21st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the fact that the general reply received to’ applications for the installation of automatic telephone exchanges in country districts of Western Australia is that the lack of the necessary materials prevents the installation of such exchanges, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General endeavour to obtain an increased allocation of funds for his department this year so that larger quantities of automatic telephone requirements can be procured?
– I shall be pleased to place the honorable senator’s request before the Postmaster-General, and to ask him to give a considered reply at an early date.
– On the 20th April I asked a question relating to shark liver oil and the Minister for Repatriation said that he would obtain a reply for me. I now ask him whether a reply has been received, and, if not, when I may expect a reply.
– I have not yet ‘ received, a reply to the honorable senator’s question, but I shall see that one is supplied and forwarded to him as early as possible.
– On the 28 th April, Senator Vincent asked the following question: -
Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral inform me why. no steps are being taken to locate and construct the permanent head-quarters of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Canberra, the National Capital.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished the following reply to the honorable senator’s question : -
The proposal to erect a building in Canberra for the use of the Australian Broadcasting
Commissionhas had to be. deferred in favour of more urgent and essential Commonwealth projects. A suitable site has been allocated and the work will bc undertaken as soon as circumstances permit. Meanwhile, the Commission is negotiating for more appropriate rented premises in Canberra.
– In connexion with the illegal entry of drugs into Australia, the Minister for Trade and Customs might recall that after a Commonwealth-wide investigation, a promise was made that a duly certificated trained pharmacist would be appointed to the Department of Trade and Customs to assist in the control of such traffic. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether an appointment of that nature has been made and, if so, at what point of entry?
– I remember the honorable senator raising this question. I am not aware of the present position, hut if Senator Robertson will place the question on the notice-paper, I shall have a report furnished to ner.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform the Senate whether the Prime Minister or any other Minister in the Australian Government has received a submission dated the 31st March, or prior to that date, from the. Northern Rehabilitation Committee of Western Australia, requesting the Government to grant taxation concessions to settlers residing in Australia north of the 26th parallel as an encouragement to settlers to develop Australian territory in that area? If the submission hasbeen received, will the Minister informthe Senate whether it has been considered by the Government and what action, if any, the Government proposes to take in connexion with this matter ?
– In the ordinary scheme of things, I am not aware of the details of many representations made to the Prime Minister or to other Ministers.I can assure the honorable senator that any submissions, such as that he has mentioned, receive full, careful and courteous consideration. If such matters involve Government policy, the honorable senator knows that this is not the proper place to canvass the attitude of the Government in that regard.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Senator HENDRICKSON (through
Will consideration he given to the possibility of making loans more readily available to those ex-servicemen who already have the land, architect and builder available and who are farced, under the present system, to wait their turn with other applicants who have not theland, material orbuilder to go ahead forthwith.
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
This matter has been consideredandithas been decided that applications would have to be dealtwithintheorderof their receipt except where an applicantwas not an a position to proceed whenhis turn was reached. Any other system would operate most unfairly to those applicants who were not in the fortunate position to beable to Afford the services of a privatearchitect and to purchase their own land. It is not proposed that the present system should be amended to give advantage to those persons who can afford private architects and purchase land.
asked theMinis-, ter representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
In view of theheavy taxation that is being imposed in order to provide a national ‘health scheme, willthe Government give considera tion “to the free provision of anti-poliomyelitis vaccine, and free medical attention in that connexion “when supplies of the vaccine are available in tills country?
-I have received the following reply to the honorable senator’s question from the Minister for Health:-
As Indicated in recent statements by the
Minister for Health it will he some little time before poliomyelitis vaccine will be available for general use. The presentposition is that arrangements are being made with the Premiers of the States for their technical and professional men to meet Commonwealth officials witha viewto working out the details of the whole method of administration. The question of free provision of the vaccine and free medical attention connected therewith will be considered in the light of the outcome of these talks, andthe decision reached will he made known to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculturehas supplied thefollowing information : - 1.Sales on accountof No. 17 pool (1953-54 crop)to23rd April,1954 were148,700,000 bushels - 56,100,000 bushels forlocalconsum- ption and 92,600,000 bushels for export including 16,’300,000 bushels sold but not yet shipped.
Formal Motion foradjournment.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the
The inadequacy and the hardship caused by the present rates of pensions for widows of all categories.
– I move -
Thatthe Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at . 11.30 a.m.
THE PRESIDENT.- Is the motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– I rise to sup port this motion concerning the inadequacy of the present pension system with regard toboth civilian and war widows. I do so, not from any motive of political gain. As all honorable senators know, for many years I have spoken frequently in this chamber on this matter. Now, at the “beginning of the winter, we find that thissubject isbeing brought forcibly to out notice. We must all be aware of the difficult task that confronts the brave women in the community who have to bring up their children onthe very low pensions which are at present paid to them. In this regard, I do not blame the ministersconcerned. It is nottheir fault butthat ofthe Government. Itis also our (fault, asmembers of this National
Parliament, because this is a national problem, and we, as members of the Commonwealth Parliament must share responsibility for the hard deal that is being accorded those women.
First, with regard to war widows, I am certain that all honorable senators have received, as I have, a letter, a circular and a press cutting from Mrs. Vasey, the President of the War Widows Guild of Australia. Mrs. Vasey, for years, has been the champion of war widows. Irrespective of the government which has been in power, she has never ceased in her efforts to obtain a better deal for those women whose husbands made the supreme sacrifice in the cause of their country. When those men were going to war, they were promised that, should they be killed on active service, everything’ would be done for their loved ones. I admit that a great deal has been done for war widows, hut I think that the benefits that have been given them have not been commensurate with the sacrifices which they have made. The women who became widows during World War I. are no longer young. They have had many years of loneliness since their loss in the days of the first World War, and they now find themselves facing a world completely different from that which they faced in the bloom of their womanhood before tragedy overtook them. Taking into account the purchasing power of the pension, these women are not much better off than they were in those far-off days of their early widowhood. I know that the Minister has many arguments to put up in connexion with war widows and it is true that quite a lot has been done for them, not only by this Government, but also by preceding administrations. However, although their present day financial position may look quite all right on paper that is not the true picture. At the end of World War I., a war widow was paid about two guineas a week. At that time, the basic wage was considerably less than £4 a week. In addition to the pension, of course, there are other allowances which also have been increased since that time. Whilst it is true that the pension has no direct relationship to the basic wage, I am using the basic wage as a yardstick to measure pension rates. The average basic wage of all States to-day is about £12 a week. When the basic wage was first established it was assumed to be sufficient to keep a man, his wife, and one child, in frugal comfort - I think those were the actual word3. It did not provide for any luxuries. To-day, the income of a war widow is considerably less than the basic wage and apparently she is expected to manage without even the “ frugal comfort “ of the basic wage-earner. Most honorable senators have received from the President of the War Widows Guild, a letter and a press cutting. I pay a tribute to Mrs. Vasey for her continued work on behalf of war widows. She has done a magnificent job over the years. I do not always agree with the statements that Mrs. Vasey makes on other subjects but, so far as her work on behalf of war widows is concerned, she is a champion and they look to her as their leader. Mrs. Vasey has brought the plight of war widows forcibly to our attention by setting out the budget of a war widow who has two children of school age who have to he clothed, educated, and brought up as decent citizens. Her income, including all allowances such as the allowance for children, her home allowance, education allowance, and so on, is £8 Ils. a week, but her budget for the purchase of the ordinary necessaries of life such as milk, bread, meat, groceries, fruit and firewood, but not clothing - how they are expected to be clothed I do not know - is £10 Ils. a week. I always knew that women were clever but a woman would have to be a magician to be able to spend £10 lis. a week out of an income of £8 lis. !N”o provision is made for clothing, school fees, or entertainment. It may be argued that entertainment is not a necessity, but surely widows and children are not expected to deny themselves some of the amenities which, t,o other people, are not luxuries at all. Despite all the lip service we give to those members of our community who fight our wars for us and shed their blood in defence of this country, that lip-service is not being translated into action. Widows of the gallant men who lost their lives in battle are being forced to exist in poverty, misery and worry. The result is that many of them are prematurely aged, many too, are ill because they cannot afford the necessaries of life for themselves. That is particularly true of those who have children. Their first consideration is the welfare of their children. All too often a widow is plunged into sickness because she has not been able to take proper care of herself due to her wish that her children should not suffer unduly because of the death of their father. I know that this matter is very dear to the heart of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), with whom I served on the Social Security Committee. Knowing his feeling towards these people in the community, I urge him to do his utmost to improve the lot of the war widows by raising their income to something approaching the basic wage. Surely to goodness when we are speaking so much about the vast sums of money to be expended on defence, we should not quibble about increasing the pensions of the war widows. The budgets of the last few years have been of the order of £1,000,000,000. Relatively little additional expenditure would be needed to provide the widows of our war dead with extra security and help. In all sincerity, therefore, I ask the Minister to give attention to this matter now, without waiting until the next budget is introduced, by which time the winter will be over.
Bad and all as is the plight of the war widows, I shudder to think about how the civilian widows are existing at all. The history of their pensions is very interesting. Civilian widows’ pensions were first introduced into Australia in the 1920’s by a Labour government in New South Wales. Labour has always led in the introduction of humanitarian legislation of this kind. It was not until 1942 that the Australian Parliament entered the field of widows’ pensions. That was the year when Australia was passing through its Gethsemane; it was the very darkest year of the war years. The Prime Minister of the day, Mr. John Curtin, as long ago as 1929 had suggested that the field of widows’ pensions was one that the Commonwealth should quite rightly enter. But nothing was done until he became Prime Minister of this country. While he was mainly engaged in connexion with our war effort, he realized that there were certain problems on the home front which had to be faced, irrespective of our external commitments. Widows’ pensions were then introduced. At that time, the amount was not substantial, but that was a start.
I have taught for years in places where there were many under-privileged children; in schools where’ the children, came from homes in which the father, was dead and the mother had to go to work in order to keep the roof over the heads of her family. I have also taught in schools for delinquent children. In those schools there were many socalled delinquent children who were not actually delinquent. It was our society which was delinquent, because it had refused to extend recognition to their mothers for the national work they were doing in bringing up Australian citizens, but forced them to go out and perform menial tasks, such as office and school cleaning, and doing other people’s washing and so on - jobs which entail no disgrace - when they should be at home to get their children off to school in the mornings and be there when they return from school in the afternoons. Young children should not be allowed to stay in the streets, where they may get into bad company and finish up before the juvenile courts as delinquents.
