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 re ported : -
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1943.
Income Tax Bill 1943.
National Welfare Fund Bill 1943.
Commonwealth Bank Bill 1943.
– by leave - I have pleasure in submitting to the Senate the following statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), which is the same as that which he will make this afternoon in the House of Representatives : -
It is with deep pleasure that I announce the safe arrival in Australia of the 9th Division of the Australian Imperial. Force. Onbehalf of the Government and people of Australia, I extend to the Officer Commanding, Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead; the officers and men of the division a warm welcome after their distinguished service in the Middle East,
The Government has received the following message from the British Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill : -
Iwas very glad to learn that your fine division arrivedhome safely. In a letter which I gave Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead beforehis departure from Cairo I said that the division had left behind it a record of energy, courage, enterprise and daring which will he an imperishable memory among all the nation’s of the British Empire who, in the Western Desert, fought in true comradeship. In their new sphere of operations may all success accompany their arms.
Australians can justifiably be proud of the 9th Division. In the famous defence of Tobruk and in the recent memorable victory in Egypt the men of the division played a glorious part.
We can all be deeply appreciative of the worthy manner in which they fought overseas for the cause of the United Nations.
The presence in Australia of this splendid fighting division, at a time when our homeland is threatened by Japan, will be a source of deep satisfaction, and will be a valuable stimulus to all Australia’s forces and to the people of Australia in the operations that are ahead.
I am sure that I echo the feelings of the troops when I pay tribute to the magnificent work of the British, Dutch and Australian warships which carried out the hazardous work of convoying, and to those of the merchant navy which brought back our men. Gratitude is felt, too, for the work of the allied air forces.
That this major operation was carried out. without a single loss of any description reflects credit in the highest degree on all concerned for their planning, resource and devotion to duty.
– by leave - I join with the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) and with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in expressing the great pleasure of the Opposition in learning of the safe return to Australia of the 9th Division of the Australian Imperial Force. I regard this as an historic occasion, and ourpleasure is increased by the knowledge that a member of this branch of the legislature, Senator Wilson, is a member of that division. As there are only 36 members of the Senate, I believe that, when the history of this war is written, we shall have reason to be proud of the recorded fact that one of its members was an active participant in the conflict.
– I present the fifth report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
– by leave - Last week the Leader of the
Opposition (Senator McLeay), by leave, submitted a communication which he had received from Mr. J. W. Allen, secretary of the Graziers Federal Council, in which Mr. Allen stated that it was the desire of the council that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Scully, should gazette regulations to extend the functions of the Meat Board. What Mr. Allen desired, in effect, was that the Meat Board should be given control of the industry. In view of that statement, honorable senators will be interested to learn that the views conveyed to this chamber by Mr. Allen are not the views of the New South Wales Graziers Association, of which Mr. Allen is also secretary. Nor are they the views of any bona fide meat producers’ organization. The New South Wales Graziers Association, which had a three-day conference from the 15th to the 18th March, carried the following resolution : -
That this Annual Conference of the Graziers Association of New South Wales deplores the action taken by the Senate in disallowing the National Security (Meat) Regulations, and considers that such action has gravely menaced the interests of producers who, recognizing thatGovernment control of the industry under war-time conditions in order to meet the enormously increased demands of the services. British Ministry of Food and civilian requirements, is justified; and urgently requests the Graziers Federal Council to make immediate representations to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to have the Meat Industry Commission reinstated, in order that producers’ interests may be adequately safeguarded on the basis of -
fixing prices of all meats not on the hooks to the producer at seaboard;
licensing of operators and meat works, making it obligatory upon them to treat stock on producers’ account upon adequate notice being given;
provision for price differentials to take care of normal State premiums and seasonal variations;
right of producer to sell - (i) in the paddock; (ii) in the yards; (iii) to works or operators on the hooks; and
That the interest of fat stock selling agents be preserved.
The situation has a rather Gilbertian flavour, so far as it applies to Mr. Allen, although there is a clear indication in that resolution and other resolutions conveyed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, of the complete disapproval by the industry of the action taken to disallow the regulations governing the Meat Industry Commission. I believe that the facts stated are eloquent enough to render any further comment superfluous.
– Does the Minister prefer to accept the advice of the New South Wales Council in preference to that of the Federal Meat Council of Australia, and does he think that the best interests of the meat industry will be served by setting New South Wales interests against the interests of Australia as a whole?
– Has the Leader of the Senate noticed in the press references to paragraphs in the AuditorGeneral’s report on the subject of wasteful expenditure? Will he lay the report on the table of the Senate, and move “ That the paper be printed “ in order that honorable senators may have an opportunity to discuss it? If so, when does he propose that discussion shall take place?
– The AuditorGeneral’s report was tabled this afternoon.
– Having regard to the serious criticism of not only the present Government but also previous governments by theAuditor-General, will the Senate be given an opportunity to debate the report, and will the Minister move “ That the report be printed “ ?
– That matter will be considered in the ordinary course of arranging the business of the Senate, but, in view of the present state of the business paper, and the fact that the present sittings are nearingtheir end, I cannot say whether the suggestion of the honorable senator will be given effect.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
Senator LAMP (through Senator
Darcey) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What is the position in regard to the extensions of the Wynyard Aerodrome?
Is there any possibility of the work beingcarried out in the near future?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers: -
Preference to Returned Soldiers
asked the Minis ter representing the Prime Minister, upon notice-
Is it the intention of the Government to introduce this session a bill to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act so as to entitle members of the forces engaged in the present war to the same preference in employment and promotion in the Public Service as is, or was, enjoyed by the veterans of the war of 1914-18?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
Consideration is being given to the manner in which the granting of preferential rights in employment in the Commonwealth Public Service of returned soldiers of the present war may be effected. Pending final consideration of the question and of the necessary amendments of the Public Service Act in connexion therewith the Public Service Board on the 26th May, 1941, was advised that preference in employment was tobe accorded members of the second Australian Imperial Force on the same basis as members of thefirst Australian Imperial Force.
Production of Identity Cards by Voters.
– On the 25th February Senator Brand asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Government make it obligatory for electors to produce their identity cards when asking for ballot-papers at the next federal elections?
As promised, thismatterhas now received attention. The following objections have been raised to the proposal: -
It is not thought that any appreciable degree of personation is indulged in in connexion with federal elections. For that reason, it is considered that the imposition of an additional disability upon electors would not bo warranted.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to-
That leavebe given to bring in a bill for an act to amend theCommonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act 1940.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders sus pended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cameron) read a first time.
; - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I do so with a great deal of pleasure because the bill is designed to liberalize, to a great degree, the provisions in regard to pensions and other general repatriation benefits. Repatriation is not charity; it is a duty. Its object is to provide for the dependants of those loyal sons and daughters of the Commonwealth who have given their lives in the cause of freedom, and to rehabilitate in civilian life those who are spared to return to their homeland; and, move particularly, to provide for the future welfare and comfort of those who, unfortunately, bear the marks of battle and privation. I say without fear of contradiction that no member of the British Commonwealth of Nations has shown its gratitude to its defenders in a more generous and practicable form than has this country. In proof of this claim, let me mention that up to the 31st December, 1942, more than £270,000,000 was expended in repatriation and general rehabilitation in connexion with the last war. The total number of persons enlisted for service in that war was 416,809, of whom more than 59,000 made the supreme sacrifice. In the present war, the Commonwealth has enlisted men and women in the three fighting services in numbers undreamt of in bygone days; and it should not be surprising if the 1,000,000 mark is reached before the cessation of hostilities.
One cannot forecast how, when or where our troops will fight before the conflict ends. Therefore, the number of gallant men and women who will suffer death, or disablement, cannot be estimated. The prize of victory will be bought at a great price in life and health, and it is not unlikely that the percentage of casualties to enlisted personnel will greatly exceed that of the last war.
Before concluding my introductory remarks, I shall refer briefly to the main features of the principal act, and the events leading up to the preparation of this amending bill. The most important provisions of repatriation legislation relate to the basis of eligibility for war pensions and the rates of such pensions which are payable in any particular case. Under the original act passed in 1914, the basis of eligibility was “ incapacity or death resulting from the member’s employment in connexion with war-like operations “. This excluded cases of incapacity, or death, resulting from happenings while a member was on leave, or from disease which would have occurred irrespective of service. It also excluded numerous cases of injury, as the result, perhaps, of some accident which could not be held to be directly attributable to war-like operations, but of the type which is inevitable where a number of young men are sent abroad as part of a large force.
The act was amended in 1920, and in order to meet such cases, the basis of eligibility was altered. Two bases were adopted - one for members who enlisted for service outside Australia, and the other for members who enlisted for service in Australia only. The respective bases were -
Following the outbreak of war in 1939, the matter was again reviewed, and by the amending act in 1940 a similar differentiation was made between members who actually served outside Australia in the present war, and those who served only in Australia or the external territories of the ‘Commonwealth. The latter class included members of the Militia who were called up for full-time duty for the duration of the war, as well as those who enlisted for home service only.
Medical treatment was also provided for, so that ex-soldiers who suffered from disabilities as a result of their service would have available to them the same facilities as were and still are available to ex-soldiers of the last war. In the 1940 act, moreover, enabling legislation was included to make possible the granting of certain general benefits in respect of those who enlisted for service abroad, such as the soldiers’ children education scheme, medical treatment, through the medium of the friendly societies, to war widows and children and to widowed mothers of deceased unmarried sons, and the extension of the employment scheme to ex-soldiers, including the payment of sustenance to those awaiting employment. All those amendments were enacted in 1940, and at the time they appeared adequate because they provided the same measure of compensation, medical treatment facilities and general benefits as were provided for the soldiers of the last war. The end of 1941, however, brought with it a complete change of outlook, more particularly from the point of view of repatriation. Japan had entered the war; the Pacific was involved, and our own island continent became exposed to the possibilities of attack.
A review of the repatriation provisions thus became desirable, and in this connexion a special committee, representative of both Houses and all parties, and consisting of the honorable member for Ballarat, Mr. Pollard, who was chairman, Senator Lamp, Senator Collett, the honorable member for Moreton, Mr. Francis, the honorable member for Corangamite, Mr. McDonald, and the honorable member for Newcastle, Mr. Watkins, was appointed to inquire into the legislation generally, and with particular regard to general benefits, other than war pensions and medical treatment, for home service personnel, and the Militia, who were neither enlisted for nor required to serve outside the limits of the Commonwealth.
The present hill consists largely of recommendations made by the special joint committee, and the Government takes this opportunity of expressing it3 keen appreciation of the thorough manner in which the committee dealt with this difficult question. The committee took evidence from the Repatriation Commission, the Returned. Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the Blinded Soldiers’ Association, the Tubercular Soldiers’ Association, the Limbless Soldiers’ Association, and members of the services. Members of this Parliament were invited to submit their views; and. it is most gratifying to note that the returned soldier organizations mentioned expressed their approval of the act as a satisfactory instrument for the carrying out of the wishes of Parliament. They were satisfied, moreover, that the act was being administered sympathetically. This expression of approval is appreciated, especially when it is realized, that there will always be room for differences of opinion where the question of eligibility for war pension is concerned. However, I venture to say that, when one considers the very thorough investigation provided and the facilities for appeals which, the ex-service man has at his disposal, it can be said unhesitatingly that our system is at least as liberal as that of any other country in the world. What is more, I can say - and those honorable senators who have held the portfolio of Minister for Repatriation will no doubt agree - that the Repatriation Commission’s administration of the act which Parliament has placed in its hands has been commendable.
I shall now proceed to’ outline the provisions of the bill before the Senate. The main purposes of this measure are to provide increased war pensions for members of the forces and their dependants, to amend, the bases of eligibility for war pensions in respect of the present war, to extend the benefit of service pensions to members of the present forces, to make appropriate provision for members of the women’s services, and to allow of regulations being made” to provide general repatriation benefits/for home. service.personnel, which previously were available only for those who enlisted for overseas service. The most important of these, perhaps, is the alteration of the basis of eligibility. The bases which at present apply in respect of members of the forces engaged in the present war are as follows : - (a) Those who are employed on active service outside Australia or the territories of the Commonwealth: Pension is payable for incapacity or death resulting from any occurrence happening during the period of the member’s service; (b) any member who served only in Australia or the territories of the Commonwealth: Pension is payable for incapacity or death of the member directly attributable to his employment as a member of the forces, or arising from an accident while travelling on leave to or from his place of employment. The first-mentioned is the wider basis, and it will in future apply to members who serve in the external territories, such as Papua and New Guinea, or in such areas within Australia as may be prescribed as combat areas. In addition it will apply to a member who has been injured or has contracted a disease as a result of enemy action, or in- actual combat against the enemy, or in such circumstances as, in the opinion of the commission, should bc deemed to be actual combat against the enemy. The most important feature of this amendment is that once a member has qualified as aforesaid, full responsibility will be accepted for the results of any occurrence happening to him from the date of his enlistment to the date of his discharge. Moreover, such members will be eligible for consideration of the question of material aggravation of a disability which existed prior to enlistment, without the necessity of serving in camp for at, least six months. The basis for those who do not have such service will be modified from. “ directly attributable “ to “has arisen out of or is attributable to service “ to permit of a pension being granted in certain eases which do not come within the present basis, that is to saY, accidents which, occur whilst travelling directly to or from the member’s place of employment whether on leave or otherwise.
