20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether any licences have been issued for the importation of shirts from Hong Kong. If not, will the Minister prevent the issuing of sui-h licences? Is the Minister aware that the duty on rayon imported from Great Britain is ls. 6d. a square yard and from foreign countries 2s. Id. a square yard, and that the average cost of rayon in this country is os. 6d. a square yard ? As it takes 2-^ yards of material to make a shirt, this means that the cost of the material alone is 13s. 9d. The shirt trade has information that shirts, wrapped in cellophane and boxed, can be imported from Hong Kong at 9s. 6d. each in lots of up to 500 dozen. The issuing of licences to import those shirts would mean, in effect, the encouragement of (lumping, and would result in the closing of shirt manufacturing establishments in Australia. This, in turn, would throw out of employment thousands of girls who to-day enjoy an award wage of £0 14s. a week. Will the Minister treat this matter as urgent because Australian shirt manufacturers are very worried about it?
– I am not aware of the details mentioned in the honorable senator’s question, but I should be amazed to learn that shirts were being imported from Hong Kong. I am quite familiar with the duty on rayon because, with the assistance of my Cabinet colleagues, I was instrumental in protecting the Australian rayon trade. I am happy and proud to say that the encouragement given to Australian manufacturers through tariff protection has had satisfactory results. The production of rayon in this country has more than doubled since the import duties were imposed. Since I have been Minister for Trade and Customs. I have invoked our anti-dumping legislation much more than it was ever invoked in the previous ten years. I am fully aware of the Government’s obligation to protect Australian industries and I shall examine the information contained in the honorable senator’s question. I give him an unqualified assurance that efficient economic Australian industries will not be allowed to suffer through the dumping of imported goods.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral able to inform the Senate when the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration will announce whether a substitute method of reviewing the basie wage is to be put into operation, now that the quarterly adjustment method has been abandoned?
– All I can say in answer to the honorable senator’s question is that the court is engaged in the preparation of its reasons for the judgment in the basic wage case which was delivered two or three weeks ago. I should expect that some comments on the subject referred to. by the honorable senator might well appear in those reasons, but I do not know.
– I refer the Min.itser for National Development to reports which emanated recently concerning the Oakdale mine, and ask him what justification exists for continued government interest in that mine.
– The Oakdale mine is in the course of development by the New South Wales Government. The mine does not come under the jurisdiction of my department or that of the Joint Coal Board. In my opinion, there is no justification to continue its development because other supplies of coal of the type which is mined there are available and can be supplied by other mines. That comment applies also to the two other mines owned by the New South Wales Government. That Government is always complaining that the Commonwealth does not make sufficient funds available to it. I suggest that if it sold the two coal mines which it is conducting, and the one .that it is developing, it could use the proceeds for more useful purposes. I shall take that suggestion a little further and apply it also to the three mines which the Joint Coal Board is operating. If the board and the Australian Government were able to sell those three mines, the proceeds from the sale could be put to more useful purposes. There are privately owned mines which could supply the coal that those mines produce.
SenatorCOOPER.- On the 29th September last Senator Guy asked whether milk issued to school children in Tasmania during the very cold season of the year could be warmed. My colleague, the Minister for Health, has now stated that this Government will discuss with the Tasmanian Government, which distributes the milk, the possibility of that being clone.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the Australian Ambassador in “Washington expressed the views of the Australian Government when he addressed the Harvard Business School Club recently and spoke critically of the ability of the “ Big Four “ to resolve the problem of world peace? If not, when may the Senate expect to hear a statement from the Government relating to attempts ta bring the big powers together? Can the Ministeralso say whether this Government has realistic views on the delicate question relating to the decision of Great Britain and the United States of America to hand over control of Trieste to Italy, which is regarded as the most important item on the agenda for the meeting of foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and France, which is to begin in London on Friday?.
– I have not seen the newspaper report upon which, obviously, the honorable senator’s question is based. On the question whether the Australian Ambassador in Washington was expressing the views of this Government, I should like him to understand clearly that the supporters of this
Government are not regimented, as are the members of the Australian Labour party. We enjoy individuality and freedom of thought. In addition, we hare a sense of responsibility. We do not make recordings of policy to which we must all subscribe. That is why we are such a success as a government.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Attorney-General, upon noti.ce -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister who is acting for the Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following answers : -
– by leave- 1 rise to make a personal explanation, in accordance with Standing Order 408. On the 16th September I asked a question about the whereabouts of the gold pass that was issued to former Senator Morrow. The Minister for Shipping and Transport said that he would endeavour to ascertain what had happened to the pass, and subsequently I received a letter from the Minister for the Interior about the matter. I now desire to say that I did not wish any person ia the Senate or outside it to infer from my .question that the gold pass was being wrongfully retained by ex-Senator Morrow. I have been informed that it was returned to the appropriate officer in Hobart on the 8th July last.
Motion (by Senator . O’sullivan ) - by leave - agreed to - .
That the Leader of the Government in the Senate bc appointed to nil the vacancy on the Standing Orders Committee.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Commonwealth Grants Com mission - Twentieth Report ( 1983 ) .
The report deals with the applications that were made by the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for financial assistance in 1953-54 from the Commonwealth under section 96 of the Constitution. The recommendations contained in the report will be adopted by the Government and the enabling legislation introduced at an early date. Copies of the report will be available for honorable senators when the legislation is introduced.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment to the States of a special financial assistance grant in 1953-54 to supplement the amount payable under the formula embodied in the existing tax reimbursement legislation. The precise amount payable to the States in 1953-54 under the formula will not be known until later in the year. It is estimated, however, that the formula grant will be approximately £120,549,000.
The need of the States for a grant to supplement the amount payable in 1953-54 under the tax reimbursement formula was discussed at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held last August. During that discussion, the Australian Government offered to make a supplementary grant sufficient to bring the total tax reimbursement payments for 1953-54 to £142,000,000. In making this offer, the Australian Government indicated that allowance had been made for the fact that it is not proposed in 1953-54 to make a separate grant to reimburse the States for the cost of their controls over prices and rents. As the amount payable under the tax reimbursement formula is estimated at £120,549,000, this offer involved a special financial assistance grant of approximately £21,451,000. The Premiers were invited to indicate the manner in which they considered that the special financial assistance grant should be distributed among the States. The Premiers did not reach agreement upon this aspect although a majority favoured distribution of the grant among the States in the same way as the formula grant.
Finally, the Commonwealth proposed, and the Premiers agreed, that the amount of approximately £21,451,000 should h? distributed in the same proportions as the formula grant, but that an additional amount, estimated at £419,000, should be paid to Victoria to give that State a total amount of £35,000,000 and that a further amount of £4:0,000 should be paid to Tasmania. With these additional amounts Victoria and Tasmania will receive this year approximately the same proportions of the special financial assistance grant as they received last year.
The effect of these additional payments is to increase the special financial assistance grant to approximately £21,910,000 and the total tax reimbursement payments in 1953-54 to approximately £142,459,000 or £6,559,000 more than last year. The total payments which it is estimated will be made to each State in 1953-54 as a result of this legislation are compared with the total payments made to each State last year in a table which, with the concurrence of the Senate, I shall have incorporated in Hansard.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKekna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed primarily to increase the amount of the statutory exemption for estate duty purposes. In cases where the whole of the estate passes to the widow, the children or the grandchildren of the deceased, the law at present allows a deduction of £2,000, diminishing, as will be explained later, where the value of the estate exceeds that amount. The proision for deduction of this amount has been in force since 1940. Increases in the value of property since 1940 have had the effect of bringing within the scope of the duty many small estates which would otherwise not have been dutiable. Among these would be estates in which the principal or only asset is a modest family home, and in some instances the raising of money to meet the liability for duty has presented serious difficulty. In the circumstances it is proposed to increase the statutory deduction of £2,000 to £5,000. This increase will have the effect of restoring the exemption to a level more consistent with the intention that such small estates shall be excluded from, liability.
Where no part of the estate passes to the widow, children or grandchildren of the deceased, the law at present allows a statutory deduction of £1,000 which also diminishes, as will be indicated later, according to the value of the estate. The bill increases this amount to £2,500. A proportionate allowance is made where the estate passes partly to the widow, children or grandchildren of the deceased, and partly to other persons or institutions. The amount of the deduction diminishes in accordance with a prescribed formula in all instances in which the value of the estate is greater than the prescribed exemption. At present, the statutory exemption of £2,000 decreases by £1 for every £10 by which the value exceeds £2,000 up to a value of £10,000, and thereafter the deduction decreases by £1 for every £2 by which the value exceeds £10,000. Under this formula, no exemption is allowable where the value of the estate is £12,400 or more. Where the estate does not pass to a widow, children or grandchildren of the deceased, the lower statutory exemption of £1,000 diminishes at present at the rate of £1 for every £10 by which the value of the estate exceeds £1,000 up to a value of £6,000, and thereafter at the rate of £1 for every £8 by which that value exceeds £6,000. In such cases, the exemption vanishes where the value of the estate is £10,000 or more.
Some variation of the present rates of diminution of the exemption is necessary if the new standards of statutory exemption are to operate equitably. The exemption of £5,000 would, under the present formula, be exhausted wherethe value of the estate amounted to £19,000, and the £2,500 exemption wouldvanish at £23,200. This effect would be contrary, to the long-established principle of allowing more favorable treatment Where the estate passes to the widow, children or grandchildren. It is proposed, therefore, to provide that, in all cases, the amount of the statutory exemption will diminish by £1 for every £3 of the excess value of the estate. The effect of this will be that, if the whole of the estate passes to the widow, children or grandchildren, the statutory exemption will cease to apply where the value of the estate reaches £20,000. In cases whereno part of the estate passes to the widow, children or grandchildren, the exemption will vanish at £10,000. The increased statutory exemptions will apply to the estates of persons who die on or after the date upon which the amending hill receives the Royal Assent.
A further object of the bill is to authorize the allowance, in respect of the estates of persons dying on war service in Korea or Malaya, or as a result of injuries sustained or disease contracted during such service, of the special deduction of £5,000 already provided for in respect of the estates of persons dying on or as the result of service in World War II. This deduction, which is of the fixed amount of £5,000, is granted by section 9 of the Estate Duty Assessment Act. The deduction is allowable in respect of so much of the estate as passes to the widow, children, grandchildren, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces of the deceased. This deduction is quite apart, from the statutory., exemption which lists already been mentioned by me. The special war service deduction is made before applying the provisions of the law relating to the statutory exemption. Where death occurs after the termination of war service, but is caused by that service, the bill provides that the allowance shall be made where death so occurs within three years after the termination of that service. The bill provides that the amendment to authorize this allowance shall be deemed to have commenced on the 27th June, 1950, which was the date of commencement of Korean war service. The allowance has, in fact, been so applied in anticipation of the necessary amendment of the law.
The foregoing amendments involve a loss of revenue estimated at £430,000 on an annual basis, and £80,000 for the current financial year. The comparatively low cost for the current year is due to the fact that estate duty returns are not due for lodgment until three months after death. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner.) read a first time.
. -I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
In this bill, it is proposed to provide a number of concessions relating to the imposition of income tax and social services contribution. These concessions include increases in the amount of deduction allowable for a dependent spouse, dependent parent, a daughter keeping house for a widowed parent, and a housekeeper caring for children under sixteen years of age. At present, the maximum deduction for each such person is £104, and it is proposed to increase this allowance to £130. Where a spouse or a daughterhousekeeper derives separate net income, the deduction is diminished, under the present law, by £2 for every £1 by which the dependant’s separate income exceeds £52. Consistent with the increase of the maximum deduction allowable, it is proposed that the allowance of £130 will not be reduced so long as the dependent’s net income does not exceed £65. If the separate income of the spouse or daughter-housekeeper is between £65 and £130, a partial deduction will be allowed to the taxpayer. In a full year, the cost of these concessions will be £6,000,000.
Honorable senators will recall that, last year, the Government provided a taxation concession in regard to expenditure incurred by parents in the education of their families. That was the first occasion in the history of Commonwealth income tax legislation that a concession of this nature was provided by any Government. In keeping with a promise made at that time, this allowance has been reviewed, and it is now proposed to extend the present concession. The maximum amount which may be deducted in respect of each child receiving fulltime education will be increased from £50 to £75. In addition, the opportunity is being taken to liberalize the conditions attached to the allowance. At present, the deduction is limited to payments made directly to the school or university at which the child is receiving full-time education. Subject to the maximum amount of £75 for each child, it is proposed to extend the allowance to all items of expenditure necessarily incurred in connexion with the child’s education. Where, for example, a child is obliged to live away from home in order to attend a school or university, the cost of board j’.url accommodation will be deductible, subject to the maximum allowance of £75. The deduction will not be limited to payments made to the school or university, but will -extend to payments made to hostels, boarding-houses and for private board and accommodation.
The allowance will also include expenses such as the cost of text-book3, stationery and equipment, irrespective of whore those articles are purchased. A parent is not at present entitled to any deduction for expenses incurred in connexion with the education of a child who !3 in receipt of income or government assistance in excess of a specified amount. The proposed amendment will remove this restriction so that the concession will be allowed to the parent who is incurring the .cost of educating any of his own children under the age of 21 years, whether or not the child is in receipt of income or government assistance. The cost of the amendments, which . will apply as from the 1st July, 1953, will amount to £1,950,000 in a full year..
Another proposal is to increase the maximum allowance for medical expenses from £100 to £150 for each member of a family. It will be realized that, as a result of the introduction of the Commonwealth medical benefits scheme, cases in which medical expenses will exceed £100 in respect of any one member of the family will not arise as frequently as in the past. Nevertheless, cases will occur where the present allowance is insufficient and a. more liberal concession is warranted. The maximum allowance for dental expenses will also be increased from £20 to £30 for each person in the family group. These amendments will also apply as from the 1st July, 1953, and will cost the revenue £100,000 for a full year. Further provisions in the bill will give effect to concessions previously announced by the Government.
To commemorate the coronation of Her Majesty, the Australian Government, in conjunction with the governments of the States, has established a fund known as the Queen Elizabeth the Second Coronation Gift Fund. The objects of the fund accord with Her Majesty’s wishes in the matter and, broadly, are designed to assist hospitals and other institutions for the benefit of mothers and children. It is fitting that taxpayers who support the appeal should receive the same tax concession as that which applies to gifts to public hospitals which care for mothers and children. It is proposed that gifts of £1 or more to the fund shall be allowable deductions for taxation purposes.
Another concession, previously announced, relates to the partial exemption of income derived from certain mining operations. The relevant provisions of the law which granted a partial exemption on this type of income ceased to apply as from the 1st July, 1953, in the case of individuals, and from the 1st July, 1952’, in the case of companies. It is now intended to continue the exemption in all cases until the 30th June, i960. The proposed legislation will exempt from tax one-fifth of the net income derived from mining for those metals and minerals which are already prescribed by regulation, as well as certain other minerals to which the partial exemption will be extended. Dividends paid by companies wholly and exclusively out of these exempt mining profits will continue to be free of tax in the hands of shareholders.
The bill also provides an amelioration )f the effect of the undistributed income tax on property income, such as rents, interest and dividends received by private companies. At present, a private company may retain a portion of its business income without incurring any liability to undistributed income tax. on the amount so retained. This allowance, known as the retention allowance, ranges from 50 per cent, of the first £1,000 of distributable income down to 25 per cent, of the balance of distributable income over £4,000. There is no retention allowance, however, on income received by a private company from its investments. Experience has shown that, in many instances, it is necessary for private companies to apply some portion of the income from property to meet expenses which are not deductible for income tax purposes. By way of example, a private company may be obliged to expend amounts in alterations and improvements to property in order to comply with directions from some governmental or semigovernmental authority.
It is proposed to assist private companies to meet these commitments by providing a’ retention allowance of 10 per cent, of the distributable income from property. This allowance, which does not extend to dividends received from other private companies, is less than the retention allowance which applies to business income. However, the Government feels that a 10 per cent, retention allowance on property income should be adequate for the purposes for which it is being provided. The retention allowance on property income will cost the revenue about £350,000 per annum and will first apply to income of the year 1952-53.
