pounds a ‘ week, Senator McBride has an income of thousands of pounds a year. The same comparison applies in respect of railway and tramway fares, and practically every commodity. Take butter, for example. A very ingenious and fraudulent scheme operates to-day in the subsidizing of the butter industry. On its face, it seems quite proper, something that will build up the prosperity of this great and glorious country, and something for which the man on the basic wage, as he is told, should be truly thankful. In 1934, Professor Giblin said in evidence before the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry - and this statement has not been contradicted - that a bachelor in receipt of an income of £1,000 a year pays approximately 15s. a year towards the upkeep of the great butter industry, but the basic wage-earner with three children pays something like £6 15s. a year towards the upkeep of that industry. Thus, in respect of any commodity, it is clear that those who receive the least - the basic wage-earner, the recipient of the dole, and the old-age. pensioner - pay more tax than those who receive bigger incomes.
– Why does the honorable senator allow the racket to continue ?
– I am doing my very best to expose it. For the last 30 years I have been pointing out, and proving up to the halt, how the average worker in this, and every other country, under the present wage system, is fooled, ruled and ‘robbed from the cradle to the grave. Yet we hear the specious pleading of the legal mind which looks so minutely into the whole problem, and is positively obsessed by the mere suggestion that some injustice may be done to somebody who controls a big industry. That is the attitude of the legal mind which would have it believed that it stands for equality and equity. It ingeniously shows how much it is apparently prepared to give away in order to save the people with whom it conspires to fool, rule and rob the wageearner from the cradle to the grave.
Let us consider the subject of prices. Prices are high not because of increasing cost of production. When I speak of the cost of production, I speak of cost in terms of labour power, and in terms of the commodity which can be purchased for the wage received. Regarded in this light the cost of production is not increasing; but prices are increasing because of the ever-increasing capital charges which are included in, and collected through, prices. Thus we find that the unfortunate low-paid worker, and small salary earner, must pay high rents, and high overhead charges generally, including excessive directors’ fees, interest and prices which return excessive profits. They pay all of those charges through increasing prices. One of the outstanding frauds perpetrated at present in the fixation of prices is that by this means, capital charges are maintained or increased; and, invariably, they are increased. That is the fundamental reason why we are paying high prices. This scheme of things has made widows’ pensions not only an economic necessity, so far as the widows are concerned, but also a population necessity so far as the nation itself is concerned. The birth rate has declined. It declined very much after the last war, and during the depression years. It declined during the period when black areas came into existence in Great Britain. In those areas, the conditions under which the workers lived were just as bad as the very worst conditions to be found in Asiatic countries. The birth-rate declined and these astute gentlemen in the Parliaments, these great statesmen to whom so much attention has been directed, realized, particularly in Germany, that they must restore to some degree a portion of the money of which they had robbed the working people. Therefore, they gave it back in the form of doles and grants and improved social conditions, such as maternity allowances, so that the population would not decline to the degree at which it would become dangerous to the nation. Therefore, this reform legislation under discussion, which has precedents in overseas countries, is in the last analysis making a virtue of a necessity. We of the Labour party have lived closer to the realities of life than have our sheltered, spoon-fed people born to the purple, or possessed of great riches. We have fought for these reforms for many years but no attention is paid to us until the danger point is reached. We pointed out how necessary it was that our man-power should be adequately fed, clothed and sheltered, and we made it clear that our virile man-power was the nation’s greatest asset. Long before the present war we declared that the truth of what was being said would be realized. It has been realized. If it were not for the present war we should not be able to put this legislation on the statute-book.
– The honorable senator seems to fit his speech to the bill but I do not know how he manages it.
– Having paid close attention to the speeches of honorable senators on the Opposition side, to the ingenious way in which they are trying to obscure the realities of the situation, and to their behaviour in general, it is possible for me to submit a case, inadequate as it may be.
– How many times has the honorable senator delivered this speech in Cabinet?
– Order! The honorable senator should disregard interjections.
– I am not perturbed by interjections; I welcome them. Whenever opportunity offers I express to my colleagues in Cabinet views similar to those I am now expressing.
– The honorable senator’s seed must fall on stony ground.
– Listening to the objections to the bill expressed by speakers on the Opposition side, I am inclined to think that some of my remarks have been heeded. There can be no equality of sacrifice in this war unless there is some degree of equality of income. In my judgment, all incomes in excess of £1,000 a year - to err on the side of generosity - should be taxed down to that level before anybody else is taxed on an income below that level. An income of £1,000 a year would be sufficient for honorable senators on the Opposition side to live on. There can be no equality of sacrifice until the incidence of taxation is changed in that direction. Moreover, there can be no equality of sacrifice when prices are increasing and low wages are being pegged. All the sacrifices nowadays are being made by the men in the fighting line and the men and women in the workshops. No other individual is making a sacrifice as great as theirs. When honorable senators on the Opposition side talk about equality of sacrifice, their tongues in their cheeks, appearing as crucified Christis, their talk is certainly not true-
– Order ! Did I understand the honorable senator to use the term “ crucified Christs “ %
– I intended to say that the people I had in mind posed as martyrs in the same way as Christ was a martyr when he was crucified to save the world. I had in mind people appearing to be Christ-like who would save the world by word of ‘mouth but by legislation are impoverishing the people to the very limit. I have heard it implied that this bill is a sort of fraud and that it will compel certain people to provide the money for widows’ pensions. It does not make the slightest difference to me whether those who so imply pose and postulate as great public benefactors because I know they would translate their theories and words into legislation that would perpetuate the impoverishment of the people in the future to the same degree as it has been done in the past. The statement has been made that war debts will not be paid. As a matter of fact, war debts have been paid over and over again.
– What has the subject of war debts to do with widows’ pensions?
– An honorable senator made a reference that was seized upon by other honorable senators and they attempted to refute what he said. War debts have been paid over and over again and will continue to be paid over and over again. They are paid in the form of interest in perpetuity. In the light of that statement, the suggestion that we want to make certain that widows’ pensions will be paid so that war debts cannot be paid, cannot be substantiated by facts. That is the construction which I place on the suggestion that the Government has introduced this legislation in order to make it impossible to pay other debts.
– Nonsense! That has never been suggested.
– So long as the present wage system continues and the people who make progress possible - I refer to the great masses who perform useful work in the community - are satisfied to live from day to day with just sufficient food, clothing and shelter for their minimum immediate needs, there will be an accumulation of wealth in excess of what the workers receive; and that wealth will be appropriated, possibly in the form of’ principal, but certainly in a form of interest, to pay war debts or other debts. Viewed in the light of those circumstances, this bill is many years overdue. It proposes to give to certain widows only 25s. a week, which is barely sufficient to pay the rent of a room and provide firewood. The bill is more than justified, and any honorable senator who thinks that it gives too much to those whom it will benefit should be ashamed of himself.
Senator McBRIDE (South Australia; [6.11] . - All honorable senators will agree that the debate on this measure has covered a wide field. That is all to the good, because whilst the bill sets out to do a certain thing, that result cannot be achieved without provision being made for the money which will have to be appropriated. The speech which the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) has just made is practically a repetition of other speeches which he has delivered in this chamber on many occasions. When the honorable senator sat in Opposition, it was easier for him to put forward misleading or inaccurate statements than it is now when, as a member of the Cabinet, he must accept more responsibility than as a private senator. When he speaks of “ racketeering “ in Australia, he reflects on himself and his colleagues in the Cabinet for not taking steps to prevent such a state of affairs.
– Give us a majority in both Houses and see what the result will be.
– The Minister cannot say that wrongs in the community to-day are due to a tory reactionary government being in office, because, if they exist, they exist under an allegedly Labour government. On many occasions the honorable senator has claimed that the workers produce all the wealth of the country, but he has never attempted to define the word “ workers “. He has. however, subtly suggested here - and he has no doubt said so in more definite terms on the Yarra bank - that the producers of this country are confined to wage-earners. The Minister must know that many producers in Australia are not paid any wages at all, and that others do not receive the basic wage.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The Minister made an unfortunate reference to butter. I do not think that he would suggest that the dairymen of Australia are profiteering or could be classified as rich people, yet the Paterson butter scheme which compensates dairymen, and gives to them a fair return for their labour, is supported by the Government of which he is a member. Many other persons who are engaged in the production of various commodities are just as much wealthproducers as are those in the class referred to by the Minister. It is of no use producing goods in any part of the Commonwealth unless they can be distributed among the people who require them.
– What has this to do with widows’ pensions?
– I believe that all members of the community should contribute to the cost of pensions, and that those who the Minister suggests are ground down to the dust, and are unable to make any contribution to the cost of pensions, are not only able to do so, but many of them are more than willing to make a contribution towards schemes by which they will be provided for in their invalidity and their old age. The small storekeepers who distribute goods throughout the Commonwealth are not in receipt of a wage, but I do not believe that any one would suggest that they are rich profiteers. The Minister made a caustic remark about the effect of indirect taxes on the workers. He spoke of the duties on tobacco, but there are many indirect taxes besides excise duties. The Government of which he is a member only recently increased indirect taxes, by increasing the sales tax by £6,500,000. I mention this to show how out of step the Minister is with honorable senators opposite, and even ‘with his own colleagues in the Cabinet.
We had an extraordinary dissertation from another honorable senator with regard to finance. He pointed out that under war conditions we use our financial system in -a manner which would not be considered possible in times of peace. He said that in fighting the enemy we do not hesitate to depart from old financial principles, but introduce what lie calls a creation of credit. As a matter of fact, that has not been done, and even the Government which the honorable senator supports has not to any great degree departed in principle from the financial system that has operated in the past, but the Government has certainly increased credit by a considerable amount. The honorable senator reiterated the statement made repeatedly by honorable senators opposite regarding that rather nebulous thing known as the creation of credit. He even went so far as to declare that the private banks of this country extended credit at will, but that is entirely contrary to fact. The only bank in Australia that can extend credit at will is the Commonwealth Bank. The creation of credit is confined entirely to that institution. The Commonwealth Bank is not extending credit of its own accord, but is being bludgeoned into doing so. I defy any honorable senator opposite to show me one instance of the private banks having extended credit in excess of the deposits held by them. The extension of credit is entirely different from the power to create credit. If honorable senators examine the balancesheets of the private banks they will find that in every instance, as far as I am aware, the total deposits are in excess of the advances made. Consequently the power of the private banks to extend credit is definitely limited by the deposits in their keeping.
Members of the Opposition do not oppose this bill because we believe that it is necessary to provide the service contemplated under the measure, but we are alarmed at the haphazard and irresponsible manner in which the scheme has been prepared. The Government has not suggested, and we are still waiting to know, how these pensions are to be paid. It appears that the Government is so surfeited with millions that, in its opinion, the way in which a mere £1,600,000 is to be raised for pensions for widows is not worth consideration; but we know that for all of the expenditure now being incurred the money must . be obtained by taxation, loans or the extension of bank credit. I ask you, Mr. President, whether you believe that a social service which has to be carried on after the war should be financed on a sounder basis than by the extension of credit or by means of loan money? All of these services should be financed from current revenue raised either by means of taxation or by compulsory contributions to the various schemes. The Government of “which I was a member brought down a scheme of child endowment which was financed in a definite manner, first by means of contributions, and secondly by provision made from Consolidated Revenue. I considered at that time, and I still believe, that we are acting wrongly in introducing these social services by instalments. There should be a comprehensive social service scheme which would relieve and give security to all in need of it, and it should be financed on a contributory basis. I was interested in the reference by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), in his second-reading speech, to countries that had provided these social services. In every country cited by him, with the exception perhaps of Denmark, the schemes were of a contributory nature. The Labour party in Australia has not a monopoly of brains, and I suggest that the governments of other countries which have probably a longer experience and wider background than we could possibly have in Australia have decided in their wisdom to introduce these schemes on a sound contributory basis. I urge the Government to reconsider the matter and realize that, whilst it is at present blatantly evading the issue, and trying to give a semblance of permanence to these schemes, if it continues in the way it is now going the greatest difficulty will probably be experienced in maintaining the same scale of relief in the future as is now proposed. I now repeat a remark that I made recently, when speaking of invalid and old-age pensions, that Labour governments in the past have no doubt had similar ideas to those of the present Government. I do not doubt their sincerity of purpose, but the fact remains that, owing to the hand-to-mouth method of finance adopted for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions, a former Labour government was the first and only ministry in this country to reduce the rate of the pensions to the invalid and elderly sections of the community. “We do not wish to see a repetition of that. “We desire that social services shall be established on a permanent basis, so that the recipients of the widows’ pensions and social benefits may expect at least the same rate of benefit as is now proposed. I suggest that the only /Senator j j j satisfactory solution is to establish a scheme on a contributory basis and build up a reserve fund. It is completely inaccurate to say that all of the persons who are to benefit under this bill are not now in a position to make a contribution towards the proposed service. I am disappointed that the Government has not seen fit to provide in this bill that persons now in receipt of a similar pension under a State scheme shall not receive both State and Commonwealth pensions simultaneously. I believe that the Commonwealth should take over the social services of Australia and place them on a uniform basis, but I do not favour the payment of a pension by the Commonwealth and a duplication of that pension by a State government. At the appropriate time I shall submit an amendment to prevent persons from receiving a double pension. Although an amendment to that effect was rejected in the House of Representatives I hope that after further ‘ consideration the Government will be prepared to accept such an amendment in the Senate.
