19th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Presentation to the Governor-General.
– I have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the AddressinReply to his opening speech at Government House at 5.15 p.m. to-morrow. I invite as many honorable senators as can make.it convenient to do so to accompany me.
Sitting suspended from 3.3 to 8 p.m.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether his colleague will,. in the course of the review of income tax legislation that he is at present undertaking, give sympathetic consideration to the question of granting . generous tax concessions to persons working in the far outback parts of Australia ?
– I am aware that the Treasurer is making a review, with the assistance of an expert committee, of the provisions of the income tax legislation. I shall arrange for the honorable senator’s question to be brought to his notice.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for National Development say whether, in view of the fact that the Government has appointed1 Commander Jackson as Director-General and Co-ordinator of National Development in Australia, his colleague contem- - plates the appointment of Deputy Directors of National Development in each State ? If he does, will the services of the regional planning committees in each State be used by the new organization? If permanent appointments are to be made to the new department, will the vacancies be widely advertised and applications unrestricted so that the best available talent may be employed in the important work of national development?
– I am aware that the Minister for National Development is considering the form of the organization that he will establish, not only federally, but also in each State. I am also aware that he has not yet reached definite conclusions upon all the problems of administration that confront him, I shall place before my colleague the points that the honorable senator has raised so that he may consider them before he makes his final decisions.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. In view of the fact that the Government has invoked the Crimes Act against the industrial workers of Australia, and I emphasize the words “industrial workers “-
– Against the industrial wreckers of Australia, not the workers.
– In view of the fact that the Government has invoked the Crimes Act against the industrial workers of Australia-
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable senator is introducing comment into his question and that, under the Standing Orders, he is not entitled to do so.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to introduce comment into a question.
– Will the Attorney-General inform the Senate whether the Government proposes to take any action against the British Medical Association, having regard to the fact that that body i9 still defying the law of the land and thereby-
– I rise to order. I again submit that the honorable senator is introducing comment into his question and that, under the Standing Orders, he is not entitled to do so.
– Perhaps Senator Sandford will frame his question in a way that will not cause the AttorneyGeneral to rise to order.
– That will be hard to do. I do not think that I can put my question in any other way. Having asked whether the Government proposes to take any action against the British Medical Association, I must state the reason why 1 have asked tha t question. The reason is that the action, of the British Medical Association in still defying the law of the land is depriving tens of thousands of persons of medical and pharmaceutical benefits to which they are justly entitled.
– I rise to order again. I submit that the honorable senator is now making a speech.
– Order! Senator Sandford is not making a speech. He is trying to obtain some information from the Attorney-General. In order to do so, he must state his case in a few words, as he has done.
– The question that I wish to ask the Attorney-General is whether the Government contemplates taking any action against the British Medical Association ?
– Can the honorable senator say for what reason?
– The reason is that the British Medical Association is still defying the law of the land and thereby depriving tens of thousands of persons of medical and pharmaceutical benefits to which they are justly entitled.
– The question contains an entirely false accusation. The accusation is that the British Medical Association is breaking some law that has been passed by this Parliament. I am not aware that the British Medical Association has broken any law. As far as I can gather, the honorable senator is referring to the conduct of doctors in relation to certain provisions of an act passed by this Parliament that were declared by the High Court to be invalid.
– I have not finished my question. What I wanted to say was that in defying the law of the land the British Medical Association has deprived . tens of thousands of persons of medical and pharmaceutical benefits to which they are entitled, and that some of those persons are age and invalid pensioners who cannot afford to pay for the medical and pharmaceutical benefits that they need urgently. With your permission, Mr. President, may I ask the Minister to give a definite answer to my question and not the usual evasive answer ?
– Order ! Senator Sandford has expressed an opinion, because whether or not the British Medical Association is defying the law is a matter of opinion. The AttorneyGeneral has answered the question to the best of his ability. Honorable senators are not entitled to make statements of opinion when, asking questions. Senator Sandford could ask whether it is the opinion of the Minister that, for instance, the British Medical Association is defying the law. He could then proceed to ask whether, if that be the opinion of the Minister, any action is to be taken. Questions may be framed in that way. When Senator Sandford says that the British Medical Association is defying the law, he is stating his opinion, and honorable senators must not state their opinions when asking questions.
– “Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate whether the British Medical Association is complying with the provisions of the pharmaceutical legislation, and, if not, why?
– -To the best of my knowledge the British Medical Association is complying with all the provisions of the pharmaceutical benefits legislation that are applicable to it.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate whether the British Medical Association is complying with the provisions of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act so that all persons entitled to benefits are receiving them? If not, will the Minister take all the necessary action to ensure compliance with the law?
– As I indicated in answer to a previous question, certain provisions of the law to which the honorable senator refers were held by the High Court to be invalid towards the end of last year. In other words, they are no more a law than if they had been a resolution passed by a trade union or some committee that is not in a position to pass laws for the Commonwealth of Australia.
– But the act still stands.
– No, that provision, of the act does not stand. Once the High Court has declared, that a particular provision is invalid, it is exactly the same as if the law had never been made. The words appear in the written document that is called the act of Parliament, but they have no legal effect. The High Court has held that that is the position with regard to the particular provisions to which the honorable senator refers, and he is drawing an entirely false inference when he suggests that there is any failure to comply with the law. The particular law to which he refers does not exist.
– In view of the broadcast made by the Prime Minister, and the decision of the Government to invoke the Crimes Act on the industrial organizations of Australia, will the Attorney-General tell this Senate what parts of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act have been declared invalid by the High Court and whether or not the Government intends to invoke the Crimes Act on those who refuse to obey the law of the country?
– I thought that my answers to the previous questions in relation to this matter would make the position clear to any intelligent being; but, apparently, I have not succeeded. In the first place, the section of the Crimes Ac; to which the honorable senator refers can be brought into operation only if there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance. I am not aware that any serious industrial disturbance has been created, at any rate, by the medical profession. As I endeavoured to -explain, the provisions of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act which were designed to require doetors to use certain forms, the use of which entitled patients to receive pharmaceutical benefits free, have been declared invalid by the High Court. The position is the same in regard to that matter as if the provisions had never been made at all.
– Will the Attorney-General state whether the Government proposes to make an effort to induce the British Medical Association to comply with the law of the land by facilitating the provision of the free medical and pharmaceutical benefits of which the people of this country are urgently in need? Eoi- the information of the Attorney-General, I point out that only a part of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, - the part applying to compulsion - was declared invalid. Doctors may still voluntarily co-operate in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
Senator -SPICER. - Why this question has now been directed to me, I confess that I do not know. I am asked whether
I intend to induce certain people to do things that they are not compelled to do. I am afraid that that is not ‘within the province of any Attorney-General. His concern is the enforcement of the law. He is not interested in whether people can be induced to do things voluntarily. Insofar as the honorable senator’s question seeks a statement of Government policy, it is improper, because, as the honorable senator is aware, the practice is not to state Government policy in answer to questions.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health say what progress the Government has made in its conferences with the British Medical Association to enable the people of Australia to obtain medical and pharmaceutical benefits for which they have been contributing and are still contributing and to which they are justly entitled ?
– The honorable senator’s question raises a matter that concerns my colleague, the Minister for Health. I shall ensure that the Minister is informed of the honorable senator’s question, and I shall obtain a report from my colleague at an early date.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether rebates of duty in respect of timber and building materials have been granted in certain instances? Have they been made retrospective to the 10th December last? If so, what provision has been made to ensure that consumers shall obtain the advantage of the rebates in respect of goods that were ordered and. delivered after the 10th December?
– In order to reduce the high cost of house-building the Government has thought fit to allow vital building materials to enter this country free of duty. One of the conditions of that concession is that the benefit shall go to the ultimate user, the actual home-owner, and that no contractor or other intermediate person shall gain any advantage therefrom. It is not so much a matter of rebate as a by-law exemption from the payment of duty. As the honorable senator has very wisely and s_. “‘bly suggested, the people who do in fact benefit are the ultimate users, the buyers, or the people who own the homes eventually. The policy of the Government is directed to that end.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether there is any truth in the suggestion contained in recent newspaper reports that tea and butter rationing will be abolished in the near future?
– I have not seen the newspaper reports to which the honorable senator has referred.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether it is true that the Australian Government has made available a loan of £500,000 for the rehabilitation for the people of Burma ? If so, will the Government consider granting each State Government a similar amount, at the same rate of interest, for the specific purpose of building low-rental homes for age pensioners to enable them to spend the twilight of their lives in some degree of comfort? At present many age pensioners are compelled to pay rentals of up to 50 per cent, of their pensions for inadequate accommodation in slum areas.