Legislation enacted last year provided that dividends paid wholly and exclusively from profits which had borne undistributed income tax at shareholders’ individual rates would be free of tax in the hands of shareholders if the distribution were made before the 1st January, 1958. It has been established since then that the period of time allowed for taxfree distributions is insufficient in some instances and could result in serious difficulties for the companies and shareholders concerned. The proposal is to extend this period of time for a further five years. In effect, shareholders of private companies will not be taxable on dividends distributed from profits of this character so long as the distribution is made before the 1st January, 1963.
I now direct the attention of honorablesenators to the concession proposed in regard to income derived by authors, artists, dramatists, composers and inventors. It frequently happens that the income of such a taxpayer for a particular year is inflated by the inclusion of an abnormal receipt of income which represents the reward for several years’ wark. At present, the total income is taxed ;it the rate appropriate to that inflated income but, by reason of the graduated rates of tax in force, the amount of tax payable is greater than would have been the case if the same amount of income were derived over a period of two or more income years. It is accordingly proposed to apply a concessional rate of tax to income which includes an abnormal receipt from a literary or artistic work of an invention. This rate will be the rate applicable to the normal income plus one-third of the abnormal receipt. The concession will not apply to salary, wages or other remuneration derived by an author or inventor for services rendered. Eoi- the purposes of the concession, abnormal income includes lump sums received by an author for the sale of the copyright of his work or by an inventor for the sale of the patent of his invention, advance payments of royalties received by an author or inventor, and prizes won in literary or artistic competitions. The concession will apply also to a portion of recurrent payments such as royalties, where such receipts exceed £500 in any year and also exceed the annual average of similar receipts in the preceding three years. This is the first occasion on which any Commonwealth government has provided a concession of this nature. It should serve to afford practical encouragement to cultural a*id inventive activities. Certain other amendments of a minor drafting character are included in the hill and these will be explained at the committee stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’flaherty) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to provide for reductions of the rates of income tax and social services contribution on individuals and companies. It is also proposed to abolish the further tax on property income, to provide an increase in the exemption from tax of aged persons and to introduce a concessional basis of taxation of abnormal income from artistic, musical and literary works and from inventions.
Honorable senators will have had an opportunity to examine the schedules which have been circulated showing the tax and contribution payable by individuals under the proposed rates for the financial year 1953-54. They will have observed that the reductions proposed in this bill represent an overall reduction of 12-£ per cent, of the present rates. The reduction in the case of taxpayers without dependants will amount to as much as 24 per cent, in the lower income ranges. The reductions are graduated until at an .income of £10,000 the reduction of tax will be approximately 10 per cent. The cost of the proposed rate reduction’ for individuals is estimated at £51,250,000 in a full year.
A proposal contained in the assessment bill which should be considered with the proposed rate reduction is the increase of the concessional deduction for a spouse from £104 to £130. As a result, taxpayers maintaining dependants will receive substantial reductions ranging from 100 per cent, in the lower income ranges to 20 per cent, in the middle income group, and to almost 11 per cent, at an income of £10,000. Honorable senators will observe that the tax reductions’ in the lower ranges are considerably more than the average reduction of 12^ per cent., particularly where the taxpayers are maintaining dependants. These taxpayers are predominantly salary and .wage-earners and the Government confidently believes that the tax relief given will provide employees with the incentive to increase production which the country so vitally needs. Taxpayers in the upper income groups who may be looked to for the promotion of industrial development will receive a valuable benefit by the reduction of the maximum rate from 15s. in the £1 to 14s. in the £1. As a measure of additional relief it is proposed that the maximum fate shall apply only to taxable income in excess of £18,000 instead of income above the present level of £10,000.
Honorable senators will appreciate the exceptionally advantageous position of the Australian taxpayer when they examine the schedules of tax payable in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In each of the other two countries the taxpayer is obliged to pay more than the Australian at every income level. Although the proposed rates are effective from the 1st July, 1953, reduced instalments on salaries and wages will not apply until the 1st November, 1953. The delay is occasioned by the time needed to calculate; print and distribute new instalment scales. Taxpayers’ will receive refunds of any excess deductions when assessments on 1953-54 incomes are issued. In the case of provisional taxpayers, the reduced rates will be reflected in an appropriate adjustment of provisional tax in assessments for the current financial year 1953-54 based on 1952-53 incomes.
It is proposed also to discontinue the further tax imposed, on income from property such as rents, interest and dividends from companies. Discrimination against property income has been a feature of Commonwealth income tax law since 1915. Through the years, the degree of discrimination has been gradually reduced until under the present law further tax is not imposed on property income of £100 or less or on the excess of property income over £10,000. The further tax on property income does not apply if the total income from property and personal exertion does not exceed £400.
The rates of further tax on property income of the year 1952-53 begin at 8d. in the £1, rising to a maximum of -16d. on property income between £1,000 and £4,000, thereafter gradually diminishing to a minimum of 4d. in the £1 from £6,000 to £10,000 and, as I have already stated, further tax is not imposed on the income in excess of £10,000. Further tax is not imposed on high property incomes, on the theory that there is no real justification for discriminating against that class of income as compared with high personal exertion income from businesses into which the element of invested capital enters. Further tax is not imposed on low property incomes as, apart from any unfair burden on small taxpayers, the property income represents, in most instances, the proceeds of savings from the personal effort of the investor. As a consequence, up to the present the full weight of the further tax has been thrown on taxpayers in the middle income ranges. In these cases, also, it may be argued with considerable force that there is a pronounced element of personal exertion in the income which is arbitrarily classified in the taxing code as property income. The Commonwealth Committee on Taxation recommended the abolition of the differential rate on property income. The committee regarded the discrimination as causing “ unnecessary complications and administrative difficulties “, and pointed out that its abolition would simplify considerably the assessment of tax.
In discontinuing the further tax, Australia is in accord with the principle that has been adopted in other countries. The United States of America and New Zealand have abolished differentiation. Canada imposes only a token differential impost on property income, by charging a surtax of a flat rate of 4 per cent, on property income in excess of 2,400 dollars, while in the United Kingdom differentiation is limited to the first £2,025 of income.
The Government considers that the removal of the further tax on property income will give a much-needed encouragement to savings, and so assist in the fight which has been waged against inflation with such marked success. The Government is fully conscious of the difficulties of the person whose means of subsistence are derived from property. These difficulties can be illustrated by pointing out that, since 1938-39, the total income from property has only slightly more than doubled, whilst the total income from other sources has increased fivefold. In 1938-39 rent, interest, and dividends comprised almost 12 per cent, of total personal income, but to-day the proportion is less than 6 per cent. The cost to revenue of this proposal is estimated at £3,500,000 in a full year, and the greater part of this relief will accrue to about 250,000 taxpayers in the middle income ranges.
The next concession contained in this bill is the proposal to extend the scope of the age allowance. This provision was first introduced in 1951, in order to provide tax relief to persons who would be qualified by residence and by their advanced years for the age pension but. who, because of the incomes they received, were not eligible for the pension. Prior to 1951, aged persons were required to pay tax on incomes which were no greater than the pension payable at that time. The concession was extended in 1952 to provide that a single person, qualified by age and residence, became exempt from income tax if his income did not exceed £254. A married couple both qualified by age and residence, were exempt if their combined incomes did not exceed £507. It is now proposed toextend the concession so that a single person, qualified by age and residence,, will be exempt on an income up to £375.. A married couple, both similarly qualified, will be exempt if their combined net; incomes do not exceed £750. To mitigatethe impact of taxation on incomes just above the exemption points, it is provided that the tax and contribution shall’ not exceed one-half of the excess of income above the exemption points. The- cost of the proposed concession, which will operate from the 1st July, 1953, is; £1,500,000 in a full year.
Subject to some exceptions, which L” shall explain later, the rates to be imposed” on the taxable incomes of public companies for the financial year 1953-541 are- 6s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of taxable income, and 7s. in the £1 on the balance. For the financial year 1952-53, public companies were liable to taxation at the rates of 5s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of income, and 7s. in the £1 on the balance, together with an additional levy of 2s. in the £1 on the total taxable income. This additional levy of 2s. is to be abolished and the rates consolidated. Honorable senators will recall that the rate of tax on the first £5,000 of income was reduced last year from 9s. in the £1 to 7s. in the £1. Thus, the proposed rates for public companies represent a reduction in the last two years of 3s. in the £1 on the first £5,000, and 2s. in the £1 on the balance of taxable income. The rates at which tax is to be paid by non-profit companies and co-operative companies will continue to be 5s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of taxable income, and 7s. in the £1 on the balance. Tax on dividends received from Australian sources by companies not resilient in Australia will also continue to be imposed at the rates of 5s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of taxable income, and 7s. in the £1 on the balance. The income of purely mutual life assurance companies will continue to be taxed at the rate of 4s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of taxable income, and 6s. in the £1 on the balance. These rates will continue to apply, also, to the mutual incomes of partly mutual life assurance companies. In all those cases where the rates are not being reduced, the levy of 2s. in the £1 was not imposed, and consequently the abolition of that levy does not affect the rates.
It is proposed to reduce the rates of tax payable by private companies by1s. in the £1. The rates for the financial year 1953-54 will, therefore, be 4s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of income and 6s. in the £1 on the balance. The cost of the reductions that are being made in the rates, which will apply to the taxable income derived by companies in the year ended the 30th June, 1953, is estimated at £28,750,000 in a full year.
This bill also contains a provision necessary to implement the proposal to establish a concessional basis for the assessment of abnormal incomes of authors, artists,, composers and inventors. which I have already explained to honorable senators in my second-reading speech when introducing the amending assessment bill.
The total full-year cost of the proposals contained in this bill is £85,000,000 which is almost three-quarters of the fullyear cost of the tax concessions foreshadowed in the budget speech. By a careful distribution of the concessions between individuals and companies, private effort will receive the greatest possible encouragement. These concessions will remove any tax deterrent still remaining to individuals who desire no increase their earnings by overtime or extra effort, and will finally dispose of the claim that initiative and development on the part of companiesis hampered by the weight of taxation. It gives me pleasure to introduce this bill to give effect to reductions which arc significant landmarks in the history of Australian taxation. They are the lowest rates levied by any government since the introduction of uniform tax in 1942, and. in terms of actual revenue they are the most generous reductions ever proposed by an Australian government. Their introduction is made possible only by the continued improvement in the stability of the economy over the last two years. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Flaherty) adjourned.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Debate resumed from the 8th October (vide page 460), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
SenatorO’BYRNE (Tasmania) [4.14]. - This bill is to give effect to the proposals of the Government in connexion with Avar pensions. There has been un- welcome delay in the introduction of the measure. Many pensioners who hoped to getsomealleviation of their present plight looked for increased payments at an earlier date. In the course of his secondreading speech, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) selected the year 1920 as the foundation year for a comparison of pensions. By doing so, the Minister indicated clearly what has happened to service pensions during the intervening years. I have before me the figures relating to war pensions in 1920 and on the basis of those figures, I propose to show to honorable senators the inadequacy of the proposed increases. Many war pensioners, particularly those who are totally and permanently incapacitated, are having a struggle to buy the bare necessities of life. Those who have dependants have found increasing difficulty in maintaining their standards of living, and in that respect they are fighting a losing battle. In his second-reading speech the Minister said that war pensions were first provided in 1914 and were incorporated in the Repatriation Act in 1920. The Minister added -
It is, therefore, appropriate that the year L0.20 should be regarded as the base or fourdation year in making comparisons of rates of pensions in relation to factors such as cost-of-living figures. That indicator is preferred by ex-servicemen’s organizations rather than, say, the basic wage; they do not wish the rates of pension to be linked with the basic wage. The C series index figure - weighted average of six capital cities - for L!)20 was 1106 . . .
In 1920, the basic war pension was £2 2s. a week and the basic wage was £3 12s. 6d. The ratio of war pension to the basic wage was 54.2 per cent. Before World War II., in 1939, the basic war pension was £2 2s. and the basic wage was £3 17s., so that the ratio of pension to the basic wage was 53.1 per cent. Now the pension of a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman is £9 5s. and the basic wage is £11 16s., but the basic rate of war pensions has been reduced from 54 per cent, .to 27 per cent, of the basic wage. Leaders of exservicemen’s organizations throughout Australia have expressed dissatisfaction and, in some cases, disgust at the miserly increase that is to be given to ex-servicemen. The federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Sir George Holland, said it was a slap in the face. I can understand his feelings, because he knows the plight of many people in the community, includ ing ex-servicemen who have difficulty in maintaining their living standards in the face of rising costs. Under the Government’s proposals, a 100 per cent, pensioner will receive an increase of 2s. 6d., a 50 per cent, pensioner an increase of ls. 3d., and a 10 per cent, pensioner an increase of 3d. a week. It is no wonder that Sir George Holland said that the increases did not amount to pocket money for children. These are the proposals of the Government, whose leader, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), said in his policy speech in 1949 -
We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in «nr administration of soldier problems.
That was the bribe that was offered by the Government parties in the election campaign get the support of exservicemen. I charge the Government with having dishonoured the promises that it made. Many ex-servicemen who sit on the Government side of the chamber have been much quieter about the claims of ex-servicemen since the Government was returned to office than they were before the election. Under the bill before the Senate the amount of the special rate pension to be paid to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen without dependants is £9 5s. a. week. All honorable senators know that the cost of bare essentials -such as food, clothing and accommodation, has greatly increased since 1920, the year which the Minister for Repatriation took as a basis for comparison.
Recently the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia decided to close the accommodation section of its hostel in Launceston because it was unable to continue to supply board and lodging for old ex-servicemen for £5 10s. a week. That circumstance provides an indication of the level of costs in relation to the needs of exservicemen. Rentals alone have increased over 500 per cent, since 1920, yet the proposed pension is only 130 per cent, higher than it was in 1920. The totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman who is living in his own home has recurring expenses for the upkeep of his home such as the cost of repairs and painting. He cannot do this work himself because of his incapacity. For these and many other purposes he has to employ labour at a higher rate than he receives by way of pension. That fact puts him at a grave disadvantage compared with the rest of the community. Totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen must have a serious malady in order to become eligible for the special rate of pension. Consequently, they usually need a special diet. Honorable senators know how the cost of ordinary food has risen, but these men have a food bill higher than that of other people because of their special requirements. These men are also faced. with additional costs because of the necessity to cook two sets of meals for their family. Men who are suffering from chest and heart complaints have to pay additional amounts for fuel in order to keep a room at a constant temperature. I noticed in the press yesterday that the price of potatoes had reached £108 a ton. The totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman is unable to pay prices such as that for vegetables. If they were able to cultivate their own gardens they might be able to supplement their diet, but many of them are physically incapable of cultivating their gardens.
The bare necessities of life now have to be paid for at prices approaching the luxury level and the pension that the Government has proposed for these men is totally inadequate to provide them with the standard of living to which they ure entitled. These men have lost their health in the service of their country and it is the sacred and solemn obligation of the Government to ensure that they are provided for. as the Minister said, with understanding and human justice. The Opposition claims that totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are not being treated in that way by the Government. The totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman suffers from many disadvantages resulting from his incapacity which make his living expenses greater than those of other people. In citing figures relating to an exserviceman with a wife and family honorable senators may forget that practically all the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen from World War I. now have no dependent children. A large number of these men are now living in lodgings or are living only with their wives in homes for which they pay a high rent. The Government’s approach to this problem has been a negative one. The Government has introduced a bill providing for a concession amounting to £28,750,000 to be given to companies which have been making substantial profits. The daily papers have been reporting company dividends ranging up to 15 per cent. Companies have been doing very well. Not only have they paid handsome dividends but their accountants have devised ways and means of writing .down assets and building up reserves. Before giving concessions to companies which are well able to meet their obligations to the nation the Government should have given more consideration to worthy and deserving members of the community such as ex-service pensioners.