– The widows’ pension provided for in this legislation was recommended by the Joint Committee on Social Security of which I had the honour to be a member. It is very gratifying to see that the Government is carrying out the recommendations of that committee, and of other committees set up by Parliament to investigate important matters. This scheme was agreed to by both Government and Opposition members of the Joint Committee on Social Security. It is also gratifying to note the manner in which this measure has been received by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. Obviously, the bill is designed to protect a section of the community which is in urgent need of protection. The only two matters relevant to the bill which have been raised in the course of this debate were brought up by Senator Spicer, who claimed that there should be a supplementary financial measure to provide the money required for this scheme. There is a wealth of common sense in Senator Spicer’s suggestion. I believe that the social services of thi , country should be financed, at least partly, by contributions from all incomeearners, in accordance with their ability to pay. In its report, the Joint Committee on Social Security recommended the imposition of a graduated tax to cover the cost of all social services. In reply to a question in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) indicated that he was working on a bill which was designed to co-ordinate all the social services of this country. That also was the subject of a recommendation by the committee. I believe that social services should be contributed to by the people, according to their ability to pay, and that a definite sum should be set aside each year to cover the cost of social services. When a bill such as this is brought before Parliament, there should also be a supplementary measure providing for the raising of the necessary finance. The other point raised by Senator Spicer was the question of paying a pension to widows over 50 without children, whereas no such pension is provided for spinsters. The committee took a considerable volume of evidence in regard to that matter, and it was proved to our satisfaction that a married woman who loses her breadwinner after she has reached the age of 50 years has become so accustomed to her mode of living and to being provided for by her husband, that it is a great hardship for her to take up the earning of her own living. On the other hand, a spinster who has had to battle for herself all along is in a different category.
– Has the honorable senator never heard of a spinster having to look after her parents?
– This measure is designed to meet the needs of the broad masses of people, and we cannot particularize with any small section. It has been shown conclusively that a spinster who has maintained herself all along has not so urgent a claim for assistance as has a woman over 50 who loses her husband.
Those are the only points to which objection has been raised, and I believe there are reasonable explanations for both of them. I feel that the bill will fill an urgent need, and I trust that it will have a speedy passage.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has reason to congratulate himself upon the approval of this measure that has been voiced on both sides of the chamber. To those who have not been associated with federal politics for long, it might appear that this measure is a belated one, and that it should have been introduced years ago. Any one who holds such a view should inquire why that was not done. Following upon the common-sense speeches made by Senator Cooper and Senator Arnold, I believe that the matter should be carried a little farther. What spectacle are we presenting to the recalcitrant States? On more than one occasion, it has been suggested by very eminent legal authorities - one of them is a member of the Government to-day - that it is not competent for the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate for widows’ pensions. You, Mr. President, will recall, from your wealth of knowledge of the Constitution, that specific provision is made for invalid and old-age pensions, but the best authorities that can be obtained hold that the Commonwealth Parliament has not power to pass legislation such as this. Let us examine the subject in the light of the views expressed by Senator Cooper and Senator Arnold. Although we have plenary power to legislate for invalid and old-age pensions, upon what does the security of these schemes rest? It rests on the bounty of this Parliament and on nothing else. What happened to invalid and old-age pensions during those stressful times which many members of this chamber well remember? I applaud the soundness of the speeches made by Senator Cooper and Senator Arnold because, under a contributory scheme, no matter how small the contribution may be, the question of bounty is taken out of the hands of the legislative mind - Senator Gibson would call it the composite mind - of Parliament and the beneficiaries obtain their payments as a right. It is inopportune to have this legislation thrown into the ring when we are about to embark upon the discussion of a most debatable constitutional position - a question which affects this country to its very foundations. In bringing forward this legislation, we are presenting the States of the Commonwealth with an opportunity to attack us on constitutional grounds. It will be competent for the States to challenge it, and owing to the atmosphere which has been created by that legislation, which provides for what is incorrectly called a uniform taxation scheme, I am confident that certain State authorities willbe only too ready to seize upon a proposal such as this.For that reason I deplore the attitude of my friends on the treasury bench in relation to the national health and pensions insurance proposal. Had that scheme been put into operation, there would have been adequate social security for the people of this country to-day, and if it so desired the present Government could have added a widows’ pension scheme, or any similar provision upon a contributory basis. In that way, widows would have received their pensions as a right, and not as a bounty at the hands of this Parliament. It has been claimed that there is no financial provision for this legislation, but Senator Arnold has indicated that a certain measure is now receiving the consideration of the Government.
– It is the first we have heard of it.
– Yes, but it is a very valuable piece of information, because once a scheme such as this is placed upon a contributory basis, it is beyond the power of Parliament to interfere with it What has happened in Great Britain? A national insurance scheme is operating successfully there and small as the benefits are and difficult as was Britain’s task during the years of depression, that fund has now emerged into a state of affluence, thanks to the assistance received from the Treasury from time to time, I admit. Parliament has no option but to meet its commitments under that scheme. This legislation purports to confer a benefit upon a deserving section of the community - women, who having helped to bring more population into this country, and borne the brunt of life, are left without breadwinners. Surely, it would be better if a pension were payable to these people as a permanent right. We are preening ourselves on giving something to the people of this country, but we are giving with one hand, and, forsooth, we may have to take it away with the other. It is not good for this body politic that it should not be able to fulfil its obligations to the people. Unless we are enacting legislation which we are sure is within our constitutional jurisdiction, a scheme such as this will be at the mercy of party politics, of Parliament, and of circumstances over which Parliament has no control. On the other hand, if the fund were stabilized on a contributory basis, we should have to do our duty by it. There would have been no reduction of invalid and old-age pensions in the years of the depression had those pension schemes been on a contributory basis. I say again that a fell injury was done to this country when through political influence the national insurance scheme, which should have been the beginning of a great era of social reform in this country, was defeated by political machinations. I shall not oppose this bill. At least it is a gesture, but I am afraid it may prove ashes in the mouths of the recipients if certain eventualities which I see in the offing occur. It is to be regretted that those who pride themselves on being supporters of the helpless should leave them with a measure such as this which cannot stand the constitutional test.
– That is the honorable senator’s opinion.
– And the opinion of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), expressed in the House of Representatives over and over again. It is quite plain that the Commonwealth has not power to legislate in this way. We do this in a light-hearted and airy fashion to-day, but if a challenge be put forward by the States on what foundation does the widows’ pension scheme rest? It rests on no security at all. It rests upon the goodwill of this Parliament, and upon the fact that no State is in a position to challenge it. Because this legislation will relieve some States of their present expenditure on widows’ pensions, other States will claim that it represents an inequality, in that the Commonwealth is taking the burden of financing such schemes off those States and placing it on them. I now utter my warning. Legislation of this kind has a habit of rebounding. Despite the approbation given to the bill, I believe that it is illconsidered. It would have been better for the Government to adopt the valuable recommendation made by the Joint Committee on Social Security, namely, to provide a system of widows’ pensions on a contributory basis. Such a system would have a measure of constitutional validity which is entirely lacking in this scheme.
.- [ congratulate the Government upon introducing this humanitarian measure. [ have upon my book-shelf a book entitled Equality. On the cover is shown an employer interviewing two prospective female employees, a woman and a girl. The woman says to the employer, “Employ me, Oh master, for I am cheaper than the man”. The girl says, “Employ me, Oh master, because I am cheaper than them both “. I have firsthand knowledge of the economic pressure exerted upon the widows of this country. My sister was left a widow with two children when she was quite a young girl. [ know the trials that she had to endure in one of the biggest cities of Australia in order to provide for her children. I know that the worry and trouble which confronted her in her struggle to make a living prematurely aged her.
Senator McBride has stated, and rightly so, that some provision should be made for spinsters on reaching the age of 50. There is another class of females still more worthy of government assistance, namely, the wives of men who are permanent inmates of sanatoria. Surely, some provision should be made for them. This measure provides assistance for a wife who is deserted by her husband. Women in the class I have just mentioned are in a far more dimcult position. They are not deserted by their husbands. Their husbands are compulsorily confined in various institutions, and, in very many cases, the wives have to contribute towards the upkeep of their husbands in those institutions. Take, for instance, a man who has broken his back and is permanently confined to his bed in a hospital. The claims of this class of wives should be considered with a view to providing some assistance for them. The Government should also consider the claims of widows of Australian soldiers who married in England. At present, the widows of such soldiers may claim a sum of £32 10s. a year in addition to the pension of 25s. a week, but only after they have been resident in Australia for five years. That is most unjust. I intend to deal with these matters when the bill is in the committee stage. I whole-heartedly support the measure.
– I congratulate the Government upon bringing down this bill, which represents a measure of security for certain widows of the nation. I am confident that the Government intends to introduce further legislation of this kind for the benefit of the people as a whole. Honorable senators opposite quibble over the wisdom of improving our social services in a time of war. It is most essential that during the war, not only Australia, but also every other democratic country, should improve its social services. If the governments of democratic countries wait until the war is over before they pass such legislation, it will be too late, because the people as a whole will be utterly tired of the promises made to them of a neworder. Therefore, I trust that, before the war ends, the Government will bring down further measures to improve our social services. Among the classes who will benefit under this bill are many widows in New South Wales who, after drawing a pension under the State scheme, were disqualified on a means test as their children grew up, and went to work. Honorable senators opposite contend that the workers should contribute towards every pension scheme. The captains of industry are really responsible for the social security of those who provide their wealth. I do not agree that the workers should contribute towards schemes designed to provide pensions for widows and the aged. I desire to see the rate of invalid and old-age pensions and widows’ pensions brought up to the basic wage; and I shall not be happy until that is done. At present, the Arbitration Court prescribes that the basic wage of £4 12s. be paid to workers, many oh’ whom are in their sixties. Surely, it is absurd to say that a man who has been paid the basic wage as the minimum sum necessary to enable him to subsist, should live on a pension of 25s. a week from the day following that on which he is dismissed, or loses his employment. If it be necessary in the opinion of the Government and the Arbitration Court to pay him a wage of £4 12s. a week until he is 65 years of age, surely he must require the same income to enable him subsist after he passes that age.
– An old-age pensioner is allowed to earn only 12s. 6d. a week.