– I appreciate the interest of the honorable senator in suggesting that homes should he made available for people in the evening of their lives. I am quite sure that the Government would adopt a very favorable view to doing what it could to alleviate the plight of people in that unfortunate position. If the honorable senator has specific suggestions to offer I shall be pleased to discuss them with her.
– On the 15th March Senator Ryan asked a question regarding poliomyelitis- research. The Minister for Health has now supplied the following answer: -
At the present time the Commonwealth is not carrying out research on the poliomyelitis virus itself, although investigations are being made into the epidemiology of the disease by collecting data concerning each new case as it occurs. Virus research in general is being heavily subsidized by the National Health and Medical Research Council. This research work is concerned with viruses which are much more readily cultivated than poliomyelitis virus. It is hoped that the work in the more easily handled viruses will eventually bring to light knowledge that will be applicable to all virus infections including poliomyelitis. Any reasonable application by members of the medical profession in the States for the utilization of such Commonwealth resources as arc available will be sympathetically considered. With regard to the accommodation and education of children disabled by poliomyelitis, although no Commonwealth institutions, other than Repatriation General Hospitals (which are utilized only for repatriation purposes) are available in the States, it is the Government’s intention to generally assist financially State responsibilities concerning hospitals and education.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior by pointing out that in 1947 the former Prime Minister appointed the North Australia Development Committee. Will the Minister inform me whether any reports have been received from that committee? If so, what were the results of its investigations ? Did the committee submit a recommendation with relation to the development of the Kimberleys in Western Australia?
– I shall refer this matter to the Minister for the Interior and endeavour to obtain a reply for the honorable senator as soon as possible.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport by reminding him that the provisions of the Crimes Act have been invoked by the Government in connexion with the waterside workers’ dispute in Queensland in relation to the rotation of work in hatches. For the information of honorable senators, will the Minister explain the workers’ grievances? Will he also make representations in the right quarter to have them rectified ?
– This matter comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Labour and National Service, to whom I shall refer the honorable senator’s question and endeavour to obtain a reply as soon as possible.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Government has received any information indicating that as indicated by thebarrage of questions from Opposition members to-night, the Opposition is in sympathy with the Communists against whom the Crimes Act was invoked last week, or otherwise?
– The honorable senator’s question is rather well put.. I do know that the Prime Minister hasreceived many congratulatory telegrams:from people who realize that there can be no compromise between lawful authority and lawlessness. Answering, the honorable senator’s question, I inform him that the Australian Labour party- has not yet stated which side it is on.
– I wish to ask theAttorneyGeneral a question: Since theGovernment invoked the Crimes Act because of the skirmish on the waterfront in Brisbane last week, which was intensified by the shipping agents having steam turned off the winches, thus preventing; waterside workers from working-
– I rise to order. I submit that so far the honorable senator’s, question has consisted mainly of comment. If the honorable senator cares to ask. whether or not his statements are facts I may be able to get some information for him.
– I should like to know, Mr. President, whether thcAttorneyGeneral is in order in seeking to conduct the affairs of this Senate. That, sir, I believe to be your duty. I object to being lectured by a member of the Government’s intelligentsia and I ask for your ruling.
– I have been President of the Senate for nearly six years, and I consider that I am quite capable of deciding how its proceedings should be conducted. Senator Spicer is quite ia order. Occasionally, honorable senator* on both sides of the chamber say things that do not suit their political opponents, thus causing some ire. I have already pointed out that honorable senators could avoid points of order such as that now taken by the Attorney-General by framing their questions directly and avoiding comments.
– What about the comment from Senator Wright?
– 1 am not a modern Solomon, nor do I claim my administration to be without blemish. I cannot argue that my interpretation of Standing Orders is invariably correct. I may fall from grace on occasions, but I say most emphatically that, as long as I have been in this chair, I have done my best to give justice to all honorable senators. Common sense - unfortunately too uncommon - must be used on occasions, and it has always been my endeavour to use it. To Senator Morrow and other honorable senators I say that there should be no difficulty in asking questions without commenting.
– We do not always get answers from the Ministers.
– I am not permitted, as President of the Senate, to compel Ministers to answer questions, but common courtesy demands that they shall all do so to the best of their ability.
– We shall take action to get answers in another way.
– I cannot compel any Minister to give an answer, but in the eighteen years that I have been a member of the Senate, all Ministers, Labour and Liberal, have tried to answer questions to the best of their ability, and 1 hope that the high standard that has been set in the past will not be lowered. Senator Morrow may now ask his question.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether- it is true that after the Government had invoked the Crimes Act because of the skirmish on the Brisbane waterfront, the steamship agents at Brisbane had steam turned off the winches, thus preventing waterside workers from working? If so, what action does the Government propose to lake against those offenders?
– I am entirely unaware whether the allegation made by the honorable senator is correct. All I know is that since the Crimes Act was invoked the waterside workers have determined to go back to work in accordance with the decisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and I understand that work started on Monday and has continued ever since. The Government derives great satisfaction from that, and I hope that the Australian Labour party derives similar satisfaction.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether he is prepared to examine his memory or his conscience, or both, in order to ascertain whether he was correct in the reply which he made to a question asked by Senator Wright about the alleged sympathy of the Australian Labour party with the Communists, in the course of which the Minister said that so far the Australian Labour party has not declared on which side it stands? Is he prepared to examine his memory or his conscience, or both, in connexion with that allegation?
– I am quite prepared to consult all three, and, having done so, I say that it is a matter of great regret, and I am sure also a matter of great disappointment, to .the trade unionists of Australia that the Australian Labour party has not declared itself in favour of law against lawlessness.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. President. Will you inform the Senate whether any obligation, other than that imposed by common decency, devolves upon reporters to ensure accurate reports of proceedings in this chamber?
– That is a somewhat unusual question.
– I am not aware of the precise obligations of reporters in this matter, I understand, however, that very improper and incorrect suggestions have been made in newspaper reports of the proceedings in the Senate.
– Do I understand the honorable senator is referring to the press of Australia or to Hansard11.
– I refer to the outside press. I do not mean Hansard. I have found that Hansard is very accurate.
– As far as the outside press is concerned, the Parliament depends on it to give an accurate report of the proceedings, but, of course, over the years I know by experience that the press has not always reported honorable senators accurately. If the press falls from grace to any great extent, it is within my power and tie power of this Senate to deal with it. If the honorable senator will bring forward a particular ease where the press of this country has reported inaccurately the proceedings of this Senate, the matter will be investigated.
– In view of the fact, that the Commonwealth is to compete actively with the trading banks, will the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether the trading banks are allowed to enter into the hire-purchase field by lending money? So that a fair comparison can be gained, would the Treasurer consider a charge against the net profits of the Commonwealth Bank in the form of income tax so that the people can gain an honest account of the bank’s position?
– There is no restriction on the private banks entering into time-payment business. The trading banks can engage in hire-purchase business if they so desire, and, in fact, some of them do. The second question is whether income tax should be chargeable upon profits earned by the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Bank is a government institution. To charge the Commonwealth Bank income tax would in truth be merely to transfer money from one pocket to another. The Commonwealth Bank works in accordance with a specific act of Parliament, which provides for the distribution of the profits earned by its various sections in certain specific directions. There would be little point and no advantage in requiring the bank to pay income tax.
– I wish to direct a question to the Leader of the Opposition.
– Order ! The honorable senator would notbe in order in addressing a question to the Leader of the Opposition.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health anything further to report regarding the question I asked last week as to the intention of the Government to make available, free of cost, hearing aids to children whose hearing is impaired?
– I have not heard from my colleague the Minister for Health in regard to the representatives that I have made to him in dealing with the question that the honorable senator asked, but I can assure him that as soon as I get that information I shall let him have it.
– In view of the projected tour of Their Majesties the King and Queen in 1952 and the widespread interest of the Australian people in this epoch-making event, will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral state whether the Government will take urgent action to see that a television system is installed covering as many Australian cities as possible so that the great festivities associated with the Royal Tour will be witnessed through television by as many Australians as possible ?
– The question of putting television . before the Australian people has already been considered by the Postmaster-General and I understand that he has already started investigations in regard to setting up this appliance in Australia. I shall, however, bring to the Minister’s notice the honorable senator’s request that the provision of television should be speeded up in order that it may be available to the general public for the Royal Visit in 1952:
Two honorable senators having risen,
– Order ! To make the position! plain concerning the call from the Chair, I shall repeat what I have stated previously, which is that I shall do my best to spread questions without notice as fairly as possible between honorable senators, who will understand that, although I may see them when they rise totheir feet, I do not call them if they have already asked a question and another honorable senator who has not asked a question seeks the call. Senator Cooke has not yet asked a question, so I now give him the call.