Another major item in the bill is the increase of the rates of pension. Generally speaking, this approximates 20 per cent., and the increase will, of course, apply to war pensions payable in respect of the last war as well as to those payable in respect of the present war, and the estimated immediate cost for a. full financial year is £1,620,000. This increase was decided upon >by the special committee after having given full consideration to all the associated factors. Although the cost of living and basic wage were among the factors considered, it is not intended to reduce the rates in the event of a subsequent fall in either of these items. The rate of special pension payable to a blinded member or one who is permanently incapacitated to an extent which precludes him from earning other than a negligible percentage of a living wage, or to certain tubercular patients, is at present £4 a week. It is proposed to increase that amount to £4 16s. This rate applies to both married and single men, but, of course, in the case of a. married man, his wife and. children also receive pensions. For specified injuries, as set out in schedules 4 and 5, pensions of up to £4 a week are at present payable by the operation of both schedules. Increases on the same scale are proposed in relation to these pensions.
An allowance of 20s. a week is payable for an attendant in the case of a Winded member, and to a totally and permanently incapacitated member who is in need of an attendant, also to certain classes of amputees. In the case of a member who has both arms amputated, the allowance is 40s. a. week. These amounts are to be increased to 24s. and 4Ss. respectively. Another concession is the proposal to delete the third paragraph of the second schedule, which means that, in future, the special rate pension will not be reduced to the general rate for total incapacity under the first schedule, after the recipient has been an inmate of an institution for six weeks. The general pension rate at present provides for a - maximum of £2 2s. a week for a member of the forces of the lowest rank, rising by a graduated scale to £3 a week for higher ranks. It is proposed to apply the increase for members on a fiat-rate basis, regardless of the service rate of pay or rank of the _ pensioner. The new rates, therefore, will vary from £2 10s. to £3 8s. a week. The assessment of war pension general rates is made purely in respect of the degree of “ war damage “ to the individual, regardless of his economic position. The term “ war damage “ includes such factors as physical or mental incapacity, pain and discomfort, a lower standard of health, inability to participate in normal recreation, and so on.. Consideration is also given to the extent to which the member is restricted by his war-caused disabilities from, engaging in employment in the general labour market; the wider the range of restriction, the greater the disability. It may bc said that the soldier is compared, from the physical standpoint, with a normal healthy individual of the same age. In the average case the pension is supplemented by earnings from some form of employment, which in spite of his physical impairment the member is able to obtain. In addition to the above pension provisions, when a married member is at the present time totally incapacitated from earning but is not permanently incapacitated so as to entitle him to the full scale of special pension, the pension is, in certain circumstances, supplemented by a living allowance of £1 a week. It is proposed to increase this allowance in the case of the married man to 24s. a week in addition to his pension, and to introduce a living allowance of 15s. a week additional to pension for the single man for whom such provision was not previously made. Some reference lias been made in various quarters to allegedly low assessments of pensions. A little reflection will show that unless the system of paying lump sums for certain specific disabilities is adopted, a proportion of seemingly low assessments is inevitable. For example, no one would suggest paying a 50 per cent, or 100 per cent, rate for loss of a finger or toe or any other minor injury which would have no real effect upon a man’s earning capacity. Moreover, it is sometimes necessary to give a small assessment when entitlement is granted where there is only a negligible degree of incapacity present. Some men on discharge from the forces may show no signs of incapacity, but, on the benefit of the doubt, acceptance is granted in order to safeguard the man’s own interests should ‘his condition necessitate treatment in the future. Mostly in individual cases where these small pensions are paid, it would be just as easy to refuse to grant any pension at all, but this would probably be unfair to the member. The system of granting small pensions in eases of small degrees of incapacity operates in Canada and New Zealand, but not in Great Britain, where generally a final award or lump sum is granted in lieu of pension for all disabilities assessed at less than 20. per cent, incapacity. This Government does not favour the granting of lump sums, as the history of such payments which were made in Australia after the last war, docs not make very pleasant reading.
It would not be inappropriate if some mention were made here of the scheme providing for the stabilization of war pensions, which was introduced by the Repatriation Commission in 193S with the full concurrence of the Government of the day. In brief, it was decided to stabilize a member’s war pension without further medical examination where there had been no appreciable variation of the rate - not more than 10 per cent. - over the preceding period of five years. It was considered in such cases that the member’s war-caused condition had reached a stage when it could he regarded as apparently permanent and stationary. Thus, a member is relieved of the trouble and. the necessity of reporting periodically for medical examination, and the attendant anxiety as to the possible fate of his pension. In all such eases, the pensioner is given a written undertaking to the effect that his pension will be neither reduced nor increased, except as the -result of -a review which would be conducted only at his express request. However, provision is made for the pension- to be increased if, during an approved course of treatment, substantial worsening of the pensioned disability is noted. Moreover, as I have just indicated, the member’s future right of appeal against the assessment is preserved. As this system was not introduced on a complete basis until some twenty years after the cessation of hostilities in the last war, it is considered that the present time is not appropriate to make a decision regarding the pensions pf the present war, but the question will be kept in mind, and as soon a practicable, it is intended to extend the scheme to the soldiers of this wai-. The lowest pension rate provided for widows at present is £1 3s. (ki. a week. However, the commission has power in the case of all widows with dependent children to increase that rat© up to a maximum of £2 2s. a week. The same power exists in the case of widows without children whose circumstances justify an increase of the rate provided. In practice, however, rates below £2 2s. are paid only to widows without children, who have an income from property exceeding £1 a week, but in no instance has the pension been reduced below the statutory rate shown in the act. It should be stressed, however, that the personal earnings of a widow, or income from a business conducted by her personally, were disregarded in the assessment of the pension.
As the result of representations made by a deputation, from the special committee, consisting of returned soldier members of this Parliament, the Government has. now decided to extend certain additional benefits, some by means of amendments to the act and others by means of regulations under the act. The ma jority of these items were recommended by the special committee, and one decision reached by the Government in this regard is the abolition of the means test for widows. This means that, with the passing of the present bill, no differentiation will he made between widows with children and those without children. The increases proposed for widows are on the same scale as those proposed for incapacitated members. The basic rate of £2 2s. a week therefore would become £2 10s. a. week. Owing to .the fact that the commission has taken full advantage of its power under the act to increase the pensions of widows with children, and widows without children under certain conditions, to the maximum rate, the increase represented in the bill for all practical purposes approximates 20 per cent., but as a matter of actual fact the Government’s recent decision really means that the rates for widows, fixed in 1920, are being increased at percentages varying from. 112 per cent, down to approximately 20 per cent. With regard to the children of deceased members, it is proposed to increase the pension of the eldest child from 10s. to 17s. 6d. a week, and those of the .younger children from 7s. 6d. to 12s. 6d. a week each, being an increase of 75 per cent, for the first child and 66 per cent, for each subsequent child. The actual pension payments are not, however, the only monetary assistance that is provided for widows and children of deceased members. Medical attention and funeral expenses are provided. Allowances are made for maintenance under the soldiers’ children education scheme. During elementary education, books and travelling expenses are ‘ provided. After, the child reaches thirteen years of age, allowances over and above the war pension are payable towards its maintenance during all stages of training while at school or undergoing approved training with an employer or at a university. These allowances range from 5s. a week in the first, school year after reaching thirteen years of age to £2 10s. a week for those living away from home and attending a university. Assistance is also provided to meet the cost of tuition and of essential books, instruments and materials. These educational allowances are payable on the same scale in respect of the children of totally and permanently incapacitated and blinded soldiers, and the Government has decided also to extend this benefit to the children of those soldiers receiving war pensions for tuberculosis, at a rate not less than the maximum amount payable under the second schedule for a period of not less than three years. . The value of these benefits is incontrovertible, but it is impossible because of the differing circumstances in each case to estimate any actual sum which would represent that value. These additional benefits must be borne in mind, however, when any comparison is made between the amounts available to the wife and children of a serving soldier and the pensions payable to his widow and children upon his death. Section 39a of the act provides that the dependants of a member, who is in receipt of the special rate of pension, a= blinded, totally and permanently incapacitated, or tubercular, or in respect of certain classes of amputation, and who dies from other than war causes, shall automatically receive the same pension and other benefits to which they would have been entitled had the death of the member been attributable to his war service. To avoid misunderstanding, I should explain that there are certain types of war pensions which are subject to what is called a “ means test “. That is, the granting or continuance of a pension is contingent on the person’s financial circumstances. In other words, dependants, other than widows, wives and children and widowed mothers of deceased unmarried sons, cannot receive pensions if evidence reveals that they possess other income which exceeds the amount of “allowed income” of £1 18s. 6d. a week. The value of property, other than a home, may also affect the position. I am making a point of explaining this because it is quite possible that the class of pensioner referred to may not derive any benefit from the provisions of the hill. Only a scrutiny of the dependant’s financial position will disclose whether, together with other income, the pensioner already possesses the standard allowed income. Also, in some cases, increases will have been received in consequence of increases effected in the statutory allowed income under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Although the wives and children of service pensioners are to have their service pensions increased, no increase is provided in this bill of the service pensions of members. Service pensions are subject to the same controlling factors which applyin the case of invalid and old-age pensions. Rates are amended automatically from time to time, according to the cost-of-living figures, the last increase having been made available as from the 14th January, 1943. It follows, of course, that the proposed increase of war pensions will necessitate corresponding increases of other repatriation payments which are available under the regulations, and approval has been given for these increases to operate concurrently with the pension increase provided in the bill.
Concerning the provision which is made in this measure for the members of the women’s auxiliary services, there is no necessity for me to say more than that the basis’ of eligibilty is. -the same as for male members of the forces, and that the rates of pension will be those applicable to men, having regard, of course, to the rate of service pay in each case. Besides war pensions, women members will also be eligible for service pensions and general benefits. The provisions for dependants of women members differ from those applicable to dependants of male members, as the responsibilities of a woman in this regard are not normally comparable with those of a man.
The repatriation legislation relating to the last Avar, although it provided for war pensions, did not provide general repatriation benefits for those who enlisted only for service within Australia. In respect of this war, however, it is proposed to extend these benefits to this class, and, by so doing, members of the Militia will be able to participate to the same degree as those who enlisted for service outside Australia. In addition, if the act is amended on the lines contemplated in the bill, the issue of regulations will make possible the granting of the following, both to Australian Imperial Force and home service personnel: - Advances, by way of loan, of up to £250, for the purchase of plant or live-stock, if the applicant is not eligible under any land settlement scheme. ‘ The eligible classes will be -
I have already referred to the subject of vocational training. The Government has under consideration a comprehensive training scheme, but, owing to the present necessity for subordinating everything to thewar effort, it has not been advisable to implement that scheme. As a temporary measure, however, the Repatriation Commission is administering a tentative schemewhereby thosewho, because ofwar disablement, are unable to resume their pre-war callings, are being trained in other avenues of employment. A sustenance allowance is payable during the period of training. Originally, the benefits of this tentative scheme were limited to those who served outside Australia, but home service personnel are now included. The provisions of the employment scheme under which discharged men are assisted in the matter of finding employment has also been extended to home sendee personnel and here again a sustenance allowance is payable while applicants are awaiting employment.
Considerable progress has been made with regard to the administrative aspects of the educational and vocational training of members of the forces. On the 2nd March, War Cabinet sanctioned the appointment of a Reconstruction Training Committee for the following purposes : -
This committeewill be responsible to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
To assist a committee within the fighting serviceswhich includes the Second Naval Member, the Adjutant-General, the Air Member for Personnel and also representatives of Treasury and Reconstruction, there will be a working committee of the officers of the services who are directly concerned. The working committee will collaborate in the preparation of education and information programmes, as distinct from programmes for vocational and cultural courses, for the services and for the Department of Post-war Reconstruction in relation to the services. Prior to the cessation of hostilities, vocational training in the services will be limited to the commencement of training of wardamaged personnel, provision for leisure time activities, correspondence courses and other methods.
Members of the forces who have enlisted or been appointed or called up for full-time duty for the duration of the war, and have been honorably discharged after at least six months’ service, will be eligible under certain conditions for fulltime professional or vocational or parttime efficiency training. These members of the forces will include the women’s auxiliary services of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. It is not intended to restrict training after discharge to full-time courses. Therefore, spare-time training will be available to those who have commenced and shown aptitude for a course of cultural or general education under the services’ education schemes, or as prisoners of war, and are desirous of completing them. I am most gratified to be in a position to say that training, either as full or part-time study, will be made available to war widows. At the moment the Reconstruction Training Committee is working hard to give effect to these decisions of War Cabinet, which are in keeping with the recommendations of the special committee, which, in effect, are that all members of the forces, after discharge, who are considered suitable for training, will be eligible to apply.