– Yes; and many station-owners take advantage of that provision. They employ old-age pensioners at 12s. 6d. a week, knowing that . the pensioners cannot object. I repeat that it is the responsibility of the captains of industry to provide by way of taxes the revenue needed to ensure social security for their employees in their declining years. I disagree with the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Social Security that a widows’ pension scheme should be on a contributory basis. I cannot understand how certain members of that committee supported such a proposal. If a man be killed at his work, compensation is paid to his widow under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Under this measure a widow who benefits in that way will not be entitled to receive a widow’s pension until the amount of compensation paid to her has been expended. In many cases the death of a worker is hastened by the conditions under which he is obliged to labour. Many men have to work up to their waist in water. Often, they are obliged to cease work owing to some illness which they contract at work; and very often the illness proves fatal. In such cases the widow does not receive any compensation, because her husband actually had no employer at the time of his death. Who do such men work for? For their wives? No; but in order to provide wealth for their masters in return for a wage which enables the worker barely to keep body and soul together. Many workers are killed on their way to or from their place of employment. The Government of New South Wales endeavoured to provide that compensation be paid in respect of employees who met with fatal accidents on their way to or from work, but the Legislative Council in that State defeated that proposal. Honorable senators opposite, with one voice, unfortunately, urge that the workers should provide all forms of pensions. They have put forward the argument that this scheme should be on a contributory basis in order to ensure that the rate of pensions will not be reduced as happened during the regime of the Scullin Government. I recall that at that time there was a large majority opposed to the Scullin Government in this chamber. I looked up the debate on the invalid and old-age pensions at that time and found that no honorable senator was really anxious to prevent a reduction of the rate of pensions at that time. The same honorable senators were only too happy to reject regulations designed to improve the conditions of employment of workers on the waterfront. It is not surprising, therefore, that they did not oppose the reduction of the rate of invalid and old-age pension. That legislation is a blot on our history. No government, least of all a Labour government, should have attacked the conditions of those on the lowest rung of the social ladder. That was a tragic measure, and I for one shall never make excuses for the government responsible for it. However, the fact remains that it passed through this chamber without one honorable senator making a genuine protest against it. Honorable senators opposite have had a lot to say about the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill which was introduced by the Lyons Government in 1938. After it had passed the House of Representatives and had been sent up to the Senate the government got jittery about the fate of the measure, because as the result of an election the Labour party’s representation in the Senate had been increased. Therefore, the Government had the bill brought on in the Senate so that it could be passed by the 30th June, before the twelve new Labour senators took their seats in the Senate on the 1st July. The Government had a majority in both Houses and although the bill was passed the act was not proclaimed. I am sick of the political faking of honorable senators on the Opposition side asserting that the workers should contribute to :i fund for widows’ pensions. The time has arrived when political humbug will not be tolerated any longer in Australia. It is political humbug for Opposition senators to declare that the worker should subscribe to the fund for widows’ pensions. The worker provides all the wealth in the country and there would not be one wealthy man in Australia were it not for him. What wealthy man provided his own wealth? He got it by virtue of Arbitration Court awards and by pulling political strings to prevent the workers getting fair awards. When the Lang Government introduced a rural workers award in New South Wales there was a scream of protest throughout the State from the wealthy section. When the Lang Government was defeated the first administrative act of the Stevens Government, which succeeded it, was to revoke the rural workers award. The wealthy classes wanted to get the services of cheap labour so that they could accumulate more wealth. The captains of industry went so far as to dress women in certain types of frocks and those women as witnesses gave sworn evidence in the Arbitration Court that they had bought the dresses for 18s. lid. each, when it was well known that they could not be purchased at anything like that price. The object was to cut the workers’ wage to the lowest limit. Those captains of industry have their satellites in this chamber who claim that the workers should contribute to a widows’ pension fund. The workers of Australia provide the wealth of this country and therefore those who get the wealth should contribute to a widows’ pension fund. I have seen what is happening in different industries. Men working twelve hours a day get so fatigued that their health is seriously impaired. Yet the Opposition objects to the payment of pensions out of Consolidated Revenue to the widows of workers, and it employs the argument that the workers should provide the pension out of their earnings. Those who use that argument should try to do a week’s work in some indus tries. They should take employment under the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board of Sydney or go into the mines and try to work where the rock choppers are operating. Then they would realize the serious injury done to the health of the workers. The method of paying the pension has been commented on in the debate, and the suggestion has been made that it might be paid out of bank credit. Senator McBride said that the trading banks must have security before they issue credit and that the credits issued do not exceed the value of securities held. I suggest that the banks would lend more on his home than on himself. The banks’ security is not men and women; it is bricks and mortar. I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of the bill because I am aware that under the New South Wales scheme widows have been denied the pension because their families have grown up. From the 27th July next those widows will receive a pension, and I am sure that they and many other widows will be thankful to the Labour Government, which had the courage to bring down this valuable social legislation during war-time.
– in reply - I appreciate the all-round support given by the Senate to the measure, which I believe is a start with the standardization of social services in Australia. When I was chairman of the Joint Committee on Social Services I had in mind that there is no section of social service more important than the assistance to widows. Nothing is more pathetic than the woman left without her breadwinner, and I believe that this form of social service ranks above all others. Senator A. J. McLachlan raised the question of the constitutionality of the measure. The reply is that the bill is on all fours with the Maternity Allowances Act, which has stood unchallenged on the statute-book for the last 30 years. The operation of the measure will relieve some of the States of a considerable amount of expenditure. I do not admit that the present time is inopportune to introduce the bill. There are in Australia 30,000 widows and 21,000 dependent children who, I suggest, will regard this bill as a milestone in our social history. When the political history of this nation is written every member of this chamber will receive due recognition for the part he took in passing into law this long-delayed reform. With regard to Senator Lamp’s question relating to soldiers’ widows, I shall convey certain information to him when the relevant clause is discussed in committee. I suggest that every State will benefit by the operation of the measure. New South Wales will be relieved of the expenditure of about £600,000 a year and Victoria will be relieved of about £25,000 per annum. In the other States a widows’ pension scheme is not in operation. Those States will have a scheme when the bill is enacted and I suggest that they would not have secured widows’ pensions if the Federal Parliament had not taken up this important matter. I believe that the enactment of the measure will redound to the credit of this Parliament. A number of slighting references have been made to the new order, but I am confident that every citizen of this country believes that when this fearful war is over and post-war reconstruction problems are grappled with, Australia will bo a different country from the prewar Australia. I believe that the world is recognizing that the hardships of invalidity, old-age, widowhood and orphanhood must be eliminated. By bringing in this reform the Government has set a lead to other countries. Many people compare Australia unfavorably with the United States of America, claiming that the latter country is far ahead of us. I would point out that American authorities have asked the Commonwealth Government for details of certain rationing schemes in operation in Australia. Therefore we are ahead of them in that field. They have also sought information concerning our economic plan of finance. Although Opposition senators criticized the bill in relation to finance I have no quarrel with them because when my party was in opposition we tore into every bill that we could criticize.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
In this act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Income “ means any personal earnings, moneys, valuable consideration or profits earned, derived or received by any widow for her own use or benefit by any means from any source whatsoever, whether in or out of Australia, but doesnotinclude any payment by way of gift or allowance from any child of the widow.
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out of the definition of “ Income” the word” child “ with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words” son or daughter “.
The object is to make it clear that gifts or allowances received by claimants from any of their children, whether over or under the age of sixteen years, shall not be taken into account as income in determining the rate of pension. As the clause stands at present the exemption would have applied only to gifts or allowances received from children under sixteen years of age, for the reason that the word”child “ is defined as a child under the age of sixteen.
.- The bill makes provision for a woman who has been deserted by her husband. The definition of” deserted wife” is as follows : - “ Deserted wife” means a wife who has been deserted by her husband for a period of not less than six months.
Does that definition cover the wife ofa man who has committed an offence for which he has been sentenced to imprisonment for twelve months or longer? She would be in fact a deserted woman, and should therefore be entitled to at least the same consideration as the bill proposes shall be given to a wife who has been deserted by her husband.
Provision should also be made to meet the needs of the wife of a man who is an inmate of a sanatorium. This class of person has been referred to by Senator Lamp. A wife so situated may be left entirely without support for herself and her children because of the illness of her husband, and should be treated as generously as the bill proposes to treat a de facto wife or a deserted wife. If the matter cannot be dealt with at this stage, the Minister may consider making provision at a later stage.
.- The wife of a man who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment does not come within the definition of “ deserted wife “. As to the wife of a man who is an inmate of a sanatorium, the probability is that the man is in receipt of an invalid pension.
.- I renew my appeal on behalf of the wife of a man who is in a sanatorium. The bill makes provision for a deserted wife, although generally a wife is not deserted without cause. She may be a drunkard, yet she would be entitled to a pension. The bill also provides for a pension being granted to a woman whose marriage has been dissolved and who has not remarried. The dissolution of her marriage may have followed evidence that she was an adulteress, yet she would get a pension. The wife of a man who is sufficiently ill to be an inmate of a sanatorium or similar institution and is therefore unable to provide for his family should be entitled to a pension. I assure the Minister that 1 shall not. allow this matter .to drop. I know of a man who will never work again because he has a broken back and is a patient in an institution. His wife is more deserving of consideration than is a woman who has been deserted because of adultery, or one who lias been divorced for the same reason.
[9.41]. - I was not sure of the Minister’s point in connexion with the invalid pension paid to certain sufferers from tuberculosis. Some time ago the act wa3 amended in order that a person with 85 per cent, incapacity would be eligible to receive an invalid pension. Can the Minister say whether any persons suffering from tuberculosis have qualified for a full invalid pension under that amended legislation?
..- In view of the Minister’s statement that the wife of a man who has been in prison for a period of twelve months or longer does not come within the definition of “ deserted wife “ I ask that consideration be given to such cases. No woman wishes her husband to be in prison. Although in 99 cases out of 100 his imprisonment is not the fault of his wife, under this legislation she will be less generously treated than a deserted wife or a de facto wife.
– The position of a woman whose husband is an -inmate of a sanatorium is not as the Minister has stated it to be. I know of a number of instances of this kind. One of them relates to a man who commenced work in a mine at Broken Hill in March, 1904, and worked there continuously until 1919 when, owing to certain action by the mining companies, a big strike occurred. This man then left Broken Hill and became engaged in the pastoral industry in Western Australia. In 1929 he returned to Broken Hill to resume work in the mines. When medically examined, it was discovered he had pneumoniconiosis and under the law was not entitled to compensation. During his absence an investigation, in which I took part, was made of miners’ silicosis and the payment of compensation to men affected. One outcome of that investigation was that provision was made for “ hard-luck “ cases, which included men who had been absent from Broken Hill when the new rule became operative. Difficulty arose because only a certain sum of money had been set aside to cover such cases. A man may have had to wait until some other sufferer died before he could benefit from the “ hard-luck “ provision. The Bavin Government of New South Wales amended the act including the provisions relating to ‘‘hardluck “ cases. I know of two men in the Waterfall Sanatorium whose wives have to go out to work in order to provide for their families, yet a woman over 50 years of age who is divorced because of her misconduct may, under this legislation, receive a pension for life. At the Waterfall Sanatorium there are also men suffering from white lead poisoning. I know five or six such sufferers, and although they themselves are entitled to the invalid pension the amount payable to them is not sufficient to support a wife. Men suffering from such industrial diseases as lead poisoning, silicosis, or pneumoniconiosis, require the whole of their pension to provide nourishing food for themselves, with the result that their wives and children may be insufficiently clothed and have to exist on the dole. I urge the Minister to make provision for women whose husbands are suffering from industrial diseases and receive an invalid pension only for their own incapacity.
.- Some of the definitions in this clause require further safeguards. The definition of” widow”, for instance, includes a de facto widow and a deserted wife. A de facto widow must first have been a de facto wife. The bill also provides that a woman who is in receipt of a pension shall cease to be entitled to a pension should she re-marry. I should like to know what will happen if a de facto widow again becomes a de facto wife. As it stands, this legislation may be subject to abuse.
– Has not the Commissioner discretionary powers?
– Only in certain cases of bad character. Paragraph c of the definition of “widow” provides that a woman whose marriage has been dissolved and who has not re-married shall be entitled to a pension. Will she be entitled to retain her pension should she, instead of re-marrying, become a de facto wife?
– She has to live with a man for three years as his de facto wife in order to be entitled to a pension.
– In the case to which I have referred the woman is already in receipt of a pension. This provision may be a direct encouragement to divorce, because under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act a woman is not entitled to a pension until she reaches the age of 60 years, yet under this legislation a divorcee may obtain a pension at the age of 50 years. Such a provision may lead to collusion resulting in divorce in order that a woman may receive a pension of 25s. a week. I direct attention to these matters with a view to the insertion of a provision giving to either the Minister or the Commissioner power to take the circumstances into consideration. As the bill stands, it is a distinct encouragement to divorce, or to a woman living with a man to whom she is not married. My purpose is to avoid abuses.
– A de facto widow means a woman who, although not legally married, has been wholly or mainly maintained by a man with whom she has lived for a period of at least three years prior to his death. Senator Leckie asked what would happen if, instead of re-marrying, she prefers to live with another man who is not her husband. This matter is covered by clause 14 (1) b, which provides that a pension shall not be granted to a widow unless she is of good character and deserving of a pension.
– In the case to which I referred the woman is already in receipt of a pension.
– Such a woman would probably be regarded as an undesirable character. Clause 24 provides for the cancellation of a pension by the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner in certain circumstances. In my opinion there are ample safeguards. The case of a female divorcee is clear. A woman who is divorced, either because of her own fault or that of her husband, comes under clause 14 (1) b. If the Commissioner made inquiries with regard to her application, the reasons for her divorce would have to be divulged, and, if she were shown to be an undesirable character, her claim would not be favorably considered. The other aspect mentioned by Senator Leckie will be considered by the appropriate department. Senator Aylett referred to the case of a woman whose husband was imprisoned. That matter has been considered by the Government, and it was decided that such a woman would not come within the definition of widow. I shall have the matter brought to the notice of the Minister concerned, and it will be reconsidered. As to the case of a woman whose husband is an inmate of a sanatorium, and is unable to work, such a man is usually in receipt of an invalid pension. At the present time, and until July next, he will receive the institutional rate of 8s. 6d. a week, the balance of the pension being paid to the institution. But from the end of June, the whole of the amount will be paid to the individual whether he is in a sanatorium or not. No provision is made for the wife of such a man. The matter has been considered both in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, and I shall undertake to bring it to the notice of the responsible Minister.
Request agreed to.
Clause agreed to, subject to a request.
Clauses 5 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Qualification for pension).
– Under this clause a woman under the age of 50 years, and without children, could not in any circumstances receive the pension. I point out that between the ages of 40 years and 50 years many women pass through a stage of life when they are much more in need of a pension than they would be at the age of 50 years or over. I ask whether the Minister would be prepared to grant discretionary powers to the Commissioner or to a Deputy Commissioner to meet such cases 1 The majority of women would be in a better position to earn an income when over 50 years of age than when they were between the ages of 40 and 50 years.