– Will the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport inform the Senate of the amount of subsidy paid from Commonwealth revenue on imported coal ? Will he also say on what basis per ton the subsidy is paid?
– No subsidy has been paid. If orders are placed through Commonwealth authorities the subsidy that will be paid to the importing States will be the difference between the cif. & e. price of imported coal and the price of coal mined in New South Wales.
– In view of the shortage of automatic telephone exchanges in the country will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General ensure that the supply of the materials that are so urgently needed for those installations shall not be jeopardized by any hurried attempts to introduce television ?’
– I can assume the honorable senator that the proposed introduction of television will not ait all interfere with the completion of the programme that has been laid down- foa- the installation of automatic telephone exchanges. However, I shall obtain a complete answer to his question from the Postmaster-General a:nd’ let him have it as soon as possible.
– Now that petrol rationing has been abolished ami the Government has no fear that there will be a shortage of petrol, will the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport say whether the Government is prepared to abolish the present quota system, which restricts free enterprise and ordinary competition amongst petrol’ companies, even to the extent of prohibiting some petrol companies from selling petrol in certain States? Since the GO. vernment was elected on a policy of free enterprise, how can the Minister justify retention of these restrictive quotas?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is, “ No “.
– Since we are here to carry on the business of government, and the Government has already extended the usual time for questions by a quarter of an hour, I suggest that further questions be placed on the noticepaper.
Opposition senators interjecting.
– We have been elected by the people to carry out a programme. Ministers could sit here all night answering questions, some of which are asked not for the purpose of eliciting information.
– I rise to order. Under the Standing Orders it is not within the province of any Minister to rebuke honorable senators for exercising rights conferred on them by the Standing Orders. If the Leader of the Senate desires questions to cease forthwith he should make a request to you, Mr. President, that further questions be placed on the notice-paper or deferred until some other time.
– I think the point of order is well taken. If the Leader of the Senate desires certain action to be taken he ea-a move, accordingly without indulging- in comment.
– I accept the rebuke and accede to the request made by Senator Sheehan. Will honorable senators, please place any further questions on the notice-paper?
Bridges - Omnibus Services
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Does the Government propose, to. repair the bridge over thu Molonglo River, Canberra, on the root between King’s venue and Duntroon road; if not. why not?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
A commencement lias already been made on the work of repairing the bridge.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : - 1 and 2. The distance from the Westlake settlement to the shelter shed on the existing bus route is less than half a mile. A regular service for school children is provided on the existing route. Previous requests for the diversion of buses into Westlake have been refused. Any additional running would have thu effect of increasing the loss already incurred on the bus service. Residents of other localities in the city area live at similar distances from the bus route as Westlake residents.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the shipping services to the north-west of Western Australia are very irregular; if so, will the Postmaster-General consider sending all first-class mail by air without the usual surcharge for air mail services ?
-The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
An important consideration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is the provision of adequate mail services to people in the outback, and a comprehensive study is now being made of the facilities at present existing in the northern areas with a view to further utilization of air services for the carriage of ordinary mail. Already 10,000 miles of air routes are being used for the distribution not only of letters, but all classes of unsurcharged mail, to residents in north-west Australia and other similar areas with poor surface communication.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
With reference to projected works on national development, is any cognizance being taken of the north-west of Western Australia, which, with its vast undeveloped potentialities, is a most important part of Australia, both economically and strategically?
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer : -
The Commonwealth Government is doing a great deal to assist the State of Western Australia with the development of the northwestern portion of that State. A programme of road construction, including a major bridge over the Ord River, and stock route improvements is being financed by the Commonwealth Government. These developments are expected to cost more than £2,000,000. Their purpose is to open the way for an expansion of the cattle industry to provide increased ment supplies for the United Kingdom. Scientific investigations are also being conducted at an experimental station near Ivanhoe by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Western Australian Agricultural Department into the agricultural possibilities of the area, commandable for irrigation from a proposed dam at the Ord River Gorge. Research is being applied to various forms of crop production and to establishment of pastures for fattening cattle. The economic soundness of going ahead with a major dam construction and irrigation project in this region cannot be determined until the scientific investigations have reached a more advanced stage. The Government recognizes the possibilities of development in the northwest and I will ensure that, iii planning for national developmental works, attention will continue to be directed to this region.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
If, as a result of the recent ministerial survey, the Government proceeds with the Clarence River project, will this in any way interfere with or delay the carrying out of the Great Walsh and Burdekin schemes which are so vitally necessary in the development of Queensland?
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer: -
The Commonwealth Government will examine proposals of a national character put forward by the States for development of our natural resources. The Commonwealth has not yet received any request from the New South Wales Government for assistance with the Clarence River project, but the Queensland Government has asked for financial assistance with major developmental projects on the Mareeba-Dimbulah area and the Burdekin region to which, I understand, the senator refers. The Queensland Government’s proposals are still under examination by an expert committee. Since no request has been received in connexion with the Clarence project, the question of priorities has not yet been considered. Although it is clear that there is a limit to the number of projects that can be undertaken at any one time, the Commonwealth Government will, in reviewing requests for assistance from the States, take into account the importance of the schemes from the standpoint of national development, decentralization and the availability of labour, materials and financial resources.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
When is it intended or proposed to raise the Invermay post office to official status?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
The department proposes to introduce official conditions at the Invermay post office as soon as the way is clear to do so. Unfortunately it is not practicable to make the change immediately because suitable temporary accommodation is not available pending the erection of a departmental building on the site which has been acquired for the purpose. Plans and estimates for the official structure are being prepared, and it is hoped that the work will be commenced before the end of the year. In the meantime endeavours to obtain suitable temporary premises will be maintained.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers:-^
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers: -
The Government is giving consideration to the possibilities of exploiting the resources of the sub-antarctic regions, and the tropical seas of the north coast of Western Australia. At the present time research in the subantarctic regions is mainly restricted to the fields of meteorology and geology, but when the Government has secured a suitable vessel, surveys will be undertaken which will incorporate investigation of marine resources. The Whaling Commission which was recently set up is expected to commence its operations in July of this year.
asked1 the- Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service,, upon, notice-. -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development ha? supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following reply: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has furnished the following answer: -
Debate resumed from the 23rd March (vide page 1135), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The question of child endowment is linked with the basic wage. It can be asserted that Australia was the first country to have a basic wage. The principle was established in what is known as the Harvester judgment. That basic wage was obtained by the workers at great expense because at that time they did not have the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures to work upon as they have now. The wives of workers went into the witness box and were subjected .by representatives of the employers to searching cross-examination, particularly in relation to the cost of the garments that women wore at that time. The Harvester judgment was the cause of much industrial unrest, because, owing to the action of the employers, it was followed by what was known as the Excise Harvester judgment. Some time after that, a strike occurred in Melbourne, and much bitterness was aroused. Many men were victimized. The basic wage was secured only after continued efforts by the trade unions. Originally it wa3 assessed on the basis of the needs of a unit of five - a man, wife and three children. I say in passing that the Harvester judgment was delivered by the late Mr. Justice Higgins and that, as the members of the legal fraternity in this chamber will agree, his judgments were circulated throughout the world. Legal luminaries in the United States of America cited many of them.
Following the Harvester judgment, certain action was taken in some States, particularly in New South Wales. The trade unions in that State obtained a judgment from the Board of Trade. Prior to World War I. they received a wage of £2 14s. a week. £2 8s. a week was regarded as the living wage, and the additional 6s. a week was paid to them to give them an opportunity to establish banking accounts. Honorable senators on the Government side have contended that the claims of the Opposition do not warrant interference by the Parliament with any court or tribunal charged with fixing the basic wage. New South Wales was the first State to introduce a basic wage. Some honorable senators may remember the conniving, engineering, and lobbying that occurred in the New South Wales Parliament at that time. I shall show that similar machinations to those that took place in 1919 occurred in 1950. In 1919 the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Holman, introduced a measure to provide for the payment of child endowment. At that time the basic wage in the premier State was £3 a week. The workers were dissatisfied, and presented a ease to the Board of Trade, which was the basic-wage-fixing tribunal at that time. It was currently rumoured that the Board of Trade was preparing a judgment granting a basic wage of £3 18s. a week. The bill that was introduced in the State Parliament contemplated a basic wage of £3 Ss, a week, with endowment. As a result of workers’ demonstrations and agitations the New South Wales Government withdrew the bill.. The basic wage that was then decided upon by the Board of Trade was £?> 17s. a week.”
