17th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon.. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Leader of the Senate state whether the agreement between Australia and New Zealand was submitted to and approved by the Advisory War Council?
– I am unable to answer the question, but I shall have the matter investigated and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator
– On the 16th February Senator Lamp asked me, without notice, what action had been taken to call up the wealthy young women who spend a great deal of their time in hotel lounges. The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer: -
The cases of all women in the following categories have been examined, and action has been taken to divert those available to high priority work - (a) women not gainfully employed; (b) single women aged 18 to 35 years. Action has been taken from time to time to check persons found in places such as hotel lounges, but in the main it has been found that these people are either shift workers, employees on holidays, or married women with domestic responsibilities.
– On the 18th February Senator Brand asked, upon notice -
The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer : - 1.Plans to mobilize sufficient labour, both male and female, for fruit processing in Victoria were made by the Directorate of Man Power some time ago. If it becomes necessary in the implementation of these plans, labour willbe diverted temporarily from war industries.
– Will the Leader of the Senate state whether the Government will consider re-opening with the signatories to the Atlantic Charter the subject of the terms of the charter, with a view to the inclusion of a fifth freedom, namely, freedom of opportunity?
– The objective of the honorable senator will receive consideration.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for the Interior, I express my pleasure at seeing the Minister back in his place, and evidently restored to health. Does he intend to persist in the attitude that he has so far adopted of refusing to allow members of Parliament to attend deputations that wait upon him concerning matters affecting his department?
– I thank the honorable senator for his remarks regarding myself. Since I have never pursued the policy to which he has referred I can have no intention to continue to pursue it. If the honorable senator has in mind a certain incident on a specific occasion, I may say, in order that I shall not be accused of misrepresentation, that I received a deputation which I had agreed to hear, and refused to receive another deputation of which I had not been advised.
Welfare Officers - Release of Personnel
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Will the Minister give consideration to the appointment of welfare officers to each unit of the Army?
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : -
The Australian Army Amenities Service provides officers with formations in the field, in training areas and with hospitals and con valescent depots. Numerous officers are furnished by the various philanthropic bodies, and these officers are assisted in their duties by a number of soldiers detailed for the purpose.
Certain portions of welfare duty are undertaken by chaplains. Amenities officers are allotted to special duties for certain aspects of the soldiers’ requirements arising from the Army request hour.
Women amenities officers are detailed to attend to women’s services. In addition to these officers and other ranks specially allotted to this whole-time duty, smaller unite appoint officers to attend to the welfare of the troops in addition to their ordinary military duty, and these officers work in conjunction with the whole-time staff referred to.
Additional appointments of welfare officers will be made as occasion arises, but an undertaking could not be given to appoint a fulltime welfare officer to every unit in the Army.
SenatorWILSON asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Of those released from the Army for primary production since the announcement of the Government’s proposal to release 20,000 men: (a) what proportion have had two or more years’ service overseas; (b) what are the numbers released in each State?
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : -
asked the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The Minister for Air has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Position of Mr.G. M. Sommers
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
Senator Aylett raised certain matters connected with this question onthe adjournment of the Senate on the 18th February. I waa, unfortunately, absent on that occasion. The whole question is now being looked into.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 18th February (vide page 352).
Postponed clause 15 -
Subject to this act, every person (not being r person in receipt of, or qualified to receive, h pension ) who -
is residing in Australia and has been continuously so resident for a period of not less than one year immediately prior to the date of the claim; and
satisfies the Director -General that he-
is unemployed and that his unemployment is not due to his being a direct participant in a strike; shall be qualified to receive unemployment benefit.
Upon which Senator Gibson had moved by way of amendment -
That the word “ person “, first occurring, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ British subject “.
.- As my amendment means that persons who come to Australia from Allied countries would have to remain five years before they could enjoy the benefits of this legislation, I should not object if the period were reduced to three years. The reason for the amendment is that, as the clause stands, foreigners who came to this country would immediately be eligible for the benefits provided by this legislation, whereas, in my opinion, they should not have any advantage over a British subject who would have to reside here for twelve months before he could benefit from it.
– I support the amendment. The people whom we should encourage to come to this country are those who wish to make Australia their home and to adopt an Australian nationality. We do not want those who come here intending to stay only for a short period, during which they are determined to get as much from this country as they can, and then to return to their national home. I saw the danger of that kind oi thing when I was in Palestine. That country was flooded with refugees who had fled from European countries in order to escape from persecution. In conversation with many of them, I found that only a limited number intended to make their permanent home in Palestine. They freely admitted that it was their intention to return to Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, or other countries from which they had been driven, as soon as it was possible to do so. Although I am of the opinion that we should extend to those who are prepared to make Australia their home the same benefits as are enjoyed by our own citizens, I do not think that these other people should receive similar treatment. Senator Gibson’s amendment would enable any British subject, or any naturalized British subject, to get the benefits of this legislation after a year’s residence in Australia. If a migrant is not prepared to apply for naturalization, he should not, in my opinion, be eligible for the benefits conferred by this legislation. I urge the Government to accept the amendment.
Senator MclEAY (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition) [3.19]. - This matter was referred to during the secondreading debate, but I do not remember the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) saying whether or not it had been considered by the Government when the bill was being prepared. As the clause now stands, a person who has resided in Australia for twelve months and becomes ill before he has obtained work will be entitled to sickness benefits. I should also like the Minister to explain the position. I support Senator Gibson’s amendment, and trust that the Government will accede to the request of the Opposition to amend the bill in the direction suggested. Obviously, we shall head for disaster if the Government persists in its intention to charge the cost of the scheme to general revenue, particularly when the Government is unable to supply anything like an accurate estimate of the cost.
– As I indicated earlier, the Government will not accept the amendment. The residential qualifi- cation period of twelve months is embodied in the New Zealand legislation. Honorable senators opposite have raised a bogy about internees, contending that these people will qualify for benefits under this legislation immediately it is proclaimed. Internees will not be covered by this legislation so long as they remain internees. I again emphasize the importance of this legislation as an encouragement to migration. All honorable senators will admit that we cannot hope to confine our migration policy to people of British stock. We must encourage newcomers from non-British countries; and once such people come here and accept Australian citizenship, they are entitled to the benefits of that citizenship. With respect to sickness benefits, I point out that all foreigners must be passed as medically fit before they are admitted to this country.
– Some of the internees in this country are British subjects. Does the Minister’s statement mean that, upon their release, those people will be excluded from benefits under this legislation ?
– No. Some internees are native-born Australians.
– Will Italian internees who do not become naturalized be eligible for benefits under this legislation upon their release after the cessation of hostilities 1
– Any person who is now interned, and who remains in this country after the cessation of hostilities, and whose citizenship is recognized by tb-e government of the day, will be eligible to receive benefits under this legislation, provided he has resided in this country for twelve months.
– I do not think that the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) has answered the question asked by Senator McLeay. I can understand the point for which the Minister is contending, namely, that any persons who choose to remain in Australia should enjoy the benefits of Australian laws, whether they be naturalized or not. However, the real issue is that they have only to reside in Australia for one year when they will become entitled to these benefits.
It is unwise to allow these passers-fay, such as Senator Wilson has referred to, the benefits of this legislation, when they have no intention of making their permanent home in Australia. I ask the Minister to extend the qualifying residential period sufficiently to ensure that these people really want to become part and parcel of the Australian nation. I realize the importance of this class of legislation as an encouragement of migration, but a provision of this kind raises the question as to whether we are not opening the door too wide.
– Apparently, honorable senators opposite overlook the provision of a work test.
– What is the sickness test?
– A doctor’s certificate must be provided.
– How would the work test apply in the case of internees who have been engaged in work in Australia ?
– Once an internee has been released, he will qualify for benefits under this legislation, provided he fulfils all of the conditions laid down in this measure. The citizenship of an internee will be a matter for determination by the government of the day.
– If it could be said that Senator Gibson’s amendment would encourage aliens to become naturalized British subjects, it would have some merit. However, from my experience with aliens, I believe that the unemployment and sickness benefits provided under this legislation will not be a very great- inducement to aliens to become British subjects. If that is what Senator Gibsonhas in mind, I do not think that his amendment will help us. I also disagree with the view that Senator Gibson’s amendment will materially reduce the cost of benefits by excluding numbers of aliens. We shall not stand idly .by, and allow aliens in our midst to be reduced to needy circumstances, or to a condition of sickness, without coming to their aid. What Senator Gibson suggests is that the people of Australia would ignore such sick or needy people, but I am sure that he does not mean that. However, that is what could happen if his amendment were carried. The unemployed or sick alien, if not a charge on this fund, would, if the amendment were carried, become a charge on some welfare fund of th.-. State in which he resided. Work must be found for him, or he must be given gome amelioration of his conditions if he is unemployed, and, in case of sickness, he must be helped with medical services and medicine. For those reasons [ am opposed to the amendment.
.- The Minister’s reply was very weak. I propose to test his sincerity in relation to paragraph a which provides that every person who “ . . . . has attained the age of sixteen years, but has not attained the age of 65 years or in the case of a female 60 years . . . shall be qualified to receive unemployment benefit”. What is the position of a man who comes to this country at 50 years of age? He cannot get the old-age pension until he is 70, and his benefits under this measure cease at 65, so that for a period of five years he is not entitled to any help whatever. If the Minister is sincere, he will make provision for that man for the intervening five years. The objections raised by Senator Allan MacDonald are also weak. The people to whom I refer have resided in Australia for a year or two, are working on farms, pay no taxes, and, immediately this measure comes into operation, receive its benefits. Why should they receive benefits when a British subject must reside here for twelve months before he can receive them? The bill is most inconsistent. I hope that the Minister will answer my criticism of paragraph a more fully than he has answered the case for my amendment.
– I direct Senator Gibson’s attention to clause 36, which gives the Director-General discretionary power to grant special benefits to any person who by reason of age, physical or mental disability, or domestic circumstances, or for any other reason, is unable to earn a sufficient livelihood for himself and his dependants.
.- If that is the answer to our criticisms, why have the bill at all? Why not give the whole power and authority to the Director-General, seeing that he can override all of its provisions? The DirectorGeneral’s powers should be more strictly defined.
.- In speaking on the second reading I asked a question regarding paragraph c, which provides that “… every person who satisfies the Director-General that he is unemployed, and that his unemployment is not due to his being a direct participant in a strike . . . shall be qualified to receive unemployment benefit “. What does the Government mean by “ a direct participant in a strike “ ? If a strike occurs, is any one refusing to work in the industry in which it occurs a direct participant? If members of another union decided not to work, would they be direct participants in a strike? If some men were absent on sick pay and returned to work after the strike had begun and then refused to work, would they be direct participants in a strike? A great deal of clarification of this paragraph is needed. A man may claim not to be a direct participant in the strike because he was not there on the day on which the strike started. I can forsee much misunderstanding occurring with the members of other unions who stop work and claim that the stoppage is not a strike because they are only acting in sympathy with the men who are striking. Will they be direct participants in a strike? Although I am in sympathy with the object which the Government seems to aim at, I am sure that it will be necessary to make the meaning of the clause clearer to prevent all sorts of legal quibbles and objections. I presume that this paragraph does not apply to sickness benefits, and that if a man who is on strike becomes ill, the intention is that he shall receive them. It is further provided that “… every person who . . . satisfies the DirectorGeneral that he is capable of undertaking and is willing to undertake work which in the opinion of the DirectorGeneral is suitable to:be undertaken by that person . . . shall be qualified to receive unemployment benefit “. When I referred to this provision during the second-reading debate, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) interjected that a man was entitled to get work at his own trade. I instanced the case of a coalminer able to work and who was offered work in some other industry. According to the interpretation given by the Leader of the Senate, that man would be able to say, “ Oh no, I must have work at my own particular trade”. The Minister surely sees at once that if the test as to whether a man is unemployed or not is that everyman must be employed at his own particular trade, the provision becomes ridiculous. Must a carpenter get work at the carpentering trade, although he is quite able to work at some other trade, and does the same thing apply to a stonemason or a slaughterman ?