.- Clause 25 goes a long way in the direction suggested by Senator Aylett. It provides that a widow resident in Australia who, at the time of the death of her husband, or de facto husband, is not maintaining a child, and is under 50 years of age, and, in the opinion of the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner, is in necessitous circumstances, may, at the discretion of the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner, be paid an allowance at the rate of 25s. a week for a period not longer than 26 weeks immediately after the death of the widow’s husband or de facto husband. However, the suggestion made by the honorable senator will be noted, and will be referred to the responsible Minister.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 - (1.) A pension shall not be granted to a widow -
.- This clause provides that a pension shall not be granted to a widow unless she is residing in Australia and has been continuously so resident for a period of not less than five years immediately prior to the date of the claim. Would that prevent the benefit of the bill being given to the widow of an Australian soldier who married in Great Britain and who on her husband’s death (returns to Australia ?
.- In the case cited by the honorable senator the widow would receive benefit under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
.- I contend that, in addition to a war pension, the widow would be entitled to the widows’ pension, but she would be deprived of it through not having the qualification of five years’ residence in Australia.
– The clause provides that a pension shall not be granted to a widow unless she resides” in Australia “. Does that include territories of the Commonwealth?
– In the territories of the Commonwealth people live under practically the same laws as those operating in Australia.
– Ifresidents of territories of the Commonwealth are subject to the laws of the Commonwealth, why should they not receive the benefits of this bill ?
.- This bill has been framed on the same location basis as the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The matter raised bySenator Aylett will have to be considered at a later date. At present the clause specifies certain disqualifications, one of which is that a pension shall not be granted to a widow unless she has been continuously a resident of Australia for a period of not less than five years immediately prior to the date of her claim.
– What would be the position of the widow of a man who had been living in Australia and was sent to New Guinea to carry out certain work on behalf of the Government, but whose husband, after having been resident in New Guinea for six or seven years, returned with his wife to Australia and died here? Would the widow be deprived of the pension?
.- In the case mentioned by Senator Lamp, the full pension would be paid.
– The Minister has not answered my question relating to a woman whose husband dies after their return from an Australian territory in which they have spent several years.
– She would receive a pension.
Clause agreed to.
– Will it be possible under the provisions of this legislation for a widow to receive a pension, or part of a pension, from the New South Wales Government in addition to a pension from the Commonwealth Government? If that be the position, I propose to move an amendment aimed at preventing such a contingency.
.- -At present it would be possible for a widow to receive a pension under this scheme and one from a State government. That matter is now being discussed with the New South Wales Government with a view to eliminating the difficulty foreseen by the honorable senator. The Commonwealth would find it very difficult to legislate for the abolition of State widows’ pension schemes. At present the only scheme which might cause embarrassment to the Commonwealth is that operating in New South Wales.
. - Discussions frequently take place, but, unfortunately, they often do not yield results. What the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has just said confirms my worst fears. Therefore, I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (f), the word” or”, second occurring, be left out, and that, at the end of paragraph (g), the following word and new paragraph be inserted: - “ ; or
The object of this amendment is to prevent any widow from receiving either full or partial pensions from two governments within the Commonwealth of Australia. I have no objection to an income limit of 12s. 6d. a week, if the money does not come out of the pockets of the taxpayers of a State, as would asecond pension. If the Government is of the opinion that widows should not be permitted to draw two pensions, and is negotiating with the New South Wales Government with that end in view, I suggest that the matter could be finalized by accepting the proposed amendment.
.- I repeat that the Government would find it very difficult to legislate for the abolition of State pension schemes. At present the only one that might cause embarrassment is the New South Wales scheme. Negotiations with that State are in progress, and it is hoped to achieve unanimity on that point. The Government agrees that overlapping is not desirable, but I remind the honorable senator that whatever amount is paid by a State in addition to payments under the Commonwealth scheme, is a charge on that State and not on the Commonwealth.
– But the money will come from the pockets of the same taxpayers.
.- If Senator McBride’s amendment were carried and a State subsequently legislated for the payment to widows of 10s. a week, I take it that the Commonwealth scheme would not apply. Is that the intention?
– No ; that is not so.
Question put -
That the word proposed to be left out be left out (Senator McBride’s amendment).
The committee divided. (Thechairman - Senator Brown.)
N oes . . . . . . 14
Majority . . . . Nil.
– The numbers of “ Ayes “ and “ Noes “ being equal, the question is resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 (Rate of pension).
. -In my opinion, the permissible income of these unfortunate widows who will have to depend upon this pension for their livelihood should be increased. Under this clause, in order to receive a full pension, a widow must not be earning more than 12s. 6d. a week. It is true that if she has one child, she is paid an extra £13 a year, but even then, if she is earning the 12s. 6d. a week, her total income will be hardly sufficient to keep herself and her child, and to educate her child. Generally speaking, a woman who earns 12s. 6d. a week could easily earn £1 a week for the same or similar work. My suggestion is that the permissible income be raised to £1 a week. I realize that 12s. 6d. a week is the permissible income under our invalid and old-age pensions legislation, but it cannot be denied that many pensioners suffer definite hardships under these conditions, and are unable to enjoy a decent standard of living. The New Zealand Widows’ Pension Act wascited by several members of the Opposition, but in that dominion pensioners are allowed to earn up to the basic wage, including their pension. I am not suggesting that that should be done in this country, but at the very least we should raise the permissible income to £1 a week. That would not interfere with the appropriation under this measure. Similar action could be taken at a later stage in connexion with our invalid and old-age pension legislation. If that were done, it would enable pensioners to enjoy a decent standard of living, and their children would have a better opportunity to be adequately educated. In addition, many cases of hardship existing at present could be relieved. By substituting the amount of £52 for £32 we shall permit a widow with one child to earn an additional amount of £20 a year. This would make her total income, inclusive of pension, only £130 a year, which is little enough on which to ask any woman to keep herself and rear her child properly.
.- I cannot accede to the honorable senator’s request. His suggestion could be applied with equal justification in respect of invalid and old-age pensions. As it would increase the appropriation, I must reject it.
.- I do not find myself very often in agreement with Senator Aylett, but his suggestion appears to contain a good deal of merit. The object of this measure is to ensure that widows are not left in want. Surely, it is not the desire of the Government to prevent them from earning a reasonable sum in addition to their pension if they have an opportunity to do so. We should encourage women coming within this class to earn a few more shillings a week.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the same principle should be applied in respect of old-age pensions ?
– The honorable senator must recognize that the old-age pension is paid to men who are generally past the working age. However, a widow who qualifies for a pension under this measure may be comparatively young, say 21 or 25 years of age, with a child. She will receive a pension of 25s. a week, but, surely, she shouldnot forfeit it because she supplementsher small income. It is not right for the Government to discourage these people from working if they have an opportunity to do so. Many widows may be able to obtain work for a day or two each week; and I suggest that they be allowed to do so without risking losing their pension. Therefore, I urge the Minister to reconsider Senator Aylett’s proposal. We should encourage every one to work who is capable of working. We want to get them to work rather than hinder them from working.
– Senator Leckie has contended that by allowing widows who qualify for a pension to earn an income of £32 a year, the Government does not want to encourage widows to work. At the same time, he argues that if we allow widows to earn £52 a year we shall be encouraging them to work. I have yet to learn that it is the policy of the Labour party to encourage women to work for £1 a week. Any widow who is able to care for her children properly will not worry about the pension. She can readily find work in war industries, and earn a substantial wage. However, if she has no opportunity, or is incapable of earning a substantial wage, the pension plus the permissible additional income will enable her at least to look after her children. That is what we wish to do. We do not want widows to be exploited by allowing them to work for £1 a week.
– I fail to see how my suggestion that widows in receipt of pensions be allowed to earn £52 a year will increase the appropriation under this measure, because any additional income earned by widows would be altogether apart from the pension. I agree with the view that wherever possible widows should be encouraged to remain at home in order to look after their children properly. However, in some cases, a widow may be in receipt of an income of £1 a week without going out to work. Under this clause the rate of pension in such cases will be reduced by the difference between 12s. 6d. and £1. I can see no reason why widows with an income of £1 should suffer a reduction of their pension. Surely, we cannot expect any widow on an income of 25s. a week, plus an additional income of £12 a year, to rear a child properly.
.- Tho points raised by Senator Aylett and Senator Leckie will be considered. I undertake to look into their suggestions.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 and 17 agreed to.
Clause 18- ( I . ) Where a pension is granted, it shall be paid from a date determined by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner but the date so determined shall not, subject to this section, be prior to the date or later than the pay day next succeeding the date on which the claim for pension was .made.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the words “or later than the pay day next succeeding the date “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ or later than the due date of the first instalment of pension after the date,”.
This amendment is designed to state in clearer terms the intention of the amendment made to this clause in the House of Representatives. That intention was that the date of commencement of a widow’s pension should be not only not earlier than the date of the claim but also not later than the due date of the first instalment after the date of the claim.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 19 and 21 agreed to.
New clause 21a.
– I move -
That, after clause 21, the following new clause be inserted - “21a. If a successful claimant of a pension is an inmate of a benevolent asylum, or if a pensioner becomes an inmate of a “benevolent asylum, she shall not, so long as she remains an inmate of such an asylum, be entitled to receive a pension at the maximum rate but shall, subject to this act, be entitled to receive a pension at a rate determined in accordance with this act, but not in any case exceeding twenty-two pounds two shillings per annum.”.
The purpose of this new clause is to bring the payment of widows’ pensions into line with the payment of invalid and old-age pensions in the cases of persons who become inmates of benevolent asylums. When an old-age or invalid pensioner is admitted to such an institution his pension is reduced to 8s. 6d. a week and the balance of the pension is paid to the institution towards the cost of his maintenance. It is proposed to follow the same principle in regard to widows’ pensions.
New clause agreed to.
Clauses 22 to 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 (Allowances to certain widows).
.: - This clause provides that in certain circumstances an allowance be made to a widow under 50 years of age, but such allowance shall not be paid for a longer period than 26 weeks immediately after the death of the widow’s husband. Is provision made elsewhere in the measure to extend that period should circumstances warrant such an extension?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 26 (Disqualifications for allowance). -
.– The clause provides that an allowance shall not be granted to a widow - (<£) if she is an aboriginal native of Africa, the islands of the Pacific, or New Zealand.
In Australia a number of men have wives of Maori birth and I consider that these women in the event of their becoming widows should not be excluded from the benefits of this legislation. In New Zealand the Maoris have representation in Parliament and are on equality in every respect with other citizens. Will the Minister take steps to have the words “ New Zealand “ in the paragraph omitted so that Maori women in Australia will be entitled to the pension?
.- The provision debarring aboriginal natives of New Zealand from the benefits of the legislation was inserted because these women are debarred from the benefits of the child endowment and other social service schemes in Australia. I shall bring the honorable senator’s suggestion to the notice of the Minister administering the act for consideration when it is being reviewed.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 27 and 28 agreed to.
Clause 29- (1.) Where an allowance is granted, it shall bo paid from a date determined by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner but the date so determined shall not, subject to this section, be prior to the date on which the claim for allowance was made.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the word “ date “ the following words be inserted : - “, or later than the due date of the first instalment of allowance after the date,”.
The object of this amendment is to give to the widow who is granted an allowance under Part IV. of the bill the same benefit in regard to the date of commencement of her allowance as is being given in a similar amendment to clause 18 to a widow who is granted a pension under Part III. of the bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 30 to 34 agreed to.
New clause 34a.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to insert the following new clause after clause 34: - “ 34a. Whenever the maximum rate of pension per annum is increased or reduced in pursuance of the last preceding section, the maximum rate of pension per annum payable to a pensioner, immediately prior to the increase or reduction, in pursuance of section twenty-one a of this act, shall be increased or reduced by such amount, if any, as the Minister determines, not exceeding one-half of the amount by which the maximum rate of pension per annum is increased or reduced in pursuance of the last preceding section.”.
The purpose of the new clause is to provide for the rate of institutional pension to be adjusted in accordance with costofliving variations. The principle to be followed is exactly the same as in the case of invalid and old-age pensions. Whenever the maximum rate of a widow’s pension is increased by the cost-of-living variations provided in clause 34, the amount payable to a pensioner in an institution will be increased by such amount as the Minister determines, but not exceeding one-half of the increase received by pensioners who are not inmates of institutions.
– Why should the Minister determine the matter? The Commissioner will administer the act.
– In the case of an individual who is not getting the full pension it might be necessary for the Minister to fix an amount of pension. Should there be an increase of Is. a week in the maximum rate of pension based on the cost-of-living figures, 6d. would go to the institution and 6d. to the pensioner.
– I cannot understand why it is necessary for the Minister to determine the matter when an automatic increase of pension is granted because of a rise in the cost of living. The commissioner administering the act should consider automatic increases. I am not satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister.
.- The provision contained in the new clause is similar to that contained in the amending Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act of 1940. It was considered that these matters should be left to the discretion of the Minister. It might be the policy of the Government of the day to determine how fluctuations in the cost-of-living figure should be treated in relation to the pension rate, and, therefore, I suggest that it is necessary to leave the discretionary power in the hands of the Minister.