Let us consider the history of child endowment. The present Commonwealth Ministers were not responsible for what I am about to refer to, because they did not then occupy their present positions. In 1927 family endowment legislation to provide 5s a week for each dependent child of employees in the Commonwealth Public Service under the age of fourteen years was introduced. In the same year similar legislation was introduced in the State Parliament. Endowment in New South Wales was to be financed by a threeyear levy on total wages. The levy was imposed for three months and one week. The amount collected in that manner during that period was £1,250,000 which was sufficient to finance the payment of child endowment for one year in that State. During 1927 the remuneration of Commonwealth public servants was reduced by £11 a year which was equivalent to the amount of endowment they received. Therefore neither the employer - the Commonwealth Government - nor the general taxpayers contributed to the fund. The employees themselves suffered a reduction of pay to ensure that those of their number who had families should receive child endowment. In dealing with basic wage applications the Arbitration Courts in the various States have regarded the family unit as three. I shall not criticize the judges of the various courts because I realize the responsibility that devolved upon them in determining basic wages for various sections of employees in industry. In the basic wage judgment of 1940 Chief Judge Beeby said -
Assuming that the Court, by the indirect methods at its disposal, decided to re-arrange the division of national income, it does not follow that such purpose would best be achieved by an increase in the basic wage applicable to all wage-earners, irrespective of family responsibilities . . . During the proceeding* I was impressed with new evidence and argument submitted as to the inadequacy of the earnings of the lower-grade wage-earners with families.
Naturally, judges are concerned more with questions of law than other considerations. However, great weight is thrust upon them, and they examine the evidence submitted carefully. It is obvious that the Chief Judge recognized the great responsibility that rested upon him, and I am sure that the judges who are at present hearing the basic wage application similarly recognize their responsibilities. In his second-reading speech on the measure before us the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) said -
If statements by honorable senators opposite during the recent election campaign can be taken as a guide, it will no doubt be alleged by them in connexion with this measure, that the introduction of endowment for the first child will be followed by a lower basic wage.
The Minister said deliberately that the basic wage would be reduced after the introduction of child endowment for the first child in each family under the age of sixteen years.
– The Minister did not say that.
– He said that the Opposition would claim that that would eventuate.
– I merely said that doubtless the Opposition would claim that that would happen.
– The Minister alluded to the Opposition. It is somewhat of a coincidence that that is precisely what happened when a basic wage application was before the court in 1940. The concluding paragraph of Chief Judge Beeby’s judgment reads -
Since the conclusion of the hearing the Commonwealth Government has announced its intention to initiate such a scheme. If and when that is done, future fixations of the basic wage will be greatly simplified, but the announcement of the Government’s intentions does not of itself justify any departure from past methods.
When a basic wage application for an increase was before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration last year, the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), who was then sitting in Opposition, stated publicly that if the Opposition parties were returned to power in the general election that was then pending, they would make provision for the endowment of the first child in each family under the age of sixteen, years at the rate of 5s. a week, but that if the court decided to adopt a different family unit as a basis, the Government would reconsider its position.
In connexion with an application by the Amalgamated Engineering Union and ibr Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia for a basic wage determination last year, the Liberal Government of Western Australia announced, inter alia -
The Attorney-General will further submit (a) that insofar as the Court may decide to compute the basic wage upon any considerations relating to family units and their living costs, it should take into account all additions and concessions available to such family units, whether by way of social service benefits or otherwise.
In connexion with a similar application in South Australia, the Liberal Government contended -
Whilst the Australian economy is now capable of providing and sustaining a higher reward for basic wage employment than it, 1937, such increased capacity has been full, absorbed by reduction of standard hours, the “interim” increase of about 7 per cent, in the basic wage in December, 1946, the provision of child endowment and other social services, betterment of leave provisions, increase in wage margins, &c. Accordingly, at least until the recent major improvements of reduction in standard hours and revision of wage margins have been fully absorbed by the Australian economy, and their effects assessed, no further improvement should be attempted.
In his submission to the court in connexion with a similar application in Victoria, the representative of the Liberal Government of that State submitted -
Insofar as the Court may decide to compute the basic wage upon any considerations relating to family units and their living costs, it should take into account all additions and concessions available to such family units whether by way of social service benefits or otherwise.
Had Liberal governments been in office in all of the States I am convinced that other applications along similar lines would have been made to the court. The Liberal party considers that the wages of the workers should be reduced by an amount equivalent to the amount of child endowment received by them. The present Government has said that it is not representing the employers in the proceedings before the court. What wonderful assistance the Government is giving to the court at present! The Attorney-General, in reply to a question last night, said that this Government had two members of the bar present at the hearing. What are they doing? It is said in the press that they are there as observers. Observing what? I suppose if they think that the case will go against their Liberal confreres in the various State parliaments, they will put up a fight in the court to protect their Liberal friends. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber maintain always that the Liberal party and the employers work hand in hand. They are in harmony when it comes to trying to prevent the workers from obtaining an increase in the standard of living. I have here the documents filed on behalf of the general body of employers. In clause (d) of their submission to the Arbitration Court they state -
If the basic wage is or is to be fixed in relation to “ social necessary requirements “ account should be taken of amounts available to parents by way of child endowment.
That is the application of the employers to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– Did they say anything as to what would be the position if the basic wage were fixed otherwise?
– The employers have always gone into the courts to try to prevent the workers from getting a decent standard of living. That was their attitude even before the honorable senator was born. They did it in 1907 and in 1.950 they are continuing their fight in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. We who have been engaged in industrial matters know that the employers have always maintained that they could not pay a decent living wage. Their contention has always been that industry could not afford it. However, even in my time in the fight for higher wages, the industrial movement has found a change of front and tactics on the part of employers. At one time, if certain industries were not in a sound position, industry as a whole hid behind them to justify the claim that the employers could not afford to pay a living wage. To-day the whole aspect is altered. When wages were reduced by 10 per cent, in 1931, all the university professors and the economists of the land went into the court and said, “ Our economy is down and out. It cannot continue to pay the present rate of pay that the employees are receiving and the employees will have to accept a 10 per cent, cut in wages “. What is the position to-day? The employees are putting up a fight in the court. How different is their attitude to-day towards an application for an increase in wages from their attitude when the 10 per cent, cut was imposed. The reduction of wages was accomplished almost over-night but when the employees have a case for a higher basic wage, months pass before a decision i9 reached.
– So far the employees have given most of the evidence.
– Have the employers given evidence?
– They have just started.
– The AttorneyGeneral contends that it is the employees who have taken up the time of the court. His party does not assist them to obtain a higher standard of living. I invite the honorable senator to name an instance in his lifetime when the employers offered to give employees a higher standard of living or better hours or anything else of that nature. The employees have had to fight for everything that they have gained.
– It is not the place of a political party to go into an arbitration court.
– The honorable senator is talking about the Arbitration Court. I would like to give the chamber a few facts in relation to it. The Arbitration Court waa made .possible by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I remind the Senate of the effect on the basic wage of the well-known Excise Harvester judgment. I well remember the gas workers of Australia attempting to secure an award from the Arbitration Court. First of all, they had to have an organization registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In many instances the employees who attempted to form an organization under that act to secure an award were victimized. Large organizations such as that which is now known as the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board insisted that a man seeking employment with them should sign a declaration that he would not attempt to join an industrial organization-
– That may be interesting, but it has nothing to do with endowment of the first child.
– I am pointing out that the question of child endowment is wrapped up with the basic wage. That was shown even in the honorable senator’s second-reading speech. He said that the introduction of endowment for the first child would be followed by a lower basic wage.
– I did not make that statement. It is quite impossible for me to sit here and hear the honorable senator quote my second-reading speech wrongly.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls).- Order ! The Minister cannot interrupt a senator who is on his feet. If he claims that he has been misrepresented he will have an opportunity to ask leave to make an explanation, but no new matter can be introduced and no debate can arise from such an explanation.
– I was speaking of a statement made by the Minister when he introduced the bill. He was alluding to the Opposition, and I did not attempt to hide that fact, but I contend that in his second-reading speech he made a direct reference to the basic wage. No word had been spoken by a member of the Opposition on that point when the Minister made that statement. I want to point out, with reference to this question of prosperity and ability to pay a higher wage, that figures can be produced to show that industry can pay the full basic wage as well as full child endowment. In 193S the national income of Australia was £814,000,000. In 1948-49 it had jumped to a total of £1,955,000,000. That was the national income of Australia according to the last figures available. In 1931 it was said that the national income could not stand the wages and they were reduced. The employers in every instance go to the court. They want every penny paid out of the National Welfare Fund to be deducted from the total basic wage. The figures I have quoted show that in this period of prosperity, Australia can afford to pay the 10s a week in child endowment for the first child without affecting the basic wage. In Melbourne this week Mr. S. Ricketson, chairman of the Cable Cord Investment Company, one of the large financial groups of Australia, said -
Our internal economy has been undergoing significant changes. In value of manfacturers’ production,, it is now two and a half times more than pre-war.