– Would the honorable senator try to make a butcher out of a carpenter?
– Many carpenters could very well act as slaughtermen if they were allowed to do so. If a man is unemployed and there is work for him as a slaughterman, he is not allowed to take the work because he does not belong to the slaughtermen’s union; but does that release him from the obligation to work at some other occupation ? Does the fact that he cannot get work at his own trade debar him from the benefits of this measure? Is he debarred because although he is ready to work as a slaughterman he is not allowed to do so? I was alarmed to hear the Leader of the Senate give the interpretation that work must be provided for a man in his own trade.
– I did not use that phrase. I was asked what a coal-miner would do and I said, “ Dig coal, I suppose “.
– I instanced a coalminer, and the Minister said, “ Yes, if he cannot get work as a coal-miner then he is released from the obligation to seek work at anything else “.
– I never said that.
– That is the interpretation which I placed on the Minister’s reply.
– This matter is also covered by clause 36.
– I am afraid that the Director-General, who is mentioned in clause 36, will have a heavy task. I am sure that the Minister will appreciate the need for clarity in both these matters. First, there should be a clear definition of what is a participant in a strike, and, secondly, there should be a general instruction, or at least an understanding, that if an unemployed person is offered work which he i3 able to perform, whether it be at his own trade or not, he must accept that work or become ineligible for the benefits set out in this measure.
– I have experienced considerable difficulty in following the points that have been raised by Senator Leckie. I shall deal first with the question of strikes : It is most undesirable that in the event of a strike in, say, a colliery or perhaps in the Sydney transport system, such as that which occurred recently, the gun should be held at the head of an unemployed person to force him to accept work in that industry, merely because the regular employees are on strike. We do not want this legislation to be used to compel men to “ scab “ on their fellow workers. In regard to the second part of the honorable senator’s remarks, it is not the intention under this measure to compel men to be kept strictly to their own trades in the event of unemployment. I remind honorable senators that during the depression years carpenters, butchers and, in fact, tradesmen of all classes were only too pleased to accept jobs of any kind. Obviously, this measure would not be used to compel a municipal employee in a southern State to accept employment as a wharf lumper at Darwin, merely because there was a job there for him. However, he might be offered work as a wharf lumper in a southern State. Conversely, should a wharf lumper be unable to obtain a job at his own trade, as many were during the depression, he could be employed on municipal work. The bill does not provide that a man must work at his own trade, or be paid unemployment benefit.
– But if a job cannot be provided for him at his own trade he will be released from his obligation to work.
– The onus, first, is on the worker himself to obtain a suitable job, and, secondly, upon the department to provide employment for him. A job provided by the department may not be at his own trade, but may be quite suitable employment.
– I am concerned with the words “ a direct participant in a strike “. Very often strikes are caused by noisy minorities, and agreed to perhaps by the very barest of majorities. Sometimes workers are forced to go on strike, as was the case in the recent transport strike in Sydney, when many employees were anxious to work, particularly in view of the fact that lack of transport facilities meant that large numbers of munitions workers could not reach their places of employment, with a consequent loss of production. I realize that a majority of members of the union concerned in the transport hold-up voted for the strike, but there are many cases in which the decision to cease work is made by a comparatively small majority. It also happens on occasions that men are called out on strike without a vote being taken. Also, there are certain unions in which officials reign supreme. For instance, I understand that the officials of the Ironworkers Union do not have to publish balance-sheets. The secretary of that union is known as “ Balance-sheet “ Thornton.
– That is something which the honorable, senator has read in a newspaper. He is indulging in “ muck-raking “.
– The Minister has no right to make that remark. I am seeking information from the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) and not from the Minister who has interjected.
– The honorable senator is always “ muck-raking “.
– ‘Order ! The Postmaster-.General must refrain from interjecting.
– If an employee who has been called out on strike by the executive of his union, and against his own wish, indicates to the DirectorGeneral that he is prepared to go back to work, will he still be debarred from receiving benefits under this clause?
– As a former Minister of the Crown, Senator Foll must realize that it is impossible to legislate for individual cases such as the one he has mentioned. Consequently, this measure goes so far as to provide that an unemployed person can refuse a direction to work in an undertaking in which the usual employees are out on strike, and still be eligible for benefits under this measure. We in this Parliament have to abide by majority decisions, and that applies also to members of trades union organizations.
– I draw the attention of the committee to an extraordinary statement made by the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) in his second-reading speech. The honorable senator said -
It is proposed to deny benefits to those whose unemployment is due to direct participation in strikes. Refusing to accept employment in the place of any one on strike will not in itself disqualify the person from benefits.
Does not’ the Minister think that that state of affairs will encourage strikes?
– This clause will serve merely to perpetuate the dreadful position existing in this country to-day, where the law is not being enforced, and the policy of appeasement is leading to more strikes. I remind honorable senators that this measure will be law not only in war-time but also in peace-time. Does the Minister think it is right that in the event of a strike in, say, a transport industry, men who are quite capable of doing various jobs in that industry should be kept on the dole?
– It does not mean that.
– The Minister himself said so in his second-reading speech. It cannot mean anything else. I regret that the Government has seen fit to insert a provision such as this in the bill. Who will make a decision in matters such as this? Will it be the responsible Minister or the Director-General?
– The DirectorGeneral.
– A person is either a participant in a strike or he is not a participant in a strike. There is no need for the word “ direct I therefore move -
That, in paragraph (c), sub-paragraph (i), the word “ direct “ be left out.
The effect of that amendment if adopted, would be that if a man were on strike, he would be acting illegally, because all strikes are illegal, and therefore he would not be entitled to the benefit of the law. It should be a simple matter for the Director-General to decide whether or not a person were entitled to the benefit of this legislation. If there were work waiting for him - that is suitable work in which he could be employed - and he refused to accept that ‘work, then he would be acting illegally and should not be entitled to benefits. I should think that the word “ direct “ will provide a field of argument for lawyers for many years. What is a “direct” participant? For instance, somebody moves a resolution that certain tram waymen go out on strike. Somebody seconds that motion, and it may be said that the mover and seconder are direct participants in the strike, but how can we say that anybody else is a direct participant? We do not know who voted for the motion and who voted against it. What would be the position of a man who goes on strike contrary to the advice of his trade union and against an award of the Arbitration Court? Take the clearest case one could have of an illegal strike - that regarding which the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has made strong statements urging the men who are striking illegally to return to work. A person may claim the benefit and the DirectorGeneral may say, “No, you are on strike “. The man may reply, “ But I am not a direct participant. I did not move the motion in favour of the strike. I did not second it, and did not even vote for it.” The man may even contend that he did not wish to go on strike. The Government means either that every striker automatically deprives himself of the benefit of the bill, or that a person can both be illegally on strike and get the benefit of the bill. I ask the Minister to eliminate the word “ direct which causes all the confusion. Both the Government and the Opposition are in agreement that persons illegally on strike should not get the benefit of the bill. Therefore, I contend that the amendment should be accepted.
– I do not understand the significance of the word “direct”. Either a person is a participant in a strike, or he is not. If he is a participant, the intention of the Government is that he should be excluded from the benefit of the bill at the discretion of the Director-General. What point is given to the clause by the inclusion of the word “ direct ‘’ other than to create a difficulty for the Director-General in determining whether or not a person is a participant in a strike? The word “ direct “ is liable to lead to a great deal of confusion. In some instances unionists go on strike in sympathy with their fellow unionists in another industry. In such circumstances could they be correctly described as direct participants? Perhaps the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Fraser) could throw a little light on the matter. I do not desire to agree to an alteration which would leave the clause too vague without a direction to the Director-General, upon whom a great responsibility will be cast.
, - I hope that when matters of such vital importance are raised the Minister in charge of the bill will reply to them.
– I do not know how many times the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) desires me to explain the clause. I have already made the position clear to Senator Leckie. The Government will not accept the amendment.
– I should like to hear a reply from the Minister to the question raised by Senator Gibson that a man coming to Australia at the age of 50 years cannot receive the old-age pension until 70 years of age and therefore could not get any benefit between the ages of 65 and 70 years. Am I to understand that the Minister regards that point as covered by clause 36, which gives a wide discretion to the DirectorGeneral? If he does not accept that view, is it not desirable that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should be amended in order that cases such as that mentioned by Senator Gibson might be provided for?
– Under the special benefits clause the DirectorGeneral has authority in any case to decide that special benefits are necessary, and I have no doubt that such a decision would be reached in instances such as that mentioned by Senator Gibson.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 (Sickness benefit).
.- Sub-clause 2 of this clause provides that where any payment is made to any person, not being a brother or halfbrother, who acts as a substitute during any period of incapacity, the DirectorGeneral may regard the person as having suffered a loss of income equal to the amount of that payment. It seems to me that a person should be permitted to employ his brother, if he did not desire to employ a stranger.
– If a dairy-farmer became ill, and required the assistance of his next-door neighbour who happened to be his brother, why should he be disqualified from the full benefit of the bill because of his misfortune, whereas if the substitute were not his brother he would be qualified for the benefit.
– The reason is that otherwise there would be danger of collusion.
– Will the Minister explain the meaning of sub-clause 2?
– That sub-clause will cover, for instance, the case of a small shopkeeper who becomes ill and has to engage a substitute to conduct his business.
– Should he engage his brother, he would not be eligible for the benefits payable under this legislation.
– That is because of the risk of collusion in such cases.
– The sub-clause covers such cases as the employment of a substitute by a small shopkeeper who becomes illShould the substitute be paid, say, £5 a week does the sub-clause mean that the shopkeeper would receive that amount from the Government?
– Of course it does not. He would be entitled only to the payments provided for in this bill.
– The committee is entitled to an explanation of this subclause. The bill is far from clear. If we believe in democracy and the rights of the representatives of the people to consider the legislation brought forward by the Government, the Minister should explain the Government’s intention.
– I have explained the meaning of sub-clause 2.
.- The Minister appears to have got himself, as well as honorable senators generally, in a tangle. Should a man employ some one to take his place during his illness and pay that person, say, £5 a week while so employed, it is not intended under this sub-clause that the Government shall reimburse the employer. Instead, it says, in effect, “ During your illness you are losing £5 a week, which means that your income for that period is less than £1 a week, and for that reason you come under the provisions of this legislation Is that what the sub-clause provides?
– It means exactly what it says.
– The meaning is not clear. I take it that the sub-clause does not provide that a person who employs a substitute shall be refunded by the Government the amount paid for that substitute’s services ; it merely means that because his income for the period falls below £1 a week, because of the necessity to pay another to do his work, he comes under the provisions of this legislation.
– That is exactly what it means.
– Sub-clause 2 appears to be out of place. Moreover, the inclusion of so many brackets adds to its complicated nature. Its meaning becomes clearer if we, for the moment, disregard the words within the brackets, so that the clause would read : “ “Where any payment is made by a person to any other person who acts as his substitute during any period of incapacity, the DirectorGeneral may . . . regard the firstmentioned person as having suffered a loss of income equal to the amount of that payment “. Clause 16 enables certain persons, whose qualifications are set out in the clause, to obtain certain sickness benefits. Are we to superimpose a further liability to reimburse such a person for payments made by him to some other person who has worked for him during a certain period? I cannot see the reason for the insertion of this provision in clause 16 unless it is to link it up with something that has been passed by the Committee. But sub-clause 2 is foreign to the clauses that have been passed, because the benefit in respect of sickness or unemployment is a benefit bestowed by certain legislation. “We are not here providing for the substitution of some one else for the person who is entitled to the benefit. I thought that the bill was aimed at making provision for a person who is unemployed, or is stricken by illness, and therefore sub-clause 2 appears to be foreign to the purpose of the bill. The numerous brackets may be necessary, but they certainly do not make the sub-clause more easily understood. I can imagine legislation of this nature causing difficulty in the event of litigation arising. The Minister may agree to postpone the consideration of this clause with a view to submitting a clear statement as to itsmeaning, and thereby shortening the timeof the discussion.