– In the event of the new clause being agreed to, the Minister could decide any increase of pension, and any such increase based on the costofliving scale would go by the board. I accept the proposition that because of an increase of the cost of living an additional amount of pension should be granted to pensioners, but I think that the administration will be cluttered up if automatic increases must be referred to the Minister for approval before they apply I consider that this method will become unworkable. I agree that the pensioner should be entitled to receive any increase of pension warranted by a rise of the cost of living but in the event of this new clause being agreed to the Minister might make an increase outside the terms of the act and members of this Parliament would not know what increases had been granted by the Minister.
– In Act No. 97 of 1940 assented to on the 17th December, 1940, which amended the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908- 1937 new section 47a was inserted. It reads as follows! - 47a. Whenever the maximum rate of pensions per annum is increased or reduced in pursuance of section twenty-four of this act the maximum rate of pension payable to a pensioner, immediately prior to the increase or reduction, in pursuance of sub-section (2.) of section thirty-one, the proviso to section fortyfive or section forty-seven of this act shall be increased or reduced by such amount, if any, as the Minister determines not exceeding a 104th part of the amount by which the maximum rate of pension per annum is increased or reduced in pursuance of section twenty-four of this act.
I suggest that the full pension should be automatically adjusted according to variations of the cost of living figure, but there is still the necessity for the Government of the day to have some power through the Minister administering the act. The officers inform me that the new clause contains a usual provision in legislation of this kind. I see nothing wrong with it.
Request agreed to.
Clauses 35 to 51 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with requests and amendments; report adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill implements an undertaking given by the Government when the legislation which is now the prin- cipal act was before this chamber last year that two amendments proposed to be moved by Senator Spicer would, if withdrawn, receive the consideration of the special committee representing all parties which considered the provisions of the principal act. The Government gave careful consideration to the proposed amendments and decided that it had no objection to them. Accordingly it inserted two provisions in this bill for the purpose of giving expression to the amendments. The special committee, of which Senator Spicer is a member, has accepted the form of the amendments inserted in the. bill. Those amendments were to excise certain words referring to a judgment or order of a court, from the definition of “disposition of property” as contained in the principal act, and to insert a provision in section 12 of the principal act - which specifies when a gift is deemed to be made - for the purpose of ensuring that gifts, completed before . the commencement of the act, should not be treated as having been made after the commencement of the act. The former amendment will be found in clause 3, and the latter in clause 5 of the bill. The opportunity provided by the necessity to introduce these amendments has been taken for the purpose of givingmore definite expression to the intention behind several other provisions of the act. The main matters dealt with in this connexion are the exemptions granted by section 14 of the principal act, and the question of the valuation of share3 dealt with in paragraph d of section IS of that act. It has been found by actual experience that some gifts which it was intended that section 14 should exempt would not have been exempt under that section in its present form. Consequently, several small amendments have been made in several of the paragraphs of that section. All of them extend the operation of the exemption provisions, and in no case will there be any limitation imposed by the amendments in this bill.
The valuation of the shares of companies which are not listed on a stock exchange is a difficult problem, and it was found that paragraph d of section 18 of the act, which gave the Commissioner power to value those shares on what is commonly known as the assets basis, were not entirely satisfactory. In many cases where the assets of a company are not earning good returns it would be unjust to the donor to adopt the assets basis, whilst in other cases the assets basis would be unfair to the revenue. The New South Wales Stamp Duties Act contains a provision which, I am advised, has been found in actual practice to be adequate for the purpose of ascertaining a proper value for such shares. It is equitable to both the shareholder and the revenue. It was decided, therefore, to adopt a similar provision for the purposes of valuing shares in private companies comprised in gifts subject to duty under the principal act. In the New South Wales act, the provision is mandatory in that it requires that the value shall be determined on the basis set out therein. The committee which considered the provisions of this bill felt that it might be unf air, in the case of small shareholders in such companies, to make the section mandatory, and it has accordingly been decided that the provision shall not be mandatory but shall be used only where the facts of the case justify its use. Wherever the Commissioner uses the provision, his decision to do so is subject to review by the valuation board or the courts upon appeal thereto by the donor. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the hill lie now read a second time.
When the bill to amend the rates of estate duty was before the Parliament last year, the Government undertook to give consideration to the question of amending the principal act by giving an exemption from estate duty in respect of the estates of members of the forces killed on active service where the value of the estate was less than £5,000. As the result of that consideration, the Government has decided that the provision should be made more liberal. Its proposals have been considered by the special committee of members of all parties which, after recommending an increase of the period mentioned in the provision from one year to three years, agreed that the proposals of the Government were reasonable in the circumstances. The amendment provides that, instead of the present exemption of estates not exceeding £5,000 in value, there shall be inserted into the act a provision giving a deduction of £5,000 in respect of the estates of members of the forces killed on active service, irrespective of the total value of the estate. In addition, if the property of a member so killed again becomes subject to duty due to a second death on active service, the whole of the estate duty otherwise payable on that property upon the second death will be remitted. As the question of whether a person who dies subsequent to the termination of the war and within three years thereafter has died as a result of injuries received, or disease contracted, on active service, may be one of considerable difficulty, a provision has been inserted that that question, when in doubt, shall be settled upon a certificate given by the authority under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act which is to consider and settle the question for the purposes of that act.
The opportunity afforded by the necessity to amend the principal act for the purpose already discussed, has been taken to make the act a more efficient machine for the collection of revenue than it has been in the past. Some of the resultant amendments are more or less machinery provisions to simplify the administration of the act. Most of these extend to executors, benefits in regard to rights of objection and appeal that do not exist under the principal act as it is now framed. Other provisions are for the direct purpose of closing up loopboles which exist in the present legislation. Amongst the last mentioned is a provision ensuring that the proceeds of policies on the life of the deceased, payable to the members of his family and not previously liable to estate duty under the principal act, shall now form part of his estate and be so liable. However, it is not proposed to make this provision retrospective by making it apply unreservedly to all policies now in existence. It will, of course, apply unreservedly to all policies taken out after the commencement of this act; but in regard to policies already in existence it will apply only to the portion of the proceeds which may be said to accrue as from this date onwards. This is done by providing for a deduction, from the proceeds of such a policy, of the present value of the policy as at the commencement of this provision. The result will be to make only the excess of the total proceeds over the present value liable to duty. The present value is to be ascertained by ascertaining what amount would, if invested at the commencement of the act, equal the total proceeds of the policy as at the date of death. This will mean that the present surrender value of the policy will not be liable to duty.
It is proposed to insert in the principal act a provision giving the Commissioner power to value the shares of private companies without regard to the artificial restrictions sometimes contained in the articles of association of such companies regarding the transfer of shares or the ascertainment of the value of the shares. This provision has been taken from the Stamp Duties Act of New South “Wales, where it has been in force for some time in connexion with the valuation of such shares for probate duty purposes and has, I am advised, been working with satisfaction to “all parties. In the New South “Wales act, the provision is mandatory, but the committee which considered the clauses of this bill believed that it should be made discretionary so that it will be used only in those cases in which its use is justified by the circumstances.
The bill amends the principal act by including a provision extending the present rights of the Commissioner to amend assessments and the present rights of administrators to have assessments amended. The principal act at present provides that amendments shall be made only within twelve months of the date of payment of duty on the original assessment with a proviso that under certain circumstances this period may be extended to eighteen months. It has been decided to bring this act into line with other taxation acts and give rights of amendment within three years of the date of payment of the duty or, if the Commissioner is of the opinion that duty has been avoided and that such avoidance is due to fraud or evasion, at any time.
Under the present act, an executor has no right of appeal from the decisions of the Commissioner other than to the Supreme Court of a State or the High Court of Australia, sometimes an expensive procedure. It has been decided, therefore, to provide for a right of reference to a valuation board on the question of the values of assets in the estate, and to a board of review on any other question with, of course, right of appeal to the courts from the decisions of the Commissioner or these boards if the executor desires to have the matter decided by a legal tribunal.
There is also a provision in the bill extending the time from one year to three years within which gifts, inter vivos, made by the deceased, form part of his estate. This also brings the principal act into line with the provisions of the New SouthWales Stamp Duties Act regarding probate duties.
Amongst the minor amendments being made is an amendment of section 18a of the principal act, which relates to the statutory exemption; to give more appropriate expression to the intention and to prevent an anomaly which arose under the present provision in regard to estates, the values for duty of which were between £1,000 and £2,000. There is another slight amendment of the present provision giving exemption to bequests to certain funds which might be collectively described as charitable funds, so that bequests which establish such funds shall also be exempt. Another amendment is concerned with section 35 of the principal act, which gives power as executors to apportion the duty between the beneficiaries and the estate. That provision excludes from such apportionment bequests which pass to institu tions or for purposes which render the bequests exempt from duty under the provisions of sub-section 5 of section 8 of the principal act. There was a discrepancy between the wording of the two sections which rendered section 35 somewhat difficult of interpretation. This discrepancy is being removed.
Debate (on motion bySenator A. J. McLachlan) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That, until the 5th June, 1942, unless otherwise ordered, government business shall take precedence of all other business on the noticepaper, excepting questions and formal motions.
– I object to this motion being moved at this stage. On a recent occasion the Senate was called together for one day and adjourned, with the result that members of the Opposition were prevented from discussing important matters which they desired to bring before the Senate, particularly the position of the wheat industry. I shall oppose the motion.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) gave notice this morning of his intention to submit an important motion with regard to the wheat industry, and I ask the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) to give an assurance that that motion will be dealt with during the present sittings. I do not desire to delay government business or to take the business out of the hands of the Government, but, unless the assurance asked for is given, I shall oppose the motion. I suggest that the Leader of the Senate should follow the course indicated by me, because notice of the motion to be submitted by the Leader of the Opposition was given before the present motion was moved.
. - in reply - My sole desire in submitting the motion is to enable the business of the Senate to be concluded on the 5th June next. If honorable senators particularly desire to debate the motion of which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has given notice, I have no objection. I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Leave granted;, motion withdrawn.
Debate resumed from the 14th May (vide page 1191), on motion by Senator Eraser -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I have examined the Navigation Act 1912- 1935 and it appears that this bill is to amend Part IX. of that act, which deals with courts of marine inquiry. The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Eraser) stated in his secondreading speech that most of the proposed amendments were of a machinery character, but I draw his attention to clause 9, which has far-reaching effects. This is a new provision which gives to the Minister power to override decisions of courts of marine inquiry. I should like to know why reference to this fact was not made in the second-reading speech of the Minister. ‘Can the Minister say whether a similar provision appears in the principal act? I intend to oppose that clause. Reference was made in the Minister’s second-reading speech to clause 4, which states that it might be unnecessary for certain decisions to be referred to a second court. Reading that statement in conjunction with section 372 of the principal act, I am unable to reconcile it, and I invite the Minister to enlighten honorable senators regarding it in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Powers of court).
– Will the Minister elaborate the point made by him in his second-reading speech in connexion with courts of inquiry?
– The amendments proposed in para graphs a and b are purely technical, to remove possible doubts as to the interpretation of section 364 of the principal act which confers jurisdiction on a court of marine inquiry. In section 372 of the act a court of marine inquiry is given jurisdiction to cancel or suspend the certificate of any master or ship’s officer if it finds that he has failed in his duty in certain particulars. But in section 364, which expressly confers jurisdiction on a court to inquire into charges against masters and ship’s officers, no mention is made of charges of “ failure of duty “. It is accordingly proposed to insert in subsection 1 specific reference to “failure of duty “ on the part of a master or ship’s officer in regard to any collision or in any matter relating to the navigation, management or working of a ship.
Sub-section 2 of section 364 of the act provides, inter alia, that an inquiry by a court of marine inquiry shall not be held into any matter which has once been the subject of an investigation or inquiry and has been reported on by a “competent court or tribunal in any part of the King’s dominions”. In 1924, the steamship City of Singapore was destroyed by fire and explosion whilst lying at the wharf in Port Adelaide. Some members of the local fire brigade were lulled by an explosion, and an inquiry was held by the local Coroner’s Court into the circumstances attending the death of these persons. When it was proposed to open an inquiry by a court of marine inquiry into the cause of the fire and explosion on the vessel, it was ruled by the Attorney-General’s Department that the inquiry that had been held by the coroner was an inquiry by a “ competent court or tribunal “ and barred any further inquiry into the matter. A coroner’s court, it is considered, is not properly equipped to investigate and correctly determine facts in connexion with shipping casualties. A court of marine inquiry, it is pointed out, is invariably assisted by two or more highly skilled assessors, who advise the court on technical matters, which almost invariably arise in the course of the hearing. Outside Australia, so far as can be ascertained, the only courts that deal with, shipping casualties are courts constituted under legislation relating to shipping and navigation, and which are always assisted by assessors.