On every hand there is increased productivity and greater wealth for the community and the Government proposes to pay 5s. a week child endowment for the first child. It has already been indicated by Senator McKenna that the Labour party will propose an amendment increasing that amount to 10s. with the proviso that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court shall not take that payment inso consideration in fixing the basic wage. At the time that Senator McKenna made that statement, the Attorney-General said, by way of interjection, that it would be unconstitutional. That is a matter of opinion. For instance, child endowment is not paid under a Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court decision or by any powers possessed by that” court. It is paid from the National Welfare Fund and through that fund by the .people as a whole. Each worker pays into the fund, and this Government proposes to continue that method. Honorable senators should not lose sight of the fact that when a man with a wife and three children receive £1 a week for child endowment, he and his family pay into the National Welfare Fund. So does every employee in the community, whether he has children over sixteen years or no children, or is unmarried. The Government proposes to pay the workers 5s. a week from their own money. Part of the fund comes from wages’ tax, but that tax is charged to- industry. It is charged against profits, and therefore the workers themselves pay every penny piece that goes into the fund. The AttorneyGeneral has said that Labour’s proposed amendment of this measure is unconstitutional. What did he mean by that? He was referring, of course, to the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but he forgot that there is now specific constitutional authority for the Commonwealth to legislate, in respect of child endowment. In 1946, the people of Australia agreed to the proposal that the Commonwealth should be empowered under the Constitution to legislate in respect of social services,” including, of course, child endowment. That provision gives, ample power to this Parliament to ensure that its child endowment legislation shall achieve its objective. The Commonwealth has ample authority, I contend, to prevent the Arbitration Court from depriving the people of Australia of the benefits of child endowment, by making a corresponding reduction of the basic wage. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act empowers the Commonwealth to take action to prevent or settle industrial disputes extending beyond the boundaries of any one State. Therefore if an industrial dispute extending beyond the borders of any one State arises from any action by the Arbitration Court to offset child endowment payments by decreasing the basic wage, the Commonwealth would, I submit, have the power to deal with that situation. The Commonwealh Arbitration Court has had reserved to it power to fix the basic wage, to determine standard hours, to fix female rates of pay, and to prescribe annual leave. This Parliament has, in the past, increased or decreased the powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and I believe that it could do so again. To-day, all workers, whether their earnings are augmented by child endowment or not, are being robbed scientifically and methodically. In Victoria, for instance, prices control has been removed from 160 commodities. Prices will not rise until the end of this month, but the cost of living variations of the basic wage which will become operative on the 1st’ May will be based on prices ruling in the first quarter of the. year. In other words, although prices will rise considerably after the end of this month, the cost of living variations will be related to present-day prices. Similarly, cost of living variations to be made in August of this year will be related to prices ruling in the second quarter of the year. That is going on all the time, yet honorable senators opposite wonder why workers are discontented and complain about the slowness of the
Arbitration Court. Price increases are felt most severely by large families. In Victoria, the price of wood, gas, and electricity is being increased. These commodities are vital to all households in which there are children. Spiralling costs are the cause of much of the unrest amongst what we term the extreme elements controlling certain industrial organizations. The Minister in his second-reading speech said -
I emphasize this point. Those who dogmatically state that endowment of the first child will actually reduce the basic wage do so either in ignorance of the procedure or with the deliberate intention to falsify the Government’s intentions. I will add only this: The Government has already made clear what it will do if the court alters the principles of computing the basic wage and takes as the foundation for calculation the needs of a married couple without children. In that event the Government will bring down an amendment to provide uniform endowment of 108. for all children. If, on the other hand, the court adopts some new principle altogether for computing the basic wage, the Government will reconsider the matter in the light of the new circumstances.
What will the judges think when they read that? Was the Minister threatening the judges? When I urged the Government to delay this measure until the Arbitration Court had announced the. new basic wage, I was told that the Government could not interfere with the judges of the Arbitration Court. How can that statement be reconciled with what the Minister said in his secondreading speech on this measure? He said that if certain things happened, the matter would be reconsidered. What is the Government going to reconsider? Why did the Minister not say clearly what he meant?
– Can the honorable senator not read it for himself?
– Of course I can. It is quite clear to me. Even a lawyer could not see two meanings in it. Presumably the Government’s lingual experts assisted very materially in compiling the Minister’s second-reading speech. Why does the Government wish to introduce child endowment for the first child? Simply because it has so engineered the whole economy of this country that the workers themselves have to pay the entire cost of child endowment. The policy of the Labour party is that the basic wage is sacroscant. If the Arbitration Court takes child endowment for the first child into consideration in fixing a new basic wage, the workers will be worse off than before. For instance, over-time payments which are calculated on the basis of time and a half, or double time, will be reduced substantially. It is all well thought out. The Liberal party’s offer to the people of Australia was shrewd. There are 450,000 families in which there is only one child and 640,000 families in which there is more than one child. Honorable senators opposite calculated that they required a swing of only 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, of the voters of the Commonwealth to convert their 1946 defeat into a 1949 victory. By promising to endow the first child in each family, they hoped to gain the support of more than 1,000,000 families totalling about 2,200,000 voters. They were successful, but their promise was a great illusion. The people really thought that a Liberal Government would give them something. Little did they dream that they would only receive something that they pay for themselves in deductions from their pay envelopes.
– Who imposed the social services tax?
– It was imposed because for years, under anti-Labour governments, Australian workers did not receive enough money to keep their families. The Labour Government established the National Welfare Fund to finance its social services programme, which included the care of the aged, the sick and those who have the misfortune to suffer unemployment. That is something that Liberal governments have never attempted to do. Anti-Labour administrations did not trouble about that. However, at the recent election, the anti-Labour parties tried to outbid Labour by proposing to grant this illusory benefit of child endowment. However, I am certain that the people of Australia will awake shortly to the duplicity of the Government parties.
I believe that in proposing to amend the hill the Opposition will have the unqualified support of the workers of this country because they must realize that Labour is determined at all hazards to protect the basic wage. The workers of this country established the basic wage after a long fight against great odds, and the basic wage is one of Labour’s finest achievements. Although the present basic wage is inadequate, it does ensure to the workers something like a living wage.
– The next step forward was the introduction of child endowment.
– The Government has embarked on this proposal to provide child endowment for the first child because it hopes to dissuade the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court from increasing the basic wage. Undoubtedly members of the political parties opposite thought that the endowment proposal would be a big vote-catcher at the election. Quite candidly, 1 think it proved a winner for the Government.
– And, furthermore, it will prove a great boon for the workers.
– Endowment for the first child?
– Yes ; make no mistake about that.
– Here is an admission. The payment of 5s. a week is to be part of the basic wage ! Is it, or is it not ?
– I said that it will prove a great boon to the workers.
– Is or is not the 5s. a week to be included in the basic wage ?
– I made a secondreading speech and spent three-quarters of an hour dealing with that point.
– Everything that has been said by supporters of the Government to-night convinces me that the Government is determined to keep down the basic wage. It has two legal representatives present at the basic wage inquiry in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. What instructions has the Government given to them? They are allegedly present in the court as observers; hut on whose behalf are they observing? I think that the whole scheme outlined by the Government reeks of insincerity, and because of that conviction I shall have great pleasure in supporting the amendment to increase child endowment for the first child to 10s. a week.
When the matter is put to a vote we shall see whether the Government is genuine in its protestations of its desire to improve the lot of the workers.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - At an earlier stage I said that I would give the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) an opportunity to make a personal explanation in connexion with his complaint that his remarks had been misrepresented by an honorable senator. Standing Order 410, which deals with personal explanations, reads as follows: -
A Senator who has spoken to a Question may again be heard, to explain himself in regard to some material part of his speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood, but shall not introduce any new matter, or interrupt any Senator in possession of the Chair, and no debatable matter shall be brought forward or debate arise upon such explanation.
– I have no desire to take the matter any further. As the debate proceeded it became clear to me that the honorable senator about whose remarks I complained had misquoted me unintentionally.