It is a very serious problem. Despite the increases of widows’ pensions that have been given over the years, every member of this chamber should consider seriously whether justice has been done to these women. Pensions for widows were first introduced in June, 1942. At that time the amount was not great, but a start was made. Moreover, Australia was then engaged in an all-out war effort, and both here and elsewhere there were critics who said that the time was not ripe to grant pensions to widows. The same cry is heard to-day. Indeed, the time is never ripe for any reform; it is always said that the time is inappropriate, or inconvenient. I say that now is the appropriate time to do justice to these important members of the community, who are doing such a fine job. When the legislation was originally introduced, a distinction ‘ was made between widows with children and those with no children. Later, provision was made to cover divorced! women and wives who- were unable to collect maintenance orders against their husbands,, and also those- who were separated from their husbands-, or whose husbands were in prison. That was a right and humanitarian approach to the problem. To-day, there are 17,933 A class widows in Australia - those with dependent children under sixteen years of age.
I have raised this matter in this chamber on earlier occasions, but nothing has been done. I raise it again to-day, and hope for the best. Of these 17,933 A class widows, 10,743 are really widows with dependent children. The latest figures I have been able to obtain show that there are also, 190 women who are either divorcees or thave been deserted by their husbands. These women, are unable to obtain maintenance from their husbands^ and ave classified as widows in order that they may receive a pension. I wonder if the Government is doing anything to get back from the defaulting husbands the amount paid to their, wives by way of pension. -As things are. these men are escaping their responsibility and passing it on to the Government. They should not be allowed to do so. Unfortunately, there are many such cases.. Of the women who- are regarded as A class widows at least 35 per cent, have husbands somewhere - men who have deserted them and are not shouldering their responsibilities. We are all agreed’ that the wife and children of a deserter should not be allowed to suffer. I repeat my former request that the Government should take action to recover from these defaulters the amount of the pension which the Government pays to their wives. If that were done, more money would be available to distribute to those who need it. I know that the. cry will be raised that there is not enough money for this purpose. Although I sincerely pray that we shall not be engaged in another war, I am sure that if war’ did break out money would be made available to prosecute it. It would have to be, because we would be fighting for- our very survival. We should not forget that these women are fighting; for their own survival, and the survival’ of their children. How can they possibly manage on the income that they receive ? The amount is only about 31 per cent, of the basic wage. I have taken the basic wage as a yardstick, because that is- thi most convenient basis on which to work. When a Labour government went, out of office in 1949. the pension paid to- widows was 37.4 per cent, of the basic wage. 1. blow that since then the monetary grant to widows has been increased, but the purchasing power of the payment has been decreased, with, the result that the struggle becomes harder for the mothers, of children who have no husbands to support them. These women are doing a man’s job as well, as their own. There are people who say that they can earn up to a certain amount in addition, to their pension. That is true. and if they are able to obtain outside work and are capable of performing it, that may be all right; but if they have young children who cannot reasonably be. left alone Lt is not right, because no mother worthy of the name will leave children of tender age unattended. Moreover, it is difficult for a woman no longer in her youth to get suitable employment in competition with younger women. The jobs that are available to-day are generally of a nature that may be described as menial. Many women do not mind doing such work, if they can get it, but there should be something available for them besides temporary jobs which give them no real security. Women should not be expected to leave their children to look, after themselves while they go out to work in order to maintain a home. They cannot do so if’ their children are under school-going age. If they have families of growing, boys and girls, there is grave danger that “if the mother is away from home they will get into mischief. We frequently read of children getting into mischief even when they have both- parents living at home. How much more likely are they to get into trouble when- they have no parents at’ home to guide, them?’ Recently, a Western Australian newspaper printed a. series of articles written by one of its. reporters who had been assigned the job of inquiring into, the lives of what, it called “a forgotten people”. Generally, when we speak of forgotten people we think of native races in darkest Africa, and have in mind the need to send missionarises to teach them better ways of living, but we have many forgotten people in our midst. For the most part, they live in slum areas, even though they do not like living there, because that is the only place where they can obtain shelter at rentals they can afford to pay. Very few .forgotten people own their own homes. I was interested and shocked to hear a. [.Minister in the House of Representatives say recently that, in addition to the pension and other things to which a widow was entitled, she could own a motor car if -she liked. I should like the Minister to say bow many widows of tiny classification could own motor cars on their pensions. I doubt whether many widows can afford to buy even a toy motor car for their children a.t Christmas-time. Yet the freedom to buy a. motor is regarded as a concession to them.
It is also contended in some’ quarters that husbands should take out insurance policies while they are alive, in order to provide for their families in the event of their death. They should do so, but in families where that has not been done the widows and children should not be penalized. They are the members of the community in whom we should be interested. We are expending large sums of money to bring immigrants to Australia. I agree with that policy, but I express my firm belief that the best immigrant is the native-born Australian. We should be equally solicitous for their welfare as we are for those who come to us from other countries. A civilian widow receives a pension of £3 13s. a week, together with child allowance. I remind the Senate that child endowment is paid to all sections of the community, and not only to widows. There is no means test, so that the wife of a wealthy businessman is as ranch entitled to receive child endowment as is a widow. The payment that I have mentioned is less than school fees now being charged for one child at many boarding schools. Recently, in Western Australia, the raising of fees at boarding schools was a matter of public controversy. I. was amazed to find that the cheapest fees were about £7 a week.
That included food, shelter and tuition. A widow does not receive £7 a week to feed, clothe and shelter herself and ker children. I know the analogy is not completely .accurate, “but it emphasizes the difficulteis that the widows have to face.
I “know that widows get certain medical benefits under the pensioners’ health scheme but. as I stated recently in this chamber, there are still many medical and pharmaceutical services “that widows require but do not get. All medicines are .not free. I saw a .prescription that one widow received from her doctor. It cost 18s. 6d_ Another prescription would have cost 27s. 6d. The widow could not afford them and slue went without. The same applies to food. In 1949, butter was ls. Sd. a pound. To-day, it costs 4s. 2d. I am not talking through my hat when I say that I know families who have not tasted butter for months I have been in homes where the children told me they were glad to see me be ea.use I brought them butter.. They hae been eating margarine because it cost 2s. 6d. a pound whereas butter cost 4s. 2d. That means a .great deal to widows whose incomes are limited. They are in the same position with regard to meat. A roast joint is a rarity on a widow’s table. If a widow can afford sausages once a week, she thinks she is doing well. Some people may think that meat is bad for them and that they are better without it. That is a matter of opinion. They are entitled to the food they need. Eggs are 6d. each and the average widow cannot afford too many of them. Oranges and other fruit essential to the proper growth of children are beyond the reach of the widows.
I am not raising this matter for political kudos. It is a deeply human problem and one that we must face. The children of the widows will be citizens of tomorrow. When I refer to the neglect of the widows’ needs I do so advisedly. I castigate my own colleagues in thu chamber as well as supporters of the Government, because I have ‘brought this matter forward in the Senate time- and time again. The responsibility for this position is upon us all if we do not use all the power we have to improve the position of widows who are ‘doing a worth-while job. Rents for houses are exorbitant. A widow counts herself fortunate if she can get a shelter over her head. It is. bad enough to be a widow but, according to some people, if a widow has children she is virtually a criminal and cannot get a house to rent. Landlords do not want children in the houses. They can get higher rents from persons other than widows.
The problem of housing widows and helping them to educate their children is a pressing one. Many children of widows have to leave school as. soon as they reach the leaving age, or even before then, so that they can go to work. I have seen the future of children blighted because they have to leave school to help their mothers. They do not object, but they cannot see into the future or realize how their lives will be affected. I have not forgotten what is being done by the State child welfare departments, but their work is outside the scope of this debate. I am speaking of a national problem which should be dealt with by the National Parliament. If a girl serving out sweets in a chain store is worth £9 a week, a woman who is trying to bring up children alone is worth more. It would not cost so very much to give each widow £9 a week if she has dependent children. The total cost would be about £9,000,000, which would represent .9 per cent, of the budget expenditure. It would return great dividends to the people of Australia. It would remove the fear of want. It would help the mothers and assist the children to become decent citizens.
Huge sums are being awarded by Supreme Court judges to widows as compensation for the loss of their husbands in accidents. I do not begrudge them the damages they receive, amounting to as much as £28.000. Tn contrast, we tell a widow whose husband- has been killed in war that we will give her £8 lis. a week and extras if she has a few children. We say to civilian widows that we will give them a few pounds and allow them to earn a little more. Those widows should be given the right to earn a decent wage. It would not cost a penny to do that. I appeal to honorable senators and to the Government to see that justice is done to these deserving people.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator O’Byrne).- Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I am sure that every honorable senator has listened with great interest and sympathy to Senator Tangney. I know that she has been interested in the widows of Australia, and social services generally, for a number of years. She showed her interest in those matters since this Government was elected to office and during the period of office of the previous Labour Government, when the late Mr. Chifley was Prime Minister. Honorable senators on the Government side have shown the greatest practical sympathy for all pensioners during the past five years. This Government has increased all pensions. Senator Tangney has asked the Senate to consider the inadequacy of pensions and the hardships caused by the present rates of pensions granted to widows of all categories. In the short time at my disposal, I propose to refer to the war widows. The motion that is under discussion refers to both the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department, and, as Minister for Repatriation, I intend to confine my remarks to war widows. I propose to give honorable senators a short definition of a war widow, because many people are confused by the categories into which widows are placed for the purpose of social services and repatriation payments. A widow is not accepted as a war widow unless her husband died while on war service or subsequently as a result of his war service. The Repatriation Department pays more than 500,000 war pensions and allowances, and these cannot be assessed in isolation. The various groups form a. component part of payments for war disabilities and that is what the Government accepts as its liability for war service. We cannot adequately assess the situation by examining separately war widows’ pensions, totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen’s pensions, or any other type of pension. We must look at the position as a whole. In assessing the various rates over the years, the Repatriation Department has arrived at a reasonable rate of pension for various disabilities. Many organizations probably consider that their members should receive more and, perhaps, that the members of other organizations should receive less. Whatever government happens to be in power, it is its duty to consider the position as a whole and decide the total amount that it will pay in war pensions. Social service pensions are assessed by a rather different method from that which is used in assessing war pensions because the biggest portion of social service pensions is paid in age and invalid pensions at the same rate. Repatriation pensions are paid at many different rates.
The War Widows Guild holds an annual conference at which the delegates consider the cost of living and the rates of pension that are being paid. They then vote on certain resolutions which have to be adopted by the federal executive of the organization. Those resolutions are then forwarded to me or to the ex-servicemen’s parliamentary committee. After consideration by that committee, they go before a Cabinet committee of exservicemen who give careful consideration to them and then make recommendations to Cabinet. In due course, Cabinet recommends to Parliament the degree to which the various types of pensions should be increased. When Parliament approves of them, those recommendations become law and pensions are paid at the increased rate. The Government does not just make a stab in the dark in order to decide the extent to which pensions should be increased. Pension rates are adjusted only after very careful consideration of the recommendations of the War Widows Guild as well as advice from experts in the Repatriation Department who have had experience nf the way in which pensions have been assessed over the years.