The amendment proposed in paragraph c is to make it impossible for a proper inquiry by a court of marine inquiry under the Navigation Act to be barred simply by the fact that some inquiry has been held by a local court or tribunal, sitting without assessors, under a State law, and covering possibly some phase only of the casualty which it is desired to investigate.
Paragraph d inserts an additional limit to the jurisdiction of a Commonwealth court of marine inquiry. In 1931, Australia entered into .an agreement with other members of the British Commonwealth as to principles they would adopt in their shipping legislation, one of them being that an investigation would not be held in one part of the Commonwealth into a casualty occurring to a ship registered in another part of the Commonwealth, except by request or with the consent of the port where the ship is registered. This restriction, however, does not apply when the casualty occurs on or near the coast, or while the ship is wholly in the coasting trade. Paragraph d gives effect to the undertaking in the agreement.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Power to cancel or suspend certificate).
– Can the Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser) say what is the practical difference between section 372 of the principal act and the proposed new section 372 embodied in this clause?
– Under the Merchant Shipping Act, a court holding a formal investigation in the United Kingdom into a shipping casualty, may cancel or suspend the. certificate of a master, mate, or engineer if it finds that the casualty has been caused by his wrongful act or default. It is not necessary that the person concerned should be formally charged before the commencement of the inquiry, the only requirement being that a copy of the report or statement of the case on which the investigation had been ordered shall be furnished to him before such commencement. In practice, under that act, when an inquiry is decided upon, notice is served upon the master of the ship and on any officer whose conduct may be called into question. These then become parties to the case. With the notice is furnished also a statement of the case on which the inquiry has been ordered and a list of questions which it is proposed to ask the court to answer. When the formal investigation is opened and the evidence in chief has been heard, the person representing the Ministry of War Transport indicates to the court the questions which it is desired shall be answered. Such questions, when necessary, touch on the matter of culpability of the master or officers and the latter, having been made parties to the investigation, have then an opportunity of calling evidence in rebuttal if desired and generally of making their defence. Under the Navigation Act, however, no certificate of a master, mate or engineer can be cancelled or suspended unless a copy of charges against the holder of a certificate has been served upon him at least 48 hours before the commencement of the inquiry. That is provided in section 373. Consequently it has been found necessary to hold first a formal investigation into the circumstances attending the casualty itself, and after the finding of the court has been given in the matter, to then formally charge the persons who in the opinion of the court were responsible for the casualty and to constitute a fresh court to investigate the charges and to rehear practically the same evidence. This happened on several occasions, viz., in the case of the collision between the MV. Duntroon and the H.M.A.S. Goorangai at Port Phillip Bay on the 20th November, 1940, the collision between the MV. Sydney Star and SS. Macumba in Sydney Harbour on the 23rd September, 1938, and the collision between the MV. Wanganella and the steam trawler Durraween off the New South Wales coast on the 28th December, 1937. The double trial inflicts a great hardship on the shipmasters and officers concerned, not only in the matter of expense, but also in the more lengthy period during which they are delayed in obtaining reemployment and subjected to mental stress.
It has been decided to follow as closely as possible the British practice, which has stood the test of time, and proved generally satisfactory. To that end section 372 has been re-drafted. It might be argued that the single court procedure will mean giving only one chance to an officer whose conduct is in doubt, as against his double chance under the present procedure. However, in clause 9 of this bill a right of appeal to a supreme court is given, and this will give an opportunity for relief to any officer not satisfied with a court’s decision. In the proposed new clause a distinction has been made between the extent of jurisdiction as to certificates of competency granted in Australia, and those granted “in any part of the King’s dominions outside Australia”. This distinction is necessary because of a clause in the merchant shipping agreement of 1931 already referred to, which provides that a court shall be empowered to cancel or suspend a certificate granted in another part of the British Commonwealth so as to affect its validity only within the jurisdiction of the part in which the investigation is made.
Other slight amendments have been made in the section, the principal being the omission of reference to a” gross act “ of misconduct. The term “ misconduct” is already defined in section 6 as including careless navigation, drunkenness, tyranny, failure of duty, want of skill, or improper conduct. This is regarded as sufficiently comprehensive.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Delivery up of certificate).
. -Will the Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser) explain this clause? Surely it is within the competence of the court to exercise its jurisdiction over these gentlemen, and have their certificates delivered up.
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia - Minister for External Territories) [10.51]. - Section 374 of the principal act provides for delivery up of a certificate which has been cancelled or suspended by a court of marine inquiry, which means only a Commonwealth court. By the British Commonwealth Merchant Shipping Agreement, reciprocal arrangements are provided for, by which one part of the British Commonwealth may accept the finding of a court in another part. The bill accordingly makes provision for the Minister to demand delivery of the Australian certificate of an officer, if it has been cancelled or suspended by a British court abroad.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 -
After section three hundred and seventyfive of the principal act the following sections are inserted: - “375a. - (1.) Where a local certificate has been cancelled or suspended by a Court of Marine Inquiry, the Minister, after full investigation of all the circumstances, may. if he thinks the justice of the case requires it -
in the case of a cancelled certificate, re-issue and return the certificate;
in the case of a suspended certificate, shorten the time for which it is suspended and return or re-issue it; or
grant a certificate of a lower grade in place of the certificate which has been cancelled or suspended. (2.) In this section ‘local certificate’ means a certificate of competency as master, mate, engineer or marine engine-driver of a ship, granted under this or any State act, and valid within the Commonwealth or a State only.”.
. - As I mentioned in my short second-reading speech on this measure, I wish to direct particular attention to the proposed new section 375a.
I cannot understand the Government inserting this new provision in the Navigation Act and so giving to the Minister power to override decisions of a court of marine inquiry. It is impossible for a Minister to exercise the same impartial judgment that is exercised by a properly constituted court.For some reason this Government seems most anxious, under the guise of war emergency, to delegate to Ministers power to override arbitration courts, courts of marine inquiry, and so on. I urge the committee to reject this clause. It was not in the principal act, and no evidence has been given to show that it is necessary. I consider that we have already had sufficient political interference with our judicial authorities by this Government.
– I remind the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that this bill was drafted by the previous Government, of which he was a member. It has not been altered in any respect, and I presume that Senator McLeay supported this clause when the measure was considered by Cabinet. The bill was not presented to Parliament by the previous Government because it went out of office.
– How long is it since the bill was drafted?
– It is some months. The following information should clarify the intention of clause 9: -
Two classes of certificates of competency are issued under the Navigation Act to masters, mates and engineers of ships, namely, those having Imperial validity, i.e., which are recognized in all parts of the British Empire, and those of a less important character, valid within the Commonwealth only.
The issue of the certificates of Imperial validity is subject to the provisions of section 102 of the Merchant Shipping Act of Great Britain, and by means of regulations made under that section power is given, where a certificate of Imperial validity has been cancelled or suspended, and if, in the opinion of the Minister, the justice of the case requires it, to return or re-issue the certificate or to shorten the time for which it has been suspended or grant in place thereof a certificate of lower grade. This power does not, however, extend to the purely local certificate mentioned. The new section proposed gives similar power in regard to these.
Under the principal act, a master, or officer, of a ship whose certificate is cancelled, or suspended, by a court of marine inquiry has no right of appeal to any local court. By virtue of section 478 of the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act, however, he can appeal from the decision of a court of marine inquiry anywhere in the Empire direct to the High Court of England. It is considered preferable that he should have, as regards inquiries held here, an appeal in the first instance to some superior court in the Commonwealth. The new section proposed accordingly provides for an appeal to the Supreme Court of the State in which the inquiry was held. The British Com monwealth Merchant Shipping Agreement of December, 1931, provides that where a certificate of competency is cancelled, or suspended, by a court of marine inquiry in a dominion, an appeal shall lie from the decision of the court “to a court in that part of the Commonwealth in which the formal investigation was held, and that court shall be similar in its constitution and jurisdiction to a Divisional Court of Admiralty in England”. The new provision now proposed does not, and as a matter of fact, cannot, in any way affect the right of appeal to the High Court of England, either direct from the decision of a court of marine inquiry, or, subsequently, from the decision of the Supreme Court of the State.
– That has nothing to do with our objection. We are not objecting to the right of appeal to the court, but to the Minister having power to override the decision of the Court of Marine Inquiry.
– It seems to me that this proposal goes a little beyond anything yet attempted either in this country or overseas. We object to the Minister usurping judicial functions. That is the meaning of this clause. That is a very dangerous thing for any Minister to attempt to do. When I first glanced at this clause, I thought that its purpose was to expedite hearings in order to enable the officer concerned to get away as quickly as possible, as, for instance, an officer from overseas would wish to do. But the clause makes no reference to that aspect at all. No corresponding provision exists in the principal act, and. apparently, no necessity exists for such a provision, because, apparently, the next part of clause 9 makes adequate provision for appeals against the suspension, or cancellation, of certificates. For that reason, I fail to see why we should throw this responsibility on the shoulders of the Minister.
– This clause deals entirely with local certificates.
– That is so; and, consequently, the officer concerned will not require to get away as quickly as would be the case of officers from overseas. A new provision, which, replaces the relevant section of the principal act, gives to officers concerned complete right of appeal. That is much more desirable than this proposal, which virtually constitutes the Minister as a court of appeal. I suggest, therefore, that the first part of proposed new section 375a be withdrawn. The rest of that proposed new section appears to be satisfactory in respect of any officer who may be charged. He has his appellant rights to whatever tribunal is provided under the principal act; and that provision is made clearer in the amendment now proposed by the Minister in that respect. But the clause with which we are now dealing violates the best principles of British jurisprudence in that it imposes a judicial duty upon the executive government.
– I am not catisfied with the explanation given by the Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser). _The statement that this provision was approved by the previous Government is incorrect. Certain document? may have been prepared by departmental officers some time ago. The Minister has not given us the date on which they were prepared. He has not convinced me, or any other honorable senator, of the necessity for this clause. Does he admit that this is a new clause? Does he admit that it gives to the Minister power to override the decision of a court of marine inquiry? I move -
That proposed new section 375a be left out.
Senator FRASER (Western Australia - Minister for External Territories) [11.91 - I am not prepared to accept the amendment. This clause does not give the Minister power to override the decision of the court suspending, or cancelling, a local certificate. After an investigation has been made by the competent authority, and a recommendation made to the Minister as to whether a certificate should be restored, or the penalty reduced, the court would ultimately be the authority to give effect to such recom.mendations The Miniver should be guided by V’s officer-. Should they recommend that a certificate be restored, or that the penalty be reduced, the Go vernment should have the power to give effect to such recommendations.
– I presume that this proposal has been presented as the result of certain collisions, or groundings of vessels, on the coast of Australia. I propose to refer to only one aspect of proposed new section 375a. It provides that the Director of Navigation shall investigate the circumstances surrounding a collision, or the grounding of a vessel, and should he think that justice requires that a certain course of action be taken, such action shall be taken. When I was in charge of this department we had a record number of groundings and collisions in a period of four months. I well remember Senator Leckie taking me to task on the matter; but I had nothing to do with it. However, I had something to do with the inquiries which followed the groundings and collisions. The opinion I then formed, and still retain, ;s that the less the Minister has to do with such matters the better. The Court of Marine Inquiry is most competent, and whatever decision it may come to in respect of the suspension or cancellation of an officer’s certificate flu aggrieved person may appeal to a higher court. As the Minister, I certainly should not have consented to act in place of the court as is now proposed under this new provision, which makes the Minister or the Director of Navigation superior to the Court of Marine Inquiry. I fail to see how the Director of Navigation could elicit facts regarding a grounding or collision, of which the court would not be aware, because in most instances the parties concerned scatter very quickly. I fail to see how the Director of Navigation, or any of his deputies in any of the States, would be a better authority on these matters than a court of marine inquiry. Therefore, I urge the Minister to withdraw this provision, and allow a court of marine inquiry to decide such matters. Should it make a mistake, the aggrieved person can appeal to a higher court.
– As this is a highly technical measure I suggest to the Minister for External Territories (Senator
Fraser) that, as his advisers are not present, he should report progress. To-morrow, perhaps, he may be able to elucidate the point raised. There may be some occult reason for the insertion of this proposed new section. At the moment I cannot see it. However, it may be purely technical. I cannot conceive of this proposed new section being inserted without a special reason. Perhaps the Minister will be able to glean the reason from his departmental officers. No justification has been given so far for the alteration of the law proposed or the amendment of the present Navigation Act. The next clause clarifies the position and I support it, hut I shall be compelled on the highest principles to vote against this clause.
– An important question in this discussion is whether a court of marine inquiry is superior to a criminal court. Often appeals are made to a government for the reduction of penalties inflicted by a criminal court, and there might be good reason, because of extenuating circumstances, or the production of fresh evidence, why the penalty should be reduced. I have to «be convinced that a court of marine inquiry is superior to a criminal court.
– I direct the attention of the Minister in charge of the bill to section 358 of the Navigation Act 1912-1935 which provides that -
A Court of Marine Inquiry shall be constituted by one or more District or County Court Judges or Police or Stipendiary or Special Magistrates of the Commonwealth or part of the Commonwealth or of a State or part of a State or by one or more Judges or Magistrates specially authorized by the Governor-General to sit as members of a Court of Marine Inquiry.