The duties that are performed, by the wives and dependent mothers of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen in receipt of the special rate of pension are equal, in many cases, to the duties that would be performed by a trained nurse. The allowances that are payable to these women are totally inadequate for the service that they perform. The payment is not even a subsistence allowance. When I raised this matter in this chamber recently the Minister for Repatriation said that he was not able to make any concession in respect of ex-service pensioners who receive medical benefits and hospital treatment. But before the famous medical benefits scheme devised by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) came into operation, the wives and dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen were able to receive free medical treatment and medicine at hospitals. Under the new scheme those people have been excluded, and the already financially over-burdened totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen now has to provide health insurance for his family. That costs him about £8 a year. Additional expenses such a.* this are depriving ex-servicemen and their families not merely of all luxuries, but also of adequate shelter, food and clothing. This matter should be given immediate consideration. No provision ha.= been in a de in this measure for such cases. The wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen have given devoted attention to their husbands over the years, and, in some instances, their lot has not been very happy. They have been denied such pleasures as week-end and holiday outings with their husbands. Many wives are now feeling the strain of the continuous care that they have had to give to their husbands, and they themselves are in need of medical attention. Even if they are covered by health insurance, they do not receive free treatment for chronic illnesses, and this too adds to the financial burden now being carried by totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. One such ex-serviceman has told me that already medical care for his wife is costing him £2 a week. I remind the Government that, wives who care for their sick husbands are saving the country a considerable sum of! money. Many totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen would be permanent inmates of hospitals were it not for the loving care md attention they receive at home. The cost of maintaining a hospital bed to-day is approximately £4 a. day. Therefore, from the national economic aspect alone, the service rendered by wives of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen is of great value. Surely it is not too much to ask in return that wives and dependants should also receive free medical treatment and free medicine in the event of sickness. If such a service can be provided for aged persons there should be no difficulty in extending it to these other deserving people. In the event of the death of an ex-serviceman, his widow becomes eligible for free medical treatment and free medicine, yet while she is struggling along during the lifetime of her husband, no such provision is made for her. Surely that is anomalous. The case for the introduction of this much needed concession is unanswerable.
The report of the Repatriation Commission for 1952 shows that the cost of providing medical benefits for 35,270 widows and children and dependent mothers, was £264,000 or about £7 10s. a week each. At that time, there were 373 blinded ex-servicemen, 9.870 totally and permanently disabled ex-servicemen, and 2,031 tubercular ex-servicemen, making a total of 12,274. The cost of providing free medical and hospital benefits for wives and dependants of totally and permanently disabled ex-servicemen would be about £80,000 a year. That sum, or even the £1,200,000 that the liberalization provided for in this measure will cost, is insignificant compared with the cost to revenue of the abolition of the entertainments tax - estimated at £7,000,000 a year - or of the company tax reductions amounting to £28,750,000 a year. Surely the provision of that additional £S0,000 is not beyond the sense of justice of this Government.
I come now to the question of the attendant’s allowance for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. The following extract from a letter written by a totally and permanently disabled ex-serviceman speaks eloquently of the plight of many of these people to-day. He says -
In all cases the soldier is unable to look after himself, special food has to be cooked and all the house work, and if the case has to go to bed the position is worse, bed pans, bottles, &c, has to be taken away.
How can a soldier pay any one to look after a sick man on his T.F.I, pension and allowance of fi 10s. a week? The experse of paying rates, rent, &c., is awful. And if the soldier is sent to Hospital by the Repatriation Doctor the expense to the Government is over £20 a week.
– The attendant’s allowance is £1 15s. a week, not £1 10s. a week.
– How can the Minister expect any member of the community to provide this essential service for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen for 35s. a week? It is more like the daily rate for clinic workers and nurses in hospital. The letter continues -
And when you are a widower or single the position is still worse, who wants a dying man, any one who looks after a totally and permanently disabled soldier and attends to all the unpleasant jobs that go with it, they are good christian women.
Will you debate the question and move the amount be increased, will leave the amount to your own judgment.
If a soldier has a wife, her pension is £1 15s. 0d., but a widower with an attendant’s allowance receives £1 10s. This amount has not been altered for some years.
I have quoted that letter because it illustrates the plight of many exservicemen who are battling with increasing prices. It is false to argue that a fair remuneration can be arrived at merely by multiplying the 1920 payment by a certain number. The entire cost structure of this country has altered radically since those days. Many items which may have been considered luxuries in 1920 can now be classified only as essentials, and should not be denied to incapacitated ex-servicemen and their dependants. I believe that the entire repatriation pension structure is based on false figures and should be completely reviewed. Proposals now under consideration by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia include the following: -
The Minister for Repatriation has probably received a copy of the document from which I have read. The league is, of course, in close touch with the personal affairs of many ex-servicemen. To show the reception that the budget has been given by ex-servicemen generally I. quote from a. report -published in the Brisbane Telegraph on. Friday, the 11th September -
Budget increases in war pensions were inadequate and showed lack of consideration, Sir Raymond Huish said to-day.
Sir Raymond Huish is State president of the Returned Servicemen’s League.
Under .the Budget pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are increased by 10s. a week.
Other pensions for ex-servicemen are increased by 2s. Od. a week.
Sir Raymond Huish said the amounts showed the Federal Government did not consider the welfare of former servicemen and women.
He said that in the B.S.L. reaction to the budget on war pensions, was a feeling of intense frustration.
In the face of such criticism, how can the Minister believe that the Government has acted generously towards exservicemen ? I invite the Minister to pay some heed to the opinions that have been expressed, not only by members of the Opposition but also by some members of the community upon whom the Government relies for advice in these matters. Many representatives of exservicemen have been openly critical as Sir Raymond Huish has.
The plight of war widows in the community to-day is a very sad one. They have been deprived of their breadwinners, and because of rising costs, have great responsibilities. Many of them suffer ill health as a. result of the anxiety which they experience in trying to make ends meet. The acting president of the War Widows Guild, Mr. J. L. Neylon, has said that the proposed increase of war widows’ pensions is like throwing to a dog a bone without meat on it. In my opinion that states the case without any frills. The proposed increase will make little difference .to the lives of war widows, who, I believe, represent a special responsibility for this Government. In a sense, the Minister for Repatriation is the provider for such women. In ordinary circumstances, in times of financial difficulty, they would have their husbands to lean on. But these women have been deprived of their husbands. They look to the Minister for Repatriation to ensure that the policy of the Government in relation to Avar pensions is a reasonable one. Such a small increase of the pension will mean great, disappointment for many nf those women. Already, strong words have been used about the proposal by Mrs. Vasey and Mr. Neylon.
I wish now to deal with the provision that is made in repatriation hospitals for continuation treatment of ex-servicemen. At present, the period within which such treatment may be obtained is limited to three months after discharge from hospital. I think that a strong case exists for extending that period, particularly in respect of “burnt-out” World War I. ex-servicemen who have been in hospital for treatment of war-caused disabilities. Many of those men find that, in the course of time, .serious disabilities, such as arthritis and cancer, occur. Yet, the period during which they may receive treatment after discharge from repatriation hospitals is limited to three months.’ That is a matter to which the Government should give special attention.
Recently in the Senate, Senator Critchley referred to the treatment of ex-servicemen who suffer from psychiatric disorders, such as the various forms of neurosis. Much good could be done for such people if their surroundings gave them confidence and led them to believe that they are respected members of the community. They should be given to understand that everything that can be done for them will be done. It is the responsibility of this Government to ensure that the conditions under which those people receive treatment are of the highest possible standard. I endorse Senator Critchley’s appeal to the Minister to investigate this matter in order that the facilities available in repatriation hospitals and elsewhere shall be the best possible. Ever since World War I. ended, many “burnt-out” diggers have experienced the feeling that they are alone. I believe that suitable accommodation should be provided for widowers and single men who are not sufficiently sick to go to repatriation hospitals. At the present time, such men are nobody’s responsibility. I invite the attention of the Minister to the need for providing such accommodation.
I do not see anything controversial in the remainder of the bill. However, I hope that the Government does not consider that the proposed increase of the pension rates will adequately meet the needs of ex-servicemen. It should not be overlooked that the ratio of war pensions to the cost of living has declined considerably in recent years. It is an insult to offer ex-service pensioners an increase of 2s. 6d. a week. As honorable senators know, 2s. 6d. to-day is worth no more than was 6d. or ls. before World War II. Generally speaking, war pensioners are a class apart. Indeed, special promises were made to them by the present Govern- ment parties before they were elected to office. Ex-servicemen should receive suitable compensation for their service to the country. If the capacity of a man has been reduced because of such service, the community should attempt to compensate him in the best way possible. This matter has been the subject of argument for many years, but it is obvious that these men have never received justice. Although the case for special consideration has been pressed by ex-servicemen’s organizations, they have never been successful in bringing about a different method of classification, in respect of pensions, from that which applies to other members of the community. In my opinion, it is wrong that war pensioners should be on the same pension level as are age and invalid pensioners. I appreciate that the cost of suitably increasing, war service pensions would be great, but the circumstances are special, and special consideration should be given to them.
The case in respect of totally am! permanently .incapacitated ex-servicemen is being presented at a time when the finances of the Government are particularly buoyant and when special concessions are being given to other sections of the community, such as shareholders in companies. In my opinion, the Government has no reason to feel selfsatisfied with this aspect of its financial policy, and it will probably find, when, it faces the electors, that the consequences of this policy will not be pleasant. Exservicemen, at the first opportunity, will voice their disapproval of the proposed increase. The anomalies that exist in relation to war pensions should have received proper consideration by the Government. It should not be forgotten that, before this Government came to office, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
– I have no doubt that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) will agree that it is his duty to endeavour to interpret the wishes of the Australian people regarding the treatment to be accorded ex-service men and women and their dependants. I am sure that the Australian people wish to discharge their obligations to ex-service’ men and women and help to rehabilitate them as far as possible, in order that they may feel that they are again an integral part of our national life. In most instances, service overseas was undertaken as a moral duty to defend our homes. I think it may be said that the defence of our parents is one of the most solemn duties that devolves on young people. I believe that all who gave their services to their country, in whatever capacity they were given, did so for the common good of Australia. Exservice personnel do not desire to be given from the public purse more than they arc justly entitled to receive. Indeed, it has been my experience that those who contributed most in the defence of this nation and its ideals are particularly eager that repatriation shall not be mad” a party political football. Since the Government assumed office in 1949, it has liberalized repatriation benefits to a marked degree. In doing so, it has simply given effect to the will of the community. The improved benefits to be provided under this measure are not being made in order to catch votes at the general election for the House of Representatives to be held next year. These increased benefits are now proposed after careful consideration by the Government, which believes that they can be provided without causing hardship to the taxpayers. In this respect, the Government is acting realistically, and it would be a good thing if the community as a whole viewed matters of this kind in the same light. We recognize the need to reduce both direct and indirect taxes as much as possible. At the same time, however, the Government has to find £200,000,000 for defence and £184,000,000 for social services in the current financial year. Nevertheless, it is able to provide the sum of £39,000,000 for repatriation benefits, which amount is almost double the sum that was provided under this heading when it assumed office in 1949. After all, a government raises revenue only through taxation. No mysterious sources of wealth are available from which it can derive all the funds that it requires. Whilst on the one hand the Government is criticized for taking too much money from the citizens, on the other hand it is castigated for failing to provide hand-outs for every section of the community. The Government cannot utilize national credit for the purpose of financing repatriation services. On this point, of course, Government supporters part company with members of the Opposition, whose approach to this matter was typified by Senator Aylett when he urged the Government to print money in order to meet its needs. In effect, he advocated paper pills for poor people.
Whilst it is true that under this measure the rate of benefit is to be increased by only 2s. 6d. a week, it must be remembered that this increase is but the latest of many substantial increases that the Government has provided under our repatriation legislation since it assumed office in 1949. In these matters, perhaps, comparisons are odious; but the fact is that this Government has treated exservice personnel and their dependants much more generously than Labour governments did during the preceding eight years in which they were in office. Senator O’Byrne spoke about the hardships that confront ex-service pensioners. Have those hardships arisen only since 1949? When the honorable senator was challenged on this point last evening, he said that the reason why the preceding Government had not done more for this class of pensioners was that it was obliged to attend to more urgent problems. Apparently, Labour does not regard the claims of ex-service personnel as being a first charge upon the National Government. At the same time, I commend the record of previous governments in the repatriation sphere. Most governments, regardless of party politics, are concerned about the welfare of ex-service personnel and their dependants. Although I do not like cold statistics as a measure of a government’s treatment of any section of the community, the fact remains that whereas, in 1920, the 0 series cost of living index figure was 1122 and to-day it is 2293, an increase of 96.6 per cent”, the base war pension which, in 1920, was £2 2s. a week will be increased under this measure to £4 2s. 6d. a week, an increase of slightly under 100 per cent, during the same period. Those figures show that the monetary balance of the pension rate nas been maintained. However, cold figures do not interest exservicemen. They appreciate most the warmth with which the Government provides, or liberalizes, benefits. That is what really cheers their hearts. Such warmth is characteristic of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). I believe that honorable senators, regardless of party politics, respect his judgment and integrity as the head of the Department of Repatriation. A digger himself, he still carries the burden of war service in the loss of his right leg. lt may aptly be said that in his approach to the administration of repatriation legislation he is still on the right leg, doing a good job for the ex-serviceman. I believe that every honorable senator will join with me in paying that tribute to him.
Although, as I have said, the monetary balance of the rate of pension has been maintained, at the same time corresponding provision is made for the widows, children and dependants of exservicemen. The Government has extended full repatriation rights to our troops who serve in Korea and Malaya. All honorable senators will applaud that action. The Senate is the States’ house, in which all matters should be discussed dispassionately, regardless of party politics, on a national basis. Above all, we should observe that principle when we are considering repatriation matters. Government supporters are just as humane in their outlook upon this subject as are members of the Opposition. However generously we may desire to regard the claims of ex-service personnel our approach to this matter must be determined by our knowledge of the capacity of the country to finance benefits of this kind. Pensions are payable in respect of degrees of disability ranging from 10 per cent, to 100 per cent. In appropriate cases, the department encourages pensioners to engage in employment in order to supplement their pension. Whereas, when the Government assumed office the base rate was £2 15s. fi week, under this measure it will be. increased to £4 2s. 6d. a week, an increase of £1 7s. 5d. In addition, a. domestic allowance is payable in respect of the wife of an ex-service pensioner, and since the Government assumed office it has increased the rate of that allowance by lis. 6d. to £1* 15s. 6d. a week whilst, at the same time, the allowance payable in respect of children of war pensioners has been increased from 9s. to 13s. 9d. a week, an increase of 4s. 9d. a week. Therefore, the increase of 2s. -6d. a week proposed to be provided under this measure should be recognized as being the latest of a number of increases which the Government has provided since it assumed office. Whereas in 1949 the pension payable to blind or totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen was £5 6s. a week, to-day it is £9 5s. a week, an increase of £3 19s. In addition, pensioners in this class are entitled to free medicine and hospital treatment in respect not only of war-caused injuries but also injuries or disabilities not attributable to war service. Benefit is also payable in respect of the wife and children of a pensioner in this class. In view of those facts, can any one say that the Government is not doing the right thing by exservice personnel ?
Members of the Opposition have also spoken about the hardships that confront war widows and their dependants. Again. I ask whether those hardships have arisen only since this Government assumed office in 1949.
– Of course, there were grievances then, as there have been grievances ever .since repatriation benefits were first introduced.
– Listening to honorable senators opposite, one would gain the impression that the hardships confronting pensioners have arisen only since this Government assumed office. I am glad to have Senator Critchley’s assurance that similar hardships existed in the so-called golden age of the Chifley Government. The point I make is that since repatriation benefits were first introduced, successive governments have done all in their power to alleviate the lot of ex-servicemen and their dependants. I am proud of the record that this Government has achieved in this respect. In this sphere, its actions speak louder than words. Whereas in 1949 u war widow received a pension at the rate of £3 a week plus a domestic allowance of 7s. 6d. if she had one or two children, she now receives a pension at the rate of £3 12s. 6d. and a domestic allowance at the rate of £1 14s. 6d. a week. Previously, for some reason which I have never been able to fathom, the allowance in respect of children ceased when a war widow had more than two children. At present, that allowance is payable to widows regardless of the number of their chile -on. Whereas the domestic allowance ceased when the youngest child reached sixteen years of age, the allowance will now continue to be payable so long as one child is not earning an adult wage and is undergoing education. I trust that other honorable senators will take the opportunity to deal with the benefits that are now being made available to war widows in respect of the education of their children. At this juncture, I simply point out that a training scheme has been initiated for war widows to enable them to earn their livelihood. Unfortunately, we hear very little about that aspect of repatriation. In respect of children of deceased ex-servicemen, benefit is payable at the rate of 26s. 6d. a week for the first child and 18s. 6d. a week for each of the other children compared with benefits at the rate of -17s. 6d. and 12s. 6d. respectively that were payable in respect of such children in 1949. In instances in which both parents are dead, pension is payable in respect of the first child at the rate of £2 8s. a week and at the rate of £1 6s. a week in respect of each of the other children in a family. That is one of the good points that have been incorporated in this legislation. If a widow is away from home and takes sick she can receive treatment at a repatriation institution. She is reimbursed the cost of her fare to the institution, and subsistence. Surely we can claim, in truth, that we have provided the war widows and their children with tangible evidence of our regard for them.