Mrs. Vasey did me the honour of inviting me to be present at the annual conference of the War Widows Guild which was held in Melbourne a short time ago. I have a great admiration for the work that Mrs. Vasey has done. There is no doubt of her great ability and she has been untiring in her work for the members of her guild. The War Widows Guild has branches in every State of the Commonwealth and it has done a wonderful job over the past five years. In order that I should have the best information available to me, I took one of the senior officers of my department to the conference to which I was invited. We examined the resolutions that were to be submitted by the War Widows Guild. Those resolutions are now being considered by my department. Naturally, no decision will be announced to the public until the budget has been studied.
It is interesting to note that, during the past five years, the cost of war pensions has risen from £19,000,000 to £40,000,000. That is the latest figure, which was made available at the end of February. The amount does not include service pensions. It is the total of repatriation pensions and allowances only. The cost of these pensions has more than doubled but the cost of living has not nearly doubled during that period. The cost of living index figure in 1949 was 1466. At the end of December 1954, Lt was 2333. Although the cost of pensions has more than doubled, the cost of living is only approximately 60 per cent, higher than it was five years ago. During the past five years all pension rates have been increased considerably. The war widows’ basic pension has been increased from £3 to £4 a week and the domestic allowance, which was paid for the first time in 1947 at the rate of 7s. 6d. per week, and which was still 7s. 6d. a week in 1949, has been increased to £.1 14s. 6d. a week, an increase of £1 7s. a week. All war widows with children under the age of sixteen years, and war widows who are not considered able to work, receive the dependants domestic allowance.
Senator Tangney referred to an article in the Melbourne Argus which stated that a war widow received £8 ‘ lis. a week. That does not include child endowment which, if added, would bring the total to £9 6s. a week. In this case, the educational allowance is lis. 6d. a week, which means that the child in respect of whom it is being paid is under twelve years of age. If the child were over twelve, the allowance would be 15s. a week. I point out, that there are other allowances paid by the. Government which, have not been shown in the budget which has been referred to. For instance, both the widow and the- child are entitled to free medical treatment,, either in the home or on visiting a medical practitioner, and also to free dental, treatment. In addition, children over, the age of fourteen years, md widows,, are entitled to free hospital treatment at the expense of the department, and if beds are available in repatriation hospitals they are allowed to occupy them.. The younger children are entitled to free books and a certain amount in respect of travelling expenses in connexion with their education. It will be seen, therefore, that although this budget is quite well set out, there are a few smaller benefits which have- not been included.
The press statement to which Senator Tangney referred also mentions certain other widows.. For instance, Mrs. C is stated to have six children and to live in an industrial suburb.. It is said’ that the children rarefy receive fresh fruit and get few green vegetables-, have never seen a movie, and’ have- never once been to the beach. I have investigated the position fir relation to the income of that family. I take it that, of .the six children,, three would? be of school age-. The widow’s pension- would’ be1 £4- a week, and she would be, entitled to domestic allowance of £1 14s. 6’d. a week; The pension of the first child would be £1 6s.. 6d. and Bli,mt aS the1 otter five children- 18 s. 6d. a week; making- a- total of £4’ 12s. 6di fox the children.. Child endowment, would- be £21 15s., so> that, the total income would be £14. 8si 6d.. a week. Education allowance in; respect of- the. three children, of school age would amount to £2; ls. 6d.. a week.. 15s;. ai week in respect of two of them- and Ils. 6d. a week: im. respect of the other one - which, would bring the grand total to £16,’ 1.0s. a. week. Of course,, it- may be said that that sum is inadequate, but in my opinion it is- a reasonable amount’ for the Government, to pay out. I da not contend that everything that could be done is being, done. We are not 100 per cent, perfect.. But. in working out the allowances, to be* paid to war widows-. 1 suggest that, the Government has been not ungenerous^ but has provided them with’ sufficient money to.- enable them. to. live in a reasonable- manner.
Another example mentioned in- the press cutting refers- to a family with four children. I have taken the’ ages of tha children to be eighteen, fifteen, thirteen and twelve, because I regard1 that as reasonable. The eighteen year- old child could be- attending a university or- undertaking higher education. Honorable senators may be aware that a number’ of children of war widows do undertake such education. If that- child were: attending a university, he or she would1 be entitled to £2’ l’2s. 6d. a week living-at-home allowance. Of the other children, the one aged1 fifteen would be entitled’ to 15s. a week, and the other two to Ils, 6d* a week, making a total of £4- 10s. 6d;, so that’ the total income of the widow would br- £14 13s. 6d. a. week, Of course, if tb> eldest child were working, the. probability is. that he or she would be earning, more than the education allowance- of £2 12s* fid. a. week.
In regard to. education^ a child of school age- is entitled to a. pension of Ils; 6d. a week; plus amounts’ for1 books and1 school fees; The war widows’ children- education’, scheme has; been, most successful. Many children of war widows- have- attended universities1, and during the period that the scheme has been- in operation, six- children of war widows have been granted Rhodes scholarships. I suggest that that fact proves that proper educational” facilities have been made- available to them. We are’ not keeping the children’ back, bust, on the contrary; are’ doing all’ that we can to help- them- get ahead1 and make a career for themselves. We also try to make them feel that somebody is- looking after them. Indeed’, the department’ takes’ a keen interest in- them and’ their families. It wants’ the children to feel that there is some one. to whom they can look for guidance, help and advice.
Although the efforts of the department in respect of war widows and their children may not be perfect, T think it will be granted that, on the whole, .it has: d’one a wonderful job. These widows, with, the assistance of the department, have brought up children in almost every walk of life. The children have made an great success in this country and. in- ray opinion-, have become assets to the community.
– The war widows have been pretty good mothers, too.
– That is so; I give them all the credit that is. due to them, but I think, that, some credit: is also due to the various organizations which concern themselves with the affairs of war widows, such. as the honorary education committees. Members- of such committees devote their lives to work of that kind.
– So does Legacy.
– That is true, but Legacy deals rather more with the. widow whose husband’s, death, was. not accepted as due: to> war service. Legacy, too,, does ai great job for war widows1.. The$ are not just left to battle along for- themselves^. However, the. motion now before the- Senate, deals with the.- alleged inadequacy of the provision made, by the Government, for war widows, and I shall confine my remarks to. that aspect., If a. war widow remarries^ - and 2!,638. war widows have re: married in the last five years - she receives, a gratuity of. not less, thani £208 In cash., That is. another benefit, that has- been introduced by this. Government.. I assure) Senator Tangney that the resolutions, that have been passed by the War Widows. Guild and exservicemen’s organizations will be given, careful consideration,, not only by myself but by the other bodies I have mentioned, the Cabinet sub-committee, Cabinet itself* and the special committee, of returned! soldier members of the Parliament. It is not f or me to say what the Government proposes to provide in i’ts next budget, but. the. need’s of war widows will1 not be forgotten and if.’ something more can Be done for them,, it will’ be done. The Government has assisted this deserving section of this community in the past audi it will continue to. do* so.
Taking into consideration’ cost-of-living figures; pensions’ paid’ to war- widows and other beneficiaries by the Repatriation Department to-day are higher- than they were m 1949, when this- Government came into office-. Some are considerably higher and others are slightly higher. Whilst we should all like to support. Senator
Tangney’* plea for more generous, treatment of. war widows, we cannot: treat one group in isolation. We must treat repatriation beneficiaries as a whole on an equal basis,, and endeavour to. do ©wiliest for all of them-.
Senator’ BENN’ (Queensland) [4.I5J. - An- examination of the structure of social1 legislation in Australia reveal’s what has been done by successive governments: in- respect of widows’ pensions. The Minister for- Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has told us what the Repatriation Department is doing for war- widows. No doubt, he is satisfied with that treatment. He has explained in detail the provision that is made for the children of war widows-, and I shall not attempt to. refute has- statements. I propose to deal generally with widows’ pensions.. It is1 easy to compare pensions paid to widows to-d’ay with those paid some years ago. with the object’ of ascertaining whether the present rate= is higher os lower-. No doubt, honorable’ senators have a way of their own’ of making such calculations’, but I always-, use; thai method that is used by economists;. If we. compare values to-day with, those of pastyears, we can- assess’ for ourselves: whether pensions– payable to> widows to-day aare adequate’ or not., The motion now before the Senate.- refers to the “ inadequacy “ of widows’ pensions; at present.. The best, yardstick I know for1 assessing values’ is the basic wage,, based on- the C series index. It is true: that: cost-of -living adjustments’ of the basic! wage were suspended in. August,, 1953>,. but the; C series index isi still the best, basis of comparison, and a calculation based upon it indicates- that the: pension payable to civilian, widows, today is- inadequate. In 1949, the pension payable to a. class A, widow was-. £2 7s. 6’dL a week At present, it. is, £3. 15s. a week, or an increase of £L 7s. 6d., a week in. a period of roughly six years.. Eoe the purpose, of comparison, I shall deal with the Q.ueens, land basic wage., In 1949, the, basic wage in that State was £6 lis., and to-day if is £11 10s. On that basis,, the pension, payable to class A widows, to-day should be not £3’ 15s. a’ week but- £4 a week. There, clearly,, is a deficiency, or an “ inadequacy “’ to use the terms of the motion, of 5s. a- week. However, I do not propose to take up my time by comparing the various pension rates, because there is nothing to be gained by that.
The Minister said that, in 1950, the domestic allowance payable to a war widow was 7s. 6d. a week, whereas, to-day, it was fi 14s. 6d. a week. I mention in passing that the civilian widow does not get a domestic allowance. She receives no allowance at all in respect of rent. It might be appropriate to ask ourselves why a pension is payable at all. There was a time which we can very well recollect, about 30 or 40 years ago, when women who were left widows with children had to do the very best that they could for themselves. They were buffetted around in the community and usually sought employment doing other people’s washing at low rates. Of course, if they had rich relatives who were willing to assist them, their responsibility was lessened. In many instances, widows were left without any support at all. Let us consider what happens to-day. When a mother is left a widow she is probably occupying a home that is either being rented or purchased on terms. Immediately, the obligation to pay rent or purchase instalments devolves on her. Not only has she to bear the sole responsibility of looking after her children ; she has also to shoulder the financial burden of keeping a roof over their heads. It is hard enough for a mother when the breadwinner of the family is alive and bringing home regular wages, even if he is in receipt of only the basic wage, but it is worse for her if she becomes a widow. We have heard a lot about economic rents and the prices that have to be paid for homes. It is almost impossible for a mother who is left a widow to continue to pay off a home.
During the lifetime of the breadwinner of a family he has no opportunity to save money, because of the high cost of living. Rarely does sufficient money come into an average worker’s home to provide adequately for his children.