– I seek your guidance, Mr. Deputy President, on the point that you have just raised. In view of the fact that the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner), who took objection to certain remarks, has a right of reply at the conclusion of the debate on the second reading of the measure, will you, sir, make it quite clear to the Senate whether or not the Minister, has under the Standing Orders, the additional right of making a personal explanation ?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Because a Minister who introduces a bill has a right of reply to the second-reading debate it does not deprive him of his right to make a personal explanation if he considers that he has been misunderstood or misrepresented.
Senator WEIGHT (Tasmania) 1 10.10]. - I consider that supporters of. the Government are not concerned to justify the introduction of a system of child endowment. The first Menzies Administration had the proud honour of introducing the legislation to provide child endowment. I believe -that I can repel the accusations of insincerity that have been levelled against the Government by suggesting that the Opposition’s criticism of the present proposal springs from rancour engendered in members of the Labour party because of jealousy that the Liberal party should have pioneered this legislation. That rancour has given rise to all the heartburnings that have been evidenced during the debate. There is a great deal of difference between the attitude of the socialist party of 1949 and the attitude of the Australian Labour party of 1941, and it is to be remembered that the Child Endowment Act of 1941 was passed through both Houses of the Parliament with the applause of all parties at that time. To-day, we have the sorry spectacle of the Opposition advancing a case, not against the principle of child endowment, but against the extension of that principle for the purpose of adding a benefit of 5s. a week in respect of the first child of every family. The drafting of the objections of the Opposition to this measure is, I understand, to be entrusted to .Senator McKenna, who is a lawyer and is, therefore, according to his colleague, Senator Grant, capable of duplicity in every statement that he may make. However, Senator McKenna presented his case with a great deal of effect. The Opposition case is based upon notions that have been outmoded for twenty years, and when I come to deal with the relationship between child endowment and the basic wage, I shall point out that the whole basis of that argument was completely removed by the’ adoption by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in 1934 of a different basis for the assessment of the basic wage from that which was previously adopted, which was the needs of a family of five units.
The argument put forward by the Opposition is an interesting piece of humbug. It consists of two complete contradictions, the first of which may be summarized as follows : “ When this measure goes into committee we shall move an amendment designed to increase the benefit in respect of the first child to 10s. a week “. I point out at once that that proposal emanates from a party that had the opportunity during the last eight years to draw upon a swollen and inflated
Treasury to increase child endowment. The Treasury was inflated, not because of Labour’s efforts, but because of the unusual circumstances arising out of the recent war. Having adverted to that fact, the first thing that I desire to say is that Labour deserves credit for having on two occasions made increases of half a crown to the recipients of child endowment, and of having increased the benefit from the original rate of 5s. to the present rate of 10s. a week a child of all families of two children and more. Labour is entitled to credit for that. However, a moment’s reflection shows how baseless is the suggestion which Labour now makes that the mere addition, of 5s. a week in respect of the first childis going to have the effect of reducing thebasic wage. I hasten to say that it was the late John Curtin, the Leader of the Australian Labour party in 1941, who, when addressing himself to the subject °f child endowment said, “I am not sillyenough to believe that the first child will receive no benefit from this plan, even though the payment begins with the second child “. All I want to add for myself is that I should have thought that all of those who support the policy then enunciated by a former Prime Minister would have read his remarks, and would certainly not be silly enough now to suggest that there is any distinction in principle .between an increase of 5s. a week in respect of the second and subsequent children to 10s. a week, and payment of an endowment of 5s. a week for the first child. It is obvious - and the late John Curtin expressly recognized this fact - that child endowment based on legislation that has been in operation, although expressed simply as a multiplier of the second and subsequent children, inevitably operates for the benefit and advantage of all the children in a family of two or more children.
Members of the Liberal party are proud of their advocacy during the 1946 and 1949 election campaigns of a policy plank which provides family endowment for the first child. Speaking subject to correction, I assert now that during neither of those election ‘ campaigns did any responsible member of the socialist party suggest that it was any part of his party’s policy to endow the first child by 10s. a week. I pause for a reply. In the silence that has followed I want to repeat, with the significance to which it is entitled, that in neither of those election campaigns did the socialist party Bay: “We shall combat the Liberals’ meagre proposal to endow the first child by 5s. a week with a promise of 10s.”. They did not suggest then that they would double the endowment payment. Now they put forward this fantastic argument that because family endowment is allegedly interrelated with the basic wage any increase of family endowment will operate to reduce the basic wage. In reply to that contention, the first point I make is that child endowment is paid not only to wageearners, but also to all self-employed persons, and is not subject to any means test. Secondly, insofar as child endowment is paid to any wage-earner, it is paid to all wage-earners and not merely to those whose remuneration is fixed by Commonwealth or State arbitral tribunals. The contention put forward by members of the Australian Labour party that an increase of child endowment will operate adversely on the income of a section of the recipients of child endowment is therefore a very specious argument. Secondly, I point out that in 1927, if my recollection is correct, the New South Wales Parliament had before it a proposal to pay child endowment, not in respect of the second and subsequent children, but in respect of all children. An amendment to that legislation was submitted to restrict the endowment to the second and subsequent children, at the same time excluding the first child ; and the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who in the eyes of some honorable senators opposite is under the disadvantage of being a lawyer, went on record on that occasion in the New South Wales Parliament, of which he was then a member, as saying -
I repeat that, if the first child is omitted from the scheme, we may as well tear up the bill. .It will not be a child endowment scheme but simply a removal of the effect of the basic wage, in an attempt to equalize that basicwage on the one hand providing for one child, and a federal basic wage on the other hand providing for three children.
That argument is directly the reverse of the argument that Senator McKenna has submitted in this debate. On that occasion, the right honorable member for Barton continued -
It will lead to all sorts of inconsistencies, and if the amendment is agreed to-
That was an amendment not to include?, but to exclude, the first child - the bill will be the most incoherent bill we have ever seen. It will be absolutely impossible to understand it either in principle or in application.
– And the result of that increase was a reduction of wages in New South Wales amounting to £6,000,000.
– That may have been due to some degree to the legislators in the New South Wales Parliament at that time. The right honorable member for Barton on that occasion advanced an argument that is directly contrary to the proposition now being submitted by honorable senators opposite. He said that if the New South Wales Government at that time endowed the first child it would make that measure unparalleled for itsinconsistencies and one that could not be understood either in its principles or in its application. I shall be fair, and I intend to be brief. I shall concede that the majority report of the Royal Commission on Child Endowment or Family Allowances that was submitted to the Australian Government in 1929 pro- vided some basis for that submission. The minority report of that commission which differed from the majority report in this respect was made by the late John Curtin and another member of the commission. That majority report said two things : first -
We do not recommend the introduction of child endowment.
And, secondly -
We support that view by reference to its relationship to the basic wage.
Paragraph 7S7 of that majority report, reads -
In practice the relation between child endowment and wage fixation is very close, and there are inescapable interactions.
And paragraph 788 of that report reads -
In Australian systems of wage regulation . . the two have been blended into one, every basic wage containing unanalysed elements of endowment.
That was one of the weighty arguments by which the majority on that commission supported the recommendation against child endowment. However, the essential points that I should expect, honorable senators opposite would be the first to respect were that the late John Curtin and his colleague differed from both those points of view, and that that commission, whose report was against, the introduction of a system against which no honorable senators has argued, urged as its reason for its view the relationship between the basic wage and child endowment. The majority on that commission based that view simply upon the notion that the Arbitration Court then fixed the basic wage upon the needs of a five-unit family; and no other basis for the assessment of the basic wage was then urged. However, from a succession of judgments of the court since 1.929 the conclusion is inescapable that the court no longer assesses the basic wage upon a five-unit family and its needs, but fixes the wage on the basis of national production and what the national economy can afford to pay. The court has said repeatedly - in 1.934, 1937, 1941 and again in the munitions case in 1944, after a most elaborate examination of the principles underlying the assessment of the basic wage - that the primary factor that governs its assessment of the basic wage is not the cost of living or the needs of a family of a specified unit but what industry can afford to pay. Therefore, the argument of honorable senators opposite concerning the inter-relation between the basic wage and child endowment proceeds from the outmoded notion that was expressed in the majority report of the Royal Commission on Child Endowment or Family Allowances in 1929 and pays no respect to the unvarying series of judicial pronouncements by the Arbitration Court in the years that I have mentioned right up to 194.4 when the court re-affirmed its view in the munitions case and was careful to state that the principle that underlies its assessment of the basic wage is not the needs of a five-unit family but national productivity and the capacity of industry to pay. I shall support what I have said by making a few brief quotations from those judgments. In 1934 the court said -
The adoption of a family unit is not necessary. What should be sought is an independent ascertainment and prescription of the highest basic wage which can be sustained by the total of industry in all its primary, secondary and ancillary forms.