Another kind of pension, known as the service pension has been introduced. By this means an ex-serviceman is paid the equivalent of the age pension on attaining 60 years of age. This is a great benefit to those persons. In 1949, the service pension was £2 2s. 6d. a week. It has been raised progressively in each year that this Government has been in office, and now stands at £3 10s. a week, which is an increase of £1 7s. 6d. a week compared with the 1949 rate. The allowance paid to the wife of a service pensioner has been increased from £1 4s. a week in 1949 to £1 15s. a week to-day, whilst the allowance for each of his children has been increased by 2s. 6d. a week. An ex-serviceman in receipt of a war pension and a service pension may receive altogether an amount of £4 17s. 6d. a week in his own right. I do not want honorable senators to be confused about this matter. Let us assume that an exserviceman who receives a war pension of £1 7s. 6d. a week qualifies for a service pension of £3 10s. a week. It is permissible for him to receive £4 17s. 6d. a week, that is, a combination of his war pension and his service pension. If he is married he and his wife will receive a total amount of £8 17s. 6d. a week. If by any chance they are capable of employment they are allowed to earn £2 2s. 6d. a week, so that, in all, they may receive a total income of £11 a week. In addition, they receive free medical and dental treatment and, wherever possible, free hospitalization. The parents of pensioners receive similar consideration. They, too, can receive up to £8 17s. 6d. a week conjointly. There was a time when the pension payable to a . war widow ceased upon her remarriage, and she was not eligible for any other payments. Now, however, there is a minimum gratuity of £188 payable to a war widow on her remarriage. That is a nice wedding present from the Government, which deserves commendation for this provision.
I shall now refer to one of the greatest boons to our very seriously disabled exservicemen, that is, double amputees, or those who suffer from complete paraplegia, which is paralysis from the waist down. This Government has seen fit, in its wisdom, to grant to those unfortunate people a Hillman Minx, 10 horsepower, four-door sedan motor car, and an allowance of £120 a year towards running expenses, registration, and insurance. In 1949 this matter was considered by the previous Labour Government, but the then Government could not see its way clear to make such a provision. It is to our credit that we have been able to introduce this provision. I cannot, in the period of half an hour that is available to me during this debate, refer to idi that this Government has done to try ‘to compensate ex-servicemen, to a degree, for their injuries. However, I think it is evident that this Government has demonstrated its sincerity of purpose.
I come now to the subject of prices control, which is the battle-cry of the Opposition. I believe that a great opportunity is now presented to the Opposition to prove to the ex-servicemen and the public of Australia generally that it sincerely desires the re-introduction of prices control. In effect, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has sanctioned the control of wages. In other words, it has pegged prices in order to provide an incentive to the people of this country to produce goods at a lower cost, so that persons of humble purse will be able to purchase the necessities of life. If we answer this challenge to our complacency - or a challenge to our honeymoon in the economic field - our fellow repatriates will be able to enjoy with greater satisfaction the benefits that this measure will confer upon them.
– With potatoes at £1.08 a ton?
– If the honorable senator who has just interjected had to dig potatoes, the price of that commodity would be £216 a ton. I stress that a challenge has been offered to. our complacency. If we answer that challenge by producing goods at a reasonable cost, and the workers wages remain at their present level - as I hope they will do - the cost of living will be lowered and our standard of living improved. No section of the community is more entitled to such an improvement than are the repatriates. This is a challenge that must be faced by the Opposition as well as by the Government, because we are all good Australian citizens. Not until all the hot air that is generated in this chamber has vanished will the repatriates be able to enjoy with satisfaction the benefits that are conferred by this bill. I am sure that a generous public, with a sense of proportion approves of the benefits that have been provided for the ex-servicemen.
– I listened with great interest to the speech of Senator Mattner. The honorable senator seems to be delighted with the hand-outs that are given to the ex-servicemen. He seems to think that everything is going along very nicely. Towards the end of his speech the honorable senator placed great emphasis on the subject of prices control. We believe that the control of prices is essential in this country, but apparently Senator Mattner thinks that prices should be controlled only in the interest of manufacturers and exploiters of the ex-servicemen. The honorable senator referred to the proposed increase of pensions by 2s. 6d. a week, but he did not mention that the pension is scaled down according to assessed degree of incapacity. I point out that in many instances an exserviceman whose incapacity is assessed at 50 per cent, loses more time from his work and requires more attention by his wife than does an incapacitated ex-serviceman who is in receipt of the 100 per cent, general rate pension. The wife of a 50 per cent, incapacitated ex-serviceman does not receive the allowance that the honorable senator would have the people of this country believe. Prior to the last two general election campaigns the leaders of the Government parties stated that if returned to office they would improve the lot of the ex-servicemen. They promised to increase their pension and to provide them with better amenities. There were to be great increases all round. Senator Mattner referred to the proposed increases of pension rates, but omitted to say that the proposed increases will result in very little benefit to the recipients because of the way that costs have spiralled. I contend that our ex-servicemen are entitled to a decent standard of living, to compensate them, for the service that they rendered to this country. The Government parties have not fulfilled their promises to the ex-servicemen. Let us consider the kind of hospital treatment that is provided for sick ex-servicemen. They gel short shrift in repatriation hospitals. The honorable senator stated that they received treatment for other than warcaused injuries. I assure honorable senators that when the hospital authorities discover that an ex-serviceman patient is suffering from other than war-caused injuries they push him out into another hospital. I am sure that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) will recall that I and many other members of the Parliament have sent telegrams to him asking that ex-servicemen be returned to repatriation hospitals for treatment although their complaints were not due to war injuries. In many cases delays have cost the lives of the exservicemen because the men were not kept in hospital for treatment. I have in mind the case of a man who was a patient in the Heidelberg Military Hospital. He had been hit by a motor car and was treated for head injuries. Eventually his legs became partly paralysed. On a country doctor’s certificate, he was put into the Concord Military Hospital. He was there for three weeks and was discharged as suffering from osteomyelitis. The doctors ruled that his illness was not due to war service but the doctor who had attended him privately was not satisfied and had an X-ray taken by a specialist. That revealed that his spine had been twisted before he was injured in the car accident. The Repatriation Commission sent the man to a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal but he did not reach the door of the room where the tribunal was sitting. He was informed that his case had been adjourned, and then he received compensation of 40 per cent.
When an ex-serviceman is considered by the Repatriation Commission to be entitled to a pension, it does not fake into account whether the pensioner is a millionaire or the recipient of unemployment benefits. A pension is paid for an injury or illness resulting from war service. A totally and permanently incapacitated soldier could have shares in every company in Australia but that would not interfere with his pension. The case is different when a pensioner is receiving a pension from another country. When I submitted a question to the Minister upon this matter he asked me to provide him with details of a specific case. He should not need such details because the treatment that is meted out to these men must be in accord with the policy of his department. If the Minister had been interested, he would have investigated the matter and could have given me an answer but no notice was taken of the question. If a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner receives a pension from another country, the amount of that pension is deducted from his Australian pension.
– That is incorrect. I shall give cases to the contrary when I address the Senate.
– I challenge the honorable senator to do so. Such deductions are made. In the case that I have in mind the ex-serviceman concerned is Mr. W. A. Bailey, 21 Doyle-road, Revesby. He receives a pension from Canada for his service with the Canadian forces in the 1914-18 war. The amount of that Canadian pension is deducted from the pension that he is paid by the Australian Government. Moreover, the Australian authorities go further. In his case they forgot to make the deduction for a time and they collected retrospectively the amount that they claimed to be owing. The Government adopts that attitude to a man who served in the forces of another country and yet it takes no notice of the assets or income, however large, that an Australian ex-service pensioner may have.
Supporters of the Government claim that it is treating the ex-servicemen well. I remind honorable senators that a major world war was fought in the years 1914 to 1918. The soldiers who served in that war were treated very badly. Members of the Parliament regardless of party will concede that that statement is correct. As a result of that state of affairs a committee of members of all parties was set up by the Parliament to examine the war pensions’ legislation. As a result, the measure was amended to such an extent that it was virtually re-written. A new Repatriation Act that had been brought down by the Labour Government of the day, was placed on the statute-book. That was the first attempt to recognize fully the needs of ex-servicemen so that they would know exactly what treatment they could expect. This Government has merely built upon that fine foundation. The cost of living has risen by £1 for every 5s. that the Government has increased the pensions of ex-servicemen.
– Oh, no !
– The pensions have been increased by £2 and the basic wage has risen by £6 because the cost of living bas increased. The Government has not done much for ex-servicemen. At one time there was a great cry about war widows. The voice of their leader, Mrs. Vasey was heard throughout Australia, but time has passed and the war widows are to receive an increase of their pensions amounting to only 2s. 6d. a week. They described the proposal as an insult but nobody is heard now putting up a case for them.
If the Government was sincere in its desire to help ex-servicemen, it would insist that a patient admitted to a military hospital would be retained there for treatment if he were found to be suffering from another complaint. I make that suggestion because the specialists who visit the military hospitals often do not go to the institutions to which such servicemen are transferred. Senator Mattner has claimed that ex-servicemen are given every consideration by the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. Exservicemen who appear before the tribunals know what they are suffering but the doctors who advise the tribunals speak in. medical terms that the appellants do not understand. In such cases the doctors often advise the tribunals as to the cause of the complaint from which the pensioner is suffering and the applicant is unable to answer them. The Government should allow the pensioner or the ex-servicemen’s organizations to be represented before the tribunals by a legal adviser. I know that many ex-servicemen have lost their appeals because a doctor gave evidence that did not refer to them at all. The Government should allow ex-servicemen’s organizations to appoint a lawyer to protect the ex-servicemen.
– Their representative can attend.
– They can have a representative from the Returned Servicemen’s League, but they are not protected as I have suggested.
– The appellant can apply to have the pensions officer of the league present.
– He is not an expert such as a doctor. The onus of proof should be put upon the Repatriation Commission. It is supposed to bear the onus of proof now, but in fact that is not the position. The ex-serviceman has to go first to the Repatriation Commission, and honorable senators should know that many applications for a pension are rejected on the ground that the complaint was not due to war service. The exservicemen can then appeal to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals and a big percentage of the applications that have been rejected by the Repatriation Commission are admitted by the tribunals.
If a man on enlistment is accepted for war service, he must be fit and well. He must satisfy a doctor that he is fit for service. On going to war, he has to live under bad conditions. That has always been the rule in warfare, whether a soldier fought in the mud of Flanders or the deserts of North Africa. Many men who fought in the desert swallowed a lot of sand. After living in such conditions, men develop complaints. After they return from active service, their physical condition is not nearly so good as it was when they went away. The Repatriation Commissior! appears to delight in informing such men that their complaints are not due to war service. If the applicant was a .serviceman he must have been medically fit when he left Australia, so why should he have to prove that on certain dates he had to consult a doctor? ‘If he was an ex-serviceman, he must be given the benefit of the doubt. Senator Mattner has stated that the Minister for Repatriation is a returned soldier. The Minister for Repatriation should always be a returned serviceman. The administrative officei’3 of the Repatriation Department and the Repatriation Commission are all ex-servicemen, but they do not appear to do much for the returned men and women. I suggest that the time has arrived when a civilian board should be appointed. Then the ex-servicemen might get a fair deal. They do not seem to be getting it now.
– Surely the honorable senator is not serious.
– I am serious. That is my belief as one who has had much to do with ex-servicemen.
Sitting suspended, from 5.^5 to 8 p.m.
– It is most important that the Government should assist ex-servicemen who have given so much for their country. No man can offer more than his life for his country. These men were prepared to do that. Consequently, if an ex-serviceman is found to have an ailment not due to war service whilst being treated for an ailment which is due to war service he should be given treatment for both ailments at the sama time. When I was in Randwick Repatriation Hospital another patient there was being treated for a duodenal ulcer. It was found that he also had an inflamed appendix. As the condition of his appendix was not attributable to war service he was transferred to another hospital to have his appendix removed and he was then brought back to Randwick Hospital for an operation on his duodenal ulcer. Both operations could have been performed at the Randwick Hospital at no great cost to the Government. A case has been brought to my attention which requires explanation by the Repatriation Department. Two brothers, the Reverend Thomas Mathers and Mr. William Mathers, of Simpson-street, Mosman, enlisted together and served in the same unit during World War I. From the time they enlisted to the time of their discharge they were only separated whilst William Mathers was in hospital with pneumonic influenza. When they returned to Australia they both sought a repatriation pension because of a heart condition. The Reverend Thomas Mathers was given a full pension, but the Tension was denied to William Mathers. Both these men served as stretcher bearers at Bernafay Wood, Bullecourt, and Passchendaele during the winter of 1916 and 1917 with the 8th Field Ambulance and with the 14th and 15th Field Ambulances. The Repatriation Department considers that the heart condition of William Mathers is hereditary and the department has suggested that the Reverend Thomas Mathers should not have been given the pension. If the heart condition of these brothers is hereditary it is strange that they have two elder brothers who do not suffer from any heart condition. I would not have taken up the time of the Senate with this case had it not been supported by Dr. Ray and Dr. J. Shelton, both of Macquariestreet, Dr. Winston Walsh, Dr. G. McKenzie and Dr. J. R. Barriskill. A letter signed by Dr. Winston Walsh reads as follows: -
Mr. X. V. Mathers was a stretcher bearer with the 8th Field Ambulance while I was associated with that unit from December, 1017, to July, 1918. During that period he was in the front line as a stretcher bearer not only with the 8th Field Ambulance but also on loan to the 14th and loth Field Ambulance. His duties were very strenuous. He was under my treatment at the 8th Field Ambulance Dressing Station at The Mills in Daors suffering from the effects of mustard gas and phosgene gas poisoning for some weeks early in 1..918. He had extensive burns about the body. In my opinion the strenuous conditions of service as a stretcher bearer, the effects of gas poisoning and the after effects of Pneumonic Influenza contracted in 1918 were all factors causing his present condition.
Du. Winston Walsh, Major-General,
– What was the date of that letter?
– It was written very recently.
– Has he only just applied for the pension?
– No. The original application was lodged a long time ago. If Senator Marriott wants to know the date of this letter I shall obtain it for him. I have nothing to hide. Dr. J. R. Barriskill has provided this man with a certificate in the following terms: -
Mr. W. Mathers was with me in the 8th Field Ambulance, A.I.F. He was under constant strain stretcher bearing under frontline conditions for long periods and never spared himself, often working and carrying when he should have been resting. He was hospitalized in 1918 suffering from Pneumonic Influenza. I had occasion to examine him ‘at my surgery about six weeks ago and found that he waa suffering from high degree of hypertension with symptoms. I am of opinion that his strenuous and self-sacrificing workin the war has contributed to his condition. 1)k. .T. R. BARRISKILL, 23.11..30.
Dr. J”. B. MacKenzie has furnished the following certificate : -
Mr. W. Mathers and his brother were stretcher-bearers in “ C “ Section of the 8th Field Ambulance during my association with it. They both worked hard and conscientiously, both in the front line and out of it. They were with me at Bernafay Woods, Bullecourt, Pusschendaele - during the 1910-17 winter, amidst snow, frozen mud etc. In my opinion their hard work during this time and during their long service in the ambulance under such conditions contributed to Mr. W. Mathers’ present disability:
B. Mackenzie, Major, A.A.M.c. (Ret.).
These two brothers served overseas for three years and 131 days. The total period of their service was four years and 56 days. Anybody who served in the mud of Flanders knows the conditions under which the stretcher-bearers worked. Because of heavy casualties they had to work very hard for long hours. These men returned to this country with their hearts badly affected. Yet the Repatriation Department, which Senator Mattner said was doing a grand job, has given a pension to one of them and denied it to the other. Then the department suggested that the Reverend Mr. Mathers should not have been given the pension because his heart condition was hereditary. He has two other brothers one of these is 70 years of age and the other is 64 years of age both have been examined and have had cardiographs taken many times. There has been no sign of bad heart condition in their cases. He has been denied the pension despite the medical evidence that I have quoted. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to permit this man to make a fresh appeal, which should be granted. He should be given the benefit of the doubt. The Minister has claimed that the benefit of the doubt has been extended to ex-servicemen. I say that it has been denied them. In view of all the medical evidenceto which I have referredhowcould this ex-serviceman be given the benefit of the doubt? I think that it is very important to ensure that the onus of proof shall be placed on the department and not on the ex-serviceman. In every instance that I know of in which ex-servicemen have encountered difficulty in obtaining pensions that difficulty has been due to the implementation of section. 47 of the act which concerns the onus of proof. I ask the Government to lay the onus of proof on the department.