The clause under discussion gives to the Minister power to do certain things after a court of marine inquiry has heard the evidence in a case and arrived at a decision.
– If an injustice is done by the court, the Minister will be able to remedy it.
– The Minister would have the right to upset the decision of the court. We do not stand for anything like that in this country.
Senator FRASER (Western Australia - Minister for External Territories; [11.19].- .Section 474 of the British Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 provides -
The Board of Trade may, if they think that the justice of the case requires it, re-issue and return the certificate of a master, mate or engineer which has been cancelled or suspended whether in the United Kingdom or in a British possession, or shorten the time for which it is suspended, or grant in place thereof a certificate of the same or any lower grade.
The act is still operating, although it has been on the statute-book for nearly 50 years. I have discussed the bill with the officers of the department concerned and they state that it is essential that the clause should remain in the bill.
– For political reasons ?
– This Government does not use legislation for political reasons. I will not accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay).
.- The Minister is adopting a surprising attitude. He will not agree to report progress to enable him to obtain the advice of his officers, but he persists in maintaining the view that he must have the right to upset a decision of a properly constituted court.
– Acting on the advice of the Government.
– That interjection makes the Government’s case worse. The Government could bring pressure to bear on the Minister and caucus could bring pressure to bear on the Government to upset the decision of a properly constituted court, which had taken evidence and decided on that evidence that a certain penalty should be inflicted. What is the use of having a court if its decision can be upset by the Minister?
– The person affected by the decision of the court has the right of appeal.
– If the Minister is given the right to review a case decided upon by a court after the hearing of evidence, why should not the Minister be given absolute power to investigate all cases and decide the penalties. It would be a travesty of British justice if, after a properly constituted court had tried a case on the evidence submitted to it, the Minister had the right to upset its decision, although the master or officer concerned might have been guilty of the grossest negligence. It is not difficult to imagine the political pressure that would be brought to bear on the Minister if this clause were allowed to remain in the bill. Masters, ships’ officers, and the men have their organizations. What sort of safety will there be around the Australian coast if a negligent officer who is deprived of his certificate by a court of marine inquiry can bring pressure to bear on the Minister and have his certificate restored? In that way the canons of safety in navigation could be flouted. All that an officer who had been found guilty of negligence by a court of marine inquiry would need to do would be to get his union to exert pressure on the Minister. I should think that a reasonable Minister would be glad to have the power proposed by the clause kept out of his hands. The Government will not advance proper reasons for the insertion of the clause.
– Ample reason has been given.
– The PostmasterGeneral is very faithful to his delusions. His first delusion is that he is a smart fellow, and his second delusion is that others think so. The Minister in charge of the bill should give proper reasons for its inclusion.
– The honorable senator has opposed every measure introduced since the present Government took office.
– Apparently, the Postmaster-General is smarting under the realization that be has had to accept amendments of bills introduced by him. He is making a grave error if he thinks that he will stop me criticizing clauses which I think are defective.
– The statement that reasons for the inclusion of the clause have not been given is not correct. I quoted the British Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, and in respect of this subject I can reasonably compare the Board of Trade in England with the Commonwealth Government. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) does not welcome the truth or any statement that will clarify a clause that he contests. The British Merchant Shipping Act gives to the Board of Trade a power which is similar to the power sought in the clause. The Department of Commerce, of which I am Assistant Minister, administers the Navigation Act. If the clause were agreed to, the procedure would be for the Director of Navigation to recommend whether the certificate of a master, mate or engineer withdrawn on the finding of a court of marine inquiry should be restored.
– Is that because the Minister is incompetent?
– Why should the Minister take instructions from an officer and not from the court?
– The Minister will act upon the advice of his expert officers and decide either to renew the certificate or to refuse to do so. In Australia the Minister takes the place of the Board of Trade in Great Britain. I refuse to accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Minister has been asked why it is necessary to vest this power in the Minister, but he has not yet given an explanation. When a court of marine inquiry comes to a decision and issues a finding, any person who is not satisfied with that finding may lodge an appeal. The- Opposition wants from the Minister, in language which a child of five years of age can understand, why it is necessary that this provision should be inserted. We are waiting patiently for an explanation.
– If honorable senators opposite have not grasped the explanation already given, it will be impossible to make the position clear to them. I repeat that in Australia the Minister is the equivalent of the Board of Trade in Great Britain. If Senator Sampson is unable to understand that explanation, he must be a child of three years of age.
– If we can deduce anything from the Minister’s statement, it is that in the British act there is a provision which corresponds to this provision, and that in Great Britain there is an appeal to a higher court. If that be so, the case made out by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) is all the stronger, because the British Board of Trade is entirely independent of the Government of Great Britain, and. sits as a quasi-judicial body. I do not know the reason for this provision, but it may be that it is needed in certain urgent cases. Even if that be the reason, the principle is wrong. The provision would be less objectionable if the power were vested in the Director of Navigation instead of in the Government. This is important legislation, and we do not want to make a mistake in it. It would be a mistake to allow the executive function to obtrude on the judicial function. That danger has been obviated in Great Britain. My desire is that this legislation shall harmonize with the legislation existing in the Mother Country and in the other dominions, but this provision is out of step with that legislation. I urge the Minister to let this matter stand over until to-morrow, so that it can be examined in the meantime. “When this provision is analysed, it will probably be found to constitute a most serious blunder. The Minister tells us that the British Board of Trade has certain functions which in Australia are performed by the Minister, but he does not say what those functions are. A big principle is involved in this matter, and therefore I again urge the Minister to let this matter stand over, so that overseas legislation may be studied and the Minister be given an opportunity to consult with his advisers with a view to giving to the committee some reasons for the inclusion of this provision.
– I repeat that in Australia, where there is no board of trade, the Minister takes its place. It is true that the British Board of Trade is not a political body, but as we have no board of trade here and the act is administered by a Minister of the Crown, the authority must be vested in him. The British act provides -
The Board of Trade may, if they think that the justice of the case requires it, re-issue and return the certificate of a master, mate or engineer which has been cancelled or suspended, whether in the United Kingdom or in a British possession, or shorten the time for which it is suspended, or grant in place thereof a certificate of the same or any lower grade.
Seeing that there is no board of trade here the Minister is the competent authority.
– The Minister is sidestepping the point at issue by referring to the British Board of Trade without giving to us any explanation of the functions of that body. If he places himself in the same category as a court of marine inquiry or the British Board of Trade, he is flattering himself. Since” the Navigation Act came into operation in 1915 these matters have been handled by competent courts, so why is it necessary to make this vital alteration to-day? Surely the committee is entitled to that information. I object to the attempt of the Government to bludgeon this matter through without giving a proper explanation to the committee.
– Both in committee and in mv second-reading speech I pointed out that this provision will obviate the necessity for two courts - one to inquire into casualties, and the other to determine the punishment to be meted out to offenders. Recently, a magistrate and his assessors had to determine the nature of, and the responsibility for, a marine accident. The same court could have determined whether the persons concerned were guilty or not guilty of the offence charged against them, but the present act does not permit of that being done. The chairman of a court of marine inquiry, with his two assessors heard the case and found that certain things had been done. Then he adjudicated again, and had to pass sentence on the accused persons.
– Inquest and trial.
– Yes. Under this bill that will be obviated. One court will be set up to inquire into the circumstances, and those responsible will be dealt with by the same court; but the officer will not be deprived of the right of appeal to a higher court. Many functions are delegated to the Minister under the Navigation Act.
– Since 1915 has a Minister been given power to override the decision of a court?
– It appears to me that the Leader of the Opposition does not understand the purpose of the bill, which is that one court shall investigate the circumstances of an accident and at the same time determine the sentence to be imposed upon the guilty party.
– With all respect to the Minister, I suggest that he has not touched on the particular provision to which we object. We are in full agreement as to the wisdom of removing the necessity for two courts, but I should like the Minister to state what was the procedure in issuing certificates after the expiration of the term of suspension decided on by the second court. What is the present practice, and why is it now thought necessary to give power to the Minis,ter to override a sentence imposed by a court of marine inquiry, constituted under the authority of the Minister, which after making careful inquiries has imposed a certain penalty? Surely the Minister does not suggest that the clause is inserted so that on the expiration of the suspension the Minister shall re-issue a certificate. The object is to allow the Minister to override a. decision of a court of marine’ inquiry. The Minister may put his own interpretation on the evidence.
– He may endorse the decision of the court.
– Yes, but he could also override it. I have no objection to a master or a mate having the right of appeal to another tribunal.
– The Opposition has suddenly become aware of something that it has never previously observed. It now declares that, those who may exercise ministerial powers under this legislation in future will be prepared to abuse them. No previous Minister has been accused of abusing his powers. This clause will give to the Minister power to make a quick decision in a case of emergency. No Minister would reverse the decision of a court of marine inquiry unless he was quite satisfied that there was ample evidence to justify his action. I am speaking of what any Minister, past, present or future^ would do, irrespective of his party background. A Minister would not be likely to flout the just decision of a court, but in a time of war, when necessity may arise for the quick .review of a situation, particularly one relating to the cancellation of a certificate for a relatively minor offence, some such provision as this should be available. If the matter had to wait for the sitting of a court a delay of two or three months might occur and the country might be robbed of the services of an expert individual for that period.
– Then why have a court of inquiry at all?
– The honorable senator must be well aware that courts of inquiry frequently make mistakes. It is necessary to provide an authority to which an appeal may be made. In the circumstances set out in the bill, it is proper that a Minister of the Crown should have this discretion. If he were to exercise it unreasonably, he might commit political suicide. In any case, he would not be likely to reverse the decision of the court without substantial evidence to support such a course. Ministers of the Crown, irrespective of the party to which they may belong, are men of character and integrity and I suggest that they may be given this discretion with safety.
– The reasoning on which honorable senators opposite are basing their opposition to this clause is that a court of marine inquiry can do no wrong and a Labour Minister can do no right. Courts of marine inquiry have made grievous mistakes in the past, and may make mistakes in the future. Surely it is reasonable that an authority should be set up to which an appeal may be made. No Minister would be likely to reverse the finding of the court unless substantial evidence in support of that course were submitted to him. The Government should be the supreme authority in a matter of this description and Ministers must be prepared to take full responsibility for their actions. A Minister would not be likely to allow his personal opinions to influence him in determining an appeal under this provision, particularly if he had no previous experience to guide him. He would, in fact, rely upon the evidence submitted to him, and the advice of his expert officers. I do not think that even the High Court should be able to veto the decisions of a government. The courts of the land should be tribunals subordinate to the Government. The Government should always be supreme. In determining this question we must face the f fundamental issue : Who are to judge the judges? Courts have not a monopoly of knowledge and justice. Senator A. J. McLachlan, and also Senator Leckie for that matter, seem to think that Labour Ministers are either sophisticated or reckless individuals who must always be regarded with the greatest suspicion, because they are sure to do the wrong thing. If that view does not reveal bias I do .not know what bias is.
– The Minister should state these views to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions.
– I Shave done so, and the Australasian Council of Trade Unions supports my outlook. This clause is being opposed, not on its merits, but on grounds of political bias, and in making that statement I do not desire to be regarded as offensive. The bill was drafted for the previous government and if that government had introduced it I have no doubt that it would have been passed without very much opposition. The fact of the matter is that objection is being raised to this provision because it will be administered by a Labour Minister. Surely honorable gentlemen opposite realize that although this Government has not a majority of its own supporters in either House of the Parliament, it must nevertheless be given some latitude to meet a difficult war-time situation. It must, in fact, be allowed to short circuit procedure which might hinder efficient and prompt administration.
– What has this to do with the clause?
– I am endeavouring to explain why honorable senators opposite object to the clause. The Government is faced with circumstances unprecedented in the history of this country. It is legislating, and administering laws, under conditions which require it to work as speedily as possible, having in view the best interests of the nation. As has been pointed out, the Navigation Act has not worked as satisfactorily as could be desired, and this bill is designed to rectify that difficulty. Honorable senators opposite have not adduced one fact to show that power similar to that which is now proposed to be given to the Minister in this instance has been abused by any member of the Government. More important powers than this have been conferred by regulation upon several Ministers, but in no instance whatever have those powers been abused. At the same time, the Government has t.hu3 been enabled to achieve many things which its predecessor failed to do. The granting of thi3 power to the Minister under this bill is a similar experiment. All that honorable senators opposite have said against this proposal is that the Minister will override a court of marine inquiry. As I interjected when Senator McBride was speaking, the Minister, after thoroughly examining the evidence, may decide that the decision of the court shall be given effect to. Would any honorable senator opposite object to that? I hardly think so. The objection of honorable senators opposite is based on mere suspicion, or, as I have said previously, on political bias. They contend that the Minister who represents a Labour government cannot be trusted. No Minister in this Government has abused powers conferred upon him by this Parliament. Senator Leckie was particularly bitter in that respect. He suggested that tho Minister would yield to all sorts of pressure. He said, for example, that the Minister would hasten to give effect to any decision that might be arrived at by the unions, and contended that the real Government was not in the Parliament, but outside of it.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator discussing the clause?