In 1937 the court said -
The court cannot differentiate between wage-earners according to their dependants.
In that judgment, the court went on to say that to remove the disparity between the childless family wage-earner and a wage-earner who had a family, some scheme of child endowment was desirable.
– Child endowment does affect the basic wage?
– I hope that my citation of the court’s judgments which falsify the basis of the arguments of honorable senators opposite may prove of advantage even to Senator Cooke. In 1941, the court confirmed the “ new start “ made in 1934, when it departed from the needs basis in fixing the basic wage and adopted the principle of the capacity of industry to pay. The court said that supplementary to the unit or basic wage which industry could pay, the economic difficulties which confronted those who bad children dependent upon them compared with those who had no children, should be bridged by a scheme of child endowment. I trust that I have quoted sufficient extracts from the authorities to show that child endowment can affect the basic wage only if the basic wage is assessed on the basis of the needs of a five-unit family. It is only to that basis that the submissions, whether made by Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, or the employers, and referred to by Senator Katz, apply. I was careful to note two things while the honorable senator was speaking. Every one of the submissions from which he quoted addressed itself to the hypothesis that the Arbitration Court might revert to the original basis of fixing the basic wage, that is, insofar as the wage may be computed on the needs of a family unit. I asked by way of interjection whether he would not agree that the court now assesses the basic wage on the basis of national income and the capacity of industry to pay, but he did not oblige the Senate by reading from the relevant portions of the submissions to the court. The point that I am making is that since the majority report of the royal commission of 1929 propounded the notion to which I have referred, the view expressed in the minority report with which the late John Curtin concurred was accepted by the national legislature in 1941. At that time it was accepted by the Menzies Government, and the late John Curtin was sufficiently great and generous to acknowledge that that government was the first to pioneer this great principle of social services in this country.
It is an outmoded notion to think that the endowment of the first child of a family at the rate of 5s. a week will have the effect of reducing the basic wage. Such endowment could have that effect only if the principles that were applied by the Arbitration Court prior to 1931 were resurrected. However, by a consistent line of decisions, the court itself has expressed the view that that basis is no longer tenable and that the present basis of national productivity will be found to have no relation to the argument that child endowment should be considered in fixing the basic wage.
Senator Katz read the following extract from the judgment that was delivered by Chief Judge Beeby in 1941: -
Assuming that the court, by the indirect methods at its disposal, decided to re-arrange the division of national income, it does not follow that such purpose would best be achieved by an increase in the basic wage applicable to all wage-earners, irrespective of family responsibilities.
He refrained, however, from reading the next sentence, which is as follows: -
The court has again and again pointed out that the present method of wage fixation operates unjustly to the worker who has to provide for dependent children.
That sentence presents neatly the view that the judges of the Arbitration Court have expressed in most of their decisions. They have pointed out emphatically that, with a system of wage fixation such as we have in Australia, under which the wage of one unit of industry - the wage-earner - is fixed, irrespective of whether the wage is determined on the basis of a family unit or of national income, the wage-earner who has the glorious responsibility of supporting a family is treated unjustly in comparison with a childless wage-earner. It is to the everlasting credit of the judges of the Arbitration Court that they presented in a fair and impartial manner that supplementary question which needed, not their attention - because they had said repeatedly that they had no power to supply the deficiency - but the attention of the legislators of this country. The court respectfully presented that problem for the consideration of the legislators. Quite independently of that, as one of the judges said, it decided to adjourn the basic wage case.
– Why ?
– If the honorable senator will read the record of the proceedings, he will see that no argument was presented to the court based upon any view other than that the family man was disadvantaged by the then basic wage.
– Why did the court adjourn the case if child endowment for the first child had no relevance to the fixation of the basic wage?
– The judges said that it was not within their power to rectify the disparity that exists, on the basis of the present basic wage, between a family man and a childless man. The sentence that I have just read from the judgment of Chief Judge Beeby neatly presented the .problem. It was not the adequacy or inadequacy of the basic wage on either of the bases of fixation. The problem then presented was the disparity between the case of a man with family responsibilities and that of a man with no family responsibilities, on any basic wage, however fixed.
In 1941, the Menzies Government, although it was faced with the enormous task of conducting the war, recognized its social obligations to the parents of our children and, despite the difficulties with which it was beset, introduced child endowment. It was a great disappointment to me when Senator Katz said that 1941, when the child endowment legislation was introduced, was also the year in which the Arbitration Court gave a decision upon the basic wage, and that be regarded the introduction of child endowment as an attempt by the Government of the day to disadvantage the workers. It was in fact a noble acceptance of the suggestion of the Court that something should be done to rectify the disparity that existed between the treatment of men who had children and the treatment of men who had no children. It is unworthy to suggest that the present measure is designed to secure a reduction of the basic wage.
– If child endowment has no relevance, why did the Arbitration Court adjourn the basic wage case?
– I was about to address myself foursquare to that suggestion, empty though it is. A general election had to be held in 1949. The Chifley Government postponed it for as long as it could, but eventually it had to face the people. It fell to the lot of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to expound the policy of the Liberal party. He presented to the people the policy that the Liberal party had put forward in 1.946, when there was no basic wage case before the Arbitration Court, and said that we adhered to our policy of providing child endowment for the first child. The right honorable gentleman was not inexpert at the game. He knew of the scurrilous arguments that would be advanced to exacerbate industrial discord between workers and employers. Those arguments had been advanced in 1946. He realized that the Labour party would tell the people that if an endowment of 5s. a week was paid in respect of the first child, the basic wage would be reduced. In order to forestall such a tortuous proposition, the right honorable gentleman said that if the Arbitration Court, contrary to the views that it had expressed since 1931, adopted for the basis of the assessment of the basic wage in the present case the needs of a family unit, the amount of the endowment for the first child Would immediately be increased from 5s. to 10s. I should have thought that the fairness of that proposition to wage-earners would have been apparent to and accepted by even those of the meanest intelligence. That question having been thrown into the political arena, the Arbitration Court was found not- to be inexperienced. It said, in effect, “ We know that the trade union advocates who have not yet graduated to the legislature will come before us during the next month and put forward the same shibboleth. It will not be conducive to the proper maintenance of the jurisdiction of the court for it even to be thought that the court is concerned with the decision of a political question “. Therefore, to its great credit, it said, “ We shall adjourn the case for a month while the people decide the political issues “. The consideration of the evidence which had already been submitted to the court provided the judges with ample employment during the adjournment.
It would be to the credit of the Opposition if it recaptured the spirit shown by its former leader Mr. John Curtin in 1941 and accepted this measure, which is a noble endeavour to improve a system that was introduced in that year amidst the applause of all parties.
.- The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) said in the course of his speech on the motion for the second reading of this bill that Labour is” opposed to the payment of child endowment in respect of the first child. There was no justification for that statement. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have not indicated that they are apposed to the measure. We have indicated that we think it should be improved and that wage-earners should be safeguarded. Senator McKenna has foreshadowed the amendments to the bill that we propose to move.
The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) said that the bill gives effect to a pre-election promise that was made by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. I believe that the Minister was quite sincere when he made that statement, but he forgot to say that the promise was made only because the present Government parties had reason to believe that it was an election winner. I do not believe that honorable senators opposite are really actuated by an earnest desire to do something for the working-class people of this country when they support a measure providing for the payment of child endowment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child.
There are now approximately 640,000 families in Australia that are in receipt of child endowment for second and subsequent children. It is estimated that approximately 450,000 additional families will receive child endowment if this bill is passed. The present Government parties had their ears well to the ground when they promised to pay an endowment of 5s. a week to 1,090,000 families in Australia. That is the real reason why this legislation has been introduced. It will possibly have an effect on the determination of basic wage applications throughout this country. In Western Australia, during the election campaign, people who were expounding the virtues of honorable senators now sitting opposite did not hesitate to tell the electors that if they voted in favour of the anti-Labour parties, endowment of 10s. a week would be provided for the first child in every family under the age of 16 years, not 5s. a week as contemplated in this measure. In effect they declared “Return us to power and we will see that one-child families will receive child endowment of 10s. a week”.
– Can the honorable senator prove that?
– Yes. That statement was heard by honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
– Did the honorable senator himself hear it?