The many returned servicemen on the Government side of the chamber must know that the increase of pensions that the Government has granted to soldiers
Senator Amour. and war widows is a disgrace. It would have been better for the Government to have given them nothing. It is not becoming to an Australian Government to insult ex-servicemen and war widows. I have been informed that one soldier has had his pension increased by an additional l½d. a week. Surely the Government does not consider that that is the increase to which heis entitled. Returned soldiers organizations, limbless soldiers organizations, blinded soldiers organizations and war widows associations have all stated that the small increase that has been offered by the Government is an insult.
– Will the honorable senator deny that the last two Labour governments did not increase any repatriation pension by a penny ?
– That was due to the fact that only a slight increase occured in the basic wage between 1946 and 1949. But during the present Government’s term of office the basic wage has increased from £61s. a week to about £12 a week. That increase indicates the extent to which inflation has occurred since this Government came to office. The Government parties, with the aid of the newspapers and the wireless stations, advise the people to get rid of-
– The people got rid of both the repatriation Ministers in the two Labour governments.
– The honorable senator will not have to wait long to see what the people will do with many members of his own party. I ask the Minister to do something real and tangible for the recipients of repatriation pensions.
– I was amazed by Senator Amour’s speech. He did not attack the Government as Senator O’Byrne did. His speech was virtually an attack upon the Repatriation Department and the Repatriation Commission for their treatment of ex-servicemen. I was astonished to hear the honorable senator suggest that the Repatriation Commission, which consists of three ex-servicemen, should be replaced by a commission of three civilians. Quite obviously, the present members of the commission have the interest of ex-servicemen at heart, but civilians would not have the foggiest idea of the needs of returned soldiers. Would the honorable senator recommend, too, that the 9,000 employees of the Repatriation Department, most of whom are exservicemen, should be replaced by civilians? The same principle is involved. Would the honorable senator go even further and scrap preference for ex-servicemen? Every one knows that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), the Repatriation Department itself and the Repatriation Commission treat the problems of ex-servicemen with sympathy and understanding. Where any doubt exists, the ex-serviceman concerned is given the benefit of that doubt. If Senator Amour had brought privately to the notice of the Minister the cases that be publicized in. this debate, they would have been given every consideration. Every returned soldier knows that. If Senator Amour really had the interest of ex-servicemen at heart he would have made his representations to the Minister instead of airing his grievances ‘in this chamber.
Senator Amour condemned the increases of repatriation pensions and allowances that have been granted by this Government since it assumed office. He said that costs had spiralled so much that the pension increases have not been worth while. The honorable senator also compared pensions with the basic wage. Apparently he would like to have repatriation pensions linked to the basic wage. But the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia is strongly opposed to that course, and indeed has fought against it. The league would rather have pensions linked to the cost of living. The percentage increase of repatriation pensions since 1920 is approximately equal to the percentage increase of living costs since that date. En some instances pensions have increased slightly more than living costs, and in others -pension increases have been slightly less than the increase of living costs. However, that was explained by the Minister in his second-reading speech, and I shall not enlarge upon it.
Senator O’Byrne attacked the Government for having made what he considered to be miserly increases of pensions and allowances under this legislation. In support of his argument, he quoted some utterances by officials of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. I do not blame the league for seeking higher payments for ex-servicemen. That is the league’s job. I, too, believe in higher pensions for exservicemen and their dependants. I believe that those unfortunate members of the community should be given as much as the country can afford to give them. It is, of course, a matter of determiningjust how much the country can afford. Regardless of pension increases that may be granted by any government, the league will continue to fight for still higher rates, and quite rightly, too.
I shall cite figures to compare this Government’s treatment of repatriation pensioners with that of the Labour Government between 1946 and 1949. Then we shall see exactly how miserable the treatment of ex-servicemen by this Government has been.
– -Tell us something about inflation.
– I gathered from the honorable senator’s remarks last week that he would impose a capital levy to provide funds to increase pensions. In 1946, under the Chifley Government, the repatriation general pension rate was £2 10s. a week and there was no rise in 1947. In 194S the pension was increased by 5s. to £2 15s. a week, but there was no rise in 1849. Therefore, between 1946 and 1949 increases totalled only 5s. a. week. The Menzies Government took office at the end of 1949. In 1950 the general rate of pension was increased to £3 10s., a rise of 15s. In 1952 it was increased to £4 a week, and under this legislation it will be increased to £4 2s. 6d. a week. In short, therefore, whereas Labour’s increases totalled only 5s. in four years, we have granted increase? totalling £1 7s. 6d., or five and a half times as much, in a similar period.
– What about inflation?
– The honorable senator cannot deny that there was a certain amount of inflation between 1946 and 1949. The general rate of pension is payable to ex-servicemen who are not totally incapacitated and are able to tlo work of some kind. I come now to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. In 1946, under the Labour Government, the pension was £4 16s. a week.. That was increased by 5s. in 1947, and again in 1948, but in 1949, when the so-called “ golden age “ was upon us, there was no increase. In other words, increases under Labour between 1946 and 1949 totalled, only 10s. When the Menzies Government came into office, it increased this pension from £5 6s. to £7 a week.
We have heard a lot from honorable senators opposite about the widows of deceased ex-servicemen. In 1946, under the Labour Government, a widow received £2 10s. a week. In 1947, that pension was increased by 5s. a week. A similar increase was made in 1948, but in 1949 there was no increase. Therefore, the total increase over those four years was 10s. The Menzies Government increased the widow’s pension from £3 a week to £3 10s. a week in 1950. Now it is to be £3 12s. 6d. a week. Therefore, we have increased the pension by 12s. 6d. a week, compared with Labour’s increase of 10s. a week. Widows also receive a domestic allowance, and I give credit to the Labour party for the introduction of that allowance in 1947. It was then 7s. 6d. a week, and it remained at that figure in 1948 and 1949. We increased it in our first year of office to 10s. a week and in 1951 we increased it by £1 2s. a week to £1 12s. a week. From now it will be £1 14s. 6d. a week. Therefore, increases by this Government have totalled 27s. a week, compared with Labour’s total” of 7s. 6d. a week. In addition, for some unknown reason the Australian Labour party gave the domestic allowance only to widows with one or two children under sixteen years of age. It was not paid in respect of more than two children. This Government pays the allowance to widows with children, under sixteen years of age, irrespective of the number of children. If is also paid to a .widow who is permanently unemployable. Payment of the allowance is continued as long as the children are being educated or are not earning the adult wage. In addition, endowment of 5s. a week for the first child and 10s. a week for other children is also payable.
When honorable senators opposite criticize the amount of pensions payable they usually fail to take into consideration the additional allowances which such pensioners receive. For instance, a widow with two children aged, say, thirteen and fourteen years, receives a basic pension of £3 12s. 6d. a week. In addition, she receives a domestic allowance of £1 14s. 6d. a week. She gets £1 6s. 6d. a week in respect of the first child, and 18s. 6d. a week in respect of the second child. She also receives child endowment of 5s. a week for the first child and 10s. a week for the second child. In other words, she receives a pension of £8 7s. a week, compared with £5 7s. 6d. a week under Labour. She i3 also entitled to an education allowance in respect of the children, a matter which is usually forgotten. Foi the two children she is entitled to £1 6s. 6d. a week, making the total pension £9 13s. 6d. a week, against a total pension of £6 8s. 6d. a week under Labour, an increase of £3 5s. a week. To my way of thinking, that is not at all bad for a miserly government ! Of course, the widow is also entitled to free medical benefits, including free treatment by doctors, free medicine, free spectacles and free dental treatment for her children. Most of those benefits were introduced by non-Labour governments.
When Labour was in office, a widow who remarried cut herself off from pension entitlement. The department kissed its hand to her,- in effect, and said, “ That is a good idea, because now you will not be a charge against the department “. The present so-called miserly Government gives such widows a minimum sum of £188 10s. as a wedding gift. In .1946, the allowance in respect of the first child of a widow was 17s. 6d. a week. The Labour Government did not increase that amount at all during its period of office. This Government increased it from £1 2s. a week in 1950 to £1 6s. 6d. In 1952, a further increase of 9s. a week was made. The allowance in respect of the second child has 1)een increased by this Government by 6s. a week, whereas the Labour Government did not see fit to increase it at all. Similarly, the Labour Government, during its period of office, did not increase by one penny the allowances payable to orphans. This Government has increased the allowance in respect of children of fourteen years of age by £1 10s. 6d. a week, and in respect of children of sixteen years of age, by £1 8s. a week.
In the case of ex-servicemen who have suffered total amputation of both legs above the knee, or who are suffering from complete paraplegia, this Government makes available a Hillman Minx motor car and an allowance of £120 per annum to cover the cost of registration, insurance, and upkeep. The previous Government considered this matter after a deputation had been received in Canberra by the then Minister for Repatriation, Mr. Barnard, in September, 1949, and decided not to provide this benefit. That was only a few months before the present Government came to office. At that time, all that those unfortunate people were given was £10 a month towards the cost of purchasing a wheelchair. This Government has substituted Hillman Minx motor cars for wheelchairs.
In May, 1952, a new training scheme was instituted for disabled ex-servicemen and war widows of World War II. who required training in order that they might be able to follow suitable employment but who were unable to take advantage of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. In other words, the Government is helping those people who wish to help themselves. In addition, there is a ex-soldiers’ children education scheme, the benefits of which have also been increased by this Government. Under the scheme, immediately such a child goes to school, a grant is available to cover expenses entailed in procuring school requisites such as text-books, and paying for fares. The Government has increased the allowance in respect of a child of twelve years from !)s. a week to lis. 6d. a week. The allowance in respect of children aged between fourteen and sixteen years of age ha.3 been increased from 12s. a week to 15s. a week, and in respect of children who are more than sixteen years of age, from £1 13s. a week to £2 a week. These figures are seldom, if ever, taken into account by honorable senators opposite when criticizing war pension payments. The scheme continues on to university training. Six Rhodes scholars, one from New South Wales, one from South Australia, three from Western Australia, and one from Tasmania, have been completely educated tinder this scheme. The present Government has increased the livingathome allowance from £2 5s. a week to £2 12s. Gd., and the livingawayfromhome allowance, whilst undergoing university training, from £2 5s. a week to £4 2s. 6d.
I could mention many other concessions which have been made by this Government, but I shall conclude by referring honorable senators to the remarks of a world-famous lady concerning Australian repatriation benefits. I refer to Dame Leslie Whateley, who has had long and varied experience with the services and also with government departments in Great Britain, and is now head of the international Girl Guides Association. For services to her country she was made a. Dame of the British Empire. Recently she visited 23 countries in connexion with her office. At a civic reception given in her honour at Launceston, she was most emphatic that Australia leads the world in the treatment of ex-service men and women.
– And always has done.
– And, I hope, always will.
– But the honorable senator is claiming the credit for his party alone.
– I am not. I am merely saying that the criticism by honorable senators opposite in this connexion is entirely unjustified. I have given credit to the Australian Labour party for much good work in connexion with repatriation benefits, and I take credit for the party which I support for doing a great deal more. I think that this matter should be above party politics. Too much cannot be done for our exservicemen, and, as long as I remain in this Parliament. I shall continue to do my best in their interests. In my opinion, the country must pay to war pensioners as much as it can afford to pay. That is a policy which I shall always support.
– I shall attempt to bring this debate down to reality. It is of little avail for honorable senators opposite to voice platitudes, as Senator Wordsworth has done, about repatriation benefits. The important matter is the quantity of goods which the pensioners are able to purchase with the money they receive.
I agree that ‘ pensioners are now receiving more money than they did previously. The point is that during the tenure of office of this Government the value of our money has declined. The only practical way to evaluate pension rates is to relate them to the basic wage. In 1949, when the Labour Government was defeated, the basic war pension was £2 15s. a week. The basic wage at that time was £6 4s. a week.. The ratio of the pension to the basic wage was then 44.3 per cent. After almost four years of office of this Government, the basic rate of war pension is only £4 2s. fid. a week, whereas the basic wage is £12 3s. a week. The ratio of the pension to the basic wage has fallen to 33.5 per cent. It is, therefore, futile for honorable senators opposite to say that the pensioners are receiving more money now than they received previously. As a bald statement, that is correct; but Government supporters are not sufficiently truthful to tell the people that the purchasing power of the pension to-day is far less than was that of the pension provided in 1949. A few days ago I had the doubtful privilege of listening to the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) speak in this chamber. He said that Australia’s economy was never sounder than it is to-day. .
– The Australian Council of Trades Unions made that statement.
– The AttorneyGeneral devoted practically the whole of his speech on that occasion to quoting remarks that were made by counsel for the Australian Council of Trades Unions in the recent wages case in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. As a lawyer, he should know that counsel would use any argument in order to make a point in favour of a client. However, the Minister studiously refrained from quoting remarks that were’ made by counsel for the employers in those proceedings. He also failed to tell the Senate that representatives of the Australian Secondary Industries Association recently waited upon the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) who, at the time, was deputizing for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), and protested against the Government’s attitude towards secondary industries in this country. The AttorneyGeneral said that he was proud to he a member of the present Cabinet.
– And with good reason.
– It takes very little to make some people proud. Of course the present Cabinet-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Reid). - Order! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the bill before the Chair.
– The AttorneyGeneral told the Senate and, through it, the people that it was due largely to the composition of the Cabinet that ex-service personnel and taxpayers generally were being given the concessions which, he claimed, were , being made in the budget. The Cabinet could aptly be described as the “ Menzies cocktail cabinet “ ; and good reason has recently been provided for describing it as “ a leaking cabinet “.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Order! If the honorable senator insists in following that line, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– Government supporters are dishonest when they profess vociferously that they are concerned about the welfare of ex-service men and women. The Government indicts itself when it offers to the men and women who helped to save Australian a paltry 30 pieces of copper. How can it reconcile its action in giving to private companies a concession approximating £30,000,000 in the current financial year with its proposal to give an increase of pension of only 2s. 6d. a week to ex-service personnel ? Yet the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) had the colossal effrontery to say that ex-servicemen’s organizations were perfectly satisfied with this concession. Obviously, the Minister has not read the criticism of this proposal that was voiced by the Federal President of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Sir George Holland, the comment that was made by the secretary of the Old Age Pensioners Fund of New South “Wales which was published in the Daily Mirror of the 10th September, or the comment made by the president of the. War Widows Guild of Victoria, Mrs. J. L.
Neylon. who is reported to have said that the Government’s war widow’s tax concession was like throwing a bone with no meat on it to a dog. In addition to making a concession of £30,000,000 to private companies whilst, at the same time, refusing to increase the service pension by more than 2s. 6d. a week, the Government has handed back to wealthy landholders through the abolition of the land tax a sum of £7,000,000. Furthermore, it guaranteed a loan through the Commonwealth Bank to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which is a private company. Yet, all that it can give to service pensioners is a paltry increase of pension of 2s. 6d. a week. I repeat that pensioners are concerned about, not the amount but the purchasing power of their pension. Existing inflation which was caused by the Government’s policies shows no sign of abating. Yet, Government supporters have the colossal effrontery to say that in 1949, when the Government assumed office, the service pension was only £2 2s. a week when, in fact, the percentage of the amount of pension to the basic wage is now far less than it was in that year. I admit that representatives of exservicemen do not desire that the rate of pension shall be tied irrevocably to the basic wage. However, we must be realists. If the Government desires to do the right thing by ex-servicemen and women it must have regard to the basic wage in determining the rate of service pension. The basic wage is computed on the basis of the frugal needs of a family unit. The rate of pension must be computed in relation to the basic wage if it is intended to enable recipients to maintain a reasonable standard of living.