Regulations are to be introduced to provide for a furniture grant, by way of gift, of up to £75. to a totally and permanently disabled soldier, a blinded soldier or a widow with dependent children. Other measures which are contemplated in the bill are -
In this connexion, I would explain that whilst war pensions are payable for death or incapacity ascribable to war service, in respect of service pensions, payment is made in consequence of service, but not because of incapacity suffered as a result of such service. The service pension is similar to an invalid or old-age pension, and is payable to members who are suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis; or who are permanently unemployable; or who have attained, in the case of a male member 60 years of age, and in the case of a female member 55 years of age ; provided, of course, that except in the case of pulmonary tuberculosis, a service pension cannot be granted to a male member who did not serve in a theatre of war, or to a female member who did not proceed abroad.
There is also provision for free passages to the Commonwealth in respect of wives of soldiers who marry during the period of their active service abroad.
This provision already exists in a nationalsecurity regulation, but it is proposed to incorporate it in the repatriation legislation proper. As honorable senators are probably aware, the scheme has temporarily been suspended because of the danger of sea travel at the present time.
Other items which were agreed to by the Government, following a deputation of returned soldier members of Parliament, to which I referred previously, are as follows: -
Another request made by the special committee was that additional assessment appeal tribunals be appointed. The Government has considered this matter, and in view of the fact that the act at present provides that such appeal tribunals as the Minister considers necessary may be appointed, it is not intended to make any alteration at this stage, but honorable senators may rest assured that should it be found that the present assessment appeal tribunal is unable to cope adequately with the number of appeals, immediate action will be taken by the Minister to remedy the position by the appointment of such additional tribunals as he thinks fit.
I refer particularly to the provision in the bill for acceptance of full responsibility in respect of a member who served in a theatre of war and who becomes incapacitated or dies from tuberculosis at any time after his discharge from the forces. This means that, on application, both the member and his dependants will be eligible for maximum benefits under the act and regulations as if the incapacity or death resulted from an occurrence during service.
The final reference which I have to make to the provisions of the bill concerns the proposed appointment of a permanent repatriation committee. It is intended that this committee shall consider any relevant matter referred to it by , the Minister, the Repatriation Commission and any Commonwealth organizations representing members of the forces, including the adequacy or otherwise of the rates of pensions and allowances.
In conclusion, may I summarize the matter in this way: Repatriation provision is founded on the gratitude that the nation feels for those who have risked their lives and limbs in the service of us all. Financially, it is no light burden, but it is a burden which we have embraced without regret and in no ungenerous spirit. The benefits which have hitherto been provided have been directed, as part of the nation’s debt to its sons, to ensure, as far as it can be done, that they shall be recompensed in some measure for their injuries; that they shall be assured of such financial resources for themselves, their wives and their children as shall ensure that they shall not be in need, and that their children shall be given every facility to fit themselves for the life which lies before them. That was the motive behind the original Repatriation Act, and that is the motive that has actuated the commission in its administration of the act up to the present time. The outbreak of the present war presented new problems which have, in part, been met by amendments of the act, and in part by regulations. But other problems still remain, and still others have developed. In an attempt to meet those problems, this bill has been framed. It is not being presented to this chamber without a full and sympathetic consideration of those problems. It is not a party measure. The bill is based on the recommendations of a special committee representative of all sections of the Parliament, which has considered each problem at length, and has, in the course of a number of sittings, obtained evidence from those who are best qualified to advise on the matters in regard to which new provision is considered necessary. The Government has considered those recommendations, and now submits amendments to the act which will, in its opinion, ensure that the objects of repatriation legislation are attained and that adequate provision will be made for the soldier and his dependants.
I commend the bill to the Senate, I trust that its provisions, which have been based on a painstaking inquiry as to what is necessary, will not be lightly disturbed. I am confident that the Senate, recognizing the worthy purpose of the bill, will facilitate its passage, so that the additional benefits which it aims to provide will be speedily available to those for whose sacrifice it is intended to make just provision.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collett) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Allied Works Council - Reportby Sir HarryP.Brown onhis inquiry into the administration of the Allied Works Council.
Several copies of the report will be available to honorable senators in the Library.
– In openingthis debate on behalf of the Opposition, I desire to indicate that I very greatly appreciate the privilege of again finding myself in the position of advocating the interests of people the like of whom I got to know and value so well in the four years of 1914-18. I wish to make the further prefatory explanation that the term “ soldier “ in connexion with this legislation, commonly used by various speakers in relation to rehabilitation and pension matters, covers, as honorable senators well know, sailors, airmen and others, and in this case, also, the women members of the forces, so that when I use the term it must be understood that it is inclusive. Before I proceed farther, I wish to register my first criticism of the second-reading speech made in the House of Representative by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost). In his opening paragraphs he stated that the legislation to provide war service pensions for the veterans of the South African war was brought down by the present Government in 1941. This, to me, savours very much of pettiness, because it is common knowledge that the previous Government had already approved the principle, but circumstances prevented it from giving effect thereto by means of legislation. 1 do not intend, and there is no need, to explore the whole ground covered by the Minister in introducing the bill. I have, on a previous occasion, had the privilege of addressing the Senate at some length . on the general policy of repatriation and rehabilitation, and its history, and that aspect may well now be disregarded by rue. Any thinking person could forsee the demand for the present legislation, and I congratulate the Government on the steps taken to ensure a thorough review of the act before it attempted to draft legislation at all. It is also to be commended for its action in accepting the greater part of the recommendations which have been submitted by the special committee which undertook that review, and whose advice the Government sought. The committee, of which I was a member, was presided over by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), and was composed wholly of ex-servicemen. Consequently, its members were able to regard with understanding the proceedings taken during the last 28 years on . behalf of soldiers and ex-soldiers. At the same time, it did not fail to take into account the current problems of government and finance, of which there are many. The personnel of the committee worked together with complete amity, and for the enhanced pleasure which this gave to the work I feel that I owe a debt of gratitude to my colleagues. Honorable senators will be glad to know- that all decisions were unanimous, and were arrived at only after very full consideration of the evidence tendered and available. Testimony was given by the representatives of all ex-servicemen’s organizations, and, in addition, every member of this Parliament was invited by letter to make representations as to any improvement of the act. Fewer than a dozen availed themselves of the opportunity, “ and that, I think, is a comment of value in itself. I trust that honorable senators have read the two reports of the committee. Having done so, they will have a fair knowledge of the general and special purposes of the bill, which, as a whole and in detail, may perhaps be best considered in the committee stage. As I have intimated, the Government has in this legislation been guided in the main by the recommendations of the special committee. ‘ Some of the committee’s recommendations have not been accepted and to these I shall refer later. At the time when the committee was sitting, the matter of status of women enrolled or enlisted as auxiliaries to the forces was the subject of an investigation by an inter-departmental committee. The issuetherefore did not come under review by my colleagues and me. It is most satisfactory now to learn that the splendid work being done by volunteers of the opposite sex is to be fully recognized by their being included amongst those eligible to compensation and benefits on the same scale as for men.
The new features of the bill are worthy of further brief mention by me, in amplification of the speech delivered by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) this afternoon. The first is the flat rate increase of 20 per cent, in pensions, and other increase in some of the allowances. The 20 per cent., as conceded, appears to be based on the private soldiers’ entitlement. In arriving at this figure of 20 per cent., the committee was guided or influenced by many relevant factors. With one exception, the 20 per cent, augmentation is in advance of any suggestions made by representative witnesses at the inquiry, and is an attempt to reconcile to the times the basis upon which pensions were originally authorized by Parliament. The recent agitation in one quarter for a 50 per cent, increase was, in my opinion, ill conceived, in that it threatened the inviolability of the whole war pensions structure. ‘_’ Then, against the plea for connexion ,of the rate of pensions with the cost of living, it may be pointed out that the returned soldier organizations have not, to the best of my recollection, ever favoured this course; also the great range and variety of pensions and allowances. mal.es it administratively an almost impracticable proposition. I should add the very pertinent remark that the majority of those ex-soldiers who are in receipt of pensions for war disabilities are most fortunately able to earn a full wage, and, as we know, wages governed by industrial awards fluctuate with the cost of living. Honorable senators will have noted with satisfaction the greatly improved provisions for widows and children. One would like to see much more achieved; but the position is not without its complexities, and a higher percentage of assistance has been extended towards children, many of whom will also share the additional benefits of the scheme for child endowment and the soldiers’ children education scheme. Parliament proposes even to better the recommendations of the committee with respect of consideration for the welfare of the men suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. In addition, totally and permanently incapacitated men are to receive free medical and hospital treatment in respect of ordinary ailments, whether or not these arise out of a warcaused disability. Also, for such men, and for widows and children when desiring to establish a home, sanction is given to a proposal for a gift pf £75 for the requisite furniture. Therefore, the totally and permanently incapacitated man is receiving consideration on a fair basis, having regard’ to the intensceness 6f the suffering he has endured on our behalf. Eligibility for benefits under the act has been broadened and made more equitable, so as ‘ to accord with the now-known many and varied risks and hazards of war and of life in a war environment. In principle, this is to apply to both members of the forces who serve overseas and those whose service is confined to Australia and the territories under its control. Benefits accompanying the grant of disability pensions ave to be awarded to dependants even when the dependency was manifest ‘ only after the date of the soldiers’ enlistment. I give the Government another good mark for agreeing to accept the responsibility for the adequate care of sufferers from venereal disease acquired while on service, should it be found that men are not wholly cured at the time of their discharge from one or other of the services. Too much prudery, I suggest, has been exhibited in connexion with what, having regard to all the circumstances, may bc regarded in these times as a risk of war. Hitherto, the position has been, to put it coldly, that the man has been worth, in respect to his family, much more when dead than when alive. Departmental facilities for treatment have been denied him, nor has his family been afforded financial assistance when he was unable to work. When he died, his wife and children got pensions, but nothing was. done to keep him alive. After all, the sufferer has been a patriot, and is still a human being. With a due recognition of these facts, the Government now intends to see that, whilst he is unable to work,’ he will receive treatment, and he and hi3 .wife and family will be eligible for sustenance. That is a distinct piece of progress. One of the good features of the old act which has been retained is the absence of any time limit within which .an ex-soldier must apply for benefits in respect of what he may claim to be a war-caused disability. The right to do so remains his at any time. On the other hand, the time limit in respect of eligibility of wives and children of members engaged in the present war is to be limited to fifteen years after the termination of the soldiers’ discharge. Thus, if the soldier is not married within fifteen years after the conclusion of his ‘ service, neither the woman he may subsequently marry nor any children of that marriage will be entitled to benefits. Should he die, however, from a war-caused disability, his widow and children would become entitled to the prescribed pension and allowances. The committee attached considerable importance to this issue. It was of opinion that owing to the probability of disturbed and unsettled conditions in the immediate postwar period, reasonable time should be allowed for a man to establish a family home. Therefore, for the purpose of arriving at a datum point, it assumed that the average age of men now serving in the armed forces would be a little less than 25 years, and that at 40 years of age the average ex-serviceman would be thoroughly settled domestically. The deduction is that the country will not be asked to accept any new liability after the lapse of fifteen years. For those who served in the last war, a period of twenty years was allowed. That period expired on the 1st July, 1938, and I understand that its non-extension affected adversely certain groups of pensioners, such as totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, but neither the committee nor the Government has been able to agree upon any alteration.
In appeals to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, the onus of proof will now rest upon the commission, and when an applicant is successful arrears of pension for a period of six months, instead of three months as heretofore, will be paid. The hearing of appeals by the War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunals is to be facilitated by the appointment of additional tribunals where necessary.
I shall deal now with several matters which came before the committee for review, but which have not yet been finalized. They are of some importance, and we shall await with interest whatever action the Government may take in regard to them. First, in respect of land settlement, the committee recommended the appointment of an expert authority to study the problem as a whole. A Rural Reconstruction Committee presided over by Mr. Wise, M.L.A., Minister for Lands and Agriculture in Western Australia, is now functioning, and no doubt will submit a report in due course. For the information of honorable senators, I shall read the following paragraphs of the special committee’s report on land settlement: -
Similarly, the involved matter providing homes for returned men who desire to marry depends very largely upon the formulation and execution of a national plan for housing. That matter is now being studied by the social security committee.
Post-war employment and vocational training in all its phases gave the committee deep concern. In view of the large numbers of men likely to be involved, the committee foresaw the possibility of a clash of interests between those engaged in the fighting forces and those employed on the production side. It was obvious that there might be a restriction of certain avenues of employment. It certainly is a fact that a scarcity of vocational training establishments exists, and also a paucity of qualified instructors - clearly a situation in which a broad plan is required. Concurring with that view, the Government already has arranged for a preliminary investigation to be carried out and a report to be made. Certain provisions are made in the bill to assist men in the establishment of businesses. Apart from this, and having in mind the circumstances in which so many men enlisted voluntarily, the committee recommended that there be provision for cash advances to members in relief of obligations which may have accrued during active service. That is not very difficult to envisage. Specifically, the committee advocated loans of up to £250 to liquidate debts accruing during service ] in respect of commitments incurred before enlistment, relating to the purchase of necessities or facilities other than of a luxury character such as implements, plant, tools, homes, assurances, &c. All loans were to be interest-free, and upon the repayment of four-fifths of the sum within a given time, the balance of the loan to be regarded as a gift. The Government has not accepted this recommendation, but is considering alternative proposals.