– The position is comparatively easy to meet in respect of an employee who becomes ill, but when the person concerned is, say, a small shopkeeper or a dairy-farmer who works for himself, it is not so easy. Such a person may have to employ another to carry on his work.
– Could not such cases be met by an addition to paragraph a of sub-clause 1?
– It is quite obvious that a number of honorable senators do not understand the meaning of this clause. The Minister himself has an impossible task in being asked to explain a bill which, because it is so badly drafted, is inexplicable. Take, for instance, sub-clause 2 of this clause. Having regarded the firstmentioned person “ as having suffered a loss of income equal to the amount of that payment “, what does the DirectorGeneral do? That sub-clause does not make sense. I suggest that the bill be re-drafted in ordinary English, which honorable senators and the general public can understand.
– Honorable senators opposite are lifting the wording of which they complain entirely from its context. I direct their attention to paragraph o, which reads - “ . . every person who …. satisfies the Director-General that he is temporarily incapacitated for work by reason of sickness or accident and hae thereby suffered a loss of salary .or other income shall be qualified to receive a sickness benefit.”
The necessity for this clause, as I said earlier, arises from the fact that we are endeavouring as far as possible to prevent collusion. Senator Tangney has instanced the case of a small shopkeeper. Suppose, for instance, that the husband wants to take a holiday, and in order to do so alleges that he is sick, his intention being to take a holiday at the expense of the Commonwealth.
– An applicant for sickness benefit must produce a medical certificate.
– That is so; but honorable senators know, as every one knows, that occasionally doctors’ certificates are obtainable when they should not be obtainable. In order to overcome that possibility paragraph c prescribes that the Director-General must be satisfied as to the bona fides of an applicant. Collusion may also arise in the case of brothers who own adjoining farms. One, alleging sickness, may decide to take a holiday on the understanding that his brother next door will look after his farm in his absence. Should the DirectorGeneral suspect the bona fides of an applicant who produces a medical certificate, he will have the right under this provision to demand that the applicant be examined by a special medical officer. Briefly, the effect of paragraph c is that it gives the Director-General the final word in determining eligibility for benefit.
– The Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) clearly explained the purpose of this clause in his earlier remarks. Take the case of the small shopkeeper mentioned by Senator Tangney. In order to receive benefit, the shopkeeper must show a loss of income. If, for instance, a shopkeeper were making £6 a week profit from his business, and, during his absence owing to illness, had to pay another person £5 to carry on the business, his actual income would be £1 a week. The loss of income would be computed on that basis.
– It would be preferable to omit sub-clause 2 ‘entirely. So far as I can see the object of this subclause is to provide against very involved complications that may arise, and with that object in view the draftsman is endeavouring to- limit and, at the same time, widen the functions of the DirectorGeneral. I point out that under clause 36, sufficient powers will be vested in the Director-General to determine cases of this kind. Sub-clause 2 seems to add complications to a provision that was tolerably clear. The administrative officers would be in a far stronger posi tion if this sub-clause were omitted. All that an applicant is required to do, as set out in paragraph c, is to satisfy the Director-General that he is “ temporarily incapacitated for work by reason of sickness or accident, and has thereby suffered a loss of salary, wages or other income “, and the Director-General has sufficient discretionary power under clause 36 to determine the application. The retention of sub-clause 2 will only give severe headaches to the Director-General. It is a work of supererogation, and will- only tend to complicate the administration of the scheme. I am certain that the draftsman would take no exception to the deletion of sub-clause 2.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 (Continuous residence not to be interrupted by certain absences).
.- I wish to refer particularly to paragraph b, which provides that continuous residence in Australia shall be deemed not to have been interrupted “ by any period of absence during which the claimant’s home, any of his children, or his furniture remained in Australia “. A man could go away for ten years. The ages of his children are not specified. If the clause provided that they must bp under sixteen, it would be understandable. In respect of furniture, a man might have left simply a table and a ah air with a neighbour or friend, and might stay away for ten years, yet under the clause he would still be qualified to receive benefit. The same result would follow if he left grown-up children in Australia. I suggest that paragraphs a and c cover all that is necessary. I would agree to leave out the words “in the aggregate” from paragraph a. The Minister must admit that the clause as it stands is open to a good deal of abuse, and might even allow a swindle to be perpetrated. Its draftsmanship also leaves a great deal to be desired. Paragraph b serves no useful purpose, and I ask the Minister to agree to delete it.
– Paragraph b certainly calls for an explanation. I hope that the Minister will give Senator Leckie a reply.
– I ask that the clause be postponed to allow me to consider the objections raised by Senator Leckie.
A married woman shall not be qualified to receive unemployment benefit or sickness benefit unless the Director-General is satisfied that it is not reasonably possible for her husband to maintain her.
– This clause should be of special interest to married women. According to my reading of it, if tAe husband is unemployed or ill he secures the benefits under the bill irrespective of his wife’s financial position, but if the position is reversed the wife does not receive anything. Why the discrimination between man and wife?
– A married woman cannot qualify for unemployment or sickness benefits if her husband is able to maintain her.
Senator WILSON (South Australia) [4.24J. - What will be the position of a de facto wife? She is entitled under the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act to receive allotments and allowances from a man in the fighting services. Under this clause is she entitled to receive unemployment or sickness benefits irrespective of the amount being paid to her by the de facto husband, whilst a married woman is not entitled to receive any benefit if her husband is able to support her?
– A de facto wife i? not entitled to benefits under the provisions of this bill-
– If the wife of a man on the basic wage is ill, and the husband finds it necessary to employ some one to look after her and the children, cannot she receive help under this measure? Should not provision be made for sickness benefits to be paid to the wife where it is absolutely essential?
– There is no provision in the bill for such a case.
– Could it be done under clause 36?
– The DirectorGeneral might be able to use his discretionary powers in that direction.
– Will the Minister submit an amendment to cover the case raised by Senator Tangney? The point is very important. It is difficult to see any reason why a married woman so placed should not be brought within the provisions of the bill.
.- I thought that Senator Tangney would express considerable indignation at the distinction drawn between men and women. I can see no reason for it. I could understand the clause if it provided that “no married person shall be qualified to receive benefits under this bill unless the Director-General is satisfied that it is not possible for his or her spouse to maintain him or her “. No married woman can get the benefits under the bill if her husband can maintain her, but if a man is out of employment or jil, and his wife has an income of, say, £1,000 a year, he may obtain benefit.
– Not if she has an income of £1,000 a year.
– The wording of the bill does not support the Minister in that contention. It is entirely unfair to differentiate in this way between men and women. The onus is upon a man who has a good income to maintain his wife. That is only right, and I have no objection to it, but I contend that if a wife has a reasonable income, there should be an obligation upon her to keep her husband in the event of sickness. It should work both ways. The tendency to-day is for many married women to work, to own property, and to earn their own incomes, and I cannot see any reason for differentiation in this clause. I urge the Minister to agree to an amendment on the lines which I have suggested, namely, the substitution of the words “ married person “ for the words “ married woman “. Is there any reason why that could not be done?
– If a woman had an income of £1,000 a year, her husband would not be eligible for unemployment benefit.
– I was rather exaggerating when I said £1,000 a year. Say, for instance, she had a reasonably good income, and was capable of maintaining her husband. The Minister can see that the differentiation is absurd.
.- Will the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) say definitely whether a man who is ill, and complies with all the qualifications, can be paid sickness benefit in spite of the fact that his wife may be in receipt of a considerable income?
– Sickness benefit, yes.
– The Minister said a few moments ago that in these circumstances a man would not be eligible for unemployment benefit, and it seems to me that care must be taken to avoid confusion, because, after all, if a man is really ill, he is also unemployed. If the position which I have mentioned be reversed, and the wife is ill, can she receive sickness benefit if her husband has a considerable income?
.- Does the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) intend to leave the matter at that? If so, I am astounded that an anomaly of this kind should be allowed to exist. It is altogether illogical and unfair. The Minister emphasized the desire of the Government to protect the revenue of the country, but he is not doing so by permitting a state of affairs in which abuses may occur. The request which I have made for an amendment of the clause is fair and reasonable, and if the Minister will not accept my suggestion, then he must accept the responsibility for his action. I repeat that he is differentiating unfairly between men and women.
– If the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) is not prepared even to give consideration to this matter, I propose to move an amendment, because, as the clause stands at present, it is most inconsistent. I move -
That the words “ or sickness benefit “ be left out.
The adoption of that amendment would bring the husband and wife into line so far as sickness benefit is concerned. The income of the spouse would not be taken into account in determining eligibility for sickness benefit.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wilson’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman -Senator Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19 (Aboriginal natives).
– The reason for this clause seems difficult to understand, because it deprives the Australian aboriginal of unemployment or sickness benefit, unless the Director-General is satisfied, by reason of the character, standard of intelligence and delevopment of the aboriginal, that it is reasonable that he should receive the benefit. A refugee who has been a resident of this country for only twelve months is to be entitled to receive benefit, but the oldest inhabitants of this land, who have been here throughout their lives, are to be excluded. To deprive them of the benefits of the bill would be shabby treatment. In view of the fact that a refugee, whether German or Italian or of any other nation, is to get the benefit of the bill after twelve months’ residence, why does the Government intend to deprive the Australian aborigines of the benefit?
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services) [4.43]. - It is entirely wrong to say that the Government intends to deprive the Australian aborigines of the benefits of the bill. The matter is left to the discretion of the Director-General, in exactly the same way as a discretion is exercised with regard to the receipt by an aboriginal of the invalid and old-age pension.
– How is the standard of intelligence of an aboriginal to be assessed ? In many respects the standard of intelligence reached by him is higher than that of any white man. In bushcraft his powers of observation are uncanny. Prior to his contamination by the so-called civilization of the white man, his powers in many respects were great. I see no reason why the aborigines should not receive the benefit of the bill without reservations.
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for SocialServices) [4.45]. - I remind honorable senators that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act from its inception has included a provision that the benefits of that act may be conferred upon Australian aborigines at the discretion of the Director-General. Experience of social service legislation has shown that because of the widely different legislation in the various States it is better to deal with each case on its merits. Where an aboriginal is normally engaged in earning his livelihood, like a white man, and becomes sick he will be entitled to the benefit of this bill; but if he leads a nomadic life and does not normally engage in work he will not receive it.
– A new departure is being made in respect of the relations between the Commonwealth and the States regarding the care of the Australian aborigines. Western Australia has one of the best aboriginal welfare departments in the Commonwealth; but I realize that a step forward is being taken in respect of the welfare of the aboriginal population, in proposing to grant sickness and unemployment benefits to them. I take it that the Director-General or his deputy in Western Australia will consult with the appropriate department in that State.
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services) [4.48]. - I do not recall the nature of the provision made for Australian aborigines in the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, but I ask honorable senators opposite how they would propose to implement a contributory scheme for the provision of sickness and unemployment benefits for the Australian aborigines?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 (Rate of unemployment and sickness benefit).
– This clause provides - (1.) Subject to this act, the rate of unemployment benefit and sickness benefit shall be-
Many young men and young women have been called up for the various services at the age of eighteen years, and they are now employed in the fighting forces or in the various other services. They are in receipt of the same rate of pay as that of persons 25 or 30 years of age or older. They are placed on the same footing as an adult. When their ration allowance is worked out their age is not taken into account, because a person eighteen years of age eats as much as does a person three years older. Moreover, a doctor’s certificate will cost the same, whether the person requiring it is 18 or 21 years of age; and should a male of eighteen years of age be out of employment his keep will cost as much as if he were 21 years old. In the light of these facts, I see no reason for paragraph b of sub-clause 1 and, therefore, I suggest that the Minister give consideration to its deletion from the bill. Not long ago legislation was introduced to give the franchise to all persons of eighteen years of age engaged in war service. In my opinion, all persons who have attained the age of eighteen years should be entitled to an unemployment benefit of £1 5s. a week.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 21 agreed to.