– How does the honorable senator account for the fact that savings banks deposits have risen considerably ?
– Surely the Minister for National Development (Senator
Spooner) who has just interjected, does not believe that wage-earners have been responsible for the present high level of savings banks deposits in this country? Money is set aside in savings bank accounts not by wage-earners but by people in the middle-class stratum, and others who are comfortably situated, or fairly well-to-do, for more profitable investment at a suitable opportunity. Their money earns 2 per cent, interest in the savings banks. If the Minister were to investigate the situation, he would find that the majority of savings bank accounts ave not held by wage-earners.
– The balances of those accounts do not fluctuate very much.
– That is my point. It is noteworthy that during periods of unemployment they do not fluctuate very much either. There are many people in the community who do not spend all of the money they earn, and they are entitled to place their money in a savings bank until they require it. However, I am directing my attention to widows, particularly mothers who have been placed in the unfortunate circumstance of having to make provision for themselves and their children. Although the cost of education is high, too much attention cannot be paid to it, in view of the clash of ideologies in the world to-day. I am sure that every member of this chamber acknowledges the responsibility of the nation to provide adequately for widows and their children. When a man dies, and hia widow takes charge of his affairs and looks after their children, she performs a national duty. Therefore, the nation should provide adequately for widows and their children. If adequate provision is not made for such women, they develop an inferiority complex and become susceptible to illness. That is not a desirable state of affairs in these days, when wc need more men in the armed services.
I am dealing with this matter solely on a national level. At present we are expending millions of pounds on immigration. We have selection officers overseas doing their best to obtain suitable immigrants for us and we have a large army of public servants engaged in Australia looking after new arrivals in this country. When we consider the impact on our economy of thousands of people who have come here from overseas, our national responsibility to look after widows and their children is clear. On various occasions, the national income has been discussed by the Senate. It will probably be discussed again when the next budget is introduced. I consider that one of the first charges against the national income should be an adequate provision for all widows and their children in the community. In the interests of common social justice, I urge the Government to consider seriously increasing the pensions now payable to widows.
– I feel sure that every member of the Government - indeed, every member of this Senate - is deeply sympathetic towards both civilian and war widows. From time to time, honorable senators have had occasion to discuss the subject with the Minister for Repatriation (.Senator Cooper) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), whom we have found particularly sympathetic towards widows. Before I proceed, I think that it is important for us to get a few facts straight. During the five and a half years that this Government has been in office, the maximum rates of pensions have been increased on four occasions. The subject of widows’ pensions is constantly receiving the consideration of the Government. Since it came into office the pension paid to A class widows has been increased by amounts totalling £1 7s. 6d. a week, or 57.9 per cent. There has been an increase of £1 Os. 6d. a week, or 55.4. per cent, of the pension paid to both B and D class widows. In addition to those increases of pension there has been a liberalization of the means test, which has resulted in more persons in the pensions field having been assisted. The permissible income has been increased from. £1 10s. a week to £3 10s., and I have reason to believe that that has been greatly appreciated by widows. The permissible income payable to widows with dependent children under sixteen years of age has been liberalized to the amount of 10s. a week in respect of each child.
It is good to remember that there has also been a liberalization of the legislation relating to property owned by widows. In respect of class A widows, the property limit has been increased from £1,000 to £1,750. That increase is apart from her house and furniture and personal effects. It means that if a widow owns her own house she can still own property to the value of £1,750 before losing her pension. The property limit has also been increased in respect of B class and D class widows from £100 to £200. That increase in respect of property does not affect the amount of pension paid to a widow. The limit beyond which no pension is payable has been increased to £1,750. These increases have been of great benefit to widows, and have lessened the worries and cares which previously troubled them.
In passing, I wish to correct a statement of Senator Benn. I understood the honorable senator to say that a widow with one child was entitled to a pension of £3 12s. a week. The amount is £3 15s. I hope that I have not misinterpreted the honorable senator’s remarks. That pension is payable to a widow with one or more children under sixteen. A widow with one child may earn, in addition to her pension, £4 a week; if she has two children, the permissible earnings amount to £4 10s. a week. If she has one child she receives also child endowment at the rate of 5s. a week; if she has two children the amount is 15s. a week. That brings the total income to £8 where the widow has one child, or to £9 a week if she has two children. In some States there is also special assistance granted by the State, but as the amount varies I shall not give the figures to the Senate. However, I can say that the total amount of income permitted ranges with this assistance from about £8 7s. 6d. a week for a widow with one child to about £10 a week where there are two children.
– That presupposes that a widow can obtain work.
– I have stressed that these amounts include earnings or other income. I add that the permissible income of £3 10s. a week plus 10s. for each child under sixteen years of age can be earned in part-time employment.
– Part-time employment is hard to obtain.
– I know that that is so, and I know also that many of these women are doing a magnificent job in the training of their children. However, if a woman is able to accept part-time employment her additional earnings enable her to do more for her children. I agree with SenaTangney that it is most important that children should not be neglected.
On a number of occasions I have spoken in this Senate on behalf of B class widows. I have done so from both sides of the chamber, because, in my opinion, this section of the community is having a most difficult time. A B class widow is one over fifty years of age who has no children under sixteen years. Also, I am very concerned about the A class widow who, when her youngest child becomes sixteen and she is, perhaps, in her early forties, has a number of years to wait before she is entitled to a B class pension. That can be a most difficult period for her, and I again stress the need to give special consideration and assistance to these women.
In dealing with this subject we should not forget that the Government has made it possible for widows to receive medical and pharmaceutical benefits for themselves and their children. One of the greatest needs for a mother is that she shall know that her children will be given proper attention should they become ill. It is a great comfort for a woman to know that in cases of sickness she can call in her family doctor to attend to them. I believe that this is one of the greatest achievements of this Government in the social services field, and I commend the Government for what it has done.
We should realize also that a great deal is being done to grant assistance in housing. Towards the end of last year this Parliament passed legislation to make funds available to organizations which were prepared to provide homes for aged people and widows, including war widows. Recently, I was glad to be present at a ceremony in Brisbane when the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) handed over to the Brisbane wai- widows a cheque for £2,000. That sum will be put into a building fund, and will enable many widows to live in comfortable surroundings among their companions. In this connexion, I wish to pay a tribute to Mrs. Vasey because I believe that this form of housing assistance originated in her mind. It is a splendid idea. In addition to that cheque a cheque for £5,700 was handed over to the Victorian war widows for a similar purpose.
This afternoon reference has been made to war widows. In this connexion it is interesting to contrast the assistance which has been given to them by this Government and by the government which was in office between 1946 and 1949. I remember that about 1947 or 194S discussions took place in this chamber regarding the domestic allowance for war widows. At that time I spoke from an Opposition bench. In those days, a domestic allowance was paid only if a widow had one or two children under sixteen years of age. If she had more than two children, she did not receive the allowance. One of the first things that the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) did after the present Government came into office was to increase the domestic allowance irrespective of the number of children in the family. The basic pension for war widows has been increased from £2 10s. in 1946 to £4. I believe it is important that a war widow should have assistance, but it is only fair and wise to recall that this Government has endeavoured to show its sympathy in a practical way to civilian and war widows, and has increased the benefits payable to them. In addition to domestic allowances, the benefits include hospital treatment for widows and their children in repatriation hospitals when beds are available; medical and dental benefits and education benefits to which the Minister has referred in some detail. ‘ A gratuity on remarriage is granted to war widows, and that provision has been of great assistance to many women.
I wish to make it clear to honorable senators that I am always deeply concerned with the plight of any widow, whether she is a’ war widow or a civilian widow. I agree that the plight of widows is b&& and difficult, ‘because on their shoulders rests the responsibility of bringing up young children, ensuring that they are housed and fed, and prepared for the future. I believe it is the responsibility of the Government to care for them to the best of its ability. I also emphasize that this Government .has faced its responsibilities in this connexion with wisdom, vision, sympathy and understanding. Its a pproach to the matter is a credit to the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. It shows that the supporters of the Government have understood, far more than previous governments have done, the problems that face the widows. This Government will give full consideration to the problems of all the widows in the community, realizing the need they have for assistance and with the desire to help them in every possible way. This matter has not been brought forward at an appropriate time. The budget debate is the best time to consider these matters, and I am. sure that the plight of war and civilian widows will be given sympathetic consideration by the Government at the proper time.
– I support my colleague from Western Australia, Senator Tangney, and I cannot agree with Senator Annabelle Rankin that this is an inappropriate time to discuss one of the gravest problems that comes under Australian social services legislation. Honorable senators are discussing only one phase of social services, but I believe that the whole of our social services provisions are slowly being bogged down because of the political approach that has been adopted in connexion with this matter. If honorable senators glance at the details of social services payments in other countries, they will understand more readily the morass into which wo are sinking. The section of the social services legislation relating to widows’ pensions is probably the worst of a body of legislation which is not very good. Civilian widows, in particular, are the worst treated in the whole of the social services scale.
Many misfortunes beset human beings, but some of them can be foreseen to some degree. We all know that some day we shall pass from this earth, and we all know that we shall grow old, but can make some provision for the later years of life by insurance and other means. Provision can be made for a period 30 years ahead, but a woman can become a widow without warning and within a matter of minutes. On the death of her husband, a wife’s situation immediately becomes worse. Sometimes, commitments have not been met. Children are to be clothed and fed, a home is to be paid for and. there are other commitments that a widow must face alone. Often, it has not been possible to make provision for those commitments; yet, strangely enough, our social services legislation indicates that when a bread-winner is removed, a family can live more cheaply. I referred to this matter when legislation with regard to Commonwealth public service superannuation was before the Senate last year. As in the case of other superannuation schemes, contributors to that fund have to find a certain amount of money and the employer, in this case the Australian Government, contributes a certain amount. On reaching a certain age, a married couple receives a given amount under that superannuation scheme. Presumably, at 65 they have no children under the age of sixteen years. But if the husband should drop dead before reaching the retiring age, the widow has to live on half the pension in spite of the fact that if the husband lived to the retiring age, all commitments would be discharged. This burden is thrown suddenly upon the shoulders of the widow although she could not possibly foresee such a development.
Senator Annabelle Rankin defended this Government and referred to the money that could be earned by widows. I fail to understand how a widow with children can work at all. It is useless to talk about the money a widow might earn, either part-time or full-time, if she has a growing family to rear. We talk about equality of opportunity, but how can the children of a widow get opportunities equal to those afforded to other children? Quite apart from the economic difficulties, the children of a widow lose the guidance of the father, and the seriousness of that loss will be well known to Senators Robertson and Tangney, who formerly were school teachers. The guidance and experience of a father cannot be replaced. When a man with a family dies, the rearing of his children becomes more expensive. A father can do many things for his children. He can provide them with companionship, and there are repairs and other tasks in the home that he can do to reduce expenses. I recall having had a. glance at the social services benefits paid in New Zealand some time ago. I thought that New Zealand took a much more realistic attitude towards widows and their children than the Australian Government has done. I did not propose to speak in this debate and I ha.ve not refreshed my memory, but if I remember correctly, child endowment in New Zealand is increased immediately a mother becomes a widow. I suggest that that is a realistic approach to the problem because, as I have said, the rearing of children becomes more expensive when a father is removed.