Although the committee was not asked to consider any proposal in regard, to the granting of a war gratuity for honorable service rendered, it is my personal opinion that in view of the immense war debt, present and potential, it would be wise to deal with individual cases of real need, rather than to hand out cash indiscriminately, as was done after the last war, when the cost to the country was more than £29,000,000. As we all know, not all of that money was wisely expended.
Honorable senators will be gratified with the assurance that, as regards the efficacy of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act as an instrument for the conveyance of the wishes of Parliament, not a single exception was taken by any of the many witnesses who appeared before the committee. Neither was there any complaint of lack of understanding and sympathy on the part of the authority responsible for its administration. On the other hand, there Was some definite opposition to any change of form either in the act or in the administration. That is a point which I would like honorable senators to bear in mind. It represents a complete refutation of the statements which occasionally appear in. the press as to the many anomalies which allegedly exist in the act, the bowellessness of the commission in administering it, and the demand that the act should bc scrapped. However, I am of opinion - I am sure that many honorable senators will agree with me - that a useful purpose could be served if, when this measure is passed, the act were consolidated and reprinted. It is an important measure which in the future must be referred to frequently.
According to my information, provision is being made for that matter in the bill itself.
The proposal to- increase the number of commissioners to five is a good one. I do not, think that even the gentlemen who at present hold office can set the bounds of their future responsibility and range of work. Obviously, the volume will be immense. We have almost treble the number of men in our armed forces than was the case in the last war. Therefore, it is well to study now a plan for an appropriate division of duties, the range of Work, and the delegation of certain authorities. The men who are to be added to the commission - I say that they should be men - should have wide general experience and broad views, as well as a sound knowledge of policy, and the purpose of the act. On the medical side, I suggest that conditions of appointment to the staff be made such as to attract the most highly qualified members of the profession. This would ensure not only the best possible treatment for the commission’s charges, but also the commission would be placed in the position of being an important factor in our public health system by reason of its research work and its recordings. Naturally, as it will have thousands of men passing through its hands, it will acquire most valuable information which I consider should be released for the benefit of the community at large. Medical officers should also be afforded opportunities to attend interstate conferences for the purpose of exchanging views on developments in treatment and hospital management. On these and on similar issues, an interesting contribution of views was made recently by the Society of Returned Medical Officers of Queensland, which issued- a pamphlet entitled Helping the Incapacitated Soldier. I believe that the pamphlet ‘ was circulated amongst honorable senators, and it is well worth studying. Generally speaking, the helpful spirit marking the commission’s attitude towards the men who come under its care is further exemplified by the system of liaison and close co-operation with the services, as indicated by the Minister in his second-reading speech.
I view with, some alarm the proposal for the appointment of a parliamentary standing committee on repatriation to which might be referred certain matters affecting the interests and welfare of ex-members of the fighting forces. I cannot see the need. for such a committee. Surely honorable senators are able to estimate the virtues and powers of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and to recognize that already in its many clauses it contains the letter and much of the spirit of the nation’s intentions towards our service men. The act is administered by a commission to which has been entrusted an independence of authority “in regard to .all matters covered by the act. We have had ample testimony as to its efficacy and fairness. Above the commission is the Minister for Repatriation, the -political chief, who is charged with the responsibility of reporting to the Government and advising it on matters of policy. In fact, he is the intermediary between the Parliament and the commission. Why, then, should he be relieved of his responsibility, and why should the commission be subjected to the danger of interference- in the performance of its duties by the presence and activities of what, in effect, must be an overriding authority? The effect of that must be to hamper it in the discharge of its duties. I hope that the Government will not press this proposal. If at any future time the Government feels the need of advice on any given subject, it will have recourse to unlimited material with or without the proposed committee.
Turning to the subject of preference in employment to members of the services, honorable senators may read these observations on page 21 of the report of the special committee -
The evidence quoted in paragraph 22 directs attention to the necessity for all reasonable measures in thu favour of members whereby the handicaps to which they are subjected by service can bc offset. The committee recommends that it be public policy that wherever practicable preference must bc given to members of the forces in the matter of employment.
I hope that, honorable senators will read paragraph 22 referred to. For the moment. I shall bc content to quote the following opening and concluding sentences : -
We have taken them out of their normal civil employments and have changed them fundamentally. We have removed the motive that would actuate them in their civil life. Wo have taken from them all striving to gain a livelihood. Shortly, we have changed them; they arc different social beings. In the course of that process of change, we have put them into an environment in which they cannot get a full appreciation of the changes that are occurring in the economic and social structure. . . . They have new interests which occupy the greater part of their time and do not know what is taking place in the environment in which they formerly lived. At the same time, that environment itself is changing very rapidly. . . . They will be competing with men and women who are skilled. Even if they are trained to at least the point reached by the civilian during the war they will still be at a big disadvantage.
The author of those words is himself not a soldier, but he reveals an uncommon and valuable appreciation of the position in which the ex-soldier may find himself when demobilized. I speak more particularly of those soldiers who were very young at the time of the last war and those who were occupationally untrained at the time they enlisted. The Government’s immediate reply to the committee’s recommendation is that a report on the matter has been received from an interdepartmental committee, “ has been considered by the Government, but certain details remain to be finalized”. That statement was made on the 4th February last. I cannot help thinking that this question is being burked. For nearly eighteen months the Government has had the issue before it. Even the Commonwealth Public Service Act remains unamended, although the necessary amendments to it were in draft when the Government took office. I know that the matter is not a simple one; hut there are precedents for the Government’s guidance. The public is likely to be more concerned with this issue than with preference t” unionists, which in some quarters is so persistently advocated and so insidiously effected. Apart from the points that I have stressed, I ask the Government to consider, with all the humane feelings it may possess, the probable plight of the man who may not be demobilized for six or even twelve months after the cessation of hostilities. It is possible that he may be in hospital for those periods, or even longer. What will be his fate in competing for work and for appointment? Senator Courtice and Senator Brown were eloquent about the conditions to which the soldiers hope to return. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) now says that the nation’s honour is involved. But the problem will not be solved by a government undertaking, nor is the answer to be found in an involved or academic discussion on proposed alterations of the Constitution. There is a vital need for the recognition of a nationwide obligation resting alike on the Commonwealth Government, the State governments, and employers as a whole.
I now turn to another matter arising out of the spirit of the bill before us. Towards the end of his second-reading speech, the Minister for Repatriation expressed the hope that provisions for soldiers “would not become now, or at any time, a matter of politics “. I echo that hope, and, if such utterance may be taken as a warning, then there is justification for it, because signs are not lacking of a bidding for the soldiers’ vote, and this regardless of the interests both of the country and ‘of the soldiers and their dependants. Some of us have not forgotten the attempts of bargaining over a war gratuity, both as to the rate and as to whether the award should be paid in cash or bonds. A similar position arose a decade later over preference in employment. The issue then was that the Government might grant the preference if the returned soldiers would on their part advocate trade unionism. I may say that the negotiations fell very flat.
– As a returned soldier, I should like to say that this country has treated its returned soldiers exceedingly well.
– The honorable senator never mixes, with them.
– The word which I should like to apply to the interjector is unparliamentary. I shall now review the position of the ex-serviceman with respect to the community. I submit for the consideration of the Senate that the men who abandoned their employment and homes to risk their lives for the sake of this country and all that that means, should be regarded with feelings of deep gratitude and immense respect. I say, again, that they are the elite of the nation. Physically of the best, they are also highly intelligent, observant, and intolerant of humbug or sham. Their cause is that of democracy. Their training and experience in war engenders a regard for the legitimate exercise of the authority of government, but they view with strong disfavour any abuses of that authority which tend to lower standards or erode the structure of our society. The older ones remember, ‘with some reluctance, the happenings in this country during their absence from it between 1914 and 1919. On their return the conditions then existing necessitated, their banding together for the following three distinct reasons: - (1) To secure adequate consideration for the dependants of those who had died, on service; (2) to promote the welfare of comrades who were sick, wounded, or needing employment; (3) to seek opportunities for the continuance in peace-time of the equivalent of the unselfish service given the nation on the battle-field. To these ends they framed a national policy, which is as good to-day a& when it was adopted in 1919.
No thinking person will deny that the influence exerted, over a long period of years by the “returned soldier” element has had a steadying effect and otherwise been beneficial to the community. The fact that there is not a greater number of members of this Parliament who once wore His Majesty’s, uniform, is to be regretted. Possibly there is an explanation of this. The man who came back from war had first to re-establish himself and was prc-occupied in many ways. Thus, his. knowledge of the political machine grew slowly. Apart from this, his natural aversions were a handicap, and, although at times he has been vociferous, he has_often failed to be articulate. Nevertheless, he has recorded his vote according to his lights, and this vote is likely to grow in importance as time passes.
I pass to another matter. The press informs u; of an attempt being made to form an ex-servicemen’s political party with national objectives, and aiming also at the installation of a national government to control during the period of the war. The platform published is praiseworthy, but not new. In giving expression to certain ideals, the promoters have overlooked two facts. First, the party system is inherent in a democracy, the alternative to democracy being autocracy; and, secondly, the members of the services are drawn from all classes in society and hold varying political beliefs. Therefore, if this movement is pressed we may be sure only of two results, namely, the appearance in Parliament of yet another party, and the splitting of the general body of exservicemen into innumerable groups, none of which will be fully effective, because every other group will be against it. The instinct and role of every nian who has served in these great wars is to ensure that this country is governed and developed on truly national lines. He will certainly give his individual support to policies holding such genuine promise. His> personal effort will be exhibited in various directions and in sundry quarters. Over the last 25 years, I have seen this course followed in Western Australia, where returned soldiers have been prominent in every walk of life and with lasting benefit to the State. What I hope to see after the next general elections is an increase of their numbers in this Parliament.
As one who once served and for the past 25 years has been in close and active contact with ex-servicemen, I set down some of my convictions in the following terms : -
The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has emphasized the Government’s intention to ensure that promises made to the men fighting on our behalf are not broken. I have not yet been able to determine what, if any, those promises are; but some are outlined in this bill, which I hope, will be passed by the_ Senate. There is nothing really contentious in it. The bill may, in some respects, fall short of the ideal; but the Opposition intends to support the motion for its’ second reading.
– I congratulate the special ‘ committee of ex-servicemen appointed by the Government, and also the Government and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) on this bill, which I welcome: Looking back, I can recall the conditions which confronted us after the last war. Thousands of Australians had not seen their own country for four years and. in some instances, five years, youngsters of nineteen or twenty years of age who left Australia suffered many hardships and endured a tremendous strain and shock. Many of them came back in ill health, not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually. They were seriously handicapped in their endeavours to re-establish themselves in civil life. They needed all the help and practical sympathy which it was possible to give to them. The same problem will face us in the years to come. I remember well that about the middle of 1918 men inthe various units serving at that time were asked by Bishop Long, who had been appointed by the Commonwealth Government to make a start with a scheme of vocational training for the men who would be demobilized when the war ended, to put on paper any ideas we had regarding the problems which would confront the country when demobilization took place. At that time we were in the thick of the war, and most of us did not think that the end was in sight. As a youngster, I had been told that whenever I was in trouble all that I had to do was to search the Book of Books and I would find a solution of my problem. I did so, because among the literature we had there was always a copy of the good old Book. I had a look through it, but the only reference I could find there to demobilization was in chapter 24 of the Book of Joshua. Honorable senators will recall that Joshua had succeeded Moses as leader of the Israelites, and had fought the battles of the Lord so successfully that Palestine had been conquered. Joshua apportioned the conquered country among the twelve tribes of Israel, and in the 28th verse of the chapter which I have mentioned it is recorded, “ So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance “. When I read that, I reflected that it did not meet the situation, because I presumed that at least 90 per cent, of the men who would be demobilized had no inheritance to which to depart when’ the Avar was over. That will be the position also at the end of this war, and that is why I welcome the bill. It is a good bill; a tremendous amount of thought has been put into it. But it is a measure the details of which can be dealt with more effect- tively in committee. It is not a party measure, but one which outlines what should be done when, at the conclusion of the Avar, Ave’ are faced with the great problem of repatriating our service men and women. We must not repeat the mistakes which were made at the conclusion of the last war. From time to time, the “ yellow “ press has “ Slangwanged” “ and “ pasted “ the Repatriation Commission, but rarely has it told the whole story. Of course, anomalies and hardships have , existed; but I say withDur hesitation as the result of over twenty years’ close contact with the Repatriation Commission, that it has interpreted sympathetically and fairly the legislation passed by this Parliament. The soldier has always been a stalking horse for people who would make use of him, but usually the soldier has nothing but contempt for organizations or newspapers which would use his just claims for “stunt” purposes. A few weeks ago a campaign was inaugurated for scrapping the existing Repatriation Act. We were told in various sections of the press that the act was not worth anything, and that the soldiers’ pension should be increased by at least 50 per cent. As a soldier ‘ myself, I have always believed in a fair deal for the soldier, but I shall have a few words to say in regard to that claim. I shall give the reasons why ] consider that that demand - it was a demand - for a 50 per cent, increase of the existing pensions rate is unreasonable. First, I point out that the majority of soldier pensioners are in full-time employment, and are not entirely dependent on their pensions. Those who are incapacitated to such a degree that they are prevented from working are, I submit, adequately provided for under this bill; the pension for a totally incapacitated man with a wife and children ranges from about £6 to about £8 a week. The federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and the Blinded Soldiers’ Association, in evidence given before the special committee which reported to the Government on repatriation matters, recommended an increase of 18 per cent., that being the degree to which the cost of living had risen since the war started. The present rates of pension were fixed in 1920 when the basic wage was, 86s. a week. The latest figures show the basic wage at £4 16s. a week, which: represents an increase of 11.6 per cent. All disabled soldiers’ associations and. all branches of the league, except New South Wales, approve the proposed increase of 20’ per cent., with additional benefits for. children and widows. The only opponent of the Government’s proposal is the New. South Wales branch of the league, which on its own initiative has” submitted proposals which have i not the support of the ‘federal executive of that organization,, or its other
State branches. It would be wrong and impracticable to connect the rates of war pensions with the cost of living, or the rate of pay of members of the forces, because, first, it is not intended to reduce the rates of war pensions when the cost of living falls, as will be the case with old-age pensions, wage rates, &c, and, secondly, the soldiers’ rate of pay represents, the total amount that the soldier can earn. However, in respect of the rate of war pension, in all cases except those of very badly incapacitated persons, earnings are not taken into account, and, as a matter of fact, the majority of the recipients are in full-time employment.
