20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at U a.m., and read prayers.
– My attention has been drawn to a statement that appears in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, which refers to a recent, decision of the Joint House Committee. It’ is my intention to refer that statement to the Joint House Committee for consideration. I point out that I am also the chairman of that committee.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer be good enough to furnish the following information concerning the fund to which members of Parliament contribute for a retiring allowance? First, how much money is in the fund ; secondly, how much has been received into the fund each month and paid out, and, thirdly, what is the surplus or deficit, month by month !
– I shall be glad to arrange with the Treasurer to supply the information sought by the honorable senator and I shall treat his question as though it had been placed on the notice-paper.
– “Will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate of the amount collected each year in customs and excise duty in respect of petrol since the duty was first imposed? Will he also state the basis of apportionment between the Commonwealth md the States of the revenue received from that duty. To what use does the Commonwealth put the money that it retains as its share ? What amount is estimated to be collected from petro. tax during the current financial year, and what portion of that amount will be distributed to the States? To what purpose will the Commonwealth put the money which it will retain?
– I point out to the honorable senator that much of the information that he desires is already available in the budget papers, which show the amount that has been allocated to the States each year under the heading “Commonwealth Aid Roads Grant”. The unexpended portion of the Commonwealth’s share is paid into Consolidated Revenue and is used to defray the general expenditure of the Commonwealth. I shall request the Treasurer to prepare a statement setting out in detail the information desired by the honorable senator.
– Superannuated persons, whose superannuation benefits equal or exceed the age pension, are not entitled to benefit under the free medical scheme. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health ask his colleague to consider extending the benefit to such persons who, when they fall sick, are severely handicapped because medical expenses eat up the whole of their income?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s request to the notice of the Minister for Health.
– As all the wool from the Joint Organization has now been sold, although it will still be some time before accounts are completed, will the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture recommend to the Cabinet that an interim payment of proceeds be made to those persons who have left the industry, and to the administrators of deceased estates?
– I have already instructed members of the committee which is handling the fund to hasten the winding up of the organization, and I have mentioned that, as there have been a number of applications from those who have left the industry, I should like to receive a report about what can be done to meet their position. .If the honorable senator will put his question on the notice-paper, 1 shall see that a detailed reply is prepared.
– Will the Minister ask the committee to make a special report on what can be done for those who left the industry before the rise of prices, and who owe the Treasury a considerable amount of income tax? They are being charged interest on the tax they owe although the Treasury is holding on their behalf an amount greater than what they owe to the Treasury.
– I shall be pleased to comply with the honorable senator’s request, but I suggest that, in order that the matter may be placed formally before the committee, he should place his question on the notice-paper.
– I desire to ask a question, of the Minister representing the Treasurer. I have been asked by representatives of several industrial organizations to find out whether the Government would be prepared to regard fares to and from work as an allowable deduction for income tax purposes. Because of recent sharp increases of fares, some persons are paying as much as 30s. or £2 a week for travelling to and from work. Will the Minister place this matter before the Treasurer, with a view to seeing what can be done?
– I shall act in accordance with the honorable senator’s question, and the matter will be placed before the Treasurer. This request has been submitted at various times over a considerable period of years. The view of various governments has been that the choice of a place of living, and the distance which a person’s residence is from his place of employment, are personal matters for the taxpayer, and that it is not reasonable, therefore, that travelling expenses to and from work should be an allowable deduction for income tax purposes. However, I shall have the matter restated and obtain an official reply for the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister who administers war service homes consider amending the War Service Homes Act to enable homes occupied by veterans of World War I. since the years immediately following the termination of that war to be revalued with a view to the cancellation of the unpaid balances of the loans as, in many instances, the original cost of the homes has been paid for twofold?
– With the best will in the world towards ex-servicemen, I fail to see justice in the honorable senator’s proposal. The homes were purchased or built originally on certain terms and conditions. As everybody knows, interest rates and terms of repayment of the loans were justifiably made extremely generous. I do not think that a case can be established at this late stage to justify the writing off of the balance of the loans, having regard to the terms and conditions upon which they were granted.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice - ]. Will the Minister arrange for the tabling of the report and findings of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics regarding the costs of production in the berry fruits industry?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Twenty-third Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board for year 1950-51, together with statement by Minister regarding the operation of the act.
Wine production in 1951, including wine for distillation purposes, is estimated at 24,985,000 gallons.. This quantity is wellbelow the record vintages of each of the previous four years when, the output averaged 33,800,000 gallons annually. Exports of wine from Australia to all overseas destinations in 1950-51 totalled 1,211,597 gallons, of which 683,057 gallons were shipped to the United Kingdom. Reference was made in the last report of the board to the sharp decline in the volume of wine exports to the United Kingdom in 1949-50 and it is gratifying to note from the present report that there has been some increase in the quantity that went forward to that market in 1950-51. At the same time, there has also been a small increase in the quantities of Australian wine cleared from United Kingdom bond. The board has been most energetic in its endeavours to promote sales of Australian wine in the United Kingdom and it is to be hoped that the present upward trend, although slight, will prove to be of a permanent nature. The consumption of fortified wines in Australia is being maintained at a high level. In 1950-51 withdrawals from bond for local consumption amounted to 11,202,763 gallons.
– I ask you, Mr. President, whether the Minister for Shipping and Transport has just tabled a paper in the usual way or has made a statement without the leave of the Senate ?
– I understand that the Minister has laid a paper on the table of the Senate.
Debate resumed from the 17th October (vide page 737), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In taking up the debate on this measure on behalf of the Opposition, I can say at once that, on this side of the chamber, there is general support for the contents of the bill. There is nothing in the measure to which the Opposition takes exception. Our criticisms therefore will be reserved for matters that are omitted from the bill. I draw attention first to the vast expansion that has taken place over the last ten or twelve years in the number of social services benefits that are available to the people of Australia. In 1939 our social services consisted mainly of age and invalid pensions, child endowment and maternity allowances. Now, in addition to those four benefits, the social services available to the community include allowances for wives of invalid pensioners, allowances for the children of invalid pensioners, widows’ pensions of all classes, funeral benefits, unemployment and sickness benefits, special benefits, rental rebates, private hospital benefits, public hospital benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, tuberculosis benefits, and an anti-tuberculosis campaign, mental patients’ benefits, and aids for deaf children provided by the acoustic laboratories established by the Commonwealth throughout Australia. I point out to the Senate that that great spread of benefits began under the previous Labour Government during the war years and in the post-war period, covering its tenure of office from 1941 to 1949. Secondly, I refer to the vast increase of expenditure during the same period. In 1938-39 the total expenditure upon benefits at the federal level was only £16,500,000. For the current financial year the estimated expenditure will be £138,000,000. The fact that this Government, within two years of taking office, has seen fit not only to increase . the amount of expenditure upon these bene- fits, but also has not seen fit to eliminate any of them, is, I suggest, the finest kind of endorsement of Labour’s social policy.
There is a general recognition by all parties that the plight of people who are caught up in the hazards of life is a matter for community responsibility rather than one for merely haphazard charity. The hazards to which I refer include age, invalidity, sickness, widowhood, unemployment and physical disability. There is also a general recognition by all parties that there is an obligation upon the community to promote such worthy things as the family unit and education. In my reference to the spread of benefits a moment ago I did not mention scholarships and other educational facilities that are provided by the Commonwealth. I invite the Senate to consider for a moment the immeasurable harm and human distress that would be caused if by some mischance the whole spread of these benefits was suspended. As the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) indicated during his second-reading speech, there are in this country 347,000 age pensioners. 70,000 invalid pensioners, and 42,00(1 widows in receipt of widows’ pensions, making a total of 459,000 people who are receiving those benefits. One does nol. need to have a vivid imagination to realize the incalculable distress that would be caused if the community did not acknowledge and meet its obligation to them. I point out to Government senators particularly that, after all is said and done, this is a very desirable form of socialism. It is social work of the finest kind, devoted to human material. It is of no use honorable senators opposite blinking the fact that this is a form of socialism.
– They have been converted.
– I agree with the honorable senator’s observation, and I congratulate the Government upon the zeal with which it has embarked upon this form of assistance. It is to be hoped that that interest will be maintained. Having regard to the legislation introduced last year and this year, it is obvious that the conversion of the Government is complete and thorough. There was a time when members on the Government side of the chamber spoke of the Labour programme as “ coddling the electors “. They also referred somewhat contemptuously to “ the welfare state “. I have heard honorable senators, who are to-day on the Government side in the Parliament, say that all these hand-outs, as they were called, were undermining the independence of the people of Australia. Obviously, there is no room for any honorable senator opposite to make statements of that kind again. I do not expect to hear them, believing, as Senator Eraser has indicated, that there has been a conversion.
I congratulate the Government upon succeeding to some degree with the liberalization of the means test. That action is completely in line with the policy of the Opposition, which is the gradual amelioration of the means test with a view to its ultimate elimination. The Opposition approves the proposal that the property limit should be increased from £750 to £1,000. It also approves the proposal that the surrender value of a life insurance policy, which is to be disregarded in calculating the value of other property, should be increased from £500 to £750. Although it is an aspect which has very small scope in relation to pensioners, the Opposition approves, too, the proposal that reversionary interests to a value of £750, instead of £500, should be disregarded. It is noted with regret that there has been no simultaneous alteration of the income test. In my experience - and I speak subject to correction - each time that there has been amelioration of the property test since 1946, simultaneously there has been also amelioration of the income test. I think that this is the first departure from the practice of moving the two together.
I say at once that the abolition of the means test is desirable. I do not think, however, that it is the most urgent problem in the field of social services. Some time ago, when I had the honour to be Minister for Social Services in the Chifley Labour Government, I caused a survey to be made of the pensions field. That survey showed that 65 per cent, of pensioners were in receipt of no income apart from pensions. It also showed that another 15 per cent, had a private income of 5s. or less a week with which to supplement pensions, and that only 20 per cent, had income, apart from pensions, of more than os. a week. In fact, it was found that those who really benefited substantially by worthwhile amelioration of the income test were confined to about 5 per cent, of the pensions field. I have no hesitation in suggesting to the Senate that there is a more grievous obligation upon the Parliament to attend to the plight of the SO per cent, of persons who have private income of 5s. or less a week, remembering always that 65 per cent, of pensioners have no private income at all and must provide for the whole of their needs, of every conceivable kind, from the pensions that they receive from the Commonwealth.
The Opposition approves of the discretionary power that has been vested in the Director-General of Social Services to disregard certain property in given circumstances. I think that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who was Minister for Social Services previously, and who took over that portfolio from me, will recall that I was one of the honorable senators to whom he referred when he said that constant requests had been made for some consideration of that matter. I am delighted that the Government has seen fit to confer such discretion upon the Director-General, and I congratulate the Minister for having won that point from the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). I know from my experience that the Treasury dislikes the principle of the disbursement of public moneys being vested in any official and that that department has always resisted very strenously any proposal to vest discretionary power to expend public money in any official. I congratulate the Government, and particularly the senior officials of the Department of Social Services, in having prevailed upon the Treasury to reverse its traditional attitude. I recognize, of course, that the introduction of the new principle imposes an added responsibility upon the Director-General of Social Services, and that that responsibility will not rest lightly upon him. As he determines on its merits one case after another he must, of necessity, create precedents and set up new principles which will ultimately be reflected in the general policy of the department.
– The DirectorGeneral already has discretion concerning the payment of widows’ pensions.
– I think that the explanation of that seeming, anomaly is that the Treasury had not paid particular attention to widows’ pensions. I know that during my term as Minister for Social Services the amount of money involved in the payment of widows’ pensions was considerably less than that involved in other payments. At all events, the Government deserves credit for having extended the principle of vesting discretionary power in the DirectorGeneral so as to confer upon him power in a number of matters.
I know of many instances of pensioners who had to vacate their homes during the war and now find great difficulty in getting them back. Formerly, when the pensioner had possession of a home it was not taken into account against his eligibility to receive a pension, but now he is completely debarred from receiving a pension, or can receive only a reduced pension, if he owns a home which he does not occupy and of which he cannot get possession. However, I have every confidence in the Director-General and his staff, and I believe that they will be able to exercise this discretion very properly.