I do not know of any other social service that has brought more comfort than the widows’ pension to elderly people. Widows’ pensions were originally introduced by the Curtin Government and that great man took a personal interest in the relevant legislation because it had been one of his dreams. Senator Tangney knows that he spoke of it often in Western Australia. I think it, was he who, as a member of a committee of inquiry, first set pen to paper in order to propose a widows’ pension scheme.
I remember widows who, when this scheme was first introduced, were glad to receive even a. part pension of 17s. a week. Instead of having to spend in a short time the £200 or £300 that they had saved, they were able to make it last them for a long period and they knew that when it was diminished their pension would be increased. The widows’ pension legislation is one of the best pieces of legislation that has been put on the statute-book. But do not let us be complacent over that achievement. Do not let us say that, because we have put the rubber stamp of our approval on the legislation, that is the end of it. Wives and widows should be classified as workers under the act. As Senator Tangney said, they are doing just as vital a job in the community as females who work in industry. And the moment a woman becomes a widow she commences to do an even more vital job for the community.
There has been a tendency to salve our consciences by assuming that we have done sufficient in providing a widows’ pension. Not long after the widows’ pension legislation became law I dealt with the case of a man who was killed whilst going home from work. It was my duty in those days to inquire into such cases and report what the Department of Social Services should do in order to assist the widow. In this case there were six dependent children. Had that accident taken place only eighteen months previously that widow would have been in a much worse position. The amended workers’ compensation legislation, under which £1,125 was awarded to the widow in this case, was introduced by the Curtin Government. That legislation provided that workers should be compensated for injury received on their way to or from work. Had this man been killed only twelve months previously, there would have been no inquiry to make because there was then no widows’ pension. Prior to 1940 there was not even any child endowment.
Senator Annabelle Rankin, who mentioned the amount, of money that goes into certain homes, should remember that inflation has reduced the value of that money. Figures which were of some significance ten years ago are now meaningless. Government supporters have told us that the Government has granted increases of pensions, but the increases have lagged badly behind inflation.
– What about the C series index?
– Honorable senators should not allow themselves to be trapped by arguments based on the C series index because the basic wage was pegged two years ago. I shall now read to the Senate a. newspaper article entitled Forgotten. People. This article was published in the City of Perth, where the slums are not quite as bad as they are in the bigger cities. This article reads -
Let us take the case of a widow with four young children, the widow that stays at home. Her income is £3 15s. pension, plus £2 2s.6d. from the child welfare department, plus £115s. endowment, total £7 12s.6d. for five people to live on. Just £1 10s.6d. a week each or 4s. 4d. a day.
When we listen to Government supporters speak on this subject we are inclined to think that thousands of pounds are poured into the pockets of the widows. The article continues -
How do these people survive? Ask yourself. A government official told me: “ We just don’t know how some of them manage to live “. What a glorious commentary on this land of plenty!I tell you these widows don’t live in the sense that living must mean in a civilized land. They just exist - from week to week, day to day. And the pain of that constant struggle with life is written deep in their eyes. Their drudgery stares out at you. How can you feel - how can a government feel - when I tell you widows have said to me: “Sometimes J think I’ll kill myself.’’
I shall conclude by repeating one of the remarks of the writer of this article: “ How can you feel ? How can a government feel?”
– I rise to oppose the motion for the adjournment of the Senate because if such motion were carried it would be tantamount to a vote of no confidence in the Government. ‘ As I have every confidence in the Government I shall not support the motion. However, I want to oppose the suggestion that this is the wrong time and place for this matter to be debated. I think that this is a very good opportunity for such a. debate. The pre-budget part of the year presents a favorable opportunity for the Senate to hear senators on both sides of the House to speak on such an important aspect of social services. Two good results will come out of this motion. The Government will probably receive several good ideas. It will also know that the whole Senate wants it to be as generous as it can to pensioners in its next budget. This is also a good opportunity for the Australian public to hear honorable senators state the great record of achievement of the Menzies Government in respect of pension legislation.
It has been stated that this motion has not been proposed for any political purpose, although an afternoon when the proceedings of the Senate were being broadcast was chosen for the occasion. I think that the purpose of the motion was probably to let the public know that we have faith in our Government and that we are confident that it will do all that it can, when preparing the budget, in order further to help people who are in receipt of social service pensions. If we were to listen to the cries for large increases of these pensions, and then, another day, listen to the pleas of business people to do away with the pay-roll tax, then to the defence services and the defence policy makers for more money for defence, and to other pensioners who would want increases of their pensions, all kinds of promises could be made, but few could be fulfilled. If honorable senators opposite are honest about this matter, they must admit that the question of how much pensions can be increased is one that can be decided only by those who see the whole picture of the Australian economy set out in figures in relation to income and expenditure. 1 do not propose to repeat the figures that have been cited this afternoon in regard to the pensions and allowances that are payable, and the four increases made by this Government in successive budgets, but I wish to say that it is not only in the payment of an actual monetary pension that the widows of this country can be assisted. Great honour is due to the Menzies Government for its introduction of free hospital and medical benefits for widows. Although that is not an actual payment, it represents a considerable saving for widows and also reduces their worries. Widows to-day are not receiving sufficient by way of pension to provide all that I should like to see them have. I am prepared to say openly that I believe that, in the coming budget, an increase in widows’ pensions should be made. I make the proviso, however, that that should be done only so long as the matter is considered with the other aspects of the Australian economy.
Since we are dealing with war widows’ pensions at the moment, honorable senators may remember that, in 1954, the returned soldiers’ league put before the Government a fifteen point programme.
I t later stated that although the Government had not given full effect to the fifteen points of that programme, considerable headway had been made, and the returned soldiers’ league was grateful for the reception accorded their request, ft also stated that, for the present, that was alf that the Government could do. That body,, which fights very hard for pensions for1 both ex-servicemen and war widows, appreciated the heavy commitments which the Government had to face. 1. submit that the war widows and the civilian widows’ of Australia know that there is in office a government which is alive to its responsibilities and which is keen to do its best for them. They must know, also, that in the Government parties there are many ex-servicemen who, as both the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) and the Minister for Social Services’ (Mr. McMahon) will readily agree, are continually urging that, the most generous benefits possible should be granted to- those entitled to repatriation or social services payments.
We should all realize that it fs not only the payment of money that helps widows. There is a national responsibility to come to1 the aid of such people. 1: do not wish to be misunderstood and for it to be thought that I think they should receive charity. I do not think that they should be placed in the position of having to receive charity,, but I contend that they can be helped by the community in many respects, particularly through organizations such, as’ the War Widows Guild (Australia), legacy and the returned soldiers? league-. The people in- the towns and! villages of Australia could do a lot ro brighten the lives of widows and to help them. It is- a fact that one of the greatest worries: of a woman, on the death of her husband, is the. breaking up of her social life. Even: though she may have a child old enough to loot after the other children, or is able to make arrangements’ for the children to be cared for, she is’ practically wholly unable to join in social life. I think it would be a good thing if all of us urged our acquaintances1 and friends- to try to> see that the widows’ of Australia, are not forgotten but are given some social life and entertainment,, as they would Be if their husband* were still alive-. This is not a matter for the Go- vernment. and I know that it. does noi really come within the scope of this motion, but I think it is: & point that, could be remembered by all of us.
Senator Willesee described our social services, legislation, in respect, of penmons, as some of the worst on the statutebook. All I wish to say on that point - and bringing party politics briefly into my remarks - is that the state of the legislation before 1949 needs, very strong words indeed to describe it adequately, if the present legislation is to be. termed “ shocking “. It. cannot, be denied that, when Labour was in office prior to 1949, although its supporters talked a. lot about social services,, they did not. do much about the matter. Indeed, they lost two successive Ministers for Repatriation because the people of Australia were fed up with their lack of concern for exservicemen and: others entitled to. social services benefits. It is only now,, when they are in Opposition, that they are so outspoken about the matter.. It is only now that: they are raising’ this clamour, with the. idea of getting a. few of the votes of the many people who withdrew their support, because of the breaking up of the Australian Labour party and its lack of policy.. They are using, social services as. a political gesture., They are trying to imply that they will, do great things if they are returned to office,, but their record, is. that, when they were- in office* they did very little for the people entitled to social, services, benefits, and those people suffered because of the lack of effective action.
– The. resolution before the Senate is concerned with increasing’ the rates, of pensions and obtaining’ a better deal generally- for pensioners1.. I do- not think it; matters: a tinker’s- benediction what- happened in the past. We have no deal’ with the- position as it her to-day. However, it should not- be forgotten that the widows’ pension was: introduced by a Labour government, so. that the supporters of the Australian Labour party have not only talked about this matter, a.= Senator Marriott would’ have us1 believe. I am concerned about the raw deal which widows- are getting’ to-day. I do not think, that that state of affairs: is the fault of any particular member of this
Parliament, ii ann sure that Lt is not the fault of any honorable senator. The. truth is that widows are suffering this raw deal- because,, since 1949- or 1950, there has been an inflationary trend. I give this Government credit for having granted- increases in pensions, but it is a fact that all the increases! that have. Been granted could not catch’ up with the inflationary trend. We- have now reached’ the position where the inflation is so- great that persons in receipt of social1 services pensions’ are on a. very much lower scale than they were prior- to the- inflationary trend1 commencing. Surely we should be able to do something to try to bring: them up’ to; the position they enjoyed before inflation began.. I could tell: harrowing- stories of the; plight of wai widows;, and: I am. sure that other members of the; Senate could do. likewise. We have aHi been interviewed by unfortunate widows: seeking help for themselves and- their children-. I am- concerned particularly about the plight of the children. It is true that a war widow with- children receives certain’ allowances vo assist her to bring; those children up. There is,, for- instance,, an education allowance. Child endowment, too,, is paid1. Nevertheless1, many families- are in a bad1 way. Few honorable senators have had recent experience in providing for children of school age. The education allowance payable in respect of the child of a war widow is lis.. 6d. a week. Clearly, that is not sufficient to buy all the books and other equipment that is; necessary for adequate schooling, oven at State public; schools. Schooling is a big drain om the household, finances. It is true that some widows go to work early in. the- morning; perhaps cleaning offices, and return home about. 8 o’clock to get. their children, off. to school.. Then they may also do a couple of. hours cleaning, work in the evening to- help them eke out their- existence.. Yet they are still in difficulties. Therefore- I believe that whilst the pension, itself could well be increased, it is- even more important tha.* the Government should pay attention to the allowances payable to war widows. Senator Tangney made a striking; comparison between the war widow, and the girl who. earns,, perhaps, 8’ 10s-. a week, m a shop or in- industry.