Clause 22- (3.) In determining the amount by which the rate of sickness benefit payable to any person shall be reduced under sub-section (1.) of this section, any amount received by that person, in respect of his incapacity, from a friendly society approved by the DirectorGeneral, or from any other person who, or body which, the Director-General is satisfied provides benefits similar to the benefits provided by friendly societies, but not exceeding One pound per week, shall not bo regarded as income.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (3.), the words “ but not exceeding One pound per week “ be left out.
This sub-clause has special relation to friendly societies. In my second-reading speech I said that some of these societies pay £1 2s. or £1 2s. 6d. a week to their members. A great disservice will be done to them if the clause be passed in its present form. The effect of my amendment, if adopted, would be that payments by friendly societies in excess of £1 a week would not be taken into consideration in calculating a man’s income in order to decide his eligibility to receive the benefits provided by this legislation. Acceptance of the amendment would not involve any considerable sum, but it would be a recognition of the valuable work which friendly societies have performed. It would also establish the principle that people who contribute to the benefits which they receive are entitled to those benefits as a right. I trust that the Minister will accept the amendment, thereby showing his appreciation of the splendid work of the friendly societies of this country.
Senator FRASER (Western AustraliaMinister for Health and Minister for agreed that the friendly societies of this country have rendered, and are rendering, valuable service to the community. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) said that some of these societies pay £1 2s. to £1 2s. 6d. a week to their members; some of them pay £1 10s. a week, and others even more. There must be a limit, and the Government has made the basis a payment of £1 a week. In times of sickness some people in the community receive benefits from two or more organizations. I cannot accept the amendment.
– This sub-clause is designed to help the friendly societies. The Director-General is given the power to decide what person, or body, shall be regarded as a friendly society. That should not be difficult. I should be glad- if the Minister would indicate what organizations pay £1 10s. a week to their members. If it be a sound principle to exempt payments up to £1 a week, it should be a sound principle also to exempt payments of £1 ls., or more, a week-, particularly when the recipients contribute towards such benefits, whereas the benefits under the Government’s scheme are not payable because of any contribution by the recipients.
– They have contributed; the statutory exemption for income tax purposes was specially reduced to cover them.
– This scheme is based on the contributory scheme in operation in New Zealand.
– But in New Zealand a youth, aged from sixteen to eighteen years, who earns a minimum of £50 annually, contributes at the rate of 2s. 6d. in the £1 towards the cost of the social service benefits which he is entitled to receive. I appeal to the Minister to show a little sympathy towards friendly societies. The Government has said that it appreciates the work of those organizations. It has an opportunity now to show its appreciation in a practical way. I shall be very disappointed if the Minister rejects my amendment.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator
McLeay) said that he did not know of any friendly society which paid weekly benefits of £1 10s. a week. I point out that Patons and Baldwins Benefit Society, which has one of the most liberal schemes of this kind in Australia, pays up to £2 10s. a week.
.- Honorable senators opposite, in their second-reading speeches, contended strongly that this scheme would practically drive friendly societies out of existence. Within the last few days I have discussed this measure with representatives of the major friendly societies. They informed me that this scheme will not affect friendly societies at all. They pointed out that under this scheme, which is non-contributory, benefits will be made available free of cost.
– I suggest that the honorable senator confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I shall do so. Members of friendly societies will have no reason to relinquish their membership. On the other hand, those organizations will be able to provide additional benefits such as X-ray examinations and specialist services. I am convinced that this scheme will not be to the detriment of friendly societies.
– You, Mr. Chairman, have ruled that Senator Darcey must confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I merely suggested that he confine his remarks to the amendment.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Under what standing order did you give that ruling, Mr. Chairman ?
– I did not consult any standing order on the matter, because I did not give a ruling. I merely suggested that the committee could expedite the discussion if honorable senators confined their remarks to the amendment. However, Standing Order No. 419 provides -
No senator shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion; nor anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the notice-paper.
-I submit that the honorable senator was in order, because his remarks were relevant to the clause. I referred to the incident, Mr. Chairman, because I thought that you gave a ruling on the matter, andI did not want to let go unchallenged a ruling that when an amendment to a clause is moved honorable senators must confine their remarks to the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McLeay’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– When the committee was discussing clause 4 which deals with definitions, including the definition of “ income “, I asked the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) if he could inform us whether any portion of a man’s pension in respect of a war disability, not exceeding £1 a week, is exempt under this measure. I should like the Minister to set my mind at ease by indicating the specific clause which covers that point.
Senator FRASER (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for were being paid on account of the sickness which qualified the pensioner for a pension, that would be taken into account, but if the sickness were due to different causes, the pension would not be taken into account, unless it exceeded the set amount.
– What clause covers that?
– I shall ascertain and let the honorable senator know.
– I shall oppose the clause, because the means test is completely unjustified. If the Government is right in its contention that the scheme is contributory, because the benefits are to be paid on account of contributions that have been made by way of taxes, then they should be paid as a right. If they are a right, why should a means test be imposed? I have often heard honorable senators who now occupy the Government benches criticize the means test, but immediately they assume office and introduce a bill dealing with social welfare, we find the same means test standing out prominently. The result is that the person who, complying with the wishes of the Government and the advice of members of this Parliament, has been thrifty in war-time and subscribed to war loans is penalized.
– Where is he penalized in this bill?
– Because all income over fi a week is deducted in calculating the benefits.
– Those who have money do not need the benefits. The man the honorable senator refers to has accumulated assets.
– Because he has made sacrifices during war-time and invested in bonds at the wish of the Government, he is penalized for having been loyal and patriotic whereas those who ignore the Government’s wishes and spend everything they earn during the war are to be entitled to the benefits without deduction. In any circumstances the means test is unjustified. The Government cannot claim that the scheme is contributory, and payments merely a refund, on a certain basis, of taxes that have alrea’dy been paid, while denying similar rights to others because they have saved money. I believe that payments should be a right and not a dole. If the benefit is a right, it should be given irrespective of the means of the recipient.
– I have not yet had an answer to my question.
– Clause 23 answers the question asked by Senator Collett.
– I wish to make my position clear on the clause, which involves the principle of the means test. I agree with Senator Wilson that we should have a comprehensive scheme on a contributory basis and that there should be no means test. We as an Opposition were successful last week in deleting a clause from the bill, as a suggestion to the Government to finance the scheme on a contributory basis. As I know definitely that the Government does not propose to take any notice of the directions given by the Opposition I ask if it is the intention of the Government, if this clause is defeated, to provide -the funds out of Consolidated Revenue and do away with means test altogether? It that is so, I shall not be able to support the bill, because the financial responsibility will be greater than we can carry. If, however, the Minister is prepared to say that a new proposal will provide a contributory scheme, that will help me to make a decision.
.- The clause about which the Leader of the Opposition has questioned me will remain as it is so far as the Government is concerned. The deletion made by the Opposition last week is under the consideration of the Government at the moment.
– I am rather surprised not to have heard from the other side any support for Senator Wilson’s opposition to the means test. I understood that a number of honorable senators opposite are opposed to it. I have heard them described as disgraceful, an unnecessary probing into people’s private affairs and an unwarranted interference with the liberty of the people.
– It is, when it is imposed by a Government that oppresses the people into starvation, arid gives them the dole.
– Then it is right for the Labour party to introduce a means test, but very improper for an antiLabour government to do so ! The fact that the Labour party introduces a means test apparently absolves all those orators who have referred to it on the public platform as an infringement of the liberty of the subject. Not one honorable senator opposite rises to express his opinion of the clause in its present form. The Minister gave no reasons why the Labour party in caucus had decided on a means test. He simply said, “ There is going to be a means test, we have the numbers, we have the majority in caucus, and all those who previously declaimed against it must keep quiet”. The Ministry is to be congratulated on the supreme obedience of the members of the Labour party. Those who previously proclaimed their opposition to the means test now sit down meekly and say, “ All right, we will accept this, although it is against our principles “. I expected some protest from honorable senators opposite. I thought perhaps they might say, “We do not believe in this, but we are abiding by the dictates of caucus “. I am astounded that Senator Wilson has not been supported by them, because the claim which he made in regard to the means test is really that which honorable senators opposite have been making for many years, namely, that it is something which should not be permitted in a free democracy. I am inclined to that view, but unfortunately I am in the same difficulty as before, because the scheme is not a contributory one. I realize that there will be an unwarranted call upon revenue for which no provision has been made, but at the same time,’ I express my disappointment that the Government has not seen fit to accept the view of a great majority of its supporters who have expressed strong opposition to the means test on every possible occasion.
– I support the clause. I see no reason why the Government should subsidize in un employment and sickness those individuals who have exploited the community for a great number of years, and feathered their nests. I believe that the clause is generous. It takes into consideration the assets of the individual. However, I should like to know what is the position in regard to the liquidation of assets. When an asset is liquidated, is the money received from such an asset to be taken into consideration, and if not, why not ?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 23 (Provisions where beneficiary entitled to compensation, &c).
.- When dealing with clause 22 which included the means test, I asked a question relating to the application of an answer which was given to me by the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser), in regard to a point which arose in connexion with the portion of clause 4 defining “ income “. The question which I asked was -
Can the Minister inform us whether any portion of a man’s -pension in respect of a war disability not exceeding £1 is exempted under this bill?
The Minister replied in the affirmative. When clause 22 was before the committee, I raised the matter again, and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) said that it was governed by clause 23. Clause 23 deals with provisions where a beneficiary is entitled to compensation and I should like to know now if the answer previously given by the Minister was correct. There is no mention at all in this clause of a war disability pension being exempted, and I should like to be quite clear on that point. The Minister gave a definite answer in reply to my earlier question and he should be prepared to support it.
– I regret to say that I may have misled the honorable senator when I answered his question earlier in the debate. The main intention of this clause is that a person suffering from a particular disability shall not receive a double benefit in respect of that disability. For example, if a person is in receipt of a war pension for a disability which incapacitates him, the intention is that he shall receive any necessary benefit from the Repatriation Commission, instead of by way of sickness benefit under this measure. If, however, he has a disability other than that which incapacitates him, he will be entitled to have any pension or other payment payable to him because of that other disability treated as income, so that he may receive the amount of his other benefit up to £1 in addition to full benefit under this measure.
– That is quite clear now.
.- Clause 23 reads - (1.) Where any person qualified to receive sickness benefit has received, is receiving, or is qualified or entitled to receive, any other payment (whether by way of compensation, salary or wages pending the commencement of payment of compensation, damages or otherwise, but not including any amount received from a friendly society approved by the Director-General or from any other person who, or body which, the Director-General is satisfied provides benefits similar to the benefits provided by friendly societies). . . . (2.) Where any such payment is made by way of a lump sum, the equivalent weekly value of the lump sum shall, for the purposes of this section, be taken as being received weekly.
– What is wrong with that?
– I am trying to find out what is right with it.
– It is designed to cover the case of a man who is paid compensation in a lump sum instead of in weekly or fortnightly instalments.
– Take the case of a man who receives injuries and comes under the scope of the Workers’ Compensation Act. If the insurance authority offers to pay him £100 in a lump sum instead of by weekly instalments, what is the effect of that decision upon this legislation? Is it to be regarded as £1 a week for 100 weeks, or at the rate of his usual weekly wage until the £100 is absorbed? Say, for instance, a man is injured by a motor car and received damages from an insurance company under a third party risk policy. How is the amount which he receives to be computed for the purposes of this clause? The damages will be made up of three or four considerations, including compensa tion for pain and suffering, loss of wages and other factors. Obviously money which a man receives as compensation for pain and suffering cannot be regarded as income. If the amount were £100, surely the authorities administering this scheme could not say, “ We shall regard this £100 as if you were receiving £1 a week for 100 weeks; therefore you cannot come within the provisions of this scheme for 100 weeks”. Sub-clause 3 states - (3.) The methods and conditions of ascertaining the equivalent weekly value shall be as determined by the Director-General.