I remind the anti-Labour parties that they announced in 1946 that they would introduce a scheme for age and invalid pensions that would obviate the necessity for a means test. I must confess, therefore, that in 1949 I was rather surprised to learn that there was no choate plan for that purpose. The undertaking given to the electors by the political parties that now constitute the Government was that in 1952 a contributory plan would be prepared and submitted to the electors for consideration. I realize, of course, that at that time they probably contemplated that the next elecion of the House of Representatives would not take place until 1952. How-‘ ever, I would like to be assured that because of the interposition of a double dis solution the Government has not lost sight of its undertaking to the people, and I remind the Senate that it is likely that there will be an election for, at least, of one-half of the members of the Senate at some time late in 1952 or early in 1953. I remind the Government, therefore, that the people of Australia will expect it to present some clear and definite plan next year. In the course of the second-reading speech delivered by the Minister he acknowledged that the introduction of a contributory scheme involved many difficulties, particularly financial obstacles, but he went on to say that ideas for the introduction of such a scheme were flowing into the Government. After the lapse of all this time one can reasonably expect that at least one practicable idea should have emerged.
I congratulate the Government very warmly on the interest it has displayed in the rehabilitation of physically handicapped persons, and. I join with the Minister in expressing admiration of the magnificent work done by those who administer the scheme. I appreciated particularly the cordiality with which he acknowledged the introduction of this scheme. I recall that when I handed over’ to him in 1949 the portfolio of Social Services, one of- the outstanding matters to which I directed his attention was the scheme for the rehabilitation of physically disabled persons, and I urged him, and subsequently his successor, to take a special interest in that matter. I am pleased, therefore, that the Government is showing a tendency to expand and develop the scheme. The Opposition entirely approves of the proposal to extend the operation of the rehabilitation scheme from two to three years, and, above all, to include in its operation invalids between the ages of 16 and 21 years. It is obvious that when they reach the age of 21 years they will become eligible for payment of the invalid pension, and I think it is prevention, in the best sense, to rehabilitate young people now and prevent them, if possible, from becoming a charge on the community under the invalid pension scheme.
We also approve of the proposed increase in training allowances and of such matters as the repayment of fares expended by friends who may be required to accompany applicants for the allowance when they present themselves for medical examination. I suggest to the Senate that the work done by the department in this field is human salvage of the very best kind. Not only does it pay dividends from a material point of view, but it also restores to afflicted individuals their peace of mind and tends to make them happy and contended. That is important because those unfortunate people can then make an effective contribution to the life of the community and the development of the country, instead of drawing upon the community for their sustenance. Perhaps the greatest feature of the rehabilitation scheme is that it infuses into the physically afflicted new hope, and gives them the necessary stimulus to become real contributors to the community. I take this opportunity again to express my admiration of the manner in which the department is implementing this scheme, and I particularly commend the spirit of the officers who are actually administering it. I have been greatly impressed by the camaraderie of the staff in the department’s institutions who are supervising the training.
The Opposition is very glad that this measure includes provision for the increase of age, invalid and widows’ pensions. “We all know, of course, the very real distress experienced by many of the unfortunate pensioners during the last eighteen months because of the disastrous effect of the rising tide of inflation. I merely indicate to the Government now that although the proposed increases are the largest ever granted to pensioners, I am doubtful whether they will be sufficient to meet the real needs of pensioners to-day. Furthermore, there is no indication that the rising tide of inflation will be halted, and it is obvious that pensioners will continue to suffer considerably for some time to come. I ask the Government to bear that fact in mind.
– That has been done up to date.
– There has been no increase since November last, nearly twelve months ago, and since then there has been a mounting tide of inflation.
Even when there is only a small degree of inflation, the first class to be adversely affected are the pensioners, particularly those without any income apart from, their pensions. Governments are most favorably situated to ride inflation because their incomes increase as inflation progresses. However, the recipients of pensions, and those on fixed incomes generally, are the first victims of inflation and the greatest sufferers under it. I suggest that the Government should review the position every three months. There are hundreds of thousands of pensioners, and 65 per cent, of them have no income apart’ from their pensions. How would any honorable senator like to make do in these days on £3 a week with which to provide everything, including rent, food, clothing, heating, &c. ? Even though £3 a week is generous in the light of the origin of the pension, I ask the Government not to rest on its oars in the belief that, having granted a big increase on this occasion, nothing more will be needed. Human welfare is seriously involved in this matter for hundreds of thousands of persons.
Seeing that no increase has been made for approximately twelve months, I suggest that, instead of the increased pensions being payable from the first pay day after the bill becomes law, they might well be made retrospective to the first pension day after the 1st July. I have two reasons for this: The first is that all pensioners have been hit severely by inflation, and the second is that this retrospective payment, coming just before the festive season of Christmas, would enable pensioners to have at their disposal a little bank to meet their most urgent requirements.
The Opposition believes that endowment for the first child should be increased from 5s. to 10s. a week. We have already given our reasons for this both to the Parliament and to the public, and I do not propose to develop the argument further at this stage. I also believe that the Government should consider increasing unemployment and sickness benefits. I admit that the amount of unemployment in the community at the moment is insignificant, but the amount of sickness is not. Moreover, if there were an epidemic, and that is always possible, many people would have to rely on the sickness benefit to tide them over a very difficult time when they would be dispirited, and without their ordinary income. No addition has been made to the unemployment and sickness benefit since it was first introduced six or seven years ago. I am sure that the Minister will concede that, having regard to fluctuations in the value of money in the meantime, it is necessary that something should now be done. Let me anticipate the Minister’s reply to me. I can hear him pointing out that the Leader of the Opposition asked for an increase of child endowment that would involve payment of an additional £13,000,000. He will tell me that if unemployment and sickness benefits also are increased, the additional cost to the Treasury may amount to as much as £15,000,000 a year. Let me face that position before he faces me with it. There is ample money available to meet the suggested increases. On the 30th June last, the National Welfare Fund had a surplus of £149,800,000. According to this year’s budget, total expenditure from the fund is assessed at £138,000,000, but the Treasurer has made it clear that he will collect £185,000,000 for payment into the fund this year. Thus, there will be a surplus of £47,000,000 on this year’s operations, in addition to the accumulated surplus of nearly £150,000,000, so that there will be an amount of approximately £197,000,000 out of which to meet any additional commitments. I suggest that the Minister can have no adequate answer to the argument that ample funds will be available.
I have one final suggestion to make. In- 1947, the Labour Government undertook a” consolidation of social services legislation. I concerned myself intimately with that work at the departmental level for more than six months. We concluded then the mammoth task of amalgamating or consolidating 50 separate acts. That was of great advantage to every one concerned with the administration of social services, and also to the beneficiaries. Before the consolidation, I had found great difficulty in knowing what the law was. Since 1947, there has been great activity in the field of social services. Many amendments of the con- solidated act were made while the Labour Government was still in office, and further amendments have been effected since thepresent Government has been in power. The amendments deal, not only with rates,, but also with conditions and qualifications applying to social service benefits. It is desirable that the people concerned should know what are their rights under the law. It should be emphasized that they have a right to social service benefits, and that there is no element of charity in their dispensation. The time is appropriate for a further consolidation of social services legislation so that it may be brought up to date. The position should not be allowed to drift until it becomes once more as bad as it was in 1947. I also suggest that the pamphlet on social services, which was issued in 1949, should be brought up to date.
– Yes, so that we might put the new Minister’s name in it.
– So long as the information is available for the people and for prospective beneficiaries I shall have no objection if the Minister decides to have his photograph included in the pamphlet, as he is a good looking Minister and I never was. I commend these suggestions very seriously to the Government, particularly the first one that it undertake a further consolidation of the social services legislation.
The Minister has asked us to give this bill a speedy passage. It is the intention and the hope of the Opposition that the Government will have the bill before the suspension of the sitting for dinner to-night. We realize that if the Government is not prepared to entertain our suggestion to back date the granting of these benefits to the first pension day in July, the sooner the bill is passed the sooner will the people receive increased benefits. I propose to move an amendment to the motion “ That the bill be now read a second time “. I do not expect it to be accepted because a similar motion which was moved elsewhere was rejected by the Government. I move -
That all words after “That” he left out. with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following; words: - the bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide for -
the operation of the act from the first pension day in July, 1951:
the payment of child endowment for the first child at the rate of 10s. a week;
a substantial increase of unemployment and sickness benefits; and
further amelioration of the means test.
– I listened with great interest to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) on the bill now before the Senate. At the very beginning of my remarks I should like to say that, as a comparative newcomer - in fact a very new member of the Senate - I was very impressed by his fair and dispassionate remarks. I spent some time last week going through the lengthy reports of the debates that took place in 1947 when the present Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Social Services and carried through this chamber a consolidation of the social services legislation. That was undoubtedly a mammoth task. Being present in the Senate some four years later, I pay a rather delayed tribute to the capacity and skill with which the honorable senator carried through that consolidation. In his approach to this problem he has displayed qualities that should always prevail in the Senate and in the Parliament generally when it is dealing with the needs of the people, particularly of those who like the recipients of social services benefits are least able to bear the heat and burden of the day. I am sure that if some of us are left in the Senate after the political wheel has turned and he is again the Minister for Social Services he will receive the same co-operation from the new Opposition as he has offered to the Government this morning.
However, I join issue with him in a general way in regard to the claim that he made - ironically I think - that social services benefits stem only from the Labour party. There are in this Parliament, and there have been in the years long gone by, men and women of all parties who have attempted, with a great deal of good faith, to provide assistance for those who are least able to bear the burdens of life. I think that the Leader of the Opposition will concede that many of the social services benefits that are available to-day stem from recommendations that were contained in the voluminous reports of the Social Security Committee established by the Menzies Government under the chairmanship of Sir Frederick Stewart prior to 1941. The fact that the present Government has continued to examine with compassion and understanding the legislation that was introduced by the present, Leader of the Opposition when he was Minister for Social Services, is indicative that there exists on this side of the Senate the same warm regard for the needs of the people as was then manifested by those who now sit on the other side of the chamber. I trust that I shall be able to maintain the high standard established by the Leader of the Opposition in the debate this morning.
It was with a slight tinge of regret, if I may be permitted to say so, that I listened to the Leader of the Opposition submit his formal amendment to the bill. I must reply to it, but, because of the gentle way in which the honorable senator proposed his amendment, not with the passion that would normally be displayed towards a proposal of that kind. 1 trust that Labour senators who follow me in the debate also will not inject any passion into the debate. The amendment contains four proposals. First, it seeks to ante date the increased pension rates to the first pension day in July last. Secondly, it seeks to provide for child endowment for the first child at the rate of 10s. a week.Thirdly, it proposes a substantial increase of unemployment and sickness benefits; and, fourthly, it seeks to bring about a further amelioration of the means test.With regard to the portion of the amendment that relates to child endowment, I remind the Senate that initially the Labour party bitterly assailed the proposal of the Menzies Government to endow the first child, on the ground that such a payment would constitute an interference with the concept of the basic wage. Proof of the soundness of that proposal is seen in the fact that the Leader of the Opposition now feels impelled to move to increase the endowment of the first child to 10s. a week. The only argument that can be advanced in support of such a proposal is that it would stimulate the production of the best type of immigrant which, of course, is a child born in this country. Roughly, that was the basis of the argument advanced by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) in another place when he proposed an amendment identical with that proposed by the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber. It is not a valid argument. The Government’s purpose in extending endowment to the first child was to assist parents at their time of heaviest expenditure. Generally speaking, the first child is the most expensive because of all the clothing and other requisites that have to be bought. The claim that child endowment stimulates the birth rate is quite wrong. Admittedly, the birth rate in this country has increased substantially since 1939 when child endowment was first introduced by the Commonwealth, but a rising birth-rate is a characteristic of all nations in war-time, due in some measure to the fact that marriages generally take place at an earlier age. That has been the experience of almost every country. To ascertain whether an increase of child endowment will be likely to raise the birth-rate in Australia, we need only examine the birth-rate figures for New South “Wales during the 1920’s. Senator Benn has pointed out that child endowment was first introduced into Australia by the New South Wales Government in the early 1920’s. In 1924, the birth-rate in that State was 23.93 per 1,000. In 1925, it was 23.79. By 1929, the figure had fallen to 22, and in 1930 it was as low as 20.59. Clearly, it cannot be argued that the payment of child endowment in New South Wales in those years stimulated the birth-rate.