With a basic, pension, of only £4 a week, the,, war widow is a long- way behind the average female worker. I. abhor- the need of war widows? to seek assistance from such organizations as the- Legacy Club, valuable as. their work, undoubtedly is to- the community. Unfortunately,, such assistance- carries the: stigma of charity in. the eyes- of most people and! particularly el school children. Children are often unintentionally cruel to. each other.. and1 such treatment, leaves, its mark.. .1 have mentioned the Legacy ‘Club., There axe other clubs and other, funds which assist; wai” widows, andi their families. But that assistance is. a charity and not a right. The widows, are, aided because somebody has. had the foresight to- raise money or to. collect goods for distribution among the less fortunate members of the community. It- is time we. tried to< lift these people a little higher so, that they will have a. better chance in life- The upbringing of children does not involve only the provision of food,, clothing’ and. shelter. Unfortunately, to-day, many commodities which can only be regarded as, necessities,, are outside the: financial reach of a war widow who has1 to care for a family. I shall give one illustration.. When the war widows- pension was firs* introduced, it was possible to. buy a pair of blankets for a child’s bed for. 12s.. 6d. or 15s. To-day, similar blankets cost more than! £8’ a pair. The result is1 that most widows with children have to rel’y cai. charity for such comforts. Many other goods are in the same- category.
I hope: that the Minister does not think that members of the Opposition in this chamber are seeking only to make, political: capital out of this matter. The problems of war widows- must be treated with equity and justice, and I am confident that at least some Government supporters will, bring pressure to; bear- on their colleagues ta increase not: only thewaa? widows pension,, but also the various allowances associated with that pension, so that the children, particularly; may h.a.ve a- better deal- than they are gettingtoday.,
Sena.tor Annabelle,Rankin. said that this was the wrong time to deal with this subject, and that we should wait until the budget session, comes1 along: Most novices work on that idea, but the old stagers in politics know that the Government’s financial policy is determined long before the budget is brought down. Now is the time to bring pressure to bear upon Government supporters, and particularly upon the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), because he is the one who, in the final analysis, says yes or no. If we wait until the budget session, we will find that as nobody has raised any objection, the Government has decided to leave the matter as it stands. No power of persuasion will induce the Government to alter its budget proposals once they have been framed. I think every member of this chamber knows that that is right, irrespective of the political colour of the government in office. policy is always decided long before a budget is brought down. I consider that now is the time for the Government to do something for war widows and their children, as well as other pensioners in the community. Nobody could convince me that the housekeeping allowance for a widow is sufficient to enable her to maintain a decent standard of living. I consider that the widows are entitled to a better deal. As inflation increases, their position gets progressively worse. Therefore, T hope that the Government will look into this matter before the budget is introduced.
– I should, like to congratulate Senator Tangney, who is not present in the chamber at the moment, for the particularly able way that she presented this matter to the Senate. I shall not repeat the figures that the honorable senator cited, because I understand that most honorable senators have received copies of a circular letter containing them from Mrs. Vasey, president of the War Widows Guild. Mrs. Vasey has made a study of this subject. She is one of the most wonderful women in Australia to-day, and deserves great praise for the manner in which she has endeavoured to further the cause of the war widows in this country. She has capably conveyed not only to the public, but also to members of the Parliament, her thoughts in relation to the treatment of war widows. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to Mrs. Vasey for the voluntary services that she performs on behalf of the war widows.
– Hear, hear!
– I come now to a consideration of the position in relation to civilian widows. I consider them to be worse off than the war widows, because, whereas war widows are permitted to earn as much money as they wish, civilian widows are limited in that respect. This aspect of the matter has been repeatedly brought to the notice of the Government, but to date the anomaly has not been rectified.
Senator Tangney made only a passing reference to the assistance that is given to widows, particularly those with children, by the various State child welfare departments. The figures supplied by Mrs. Vasey, which were cited by Senator Tangney, did not include the extra amounts that are paid by the child welfare departments in the various States. For example, the Child Welfare Department in Western Australia is particularly generous in this connexion.
– That is so.
– I disagree entirely with Senator Annabelle Rankin’s remarks about the amount of money that a widow with children can earn, if she goes out to work. I would oppose, on every occasion possible, a widow who has young children to keep having to go out to work.
– Hear, hear !
– I . contend that the raising of children in a civilization such as we are living in to-day is more than a full-time job for a father and a mother. Therefore, I do not think the Government is justified in saying to a widow, in effect, “ We will give you so much to help you keep your children and. yourself ; now go out and earn some more “. If I were in charge of government finances, I should say to such people, “ I will pay you so much to stay at home and bring up the children of this country “.
I do not think any member of this chamber disagrees with anything that, Senator Tangney said in support of her motion for the adjournment of the
Senate. However, I atn sorry that i. will be unable to vote for the motion. 1 agree most heartily with Senator O’Flaherty’s contention that it was highly desirable for thi3 matter to be debated,, because the debate has shown the Government that honorable senators as a whole consider the most generous treatment possible should be given to the widows of this country, particularly widows with children. I urge the Government to consider seriously the suggestions that have been advanced by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. This Government is entitled to great credit for the wonderful way in which it has dealt with all sections of the communty since it came to office in 1949. I know that comparisons are odious, and therefore I shall not coinpare the achievements of this Government with those of previous governments. However, this Government deserves commendation for the prosperous conditions that are being enjoyed by the people of this country, as well as for increasing pension rates on four different occasions. Whilst I am sorry that I shall have to vote against the adjournment motion, I. think this debate will serve as a valuable pointer to the Government in relation to the thoughts of honorable senators generally on this subject.
– I do not agree with Senator Robertson’s contention that the Government deserves congratulation. Although she very eloquently recited the facts of the situation, she did not say one word about the cause. I cannot see that the Government is worthy of any congratulation on its treatment of the war widows and their dependants. In effect, the Government is the managing committee of the affairs of the nation. When one considers the facts in this matter, it is evident that the Government is in fault. I should like Senator Robertson to explain why she considers the Government should be congratulated.
The plight of the war widows and other pensioners has been accentuated by unchecked inflation. As the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has said, the amount of pension payable to them has been increased, but the increases have been- more than cancelled by a reduction of the purchasing power of money. No member of the Government has said anything about that aspect of the matter. The members of the Government had given any amount of lip service, but no measure of practical or constructive sympathy, without which lip service is not worth anything. It is beyond all doubt that the position of war widows and other widows, as well as age and invalid pensioners, is progressively going from bad to worse ; yet the Government does not propose to do anything in the matter. Senator Marriott said that the carrying of this motion would be equivalent to passing a vote of no confidence in the Government. I agree with him. The honorable senator has confidence in a government that has allowed this state of affairs to come about.
Only an elementary knowledge of economics is needed to realize the way in which inflation is operating to-day. In my opinion, inflation in Australia began with the issue of the 10s. note during World War I. Its value has fluctuated ever since. Before that war began, when I was working as a tradesman, a man in receipt of the basic wage was paid £2 8s. a week. But he could buy a substantial meal for ls., and a very good meal for 6d. That meant that he worked for one hour to earn the price of a meal. To-day, the basic wage is about £12 a week, or 6s. an hour for a 40-hour week, and the price of a meal is Ss. It will be seen that, in terms of what money will buy, the real wage has fallen, and has not increased. From the time of which I have spoken until now the earning power of the man on the basic wage has increased enormously. Yet, side by side with that state of affairs, the purchasing power of his earnings has fallen. What I have said about the price of meals is true also of clothing and housing, and almost everything else that the worker needs. Although, the greatest sufferers are women and children, the Government has not one word to say about how itintends to deal with this situation. When honorable senators opposite cite a lot of figures, they remind me of the old saying that although figures cannot lie, liars can figure. Senator Marriott also said that before .he would vote foi’ the motion before the Senate he desired to see the whole picture of the Australian economy. That situation can be summed up in a few words : maximum production for the owners of capital .and the minimum consumption for .the non-owners. Not only in Australia, but also in other countries of the world, there is unchecked and fraudulent inflation, yet the Government does nothing to meet the situation. Apparently this state of affairs is to continue unchecked; but unless the Government takes action the day will come when it will be forced off the treasury bench. Such conditions cannot continue indefinitely. As I have said, those who suffer most are the widows and children - the least organized section of the community. We call this state of affairs civilization.
We, in this Parliament, claim to be the representatives of the people as a whole, but that is not true of all of us, because the Government and its supporters represent only the owners of capital. I hold a brief mainly for those who are unorganized in the community - the widows and children who do not understand that they are progressively being impoverished. Not only in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, but also in the city of Melbourne itself, people are living under the most primitive conditions. One place which has received a good deal of publicity is Camp Pell, which was originally an American army camp. When it is suggested that people should not have to live under such conditions, some stalwarts in the State Parliament wanted to know where money could be obtained to provide better housing for the people. It is not a question of money, but of whether we believe that helpless women and children should be adequately fed and properly housed. If we believe that every person in the community is entitled to proper food and housing, something will be done, but if we do not think they are entitled to proper conditions, things will remain as they are. Should public opinion result in pressure being applied from outside sources, those who now condone such a state of affairs may be forced to do something; and then they will make a virtue of necessity. In the meantime these con-
Senator Cameron. ditions continue. Never was !there such a .’shortage of houses in .Australia as there is <to-day, yet the facilities for providing homes for the people were never .greater. As a young man, I worked in the building trade. To-day, with .modern appliances, a similar amount of work can he done in one-third of the time it took us in those days, but the shortage of houses is not being overtaken.
The real value of pensions is being reduced progressively, almost day by day. Honorable senators opposite claim credit for increasing pensions in terms of money, but they have nothing to say about the reduced purchasing power of that money. I agree with those who say that this is a national question. There is, however, no national approach to it. It is being dealt with in a purely .ex parte way. The reason is either that the Government does not know how to deal with it, or that it is afraid to tackle the question. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) wants to know what the position would be if the amount paid for these services were trebled. So long as a basic wage of £12 a week will not buy as much as £2 8s. a week did when I was working at my trade the position will not be any better. It would not be any better with the basic wage raised to £60 a week if other costs went up proportionately, because the same processes would be operating. I have repeatedly directed attention to this state of affairs. Of course. I do not expect anything different. The position ha.= gone from, bad to worse until the Government should be thoroughly ashamed of the plight of the war widows, civilian widows, age and invalid pensioners and others who are dependent upon it for assistance. If the Government really sympathized with them and were sincere in its approach to the matter, the position of the pensioners would be improved. But the pensioners cannot expect any improvement of their situation. I base that statement upon the speeches of the Minister for Repatriaion and Senator Robertson, who spoke on behalf of the Government. Senator Robertson congratulated Senator Tangney on her -plea on behalf of the pensioners, but did not add one constructive suggestion to the discussion. It is easy enough to sympathize;, but that is not enough-. Themainthingistodosomethingfor those who are in. need.Whatdoesthe Government propose to do ? Does it proposeto wait, until the next budget is presented ?’ Will it allow the present situation to go from bad to worse? While it is letting the matter slide, the slum population increasing. There are more people in the gaols and the numbers of physically and mentally ill are increasing;
Sitting suspended from 5.43 to 8 p.m.