As the Minister in charge of the bill pointed out in his second-reading speech, war pensions are not charity, and have nothing whatever to do with a man’s means. As the Minister said, the assessment of the rates of war pensions, is made purely in respect of the degree of war damage suffered by the individual soldier regardless altogether of his economic position. That damage can include a lot of things. In order to realize fully the horrors of the aftermath of war, not so much in respect of physical injury as the effect of war on the mind, one has only to visit mental hospitals, where are to be seen mental and spiritual wrecks, human beings, who were once men, just living automatons. “Whatever rates of pension we may provide, we cannot restore those unfortunate men to health. All we can do for them is to make what is left of life for them as easy as possible.
The personnel of the commission has always ‘ been composed of returned soldiers.. That is right and proper. As I said before, their interpretation of the repatriation legislation has been fair and just. I have stated the reasons why I shall oppose the suggestion to increase the rates of pension by 50 per cent. On the whole, the returned soldier of the last war has been a good citizen in the intervening years. We must place some limit upon our expenditure, and when we are dealing with pensions of this kind, and the provision of other social benefits, we must have some regard for equity. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League: of Australia , so long as I. can .remember, and I have -been closely associated with that organization since I returned to Australia in 1920, ha3 always striven to hold the balance fairly, and not to seek, or demand, unjust or unreasonable concessions. That is why neither I, nor the great majority of returned soldiers who hold responsible positions in that organization, could lend ourselves to the newspaper stunt that was raging in- New South Wales a few weeks ago in support of the proposal to increase rates of pension by 50 per cent.
The proposal to set up a standing committee on repatriation is unwise; and it might be mischievous. To-day, we have complete machinery for the carrying out of our repatriation legislation. The Repatriation Commission is entrusted with the administration of the act, and its personnel consists of returned soldiers, whilst all members of its staff are returned soldiers. The Minister for Repatriation is in complete charge of the department. In addition, war pension entitlement tribunals are also in existence, as well as war pensions assessment tribunals, which assess pensions and hear appeals against assessments. In each State, also, there is a deputy commissioner and a State board. With all respect, I suggest that, since the outbreak of the war, it is becoming a practice with Parliament at every conceivable opportunity to set up a committee, board or commission. I cannot see that the proposed standing committee could serve any useful purpose. On the contrary, it may be dangerous. All members of parliament are susceptible to clamour and appeals, and I Should hate to see the Repatriation Commission subjected to political pressure and influence. However, that would very probably be one result of the setting up of a. standing committee. Individual members of the committee would be approached by all and sundry. We know that that sort of thing happens. ‘Should the Government at any time be in doubt, or troubled over some matter regarding repatriation, it could appoint a committee, as it appointed the special committee, to investigate and report on th.e particular problems’ arising, and, if necessary, to recommend amendments of the Repatriation Act. I hope that ‘the Government will not press its proposal to set up a standing committee. I urge it to delete that provision from the bill.
Since the conclusion of the last war I have always been a strong advocate of preference in employment for men who have fought for their country. We should insert in this measure, in unequivocal terms, a guarantee, quite independent of any legislation which may be passed by this Parliament, or any State parliament, that persons’ who have been members of the fighting forces shall be entitled to preference in employment. I believe that this is the proper legislation in which to give that guarantee, and. if by my voice and vote I can help to insert it in this ‘measure, I shall certainly do so. I support the bill.
Senator HERBERT HAYS (Tasmania) 1 9.12], - I support the second reading of the bill. Honorable senators can with every justification pay tribute to Senator Collett for his speech on this measure to-night. In saying that, I do not wish to detract from the speech delivered by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron), who is in charge of the measure. However, we know that the Minister expresses the Government’s considered views, and in the preparation of his speech is given every assistance by departmental officials, whereas a private senator must rely entirely on his own efforts in dealing with, measures that come before the Senate. Senator Collett is to be complimented on his speech, which, I am sure, has proved most helpful ito every honorable senator. It reflects diligent and painstaking attention to this matter. Without detracting from the work’ of his colleagues on the special committee, I think that all of us will also agree that Senator Collett rendered outstanding service as a member of that committee. He has dealt with this matter fully and clearly, and has enabled n:e to grasp the contents of the bill. As the measure can best be dealt with in detail in committee, I propose a-t this juncture to refer only to several matters of general principle. All of us agree that, had we on this side been in office, we should have followed the course adopted by the Government in submitting the problem of improving our repatriation legislation to a special committee composed of returned soldiers, and based subsequent amending legislation on recommendations made by that committee.
– That is a matter of opinion, too. “Senator HERBERT HAYS. - Does the honorable senator suggest that legislation introduced by us would have been less favorable to returned soldiers?
– It was a Labour government which increased the pay of the soldiers. The honorable senator’s party refused for two years to do so.
– Whatever the honorable senator may have in his mind, I have no desire to enter into a controversy with him on the subject. Suffice it to say that this is a. bill which had its origin with the Government, and which was referred to a special committee consisting of returned servicemen from both sides of the two Houses of Parliament. Senator Collett has paid some compliments to the Government because it has in many respects accepted the reports of the committee. We can approach the bill with the knowledge that every one desires to do the best that is possible, irrespective of party, for those who are to benefit by it. We can quite properly say that, if there has been any desire on the part of either side, it has never been in the direction of denying anything to servicemen returned from the last war. Rather there has been, at times competition, within limits, to see how much could be done for them. There has even been at times a tendency to make proposals having for their object the winning of returned soldiers’ votes. This is the first time that repatriation matters have been referred to a committee of ex-soldiers and the bill in many respects is the result of their considered judgment. I think that it may be said that we have all gained by experience in the matter of repatriation. When the first Repatriation Act was proclaimed, the Government of the day had had no experience to guide it in dealing with the many great problems involved. There was no machinery in existence, and no precedent to help the Government in formulating a policy to deal with the many and. .varied aspects of the returned soldiers’ difficulties. We should he able to profit by the experience of the past, and I am sure that we have dene so already. We have the benefit of the experience of those who have had the task of administering the act. I refer to the Repatriation Commission, which has been dealing with, these questions ever since the war of 1914-18. It has had its difficulties, and in spite of them has done a remarkably good job, after devoting all its time and energy to its task. I think that we can look forward with confidence to the administration of this new measure, benefiting by our experience and by our mistakes, which could not be avoided. Similar problems to those of the last war are sure to arise, and I am sure that we shall be able to cope with them in a way that will give more satisfaction to the men who return from this war than was the case after the last war. A great deal of criticism, which is to be deprecated, has been directed to an alleged lack of sympathy with, and proper recognition of, the rights of returned men on the part of this Parliament. I am sure every honorable senator will agree that it has been the desire of all parties to recognize and reward what those who served ih the last war did for their country. If we make comparisons with other countries, I think it may be said, whatever some people may say to the contrary, that Australia has done well for its returned men. There has been a good deal of criticism of the attempts made to settle returned men on the land after the last war. Parliament has been blamed for the failure of many of those who were placed on the land, .but it is well to remember some of the difficulties that arose in regard to land settlement at that time. I speak more particularly in regard to Tasmania, which I represent. That State had very little Crown lands available. What it had- was second class, most of it forest land, and, therefore, offering few opportunities for successful land settlement. There were, however, large estates which lent themselves to subdivision, and private properties which could be acquired. At the period when the’ men came back from the war, all agricultural products, including
WOOl, were selling at unprecedentedly high prices. .”Naturally, the prices paid for the products of the land were the guiding factor in fixing its value. It would be an injustice to acquire one man’s property at a price substantially below its market value, and allow another man to remain in possession of his property without acquiring it for the use of returned soldiers. Many of the properties which were subdivided were returning good profits as pastoral propositions or as mixed farms of 1,000 acres or more iii area. When a property is acquired- for closer settlement,, the price may seem fair and reasonable, but when it it is subdivided, and all subdivision costs, plus the cost of building homes, the necessary out-buildings, and fencing, are added, what was a profitable proposition as a large property becomes over-capitalized as a subdivisional proposition. Many returned men took over properties at high prices which could be regarded at the time as reasonable, but when prices fell they could not possibly succeed. There were also many instances when. ‘the State Government, acting on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, refused to pay the price asked by the owner for a property which the Minister for Repatriation wanted to acquire for soldier settlement, but the returned men themselves were so anxious to obtain the land that they paid out of their own pockets the difference between the figure to which the Government was prepared to go and the price asked by the owner, feeling that the Government had done them an injustice in not purchasing the property on their behalf. Consequently, there were many occasions when those who were anxious to help the returned men were unable to save them from themselves, because they insisted on paying an excessive cash price for the land. That position is bound to occur again, because many of the men returning from this war, who were previously engaged in banks and commercial houses, will, after so long a period of out-door life, want to go on the land. This question of land settlement for returned men is, therefore, one of the most important with which, this or any Government which succeeds it will have to deal. The location and suitability of the land, and the price to be paid for it, so that returned soldiers holding it after subdivision will not find it over-capitalized, will have to be considered. One great danger is that of subdividing acquired estates into blocks too small to give a man room to earn a living and to employ his family on until they are able to take up other properties for themselves. I issue this warning to the Government. Experience shows that many complications will arise in connexion with the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. Let us try if we possibly can to guard against a repetition of the great difficulties that we had after the last war with men placed on properties where they had not the remotest chance of succeeding when prices returned to normal. They became dissatisfied and left the properties, and blocks which had been purchased for repatriation purposes fell into the hands of civilians, or went back in large aggregations into the hands of others who were not returned soldiers. Associated with this matter is the still larger question of payable prices for the products of the land. There, again, is a great problem. When properties are subdivided, it is to be assumed that the small holdings will become agricultural or dairying properties, and proper safeguards must be instituted if a repetition of the great dissatisfaction which existed in regard to land settlement after the last war is to be avoided. It is frequently alleged that after the last war landholders asked too high a price for their holdings, but I point out that in many instances it was not a question of the owners asking high prices. The Government had power compulsorily to acquire properties; the Minister for Repatriation had valuations made which were referred to local valuators who,- in turn, consulted committees of two or three people which were set up by various shire councils. These people knew the districts in which they lived; they knew the individuals concerned in the transactions, and they knew the productivity of the properties.
– Unfortunately, in many cases their valuations were not accepted.
– That is so. Many soldiers agreed to pay higher prices and made up the difference out of their own pockets. Such a practice could lead only to serious difficulties. Land settlement is a question in which I am greatly interested, and one which I am sure will play an important part in the rehabilitation of the men in our fighting forces to-day. I repeat that the important matters to be considered arc the value of the land, the rate of interest payable, and the fixation of a profitable price for the products that are produced. The subdivision of properties should be placed in the hands of experts, who can be relied upon to ensure that ex-servicemen receive a fair deal.