The Minister for Repatriation, in his second-reading speech, completely dishonestly, compared present rates of pensions with those, provided in 1920. I give him credit for a bit of trickery in making that comparison, because in 1920 no domestic allowance was paid to war widows, and, whereas in that year the base rate of - pension was £2 2s. a week and the basic wage was £4 9s. a week, today the base rate of pension is £3 10s. a week and the basic wage is approximately £12 a week. If the -rate of pension is to be determined on the basis of purchasing power, it must be increased considerably. lt is useless for the Government to say that it has not sufficient finance to enable it to increase pensions further because, as I have already said, it proposes to return to private companies a sum of approximately £30,000,000 in the current financial year. Obviously, in making that concession to wealthy interests it has its eye on the general election for the House of Representatives to be held next year. These interests contribute generously to the electioneering funds of the Liberal party.
– And to the funds oil the Australian Country party.
– Yes, and to the funds of the Australian Country Party to which the delightful little group on my left belong - the political parasites, cuckoos and hitch-hikers. The only concern of the Australian Country party is to keep their monocles manacled to the treasury bench. Members of the Australian Country party are prepared to get at the plums of office through any door. However, I warn them not to delude themselves because the Liberal party, if it had the numbers, would drop them to-morrow. The Government proposes to raise the pension from £3 7s. 6d. to £3 10s. a week. The proposed increase will enable the pensioners to buy only an additional $ lb. of butter a week. Yet the Government intends to hand back about £30,000,000 a year to its wealthy backers. It also proposes to give thu wealthy land-holders about £7,000,000 a year on a silver platter, and it has guaranteed to the Commonwealth Bank repayment of a loan of several million pounds to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Although I am not a betting man, I should be willing to lay a shade of odds that that company will never even attempt to repay the loan because the repayment is guaranteed by the Government. Almost every speaker from the Government side has emphasized the fact that the limit of permissible income will be raised. Let us be realistic about this matter. If supporters of the Government are honest, they will admit that about 90 per cent, of the recipients of the pension are unable to earn additional income.
It is politically dishonest for honorable senators opposite to claim that the lot of the ex-service pensioners will be improved by raising the limit of permissible earnings from £1 10s. to £2 a week. The Minister for Repatriation knows that at least 90 per cent, of the pensioners are unable to work and so cannot increase their income.
– The honorable senator is entirely wrong.
– Many of them have other sources of income.
– Of course, Senator Guy is one of the remaining 10 per cent. The Government has increased the value of property that a person may own without affecting his pension from £1,000 to £1,250. Honorable senators opposite know, as well as I do, that it takes £2 to purchase to-day the quantity of goods that £1 would purchase in 1949. Therefore it is absolutely futile, ridiculous, and hypocritical for supporters of the Government to voice platitudes in this matter. They continue to claim vociferously that they are patriotic and loyal, and are eager to improve the standard of living of the men who were willing to lay down their lives for their country. Many of those ultra patriots would willingly lay down my life for their country.
– The h senator should make it worthwile.
– If the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) would prefer it the other way, they are willing to lay down his life for their, country. I know that the Minister thinks a good deal of himself and I will put it that way to satisfy the Minister’s egotistical point of view. Let us consider a statement that was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) Iti his 1949 policy speech on the most important subject-
– Myxomatosis ?
– The Minister should know that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) specializes in myxomatosis.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood).- Order ! That remark is disorderly.
– The Minister’s interjection was disorderly and he should have been pulled up first.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator should confine his remarks to the bill before the Senate.
– I consider that I am doing so. I have not departed from the provisions of the bill.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. Order ! The honorable senator has strayed from the bill ; he should now return to it.
– 1 was about to remind the Senate of what the Prime Minister said in 1949 in relation to this most important subject of repatriation. That was not away from the bill.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! The honorable senator was well away from the bill.
– On that occasion the Prime Minister said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility.
I agree with that statement, and I deprecate the fact that the Government parties have used this subject as a political football. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
The Opposition parties contain a majority of members and an overwhelming majority of new candidates who are ex-servicemen.
Of course the present Government parties were then in Opposition. How do honorable senators on the other side reconcile the Prime Minister’s statement in 1949 that repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility, with the proposed increase of pensions by only thirty pieces of copper a week? Supporters of the Government should not be dishonest about this matter. They know as well as I know that to-day the amount of the pension is lower, proportionately, to the basic wage than it was in 1949. Of what use is it for honorable senators on the other side to tell the people that the pensioners are now receiving more money? They already know that, but they also know that the value of the money that they receive to-day is much less than formerly. The Prime Minister went on to say -
We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice-
We are still waiting for that promise to’ be fulfilled- and understanding in our administration vi soldier problems. Current legislation will bc promptly overhauled and anomalies adjusted.
When does the right honorable gentleman intend to start? He is running ‘true to form. As I have said on other occasions, he has never faced an enemy and bao never successfully faced an issue.
– Ho can the honorable senator become!
– Not cheap enough. This Government has got down to Coles’s level - nothing over 2s. CJ. The Prime Minister went on -
We will sympathetically review financial allowances-
The right honorable gentleman, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, promised also to put value back into thu £1. He has not yet fulfilled that promise.
– That is untrue.
– I have already referred to the Menzies “ cocktail “ Cabinet, which is leaking. The only thing that the Prime Minister has in his cabinet is a host of repudiated promises. The right honorable gentleman continued - particularly those related to disability or war widowhood.
I remind honorable senators of the statements that have been made by Sir George Holland, on behalf of the war widows, to the effect that the proposed increase of the war widows’ pension is just purely and simply a slap in the face to those women. Supporters of the Government cannot refute that statement, because the people of this country realize not only what this Government has done but also what it has neglected to do. The Prime Minister also stated in his 1949 policy speech -
For advice in relation to . . . repatriation matters, we shall establish ex-servicemen’s committees of Cabinet and of Parliament, to confer with representatives of ex-service organizations.
But did the Government confer with ex-service organizations before it introduced the budget? By its proposed increases, the Government intends to give back to the people only a fraction of what it plundered from them by means of the horror budget of 1951. Honorable senators opposite should not forget that budget, because the people of this country have not forgotten it. That is shown by the result of every election that has been held during the last few years. The people cannot be fooled all the time. The writing is on the wall as far as this Government is concerned. The right honorable gentleman also said in 1949 -
We will encourage and speed up soldier land settlement, assist single farm as well as group settlement, and aim always at proper security of tenure, without which there is insufficient inducement to effective fanning.
The land settlement of ex-servicemen is irrevocably tied to repatriation, because the successful repatriation of exservicemen cannot be effected without due regard to land settlement. If this Government remains in office for much longer the exserviceman will be settled, not on the land but under it. Although there are 36,000 unsatisfied applicants under the war service land settlement scheme, because this Government has not provided sufficient money to the States to implement the scheme, honorable senators opposite now propose to remit about £30,000,000 a year to its wealthy backers - the big companies - and another £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 a year to the big land-holders. Furthermore, as I have already mentioned, this Government has guaranteed repayment to the Commonwealth Bank of a large loan to a private airline company. Honorable senators opposite have been hypocritical in this matter. However, I shall not labour the point any further, because they should realize that it is futile for them to voice platitudes on this subject. The attempts that were made by honorable senators on the other side to justify the proposed paltry increases to the ex-servicemen were both amazing and amusing. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. I notice that the Minister for Repatriation is hanging his head in shame. The Government is making only a paltry attempt to recompense adequately the men and women who served this country so well in its hour of trial. Instead of looking after the interests of the ex-servicemen, the Government panders to the wealthy sections of the community which provide the finance for their election campaigns. I heard the Prime Minister say in the other House, when referring to the budgetary proposals, and particularly proposed increases of repatriation benefits -
The Labour criticism is purely synthetic.
I know of no one who is better qualified to talk about synthetics than the right honorable gentleman himself. Looking back over the years, the Prime Minister has proved synthetic in relation to every crisis with which he has been confronted, and he has certainly been synthetic since 1949 when he made the promises, to which I have referred. The right honorable gentleman promised to put value back into the £1, but he has never done anything to redeem that promise. I am convinced that at the first opportunity the people of Australia will unhesitatingly put this Government back into the pound from which it should never have been allowed to escape. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said during his budget speech -
The proposed benefits will yield rich fruits for Australia.
The only fruit that the proposed increase* of ex-servicemen’s benefits will yield is sour grapes.
– And only the rich will be able to buy them.
– The Government should have had the intestinal courage to go to the country at the time of the recent Senate election.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! The honorable senator should return to the bill.
– Senator Anderson, a newcomer to this chamber from New South “Wales, stated during his speech on the Appropriation Bill-
– He is a good man.
– Yes, he replaced Senator Tate, who also was a good man. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) probably knows the reason for the replacement, because he and Bernie Dargan know a lot about ballot-rigging in the New South “Wales Liberal Party. Senator Anderson produced a number of carefully selected press cuttings to show that the press were lauding this budget.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. Order ! We are debating not the budget, but the Repatriation Bill 1953. Senator Sandford will confine his remarks to the bill, and I warn him that if he continues to ignore the Chair he will be asked to resume his seat.
– I am dealing with repatriation benefits, which were included in the budget.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. Order !
– Senator Anderson did not produce any cuttings from the Sydney Daily Mirror, which is a very important newspaper and which condemned the Government’s proposals. The Prime Minister was reported in the press of the 7th September to have stated at a pleasant Sunday .afternoon gathering on the previous day -
There is too much shoddy thinking in Australia.
The right honorable gentleman should be glad that there has been shoddy thinking otherwise this Government would not be in office. However, I shall refrain from saying any more about that aspect of the matter, because my time has almost expired, just as this Government’s term of office has almost expired. This Government is absolutely dishonest and insincere. It stands indicted for its meagre proposed increase of 2s. 6d. a week to the war pensioners. The proposal is particularly unworthy in view of the fact that so many of the Government’s supporters profess their loyalty and patriotism. The Government has failed to fulfil the promises that it made in 1949 and repeated in 1951. It has failed dismally. It has beaten a retreat at every crisis that has confronted it. Moreover, it is like a defeated army that adopts a scorched earth policy because it has destroyed the people’s assets in its retreat. As soon as the people get an opportunity to do so, they will dismiss it from office. If supporters of the Government are honest they will think twice before they rise to defend this measure.
– First of all, I wish to express my sincere commiserations with the Australian Labour party because its members have to address Senator Sandford as “ colleague “. In the four years that I have been in the Senate, I have never heard a debate brought to such a low level as it has been dragged by Senator Sandford, and I hope that I shall hear nothing like it again. I shall address myself first to several points that have been raised by the honorable senator in the discussion of a bill that should be purely a non-party measure. Only one or two points that he raised are worthy of an answer. When Senator Sandford tried to tie the basic wage to the pensions rate, he should have known that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has fought that principle ever since it has been an organization. Moreover, the figures that Senator Sandford quoted are completely wrong. He said that in 1949 when the pension was £2 15s., the basic wage was £6 4s., and in 1953, the pension rate was £4 2s. 6d. and the basic wage £12 3s. The comparison is tenable only because the honorable senator omitted to subtract the £1 prosperity loading. If that amount is removed from the present basic wage, the comparative percentages are approximately equal. In any case, Senator Sandford knows as well as any member of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that the association of the two sets of figures has been fought rigorously by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia.
The honorable senator omitted any reference to the various forms of relief from indirect taxation by which exservicemen, as well as civilians, will benefit when this budget is put into effect. The main object of Senator Sandford appeared to be to continue the smear campaign upon which the Australian Labour party has embarked. From time to time, honorable senators opposite have referred to capital issues, the leakage of budget information, the activities of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), the trend in foreign policy and other matters that have been the subject of innuendo. The Opposition apparently is working up a smear campaign for the next election, but it will be sadly disappointed.
– When does the honorable senator propose to discuss the bill ?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) .-Order ! I arn quite capable of listening to the debate myself, and I remind Senator Sandford that no other honorable senator has transgressed in the chamber to-night as much as he has. I ask him to maintain silence.
– I believe that I should reply to Senator Sandford because the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast and a number of electors may be listening to them. Senator Sandford has cast aspersions upon the loyalty of the honorable senators on the Government side. I remind him that 71 per cent, of the supporters of the Government in this chamber and in another place are exservicemen who served in one or both of the two world wars.
Senator Ashley interjecting,
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. Order ! When I ask for order in the chamber, I insist that order be maintained.
– The Acting Deputy President should tell Senator Kendall not to be insulting.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. Order! I remind Senator Ashley that I am capable of judging for myself when an honorable senator should be called to order, and it is not for him to tell me what to do.
– I believe that I have been insulted and that a reflection has been cast upon me as a member of the Opposition by the utterances of Senator Kendall.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. Order! Senator Kendall will proceed with his speech.
– I cast no reflection upon Senator Ashley at all.
– The honorable senator reflected on the Opposition.
– If Senator Ashley can put up with the likes of Senator Sandford in his party, he should put up with what is coming to him.
– I rise to order. Senator Kendall has pointed to Senator Sandford and said that if I can put up with the likes of the honorable senator I have to take what is coming to me. I want order- in the chamber and I ask that the remark be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT.^ What is the point of order?
– My point of order is that Senator Kendall has said that if I put up with the likes of Senator Sandford I deserve what is coming to me.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. Order! The point of order is hot sustained.
– Senator Sandford has referred to promises. I have in my hand a copy of a newspaper dated the 7th January, 1950, 27 days after the general election of 1949. A Labour senator of that day, Senator C. A. Lamp, who was defeated at the flection, stated at the declaration of the Senate poll in Hobart -
Promises had not been fulfilled and when the Government had had plenty of funds, nothing had been done for the old-age pensioners and little for returned servicemen.
The defeated senator was speaking about the Chifley Government that had been in office for eight years. Honorable senators on the Opposition side should not talk about promises. I do not propose to refer further to the speech that was made by Senator Sandford, but I shall have something to say about statements that were made by the previous two speakers.
I remind the Senate that the repatriation benefits provided after the first world war were unchanged for many years> It was unnecessary to change them because the cost of living was fairly stable. . The Government has had to change the benefits over the last four years because of the rise in the cost of living. That is not to say that pensions of any kind, particularly ex-servicemen’s pensions, should be increased annually or used by political parties to attract votes. That is not the object of the Repatriation Department. The department continues to operate irrespective of the party that is in power. The officers of the department, in many cases, have been working in it for many years and they are not particularly interested in whether the government represents the Liberal party or the Labour party. They do their best for the ex-servicemen while they are in the job. It is a job for which they are suited and for which generally they have a liking. At times, one Minister for Repatriation pays more attention to the needs of ex-servicemen than another Minister. Such ah enthusiast is the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). One has only to travel in Queensland and visit ex-servicemen’s clubs to discover how well loved is the present Minister for Repatriation. Honorable senators opposite have shown marked ingratitude towards him in the statements that they have made during this debate. Any Minister for Repatriation, and particularly Senator Cooper, wants to do all that he can within the economy of the nation for the benefit of ex-servicemen. It is stupid for Senator Sandford or anybody else to state that that is not so.
Senator O’Byrne referred to the cost of living and compared the level of pensions in Australia with that in other countries. I am practically certain that no ex-servicemen in any other part of the world get repatriation benefits equal to those that are enjoyed in Australia. I had the misfortune, in one respect, to serve in the Imperial Forces in both world wars. I know what I got out of it and what my father received. Our repatriation benefits were far below those provided by the Australian Government. That applies also to Canada of which I have some knowledge. While that comparison should not be the be-all and endall of the matter, it is some basis on which to work.
The average ex-serviceman is not looking for a handout. He does not want something for nothing. The average man who has been prepared to take a chance with his life or his health in the service of his country is not asking for something for nothing. Most Australian exservicemen are satisfied with the treatment that they have received. I say that from personal experience over a period of many years. Senator O’Byrne said that the way this Government had treated ex-servicemen was very sad. Everything that is connected with war is sad. Senator O’Byrne should not give his attention to what we can do after a war is finished, but to what we can do to stop further wars. This matter should not be the subject of bickering backwards and forwards across the Senate chamber. All honorable senators, with the possible exception of Senator Sandford, want to do the best they can for those who are covered by this bill.