I come now to the question whether the pension increases in this measure should be retrospective to the 1st of July. I am not an expert on treasury accounting systems. I understand that it takes even a Treasurer many years to grasp fully the details of accounting methods and rules, but I know that the normal practice, which has been followed by this Government and by all its predecessors, is to base estimates of expenditure on needs during the ensuing financial year. In 1947, the then Treasurer, Mr. Chifley, turned down a request similar to that which the Leader of the
Opposition is making to-day. No one will suggest that that right honorable gentleman was not a wise and successful Treasurer, well versed in budgeting procedure. I remind the Leader of the Opposition in all gentleness that, in 1947, he was in charge in this chamber of social services legislation similar to this and that, despite his warm sympathy for deserving sections of the community, he was compelled to refuse a request by his own supporters, many of whom are still with him, for retrospective payment. It is unfair therefore for the honorable senator to press this Government to establish a precedent by making the pension increase provided for in this measure retrospective to the 1st of July. The administrative problems involved in such a departure would be considerable. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will agree in his heart of hearts that that is true.
Most honorable senators will admit that a case can be made out for the extension of the sickness benefit. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition, that should the people of Australia become the victims of a serious epidemic, the present sickness benefit would not be adequate. However, that is something that may or may not happen, and from the point of view of practical politics, the sickness benefit does not constitute a material problem at present. Should the cataclysm envisaged by the leader of the Opposition occur, I am sure that the Minister for Social Services, whose sympathetic understanding is beyond question, would be the first to bring pressure to bear on Cabinet for at least an interim extension of the sickness benefit. I am indebted to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) for some interesting figures on unemployment. They show that 61,000 persons received the unemployment benefit lust year, the average duration of payment being eight weeks. Spread over the entire labour force in this country, that figure represents only one and a half days a head. In the light of those figures I do not think we can yet envisage unemployment as a serious problem, but I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that a. case can be made out for a little more generous treatment in cases of sickness.
The Government has made a sound approach to the amelioration of the means test in various ways and it may not be out of place for me to recapitulate some of those concessions at this stage. First a blind person will be permitted to have an income of £10 a week and still receive the full pension of £3, making a total of £13 a week. That income limit has been increased by £4 2s. 6d. a week in the last two years. An additional permissible income of 5s. a week is to be allowed to each dependent child under sixteen years of age of a pensioner. The limit of property that a pensioner may have without disqualification will be increased by £250. The special exemptions of £500 which now apply under the property means test to the surrender values of life assurance policies and the present values of reversionary interests will be increased to £750. In addition - and I consider this to be most important - the DirectorGeneral of Social Services is to have authority to disregard the value of the whole or part of the property of an age or invalid pensioner in special circumstances. A social services system rigidly applied can be most inhuman but, when discretion is allowed to those whose task is to supervise the application of restrictions, warm and sympathetic administration becomes possible. The Treasury quite rightly applies set rules to the expenditure of public money but, if heartrending discrimination is to be avoided, some discretionary power must be permitted. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has exhibited great wisdom by ameliorating the plight of people who, for various reasons have been barred from a share of the disbursements. In a rigid system of administration anomalies can produce heart-rending results. The Government is to be commended for its decision to vest a discretionary power in the Director-General of Social Services.
In another place the Opposition has claimed that the Government has been most ungenerous, in terms of purchasing value, in its treatment of age and invalid pensioners. It cannot be gainsaid that pensioners suffer most heavily during an inflationary period. It has been stated that the ratio of the age pension to the basic wage reached its peak on the 21st October, 1948, when the age pension was increased to £2 2s. 6d. a week. The last “ C “ series price index number determined before that date was 1311, for the September quarter of 3948. The latest was 1833 for the June quarter of 1951. Applying to 42s. 6d. the ratio of 1833 over 1311 the result is 59s. 5d. That means that on the basis of the “ C “ series index, £2 19s. 5d. is now needed to provide the same purchasing power as £2 2s. 6d. in October, 1948. Therefore, by raising the age pension to £3 a week the Government has acted fairly. The Government is at pains constantly to preserve the purchasing power of social services benefits. The budget is designed to ensure that the purchasing power of money shall, not decline any further. As a Government back-bencher, I believe that if there is any further serious deterioration of the purchasing power of our currency, the Executive will be compelled to take appropriate action. I support the bill.
– As Senator Cormack has stated, the debate has proceeded in a gentle and subdued manner. Therefore I shall not throw any bricks, although one could challenge the honorable senator on some of his points if a political approach were made to the important subject of social services. Although, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has stated, the Opposition will co-operate with the Government to ensure the passage of the bill to-day, I regret that there will be only two or three hours’ debate on this vital subject. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has been good enough to inform me that during this financial year about £125,000,000 will be expended on the provision of social services. That is a substantial portion of our national income. All honorable senators should devote a considerable amount of time to a study of the social services system in this country. I shall not trace its history, apart from mentioning that prior to ten years ago very little was done by successive governments to ameliorate the plight of the less fortunate members of our community.
Senator Cormack has mentioned the Social Security Committee that was established in 1939, under the chairmanship of Sir Frederick Stewart. That committee functioned for many years, and 1 regret that it is now in the discard. Its reports were most valuable to the Parliament. It did a great service also to the people of Australia. As a result of its deliberations great advancement was made in. social services. I do not intend to make political capital out of the matter because this subject is very important to many people. It is essential that there should be unanimity of approach to it. I was a member of the Social Security Committee for a number of years. It was composed of both Labour and non-Labour supporters. I am proud to be able to say that all problems were studied in a nonparty atmosphere, and unanimity was achieved in the committee’s reports to the Parliament, lt could be said that that committee brought in a measure of the welfare state. I know that Government senators in their conception of the economic life of Australia abhor the welfare state. They consider that that is not in the best interests of the . people. Yet three non-Labour members cooperated to hammer out difficulties and present unanimous reports to. the Parliament. The committee unanimously agreed to an extension of the welfare state into Australia.
– What has become of the committee?
– I do not know what has become of it, but I regret that it is not functioning, because I believe that the problems that could be placed before it to-day are even more important than were the problems of a few years ago. We endeavoured not to be tedious in the early stages of our deliberations, and tried to sort out the anomalies in the age and invalid pensions provisions before proceeding to deal with other matters. I believe that the present age and invalid pensions provisions are better than were the provisions prior to the establishment of the committee.
I shall try to make some positive contribution to the work of the Minister and his department in connexion with our social services problems. I consider that a great deal of study on the matter of age pensions is warranted. Our attitude to-day 13 that aged people as a group should receive a certain cash benefit and that if we pay them that benefit that is as much as the nation can afford to do. It is true that the benefit provides for such people a standard of living which enables them to carry on their existence, but I suggest that it is a hit and miss method. Those of us who travel around the country appreciate that the payment of a sum of money to aged people works well in some instances but badly in others. For instance, the unfortunate persons who have no children to assist them and who live in city areas where they are obliged to pay rent, find it very difficult to live during the present inflationary period. The amount that is being paid to them by the Government is not sufficient to provide a reasonable standard of living. On the other hand, there are aged pensioners who have children who try to assist them by taking them into their own homes and providing their food. Accordingly, such people are able to live in a measure of comfort. In the country areas it is much easier for an old person to exist than it is in the cities. In the country, old people find that the other members of the community are better able to assist them and are perhaps kinder in providing them with food and other necessaries.
Although the Government is endeavouring to care for the aged and the sick people of the community, I suggest that an anomalous position exists concerning the various types of aged people. I am not satisfied that this Parliament has done all that could be done in order to sort out the different groups of aged people and to care for them in a proper manner. For instance, is it desirable that in the cities aged people should be paid a cash benefit? Would it not be better if we were able to supply them with certain basic foodstuffs, shelter or clothing?
– With services?
– Exactly. This is a matter which I believe would provide a worthwhile study for members of this Senate during the months that the Parliament is not sitting.
I now wish to refer to the care of the chronically sick, who at the present time do not receive proper attention. It seems to me that the Department of Social Services, in conjunction with the Department of Health, could organize some form of domiciliary care for those people. With proper attention, their lives could be made much more comfortable, and it is possible that many of them could be retrieved and again become useful members of society. The vocational training scheme that has been in operation during the last few years is very worth while, but I consider that its activities should be extended.
From the point of view of government care of aged people, it is somewhat alarming to realize that men of 65 and women of 60 years of age are becoming proportionately more numerous than are the working groups of the community. Longer life for our people means that many go on to the scrap-heap at ages between 60 and 65 and become recipients of government benefits. That is a problem that merits consideration. The Minister in charge of this bill (Senator Spooner) is aware that from time to time I have spoken to him concerning people who have reached the age of 65 years and who wish to continue work, but find that if they are ill and cannot work, and therefore desire unemployment relief, they are faced with a difficulty. I am glad that he has been able to do something about that matter. Many men wish to continue to perform useful work after they reach the age of 65, but if they do so they are not entitled to receive benefits. It happens that some of our elderly people, who are not able to keep up with younger workers, can obtain certain work from which they may earn £2 or £3, or even more, a week. But is it worth while for them to work if they thereby jeopardize their pension rights?
I consider that greater consideration should also be given to the problems of invalid pensioners. It is true that vocational guidance work has been most successful, but the activities of that scheme should be extended. A proper scheme should be evolved in order to assist invalid pensioners to rehabilitate themselves and also to assist this Government in its endeavours to help them. I suggest that in country districts invalid pensioners might be grouped in hutments or in residences round the hospitals. There are many other ways in which their treatment could be bettered if proper attention were given to the subject.
Senator Cormack referred to sickness and unemployment benefits and I also ask the Minister to give further consideration to that matter. The amount of benefit laid down in the first instance was accepted because a new principle was involved and the argument used at the time was, “ Let us get the principle established. Having done that we can then work towards the payment of really worthwhile rate3 “. So far the rate of benefit has been increased by only 9 meagre amount. Yet the basic wage is now -more than double what it was when the last increase of benefit was made. This may not appear to be a very important item, but, looking at the report of the Director-General of Social Services, I noticed that in 1950 more than 161,000 payments were made. Incidentally, Senator Cormack made an error in the figures that he cited. The honorable senator referred to 61,000 benefits instead of 161,000. In fact, therefore, 161,000 families in Australia were affected. To those families the payment of a low rate of benefit was important because it meant that they were not able to enjoy the measure of security which a more liberal payment would provide. Honorable senators will agree that £2 5s. a week is not enough, particularly when we remind ourselves that the basic wage is now approximately £10 a week, to sustain a married man and his wife. Although the rate of payment fixed four or five years ago, when Labour was in office, was not sufficient, the important point to remember is that that was the first time unemployment benefit was provided by the National Government, and the vital consideration then was not the scale of payment but the fact that the Government admitted its duty to provide unemployment benefit. I think that every one appreciated at that time that the rate would have to be increased, but the really big obstacle had been overcome by the introduction of unemployment benefit. To-day about 161,000 families are receiving unemployment benefit and b’3,000 families are receiving sickness benefit. Fortunately, those numbers are very small in comparison with our total population, but I think we all realize tha-t the present time is abnormal and that at any moment we may revert to our former economic condition when there was always a considerable number of unemployed persons. For that reason it is most important that the Government should now increase the scale of payment of unemployment and sickness benefits so that unfortunate members of the community may not have to suffer unnecessary hardship.
Another matter that is causing me serious concern is the utter failure of the Government to tackle the problem of introducing a national health scheme. The former Social Security Committee, which investigated this matter thoroughly over a lengthy period, submitted several valuable reports, all of which stressed the need for the introduction of a really comprehensive national health scheme. Although I have asked a number of questions from time to time in an effort to obtain some outline of the Government’s health scheme I am not yet clear about what benefits have been granted by the Government. In fact, I do not know even the nature of the plan that is apparently being developed by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). I know, of course, that free life-saving drugs have been made available to certain classes of people, that certain benefits have been conferred upon pensioners and that free milk is being provided for schoolchildren. But excellent as all those things may be in themselves, the fact remains that no comprehensive, integrated plan has been propounded. I take this opportunity to remind the Government that it made most emphatic promises to introduce an effective and comprehensive plan for promoting the health of the entire community. That a very real need exists for such a plan is proved by the fact that Australia is about twenty years behind most enlightened nations, such as Sweden, in this matter of national health, and is at least ten years behind New Zealand. I would not object even if the plan proposed involved contributions by members of the community, but I do object most emphatically to the utter failure of the Government, and particularly of the responsible Minister, the Minister for Health, to produce some kind of plan.