– Mr: President, the Senate is in the concluding stage of a debate in which we are dealing with the level of widows’ pensions. The motion that has been moved by an honorable senator refers not only to the pensions of civilian widows but also to those of war widows. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber are on common ground in agreeing that it is difficult to think of any section of the community which is more entitled to: our sympathy and practical support than the widows, particularly those with young children. I should like to think that we are also on common ground in agreeing that we have a national obligation to war widows in particular - to those who have lost their husbands in the defence of their country. It is that sentiment which has given birth in Australia to one of the finest welfare movements in the world. I refer to Legacy. In the course of the debate one honorable senator expressed the view that the wards of Legacy experienced some sense of inferiority because of the assistance that they received. That is a view with which I totally disagree. I think that Legacy is doing a first-class job in looking after the material wants of its wards and also in encouraging comradeship between families who are in the same position as one another; It is work that we should all encourage and support.
The Government always carries a heavy responsibility to do what it can for those of the community who are in need. It is always possible for critics to say that a government should be doing more than it is doing. It is always pos- sible for critics to allege that one isolated group of recipients of social services shouldbebettertreated.Itis always possibleforanoppositiontosay,inone week,asLaboursenatorshavesaidin this debate that more should be done for widowsalthough,lastweek, they said that more should be: done for age pensioners. The short answer to this criticism is that the Menzies Government is doing more for those in need than has ever been done in. Australian history. Last year social services payments absorbed 4.6S per cent. of the Australian national income. In 1938-39 they absorbed. 2.11 per cent. We are a prosperous nation, our national income is rising, and each year the. Government is appropriating more for social services benefits than it appropriated in. the previous year.
This subject needs to be approached from two angles. First, it is necessary to examine what amount is being spent in the aggregate on all social services. Secondly, it is necessary- to determine whether the amount that is. being spent is being divided equitably between the various classes of recipients. There must always be room for argument as to whether the pensions of the aged should be increased in preference to the pensions of the widowed, and as to whether the widowed should receive more, in preference to those who are in need of rehabilitation. The main task is to ensure that the- cake is made as large as practicable so that each classification can get as large a slice as possible.. There is no room for criticism in relation to the aggregate amount that is being spent on social services by the Menzies Government. In 1949, when the. Australian Labour party was. in: office, the total expenditure on national health and social services was £93,000,000. The expenditure of the Menzies Government on these services last year was £195,000,000, which was more than twice the amount spent by the Labour Government during its last year of office. In 1949, the Labour Government spent 16 per cent. of its total budget expenditure on social services. Last year, the Menzies Government spent 19 per cent, of its budget expenditure on social’ services. So not only has the Menzies Government spent more on social services than did the
Labour Government in the aggregate, but it has spent a greater proportion of its total expenditure on those services.
T” honorable senators opposite who have criticized the record of the Menzies Government I say that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. The record of the present Government reveals a far more generous approach to social services than the record of the Labour Government. The Menzies Government has increased the rate of every pension. The means test has been liberalized. There has been no faltering and no hesitation on the part of the Menzies Government in doing the right thing within the limit of the nation’s resources. This ,is not only a problem of increasing the rate of pensions. There are some things which count more than money, even to those who seek assistance. The Government has brought a most progressive social services programme into operation. It has brought into being schemes which go to the root of the troubles of those in need. Under the medi.benefit scheme for pensioners, not only the pensioners, -but also their dependants can obtain free medical services and free pharmaceutical benefits. I can conceive of no greater boon to a widow with a young family than the feeling that her health will be looked after so that she cun. carry out her responsibility to her children. Under the policy of the Government, the health of the widow’s children can be protected also, so that she may have the satisfaction of seeing them grow up into strong, sturdy Australians. At the other end of the scale, we have done the same thing for the age pensioners by embarking, this year, upon the scheme of subsidizing, £1 for £1, contributions by charitable organizations towards building homes for the aged.
I do not propose to deal in detail with the subject of pensions for war widows, because my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), has dealt very ably with that matter. However, I make the passing reference that, in 1949, when the Australian Labour party was in office, the pension for a war widow with two children was £5 16s. 6d. a week, and that this Government has increased that amount to £9 6s. a week, or an increase of £3 9s. 6d. The same thing: applies to the civilian widows pensionWhen the Labour party was in office, a civilian widow with two children wasentitled to a pension of £2 7s. 6d. a week, whereas she is now entitled to £3 15s. a week, so that there has been an increase of 57 per cent, in the rate of pension during the period that the Menzies Government has been in office. Whether she should receive more, and whether the age pensioner should receive less, again is a matter of opinion. All I can say is that the decisions made by the Government regarding the appropriation of amounts for the various classifications of recipients have not been made lightly, but with a great sense of responsibility, after considering the circumstances of each category of applicant. Those decisions were made with the expert advice of the Department of Social Services, to the officers of which I pay a sincere tribute for the work that they are doing.
It is not only a question of the amount of money that a widow receives. There are other things that go with that payment. Let us consider the case of a widow with two children who is entitled to a pension of £3 15s. a week. She has the right to earn an additional £4 10s. a week. That right should not be dismissed lightly, because I suggest that it is of tremendous benefit to many widows. I dissociate myself from, the proposal that, that boon should be withdrawn. In addition, the widow is entitled to child endowment of 15s. a week, whilst in most States of the Commonwealth she receives an allowance of approximately £1 a week, so that a widow with two children receives, at the. least, £5 10s. a week, and at the most, £10 a week. Over and above that, she can add to her pension gifts or allowances which she receives from her parents, and she is also entitled to accept money from friendly societies and trade unions. She is entitled, too, to the benefit of the provisions of both the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the war service homes legislation.
I do not say that this is a perfect world or that this is the most we should do, but I do say that what we are doing in Australia has not been surpassed by any other country. That is something for which we can take credit. I believe, too, that it is not only a case of what the Government does. We Australians are a generous and open-handed people, and I believe that it is the exception rather than the rule if a widow does not receive some support or assistance from her family. In all cases the Government will consider the facts carefully and well. I hold the view that this debate has been quite helpful in enabling us to arrive at satisfactory conclusions.
So far as ex-servicemen are concerned, they have direct contact with the Cabinet. The Minister for Repatriation has served a record term in that office. He is a in an who is respected, well-liked and trusted by ex-servicemen throughout the community. That is a. sharp contrast to two previous Labour Ministers for Repatriation who lost their seats in this Parliament after holding that office. On the other side of the picture, we have the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who is bringing great vigour and drive to his portfolio. He deserves credit for initiating the scheme of homes for the aged, and also for pushing ahead with the rehabilitation scheme. I do not claim that we are a perfect government, but what I do claim is that we have faced our responsibilities in this connexion with a high appreciation of its importance.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I am sorry that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) showed a little heat towards the conclusion of his remarks. His opening words were in direct contrast to the concluding ones. When he rose to address the Senate, he pointed out that this was a very important question in respect of which many oppositions had challenged many governments to do more. I thought that the honorable senator intended to apologize for the attitude which he and the party he supports had adopted in this matter in the past, and in criticizing the previous Labour Government, but he did not pay the Opposition that compliment.
I agree with honorable senators who have spoken already that the subject of this debate is a most important one. I believe that, at heart, honorable senators on both sides of the chamber are of the opinion that something should be done in connexion with widows’ pensions, in respect of both war widows and civilian widows, and that the whole question of social services is due for overhaul in the forthcoming budget. I hope that the debate that is taking place here will induce those members of the Government who are responsible for the preparation of the budget to see to it that the anomalies which occur in regard to social services are brought to an end.
I regret that the Minister for National Development deviated from the path he obviously intended to follow when he rose to speak. I submit that no political party in this country can take greater credit for introducing social services benefits than can the Australian Labour party. The Department of Social Services has issued a booklet which gives the history of social services in this country. If honorable senators peruse that booklet they will find recorded in it the history of the Australian Labour party whilst: in government. Who introduced widows’ pensions? It was a Labour government led by the late Mr. Curtin. An honorable senator said this afternoon that the introduction of widows’ pensions was a. dream of Mr. Curtin’s. That is so, but. it was also the fervent wish of the Labour movement from the time of its inception. The supporters of that movement had a. lively recollection of the distress of widows through the ages, of women who had lost their bread-winners, when there was nothing better than the poor-house for them. They had to rely on charity at the hands of ladies’ benevolent societies and organizations of that kind, whose members came round with prying eyes to see how the widows were getting on. and who doled out some one else’s left-off clothing for the children. It was the dream of the Labour movement that if ever it came to office it would endeavour to eradicate those conditions from the life of the Australian people. So it was that Labour brought into being our first social services legislation.
Senator Spooner spoke of the amount of money that his .-government had expended .on social services in recent years and contrasted that with expenditure in the last years of the Curtin Government, The truth is that although Lu those years the Curtin Government was committed to huge expenditure for war purposes, it was able .also to provide sufficient funds not only to introduce the widows’ pensions, hut also to expand many other social services. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) would take credit for the substantial sums of money that the present Government is paying out in social services. But compare the purchasing power of money to-day with that of our currency when Labour was in office. The purchasing power of the £1 is .not half of what it was in 1948 or 1949 when the Chifley Government was in office. Money payments in themselves mean nothing unless they are related to the purchasing power of the currency, and any one who would suggest, that the value of the Menzies or Fadden £1 is equal to that of the Curtin or Chifley £1 would be foolish, indeed. Just imagine a widow with children attempting to keep house on the .miserable pittance that she receives to-day! During the war, as an encouragement to recruits, the promise was made that if a man lost his life in the service of his country, his dependants would be adequately cared for. That was a great comfort to our fighting men. But what is the position to-day ? Women who were left behind and lost, their breadwinner, are finding the greatest difficulty in making ends meet. The Minister for National Development says that a war widow is entitled to earn some money. That is quite true, and in that respect she is a little better off than the civilian widow. But I remind the Minister that one ‘Government supporter at least, Senator Agnes Robertson, believes this to be a position that- we should not tolerate. Surely a widow who is charged with the responsibility of bringing up children should not be compelled, because of the inadequacy of the provision that the Government makes for her, to go out and work. Surely she has a right to be in her home to welcome her children when they return from school or from
Venator Sheehan. work, just ,-as she would if her husband were .alive. There is much talk to-day of .child delinquency. Grime by juveniles is on the increase in our cities. Why is that? It is increasing because of the lack .of real home .life. Many children to-day do not have .adequate parental control .and the absence of mothers from homes during the day is a contributing factor.