It is the old system of “ passing the buck “.
– Look at sub-clause 4.
– The sub-clause does not specify how many weeks are to be covered by a lump-sum payment.
– That is a machinery . matter.
– What machinery? The clause merely says that the DirectorGeneral shall determine the basis upon which the equivalent weekly value is to be calculated.
– It will be calculated upon an actuarial basis.
– - This clause does not say so.
– Sub-clause 3 provides that the methods and conditions of ascertaining the equivalent weekly value shall be as determined by the Director-General. That officer would, no doubt, have the benefit of actuarial advice.
– I am not satisfied that the Director-General can be relied upon to decide satisfactorily all of the issues that may arise. That would impose ‘ too great a strain on any official. The Minister “ passes the buck “ by saying, “ The Director-General will decide “. The Government should give an indication in the bill as to how money received by way of compensation for injury will be distributed. Such money might be distributed fairly, but it might also be distributed very unfairly. The hill should be more definite than it is as to how lump sums should be distributed. Lump sums are commonly awarded by insurance companies. A person might be mistaken in estimating the time that he would take to recover sufficiently to enable him to resume work. If he took a week or a month longer than he expected, considerable injustice might be done to him. In other circumstances, great injustice might be done to the fund. The terms of the clause should be as precise as possible, relieving the Director-General of some of the responsibilities proposed to be placed upon him.
– If the details asked for by Senator Leckie were incorporated in the bill, injustice might easily be done, although that is what the honorable senator professes to be anxious to avoid. The Director-General might say to his actuarial advisors, “ I want advice as to the distribution of this money”. By confining the Director-General to a definite course of action, injustice might be done to the very persons whom we desire to assist. Under the clause the Director-General will have power to reach decisions, in individual cases, based on the advice of experts.
.- If actuarial advice were to be sought in every case, months would elapse before any payment would be made. Actuarial advice will not be sought with regard to individual cases, but only in respect of the basis of calculation. Under the workers compensation law in Victoria a person receives two-thirds of his usual wages from the day on which he receives an injury, but after the lapse of a month he may be agreeable to accept £50 as a lump sum. To how much is that man entitled under the bill? When does the £50 become exhausted ?
– Does not the injured man often have the option of saying whether he will accept a lump sum or weekly payments for an extended period?
– That may be so, but at some stage he might decide that he would sooner have a lump sum to enable him to start in business. In such a case what happens under the clause? The actuary might calculate the weekly payment to which that man would be entitled.
– The amount he got weekly would be known already.
– An insurance company may prefer to pay a lump sum to the injured man, but he may refuse to accept a lump sum, and elect to receive regular payments. Nevertheless, the cases in which a lump sum is accepted are numerous. The point then arises whether the lump sum is to be charged against him for a long period, or for a short period. There must be some basis to guide the actuary. The Minister should be definite in a matter of this kind, first, in order to protect the revenue, and, secondly, to ensure that no cases of hardship arise. The more I look at this matter the greater the number of pitfalls I see.
– Let me put a hypothetical case to the committee. Let us suppose that a man in receipt of £5 a week meets with an accident, and accepts a lump sum of £200 as compensation. If we divide 200 by 5 we shall get a quotient of 40, which is the number of weeks which must elapse before he would become eligible for the benefits under this legislation.
.- I am grateful to Senator Large for his explanation, but the case as presented by him differs from the position which now exists, ‘because under the existing legislation a man is entitled to only two-thirds of his wages during the period that he is absent from work because of an accident. If he be entitled to full wages, as explained by Senator Large, it will be seen that the period covered by the payment of a lump sum will be less than if the calculations be made on the basis of twothirds of his weekly wage. Who is to decide the period?
– The Director-General.
– The basis of computation - whether full wages, or twothirds, or one-half, or any other proportion, of his usual wage - will make a difference, because it will either hasten or delay the time when he becomes eligible to receive benefits under this legislation. Cases in which the person concerned has taken out a third-party insurance policy will be even more complicated.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 (Medical certificates to be furnished).
.- Sub-clause 1 provides for the furnishing of medical certificates as to such matters, and containing such information, as the Director-General requires. Few doctors will be willing to issue certificates covering more than a week, so that a sick man will have to visit his doctor every week in order to obtain a further certificate. Or does the Government contemplate authorizing certain doctors to certify to certain things? If not, will it be possible for a man to select a doctor who is likely to be lenient in these matters ?
– In such matters this legislation will help the friendly societies which make fortnightly payments.
– For each certificate the recipient will have to pay the doctor a fee, which may range from 2s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. A man who has to pay 10s. for a doctor’s certificate out of a benefit of, 25s. will not be much in pocket. Or does the Government propose to set up a board of medical men in each district to issue certificates at a reasonable price?
– Sub-clause 2 authorizes the Director-General to send the claimant to a medical practitioner nominated by him for examination. Who would pay the fee in that case?
– This bill is only a part of the social legislation programme of the Government. The position will be the same as it now is in respect of invalid pensions.
– The Minister has referred to certificates issued on behalf of invalid pensioners. In such cases only one certificate is necessary, but in the cases to which this legislation will apply a certificate covering only one week will be most general.
– The bill does not provide for anything of the kind. It would be foolish to say that a man suffering from pneumonia would need a certificate every week. The honorable senator should be more reasonable in his statements.
– Should a person suffering from a cold require a certificate, is the doctor expected to say that he will not be able to return to work for a month or six weeks? Few doctors will give a certificate covering such a long period.
– The man must make a claim.
– Yes, and it must be supported by a certificate signed by a legally qualified medical practitioner. In the second week of his illness the sick man will have to make another claim.
– The position will be similar to that which now obtains with friendly societies - the claimant will sign “ on “ and “ off “ the lodge.
– A doctor may say that a man with a cold must remain at home for a week, but should he not have recovered at the end of a week, he would have to submit another claim, which would need to be supported by another certificate. I desire to know whether there will be a fixed charge for such certificates, and also what steps are contemplated to relieve doctors from the necessity of issuing hundreds of certificates each week. It is not unlikely that a medical practitioner in each district will set up as a “ signer of certificates “. If so, he should do well. Some provision should be made in this bill to fix the rate which a doctor may charge for a certificate. I do not like to envisage the application of this provision in an industrial suburb where, because of the volume of sickness, many doctors may be tempted to set up merely as “signers of certificates “. My object is to relieve the unfortunate person who is obliged to claim sickness benefit of possible heavy expenditure in respect of medical certificates. Senator Gibson mentioned the case of people who may be situated many miles from a doctor. In such cases, the doctor includes in his fee a travelling charge ona mileage basis. I imagine that such cases will come within the category of special circumstances. I have cited the industrial suburb because of the comparatively greater volume of sickness in such suburbs, and for this reason it would pay an unscrupulous doctor merely to set up an office in which he would do nothing but sign certificates without investigating cases very carefully. I do not think that the Government is quite fair to recipients of benefits under this measure unless it relieves them to some degree at least of the comparatively high expenditure which, in many cases, they will be obliged to incur in obtaining a doctor’s certificate. The Government should accept responsibility for the payment of part of the cost to an applicant where, owing to special circumstances, the doctor’s fee is comparatively high. It should also ensure that doctors who supply certificates are of the highest repute. I am not implying that doctors generally are dishonest. However, in exceptional circumstances of the kind which I have mentioned, a doctor is entitled to charge a comparatively high fee,and he should be paid at a fair rate for his valuable time. The Government, therefore, should accept responsibility for a part of the medical fee incurred by an applicant in such circumstances.
– I apprehend that in extensive legislation of this kind the Government’s approach to administrative problems will be to profit by experience, and that this will be the case in respect of the administration of medical benefits as well as other benefits.Clauses 25 and 26 appear to me to be drafted in broad outline, and the gaps will be filled in later as the administration gains experience. At the moment, I cannot discern where a man’s right to obtain sickness benefits terminates. However, the medical certificate must be in such terms as the Director-General determines. . He will give his determination in the form of regulations, and in framing his determinations I have no doubt that he will be guided by the customs and practices of friendly societies. Clause 26 throws the mantle of protection around the Government’s expenditure. It is true that under the clause as it stands some burden may be placed upon citizens in exceptional circumstances such as those mentioned by Senator Leckie. Up to date, the mind of the Government naturally has been to take account of circumstances existing in great industrial centres where doctors are close at hand. There may be recurrences of expenditure as Senator Leckie has said, but anomalies will gradually disappear as the administrative machinery runs itself in. I do not think that in respect of a small benefit the
Government would tolerate recurrence of expenditure on the part of any person by obliging him to obtain a medical certificate week after week. It is only proper that applicants be required in the first place to produce a medical certificate containing such information as the Director-General requires. Should the Director-General be in any doubt as to the continuance of benefit he has power under clause 26 to call for another certificate, or to insist that the applicant be examined by a special medical officer. I realize that applicants living in remote localities may be under some disability, but difficulties of that kind will gradually smooth themselves out. In extensive legislation of this character it is impossible to expect perfect working conditions immediately. However, whilst there is ground for the argument I do not think that we can remedy the difficulty at this stage.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 26 agreed to.
Clause 27 (Date from which benefit shall commence).
.- Sub-clause 2 reads -
Subject to this act, the sickness benefit payable to any person shall he payable from and including -
the seventh day after the day on which that person becomes incapacitated ; or
the day on which that person makes claim for sickness benefit, whichever is the later.
Suppose a man meets with an accident. He may be run over by a motor car. and be rendered unconscious for a considerable time, possibly a fortnight, and, therefore, will not be in a position to make a claim. The bill does not authorize anybody else to make a claim on his behalf.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– If no provision is made to allow some one else to put in a claim for a man so badly injured or so ill that he cannot possibly put it in personally, it may be a month before he can receive any benefit. Surely the Minister can see there a loophole which should be closed.
SenatorLAMP (Tasmania) [8.1].- My experience on hospital boards has shown me that if a patient entitled to compensation is unable to attend to the matter, the necessary claim is made for him. It is always in the interests of the institution or of the benefit society to which he belongs to see that the claim is made promptly. Under the workers’ compensation acts of almost all the States a period of six months is allowed within which to put in a claim. I take it that under this clause the DirectorGeneral will see that it is made. If it is not, he has the necessary power to institute proceedings to recover the money.
– If the patient is in the condition described by Senator Leckie, it is not mandatory on him to put in the claim personally. He can send a message, or have the necessary form completed and lodged. The sickness benefit will be paid to any person so long as the Director-General is satisfied.
– How can he make the claim if he is seriously ill?
– He can get some other person to make it on his behalf. A number of machinery provisions will have to be made later on in order to implement the provisions of the bill. Every point cannot be foreseen and specified at once.
Clause agreed to.
The Director-General may postpone for such period as he thinks fit the date from which unemployment benefit shall be payable to any person, or may cancel the payment of unemployment benefit to any person, as the case requires -
if that person became unemployed by reason of his misconduct as a worker;
if that person has refused or failed, without good and sufficient reason, to accept an offer of employment which the Director-General considers to be suitable ;
.- I regret that the bill is so loosely drawn that I have to direct attention to so many loopholes in it. I direct particular notice to paragraphs b and c of the clause. What does “misconduct as a worker” mean? Who is to decide whether misconduct has been committed? Is that another task for the Director-General, or does the employer who dismisses him have to establish the misconduct?
– Has the honorable senator read paragraph c?