In connexion with the reference to contributory schemes that I have just made, I point out. that although a contributory scheme would be preferable to the utter absence of any scheme, the Social Security Committee was most definite in rejecting, for very good reasons that are set out in its reports, the whole- principle of contribution in respect of sickness and unemployment benefits. Indeed, when debate took place in the Senate upon the reports of the committee I think that all political parties agreed that a contributory scheme as the basis of entitlement to sickness and unemployment benefits was undesirable. The Labour Government of that time introduced legislation to give effect to certain of the committee’s proposals, but even Labour did not introduce a comprehensive national health scheme. Had it remained in office, of course, I have no doubt that it would have done so long before now.
I consider that the Government might have been a little more generous in its treatment of age pensioners, because the proposed increase of 10s. a week in . the pensions of aged persons is hopelessly inadequate. Although Senator Cormack produced certain statistics in an endeavour to justify the parsimony of the Government that he supports, my examination of the official statistics reveals that whereas last year the pension rate boro a ratio of 35 or 37 per cent, to the basic wage, it has since declined to slightly less than 35 per cent., and even with the proposed increase of 10s. a week the ratio of pension to the basic wage will be only 31 per cent. That calculation does not take into account, of course, the fact that within the next few weeks there will be a further increase of the basic wage and the pension rate will be even less adequate to support the unfortunate recipients of age pensions.
– In 1910-11 me pension rate bore a ratio to the basic wage of only about 20 per cent.
– That is perfectly true, but, as I endeavoured to point out when I was dealing with unemployments and sickness benefits, the smallness of the initial payment is offset by the fact that every one realizes that the important thing is to introduce a new principle. We all know that once such a concession is granted, the scale of that concession can subsequently be increased. The whole tendency in all enlightened countries has been steadily to increase social services and the scale of social services payments. Although the first payment of age pensions was- only 10s. a week, or 20 per cent, of the then basic wage, the scale of payment has been successively increased until last year it reached 35 per cent, of the basic wage. I believe that we ought to give our aged and invalid people as large a share of the national income as we can, and rather than permit the ratio of the pension to the basic wage to fall below the present ratio I consider that the Government should postpone increasing it for a few weeks until the extent of the next increase of the basic wage is known. When the new basic wage is fixed the pension scale should be such that it will bear at least as high a ratio to the basic wage as did the present scale of payment to the basic wage of last year. Of course, nobody expected the basic wage to increase as much as it has done during the last eighteen months, nor did we expect the cost of living to soar as high as it has. What was considered reasonable even two years ago is not reasonable to-day.
One of the most tragic aspects of th, plight of invalid and aged pensioners to-day is that although they are a most deserving section of the community they are not strong enough numerically or in any other way to insist upon justice for themselves. For that reason I think that the Parliament should appoint a committee to make a special study of the whole problem and submit recommendations so that we may be assured that the money that we do devote to invalid and aged pensioners is used to the best advantage.
– I congratulate Senator Arnold on having delivered a very thoughtful speech, with most of which I agree most heartily. Senator Arnold expressed regret that the time allotted for the debate should be so short, but I remind him that in this debate time is of the essence of the contract because so many unfortunate pensioners are anxiously waiting for the increased payments promised by the Government. I point out that the debate on the budget affords an opportunity to any honorable senator who desires to make any lengthy observations upon the whole subject of social services to do so. I agree entirely with other honorable senators who have taken part in the debate that the subject is most important, but in justice to the unfortunate pensioners in the community it is equally important that this measure should have a speedy passage.
Senator Arnold, when referring to the social welfare state, accused honorable senators on this side of the chamber of being violently opposed to the provision of social welfare for the community. I remind the honorable senator that it was a Liberal Government of New South Wales that first introduced social benefits in Australia. That occurred in 190S. Two years later the Deakin Liberal Administration in the Commonwealth Parliament introduced legislation to provide for the payment of pensions to aged” and invalid persons. I also remind honorable senators opposite that socialism, as it is now known in the Australian Labour party, did not find its way into the platform of that party until 1921. The Leader of the Opposition ^(Senator McKenna) referred to the whole idea of the welfare state in such a way as to imply that that idea was restricted to the socialist party.
Sitting suspended from 1&.1& to $.30 p.m.
– I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the welfare state was inaugurated in Australia long before the Australian Labour party became a socialist party. I remind him that it was not until 1921 that the Australian Labour party became socialist.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator in order in discussing what the Australian Labour party did in 1921? What relation has that to the bill before the Senate?
– I ask Senator Vincent to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I was answering the Leader of the Opposition, and pointing out that his statement was untrue. The first step towards the welfare state was taken in New South Wales in 1908, which was long before the Australian Labour party became a socialist party. I regret that honorable senators opposite are making a party issue of this bill. Social services have nothing whatever to do with party politics. Of course, the fact that the Liberal party was the first to institute social services and so to inaugurate the welfare state, does not make that party the exclusive champion of social services. Both the Liberal party and the Australian Labour party have contributed to the improvement of social services.
I derive satisfaction from the fact that, although the present budget provides for increased taxation, a good part of the proceeds of taxation will go towards the payment of social services benefits. This bill broadens the field of social services. It will increase age and invalid pensions by 10s. a week. It provides a further amelioration of the means test and, finally, it gives discretion to the DirectorGeneral of Social Services in cases of extreme hardship. For that reason, the bill deserves commendation.
I remind honorable senators that, the present increase of pensions is the largest ever made by the National Parliament. In the space of two years the present Government has increased age and invalid pensions by 17s. 6d. a week. We can take credit for having increased by 50 per cent, the pensions payable when the Government took office.
I join issue with Senator Arnold who said that a pension of £3 a week was, in some respects, not so good as the lower pension of other days, because the ratio between the pension and the basic wage was lower now than hitherto. I admit that that is so, but there is no real comparison between pensions and the basic wage. The age pension does not bear any real relation to the basic wage and there is no reason’ why it should. The basic wage is based on the needs of a man, his wife and his family, but the pension does not rest on that basis at all. The amount of £3 a week paid to a pensioner will buy him more goods now than did the pension paid at any other time since age pensions were first introduced. That statement can be substantiated by an examination of the figures in the “ C “ series index.
– Let the honorable senator try to live on £3 a week.
– I know that no one can live on that amount. My point is that no one should have to do so. I am sorry that we cannot make the pension large enough for the pensioner to be able to live on it. The means test is higher now than at any time since pensions were first paid by the Commonwealth. The giving of discretionary power to the Director-General of Social Services is another reform necessary to the establishment of the welfare state. Legislation cannot provide for every .conceivable case, and provision should be made for elasticity in administration.
I do not think that any one on this side of the chamber would contend that the present bill represents a final solution of all problems associated with social services. We cannot claim to be completely satisfied with our social services legislation. We must continue to improve it until we have achieved two objectives - the abolition of the means test, and the payment of pensions large enough to enable the recipients to live on them. We know the evils that flow from the imposition of the means test. Some people who have acquired a few assets are worse off than those who have acquired none, but who are qualified to draw the age pension. The means test penalizes thrift, and destroys the incentive to save. There is no inducement for a man to save £1,000 if, by doing so, he will deprive himself of an age pension. Surely, in a time of inflation, we should encourage thrift. The means test is a great social evil, because it encourages people wilfully to evade the provisions of the law in order that they may wrongfully draw pensions. That in itself is sufficient justification for abolishing the means test. Recently, I heard about a woman who had saved £2,000, and had her own home as well. Therefore, she was ineligible to draw the age pension. She was planning to take a trip to England so that she would spend her £2,000 and thus be eligible upon her return to draw the pension. There is obviously something wrong with a system which encourages people to indulge in extravagance of that kind. 1 admit that, at the present time, we cannot alford to abolish the means test, as was pointed out by the Minister for Social Services in his very able secondreading speech on the bill. To abolish the test would cost an additional £93,000,000. Some people may say, “Well, why not find the extra money needed ? “ The question requires an answer. We are about to expend £180,000,000 on defence preparations, and we are informed in the budget that expenditure arising out of World War II. will this year amount to another £210,000,000. Thus, expenditure associated with a past war and a possible new war will total £390,000,000. We shall never be able to achieve the welfare state until we can abolish the need to prepare for war.
What is important is not the amount of the pension, but what the pension will buy. An age pensioner’ who will receive £3 a week after this bill has been passed would be able to exist on his pension if the prices of butter, bacon, cheese, bread and other necessary foodstuffs and the rent of his dwelling were cut by one-half. Tt is no excuse to claim that we cannot do more for the pensioners because we are in the midst of a period of inflation. We must ask ourselves why inflation has come upon us. We are constantly reminded that we are powerless to prevent world inflation which directly results from preparations for war by the democratic countries. Indeed, a great many of the ills that beset us are directly attributable to the tragic fact that it is necessary for the democracies to prepare their defences against the eventuality of war. Until the world has rid itself of the fear of war the attainment of the true welfare State will be impossible.
This is a good bill and I am sure that all honorable senators accept it as such. I am not completely satisfied with it and I expect Opposition senators to find many imperfections in it, but its imperfections are not the fault of the Government. If honorable senators contend that pension rates should be further increased they should indicate by what means such increases could be effected.
– The Government i.3 budgeting for a surplus of more than £114,000,000.
– Even Senator Nash, who is bleating in the distance, cannot contribute anything to the solution of the problem. I am proud of the attempts of the Liberal party over the years to promote the existence of the welfare State. The first moves to that end were made in 1908. Later, in 1910, the first steps to achieve the welfare State were taken in the Commonwealth Parliament. The Bruce-Page Government was the first government in the federal sphere to introduce a national health scheme.
– And what a scheme that was !
– The Menzies Government introduced child endowment. We may well be proud of that record. I do not contend that in our efforts to achieve the welfare State we have not been assisted by the Labour party, nor do I contend that the Liberal party is the only advocate of the welfare state, but I do deny the right of the Labour party to make that claim for itself. I believe that it is generally accepted that the answer to communism is the establishment in every democracy of a proper welfare State.
I compliment the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) upon the speech that he delivered in introducing this bill and on the plan that he outlined for future improvements of social services benefits. I congratulate him on his achievements when he was Minister for Social Services, and I look forward with confidence to future extensions of social services benefits. By implication the Minister has suggested that the Government is not satisfied with what it is doing in this field and that it hopes to do better. That is an attitude that we all might emulate in relation to social services. With those sentiments I conclude my address. I support the bill.
Senator SHEEHAN (Victoria) [2.511- - I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) on behalf of the Labour party, the objective of which is to improve social services benefits. Listening to the speeches of honorable senators opposite on this measure one would think that the Government had done something marvellous in approving of the increased pension rates proposed in the bill. Great play has been made on the statement of the Minister that they will represent the largest increases of social services benefits that have been granted by the National Parliament. In terms of actual money increases that statement may be true, but in terms of the purchasing value of the pensions it is grossly untrue. It is true that this is the first occasion on which a bill has been introduced into the Parliament to increase the general pension rate by 10s. a week; but when -we take into consideration the extraordinary rise of prices that has taken place, particularly within the last twelve months, the proposed increase is as nothing compared with increases granted in earlier years. Until recent years an aged couple receiving the maximum pension and the full permissible income had a joint total income in excess of the basic wage. At one period they could have received as much as 9s. a fortnight more than the then basic wage. What is the position to-day? Even after the increases proposed in this bill have been granted, the total income received by an age pensioner and his wife will be considerably lower than the basic wage. To-day, I understand, an announcement was made that the basic wage has been increased in Victoria by 9s. a week and in New South Wales by 14s. a week, with varying increases in the other States. Thus, the value of the increases proposed in this bill have been wiped out overnight. The commodities included in the basic wage regimen, upon which computations of the basic wage are made by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, are purchased by pensioners daily to meet their needs. They cover only the bare necessaries of life. The congratulations that have been poured out on the Government to-day are therefore entirely misplaced.
Senator Vincent and other honorable senators opposite have said that we are on the road to the attainment of the welfare state and that this bill forms a part of a scheme designed to enable us to reach that goal. If that be true, I trust that the relationship of the existing pension rate to the basic wage is no indication of »the extent of the pensioners’” share in that welfare state.