– I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the clause under consideration.
– In spite of all the time that has been wasted by honorable senators opposite in objecting to tins clause, their objection is not based on facts, but merely upon the assumption that the Minister will use this power to the detriment of the country. Such a suggestion is unworthy of honorable senators. It is apparent that they are not satisfied with any explanation which does not justify their objection.
Thursday, 28 May, 1948.
– I am sure that the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Fraser) must be very grateful to the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) for his speech, because he has given the real reason for this clause. That is, not only that the Minister should be the court in respect of marine cases, but also that the Government should be supreme over every court. That is the real reason for this proposed new section. Why have a court of marine inquiry at all? If the Minister said that he proposed to override decisions of the court, he would at least be honest with honorable senators, and we should then know where we stand. .However, provision is made for hearings by a court of marine inquiry and for appeals to superior courts. Then, the Minister says, in effect, “ I am superior to them all, and shall cancel, or alter, any decisions of a properly constituted court “. The Minister for Aircraft Production is satisfied with the explanation. What is the explanation ? . It is a recital of a clause contained in the British act of 1894, that is, nearly 50 years ago. It seems to me that this progressive government and party, which do not believe in precedents, have to go back 50 years in order to find justifying legislation. If the Minister would tell us the reason for the insertion of this provision in the British act, we should have something to go on. Since 1915 we have had a Navigation Act which has not contained such a provision. What circumstances have arisen that make it necessary? If the Minister would show where the Navigation Act has been a failure, or mention cases of hardship, that would be a sufficient explanation. Simply saying that the British act of 1894 contains provision for an appeal to the Board of Trade - which is totally different - without giving reasons for its enactment, gets us nowhere. The Minister must be very grateful to Senator Aylett and the Minister for Aircraft Production for having given him such a good character. I should not have done it so blatantly. I would have trusted the Minister without all this palaver and saliva. I am prepared to trust either this Minister or any other Minister. But I would sooner trust the properly constituted court. If the Minister will reconsider the matter, he may be able to state wherein the act has been a failure. If the Minister for Aircraft Production has stated the opinion of the Government, it seeks to abolish all courts and make the Minister the supreme arbiter in all cases. If that be the policy of the Government, it should say so. Meanwhile, if the Minister wants the bill to pass the Senate and the House of Representatives without further trouble he should be ready with an explanation as to wherein the act has failed and why it is necessary to have a provision of this kind.
– I say advisedly that it is a deliberate misrepresentation to assert that it is the policy of the Government to abolish all courts. So far as I know, that statement has not. been made by anybody. It appears to me that the wish is father to the thought, and that Senator Leckie would like the Minister to say something of the sort. The Government does .not wish anything of the kind. I have already pointed out that a government delegates powers to a court, and that the court is a subordinate tribunal. That is perfectly correct. The powers contained in the Navigation Act, and the powers proposed by this bill, are to be delegated to a court, so that it may take evidence in respect of any happening or any set of circumstances requiring its determination. The Government acts in that way. But at the same time the Government is the supreme governing authority It may vary the instructions that it gives to the court, by passing an act, and the court is in duty bound to give effect to what is done. What Senator Leckie has said is not correct. The Government desires to expedite the work of the court, because of the war-time situation that has arisen. In military circles there is not time to go through the procedure that is applicable to periods of peace, in connexion with the multiplicity of matters that have to be dealt with. There is a military tribunal which deals with matters, sometimes very well and at other times not so well. The point is, that in times of war the judicial procedure has to be expedited. I repeat, that it is not part and parcel of the policy of this Government to abolish all courts. ‘Senator McBride. - It only supersedes the court.
– We are superseding the court in this respect : if, in the opinion of the Government, the court is not carrying out the intention of the Government with respect to this act or any other act, it supersedes the court by amending the act or varying the instructions it gives to the court. The court is practically a law unto itself within the limits of the act, and provided it uses its powers as the Government intends that they shall ,be used, no objection is offered. Many courts do very good work in that respect. If, in the opinion of the Government, the court is not carrying out the policy intended by the act, or if it should be doing something different from what it has done, the proper constitutional procedure is for the Government to amend the act; in other words, issue fresh instructions to the court. That is the relationship that exists between the Government on the one hand and courts on the other hand. But there must be the right of appeal. If the best results are to be achieved from any procedure adopted for the purpose of inquiring into disputes, or of doing what should be the work of courts, then there must be the right of appeal. Some avenue is necessary through which appeals may be made. This clause provides for the right of appeal, and in my opinion it should be carried.
– Senator McBride said that the workers concerned in another matter must be considered, and he added that they are not all pick-and-shovel men. He now claims that these workers should not be permitted to have the right of appeal.
– That statement is entirely inaccurate.
– The clause is clear in its terms. I take the view that the power given to the Minister may be exercised by him if a person considers that an injustice has been done to him by a court of marine inquiry. The clause gives a person who feels aggrieved the right of appeal.
– The right of appeal is provided for in the next clause.
– Any man who works on a ship, whether he be a master, mate or an engineer, is a worker. It is only faking a case to claim that the Government is opposed to some courts and wants to supersede them. Those who oppose the clause believe that a mariner, whether he be a master, mate, or engineer, should not have the ordinary right of appeal against the decision of a court. Honorable senators opposite refuse to grant that right. Every citizen should have the right of appeal against the decision of a court.
Sitting suspended from 12.80 to 1.15 a.m.
– Members of the Opposition desire to delete that part of the clause which gives to a mariner, whose certificate has been suspended by a court of marine inquiry, the right of appeal to the Minister. I remind them that this right of appeal is something which we, as democrats, should treasure. We are in this war to fight against the totalitarian powers, against Nazi-ism in Germany and Fascism in Italy, countries in which the rights of the individual receive scant consideration. We must show the people that we have a regard for democratic institutions, and are zealous for the preservation of individual rights. Politicians are not held in such high regard by the public that we can afford to take risks. We should not deny the right of appeal to the Minister by a master mariner, mate or engineer who, because he is worn out by working an excessive number of hours, may be held so responsible for a collision. If it be true, as honorable senators opposite say, that the right of appeal is provided for in another part of the bill, why are they objecting to this clause?
– The other clause does not give the right of appeal to the same person.
– So that is what the honorable senator is worried about. Mariners are doing a most important national work, and they are as much entitled to consideration as any one else. If a mariner becomes involved in an accident, it is always possible that some one with a grudge against him may be able to induce the court of marine inquiry to cancel his certificate. Should that happen, he should have the right of appeal from the court to the Minister.
– I said earlier that this bill was drafted while the last Government was in office, and that statement was contradicted. As a matter of fact, the bill was drafted in 1934, when the LyonsPage Government was in office. It was handed to various Ministers from time to time, but it was never brought before Parliament. Senator A. J. McLachlan was a member of the Government in power at the time the bill was drafted, and he agreed to the incorporation of the clause which to-night he so strongly attacked.
– I have never seen it before.
– Then the honorable senator did not do his job very well.
– I do not care what government was responsible for it; it is wrong.
– I have pointed out that the Minister already has power in certain circumstances to cancel or suspend a certificate issued overseas, and this clause merely provides that the Minister shall enjoy similar power in respect of local certificates. I have yet to learn that any Minister ever abused the power conferred by sub-regulation 1 of regulation 5 under British Statutory Rules, No. 1288, of 1923, which is as follows : -
Where an Australian certificate has been cancelledor suspended the Minister, if in his opinion the justice of the case requires it, or, where the certificate has been cancelled or suspended in some part of His Majesty’s dominions outside Australia, if he is so requested by the competent authority in that part of His Majesty’s dominions may return or re-issue the certificate which has been cancelled or suspended or shorten the time for which it is suspended or grant in place thereof a certificate of the same or any lower grade.
The explanation that I have given should convince even the Opposition. The last bill which was before the chamber contained a clause giving certain power to the Minister for Trade and Customs, but Senator McBride so objected to it that he forced the committee to divide.
– That is not correct.
SenatorFRASER.- That bill contained a provision empowering the Minister to adjust the cost of living figures as they apply to widows’ pensions. Senator McBride opposed that proposal. The reason for the opposition to this bill is that it has been introduced by a Labour government. In 1934, when Senator A.J. McLachlan was a member of the then government, a similar bill to that now before the committee was drafted, yet the honorable senator and his colleagues object to this measure. Not one reason for that opposition has been given.
– The Minister has not given any reason for the Government’s proposals.
– The present Government is as worthy of the trust of the people as was any of its predecessors.
– Why not tell the committee why these powers are needed ?
– Nothing that I could say would convince honorable senators opposite.
– I am not concerned with what government previously introduced a similar measure, but I am concerned that the Executive, or a member of the Executive, should override a determination of a competent tribunal. An important principle is involved; the proposal in this measure strikes at the very roots of the British system of justice in that it confuses the functions of the Executive with those of the judiciary. Had such a bill been presented by a government of which I was a supporter, I should have taken exactly the same stand as I am taking to-day. The determination of the guilt or innocence of any person should not be left to the ipse dixit of any one man. Our democratic system depends for its existence on. the purity and independence of the judicial system. At the beginning of the debate I could not see why this provision was included. Althoughsince then I have studied the measure I still see no necessity for it.
– The present Government, not the honorable senator, is the judge. The honorable senator is not running the country now. He should get that idea out of his head.
– It is a great misfortune that the country is being run in any degree by a turbulent and incompetent man whose actions may disturb the community in this critical hour. When a government attempts to introduce a measure which strikes at the very root of our system of jurisprudence, I am bound to oppose it. It is not fun to oppose this sort of thing, but the proposal of the Government is so definitely wrong in principle that it should not be passed by any legislative body.
– Democracy is the game of life played according to rules made by the people. We are the people who are now making the rules, and opposition to those rules is an affront to British intelligence. The Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser), who in this instance is the voice of the Executive, is quite right in demanding the right to say what shall, and what shall not, be done. A spineless government which sought to delegate its powers to others would be an unworthy government. All this talk about the Minister overriding the decision of a tribunal is so much” eye-wash” and” hooey”. The present Government will give effect to the principles of democracy. It is taking this opportunity to put its ideals into practice. One of those ideals is that the people shall have the right to appeal to the Minister. I stand for that principle. We on this side are making the rules, and we are going tosee that the game is played according to those rules.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator McLeay’s amendment).
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Brown.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 14th May (vide page 1211
Bill agreed to without amendment or debate, and reported.; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 232.
Apple and Pear Organization Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 190.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 22 of 1942 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
Australian Broadcasting Commission Act - Ninth Annual Report and Balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, for year 1940-41.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 194.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act - Regulations Statutory Rules 1942, No. 227.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department of the Treasury -
H. G. Gellie.
D. T. Sutherland.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act -Regu lations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 192.
Defence Act - Regulations- Statutory Rules 1942, No. 231.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at -
Alice Springs, Northern Territory - For Administrative purposes.
Amberley, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Bendigo, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Botany, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Burwood, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Geraldton, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Lindenow, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Moggill, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Mount Eba, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Murchison (near), Victoria -For Defence purposes.
Myrniong, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Northam, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Parafield, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Parkes, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Pinkenba, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Preston, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Redbank, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Sale, Victoria -For Defence purposes.
Sunshine, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Sydenham, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Tatura, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Victor Harbour, South Australia -For Defence purposes.
Williamtown, New South Wales -For Defence purposes.
York, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Meat Export Control Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 193.
National Security Act -
National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations - Orders - Aliens Control (Queensland Curfew) (2).
National Security (Emergency Control)
Regulations - Orders - Military powers during emergency (3).
National Security (General) Regulations -Orders -
Control of Dextrose.
Control of Highways.
Control of Tomato Pulp.
Evacuation of areas (3).
Navigation (Aquatic racing on Sydney Harbour).
Prohibited places (3).
Taking possession ofland, &c. (191).
Use of land (32).
National Security (Internment Camps) Regulations - Rules- Camp (2).
National Security (Man Power) Regula tions - Orders - Protected Undertakings (38).
National Security (Medical Co-ordination and Equipment) Regulations - Orders - Control of Medical Equipment (2).
National Security (Minerals) Regulations - Order - Control of Mica.
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations - Rules - Camp ( 4 ) .
National Security (Shipping Requisition) Regulations - Resolutions by Shipping Control Board (2).
National Security (Stevedoring Industry) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 1 to 3.
National Security (War Damage to Property ) Regulations - Orders - Public Authorities (2).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 215 (substituted), 216, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 228, 229, 230, 233, 234, 235, 236.
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 209, 210.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 3 of 1942 - Stamp.
War Service Homes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 226.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, No. 191.
Senate adjourned at 1.42 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 May 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1942/19420527_senate_16_171/>.