– Yes, I was about to quote it, because it seems to conflict completely with the Minister’s previous statement that a man has to accept work in his own particular trade.
– I did not say that he has to accept work in his particular trade.
– The Minister said a great many things. Will he define misconduct, and who is to be the judge?
– If a workman stole another workman’s tools, that would be misconduct.
– That might be one meaning, or he might damage a machine. The Minister must have something in his mind as to what constitutes misconduct. It is not sufficient to say that the Director-General has to decide these things, or that the actuary will work them out by some method of his own. If the bill does not define misconduct, the whole thing is left in the air, and a man may be penalized or receive benefits at the caprice of the Minister or the Director-General.
– Senator Leckie knows that it is quite impossible to include everything in the bill. Consequently the Director-General has the authority to decide the case of a man who, for example, came intoxicated to his work two or three times a week. That would be misconduct, because the man would be unable to do his job.
– Is two or three times a week the minimum?
– I am simply giving an example of what might happen. If the workman says that a certain act is not misconduct, and the employer claims that it is, the Director-General will have to make a decision.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 29 and 30 agreed to.
Clause 31 -
If a person in receipt of unemployment benefit or sickness benefit becomes imprisoned or an inmate of a hospital for the insane, payment of the benefit shall forthwith cease.
.- This is another instance of loose drafting. “What does “ becomes imprisoned “ mean ? Does it mean that a man has been convicted, or that he has been arrested? Is he imprisoned when he is arrested?
– He is imprisoned when he is in prison. Even the honorable senator should know that.
– It would be better if the clause read “if a person is convicted of an offence”.
– He may be convicted and fined, but not imprisoned.
– If he is arrested and imprisoned for a week or a fortnight, and then acquitted of the charge made against him, does he or does he not receive the benefits for the fortnight during which he is in gaol ?
– While he is in prison he does not get anything. When he is released he is eligible.
– But is he eligible while in prison?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 32 to 35 agreed to.
Clause 36 (Special benefit).
– The further we go the worse the bill becomes. The Dictator-General gathers more power as we go along.
– Is the honorable senator misquoting when he refers to the “ Dictator-General “?
– If the honorable senator reads the clause, he will note the very wide powers given to the DirectorGeneral. I mean no reflection on the present occupant of the office. I would not reflect on ‘ him, because he was appointed by the Government of which I was a member. I protest against some of the appointments made since the present Government took office.
– There is no reference to that subject in the clause.
– I shall connect my remarks with the clause by saying that, if the committee agrees to the clause as its stands, an unscrupulous Minister may appoint a political “ stooge “, or a supporter, to exercise the wide powers which it confers. I am- not reflecting on Ministers opposite. In considering the bill we should forget personalities and deal with principles regardless of who ia in office. A bureaucrat or an unscrupulous Director-General could do great harm. The bill needs redrafting. I regret that we have not the numbers to amend it, and that the Government refuses to take any notice of suggestions for improvements made by the Opposition.
– Under the clause the powers of the Director-General are unlimited. He may in his discretion grant assistance, or direct that it be granted, in all cases other than those specially dealt with in other clauses of the bill. His powers should be curtailed. The bill seems to have been prepared in order to cover all classes of sickness and unemployment, but this clause overrides all others. I do not know why this officer is styled the Director-General. It gives him a title resembling that of a Governor-General. Why not designate him the Director! This is not the time to take exception to it, but it is a remarkable title to give an officer. There should be a director and a deputy director. The clause confers upon the Director-General power to deal at his discretion with all cases for which no specific provision has been made in the bill. To me that seems to be taking from Parliament and the Minister control of the administration of this measure. It is a “ grab-all “ clause, and I am sure- that such a sweeping provision was never contemplated when this measure was being prepared. I should like the Minister to tell me whether or not my interpretation of the clause is correct, and if not, what limits are placed upon the authority of the Director-General.
.- Apparently honorable senators opposite have a new “swan song”. Until now they have always argued that administration of this kind should be completely free from political control. The clause vests the general administration of this legislation in an individual independent of Parliament, hut apparently honorable senators opposite, who for so long have advocated freedom from political control, do not like it because they fear that the power may be abused. My view is that this clause is necessary. For instance, I know of a very worthy woman who is 59 years of age. She is unable to secure a widow’s pension because during the depression years she left her husband. She is an excellent citizen, and she has done fancywork all his life. She cannot see sufficiently well to continue in this vocation, but she is not eligible for an invalid pension. She is not old enough to receive the old-age pension. This clause confers upon the Director-General power to deal with such worthy cases.
.- I should like to understand thoroughly how far clause 5 affects clause 36. Clause 5 reads -
The Director-General shall, subject to any direction of the Minister have the general administration of this act.
I take it therefore that clause 36 does not mean that the Director-General will not be responsible to the Government of the day, and his administration at all times shall be subject to the authority of the Minister in charge of this department. Whilst I appreciate the need for a “ concertina “ clause to widen the scope of this legislation to meet special cases, I should like to know from the Minister what exactly is contemplated under this clause. It appears to me that the Director-General is absolutely supreme, and that the only appeal is from the Director-General to the Director-General, which really means that there is no appeal at all. Presumably the provision for an appeal is designed to enable the Director-General to review his own decisions in the light of new information.
– An appellant will have his representatives in Parliament who can take the matter up on his behalf.
– Are we to take it that this Director-General is to listen to every member of Parliament who wishes to place a case before him? Surely he must decide these things on their merits. My complaint is that there is no appeal from the decision of the Director-General. No doubt the person holding this responsible office will be well qualified to administer the legislation but after all no one is infallible. I ask the Minister how far the administration of the Director-General under clause 36 will be subject to clause 5. My personal view is that the Director-General should be absolutely independent, as Senator Lamp has suggested, but there should be a right of appeal to another authority, such as a board, because it is only human nature that after one has arrived at a decision, one tends to adhere to it.
– To whom does the honorable senator suggest that an appeal should be made?
– -There could be an appeal to a judge, but that is a matter for the Government to determine. According to clause 5, the administration is entrusted to the DirectorGeneral, subject to ministerial control, but under this clause he is absolutely supreme.
– When the honorablesenator himself was a Minister he was supreme, as I am now in my department.
– I am afraid that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) is very much under control, but unfortunately that control does not rest with Parliament. However, I am not discussing those elusive things which happen outside of Parliament; what I should like to know is whether or not the Director-General, in making a decision under clause 36, is subject to the control contemplated under clause 5. If not, he is virtually a dictator because there is no appeal from his decision. I feel strongly about this matter and I hope that the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) will be good enough to elucidate the position.
– The DirectorGeneral will at all times be responsible to the Government.
– That is not made clear in the bill.
– He can be removed from his position by the Government.
– Then apparently he is to be under the control of the Government. I understood the position to ‘be exactly the reverse, and that the Director-General would be absolutely supreme. It is fortunate this clause has given to honorable senators an opportunity for a frank and free discussion upon this matter. Decisions of even the Commissioner for Taxation, who is a rather potent gentleman in the community these days, are subject to appeal.
– The Repatriation Act does not provide for an appeal to the courts.
– No, but there is an appellant tribunal. Surely the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) is not unaware of that. I thought that all honorable senators were inundated with letters from individuals whose claims had been determined by the Repatriation Commission, and had been made the subject of an appeal to the higher tribunal. I realize the administrative difficulty with which the Government is confronted, but surely some method can be provided whereby the unfortunate individuals who will seek benefit under this legislation, will have a right of appeal should their claims be rejected initially. In civil matters, such fis police courts, there is always a right of appeal, even if it is only against a fine of £1. Here, a person’s living or his welfare may be at stake. Unfortunately it frequently happens that persons who are failed upon to administer this type of legislation for many years, become largely influenced by the governmental viewpoint - I do not suggest that there is any improper influence brought to bear by a Government. We find examples of that attitude in the inferior courts where magistrates, who for a long time have been dealing with certain classes, of individuals find it most difficult to see the other side of the picture. Only too often it is merely a matter of saying, “ fined 10s. “ without any further discussion. Whilst an administrator may be quite justified in taking that attitude in nine cases out of ten, we must have some consideration for that tenth case. As this legislation will soon be placed upon our statute-book - no doubt it will be amended from time to time - I think we should have these matters clarified. The administration of this measure will harden the Director-General, I fear, to a degree which I do not think either the Government or the Committee intends. We should consider whether any relief at all can be given to a person who is prima facie entitled to benefit, but is refused benefit hy the Director-General. As the case stands there is an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. The Director-General, having formed an opinion, is not likely to change his mind.
– Under clause 5 the general administration of the act h vested in the Director-General, who is subject to any direction of the Minister.
– Administration is one thing, but a judicial function is another.
– There can always be an- appeal to the Government. I hope that the day will never come when the power of government will be placed completely in the hands of even the most highly respected public servants.
– Control in respect of repatriation matters is not retained by the Government, under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
– But Parliament, has the right to amend any act, if it considers that powers have been abused. A provision similar to the clause under consideration is embodied in the New Zealand measure. There are not many instances where special benefits are necessary, but, if a Deputy-Director in one of the States made a recommendation to the Director-General that in a special case some alleviation should be given, the recommendation would as a rule be adopted. We find that practice observed with regard to invalid pensions. I, as Minister, have overridden a decision even of the Director-General in such a matter, and have asked that the individual in question be examined by an independent, doctor, so that upon that investigation a proper decision could be reached. I cannot conceive of any method of dealing with these cases except that provided in the clause. The case cited by Senator Lamp is typical of others. The clause gives to the Director-General power to consider such cases, and make the necessary financial payments.
– It is clear that under clause 5 the Director-General is to be subject to direction by the Minister with regard to his administration but that would not remove his discretion when acting under clause 36. There are the cases of old-age pensioners to which Senator Gibson has referred, and the Minister has not stated whether an amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act will be made to provide for them. Would it not be more appropriate to provide the contemplated relief by an amendment of that act than by this clause? We have no assurance that that act will be amended. Senator Herbert Hays pointed out that the DirectorGeneral is to be supreme.
– He is not to be supreme.
– The Minister has contended that this measure can be amended, if necessary, but it is desirable to build on as sound a foundation as possible, and to give relief by granting a right of appeal in certain cases. I assume that the number of appeals would not be large, because most of the decisions will have been made, in the first instance by a Deputy DirectorGeneral, and the Director-General himself may have a free mind in the matter, but there should be some relief from a dictatorial power which seems to me to be extremely dangerous.
– It is an exaggeration to say that the DirectorGeneral is to be absolutely supreme. Senator A. J. McLachlan should know that the created is never greater than the creator. The Director-General will be responsible to the Government, and will carry out his functions as provided in this measure. Those who have a grievance can make an appeal, and the DirectorGeneral can be either instructed or replaced.
– The reply by the Minister does not clear up the doubt. This clause provides that the Director-General may, at his discretion, grant special benefits, but he also has the discretion to decide whether certain matters shall be referred to the Minister. Under this clause he has full power to do anything he wishes in the matter within the four corners of the bill, and he is not bound to refer anything to anybody else. I take it that the provision in clause 5 with regard to the Director-General’s administration being subject to ministerial direction is nullified by clause 36. The DirectorGeneral is given full power, and he will be the “ Dictator-General” with regard to the administration of the act. There is no provision in the bill that the Government shall have control over the actions of the Director-General.
– That is not correct. Clause 5 is not overridden by clause 36.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 37 (Rate of special benefit).
.- This clause also deals with the special cases of the kind cited by Senator Lamp, and with regard to which the DirectorGeneral has the right to use his discretion, and decide the payment to be made. If the Director-General decides that payment is to be made to certain persons it may not be in accordance with the scale of benefits laid down, but only 50 per cent, or 25 per cent, of the benefit may be granted. Surely if a person is entitled to benefit at all, he should receive it at the full rate.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 38 to 41 and 43 and 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 (Training or treatment of claimants and beneficiaries).