Senator O’Byrne harped on the fact that ex-servicemen had given or offered their lives to their country. I direct the attention of honorable senators to something that appears to be lost to sight in Australia, especially by honorable senators opposite. There are people in many other walks of life who offer their lives to the community throughout their working years. They include doctors, research workers, miners, steeplejacks and sailors. They give the whole of their lives to the community and they have no repatriation benefits. It is nonsense to put the ex-servicemen on too high a. pedestal. Most ex-servicemen do hot want that. I remind honorable senators of the sacrifices that were made and the dangers that were faced by the civilians of Great Britain during World War II. They are not holding out their hands for rewards, but they accepted danger like servicemen. In fact, it was worse for them because they had to sit in their air-raid shelters and withstand the danger of death or mutilation by bombs without any opportunity to retaliate. It is nonsense to single out the ex-servicemen as the only persons who were willing to risk their lives. The merchant seamen in both world wars- constantly risked their lives, and Australia is the envy of the world for the quality of its merchant seamen’s conditions. So far as repatriation benefits are concerned, they can be treated as ex-servicemen and it is unfortunate that they are treated as civilians in other respects. During World War I., when a ship was torpedoed, seamen’s pay was stopped as soon as they took to the life-boats. If they lost their lives their wives received nothing. We have progressed a long way since then. Benefits for merchant seamen have been placed on the same basis as repatriation benefits. I am proud to live in a country that has looked after its seamen in this way-.- ,1 am sorry that I could not have confined my speech to praise for the efforts of the Minister foi Repatriation. I regret that I have had almost to engage in argument with Opposition senators who I know are equally pleased that Australia has progressed in this respect.
Senator Amour made a most amazing accusation against the Minister concerning a man whose name I will not mention. That man’s case was raised in this Senate about eight months ago. I remember it well. At that time Senator Amour accused the Minister of not doing all that he could for this man, whom he alleged had been refused benefits to which he was justly entitled. The fact of the matter is that for some years that man had been drawing a pension, not only for his wife, but also for his de facto wife. That is the reason that the Repatriation Department would do nothing for him, and I hope that Senator Amour will have the good sense not to raise that matter in this chamber again. Senator Amour also stated that it was impossible for an ex-serviceman who had fought for the Mother Country in “World “War I., and who had served in the Australian forces in “World “War II., to receive a pension without passing a means test. The repatriation benefits in these cases are completely inalienable. In two cases that I have put to the Minister, pensions have been granted to men who served in the United Kingdom forces in “World War I. and in the Australian forces in World War II. The pensions that I obtained for these men were paid to them in addition to pensions that they received from the Mother Country. Senator Amour wa3 completely wrong in saying that a means test was applied to such cases.
In view of the fact that Senator Wordsworth has cited the actual figures, it would be tedious repetition for me to recount what the Government has done for ex-servicemen. Senator Wordsworth showed that the Government had done :i considerable amount for ex-servicemen in the four years that it has been in office. The fact that it conferred a number of benefits that were not conferred by the previous Government is not important. If the previous Government had thought of these things it might have done them. As it is, the present Government has done them. Senator O’Byrne’s suggestion that the ex-servicemen would remember
Government senators on the occasion of the general election next year could be two-edged. I hope that they do remember us.
.- This bill must be a great disappointment to Government senators. I am sure that they must have squirmed in their seats when this bill was brought forward, because it shows so little consideration for returned servicemen. In 1949, this Government came to office with a big majority of returned soldiers among its supporters. I believe that those returned soldiers immediately formed an organization within their party with the object of taking action on behalf of returned men.
– They have done a lot, too.
– I disagree with that statement. That organization was very active for a while.
– It still is.
– One would not think so, judging from this bill. This returned soldiers’ organization intended to do wonders for returned men. I do not know what it has done. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave his returned servicemen supporters a lead in the course of his policy speech but they have not followed that lead. Why have they not forced the issue and taken action to secure justice for returned soldiers? J will not compare what the Labour Government did for returned servicemen with the performance of the present” Government. The fact that the previous Government made mistakes is no reason why the present Government should make mistakes, especially after having been returned to office with a big majority of returned soldiers amongst its supporters. Honorable senators opposite have contended that returned servicemen are satisfied with the way that the Government has treated them. Sir George Holland, the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia said that the meagre war pension increases were a slap in the face to men and women who had suffered through the war.. He said that the 2s. 6d, a week rise in some pensions was pocket money for children.
Mr. H. 0. Bennett, secretary of the Limbless Soldiers’ Association said that his association was very disappointed and that pensions should have been increased by at least 10s. a week. The acting Victorian president of the War Widows Guild said that the Government’s tax concession to war widows was like throwing a bone without meat to a clog.
From those comments it does not appear that returned soldiers are satisfied with what the Government has done. An editorial which appeared in On Service, a returned soldiers’ paper which is printed in Tasmania, provides an indication of what returned soldiers are thinking. It reads as follows : -
Whether you consider the Federal budget to be good or bad will depend largely upon your private political opinions, or on the way it will affect you personally but there is one point in it on which all ex-service men and women will agree - the scant consideration given war pensions.
– They said harsh things about the Labour Government.
– I am not worrying about that. I am only dealing with the subject of how much returned soldiers should receive. In the course of his second-reading speech the Minister for Repatriation said that during the past three years all classes of pensions had been increased. Why should they not have been increased? In view of the process of inflation to which this Government had contributed it could not have avoided increasing pensions. Compared with increases in the cost of living, increases in pensions have been very small. Pensions must be related to the cost of living because they usually represent the solo income of the soldier. Honorable senators opposite have said that returned servicemen pensioners can supplement their pensions by doing some work. Bur the ex-serviceman of the 1914-18 war who is in receipt of a full pension is passing the age of useful employment. It is not easy for such men to get work now. They are largely dependent on their pensions for their livelihood. The Minister also said that ex-servicemen’s, organizations prefer to have the pension rate based on the levels obtaining in 1920 rather than on the basic wage. The basic wage is a barometer of the cost of living.
Honorable senators will find that- all returned servicemen’s organizations that write to them use the basic wage as a basis for their argument. At least 95 per cent, of returned servicemen desire their pensions to be increased on the basis of increases in the cost of living.
Senator Wordsworth made one very important statement which he did not amplify. He said that the rate of pensions payable should depend on how much the country could pay. I agree with that statement. But does the honorable senator contend that the country could pay an increase of only 2s. 6d. a week? I have been told that economic standards in Australia have risen to great heights. Honorable senators opposite have contended that the Government has established a solid economic position, yet they now contend that the country can increase pensions by only 2s. 6d. a week. I say that the country can afford to pay much more. When soldiers go away to war they are promised a great deal. When they come back they are given very little. This federal Parliament control* the money of this country. Surely it is within our province to give the returned serviceman what he deserves. The Government appears to consider that he deserve an increase of only 2s. 6d. a week in his pension. The Government has made a very grave error. I am surprised that ex-servicemen who support the Government in this chamber and in another place should have allowed it to pay such a small increase.
I shall touch upon one or two other points. One concerns war widows and dependent children. As honorable senators are aware, if a war pensioner dies, a small allowance is payable to his widow. However, if for instance the pensioner was a railway employee, and his widow is entitled to a small superannuation payment, she still receives the small pension from the Repatriation Department, but she is not entitled to free hospital treatment. This is a matter to which the Government could well devote its attention. If a widow is left without any other means of support, and therefore is paid a pension by the Repatriation Department, both she and her children are entitled to free hospital treatment. I do not think that the payment of a small superannuation pension of perhaps £4 a week should deprive a widow of the right to free hospital treatment for herself and her family.
I believe that the onus-of-proof provisions of our repatriation legislation are not being administered as generously as they are intended to be. An application for a war pension based on a war-caused disability should be accepted at its face value. Perhaps such a liberal interpretation of the act would permit a few exservicemen to receive pensions although they were not justly entitled to them, but that would not matter so long as no hardship was suffered by genuine applicants. I believe, too, that any repatriation pensioner, regardless of his rate of pension, who dies before reaching the age of 60 years should be regarded as having died as the result of war-caused injuries or sickness. That would permit repatriation benefits to accrue to his widow. The expectation of life of the ordinary person is about 65 years. For a man who enlists in the forces in the prime of life and necessarily in first-class physical condition, the expectation of life would normally be greater than average. If war-caused disabilities are regarded by the department as entitling him to a pension then, in the event of his death before reaching 60 years of age, the reasonable assumption is that his life has been cut short as the result of his war service. In such instances, as I have said, repatriation benefits should be payable to his widow.
This is a weak bill, which fails to recognize the true worth of the exserviceman. The man who fights for his country sacrifices much. It may be argued that civilian populations, too, are sometimes in the front line in modern warfare, but undoubtedly members of our fighting forces devote the best years of their lives to the service of their country and are entitled to be repaid in some measure by the country they have fought to save. It is1 the duty of all governments to see that ex-servicemen are adequately provided for, particularly if they have been incapacitated by their war service. This measure should make Government supporters angry with their Cabinet because of its niggardly treatment of exservicemen. A3 several honorable senators on this side of the chamber have shown, repatriation pensions and other benefits have not even kept pace with cost of living increases since 1949.
– in reply - I appreciate the reception that has been given to this bill by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and I understand the attitude of honorable senators opposite. It is clear that the Opposition regards the bill as an extraordinarily good measure just as they regard the budget as a good budget. They have tried to convince themselves that theGovernment’s budget proposals are not generous, but they have failed to do so. Quite a. lot of ground baa been covered in this debate. I have always regarded repatriation, as a non-party matter which should be considered calmly and deliberately by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I assure Senator Cole that, we on this side of the chamber are not at all disappointed either with this bill or with what the Government has done for ex-servicemen during its four years of office. Honorable senators should not consider one year in isolation. I maintain that more has been done for ex-servicemen by this Government in the last four years than was done by all the governments in the previous 30 years. I speak, not only of repatriation pensions, but also of all the other concessions and amenities that have been provided for disabled ex-servicemen and their families. There has been quite a lot of talk about the “ half-crown “ rises proposed in this legislation: but let us look at the proposals fairly. As I have said one year should not be considered in isolation. The provisions in this measure should be linked with what has been” done by the Government in the previous three years. It is true that the general pension rate is to be increased by only 2s. 6d. a week, but that- 2s. 6d. will bring the total of increases made bv this Government to £1 7s. 6d. a week.
As the term “ totally and permanently incapacitated “ suggests, a member who is paid what is known as the special-rate pension must obviously be suffering the severest handicaps as the result of his war injuries or sickness. I took exception to some of Senator Sandford’s remarks, and while he was speaking I made some computations which refute his arguments entirely. Quite obviously he did not know the facts, otherwise he would not have been so foolish. This bill will bring the pension of the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman to £9 5s. a week and his wife will receive £1 15s. 6d. a week. Senator Sandford mentioned that the basic wage was based on a family unit of a man, wife and two children. I have based my computations on that family unit. The two children of a special-rate pensioner will receive 13s. 9d. a week each making a total of £1 7s. 6d. If the children are aged twelve years and fifteen years respectively, the latter will receive an education allowance of 15s. a week, and the former lis. 6d. a week. Those payments will bring the total receipts- of the pensioner up to £13 14s. 6d. a week. To this wc must add child endowment of 15s. a week, bringing the total to £14 9s. 6d. a week. If the pensioner is badly injured he will be entitled to the attendant’s allowance of £J 15s. a week, and to a transportallowance of £120 a year, or roughly £2 6s. a week. Thus, his total receipts will be £1S 10s. 6d. a week. In 1949, using the same computation, the total receipts of such a pensioner were only £11 10s. a week. I am sure that if any special-rate pensioner were asked whether he was better off in 1949 on £11 10s. a week than he will be now on £18s. 10s. Gd. a week, he would unhesitatingly say that his financial position now is far better. That £1S 10s. 6d. is free of tax. Although these men are totally and permanently incapacitated, some of them are able to earn small amounts. If they do so, those amounts are not taken into account when assessing their pension. They also receive free medical attention in respect of sickness or disability of any kind, whether war-caused ‘or not. In addition, they receive free hospital treatment in respect of all disabilities. In the various States, concessions in respect of travel on railways and tramways, and visits to places of entertainment, are given to them. In my opinion, totally and permanently disabled ex-servicemen ha.ve earned all those benefits. The statement of Senator O’Byrne this afternoon that this Government has let them down and has left them and their dependants with a mere pittance on which to live was absolutely wrong. As l have already said, they are entitled to a total pension of £18 10s. 6d. a week.
A good deal has been said during this debate in regard to the onus of proof. In that connexion, Senator Amour referred to’ the case of two brothers in New South Wales. I dealt with that case personally only a few months ago, and I know it well. It is perfectly true that the brothers ‘suffer from heart trouble, but the condition of only one of them was stated to be due to war service. The honorable senator did not say that that one also had other warcaused disabilities which were assessed at 45 per cent, incapacity. Because of that additional incapacity, the board, against the medical evidence, gave him the benefit of the doubt and accepted the claim that his heart condition was also due to war service. His brother had no such additional disability. After very careful consideration, the authorities concerned stated -
There is no doubt whatever that the onus of proof that the incapacity was not due to war service rests upon the Repatriation Commission. The Commission contends that it has discharged the onus placed upon it, and this view is supported by the Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. Unless further evidence, which is material to and has a substantial bearing upon the claim, is submitted, . . . the claim cannot be re-opened.
I am glad that Senator Amour referred to this case to-night, because it illustrates my point that although there was reason for doubt, the fact that one of the exservicemen had 45 per cent, additional disability was accepted in support of his claim that his heart condition was due to Avar service. It was clear that his brother’s heart trouble was not a warcaused disability.
Honorable senators may remember that, last year, when similar legislation was being discussed in the House of Representatives, this matter of the onus of proof was referred to. At that time, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave an undertaking to an honorable member to have the matter examined by the Attorney-General’s Department with a view to clarifying it and deciding the meaning of the act. That has now been done. I have received a statement in this connexion from the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) and I personally issued instructions that copies of that statement he sent to all members of the Repatriation Commission and the various tribunals. Incidentally, I have been informed by the members of those tribunals that they had been interpreting the act in accordance with the interpretation which the Attorney-General has since placed on it. The opinion of the AttorneyGeneral has been made the subject of an instruction to repatriation boards and tribunals. I can truthfully say that I, as Minister, have done everything possible to ensure that section 47, which is the relevant section, shall be applied according to the interpretation given to it by the Attorney-General.
I do not propose to speak at length because repatriation matters have been given a reasonably good airing this evening. I point out, however, that most honorable senators opposite who have spoken to-night have dealt only with the monetary aspect of repatriation services. The success of such services does not depend on monetary benefit entirely. The methods adopted in dealing with sick and incapacitated men and women are also important. To them, it is important that hearings and appeals by the various tribunals should be expedited and ‘ their applications dealt with promptly. Since I have been Minister for Repatriation I have received the utmost assistance and co-operation from the officers of my department, who number more than 9,000. They work as a loyal team in endeavouring to ensure that their comrades of the two world wars receive the best attention and facilities that it is possible to obtain. Naturally, of course, the officers of the department can work only within the limits of the act.
This Government has been able to. assist in many ways ex-service pensioners who are obliged to live on their pensions. For instance, at one time the “recreation transport allowance was confined to those incapacitated ex-servicemen who were confined to wheelchairs and did not extend to those who were able to get about a little. This Government has widened the scope of that allowance, so that even those who are able to get about on crutches or walking sticks for short distances, now come within its ambit. The gift of motor cars that was referred to in the Senate this afternoon has made a tremendous difference to double amputees, who are now able to visit their relatives and friends. They again feel that life is worth living.
When this Government came to office in 1949, I was presented by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia with a 36-point scheme of benefits for ex-servicemen. That scheme had previously been placed before the Chifley Government and rejected. I am happy to say that all of those 36 points have since been accepted by this Government and put into operation. In addition, each year we have been able to make further benefits available. Although we have done a great deal in that respect, I do not think that perfection has been attained. I believe, that there is still a great distance to go. But there is no doubt in my mind that if this Government is given the opportunity, it will continue to increase existing benefits.
During the course of the debate, honorable senators opposite have referred to statements by various organizations concerning repatriation benefits. I should like to read to honorable senators the following letter which I received recently : -
Dear Senator Cooper,
I would like to thank you for the increase in the pensions. I must admit that I did not expect anything in this budget, as I got an increase the year before last of fi 2s. a week. I can remember when I only got £4 4s. a fortnight after my husband’s death in the 1914-1.918 War. Many war widows speak for us all, so 1 thought it would be a change for you to know some one appreciates what you do for war widows.