The Minister, in the course of his second-reading speech, said, in very pleasing and flowery’ language, that honorable senators would be astonished to learn that the abolition of the means test would involve the Government in an additional expenditure of approximately £98,000,000 per annum. What are the facts? The budget has been drafted to provide for not only the requirements of the Government during the ensuing year but also a surplus of more than £114,000,000. If the Government wished to abolish the means test it could do so and still have a surplus of £16,000,000. Statements of the kind made by the Minister are apt to be taken by the people at their face value. Naturally, the people will say, after hearing his statement, “ Good gracious! Fancy talking about abolishing the means test at an additional cost of £98,000,000 ! “ Is there any wonder why there is so much dissatisfaction with the Government when its spokesmen seek to cloud the issue by stating only halftruths ? All the Minister’s talk about the high cost of abolishing the means test goes for nought.
Honorable senators opposite have praised the Government for having extended child endowment to the first child. I do not deny that child endowment is a great help to Australian mothers. Indeed, I concede that it is an excellent benefit, and I have no desire to take any credit from our friends opposite for having originally sponsored it. But while I pay a tribute to them on that score, I remind them that child endowment was first introduced by a former Liberal government, not because of the generosity of its heart, not because it was enthusiastic about the welfare of working people and of parents generally, but because it was faced with the position that unless it introduced a system of child endowment an increase would be granted in the basic wage. The system of child endowment was introduced in the interests of the employers who supported the
Liberal government. Instead of the employers of labour being forced to meet increased labour costs, amounting to approximately -6s. a week for each worker employed, the Government determined that it would introduce a system of child endowment and finance it out of Consolidated Revenue, to which the workers contributed through payment of their income tax. In 1940, there was an application before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for an increase of the basic wage. Judge Beeby, one member of the Bench, said that the policy of the court was to determine a wage which industry could afford to pay, and that, in his opinion, the basic wage that industry could afford at that time would be sufficient only to meet the needs of a man, wife, and one child. He said that something should be done about the payment of child endowment, otherwise the court might be compelled to increase the basic wage by at least 6s. a week. Those were the circumstances in which the Menzies Government originally introduced child ‘ endowment, excluding, of course, the first child. Many years later, when another application for a higher basic wage was before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, this Government extended child endowment to the first child. On both occasions the move was made to save employers from being called upon to pay a higher basic wage. Therefore, the Government can take little credit for its activities in that connexion. To-day, only political fledglings who have little experience of politics are enthusiastic about the Liberal party’s record in the social services field.
When this measure was before the House of Representatives, many Government supporters pointed out that the age pension in this country had been introduced originally by a non-Labour administration. It is quite true that the Deakin Liberal Government introduced the age pension, but that was the price that it paid for the support of the Labour party which it required to remain in office. In other words, to avoid defeat, that Administration agreed to implement part of the Labour party’s platform. Mark the difference between the circumstances in which both age pensioners and child endowment were introduced in the federal sphere, and those in which Labour governments introduced similar social services in the States ! It was not to prevent an increase of the basic wage that a Labour government in New South Wales introduced child endowment. That was done in accordance with Labour policy of improving living standards wherever possible.
The bill does two things: it increases pensions slightly, and liberalizes the means test in certain directions. I am pleased to note that the Department of Social Services is continuing the rehabilitation of social services beneficiaries who, through physical incapacity, are incapable of providing entirely for their own needs. In that respect, the Government is carrying on an excellent job begun by the Chifley Government, and every encouragement should be given to this activity. I have visited some of the rehabilitation centres in Victoria, and I know of the valuable work that is being performed to assist those unfortunate individuals who are unable to compete against able-bodied men and women in ordinary employment. Many hundreds of partially disabled men and women are learning to take their place in the world without feeling that their chances are unduly prejudiced by their physical handicaps.
I support the proposal to grant discretionary power to the DirectorGeneral of Social Services. Many times, in the course of my representations on behalf of recipients of social services, I have found that the strict enforcement of the terms of the act has prevented just treatment in special - cases. Officials of the department, willing though they may have been to give special consideration to deserving cases, have had no discretion in the matter. I trust that, as the result of the proposals contained in this measure, the act will be interpreted in the manner in which the Parliament intended it should be.
I regret that the Government ha3 not seen its way clear to increase unemployment and sickness benefits, and to liberalize the means test associated with them. Many anomalies have become apparent since these benefits were originally introduced, and I had hoped that some of them at least would be remedied by this legislation. The fact that these benefits are subject to a severe means test was brought forcibly to my notice on one occasion when I was addressing a meeting of workmen. I was extolling the great work of the Australian Labour party in the social services field, and taking full marks for the Government that I supported for having introduced the unemployment and sickness benefit. One man in the crowd said, ‘ “ Hold on a minute. I have been paying the social services contribution ever since its inception but, when I was sick recently, I was unable to obtain any sickness benefit at all “. I went into the matter with him, and I found that because his wife was working, he had been ineligible for the sickness benefit. That anomaly, together with several others, has been brought to the attention of the Government, and it is time that the act was altered to eliminate them. Every one should be eligible for the benefits for which he pays taxes.
In <spite of a substantial increase of the basic wage in recent years, there has been no alteration of the amount of the unemployment and sickness benefits. Sickness, particularly of a bread-winner, can involve a family in substantial expense. Some times it is necessary to have help in the home to tide a family over a period of sickness. I hope that this Government which so often prides itself upon its activities in the social services field will consider increasing the sickness benefit. That is one reason why I should like to. see this bill withdrawn. If the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition were carried, the temporary withdrawal of the bill to iron out the anomalies to which attention has been drawn in this debate, would not prejudice pensioners in any way because the pension increases would be payable from the 1st July last. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have shown clearly that the increased payments provided for in the bill are not nearly so liberal as they may appear to be at first glance. If this deserving section of the community is to enjoy a reasonable standard of living, we should bring pension rates into line with present-day living costs. So long as the preterit disparity between wages and pen sions persists, it is useless to say that the people of this country have adequate social security.
Two other anomalies in the act have come to my notice as the result of my experience over the years. Recently Senator Nash cited the case of a man who reaches the pensionable age but meets with an accident or becomes ill. When he applies for the sickness benefit he is advised to obtain the age pension. The Minister for National Development will recall that I raised this matter with him some time ago. The Minister has stated that a discretionary power was included in the legislation to enable the Department of Social Services to deal with such cases. I cannot recall for the moment a qualification that he added. Unfortunately, apparently, the officers who have been administering the act in the various States have not been aware of that discretionary power. Why should men and women who are physically able to ‘ continue working be forced to get out of industry at 65 years of age and 60 years of age respectively, in order to be eligible for pensions, especially in view of the necessity for increased production? I _ contend that whilst people remain in industry and pay their taxes they should be entitled to the benefits provided by our social services system. They should not be compelled to apply for an age pension on reaching the ages that I have mentioned.. It may be that they could be granted a benefit other than the age pension. If they are contributing to the National Welfare Fund they should be entitled to social services benefits.
I shall now refer to the residential qualification. To qualify for an age pension a person must have resided in Australia continuously for twenty years, although a temporary absence abroad does not disqualify him. As honorable senators are aware, in past years, when employment was scarce in Australia, many workers left this country to take jobs in New Zealand. Australian citizens who had worked on the Australian gold-fields, but who had left Australia temporarily in search of work, could not state conscientiously that . they had resided for twenty years continuously in this country. Consequently they would be denied age pensions. We are not so exacting with regard to invalid pensions, for which persons may become eligible in three ways. They may become entitled to a pension after residing in Australia for five years. If they have left Australia and returned, provided that they have been here for an aggregate period of twenty years, they may receive an invalid pension.. I do not know why we discriminate against the age pensioner and favour the invalid pensioner. It is time that that anomaly was rectified. It could be done by the Government accepting the amendment that the bill be withdrawn and re-drafted. I suggest to honorable senators who have only recently entered the political sphere that they should study the history of social services in this country. They should also study the agitation that took place for social services, not only in Australia, but also in various other parts of the. world. If they do that I am sure that they will agree that the belief that ‘the community should assist its less fortunate sections emanated from working class organizations and social reformers, from which the Labour movement has grown. They will find also that captains of industry who have derived their profits by applying the labour force to industry and by supplying the capital, have always been opposed to the introduction of social services.
When the introduction of pensions was contemplated it was suggested that it would mean that the Government would keep persons who had squandered their income, and that we would breed a race of loafers and ne’er-do-wells. Some honorable senators asked, “ What incentive would there be for them to save ? “
– Order! I have given the honorable senator a great deal of latitude, but he is wandering too far from the bill.
– Honorable senn tors opposite have claimed credit for the work that has been performed by governments that they have supported in connexion with social services. I remind them that the other side of the picture is that all social services have resulted from the efforts of Labour. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber pioneered the thought. I am very pleased that many supporters of the Government to-day look upon social services in a different way from that in which their predecessors regarded them.
– I support the bill. It is indisputable that to-day all sections of the community are very concerned about the welfare of their less fortunate members. Senator Sheehan wandered very far from the truth on several occasions. It is most unfair for the honorable senator to claim that in past years supporters of the Government parties did not show as much consideration for the less fortunate members of the community as is shown by those parties to-day. The honorable senator was very much astray when he attempted to link the basic wage and the determinations of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court with child endowment.
– That is indisputable.
– It is not indisputable. It was very clearly demonstated that the court paid no attention to child endowment.
– Has the honorable senator read what happened in 1940?
– I have read what happened in 1949, when both the honorable senator who has interjected and I were members of the Senate.
– He is ten years behind the times.
– I welcome the Government’s decision to increase the permissible income of blind people by £4 2s. 6d. a week, which is a magnificent increase and to increase materially the allowance to sufferers from tuberculosis., I consider, however, that the Government should do more for civilian widows, on whom the operation of the means test bears very heavily. Many of them find that their family obligations prevent them from looking after their children and also going out to work.
One of the main provisions of this bill is that the Director-General of Social Services is to be vested with discretionary powers. Although the Director-General has always had a discretionary power with regard to widows, he has never been able to exercise discretion in relation to aged persons.
I agree with Senator Cormack that to-day the minds of all people are turning towards accepting responsibility for the less fortunate people in the community. We must all accept that responsibility. I am sometimes amazed to hear members of the Opposition claiming that when Labour was in office everything that was necessary for age and invalid pensioners was done. They seem t(< forget that what is most necessary is to provide services. Senator Arnold said that as the ratio of aged persons to the working members of the community is becoming higher we must consider ways and means of ensuring that elderly people shall be sustained in their declining years. I agree that that is so, and I have spoken on that matter in the Senate previously. I have also cited figures showing the great increase of numbers of aged people, compared with those of working people. Yet there has been no study of that subject either in the Parliament or outside it. We have not concerned ourselves with the problem of how old people are to be fitted into our society. When I hear a debate such as this centering all the time on money, I wonder how many honorable senators have had experience of assisting old people. I myself have taken to hospitals and other institutions mcn and women who have had crusts of bread secreted in their clothing. Additional money, valuable though it may be, is not the only thing which such people need. They also require places to live in and proper services, so that they may be looked after in a suitable manner.
The problems of aged people are becoming intensified every day. We must concern ourselves not only with the amount of pensions that we can afford to nay but also with other things that will make their lives bearable. The housing situation in all States has undoubtedly contributed much to their hardships. Once upon a time an old grandmother or grandfather had an honoured place in almost every household. To-day old people cannot be accommodated in most households where there are young children because we have not yet caught up with our housing needs. We are also short of hospitals, which are not built in a day. It is of no use in the year 1951 to speak about allocating funds for the building of hospitals. I suggest that they should have been built years ago and that some thought should have been given to that matter in the past. We are to-day suffering from mistakes that were made years ago.
I commend the’ Government for the action that it has taken with regard to the rehabilitation of physically handicapped people, particularly those between the age of sixteen years ana 21 years. The Government’s proposal to increase the amount of permissible income which the parents of such children may earn is of great importance to people who have a handicapped or invalid child.. I do not think that any person lives under a greater strain than the one who has a handicapped child. This bill provides that the means test which applies to the income of the parents will be liberalized in order that they may be able to give to their invalid children a greater measure of assistance. It also provides for the payment of fares of attendants who are required to take to vocational guidance and other training centres persons undergoing rehabilitation and vocational guidance courses. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) aptly described such training when he said that it is human salvage of the best kind. I believe that it is along those lines that the Parliament should direct its attention.