.- This clause is somewhat ambiguous. It provides that if, in the opinion of the Director-General, any claimant or beneficially should undergo a course of training in any occupation or receive any medical or other treatment, the DirectorGeneral may direct that payment of benefit shall be subject to the condition that he shall comply with the requirements of the Director-General in respect of any such matter. If a man is directed to undergo a course of training before he can receive certain benefits under this legislation, and he has no money, how can he get such training? Is it intended that the Government shall pay for the training, and, if so, under what act will it do so? On the other hand, if there be no means by which his training can be paid for by the Government, and he himself cannot pay for it, he is in a hopeless position.
– Paragraph a covers the whole position.
– Paragraph c relates to medical or other treatment. Should the Director-General think that a man ought to undergo an operation, can he insist on the operation being performed, and if so, who is to pay for it? What is in the Government’s mind in these matters? There is nothing in the bill to indicate what is intended. Paragraph d authorizes the Director-General to require a claimant to “undergo any course of training for the improvement of his physical or mental capacity”. Should the claimant be an inmate of an institution, I presume that he would not be paid because he would be kept while in the institution; but if he is undergoing a course of training elsewhere, some one must pay for it. Some provision must be made for the medical treatment or training of persons who require it. It would be ridiculous to compel a man to undergo treatment for which he must pay if he is unemployed and has no means. These people seem to be in a hopeless position.
– I again remind honorable senators opposite that this legislation is only a part of the Government’s social security plan, all of which I hope will soon be implemented. This clause provides that as a condition of the payment of benefit a person shall undergo training or medical treatment, or perform any work required of him. The object of the provision is to give to the Administration the power to deal with chronic cases - persons who are not prepared to do anything to improve their capabilities or state of health, or in which there is good reason to believe that training or medical treatment would bring about such improvement. It is really an extension of the provision on the statute-book enabling the department to continue the payment of an invalid pension for any period during which an invalid is undergoing a course of approved training or instruction, and to regard the trainee as an invalid while the training or instruction is in progress.
– He must pay.
– Not necessarily. If he has not the means to pay, and is ordered to undergo a course of training, he may come under the special benefits clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 46 (Information as to beneficiaries).
– This clause reads -
The Director-General may require any person whom he believes to be in a position to do so to furnish to him a confidential report relating to any matter which might affect the payment of benefit to any other person and a person so required shall not fail to furnish a report accordingly within a reasonable time and shall not furnish a report which is false or misleading in any particular. Penalty: Fifty pounds or imprisonment for three months.
That is an extraordinary power to vest in the Director-General - a power which usually is vested in a magistrate or a court. Is it intended that the DirectorGeneral shall be empowered to compel doctors, as well as ministers of religion, priests, or other persons to supply personal or confidential information? It would appear that the Minister has obtained his ideas from Hitler or his Gestapo, and wishes to make the Director-General a dictator. The clause goes too far. The Minister should be compelled to answer points raised in regard to such a far-reaching clause.
– He cannot be compelled to do so.
.- This is a machinery provision which is necessary to enable the Administration to obtain confidential information relating to claimants for benefit, so that the authorities may be in possession of the fullest information possible in determining claims for benefit. A somewhat similar provision is made in other social service legislation.
– Is it German or British machinery?
– Legislation -which was introduced by a government of which the present Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) was a member contained similar provisions. The purpose of the clause is to require, say, a son, to state how much he contributes for his board and lodging. The provision is similar to that now in operation in respect of invalid and old-age pensions.
– The penalty must be inflicted under the general legislation of the country and not at the behest of the Director-General.
– That is so.
– I take it that information obtained by the Director-General would be treated by him as confidential.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 47 to 49 agreed to.
Clause 50 -
An offence against this act shall not be prosecuted without the written consent of the Minister.
.- I referred to this clause in my secondreading speech. At that time reference was made to a piece of legislation which I introduced into this chamber.
– The honorable senator denied the charge when challenged.
– The then Opposition was not smart enough to see a vital defect in a bill which I introduced, but I do see a vital defect in the bill now before the committee, and I want the Minister to realize that it is a defect.
– The honorable senator cannot have it both ways.
– I do not want to have it both ways, but I do want to take this power out of the hands of the Minister, not because I object to the Minister having that power, but because it would be physically impossible for him to deal personally with all the cases which might arise throughout the Commonwealth. If an offence against this act shall not be prosecuted without the written consent of the Minister, months might elapse before a person in a remote area of the Commonwealth could be prosecuted. It would be better to substitute “ the deputy director of the State in which the offence is committed ‘’ for the words “ the Minister “. That would leave the power to prosecute in the hands of a responsible person. I do not wish that every public official throughout the country should have the right to institute prosecutions, but the deputy director in each State, not the Minister, should be empowered to consent to a prosecution. Is the Minister willing to accept that suggestion? Evidently he is not willing, and therefore I move -
That the words “ the Minister “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the Deputy-Director of the State in which the offence is committed “.
– As a Minister in a former government the honorable senator who has moved the amendment was responsible for piloting through the Senate a bill containing an identical clause to that to which he now objects. Apparently, he then thought that it was all right for the Minister to have this power, but now he does not agree that another Minister should have that authority. The honorable senator’s political bias is clear.
.- I am astonished at the remarks of the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Fraser). It may be, as he has said, that a similar provision was contained in abill which I piloted through this chamber. If so, my attention was not drawn to it.
– The honorable senator agreed to the clause.
– That does not alter the fact that it is a bad provision. If the Minister is relying on the fact that a previous measure contained a provision similar to that now under discussion and was passed through this chamber with the approval of the supporters of the then government and without the disapproval of the then Opposition, he has a poor case. This twitting is unworthy of the Minister. The clause itself is bad.
It will lead to maladministration and untold confusion, because, obviously, no prosecution will be made. It will also lead to centralization of the worst kind. However, the Minister’s only reply is, “Well, it was in one of your bills”. Could anything more childish be said in a deliberative assembly of this kind - “ You did this some time ago, and we are going to perpetuate the error “ ? I repeat that the clause as drawn is bad.
– That has not been our experience with the measure in which the honorable senator inserted a similar provision.
– It will lead to centralization of the worst kind. I have, drawn attention to the gravity of this error, which still remains an error whether a similar provision was inserted in a previous measure or not. One does not require much imagination to foresee that, as the clause stands, the Minister will be obliged to carry on voluminous correspondence with officials in such remote centres as Darwin, Broome, Geraldton, or Normanton, or in some centre on the west coast of Tasmania where mails are delivered only every three or four weeks, in order to clarify his mind on one or two points arising in cases submitted for prosecution. Obviously, very few, if any, prosecutions will be lodged if that procedure is to be followed. Is that the wish of the Minister, or does he wish that the taxpayers be safeguarded against fraud? Does he believe that any offender under this measure should be prosecuted, or that unscrupulous persons should be free to cheat the revenue?
– I have always held it to be a fundamental principle of democratic government that the Government through its Ministers should accept direct responsibility for all its legislation, and, therefore, should clothe Ministers with complete administrative powers. Any government which is not big enough to shoulder that responsibility should relinquish office. In this instance the issue is whether the Minister should have the final say in the launching of prosecutions. He should have that power and that responsibility, because he represents a Government elected by the people. We should combat any tendency to surrender such powers to administrative officials. They are not elected by the people and, therefore, should not be asked to shoulder such a responsibility. A government which surrenders powers of this kind to any official is no longer fit to govern. In this instance, the Minister should have sole power to authorize prosecutions. Should he fail to discharge that responsibility to the liking of the people, he will be answerable to them in due course. However, the Director-General, or any other official, is not elected as a representative of the people. He is a nominee of the Government, and must be made responsible to the Minister. I suggest that Senator Leckie, who has done the afternoon shift for the Opposition in delaying ‘ this measure, spoke with his tongue in his cheek on this matter.
..- Senator Armstrong, says that he does not believe that powers of this kind should be given to an official. I point out that all through this debate the Minister’s reply on similar issues has been that the Director-General will have power to do many things. Indeed, this is the only power which the Minister is given under this bill. The Minister has repeatedly told us that the Director-General will decide all the problems to which we have drawn attention in this discussion. In view of those facts Senator Armstrong is not consistent, to say the least. I am disappointed that the Minister has notseen fit to accept my amendment which is designed solely to facilitate the administration of this measure, and to prevent the revenue from being defrauded.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 51 to 53 agreed to.
Postponed clause 17 -
For the purposes of the last two preceding sections, continuous residence in Australia shall be deemed not to have been interrupted -
by occasional absences not exceeding in the aggregate six months;
by any period of absence during which the claimant’s home, any of his children or his furniture remained in Australia ; or
by any period of absence attributable to circumstances connected with any war in which His Majesty is engaged’.
Amendment (by Senator Fraser) proposed -
That, in paragraph (b ) , the words “ any of his children “ be left out with a view to insert in lieuthereof the following words: - “ such of his children, including step-children and adopted children, as were under the age of sixteen years “.
– I am pleased that the Minister has met me a little way in respect of this clause,but does he not also propose to omit the words, “or his furniture”? Apparently, if a man has a table and three or four chairs, and leaves them in Australia while he goes abroad for a number of years, he will be eligible for benefits under this measure immediately upon his return. That provision is far too wide.
– I urge the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) to omit the words “ or his furniture “. It is absolutely ridiculous to place the furniture which a man may leave behind him in Australia when he goes abroad in thesame category as his home or family. In no sense has a man’s furniture any bearing upon the determination of his domicile. I appeal to the Minister not to make the committee look ridiculous by passing this clause.
– If the words “ or his furniture “ are retained in the clause, will this provision mean that a man who has set up a camp with two or three chairs and a table and who decides to roam abroad for five or ten years, without disposing of that furniture, will be eligible for benefits under this measure immediately upon his return ?
– We shall make ourselves look absolutely ridiculous if we retain the words “ or his furniture “ in this clause, and thereby place a man’s furniture in the same category as his home and family. What sort of legislation are we passing ? Are we to leave the door wide open to all sorts of frauds? Under this clause the man who may leave a few chairs and a table stored in a warehouse in some city can claim upon his return from abroad that his residence has been continuous because he left his furniture here. I appeal to the Minister not to allow this chamber to pass such a provision. He has already modified the original clause by moving for the deletion of what I considered to be the least objectionable part.
– I am willing to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Fraser) agreed to -
That, in paragraph (b), the words “any of his children or his furniture “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ or such of his children, including step-children and adopted children as were under the age of sixteen years “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Senator Keane) put -
That the bill be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering clause 42.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Recommittal) :
Motion (by Senator Fraser) proposed -
That the following clause be reinserted: - 42. Payments of benefit shall be made out of the Trust Account established under the National Welfare Fund Act 1943 and known as the National Welfare Fund.
A motion contradictory of a previous decision of the committee shall not be entertained in the same committee.
I take it that the object of the Minister is to obtain a decision contradictory of the one which this committee has already given, but it is not competent for the committee to contradict a previous decision. I am not aware whether the Standing and Sessional Orders have been suspended in connexion with the bill. I believe that they have been, but no such suspension can override the clear language of Standing Order No. 265.
– I rule that this is not the same committee, but a new committee, and that motion is in order. I refer the honorable senator to Standing Order No. 202, which reads -
No new clause or amendment shall be at any time proposed which is substantially the same as one already negatived by the committee, or which is inconsistent with one that has been already agreed to by the committee, unless a recommittal of the bill shall have intervened.
A recommittal of the bill has intervened, and that the Minister’s motion is in order.
– If that is your ruling, sir, I have no more to say, except to point out again that the language of Standing Order No. 265 is very definite.
– Can you inform me, Mr. Chairman, whether any rulings have been given previously under that standing order?
– I have only recently been appointed to my present position, and do not know what rulings have been given under the standing order mentioned. The bill has been recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering clause 42, and the Minister is in order in moving that the clause be reinserted in the bill.