– Although I did not personally hear that statement I have no reason to doubt its authenticity. I would be prepared to accept the word of the person who told me against that of any honorable senator opposite. The reason why this legislation is now before the chamber is that it was an election winner. Furthermore, 1,090,000 families will benefit by it. That was a very strong incentive. It may be argued that the Labour party itself could have made a similar gesture to the people of Australia. However, I remind honorable senators that the former Prime Minister stated that Labour would go to the country on its record of achievements during the last eight years. No promises to tickle the ears of the electors were made by Labour candidates. Although the measure before us will benefit a large number of people I consider that the promise of first-child endowment was a political bribe by the anti-Labour parties I admit readily that the proposed endowment of 5s. a week for the first child in every family under the age of sixteen years will be beneficial to many married couples in this country. Nobody could argue against that proposition, particularly in view of the increased cost of living. The Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) referred to that aspect of the matter during his second-reading speech. If the Government were sincere in its claim, that it is studying the interests of the people of this country it should have increased age and invalid pensions rather than decided to endow the first child. My knowledge of industrial matters inclines me to the belief that in the determination of basic wage applications in both the Federal and State spheres the courts take into consideration the number of units in a family. That applies particularly to Western Australia. Although the average family in this country is regarded as comprising a man, his wife and two children, I have reason to believe that the latest determination of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation an’d Arbitration will be arrived at on the basis of the average family comprising a man, his wife and one child. It would therefore appear that it would be desirable at present to provide practical help and relief for the aged and invalid pensioners of this country rather than in respect of the first child in a family. I say candidly that my wife and I reared a family without any assistance whatever, as have thousands of other citizens of this country.
– «So did I.
– I am not implying that I oppose endowment of the first child. I am merely endeavouring to illustrate that I conscientiously believe that in the determination of basic wage applications in Australia up to now the courts have made their determinations on the basis of an average family comprising a man, his wife, and one child. I sincerely hope that the Government will give effect as soon as possible to the proposals foreshadowed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech in relation to widows and age pensioners. His Excellency said -
My Government, however, is closely investigating the pressing anomalies to see what can be done to remove them.
That statement was made in respect of the incidence of the increased cost of living on aged persons and widows in this country. Although the Government is proceeding with its endowment legislation, all that hae been done in respect of the widows and elderly people is that the Government has undertaken to closely investigate their disabilities. I realize that honorable senators opposite will say, “ Why did not the Labour Government make some promise in respect of age and invalid persons?” I recall that the former Prime Minister asserted during the election campaign, that if elected his Government would give immediate attention to the incidence of the cost of living on age pensioners who were not in receipt of any income other than their pensions. The Labour Government was not unmindful of the plight of elderly people in the community. Unfortunately, however, those people inclined to the belief that they would receive a better deal from the present Government than from its predecessor. The present Government believes that in the application of its financial and economic policy an improvement will be brought about insofar as the purchasing power of our currency is concerned, thereby benefiting pensioners and other persons in fixed-income groups. Whether that suggestion is capable of application remains to be seen. It is certainly not a very enticing prospect for people in the groups that I have mentioned.
When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was Leader of the Opposition in the last Parliament he stated that child endowment problems were closely associated with the amount and structure of the basic wage. That was an important statement. Evidently Senator Wright has overlooked that statement of the right honorable gentleman. The right honorable gentleman also said that the basic wage was under a complete re-examination by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I presume that the right honorable mem ber meant what he said. That reexamination must have been either for the purpose of granting an increase to the wage-earners, or for the purpose of considering the adoption of a different foundation on which to determine the basic wage. The right honorable gentleman said further that the definite difficulties of family life must be eased. I agree that the greatest possible benefit should be given to our citizens who are rearing families. But after making that statement, the right honorable gentleman in his policy speech said -
If the basic wage, whether increased in amount or not, remains on the same foundation as at present, we will give some extra help to families by providing an endowment of 5s. per week for the first child under sixteen years.
But then he qualified it. He said -
If the foundation of the basic wage is altered and its amount is calculated by reference to the needs of a married couple without children then “we shall of course provide endowment for the first child on the 10s. rate.
I submit that on this declaration of policy, the Government is envisaging the possibility of an alteration of the foundation on which the Arbitration Court of this country determines the base wage. I do so because I believe that if the courts of Australia determine a base wage, whether it is on the basis of a two family unit of a man and his wife, or on production capacity, it will have the effect of decreasing tremendously the amount in the wage envelopes of the workers. The payment of 5s. endowment for the first child in such circumstances will not recompense the average family for the ]09s it will suffer should that situation be developed. I put that aspect, to members of the Government and also remind them of the attitude of the Opposition in its desire to have this act amended on the lines that have been indicated, but here is something more important still as a result of that declaration by the Prime Minister prior to assuming office.
Honorable ‘ senators will recollect that Mr. Menzies made his policy speech on the 10th November, and I have read to honorable senators the promise that he made in respect of child endowment. What was the immediate effect of that pronouncement? The hearing of the basic wage case in the Arbitration Court was suspended until after the election which took place on the 10th December, so that there was a period of approximately three months from the time that the declaration was made until the court resumed the hearing of the case, when nothing was done. I ask honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber to endeavour to assess the economic loss that has been inflicted on the great majority of the workers of Australia because, first of all, of the election promise which the court regarded as a matter which was sub judice, and secondly by the decision of the court to withhold any further discussion on the matter until the people had made a determination as to which government was to fill the treasury bench. What did the court have in mind? I do not know and possibly honorable senators opposite do not know either. But I think it can be suggested that as a result of this intended legislation, the court will see the way clear to alter the foundation on which the basic wage may be determined in the future. Senator Wright made some reference to the introduction of child endowment in 1941. He seemed to think that honorable senators on this side of the chamber were jealous because an anti-Labour government introduced child endowment in that year. That is an absurd and childish observation. Why should honorable senators on this side of the chamber be jealous? All they want to do is to see that the greatest possible benefits are made available to the people of this country provided those benefits are not given at the expense of a section of the people. The honorable senator referred to something that the late Mr. John Curtin said in respect of the introduction of child endowment.
– Mr. Curtin had more sense than to let a benefit slip through his fingers.
– That is the opinion of the Minister, but what I had in mind was that it might be as well to remember that there was a reason which actuated the anti-Labour Government in 1941 in introducing that legislation. It was a very potent reason. It was well known that if something was not done by Government effort to relieve the difficulties of a. married man with a family of more than one child, there would be an increase in the basic wage of that period. Consequently the Government was of the opinion, I believe, that it would be better to relieve industry of the additional cost that would be involved, and place the burden upon the taxpayers of this country. I know that when the legislation was introduced it was to be financed by a pay-roll tax. But the pay-roll tax has not met the commitments that have to be met. Consequently revenue from the National Welfare Fund has to be used to meet the commitments. I ask leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullvian) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to draw attention to what I consider to be a very serious omission. It concerns the men of the garrison battalions engaged in Australia in the recent war. In the early hours of the 5th August, 1944, a bugle rang out signalling a break out of 1,100 Japanese prisoners of war from Cowra prison camp. In a fanatical and desperate bid for freedom, they set fire to their huts and rushed their guards, who comprised members of the 22nd Garrison Battalion, mostly veterans of World War I. Three of the guards lost their lives. Because of the consummate bravery and resource of a handful of Australian guards, the break-out, which might have had serious consequences to the people of the surrounding countryside at the hands of the fanatics, was quelled, but not before 234 Japanese were killed and more than 100 wounded. In view of these facts, I wish to know what action was taken or contemplated to recognize the bravery and initiative of the members of that garrison battalion, and others in the garrison forces in Australia who gave outstanding service to their country in circumstances of hardship and isolation in the northern areas of Australia. I consider that this has been a very serious omission and that it is about time that the attention of the Government was directed to it. I believe certain recommendations have been made but no effect was given to them.
SenatorO’SULLIVAN (QueenslandMinister , for Trade and Customs; [11.16]. - in reply - I endorse very strongly the remarks made by Senator Murray in regard to the outstanding gallantry showed by the garrison troops on the occasion to which the honorable senator has referred. It is rather unfortunate that the previous Government did not see fit to take any steps to recognize that gallantry. I shall he very happy to take this matter up with my colleagues to see that some fitting and adequate recognition is paid to these gallant men.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Attorney-General’s - B. R. Gallon.
Interior - E. B. Kell, E. F. Phillips,
R. L. Southern, A. G. Tyler, W. R. Wilkie.
Supply and Development- K. H. Tate.
Lands Acquisition Act -Land acquiredforDepartment of Civil Aviation purposes -
Broome, Western Australia.
Mount Isa, Queensland.
Postal purposes -
Mount Hawthorn, Western Australia.
St. Kilda, Victoria.
Senate adjourned at 11.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 March 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1950/19500329_senate_19_206/>.