I commend Senator Arnold for his suggestion that a committee should be established to survey the position of pensioners.
– We had one, but the Liberal party members of the committee walked out.
– I am extremely sorry to bear that any honorable senator was not prepared to sit down and discuss a problem which is becoming more and more acute and which, if not tackled, will be the means of destroying in the minds of the youth of this country the confidence that they should have in this generation. It is most important that we, by our deeds and thoughts, should instil into the- minds of the coming generation that veneration for age which we ourselves at least hope that we possess.
This bill also removes other anomalies which became apparent under the operation of the principal act. “for instance, I feel that it will be a matter of extreme gratification to superannuated persons to know that they are entitled to the full amount of 10s. a week increase. That in itself is a very valuable addition to what they have previously received. I consider that it should be the endeavour of all political parties to attempt to lay down the foundations of a scheme that will eventually mean the total abolition of the means test. I do not know whether it is practicable to evolve such a scheme, but should it not be possible - and Mr. Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, said that it was not possible at that time completely to remove the means test - I suggest that a start could be made with the oldest people in the community and then work down to the age at which pensions now become payable. One of the most frightening things in the minds of people who have reached the age of GO or 65 years is the fear that if they spend their money they will at some future time find themselves destitute. If a start were made with people aged SO years or thereabouts, the cost of such a scheme would be approximately £5,000,000 a year. We should work towards that end. In the meantime, irrespective of parties, we must recognize the fact, that man does not live by bread alone, although bread is very necessary. There is a large fund of voluntary charity which must be drawn upon all the time. I suggest to honorable senators opposite that instead of attempting, for political purposes, to destroy this bill they support it and so demonstrate that they are really interested in the conditions of their less fortunate brethren.
– If I can, I wish to clarify one or two points that have been raised during this debate. Ever since I have been a member of this chamber, honorable senators opposite have claimed that the Liberal party was responsible for the introduction of age and invalid pensions. While it is true that a Liberal government was responsible for their introduction, I suggest that such action was forced upon it because of Labour pressure. I do not wish to take away any of the credit due to the party which Senator Wedgwood supports, but I remind her that that is the true position concerning the introduction of pensions in this country.
– There was also the New South Wales legislation of 1908.
– I shall deal with that in a moment. I also wish to correct another misstatement. Senator Sheehan correctly stated that child endowment was introduced in order to forestall an increase of the basic wage. I was a member of the Parliament at that time, and the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) was told that if the Government did not introduce child endowment the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would take that fact into consideration when assessing the basic wage. The Menzies Government then introduced child endowment, not for the first child, but for each subsequent child. Senator Sheehan’s statement was perfectly correct. I notice that Senator Robertson is shaking her head. I remind her that subsequently I myself was Minister for Social (Services for three years and I know something about the matter.
I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the officers of the Social Services Department. I was Minister for Social Services for three years and during the whole of that time I did not receive a single complaint about the Director-General of Social Services or his assistants. May I remind honorable senators that the scheme to provide rehabilitation training for physically handicapped persons was initiated during my term of office. I have always taken the keenest interest in the progress of that scheme, and I hope that its scope will be still further extended. I take this opportunity to suggest to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services that an ideal opportunity exists to place many physically handicapped persons in suitable employment by engaging them to manage and staff the various kiosks operated by the Government. I also . take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the deep sympathy and wide understanding of those who administer the Department of Social Services. I recall a case that occurred while [ was administering that department, which will serve as an example of the complexity and delicacy of some of the problems that are presented to the department for solution. A Yugoslavian immigrant aged 25 years, who had bad the great misfortune to lose both his legs in a mine explosion, was suffering mentally and morally as a consequence of his frightful loss. In an effort to rehabilitate him, officers of the department got him a job in a city driving a lift. Unfortunately, the young man soon became addicted to drink, and the matter was brought to my notice. After earnest consultation with the Director-General and other senior officers of the department, I decided that the only course open to us, in the interests of the unfortunate young man himself, was to get m touch with the Consul for Yugoslavia and threaten to terminate the young man’s invalid pension unless he returned to his job. Scores of similar distressing cases are brought to the attention of the department every day, and honorable senators will realize the demand that they make upon the sympathy and ingenuity of the department’s officers.
In support of the amendment which seeks the withdrawal of the bill, I point out that the basic wage has increased very substantially in all States in the last eighteen months. I understand that the most recent increase represents an average of lis. a week for all States; in New South Wales the basic wage has increased by 14s. a week.
In August, 1950, the. basic wage was £6 18s. a week. In September, of that year, it increased to £7 2s., and in December to £8 2s. In February, 1951, the wage increased again to £8 9s., in May, 1951, to £8 16s. and in August to £9 9s. Since then the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has fixed the basic wage at £10. It is obvious, therefore, that the proposed increase of the scale of payment of invalid and age pensions by only 10s. a week is wholly incommensurate with either the increases of the basic wage or of the even greater increases of the cost of living. I think that it is most unlikely that the Government will increase the pension scale within the next twelve months, and therefore I feel very sorry for the unfortunate pensioners, who have to contend with the ever-increasing spiral of inflation. Does any one contend that a person can live on £3 a week? We al] know, of course, that the cost of living of an invalid is even higher than that of an aged person, and we can well imagine the plight of those unfortunate invalids who have to subsist on £3 a week.
Senator Vincent eulogized the Government for granting what he contended was the biggest increase of pension ever made. Whilst the actual amount, expressed in monetary terms, may be greater than any previous increase, I point out that never before has any increase contained so little real purchasing power. Consider the rental that has to be paid by a pensioner for a room. Senator Robertson, who takes a great interest in the welfare of aged pensioners, will agree with me that in Western Australia it is impossible to obtain the rental of a room for less than £1 a week. The effective purchasing power of the increase of 10s. proposed to be granted by the Government will bs only about 2s. 6d. In other words, the net effect of the proposed increase will be to permit a pensioner to purchase a small amount of additional food, worth about 2s. 6d. on normal values.
I greatly regret that the bill contains no proposal to increase social services payments generally. Under the Curtin and Chifley Administrations, Labour laid down a sound basis of social security for the people and provided for their needs from the cradle to the grave. I also remind honorable senators that it was a Labour administration that first introduced the payment of hospital benefits. When I was Minister for Health I brought forward the original proposal that the Commonwealth should pay 6s. per bed per day in respect of all patients in public hospitals. When that proposal was being discussed before the Premiers Conference, I recall that the then Premier of Victoria, the late Sir Albert Dunstan, said : “ The effect of this proposal will be that if Sir Mark Sheldon drives up to ». hospital in his huge limousine he will be able to demand, a bed in a public ward in the hospital “. The remark led, of course, to a discussion of the means test. It is obviously absurd to suggest that wealthy people in receipt of large unearned incomes should be eligible to receive all the social benefits made available by the Government to assist distressed and deserving members of the community. That is, of course, the great objection to any scheme of compulsory national insurance.
– The point is that the more a taxpayer receives in income the more he contributes in income tax and social services contributions.
– I have often heard that argument and I know it to be quite unsound. The fallacy of that contention lies in the fact that the employers of a large number of persons do not themselves bear the cost of their contributions to the national insurance fund, but pass on the added cost to those who buy their goods. Does any one suppose that a huge company like the Myer Emporium Limited, of Melbourne, which employs many thousands of people, and would, under any scheme of national insurance, be compelled to contribute so much pei’ week in respect of each of its employees, would itself bear the cost involved? Obviously, it would pass on the added cost to the community in the form of higher prices for its goods, and thus escape altogether making any real contribution to the fund. I discussed this matter with Mr. Arthur Griffiths, M.P., who was the Minister in the Attlee Government of Great Britain which introduced the British scheme of compulsory national insurance. From recollection, he told me that the basis of the English scheme is that employees over eighteen years of age, and in receipt of salaries of not more than £480 a year, contribute 4s. Sd. a week, their employers contribute 3s. 5d. a week, and the balance of tho contribution is paid out of Consolidated Revenue. If it were proposed to introduce any such scheme to this country I should fight it tooth and nail, because, as I have explained in the instance I have given, the employers would not make any real contribution at all, but mould compel the whole community to bear their share of the added cost, which would inevitably increase the cost of living.
– But the employers would have to contribute out of their personal incomes.
– No, they would pay their contributions out of the profits of their firms, and they would increase the margin of profit to cover the added cost of insurance contributions. Any just system of compulsory national insurance would have to be based on a scheme of direct tax.
No proposal has been made by the Government to increase the payment in respect of sickness or unemployment benefits. Whilst we all know that there is very little unemployment to-day, we also know that people do fall ill, and that because of the enormously high cost of living most of them find themselves in very distressed circumstances. For that reason, it is absolutely imperative that that scale of payment of sickness benefits should be increased. When I was Minister for Social Services in 1944, a certain scale of payment was fixed for sickness benefit, but that scale has not been increased by so much as ls. a week since. Surely the Government realizes the injustice of its attitude towards the payment of sickness benefit.
I desire now to make a special appeal on behalf of those tragically unfortunate people who are blind. I agree with Senator Wedgwood that it is not always money that counts in these matters. In the suburb where I live there is a home for the blind, which I visit now and then. Extensions are being made to the home, and I hope that the Minister for Social Services will be able to make some contribution towards the cost, even though it is primarily a State matter. I do not agree that the proposed increase of 10s. a week in pensions for the blind is sufficient. The increase in age pensions is inadequate, and the increase in pensions for the blind is even less adequate. I have a great deal of sympathy with invalids who, because they are not 85 per cent, incapacitated, are not eligible foi pensions. It is true that the Government has honoured its election promise to endow the first child of a family, but the endowment of 5s. a week is not nearly enough. By the time sales tax is collected on toys and ice-cream very little of the os. will be left.
I believe that this bill should be withdrawn and redrafted so as to provide the additional benefits that have been asked for. No further pensions increases will be made during the year no matter by how much the basic wage may be increased. We know that the Government is already budgeting for a surplus of £1.14,000,000, and that every increase of ls. in the basic wage means an increase of £1,000,000 in Commonwealth revenue. Thus, if the basic wage increases by Ils. during the coming year, the Treasury will benefit by an extra £11,000,000. Therefore,, we are justified in asking the Government to be more liberal. Blind pensions should be increased by more than is proposed, endowment for the first child should be 10s., and sickness and unemployment benefits should be increased. I arn pleased that the Minister for Social Services is carrying on the work begun by the Labour Government by extending measures designed to encourage the rehabilitation of invalids. Even invalids who are 85 per cent, incapacitated are capable of doing some work. Of course, the Government has the numbers, and we can do no more than press our requests.
– I suppose it is inevitable that, whenever a measure to deal with social services is introduced into the Parliament, the party which introduces it will laud it as the greatest example of open-handed liberality ever witnessed since King Cophetua. exalted the beggar maid. And 1 suppose it is also inevitable that the opposing party should attack it as one of the most niggardly examples of meanness over witnessed. * Quorum formed.]* As I was saying before Senator Ashley took steps to provide me with an audience, I suppose it is also ‘inevitable that the Opposition should attack a government’s social service proposal as the most niggardly example of meanness since the days of Shylock and Scrooge. That is an inevitable tendency, just as there is a tendency for speakers to delve far into the past in an endeavour to show that those on their side of politics have been the prime movers and, indeed, in some instances the sole movers, in the direction of providing social services benefits.
It must have become clear to any impartial person listening to this debate that members of the Opposition take pride in the assertion that they belong to a party which has always urged the improvement of social services, whilst those on this side can pride themselves on belonging to the party which has, for the most part, put improved social services - into operation. This bill represents a reasonably Successful attempt to raise pension rates in order to keep pace with the rising cost of living. That is what it sets out to do, nothing more, and nothing less. Its great merit lies in the fact that it represents a movement in the direction of allowing people who are handicapped by age or illness to make a greater contribution to their OWn support without incurring the penalty of losing all or part of their pensions. That is the direction in which Ave must continue to move. As an example of this tendency, I point out that blind pensioners may now earn £10 a week before suffering any loss of pension. They are encouraged to increase their own earnings, and consequently, their contribution to the production of the country. Another provision is that persons who, during their lifetime, pay into a fund for superannuation shall not be taxed to bring their total receipts from the fund below what they could receive from the State in the form of hh age pension.