– What is your definition of a “ new committee ‘ ?
– You, Mr. Chairman, have already ruled on the point of order raised by honorable senators opposite, and I submit that your ruling can not be debated.
– This is a new committee, because the previous committee reported progress, a sitting of the Senate intervened, and the bill was referred to a new committee.
– I fail to see how you arrive at your decision that this is a new committee. I therefore move -
That the Chairman’s ruling be disagreed with on the ground that it is not in conformity with Standing Order No. 265.
– In those circumstances I have no option but to report dissent from my ruling to the President.
In the Senate:
- Mr. President, I have to report that an honorable senator has moved dissent from my ruling in regard to a motion providing that a clause be reinserted in the bill.
– The honorable senator who has moved dissent from the Chairman’s ruling must submit his dissent in writing. Standing Order No. 26-5 states -
A motion contradictory of a previous decision of the committee shall not be entertained in the same committee.
Standing Order No. 202 states -
No new clause or amendment shall be at any time proposed which is substantially the same as one already negatived by the committee or which is inconsistent with one that has been already agreed to by the committee unless a recommittal of the bill shall have intervened.
– The point raised by Senator Allan McDonald is that the motion before the Chair is contradictory of a previous decision of the same committee. I should like your ruling, Mr. President, as to whether it was the same committee.
– The point is whether the recommittal of the oil! is a recommittal to the same committee. I venture to suggest that it could not be anything else. The report of the committee was made to the Senate by the Chairman of Committees, and the Minister for Social Services (Senator. Fraser) moved its adoption. Then the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) moved that the bill be recommitted. That motion was carried. What does “ recommittal “ connote? To me it connotes a recommital to the same committee which has already considered the bill. That being so, Standing Order No. 265 becomes operative. The Minister then moved for the reinsertion of clause 42, thus reversing a decision which the committee had already made. I contend that it is incompetent for the committee to consider that motion, having regard to the clear terms of Standing Order No. 265. The suspension of the Standing Orders cannot alter the position, because sessional Standing Orders are suspended for a special purpose, namely, to enable a measure to be passed through its remaining stages without delay. That is the normal procedure of the Senate, which should be protected in every -way. In my opinion, the committee is not entitled to reverse its previous decision.
– The decision which it is now proposed should be reversed was made days ago.
– But it was made by the same committee. It does not matter when the decision was made, bo long as the same committee is reconstituted; the bill cannot be recommitted to any other committee. The word “ recommittal “ indicates that the measure is returning to the committee whence it came. There is no escape from the explicit provisions of Standing Order No. 265. There may be other means by which the Minister may be able to overcome the difficulty, but, in accordance with the Standing Orders which have been quoted, the committee cannot reverse its decision in the manner suggested.
– The argument adduced by Senator A. J. McLachlan is entirely wrong, because progress had been reported by the committee and the President had re-occupied the chair. I remind honorable senators that the same procedure was followed on ‘ the 26th March, 1943, on the War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Bill, and was not questioned. I support the ruling of the
Chairman of Committees.
– I rule that the committee to which the bill has been recommitted is a new committee. Standing Order No. 202 states -
No new clause or amendment shall be at any time proposed which is substantially the same as one already negatived by the committee or which is inconsistent with one that has already been agreed to by the committee unless a recommittal of the bill shall have intervened.
In this, case a recommittal of the bill intervened. If the argument adduced by Senator A. J. McLachlan were valid, at what stage would it be possible for a bill to be recommitted? If the ruling by the Chairman of Committees in this instance could not be sustained, it would appear that there would be no period at which a clause or amendment could be dealt with under Standing Order No. 202. It would be absurd to insert in that standing order the words “unless a recommittal of the bill shall have intervened “, unless it were intended that it should be possible for a clause or amendment to be recommitted at some stage. Those words have been inserted for the specific purpose of allowing the Senate to take the action which was taken on this occasion. The motion that the bill be recommitted was carried. It is now quite in order for the motion before the committee to be discussed.
In committee (Reconsideration resumed) :
Senator McLEAY (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition [9.37]. - Clause 42 was deleted from the bill last week. The Opposition gave reasons why the scheme should be financed on a contributory basis, and I do not propose to repeat the statements I then made. The matter is now in the hands of the Government. If the Government refuses to accept the decision made last week, and decides to force this clause through committee, there is no more that I can do, although I regret exceedingly the action that has been taken.
Motion (by Senator Keane) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative, there being at least thirteen senators voting in favour of the motion.
Question put -
That clause 42 be re-inserted in the bill.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 42 reinserted accordingly.
Question stated -
That the bill be reported with a further amendment.
No new clause or amendment shall be at any time proposed which is substantially the same as one already negatived by the committee, or which is inconsistent with one that has already been agreed to by the committee, unless a recommittal of the bill shall have intervened.
We have reached the recommittal stage. Standing Order No. 212 deals withthe procedure which should then be followed. It states -
On the motion for the adoption of the report, the bill may, on motion, be recommitted, either in whole or in part; in which case, if amendments be made and the bill be reported, a subsequent day shall be fixed for taking the report into consideration and moving its adoption, and the bill, as reported with the amendments, shall in the meantime be printed.
I submit that the proper procedure is to fix a subsequent day for the consideration of the motion for the adoption of the report.
– TheStanding Orders have been suspended to enable the bill to be passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– Senator Wilson should have read the whole of Standing Order No. 212.
– The concluding words of the standing order are - but if no amendments have been made, the report may be at once adopted.
Amendments have been made. I submit, Mr.Chairman, that there were no grounds for your interpretation of Standing Orders Nos. 202 and 265. The bill had reached the stage at which the clauses had been agreed toby the committee. Acting under the authority of the Standing Orders, you permitted a delay of the passage of the bill and the recommittal of a clause. Now that the bill has been recommitted, it is suggested that the motion for the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders can be applied. That motion was not used to prevent the passage of the bill “without delay, but you, sir, say that it can now be applied to escape the requirements of Standing Order No. 212. The passage of the bill has already been delayed, if that interpretation is to be placed on the standing order, but I suggest that the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders does not affect Standing Order No. 212 that a subsequent day shall be fixed for the. consideration of the motion for the adoption of the report.
– I have already ruled that the motion is- in order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported with a further amendment.
Motion (by Senator FRASER) proposed -
That the reports be adopted.
– 1 desire your ruling, Mr. President, on a question of procedure. The Chairman of Committees has ruled that the Minister in charge of the bill was in order in moving the adoption of the reports, because the Senate had already decided that so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay. I issue a warning to the Government that if important legislation is to be “ gagged “ through this chamber, the Opposition will be unable to assist the Government by agreeing to the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders, and the procedure laid down in the Standing Orders will have to be observed.
– I pointed out in committee that, under Standing Order No. 212, on the motion for the adoption of the report a bill may, on motion, be recommitted - that has already been done - in . which case, if amendments be made, and the bill be reported, a subsequent day must be fixed for taking the report into consideration and moving its adoption. I submit, Mr. President, that the proper procedure under that Standing Order is to fix a subsequent day for taking the report into consideration. The contingent notice of motion for the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders in no way affects Standing Order No. 212, which is for an entirely different purpose, namely that of dispensing with unnecessary delay. Standing Order No. 450 states -
The suspension of Standing Orders shall be limited in its operation to the particular purpose for which such’ suspension has been sought.
The suspension on this occasion was sought by the Minister for one purpose only, that of enabling the Government to deal expeditiously with certain legislation. I am sure that the Minister will admit that it was never intended or suggested that that motion was made to cover the present situation. It is clear under Standing Order No. 450 that the suspension was limited entirely to the particular purpose for which the suspension was sought. I defy the Minister to say that he sought the suspension for the present purpose. The Opposition has been, is, and will be, from time to time willing to assist the Government to get legislation passed expeditiously provided democratic methods are adopted and not the fascist and dictatorial method of applying the “gag”. I submit that under Standing Order No. 212 this motion cannot be dealt with now, but must be considered on a subsequent day as provided in the Standing Orders.
– I do not know what was in the mind of the Minister when he moved the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders, and I must be guided entirely by the Standing Orders. If my memory serves me aright, a certain motion was agreed to, providing that so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay. One of the stages could be the recommittal of the measure which occurred this evening. Senator Wilson now submits that under Standing Order No. 212 a subsequent day should be fixed for taking the report into consideration. That would involve a delay, but the Senate has already agreed to the suspension of so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders as would cause delays. Therefore, I uphold the ruling of the Chairman.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator FRASER) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- As there seems to have been some misapprehension as to war pensions, I point out that they are in three categories - a special pension, a service pension, and what might be termed an ordinary pension. The total number of pensions granted to the 30th June last, according to the Repatriation Commission’s report which was tabled on the 10th February, was 86,096. That number included sailors, soldiers and airmen of the last war and also of the present war, but excludes widows and dependants. Of that total, 4,621 or 5.3 per cent., are on a special pension because their war injuries prevent them from working. They do not come under the benefits of this bill. Nor do the service pensioners, who are bracketed with invalid and old-age pensioners, because they are unemployable. They number 8,417, or 9.5 per cent, of the total. The amendment moved by Senator Wilson related to the other 86 per cent, who draw pensions ranging from 2s. 6d. to £2 10s. a week. The rejection of that amendment means that the pensions of 73,048 ex-servicemen will be taken into account when assessing the benefits they are entitled to receive under this bill, should they become unemployed. Although it is true that a considerable percentage of those pensions may not be eligible, for various reasons, to receive any benefits, the fact remains that the majority of them, who are in receipt of wages or low salaries will forfeit all or portion of their pensions in order to come within the scope of the statutory income* limitation of £1 a week. The Government should reconsider this question and bring in amending legislation on the lines of Senator Wilson’s amendment. By so doing, an injustice to men of this war and of the last war would be removed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th February (vide page 53), on motion by Senator Fraser -
Phat the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill can be summed up briefly by saying that it proposes to provide increased prenatal and post-natal payments to mothers bearing twins or triplets. Under the present act a payment of 25s. a week is paid to the mother for a period of four weeks immediately prior to the birth of a child and for four weeks immediately following the birth. Under this bill it is proposed to increase the weekly payment from 25s. to 37s. 6d. in the case of twins, and to 50s. in respect of triplets. In other words, the mother of twins will receive an extra £5, whilst the mother of triplets will receive an additional £10.
The bill also provides for the raising of the age of “ other children “ from fourteen to sixteen years. At present, the mother of a child is paid £5 where there are no other children; she receives £6 where there are one or two other children, and £7 10s. where there are three or more other children. Under the act the age of “ other children “ is given as fourteen years. The proposal to substitute sixteen years for fourteen years will provide uniformity with other social legislation, and is therefore desirable. The extra cost of this provision is estimated at £15,000 per annum. The bill also provides for the inclusion in that section of the act dealing with payment of allowances to aboriginal natives of an extension of the term “ aboriginal native “ to include halfcastes, and, in certain cases, white persons living as aboriginal natives on government stations and reserves. I have examined the proposals, and intend te support the bill.
Question resolved in the ‘affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 34.
Commonwealth Shipping Act - Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board - Liquidation Account and Balance-sheet of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, together with report by the Auditor-General, for year ended 28th February, 1943.
Customs Act - Proclamation prohibiting the exportation of goods (except under certain conditions) - No. 591.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1944, No. 27.
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
St. Leonards, New South Wales.
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations -Orders -
Control of -
Essential materials (No.6).
Hand tools (No. 4).
Manufacture ofshovels (No. 2).
Use of land (15).
Wooden tool-handles (Manufacture and sale).
National Security (Rationing) Regulations -Orders- Nos. 38, 39.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, Nos. 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Regulations - No. 1 of 1944 (Liquor Ordinance).
Senate adjourned at 10.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 February 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440223_senate_17_177/>.