I do not know what other honorable senators have in their minds as to what is implied by the word “ repatriation “ ; but I am sure that it will not be denied by any one that, whatever we do for our ex-servicemen, cannot in any way be regarded as an assessment of the value of the service that they have rendered to this country. Such service cannot be assessed in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, and I am confident that, when our soldiers are discharged, they will not desire that there should be any monetary assessment of the value of the service that . they have rendered. Most of them have been prompted to fight for their country by a spirit of patriotism. Down the ages it has been the established practice that only the young men of a nation can go to battle ; and, while I contend that there can be no attempt to assess the value of a soldier’s service, there is a duty upon all of us to see that when our fighting men return to civil life, their standard of living in the community shall be at least equal to what it was before the war. However, in the case of those men who returned with disabilities resulting from war wounds or illness suffered during war service, a basis of monetary compensation must be established. The assessment of the percentage of incapacity is a matter for medical men. I do not think that any one can say truthfully that in the past such cases have beta reviewed by our repatriation authorities unfairly or unsympathetically Then there is the question: of pensions and allowances for the widows and families of deceased servicemen. Then, also, no attempt can he made to assess the value to a wife and family of the lost breadwinner, but this measure will go a long way towards ensuring to these people an income that will keep them free, from want. Provision is made for educational facilities for children of deceased servicemen, including both primary and secondary schooling. That is a very proper provision. These unfortunate children should have an opportunity to obtain the best education that is available. It is our duty to make the fullest possible provision along these lines, having clue regard to the resources of this country. I am sure that no ex-serviceman would be unreasonable in his demands. Just as they have gone willingly overseas to serve their country on the battle-field, so will they be equally willing to serve to the best of their ability upon their return to civil life. We must remember that there is a limit to the resources of this country. Nobody can say at present how much more money will be required to carry on the war, and it may be that our finances will bc strained to the utmost before victory is achieved. We should be doing a great disservice to our fighting men if we were to make promises which we knew very well could not be fulfilled, and such action would deserve the condemnation of the people of this country. We are all anxious to do our best; let us be united in our efforts and refrain from making competitive promises. If we approach this problem in a reasonable frame of mind, I am sure that good results will be achieved, and that we shall be able to look back upon this measure with pride and say to our ex-servicemen, “ We have not endeavoured to reward you for the invaluable services that you have rendered, but this measure is a token of our appreciation of what you have done for us; we have done our best for you within the limits of the resources of this country “. I support the bill.
– I congratulate the Government upon having appointed the special committee whose- report formed the basis of this measure, i Repatriation measures have been neglected for many years, and I consider that the committee has- done a fine job. This bill is a most important measure, and is one which will give ‘a measure of justice to the men serving in our fighting forces. Its object is to provide a degree of security for those who are to-day doing a magnificent job for Australia. I am mindful of the neglectful treatment of returned soldiers of the last war by honorable senators opposite. In the years from 1919 onwards, I have seen hundreds of .these unfortunate men, Carrying their swags, hungry, ill-clothed, and unwanted, despite the fact that in Mesopotamia, Gallipoli, France or Flanders they had done an excellent job for their country. When they returned to this country little concern was shown for their welfare. The one desire seemed to be to get rid of them. As rapidly as they could be discharged from the Army they were discharged. The soldiers themselves were anxious to get back into civil life. Many of them failed to apply for a pension, and they subsequently suffered greatly from the effects of their war service. They struggled on for years. Representations were made on their behalf by the returned soldiers’ organizations, by trade unions and by various other bodies, but little success was obtained. It is now proposed, to give such ni Biz an opportunity to have their cases heard before tribunals, and probably those who have been refused a pension will now receive one.
The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), in his second-reading speech, said that about 59,000 men made the supreme sacrifice in the last Avar. He should have told us the number of ex-soldiers who have died since that time. That wouk have given a good indication of the treatment received by those who came back from the last Avar. Considering that the Opposition intends to submit amendments to this bill when it reaches the committee stage, I should like to ask honorable senators opposite what action wa S taken by anti-Labour governments in the interests of returned soldiers in the periods from 1916 to 1929 and from 1931 to 1942. I well recollect representations being made to governments of the day with regard to the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. At the Dyraaba estate, men were placed on blocks in the scrub, and supplied with a. few cows which soon became bags of bones. At another settlement at Kentucky, soldiers were expected to grow apples. There was another settlement at Milperra, but how many returned soldiers are to be found on those settlements today? The shocking conditions under which they were expected to work was the subject of representations to various governments, but nothing was done to assist them. I disagree with Senator Collett that a repatriation committee to watch the operation of the principal act, as proposed to be amended by the bill before us, is unnecessary. I believe that such a committee should be appointed, and should operate in the same way as the. Broadcasting Committee. The set-up with regard to repatriation is similar to that in respect of broadcasting, in connexion with which we have the Australian Broadcasting Commission in addition to the Broadcasting Committee. The act proposed to be amended by this bill will be far-reaching in its effects, and will touch practically every home in Australia. Therefore it is essential that the operation of the measure should be closely watched by a committee. I congratulate the Government upon its decision to establish such a body. If the committee interfered unduly with the commission, or with the administration of the act, the Parliament would have the power to abolish it at any time.
I now intend to refer to a matter on which both the Government and the special committee on repatriation stand condemned. Some years ago I attended, as a delegate, a Labour conference at Lithgow. Among those present were a number of tubercular ex-soldiers who were in receipt of the invalid pension. They addressed the conference, which appointed a sub-committee to- obtain data on each case. The sub-committee submitted a report to the conference, which unanimously decided that the matter be referred to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Minister for Repatriation. Those men are still waiting for a decision in respect to their claims, but they are in no better position to-day than when their case was presented to the conference. I am glad to know that these unfortunate sufferers from the scourge of tuberculosis will, under this bill, receive a war pension.
Senator Collett said that Australia had done everything that could be expected of it for its returned soldiers. I know hundreds of them who have walked the streets of our cities looking in vain for work, and have finally gone over the “Gap”, fallen under trains, shot themselves, or in some other way put an end to their misery because they could not obtain relief from their sufferings. I have been associated with various movements designed to improve the lot of returned soldiers, but it is of no use any member of the Opposition camouflaging the position by saying that everything possible has been done on their behalf. I shall cite my own case, and it is not an isolated one. When I returned from the last war, I was discharged from . the Army on the 9 th August, 1917. I applied for a pension, and in November of that year received a letter informing me that my claim had been rejected because my incapacity for work was not due to war service. My discharge shows that I had sustained a gunshot wound in the back. At the front I had to appear before “ Charlie “ Ryan on two occasions, and on each of those occasions I was reported as “ C3 Australia “. On returning to this country, I was told that I had shot myself, but the doctors had removed from my back a piece of shell which had nearly cost mc my life. It is not the fault of the Repatriation Department that I am still alive. After representations had been made on my behalf by a member of Parliament, inspectors were sent to my mother’s home to make inquiries, because we had applied for a pension and obtained the services of a member of Parliament. In December, 1917, the department wrote to me and requested me to attend Dr. Harris in Newcastle, and in January, 1918, I received a further letter which said that as a result of further medical evidence it was now admitted that I was suffering a slight disability as the result of my military service. It was decided to grant to me a. pension of 7s. 6d. a week which. I. received from the 10th August, the day following my discharge from the forces. But I did not recover my former state of health. I went to the country and worked for an insurance company. Subsequently I went into business on my own account. I returned to Sydney in 1920, and walked the streets of the city, but could not obtain a job. Twice a day a number of returned men, whose plight was similar to my own visited the office of the Repatriation Department in Chalmers-street, but no work was provided for us. Eventually I got a job as a cleaner. I was told to start work at 6 a.m. next morning, and do the work of a charwoman. I had to scrub floors, but my back would not stand the strain. A good friend attempted to do the work for me, but he got the “ sack “. The employer declared that he, not I, was loafing. I was then examined by Mr. Warren H. Judd, of 52 Castlereaghstreet, and he sent me to Mr. .” Hamilton Fraser, of Wentworth-street, Woollahra, by whom I was X-rayed. Mr. Judd gave me a certificate dated loth September, 1920, which stated-
To whom it may concern.
This is to certify that I have this day examined Stanley K. Amour and find him to be suffering from a subacute inflammation of the spine involving the entire dorsal area and centring about the sixth dorsal vertebra which has sustained an injury he claims to have received while on active service. The condition of this man precludes the possibility of his doing any physical labour, and will undoubtedly so affect him for a considerable time to come.
Next morning I went to the Repatriation Department, and, when I saw a doctor, he ripped into small pieces the copy of the certificate which I showed to him. He said Mr. Judd is not a doctor. Mr. Judd examined me and after reading the X- ray photographs he gave me the certificate. I was stopped before I could walk out of the office, and was sent to a home for inebriates. Although I was sober, I was kept there for some time among men, some of whom were climbing up the netting whilst others were trying to poke men’s teeth out with pegs. Eventually, I got to Russell Lea, but I asked for my discharge and left the place, because they were not doing anything to benefit me. I appealed to the Repatriation Commission for treatment, and in 1923 they consented to. send me to the Randwick Hospital. After I got there I was told to see Dr.t Sydney Jamieson. When I saw him -he looked at me and said, “ Is that all :that is wrong with you ? “ I answered’ “ Yes “. He then said, “ Get out”, and I got out. I was told that I was to- be discharged from the hospital on the’ grounds that I was a malingerer. I then saw Dr. Rutledge, who told me to take 48 hours’ leave and then come back and see him. I did so. He sent me to a ward to be massaged. . For some time I had rejected massage treatment because the pain was unbearable. Every time I had been massaged a doctor, stood alongside me and gave me a black draught, which also I rejected. After some time they consented to send me to Dr. Bell and Dr. Blackburn. Before I was with them five minutes they determined to operate. That was within a fortnight of the time that Dr. Sydney Jamieson had discharged me from Randwick Hospital on the grounds that I was a malingerer. Dr. Bell, who operated- on me, is a big man, and I understand that he cut out of me something the size of his hand. Yet I had previously been told that there was nothing wrong with me! I had walked the streets of Sydney night after night, but that was no concern of the Repatriation Commission. After the operation a unique thing happened. It is not usual to send returned soldiers from Randwick to a convalescent home controlled by the Red Cross Society, but I wa3 sent to the home at Exeter, where I remained for some time. While there I was very sick ; my back gave way. I appealed to Dr. Willcocks, who said that nothing could be done for me. I said that I had a wife and family, and asked whether my pension would be interfered with if I left the home. The reply was “ No “. I left the convalescent home on a Monday morning. As the following Thursday was pension day, I went to the Glebe Post Office expecting to draw a pension of four guineas, but the postmaster said to me, “You will have to alter that form, as your pension is now only one guinea a , fortnight “. That shows how fast they worked to deprive me of my pension. 1 kept on appealing, and as a result of my continuous fight I was eventually told ito see Dr. Poate at the Randwick Hospital on, Thursday, the 26th February, 1925. The doctor looked at me, but he <lid not place his hand or any instrument on me, yet my pension was reduced from 10s. 6d. to Ss. 9d. a week on his recommendation. On the 16th May, 1925, I appealed in writing, stating that I had been told that I was likely to suffer for some time. I knew that I was suffering. I asked for an examination by a hoard of independent specialists and for the privilege of naming at least one of them. My request was ignored. I heard nothing of it. Eventually I went to the lift man in the Repatriation Commission offices and asked where I would find Mr. Fair. I was shown to his room. When I entered it he threatened to throw me out, but he did not do so. My appeal went before Dr. Bengerfield the next morning, but nothing was done. I attended the Randwick Hospital for treatment at intervals during the. intervening years. On every occasion on. which I visited the hospital I was in pain, hut sometimes the pain- was worse than on other occasions. Recently, I went to Randwick Hospital, where I was thoroughly examined, with the result of which I was informed that I am suffering from an acute inflammation of the spine about the sixth dorsal vertebra. I had told the authorities that for years. They had given me medicine and liniment, and my wife used to rub my back. On many occasions when she did so I had to stop her, because I thought she had cut me with a razor; yet she had done nothing more than touch me with her finger. Mine is not an isolated case, yet honorable senators opposite speak in high terms of what has been done for returned soldiers. Not much has been done for me, nor has much been done for returned soldiers generally. I worked for the Temperance and General Mutual Life Assurance Company for a number of years. When the Lyons Government repudiated a. portion of interest payment on bonds, the company decided to force its agents to accept £10 bonds. I objected, and had to get out. So vicious were the directors of the com- pany that they prevented me from getting a job with any other company, notwithstanding that I was a returned soldier. I could have obtained employment with the Australian Mutual Provident Society, or the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited, or the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited, but when I went to them the men whom I was to interview would not see me. I was out of work for six months, and could not get a job. Eventually I got a job with the Producers and Citizens Co-operative Assurance Company Limited, the head office of which is in New Zealand. After I had worked for it for five weeks I was informed that the head office of the society had issued instructions that my appointment was to be cancelled. I was sacked from the New Zealand office, notwithstanding that I was a returned soldier. I kept my chin up and went on the dole. Every member of the executive of the Unemployed Workers Union was a returned soldier on the dole. What did governments care about returned soldiers? When Mr. Stevens became Premier of New South W ales he refused me even the dole, notwithstanding that I had a wife and four children to keep. The result was that my “ kids “ did not have enough to eat. Did honorable senators opposite worry about me and others like me then ? No. From time to time representations on behalf of returned soldiers were made, and eventually it was suggested that legislation providing for preference for returned soldiers should be enacted. But was that act operative in respect of every returned soldier? No. It was operative only in respect of certain returned soldiers. When a secretary to the Prince Alfred Hospital was required a returned soldier did not get the job; but when it was a case of a pick and shovel job a returned soldier got it. Members of the Opposition parties have nothing to be proud of. It is all very well to talk about doing something for the soldiers of this war. I pray every day that the new administration which will be in charge of the administration of this legislation will he more sympathetic towards returned soldiers than the Repatriation Commission has been. I hope too that it will find out the name of the doctor who examined me on the 16th of September, 1920. I cannot remember his name, but I hope that he is now in a warm place where there is no comfort.