The debate on this bill should be directed, not so much to raking over the past or to an examination of particular clauses, as to an examination of the role which social services are to play in the future of this country, and of their proper place in a welfare State, whatever that may be. I do not know what people really mean when they talk of a welfare State. If the welfare State is one in which the citizen” is under the protection of the State from the cradle to the grave, and must, as a consequence, submit to the direction of the State from the cradle to the grave, then I am strongly opposed to it. But if by a welfare State is meant one in which the citizen shall be protected, to the extent that he shall be always assured of a living, against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune which strike him, not through his own fault, but because of sickness or age, then I am all for it. There is a considerable gap between those two conceptions. Social services constitute the instrument which the community will use in fashioning the welfare State of the future, whether it be of the one kind or the other.
According to the budget, the Government proposes to expend £168,000,000 this year on social services, and it is probable that an even greater amount will be required next year. There is a widely-held opinion that the means test should be abolished. I£ that be done the cost of social services will be enormously increased. There is a regrettable tendency for political parties to use social services as a means for winning votes, so it is certain that they will assume an increasingly important, and ever more costly, part in the future, particularly when we remember that the proportion of aged persons who will receive pensions is growing, and will continue to grow. “What does the future hold in the way of social services?
It seems clear from what I have already said that in the future it will not be possible to meet from the proceeds of taxation calls that, will be made on the Government for social services and for the multitude of other items of expenditure that it will have to finance. It is also clear that except in unusual circumstances, the issue of treasury-bills to the amount required, would be so inflationary as to wipe out the benfits that social services payments are designed to confer. Therefore I am led to the inevitable conclusion that social services benefits can be maintained on a proper basis in this country only by a contributory system, and that, irrespective of what government may occupy the treasury bench, a contributory system must be instituted in the future. From that point of view the most important statement that has been made on this bill is that the Government considers that to be so and is now endeavouring to work out ways and means by which a contributory system can be introduced. That task will not be an easy one. It is already abundantly clear from experiences of the operation of the National “Welfare Fund that payments made in one year that are sufficient to purchase a certain quantity of commodities will not necessarily be adequate in future years to purchase an equivalent quantity of the same commodities. Peoplewant to be assured during their working lives that when they reach the age at which they can work no more, not that they will receive 10s., 15s., £3 or £4 a week, but that they will be able to pay for bread, meat and shelter. The Government must wipe this conception of monetary values out of its mind when it is evolving a contributory scheme and deciding what steps it will take to implement it. It gave me great pleasure to hear that the Government is coming to grips with this problem. I look forward with pleasurable expectation to the proposals that it will present to us - credit for which will doubtlessly be taken in future years by the Opposition - in its attempt to tackle this problem.
I do not know whether honorable senators read a little while ago in the newspapers that a very distinguished naval officer who had come to Australia to take charge of the Royal Australian Navy stated in an interview that in his considered opinion the aircraft had come to stay. I read his statement with pleased astonishment. Social services also have come to stay and, in the same way, they pose one of the greatest problems we have had to face. In my view the proposals of the Government to tackle that problem are the only ones that offer any hope of success.
– I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I assure Senator Cormack, who appealed for dispassionate consideration of the bill, that I shall debate it without passion on a sound, commonsense basis. The Labour party has very good grounds for proposing the amendment. Indeed those grounds have been well supported by honorable senators opposite during this debate, particularly by Senator “Wedgwood. The first part of the amendment seeks to ante-date the proposed increased pension payments to the first pension day in July, 1951. The reasons why we have made that proposal have been amply canvassed by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. Inflation is still going on unchecked and as a result purchasing power has been taken away from the pensioners who are struggling to exist on the small pittance that they receive from the Government. If the Government does not accept our proposal to ante-date the increases as we have suggested it will virtually rob the pensioners of their just due. Having regard to the manner in which living costs have increased, particularly in the last few months, pension rates should have been increased months ago. Senator Fraser has said that the purchasing value of the additional 10s., which seems to be a very large amount, is only equivalent to the purchasing value of 2s. 6d. during the period in which he occupied the post of Minister for Health. It can be seen, therefore, that the Government’s proposal is by no means generous. The Government has said that if it ante-dated pension increases to the first pension day in July great difficulty would be experienced in ascertaining the names of those who are entitled to the retrospective payment. I do not accept that as a valid excuse for its refusal to accept our proposal. Every pensioner is issued with a pension book on which is written his name and the fortnightly amount to which he is entitled. The Department of Social Services keeps very extensive records containing full details in relation to all pensioners. To work out the entitlement of each pensioner should be a simple calculation. When a person applies for a pension three months may elapse before the application is granted. That period is needed to enable the department to make the necessary inquiries in order to ensure that the applicant is entitled to the benefit for which he has claimed. When the application is eventually granted the pension payment dates back to the date upon which the application was first made. Thus, the principle of retrospective payments is accepted by the Government. I see no reason why it should not be extended to the increases proposed in the bill.
The second portion of the amendment seeks to increase the endowment of the first child from 5s. to 10s. a week. I listened with amazement to some of the statements that were made by honorable senators opposite in regard to that portion of that amendment. Senator Cormack, who appealed to us to discuss the bill dispassionately, gave me the impression that he believed the endowment of the first child to be a kind of bribe to people to increase the population. The purpose of child endowment is to supplement the income of the family. It is true that Labour opposed the proposal to endow the first child until it had been assured that payments made for that purpose would not be taken into consideration in the computation of the basic wage. When that assurance was forthcoming we wholeheartedly approved of the proposal. Honorable senators will recall that when legislation to give effect to the proposal was before the Senate Labour proposed an amendment asking that a direction be given to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration that the endowment for the first child should not. be taken into consideration in its assessment of the basic wage. Child endowment is clearly a supplement to the family income and not by any means a bribe to increase the population as was suggested by Senator Cormack. The endowment of the first child should be increased to 10s. a week in the interests of uniformity and because the Liberals promised the electors that if they were elected to office they would endow all children alike. It is of no use for Government supporters to claim that no such promise was made. Indeed, the honorable member for Bass in the House of Representatives (Mr. Kekwick), issued a pamphlet in which he applauded them for having done so. All we ask now is that that promise be honoured. The first child should be endowed at the same rate as the second and subsequent children. Why should a second child be able to turn to his elder brother and say “You are only half as good as I am. The Government has said so “?
– The honorable senator must have been a first child.
– I came on the scene very late. In our family there were eleven children, and I was the sixth child ; but unfortunately, when I was born, the Liberal Government then in office was not sympathetically disposed to the payment of social services and no- child endowment was paid. It is pleasing to note that the younger members of the Liberal party have become social services conscious. They admit the essentiality of social services benefits. Not many years ago when the Labour Government took office in the National Parliament, after the country had experienced a quarter of a century of government by Liberal governments, social services payments for the whole of Australia a mounted to only £16,000,000. I am pleased that the Liberals have changed their views and that the younger members of tha party have a more humane approach to these matters.
Of all those honorable senators who have spoken on this bill only one was out of step, and he was out of step not only with the Opposition but also with his own colleagues. I refer, of course, to Senator Gorton. After he has had more experience of parliamentary life and he has profited by the advice of his own colleagues, and of the Leader of the Opposition, who has played a noteworthy part in the improvement of social services in Australia, he will approach the consideration of this matter in a humane way.
The third portion of the amendment relates to the increase of unemployment and sickness benefits. The sickness benefit has remained unaltered notwithstanding sharp rises in the cost of all commodities since it was instituted. When is a man or a woman more in need of assistance than when he or she is ill? Many parents have been committed to mental asylums as the result of the fear that their families may starve because they have been forced to cease work on account of illness. Labour had a hard fight to introduce the sickness benefit but Hansard shows that since that time, many members of the Liberal party have come round to our way of thinking. Unfortunately, the benefit has not been increased. If pensioners are entitled to an increase of the pension rate, and no one I am sure will argue that they are not, then surely there is every justification for an increase of the sickness benefit. Imagine the plight of a large work- ing class family when the breadwinneris struck down by sickness, and the sole income of the household is the sicknessbenefit! The failure of this legislation to increase the sickness benefit is one reason why it should be withdrawn and redrafted.
A good case can also be made out for an increase of the unemployment benefit. Why should workers have to suffer through unemployment which is not of their own making? Senator Cormack said that the Australian Government could not be expected to assume the full responsibility to provide for the unemployed. The unemployment benefit is, of course, directly linked with the sickness benefit, because unemployment can result from sickness. If it is not this Government’s responsibility to provide for the dependants of workers who, although willing and eager to work, are thrown on to the scrap heap through unemployment, whose responsibility is it? Does the Government consider that those unfortunate people should be thrown into gas chambers as Hitler disposed of those members of the community whom he regarded as useless? Should the Commonwealth stand idly by and see unemployed workers and their dependants starve? If care of the unemployed and the sick is not the responsibility of the Government, perhaps the Minister for National Development can tell me whose responsibility it is. If he admits that it is the Commonwealth’s responsibility, then he is a.t variance with some of his supporters and with other members of the Government. We on this side of the chamber consider that care of the unemployed is the Government’s responsibility. Unemployment may result from a dozen different reasons. This is a. vast land with perhaps more potentialities than any other country. Properly developed and wisely administered, Australia is capable of providing for all who have the .misfortune to lose their jobs through sickness or some other circumstances not of their own making. We believe, therefore, that this legislation should be withdrawn and redrafted. If the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition were accepted, pensioners would not be involved in any financial loss.
I have already heard a whisper that there is a sit-down strike in another place; yet we are being accused of delaying this legislation ! The debate on the bill in this chamber has been short. We are not holding the legislation up, nor are we running the risk of depriving pensioners of the increases to which they are entitled. It would not matter if the redrafting of the bill took one month or two months, because, in accordance with the terms of the amendment, the increases would still be payable as from the 1st July. It is true that owing to rising costs pensioners might find themselves short of funds in the meantime, but they have been short of funds for a long time and the experience would not be new to them. Somehow they would manage to struggle along on credit, knowing that they would eventually receive the increases for which the bill provides. Senator Wedgwood had the audacity to say that the Opposition was trying to destroy the bill. Why should we want to destroy the bill and so give the pensioners nothing at all? We arc trying to improve the bill. We say that the Government is not giving the pensioners enough.
– Tell us where the Government could get more money?
– I wish that the honorable senator would let me finish my argument. I shall deal with him in due course. He seems to be completely befogged. We have criticized the bill constructively and shown the Government how the legislation could be improved. The only speaker in this debate who went completely off the rails was Senator Vincent. He travelled right around the world, and spoke of communism and other irrelevant matters. His speech was completely devoid of constructive suggestions, but now he wants to know where the Government would get the money for the increases that the Opposition contends should be made in pension rates and other social services. He has not even read the budget, otherwise he would never have asked such a stupid question. The budget aims at securing a surplus of no less than £114,600,000 in the current financial year.
– That is earmarked.
– Are we to believe from the honorable senator’s interjection that that £114,600,000 is to be expended by the Government ? I am confident that, with further basic wage increases looming, the true surplus will be even greater than that figure. Could not some portion of the surplus be used to increase pension payments still further than the Government proposes in this’ legislation? Honorable senators opposite, with perhaps the exception of Senator Vincent, who obviously has not read the budget, know that ample money is available. No valid argument can be raised against the Opposition’s proposals. Government supporters can only say, “ We admit that the money is there. We admit the desirability of what the Opposition seeks, but we are not sufficiently sympathetic towards pensioners and other social services beneficiaries to give them what they are entitled to”.
One of the best speeches that have been made in support of the Opposition’s proposal that the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted, was that of Senator Wedgwood, who condemned the niggardly pension increases now proposed. If the Opposition is seeking to destroy the bill, apparently it has the fullest support and co-operation of Senator Wedgwood. However, I do not believe that her remarks were really sincere. In urging a further relaxation of the means test we are only asking the Government to fulfil one of its election pledges. Honorable senators opposite told the electors, amongst other things, that they would abolish the means test.
– Nonsense !