With grateful thanks,
I remember that it was necessary in 1931, during the economic depression, for this Parliament to wipe out many social services benefits. In the bill before the Senate at the present time this Government is doing much to atone for what was done at that time. For instance, we have done away with the time limit in regard to allowances for adopted children. Every benefit that was withdrawn in 1931 has now been restored.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Earlier, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) promised to explain the reasons for the amendments proposed to be effected under clause 4 and clause 5. Clause 4 relates to the suspension and removal of the Commissioner or Acting Commissioner and clause 5 deals with the suspension and removal of a member of a board. Would the Minister be good enough to explain the objects of those clauses ?
.- The primary purpose of these amendments is to bring the provisions of section 17of the act, which provides for the suspension from office of a member of a repatriation board for inability, inefficiency or misbehaviour or neglect or failure to carry out the provisions of the act or regulations, into line with the provisions of section 16 of the act, which relates to the suspension of a commissioner or acting commissioner f or similar defaults. Section 17 now prov ides that a member of a board may be suspended by the commission and that the suspension can be cancelled or confirmed by the Governor-General in Council on the advice of the Minister. However, it does not make any provision for declaring vacant the office of a member whose suspension is confirmed, nor does it provide for a member’s replacement. Provisions to this effect are found in section 1.6, and clause 5 will introduce appropriate similar provisions into section 17. At the same time, the opportunity is being taken to amend section 16 in order to bring it into line with recent provisions of other acts in respect of similar matters and then to adopt the same construction in making the necessary extension to section 17. These clauses are of a machinery nature.
.- Sub-clause (3.) of clause 4 reads - (3.) If each House of the Parliament, within fifteen sitting days of that House after the statement has been laid before it, declares by resolution that the Commissioner or Acting Commissioner, as the case may be, ought to be restored to office, he shall forthwith be restored to office by the Minister, and shall be entitled to receive the remuneration of his office for the period of his suspension.
Does that provision mean that if the commissioner or acting commissioner or a member of a board is suspended or removed from office the matter must be submitted to the Parliament which will thus be given an opportunity to consider it?
– That procedure will be followed in respect of the suspension or removal of the commissioner or acting commissioner, but not in respect of a member of the board.
– Clause 6 reads -
Section twenty-three of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from the definition of “Child” the words “but does not include any step-son, step-daughter or adopted child who becomes a dependant after the first day of July One thousand nine hundred and thirtyone.
What is the purpose of that clause?
. –The object of that clause is to remove completely the time limit provided in the principal act. At present, only adopted children or step children are deemed not to be dependants of a pensioner if they become dependants after the 1st July, 1931.
.- Clause8 reads-
Section thirty-four of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “34. - (1.) If a pensioner is convicted of an offence and sentenced to a period of imprisonment, the Commission may order the suspension or forfeiture of all instalments df the pension accruing due during the period for which he is imprisoned or a part of that period. “ (2.) Where suspension or forfeiture of an instalment of a pension is ordered in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section, the Commission may, if it thinks fit, pay the whole or a part of the instalment to to) a dependant of the pensioner; or
a person, not being a dependant of the pensioner, who, in the opinion of the Commission, is or has been dependent upon the pensioner for support.”.
Flow will that provision affect a pensioner who has no dependants ? I point out that many ex-servicemen of World War I. would not now have dependants. Will such pensioners who are convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment be obliged to forfeit their pension, or will they be eligible to receive their pension upon their release from prison in respect of the period for which they were imprisoned ?
– I should like to know whether any provision is made under the Repatriation Act for the appointment of welfare officers to give assistance in cases of the kind that Senator Critchley has mentioned. I have in mind a particularly sad case which occurred in Western Australia and in respect ofwhich the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia asked me to take certain steps. The pensioner concerned was not able to look after himself.
.- The object of clause 8 is to make more adequate provision in respect of cases of the kind which Senator Critchley has mentioned. If the pensioner is married, the commission has power to make provision for the maintenance of his dependants. In the case of a pensioner who has no dependants the commission has power to pay the accrued amount to the pensioner upon his release from imprisonment. The commission is not obliged to do so, but it deals with every case sympathetically and helpfully.
I inform Senator Robertson that no welfare officers are appointed under the Repatriation Act. Very few cases of the kind that she instanced really occur. However, in such instances the department readily assists the pensioner, or, as sometimes happens, welfare organizations, such as the Salvation Army, look after the interests of such persons.
Senator ROBERTSON (Western Aus tioned, the pensioner was drawing a pension at the rate of £8 15s. a week and he had no dependants. He had given way to drink to such a degree that I was obliged to take action in the interests of the residents of the district in which he lived. Ultimately, I had no alternative but to have him arrested. There appeared to be no other means of handling his case. I was informed by the repatriation authorities that he could have consented to enter an institution but he was unwilling to follow that course because he believed that if he did so he would lose his pension. I suggest that welfare officers could help a great deal in cases of that kind.
– It is a pity that the pensioner did not consent to enter an institution because if he had done so he would not have lost or forfeited his pension.
– Clause 10 reads -
Section forty-nine of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (6.) the words - “On the death of the member, whilst afflicted with lunacy, the moneys hold and investments made on his behalf by the Commission shall not form partof his estate,” and inserting in their stead the words - “ Where-
a member whose pension is being retained by the Commission in pursuance of this section dies; and
) proof has not been furnished to the Commission, within six months after the death of the member, that the. member was not afflicted with lunacy at the time of his death, the moneys held and investments made on his behalf by the Commission shall be deemed not to form, or to have formed, part of his estate for any purpose,”.
Will the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) inform me what provision is made for the wife and other dependants of an ex-serviceman who has the misfortune to be afflicted with lunacy and be an inmate of an institution for a long period of time before his death? Is not an injustice being done to his dependants, by reason of the accumulated amount of his pension not becoming a part of his estate?
.- The clause really deals with an unmarried man. Section 49 of the principal act refers to an unmarried member of the forces.
– If an unmarried member is supporting his mother, is provision made for his pension to be paid to her?
– The intention of the clause is to strengthen the provision in that connexion.
– But the clause provides that the moneys held and the investments made on his behalf by the commission shall be deemed not to form a part of his estate for any purpose.
– The commission invests a certain amount of the money in bonds and other investments, and holds some money in the bank. Actually the section provides that the war pension payable to an unmarried member afflicted with lunacy may be retained by the commission and invested or expended in various ways for Iris benefit, or for the benefit of persons who are dependent on him. If a member recovers from his affliction the commission renders to him an account of all moneys invested and expended, and pays to him any balance. If he dies before recovery, the money held and any investments do not form a part of his estate, and the commission has discretion as to the distribution. The commission considers that as subsection (6.) now stands, it is not entirely protected when it distributes these moneys after the death of a man whose pension was retained. I point out that if the commission distributed the money unlawfully it would be liable to refund the money. The object of the proposed alteration is to overcome a loophole in the act. By inserting the provision in relation to the furnishing of proof within six months after the death of the member, that loophole will be eliminated.
– Clause 11 reads -
Section sixty-four of the Principal Act is amended - (o.) hy omitting from sub-section (V.) the words “, within twelve months after the date of the determination by the Commission, or within such further time as is allowed by an Appeal Tribunal on special circumstances being shown,” ;
by omitting from sub-section (7.) the words within twelve months of the decision of the Commission,” : and
by omitting sub-section (7aa.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section : - “ (7aa.) Where, in the opinion of the Commission, further evidence submitted by an appellant is not material to, or has not a substantial bearing upon, the appellant’s claim, the Commission shall notify the appellant accordingly and the appellant may -
submit that evidence in writing to an Appeal Tribunal ; and
if the Appeal Tribunal decides that the evidence is material to, and has a substantial bearing upon, his claim, appeal to an Appeal Tribunal.”.
I am sure that every member of the committee who has any knowledge of appeals that have been rejected by appeals tribunals will admit readily that section 64 is a most contentious section. I point out that very great difficulty is experienced by applicants in obtaining further material evidence after a lapse of time. Furthermore, in many instances applicants decide to forget about the matter and continue with their work, and it is only when sickness finally overtakes them that they think any more about it. It is inevitable that as men grow older the effects of war-caused injuries manifest themselves. It is then almost impossible for the appellants to obtain further material evidence. This provision is difficult of administration, and equally difficult for the appellants to comply with. For the life of me I cannot see how proposed new sub-section (7aa.) will benefit appellants who, because of war-caused disabilities, are unable -to continue in their employment. The provision in the principal act enables an appellant in special circumstances, to appeal within a period of twelve month : against a determination of the commission. I contend that there should not be » limitation of time, and that every claim should be considered. The experience of the last twenty years shows that probably 90 per cent, of claims would then he accepted. I believe that the existing provisions afford more protection to the appellants than the proposed new subsection, under which the authorities may decide that further evidence submitted by an appellant is not material to, or has not a substantial bearing upon his appeal, which can be “ scrubbed “. How does the Minister .consider that the proposed alteration will benefit appellants? As time goes on, many ex-servicemen of advanced years will find it impossible to continue in their employment because of war-caused disabilities, and the proposed provision will make it more difficult for them to obtain pensions.
– I assume that the term “ Appeal Tribunal where used in proposed new subsection (7aa.) refers to both assessment, tribunals and pension entitlement tribunals. A considerable degree of discretion is exercised by such tribunals. Up to the 31st December, 1952, of 56,665 appeals received, 9,378 were allowed and 42,263 were disallowed.
– Those figures speak for themselves.
– Amongst the 42,263 ex-servicemen whose appeals were disallowed there must be many hardy fellows, as most Australians are, who received injuries during war service but did not report to a doctor. Many of those men, particularly ex-servicemen of “World “War I., would have .considerable difficulty in obtaining further material evidence to support an appeal. Although the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has claimed that appellants are always given the benefit of any doubt, it is evident from the figures that I have cited that much more mercy and justice should be evinced by entitlement tribunals.
Up to the end of last year, 102,906 applications had been received by assessment tribunals. Of those, 46,765 have been allowed and 47,684 have been disallowed. The statistics show that a great number of persons have believed in their own hearts that they were entitled to an increase of their pensions. The fact that so many have been refused shows that there is room for more justice in. the decisions of the “War Pensions Entitlement
Appeal Tribunal. I ask the Minister for an assurance that the provisions of the bill will give an appellant the best chance of having his case reconsidered, irrespective of the tribunal before which he appears. Even if the appellant is not able to produce specific evidence, I suggest that he should be given the benefit of the doubt, and that the onus of proof should be placed upon the Repatriation Commission and the tribunal concerned to prove that the ex-serviceman is not suffering as a result of war service.
– Section 64 of the principal act refers to the time limit for appeals. At present, the time limit is twelve months. The Government believes that that is not long enough. In some cases, evidence has to -be gathered from various parts of Australia and thai may occupy some months. Some evidence may have to be extracted from th, files of the Repatriation Commission and that takes time. It is proposed to provide that .the time limit of an appeal shall be removed, and that an application may be made to the commission or to a tribunal at any time. That will be of benefit to those concerned because they will not lose their opportunity to appeal a.* they do now if an appeal is not lodged within twelve months.
– From the explanation that ha? been given by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), it appears that the Government considered that the removal of the time limit on an appeal was desirable. I am more concerned with the provisions applying to the onus of proof. ‘ Obviously, the statements that have been made by the Minister in this chamber and by his representative in another place are not correct. The onus of proof is placed firmly upon the exserviceman. He must submit evidence in writing to an appeals tribunal. Many ex-servicemen are not in good health and they are not able to recollect the facte that are required of them. They have to establish that they are entitled to a pension because of war injuries or because of ill health resulting from war service. The applicant must convince the Repatriation Commission in writing that he has further, relevant evidence, and if he does not satisfy the commission, he is nol deemed to have material evidence. I know of cases involving men who were supported by the written opinions of four specialists but they were not allowed to submit their case to a “War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. If they fail to reach a tribunal, the onus of proof is on the individual to prove his claim. From cases that have been submitted to me, I am convinced that in 96 per cent, of cases, the onus of proof is left with the appellant and he fails in his appeal.
– Before the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) replies to Senator Cooke I wish to say that his reply to my first question has left me cold. The Minister knows that it is almost impossible for an ex-serviceman applying for a pension in respect of service in World War I. to produce specific* evidence. That is indicated by the figures that have . been produced by Senator O’Byrne. All honorable senators who have had anything to do with the cases of ex-servicemen under section 64 of the original act must admit the impossibility of those men adducing any new evidence that- will prove that their war injuries or their state of health has been the result of war service, particularly in World War I. A grateful Australian public would not begrudge any action by the’ Government that would remove the impossible strictures that are contained in those provisions. I am glad that the Minister has stated that if, by a thousand to one chance, a man of more than 60 years of age can produce evidence that reveals in part that his injuries could have been the result of war service, he may get a pension. However, few men in that group can do that. If this provision were removed, I am sure that all Australians would approve. It is unfair to place men in the evening of their lives in such an impossible situation.
, - I cannot understand the wishes of Senator Critchley if he has in mind the best interests of ex-servicemen. If section 64 were repealed, there would be no provision for an appeal. Section 47 of the principal act deals with the onus of proof. That provision is not contained in section 64 in any form. It is merely a provision to give an ex-serviceman an opportunity to appeal against the decision of a tribunal. First the ex-serviceman must go to the Repatriation Board if he wants to establish an entitlement. From the board he must go to the Repatriation Commission and from the commission to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal.
– It is a case of Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
-It is not. Senator O’Byrne quoted a number of cases that bad been accepted by the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. He did not mention the cases that had been accepted by the Repatriation Commission. The cases go from the board to the commission and then to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. Statistics relating to the Assessment Appeal Tribunals indicate that fully 50 per cent, of the applications were approved. They do not go to the Repatriation Commission. They go directly from the Repatriation Board to the assessment appeal tribunals. That is why the statistics of appeals approved by the assessment appeal’ tribunals are greater than those of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. If section 64 were abolished, there would be no further entitlement appeals.
– I did not say anything about section 64. I said that the proposed revision of the legislation was not a good one.
– The provision is a wise one because it will give appellants more time to appeal.
– More time to die.
– That is not so. The ex-servicemen’s organizations have asked for these provisions. Under the existing provisions, an appellant who does not appeal within twelve months loses the right of appeal. Surely if more time is (liven for an appeal, it will he of benefit to cx-servicemen. If only one case is benefited by the provision, it will bc worth while. The onus of proof comes under section 47. If an ex-serviceman loses his case before a tribunal, he may lodge another appeal provided that he can obtain fresh evidence. The tribunals were set up in 1929 at the request of the ex-servicemen’s organizations to provide a final appeal to an independent body. Such appeals are made against the decisions of theRepatriation Board or the Repatriation Commission. Wo propose to provide a further appeal if the exservicemen can obtain fresh evidence.
– I am sure that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) does not believe that I wish to abolish any section of the act that assists ex-servicemen. He has quoted my words incorrectly in claiming that I wish to abolish the section to which he has referred. Section 64 has worried 90 per cent of ex-servicemen who apply to an appeals tribunal. It is most difficult for them to obtain fresh evidence.
– The measure provides for a second appeal.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
.- Clause 14 of the bill reads as follows : -
Section 89 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following Section inserted in its stead: - “89. - (1.) Wherea service pensioner or an applicant for a service pension has accumulated property, the amount of the service pension which would, but for this sub-section, be payable to that person, shall be reduced -
I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to explain the meaning of the words “ accumulated pro- perty”. Does this refer to a house in which an applicant is living ? Sub-section 2 of the proposed section 89 readsas follows : -
A service pension is not payable toa person the net capital value of whose accumulated property exceeds one thousand two hundred and fifty pounds.
Does that sum of £1,250 include the house and effects of an applicant?
Senator COOPER (Queensland - Minis of the bill will apply to service pensioners conditions similar to those that apply to pensioners under the social services legislation. Ownership of such a house will not debar any one from receiving a service pension.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act -
Commonwealth Grants Commission - Twentieth Report (1953).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land disposed of under Section63 - Return showing manner of disposal.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department ofWorks - A. F. Anderson, A. 1;. Hicks.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -1953 -
No61 - Australian Journalists’ Association.
No. 62 - Professional Radio Employees, Institute of Australasia; and Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners of Australia.
No. 83 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 84 - Musicians’ Union of Australia.
No. 63 - Association of Railway Professional Officers of Australia and Others.
Senate adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 October 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1953/19531014_senate_20_s1/>.