This bill is not all that it might be - it would require a number of amendments to make it 100 per cent, satisfactory - but 1 believe that if administered sympathetically it will give to every soldier who will return from this war an opportunity to get what he is entitled to receive. It will do more than that because it proposes to do something also for those who returned from the last war. For that I am grateful to the Government. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) is to be congratulated on being a member of a Government which, although it has not been in office long and has not a majority in either House of the Parliament, appointed a committee to consider repatriation matters and make recommendations to the Government. The result is the bill now before us. I am sure that soldiers from the last war and also from this war will feel grateful to the Government which has brought this legislation forward.
I trust that the proposed repatriation committee will not consist of returned soldiers, because my experience is that men who are not returned soldiers have more sympathy with the soldier. They have a better understanding because they are able’ to see things in their right perspective. I believe that civilians should be appointed to the Repatriation Commission. The man who paid four guineas for each of the X-ray photographs which were taken of me was not a returned soldier. None of the persons who assisted me was a returned soldier, but all of them had genuine sympathy for returned soldiers. I should not have said so much at this stage but for the statement made during the debate that Australia has done all it could possibly do for its returned men. My own experience shows that that is not so. Hundreds of men are still walking the streets of many of our cities because they have had just as hard a battle as I have had, but did not keep their chins up. I managed to do so. I have had a hard struggle, and I believe that many of the boys who come back from this war will have a similar struggle should the repatriation authorities be as unsympathetic as they have been in the past.
.- Australia has no reason to be ashamed of the provision hitherto made for the care of its disabled war veterans and dependants. If improvements still can be effected and anomalies ironed out, so much the better. I venture to say that when this bill, with certain further amendments, becomes law, our repatriation policy will exceed in generosity that of any other country. As the Government has expended and proposes to expend millions on social services, I contend, that the disabled soldiers and the dependants of those who have given, or who may give, their lives for the security of Australia, are entitled to priority in the disbursement of those millions. After all, it is the fighting services which make it possible for this country to even contemplate additional expenditure on social or any other services. But, for their practical patriotism and sacrifice, Australia would have been in danger of becoming a subject nation, with no hope of providing for any higher standard of living.
A war pension is not a social or charitable grant. It is compensation for a war disability and is not subject to a “ means test “, such as is applied in assessing a service pension, or an invalid pension. That principle has been followed since the Repatriation Act became law 23 years ago. All ex-servicemen’s organizations are definite on this point and will resist any move to alter it. Many ex-soldiers in good economical circumstances draw a war pension. Some people held the view that they should forego the pension. Many have done so. Many, on the other hand, draw the pension and hand it over to a distress fund which almost every branch of the Returned Soldiers League maintains, to help diggers and their dependants in less favorable circumstances. Once a means test is introduced .the fundamental basis of Australian repatriation policy is disturbed. When assessing the amount of compensation for a war disability, the cost of living is not taken into account. There has been no continent-wide clamour for an all-round 50 per cent. increase of the basic pension rates. The all-round’ 20 per cent, rise, forecast in the Minister’s second-reading speech is considered fair and reasonable for the time being at- all events. The chief complaint against the repatriation authorities is the difficulties which a soldier, with a genuine case, has’ to overcome in the initial presentation of his case. That is his first hurdle. Proving entitlement to a pension is the bigger obstacle. By placing the onus on the department, to prove that an applicant’s plea for a pension was not based on a disability due to war service will remove much of the present dissatisfaction, provided the regulations so framed to give effect to the new policy, are flexible and capable of intelligent interpretation, without leaving it to the entire discretion of one or two officials.
On the question of assessment, there has been much adverse criticism. The assessments generally are too low. It has been represented to me that there is a fixed intention to keep assessments as low as possible. Obviously a medical officer’s opinion as to the extent of disability must be respected.- His assessment must be taken as a guide, but only as a guide. The assessment should be made on the man’s capacity to earn a living in competition with other men. True, the pensioner has the right of appeal. Fifty per cent, have been successful. That shows either that the original assessment was too low, or that the pensioner’s employment aggravated his disability. The wage-earning pensioner on a small pension, such as 103. a week or under, is the one hardest hit. His pension should be increased if his disability prejudices constant employment. I understand that the men discharged from service in this war, too, are complaining that their alleged just claims have been turned down. The inflexible regulations, reluctance sometimes to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt, and divergent opinions of repatriation medical officers, often just the opposite to civilian doctor’s opinions, have caused many good front-line soldiers to wonder if the sacrifice of their health and earning capacity has been worth while. It is hoped that no battle area soldier, sailor or airman* will, in the future, have to fight a repat- riation battle for pension rights. The difficulty is to discriminate between the exploiter applicant and the genuine applicant. As a rule, exploiters never get within miles of the battle zone. The trouble has been that repatriation boards and appeal tribunals have been too prone to regard every applicant as a possible exploiter. It might be a case of “ once bitten, twice shy “.
In making these observations I am not unmindful of the magnitude of the commission’s task in administering a very complicated act. It would be easier for members of the commission, and the State boards to recommend or approve of all applicants getting a pension. That is not the reason foi- which they are appointed. They have been appointed to hold, the balance between the would-be pensioner and the taxpayer, giving the soldier the benefit of the doubt. Courage and judgment are necessary. Sometimes the officials are over cautious in their decisions.
In recent months many members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force have been declared medically unfit whilst serving overseas, and then returned to Australia for discharge. Some, I understand, have been granted pensions and some have been refused. The question of whether or not the soldier took part in actual battle operations had an important bearing on the decision. The chief complaint against the Repatriation Department was the fact that the soldier was passed as medically fit for overseas .service after searching tests, and should therefore be entitled to a pension if at some later stage, he becomes medically unfit, whether he served in actual operations against the enemy or not. The other side of the picture is that the soldier in the anxiety to render service to his country intentionally or unintentionally failed to reveal to the enlisting medical officer, the true history of his past health. The medical questions put to prospective soldiers cover every ailment to which a human being might have been subject, even back to early childhood. Broadly speaking, there is a case for the soldier. It may not be his fault that his health broke down before reaching .an actual tattle area. He has to obey orders and go where and when his unit is ordered. On the other
Land every war Las its small percentage of exploiters and malingerers. The dinkum digger, the Lard-boiled digger, has no patience or sympathy with either. How to differentiate between these cases and the genuine cases is a thorny problem for the repatriation medical officers.
It is satisfactory to note that the hill provides for better treatment of exservicemen suffering from tuberculosis. I hope that the .South African tubercular war pensioners will be included in these provisions.
On behalf of the partially blinded soldiers of Australia I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation to interest himself in securing the insertion of a clause in the Workmen’s Compensation Act giving preference to partially blinded soldiers, preference in such jobs as civil hospital attendants, cleaners, and sweepers in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. There are not many jobs under that act which these men so afflicted can obtain. In fact, there are very few. No one is better able to secure such a concession for them than the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) with his intimate’ knowledge of the Workmen’s Compensation Act. He, himself, is an old soldier and I am sure he will do his best to obtain this preference.
I take this opportunity to put forth a plea for the survivors of the New South Wales Soudan Contingent to be recognized as returned soldiers. They number 50 out of 750 who left Sydney on 3rd March, 1S85, to take part in the Egyptian war. That contingent was the first to sail from Australia for active service in the Empire. The ages of these survivors range from 76 to 86 years. They depend almost entirely on the old-age or invalid pensions or are inmates of a civilian old men’s home. It is for these men that the New South Wales Soudan Contingent Association desires favorable consideration for an annual grant of £2 a head. An amount of £100 would be the first grant; thereafter, the amount will gradually be reduced as each survivor passes away. I make this plea, so that these old soldiers in the eventide of their days may enjoy at least some of the amenities of life.
It is to the credit of the Repatriation Department that so many discharged personnel in the present war have been placed in employment. The majority of these jobs are dead end ones, and ‘will disappear at the conclusion of hostilities. What then? The men still in the fighting services are asking, “ What will’ happen when they put aside their uniforms?” They are looking for a plain straight-out early announcement that the Government will guarantee permanent employment in the Commonwealth Public Service or in any undertaking where public money is being expended. The time has now arrived whin the Government must introduce legislation to that end. Servicemen are tired of “pats on the hack”. They want some practical government, recognition of their services. The question to whom preference should bc given is admittedly a much more difficult one, than that which confronted the Government after the last war. Then the words “returned soldier” were easily defined. Any soldier, sailor, airman or nursing sister who returned to Australia after embarking for active service in 1914-1918 was designated a. returned soldier. A fair definition of “a returned soldier” as applied to the present war is probably holding up legislation. Preference is a form of. repatriation. Some people contend that the policy of preference to returned soldiers is outmoded. The ideal economic situation would be one in which every citizen wa3 in employment. Whilst waiting for that ideal, the discharged ex-servicemen, classified as returned soldiers, are entitled to preferential consideration. By virtue of being on active service, they have lost opportunities for advancement or learning a trade or of gaining experience in their former civil occupation, actual or intended. Their grip and knowledge in that task has weakened and to make matters worse, the contemporary at home has taken advantage of the soldier’s absence to consolidate his position or profession. Continuing without a break, the contemporary has achieved greater efficiency and therefore, more naturally is preferred by an employer. True many a non-soldier has for the time being, had to abandon his civil occupation, but he has taken on somewhat similar work in war production establishments, at wages nearly double that of the service men, without risk of endangering his health or losing his life. Thousands of returned soldiers will need help when hostilities cease. Thousands will repatriate themselves. Preference, I repeat, is a form of repatriation which no government can ignore. ‘The future of ex-service men. must not be merged or submerged in any grandiose scheme of socialization. I propose at the appropriate date to move an amendment which will give effect to preference. I had certain other amendments prepared, but in discussions with the Minister I have received satisfactory answers in regard to two of them, which I therefore will not press. I propose to refer - to one of them now, relating to widows’ pensions. A wife with three children and a husband fighting overseas receives £5 ls. 6d. a week into the home. If the husband is killed, she receives ££ 12s. fid. into the home, or 9s. less. That should not be. The Minister has promised to look into it, and I shall not press the matter any further at this stage. The special committee that was appointed to look into the anomalies in the bill, and bring it up to date has done a very good job. I think that when the measure becomes law it will exceed in generosity the’ repatriation legislation of any other country.
.- The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron.) in introducing this bill said that “ repatriation is founded on the gratitude the nation feels for those who have risked their lives and limbs in the service of us all “. “With that sentiment I think we all entirely agree. The nation’s duty to its sons is to make certain that, as far as can be done, they are assured of such financial resources for themselves, their wives and their children that they shall not be in want. When we’ look at the bill we find that it does not repatriate a single soldier. It does not discharge that duty. Although it provides pensions for the widows of those who have given their lives, and for those who have lost limbs, it does nothing to ensure that a single one of the men who have offered their lives for their country and served three years or more away from their homes, shall be able to secure employment or to take the same place as he would have taken had he not served his country. I appreciate that it is impossible to measure lives and limbs in money, but we ca”n make sure that the dependants of those who have given their lives shall not be in want, that those who have been wounded or become sick on active service shall live in a reasonable standard of comfort, and that the fortunate ones who return are not prejudiced by the sacrifices that they have made for their country. It is a hollow mockery to suggest that repatriation is merely to provide pensions for the widows of those who are killed, or for those who are allowed to become destitute. Is it too much to ask the Government to ensure that those who have offered their lives shall be able to obtain employment on their return to civilian life?
– Is not the bill a first step in that direction?