– The honorable senator’s interjection is quite understandable, because it is in keeping with the habit of most Government supporters of repudiating the promises on which they were elected. Such repudiations are common, and occur not merely in the social services field, but I shall confine my remarks to social services. Every one knows that in the policy-speeches of the leaders of the present Government parties a pledge was given to eliminate the means test. Now we are being told that no such promise was ever made. Apparently that pledge may be placed in the same category as the Government’s promises to reduce the cost of living and to put value back into the £1. If the Government cannot see its way “clear to eliminate the means test entirely, it should go much further than it does in this bill towards relaxing the provisions of the means test so that necessitous cases may be adequately dealt with. We should be very happy to see honorable senators opposite adopting Labour’s policy of eliminating the means test progressively as circumstances permit. When I speak of progressive relaxations, I do not mean the pinch-penny concessions that are of little value. A genuine endeavour should be made to abolish the means test. This bill does not go nearly far enough in that- direction. As Senator Fraser has said, statistics prove that the proposed increase of 10s. a week in the pension rate is the equivalent of only 2s. 6d. at the time when he was Minister for Health. Therefore, to increase the purchasing power “of pensions by a true 10s. a week, the Government would have to increase the rate by £2 a week. That is due, of course, to the Government’s failure to curb inflation in spite of its election promise to do so. It is the serious decline in the purchasing power of pensioners that prompts us to seek the withdrawal of the bill so that the needs of this deserving section of the community may be adequately met. They are lagging behind all the time and drifting into a state where they will be worse off than ever before. Senator Gorton admitted that the subject of social services is completely beyond him. It is too big for him. He stated that it would be impossible for anybody to look into the future and to legislate from a future point of view. The honorable senator also stated that the capacity of the people to pay taxes would never in future be able to withstand the demands that would be made to maintain social services at their present level.
– Senator Gorton said nothing of the sort.
– He definitely made those statements. Evidently he is so fogged down that he cannot see that the people of Australia will be able to provide social services on an adequate scale in the future. Senator Gorton stated further that social services could be provided in future only by a contributory scheme, and that that would have to come. If sufficient money will not be available from taxation to keep the scheme going, how will it be availablefrom a contributory scheme ? That would be merely another form of lifting the burden off people in receipt of larger incomes and pushing it onto the lower income groups.
Some years ago, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) walked out on his Cabinet over a contributory scheme that he had announced. When he again became Prime Minister he turned his back on the very scheme over which he had walked out of the Cabinet, and would not bring it into operation. He was not game to do so, because he knew it would not work. There were enough humane men in the Liberal party years ago to defeat the scheme that was propounded by the Prime Minister, and they have since supported a scheme that was introduced by the Australian Labour party. It was utterly stupid for Senator Gorton to say that although the money could not be obtained by taxation, a contributory scheme would provide it. That indicates that the honorable senator has. given little or no thought to the opinion that he expressed. A contributory scheme is only another form of taxation, brought into operation for a particular purpose.
– What does the honorable senator know about the Government’s contributory scheme?
– I was a member of the National Parliament years ago when it was discussed, and I have followed various schemes that have been suggested from time to time. I supported the scheme that is now in operation, and I saw the Prime Minister’s scheme that I have mentioned thrown overboard. ‘ I debated it in this chamber and from this side. There is available a little blue book which contains valuable information about the various schemes. It is evident that any supporter of the Government who continually interjects about these matters is either a new recruit to the Parliament or has not studied the policy of the Liberal party in the past. We can forgive Senator Vincent, because he is a new member, and all new members make mistakes; he will not make the same mistake after he has been a member of this chamber for three years. The Government should consider the proposed amendment seriously. The Opposition has debated it in all sincerity. We know the necessity for the provision of social services benefits, and we know how far they are lagging behind requirements. We know how the necessitous cases suffer, and therefore we consider that the Minister should withdraw the bill and, applying the humane policy that most of his colleagues say that they believe in, redraft it.
– If the Minister wishes to reply to the amendment at this stage he may do so without jeopardizing his right to reply later to the secondreading debate.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The Peesident - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– in reply - I think that all honorable senators may feel some degree of satisfaction not only because of the high level that this debate attained during the day, but also because of the interest evidenced in this legislation and the number of constructive suggestions that have been made by the various speakers. As usual, a good deal of discussion turned upon which political party may most fairly claim the credit for the introduction of social services legislation.
I have always held the opinion that social services legislation in Australia falls into three periods. First, there was the legislation passed by the Parliament prior to 1941; secondly, there was the period from 1941 to 1945, which I consider to be one of the most interesting periods in the history of such legislation because it was the time during which the all-party committeesat. That committee made a series of reports - I think eight in all. It is interesting to note that since the end of 1945 no legislation of consequence has been introduced which has not been in implementation of recommendations made by that committee. Widows’ pensions, allowances for wives and children of invalid pensioners, vocational training, unemployment benefit and hospital benefit all sprang from those recommendations. According to inquiries that I caused to be made, the only legislation which was not introduced as a direct result of the recommendations of the committee was that relating to funeral and sickness benefits and that introduced by the present Government relating to its health scheme. My recollection is that that joint party committee terminated its labours before dealing with a comprehensive health scheme. The third period is that subsequent to the referendum of 1946, when power to deal with social services was given to the Commonwealth Parliament.
Perhaps I am being a little altruistic, but I think that we have reached the stage when we might cease the continual manoeuvring for position in our efforts to establish whether one party or another is entitled to credit for the introduction of social services legislation. In my opinion the Australian nation now believes in social services and appreciates that whichever political party is in office it will progressively improve the conditions of the under-privileged members of the community. That attitude was illustrated at the last general election when the Australian Labour party, in its bid for votes, made no impact at all upon the Australian electors by offering increased pensions. The electors regarded such proposals as of no consequence because they believed that the matter could be safely left in the hands of whichever political party might be in office. I hope that we may come in clue course to a fourth period during which the major social services become available throughout the nation, free of a means test.
I do not think that there is any need for me to elaborate the point that in the comparatively short period in which this Government has been in office it has made its contribution to social services advancement, both in the direction of increased payments and in the addition of new benefits to those previously in existence. The level of benefits has been raised, the means test has been eased, and endowment for the first child has been introduced. While every one has his own point of view concerning such matters, in my opinion one of the most important advances made in social services legislation is the provision of a free medical service for pensioners. That service, provides a feeling of being cared for and of independence which elderly people, in the last years of their lives, prize even more than a money benefit. I am always very happy to hear reports concerning the manner in which that scheme is operating and the appreciation with which it has been received by pensioners.
The Government is not prepared to accept any of the amendments that have been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I shall deal briefly with them, one by one. The first amendment is that the increased pension rates should be applied retrospectively to the 1st July. A similar proposal has been advanced on other occasions when previous budgets were presented. The fact is that it has been usual to bring down a budget and to make provision for increased pension rates to be paid from the first pension day following the passage of amending legislation. It is equally true that it has been usual for the Opposition - regardless of its political colour - forthwith to attempt to make capital of that practice and to ask that the increased rates should operate from the 1st July. This Government is therefore in very good company in refusing to accede to that amendment. The late Mr. Chifley and the present Leader of the Opposition in this chamber refused a. similar request on the last occasion on which the Chifley Government increased pensions.
The second amendment is to the effect that endowment for the first child should be increased to 10s. a week. That is in the same category, as a general increase of pensions, because such an increase would involve expenditure of £15,000,000 a. year. It is necessary for a government first of all to get the perspective of proposed increased social services payments and then to apply them, in such a manner that they will give the best results to the recipients of social services. The Leader of the Opposition indirectly supported that point of view during his speech, because he pointed out that a substantial proportion of those receiving pensions have income of such a small amount that it is less than is necessary for their support. The Government was obliged to consider the best means of apportioning the money available. I do not think tha.t any one would support the view that the rate of increase of the age pension should be reduced in order to increase the. rate of endowment for the first child.
I confess to being on weaker ground in opposing the suggestion that there should be a substantial increase of unemployment and sickness benefits, I agree that a theoretical case may well be made out for an increase of those benefits, but at a time such as this the matter is not of urgent necessity because there is relatively little unemployment.
– A fairly constant number of benefits have been paid over the years.
– It is the sickness benefit that causes more concern. The first point to consider is that, fortunately, tha average duration of payment of sickness benefit is not long, being seven weeks which, plus the waiting week, gives a total of eight weeks. The second point is that in this period of high employment and prosperity there aro better opportunities to put aside savings with which to meet a period of adversity. It must also be remembered that in many instances no sickness benefit is claimed because the injured person receives workers’ compensation. I admit that the sickness benefit is one which the Government must consider carefully when next formulating budget proposals. I do not burke the point made by the Leader of the Opposition that it would be a calamity if an epidemic of some kind broke out, but I am sure that if such an unfortunate happening occurred, the matter would be dealt with promptly.
The fourth amendment is . that there should be a general amelioration of the means test. I can answer the argument in support of that proposal only in general terms by saying that the Government has gone some way towards that end on this occasion and that it also did so when the previous budget was presented. T have no doubt that it will continue such progress in the future. I hold the view that there is only one eventual solution of the problem of social services payments and that is that the major proportion of them should be made free of a means test. I do not overlook the difficulties that would be involved. The cost of abolition of the means test, on the present pension rates, would be approximately £90,000,000 per annum. When I held the portfolio of Minister for Social Services I carried out a good deal of research into that matter and I know that my successor, Mr. Townley, is also doing much work in connexion with it. We must be realistic and appreciate that that great advance cannot be made unless increased social services tax is imposed. It cannot be done from the funds at present available. I consider that public opinion is becoming more and more enlightened upon the matter and is tending to support the adoption of such a policy.
T do not intend to speak at length in replying to the debate, although I have noted many points which I should like to answer. If I may do so without offending other honorable senators, I wish to make particular reference to the contribution that was made to the debate by Senator Arnold. I thought, that his remarks were both thoughtful and provocative. The honorable senator stated that the payment of pensions is not of sole importance and that other services should also be provided. I agree with that statement. At the same time, we must ensure that the work at present being carried out by voluntary agencies in the field of social services is maintained. From my experience as Minister for Social Services, I know that magnificent work in the care of the aged, is being done by church organizations. No matter how generous we may feel as members of Parliament and no matter how much money we may provide for social services, no governmental action can compare in real and effective value with the services rendered voluntarily by private members of the community. Personally, I hope that we shall never reach the stage when social workers and voluntary agencies will feel that they have been thrust aside by the weight of money provided by the Government. Unfortunately, there is a tendency on the part of some of those splendid people who have fought and striven so hard to assist the distressed members of the community to feel that their efforts are insignificant when compared with the power and wealth of the Government and that they should vacate the field altogether. If those high-minded people do discontinue their humane work, then I believe that that will be the greatest misfortune that could overtake the cause of social welfare in this country.
Since the non-Labour parties have been in office, their record in the field of social services completely refutes the criticism levelled at us by the Australian Labour party that they are not genuinely interested in the welfare of’ the less fortunate members of the community.
– The Government has not kept pace with inflation.
– That point of view reflects little credit upon the Australian Labour party, and is the point of view held by those who are prepared to seek political popularity by exploiting those who need help. Every decent person knows that help, in the form of social services, should be freely given and should be raised above a party political level. The non-Labour parties won the general election held this year without making any bid for election on the social services planks of their platforms, and I think that it would be a good thing for all political parties to take that lesson to heart. The unfortunate section of the community that so badly needs social security should not be thrown into the cockpit of party politics. If the Australian Labour party stood together with the non-Labour parties and resolved to place social services above the level of party political controversy, then the whole community would be so much better off.. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the work done by the former Social Security Committee, which did a wonderful job. It inquired into and ascertained all the relevant information, presented it to the Parliament in splendid reports, and laid the foundation upon which the whole edifice of social security has been erected. I think that it is a great pity that, because of political discord, that committee has ceased to function. If we could only eliminate social services as a weapon in party political warfare we might be able to reconstitute the former committee and enable it to continue its splendid work.
I conclude by repeating that the political parties represented on this side of the chamber feel justly proud of their record. In. fact, we feel that it would not have been possible to do more in the field of social services in the last eighteen months than we have done. We have not only raised the level of social services benefits and relaxed the operation of the means test, but we have also launched entirely new social services, such as the national health scheme, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and the scheme which provides such valuable benefits for sufferers from tuberculosis. Having regard to what we have done in the past, I believe that the Australian nation will confidently leave to us the task of carrying on the good work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Banking Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 112.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 109.
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 111.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 115.
Egg Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 113.
Meat Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 114.
Public Service Act - Regulations -Statutory Rules 1951, No. 110.
War Crimes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 110.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Twentythird Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1950-51, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Senate adjourned at 5.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 October 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1951/19511018_senate_20_214/>.