– The obligation of the Government is to prevent them from ever becoming destitute rather than aid them when they have become destitute. I intended to move an amendment to provide that not a single man should be discharged from the Army until employment is found for him, or until he asks for his discharge. I would, of course, except cases of misconduct or discharge by sentence of court martial. On consideration, however, of the constitutional position, I feel that it may be better to introduce such an alteration of the law in a separate bill or by motion, and for this I shall ask .the support not only of the members of the Opposition, but also of the members of the Government .party, so that they may give something tangible to the men who have gone abroad. Let -us say to these men : “ When the day comes for us to celebrate peace, and to tell you that your ‘services are not further required to defend. Australia, you will remain in the Army until we can provide you with a suitable job.” That is far better than saying to them: “You have done a grand job ; now we do not want you any further, go and wander around the streets, look for employment, try tocompete with those who have not risked their lives, who have got all the good jobs, and who have had, in trade and commerce, four years’ experience which has been denied to you.” Many of the lads who were so highly praised by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) in his very eloquent speech to-day concerning” the return of the 9th Division of the Australian Imperial Force enlisted at the age of eighteen and have sr.ent three years abroad. They have never learnt commerce or industry, but have learnt to fight, and have fought well. What chance have they of competing with those of the same age who stayed at home and have had three years’ experience in trade and commerce, who know all the tricks of the trade and have made all the essential contacts? What this country and every serviceman expects is that Australia will do its duty by those men who have done their duty by Australia. Since the war began, we have seen our Navy bringing honour and glory upon Australia in every ocean of the world. We have seen our Air Force fight over almost every country, and our soldiers fight in Libya, Greece, Crete, Syria, Egypt, New Guinea, Papua and other countries, in all of which they have brought honour and glory to Australia. I ask honorable senators to reflect for one moment on what would have happened if those men had refused to go away and fight for Australia. What would have been .the result if they had taken the attitude taken by the people of Denmark, Belgium and Holland? No one can have the slightest doubt that this country would have been invaded. The Japanese came as far south as Papua, but if it had not been for our fighting men, they would have been in Australia to-day. I know that the moment that this suggestion of mine is put forward, somebody will say: “ We cannot afford to keep these men in the Army until we can assure them of employment.” I have heard so often the “ we-have-not-got-the-money “ argument that I ask -the Government and every member of the Opposition to declare now: “ So far as our men who have fought and saved Australia are concerned, nc are going to see that, financially, they are not prejudiced by the years of war service that they have given to their country.” The only suggestion that I have heard in this debate offering any security or promise of help to the great majority of the ; fighting forces is the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Brand, for the principle of preference in employment to returned servicemen. I shall support that because it goes a little way, although I am afraid only a very little way, towards giving the real justice that should be meted out to the men who have served abroad. I shall return for the moment, to the question of where the money is to be obtained. I remind honorable senators that despite the great crisis through which we are now passing, we have been able to provide the money not only to pay our fighting men, but also those who remain at home in comfort. When the war is over no member of our fighting forces should be discharged until a job can be provided for him. Rather than permit our servicemen to re-enter civil life without jobs to go to, it would be far better to keep them in the services where their physical fitness and discipline is assured. What would the cost of such action be compared with the loss which we might have suffered had these men not fought? We should not forget the losses that have been suffered in countries such as Belgium where entire towns have been destroyed and valuable industrial plants blown to pieces. How much would have been left in Australia had we permitted the enemy to come to this country; had we allowed him to bomb our cities, to steal our food, and to take everything that has been taken in the conquered countries of Europe? The cost of retaining our men in the fighting services after the war until they can be placed in employment, would be insignificant compared with the loss that .we should have suffered had they not had the spirit, willingness and patriotism to fight. When peace is declared, a large proportion of the Australian Imperial Force no doubt will immediately seek discharge. They will wish to get back to their homes, their families and their civil occupations: but a large body of men will have to be retained in the fighting forces to ensure adequate defence. Heaven forbid that we should ever permit our defences to relapse into the perilous state that they were in from 1929 to 1934.
I notice that the bill provides for an extension of repatriation privileges to members of the Militia. I do not complain about that, but I do say that where privileges are equal, responsibilities also should be equal. The Government cannot, unblushingly, give to the Militia the same privileges as are enjoyed by the Australian Imperial Force, unless the Militia undertakes the same responsibilities, namely, to fight the enemy wherever he can be found. That brings me to a point which I made in a speech last week, namely, the urgent need, if we are to defend this country and prevent the desolation that has occurred in the conquered countries’ of Europe, to establish a single army which can fight anywhere. I am becoming more and more alarmed at the Government’s bias in favour of the Militia. Why should militiamen be given advantages and preferences over members of the Australian Imperial Force who have volunteered for service anywhere in the world’, whereas the Militia is to be allowed to serve only in Australia and in certain areas which have been defined by Parliament? Last week it was stated, in this chamber that militiamen were to be given 2S days’ leave whereas members of the Australian Imperial Force could have only 21 days owing to the exigencies of the service, and this week we learn that the Militia is to be given all the privileges of the Australian Imperial Force so far as repatriation is concerned. It is unfortunate that there should be two cranes in Australia, and it is hard for a member of one army to be speaking in <his way about the members of another. We are all good Australians, and we all “.visit to figh’t as one army. That would be accomplished if the Government had the courage to enforce conscription for overseas service, but obviously it has not the backbone to do that.
– Send them all overseas and lose Australia.
– We shall lose Australia if our men are not prepared to fight; but they have proved themselves willing to fight. They are becoming disgusted with this spineless and flabby Government. I have some very great friends amongst honorable senators opposite. They will recall that on several occasions before I left for overseas I supported them on various matters, and I am sure that if I could speak to them individually and privately, at least onehalf of them would agree that we should have one army; but obviously they are not allowed to express such views. I ask honorable senators opposite to lift themselves above party politics and to realize that Australia is passing through the greatest crisis in its history. They should be broadminded and realize that the situation is such that we must have one army fighting for Australia.
– The Prime Minister said that one army was necessary.
– I am not concerned with what any individual may say; an overwhelming majority of the Australian people agree that there is a need” for one army, and not this farce of more than one army.
– They agree that the Opposition is a farce with its numerous party divisions.
– It is also a farce to have a government and an opposition when there should be a national government as there is in Great Britain and in other countries engaged in this war. I conclude by saying that I propose to take steps to provide legislation ensuring that no member of the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, or the Royal Australian Navy shall be discharged at the end of the war until employment is found for him or until he makes a personal request for his discharge.
Debate (on motion by Senator Foll) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 2.30 p.in.
Wheat Ik dustry - Potatoes - Br. Blue Peas.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
1 10.57]. - While I was attending a meeting of the Production Executive last Thursday, the Leader of- the Opposition (Senator McLeay) made some comments concerning wheat payments. These were of such an extraordinary character that I find it necessary to analyse them for the benefit of honorable senators. The honorable gentleman commenced by informing the Senate that be had obtained his information from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I have since obtained a copy of the figures supplied to bini, and have been amazed to discover that the honorable senator did not quote all of the figures supplied to him, but merely those which he considered would benefit his case. To -use a colloquialism, the honorable senator attempted to put a “ swift one “ over other honorable senators, and .more particularly over the Government. The figures supplied included those of the Ho. 1 pool for which he was personally responsible. The total payment received by growers for the No. i pool was 2s. 9.9d. a bushel, less costs. Obviously, the honorable senator considered that if this were made known, it would seriously weaken his ease, so he promptly dropped any reference to that pool from his statement; but that was not ali. The honorable senator decided, after deducting only 4£d. a bushel for freight from payment made in respect of the Nos. 2 and 4 pools, to compare final realizations from the Nos. 2 and 4 pools with the first advance for the No. 5 pool. Although the honorable senator must have known that wheat for the No. 5 pool was received between December, 1941, and February, 1942, he committed a further error by stating that two years badelapsed since the pool was established. J. can only assume that he is without any knowledge of the period in which wheat is harvested and delivered, possibly because his interests are centred in the cities. Another significant omission, but one which can be understood in view of his desire to build up a case at any cost, was his failure to tell the Senate that there was a period of two years between the first and -final payments for wheat in the Nos. 2 and 4 pools. Even this doe3 not reveal the- complete story. -When the No. 2 pool was formed the Commonwealth was expending approximately £ 50,000,000 on war, and when the No. 4 pool was established it was expending approximately £171,000,000 for that purpose. The point I make is that it was very much easier to provide the required finance when the No. 2 pool was formed. Yet when announcing the financial assistance to be made available for the No. 2 pool the honorable senator in. a statement to this chamber said -
I am now able to announce that we have arranged not only tha.t the amount of the advances shall be increased to 2s. 10*d. a bushel for bagged wheat, less rail freight, and 2s. 8-Ad. a bushel for bulk wheat less rail freight, thus giving an average return of 2s. Od. a bushel on bagged wheat at the country siding, hut also that the advances shall be” paid in one amount as soon as practicable after delivery of the wheat … I earnestly say that these financial proposals represent not only a fair but also a generous approach to the problem by the Government, and I should welcome the co-operation of honorable members in bringing about a realization of .this fact.
A iter ali, some regard must lie paid to maintaining some limit upon the accommodation to be provided by the central bank, which is, in connexion with war, already shouldering a vast and growing responsibility. Irresponsible talk of limitless millions would, if given effect to, produce a grave inflation of costs and prices, and the damaging impact of such a policy would be most felt by primary producers who cannot pass on their increased costs, and who in the last resort have a. most vital interest in the financial stability of the nation.
When the honorable senator visits the wheat districts, to which he referred last week, I suggest that he state the reason for his change of heart. I suggest also that he make it clear that the No. 4’ pool was a drought pool, and that little more than S0,000,000 bushels of wheat was received into it. Further, he should inform the public that at that time shipping was easier to obtain and both the domestic and oversea demands were very much firmer than they are to-day. If he is anxious to make atonement for past mistakes, he might also point out that, although two-thirds of the wheat taken into the No., 5 pool remains unsold, the Government is now examining the possibility of making an additional immediate advance, and that further advances will be made from time to time.
The honorable senator, when comparing payments under the stabilization plan and the new plan, also failed to indicate that, the advances being paid under the new plan are not at sidings.
As the payment for quota wheat is 4s. a bushel at sidings, and as freight, handling, storage and interest charges, which approximate1s. a bushel, are being paid by the Government, the price is equivalent to 5s. a bushel. I remind honorable senators that wheat-growers’ organizations have been pressing, since the inception of the stabilization scheme, for governments to defray these charges. Requests were made when the Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Commerce, but they were fruitless. That, in itself, is an indication that his support of primary industry is much more active when he is in opposition than when a member of a government.
The honorable senator during the course of his remarks last week also criticized the attitude of the present Government towards the producers of butter, barley and other commodities. Whilst I do not wish to survey primary industries at length, I remind him that the only increases of prices received by dairymen since the outbreak of war have been given during the life of the Curtin Government. Administrations of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member turned a deaf ear to requests of those engaged in the dairying industry for increases of the price of dairy products, consequently he early forfeited any right to be regarded as an advocate of the industry. It should hardly be necessary for me to remind the honorable senator that the present method of making advances for barley was instituted during the life of governments with which he was associated. The present Government contemplates overhauling this method and substituting a more equitable scheme. I anticipate an early announcement of the change. Wool-growers, tobacco-growers, meat producers and others received scant consideration until the Curtin Government came into office. They have, how ever, received increases during the last sixteen months. Were the time at my disposal not so short, I should be prepared to survey the whole field of primary production, confident in the knowledge that the Curtin Government has nothing to lose when its record is compared with that of its predecessors.
– The statement by the Minister for
External Territories (Senator Fraser) shows that figures can be made to prove anything. As the Minister now poses as an advocate of the primary producers, I desire to direct his attention to the following letter which I have received from a primaryproducer: -
I am writing to place before you one of the many things which we producers are having put across us by the authorities. For instance, in the first week in February, per the S.S. Kowarra, 136 sacks of my Bismark potatoes were shipped to Sydney, and I have just had returns through my merchant that these potatoes were taken over by the defence authorities for military requirements, my payout being the minimum guaranteed price of £8 10s. a ton, from which was deducted even the wharfage at Devonport, i.e., 15s., whilst those which escaped the military round-up, and were released for civilian requirements, brought more favorable returns to the growers.
The following is a copy of a circular memorandum which accompanied my cheque: -
Enclosing your cheque for Kowarra shipment. Your potatoes were used to fill order given by Deputy Potato Controller for military requirements, and we have been instructed to return growers whose potatoes were used for this order at the following rates: -
Balance of the shipment was disposed of for civilian requirements, and these realized a more favorable price. We advise you of these facts so that you will appreciate the position in the event of your learning that other growers who delivered potatoes for the same shipment have received returns at a higher rate.
Another complaint is the pea question. We were forced into signing contracts for 15s. a bushel for blue peas, or we would not get any fertilizer to grow same, whilst in New Zealand the growers there are getting 17s. 6d., government guaranteed price. These are being shipped now to Australia in large quantities, being landed at £1 2s.6d. a bushel Australian ports, and resold by various merchants to the packers at £1 4s. a bushel.
I am informed by men of the trade that the quantity of peas now being imported into Australia is more than enough to cope with civilian demands until after June, when very likely contract peas from Tasmania will not be required.
On these figures, at least, the Tasmanian price to growers should bo within the vicinity of 19s. to £1 a bushel, which would have been the case if the Government had not taken control.
Hoping that you will be able to make representations for a more favorable deal to us men on the ground, or otherwise, owing to excessive costs of production, we will not be able to see the distance,however willing we may be in spirit!
Ihope that the Minister will see what can be done with regard to the matters to which my correspondent has directed attention. Will he inform me why potatoes commandeered by the defence authorities are paid for at one price, whilst those sold for civilian use fetch a higher price?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented: -
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the year 1941-42, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Adelaide River, Northern Territory.
Lidcombe, New South Wales.
Mauton Gap, near Darwin, Northern Territory.
National Security Act -
National Security (Civil Defence Workers’ Compensation ) Regulations - Order - Eligible persons (Western Australia).
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Manufacture of baby carriages.
Taking possession of land, &c. (162).
Use of land (2).
National Security (Man Power) Regulat ions- Orders - Protected undertakings (52).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, Nos. 58, 59,60,61.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, No. 57.
Senate adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1943/19430323_senate_16_174/>.