If this debate will result in more generous provision for war widows and other social services beneficiaries in the forthcoming budget, it will have been worthwhile. I hope that, .as the result of what I have said about Labour’s accomplishments in the field of social services, honorable senators opposite will cease their endless criticism of the Labour party’s record in this field. Labour’s aim has always been to provide every possible assistance to needy sections of the community.
– Not on your life!
– I am afraid that Senator Henty is still back in the days of earlier Liberal governments “when pensioners were deprived of their right to own a home. It was under Labour legislation that pensioners were first permitted to own their own homes without prejudicing their pension rights. I deplore any suggestion that the time is not yet ripe for an improvement of social services generally. The time has long since gone when this Government, with its unprecedented revenue, .should have turned its attention to the needs of pensioners. I trust that when the budget is presented there will be a worthwhile increase of pension and other payments under our social services legislation.
– We will not reduce pensions as Labour did.
– Labour did not reduce pensions. The pension reductions to which the honorable senator is referring were made as the result of a visit to this country of exponents of the political philosophy favoured by the present Government and its predecessors. I refer to Sir Otto Niemeyer and other economists who recommended a reduction of Australian living standards. They said, in effect, “ These Australians are enjoying a standard of living that is too high. Too many workers have wireless sets, pianos and gramophones “ Working people were just beginning to enjoy some of the amenities of life which in the past had been the prerogative of the favoured few. Asthe result of the visit by Sir Otto Niemeyer, the Scullin Government was refused financial assistance. But it was the anti-Labour Senate of those days that forced a reduction of pensions. That would never have been done if the interests of the Australian people hadbeen the first consideration. Pensioners had to mortgage their homes to live, or they had to hand their homes over to the Government in order to draw a pension. That is the background of the cry by honorable senators opposite that the time is not yet opportune to give a helping hand to this most defenceless section of the community. Only the force of public opinion will alter that attitude.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin).- Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Senator Sheehan commenced his speech by referring with a rather flamboyant gesture to a pamphlet issued by the Department, of Social Services, in which he said, quitedramatically, is inscribed the history of Labour’s legislation. I was encouraged to think - just momentarily - that he might read some of that pamphlet to us, but for a very obvious reason he did not do so. Had he read some of the pamphlet, he would have found the record of the parties whonow sit on the Government side of this chamber, who were responsible for most of the social legislation that was introduced into this country over the years since federation. If the honorable senator had beencompletely honest and read that pamphlet - one which I commend to the entire population of Australia - the truth of what I say would have become evident. Just as the commencement of his speech was rather striking, so also was the end of it. He made extremely heavy going when he tried to remove from the Labour Government of 1931 the the responsibility for reducing age pensions. In trying to justify the action of the government of that day, he attempted to sheet home theblame, not to the parties who form the Government to-day,but to some peoplewho came from across the world and allegedly tendered certain advice. Whatever Senator Sheehan might say, no amountof explaining ican gainsay the fact that a Labourgovernment was in charge of the legislative halls in those days, and it nested entirely with the Labour government to pass that legislation.
– There was a hostile Senate.
– The Labour Government could have done what any courageous government would do; it could have forceda double dissolution and gone to the country on that issue. Instead, it ran away from its responsibility, which it now claims as its exclusive and sacred right.
Icome now to the subject-matter of the motion, which is of great importance to the people of this country. It is, I suppose one of the foremost domestic problems with which anyof the democracies is faced to-day. We mightwell take notice of what the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said in a speech in which he drew attention to the fact that, despite criticisms of the distribution of our social services-
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 64.
alteration or Boundaries.
– I lay on the table thefollowing papers : -
Commonwealth Electoral Act - Reports, with Maps, by the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing into Electoral Division the States of -
Western Australia. and move -
That the report be printed.
The object of this motion is togive honorable senators an opportunity to study the maps. At a later stage, a motion will be submitted for either the rejectionor acceptance of the proposals.
– The Opposition has no objection to the course proposed. I understand that the effect of the motion being agreed to will be to make the maps and papers available to honorable senators. Section 24 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides that, before the recommendations can be given effect, they must be approved by a resolution of both Houses of the Parliament. I take it that in due course the Government will move for the acceptance or rejection of the report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move-
That Statutory Rules 1955, No. 4, Sulphuric Acid Bounty Regulations, made under the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954, be disallowed.
If the regulations were allowed to remain, they would add an unfair amount to the cost of superphosphate, particularly in Western Australia. Regulations have been promulgated in conformity with the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954, which was passed during the closing hours of the last sessional period of the Parliament. It provides another example of the inadvisability of rushing measures through this chamber without properly digesting them. When honorable senators considered the legislation during the closing hours of the last sessional period, they did not have the benefit of the Tariff Board’s report on this matter. That report was not made available until well into this year. As honorable senators will recall, the object of the Sulphur Bounty Act was to pay a bounty to sulphuric acid manufacturers on the cost of producing sulphuric acid from pyrites. Although the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) delivered an informative second-reading speech on the measure, it is very important that we should look at this matter very carefully, in order to get a proper appreciation of the effect of the bounty.
I direct attention to the fact that, at the instigation of the Government, an inter-departmental committee was appointed in 1950 to go into the question of the manufacture of sulphuric acid from pyrites. The following recommendations were contained in the report that the committee submitted: -
Representatives of five departments were appointed to the committee, but a grave error was made in not appointing thereto a direct representative of the primary industries. This had a detrimental effect on the progress that manufacturers are making towards the conversion of their plants. During World War II., it was realized that if Australia were to be deprived of its American source of brimstone, agricultural production would come almost to a standstill. In Western Australia and Victoria, which use more superphosphate than do the other States, superphosphate for agricultural production and pasture improvement is as necessary as are water and light. Consequently, in order to prevent loss of production through non-availability of brimstone, the government of the day took steps to see that we should produce superphosphate from sulphur supplies in Australia. To a limited degree that has been done.
At the time that the committee made that report it was announced that the reserves of brimstone in America were less than had been estimated previously. As a result, the American authorities rationed its brimstone exports. That is shown in the following extract : -
The Paley Report to the President of the United States of America, the “Sulphur Economy “ report of the National Resources (Technical) Committee, United Kingdom Board of Trade, and a report on a long-range survey of the brimstone position by the International Materials Conference, express the view that the supply position regarding brimstone will become worse, possibly acute, between 1955 and inco.
It was for that reason that the Government appealed to the sulphuric acid manufacturers to use locally produced pyrites. Western Australia immediately took steps to carry out the wishes of the Government, with the result that to-day that State is producing 50 per cent, of its sulphuric acid requirements from pyrites. As I intended to take some action in this matter, I wrote about two months ago to the inter-departmental committee to ascertain what progress was being made by the manufacturers to convert their plants in conformity with the Government’s wishes. Honorable senators can imagine my surprise when I received a reply from the committee that the information sought was confidential, and could not be made available to me. I should like to know why it was refused. The manufacturers in the eastern States refused to say what they were doing, or to state the quantity of sulphuric acid they were manufacturing.
There is a further significant paragraph in the Tariff Board’s report of August, 1954. It reads-
There is no limit to the profits that may lie made by any manufacturers who may choose to postpone conversion or who may not convert their plant at all.
In discussing this matter to-night we should bear that statement in mind. Western Australia, by complying with the request of the Government, has penalized the users of superphosphate in that State by making it the most expensive superphosphate in Australia.
I shall return to the action of the eastern States in connexion with the conversion of their plants. In conversation with a manufacturer three or four years ago,I asked him if he was using pyrites. He replied, “ Why should I ? “ There are some illuminating figures in the report of the Tariff Board. In 1951-52 in Australia 24.5 per cent, of the sulphuric acid was obtained from pyrites. In 1952-53 the proportion was 29.4 per cent, and in the following year it was 25.3 per cent. That is just about one- half of the Western Australian production. I repeat that, by not complying with the Government’s request, and by using brimstone, these companies are supplying superphosphate at lower rates than those charged to agriculturists in Western Australia, where the desires of the Government were complied with.
Another paragraph which appears on page 4 of the Tariff Board’s report reads -
It is estimated by manufacturers that during 1954-55 sulphuric acid produced from brimstone will comprise approximately two-thirds of the total Australian output, the highest percentage of total output since 19MS. To attain the Government’s target of OS per cent, of sulphuric acid from materials other than brimstone “ non-brimstone “ plant output must therefore double its present figure.
That shows that the companies are not assisting the Government in this vital matter. It is indeed a vital matter. From time to time we hear references to the possibility of another war. If war were to break out, and these companies were left without supplies of brimstone, agricultural production in some States would almost cease.
Another significant statement by the manufacturers which is quoted in the Tariff Board’s report is to the following effect : -
During the early part of 1953 the Government reaffirmed its policy of conversion of Australian sulphuric acid plants to the use of local materials. Control of brimstone by import licensing and allocation is to continue, furthering suggestions that the industry should form a pool for the purchase, distribution and equalisation of brimstone and pyrites prices and that the aim should be to produce 65 per cent, of Australian requirements of sulphuric acid from local materials by 1950. The industry is at present unable to form a pool under its own control but considers that the target may be practicable, given sufficient protection against imported brimstone and an increase in demand not exceeding 10 per cent.
I repeat that this is a vital matter.
I shall now quote from another document to show what can be done in agricultural production by the use of superphosphate. In the Wickepin district of Western Australia 266 tons of superphosphate were used in 1946-47. By 1952-53 the quantity used had risen to 1,968 tons and in 1953-54 to 2,610 tons. The area treated rose from 7,581 acres to 74,591 acres: The area top-dressed increased by 884 per cent., the superphosphate used increased by 881 per cent., the sheep carried on the land increased by 42 per cent, and the weight of the wool per fleece increased by 28 per cent. That district is still only half served. Those figures indicate the wonderful possibilities of increasing production in Western Australia if we can get cheap superphosphate. Owing to the use of trace elements, that State is bringing into cultivation areas where previously agricultural production was not possible. From time to time appeals for increased production are made. The greatest thing we can do to increase production is to provide more superphosphate at reasonable rates. I was interested in an address delivered last year by Sir Ian CluniesRoss, in which he said that by the use of superphosphate and trace elements Australia could produce 1,000,000 bales of wool more than are being produced to-day. That statement by so eminent an authority as Sir Ian Clunies-Ross will give some indication of how our agricultural production depends on superphosphate.
I draw attention to some of the possibilities that users of superphosphate will have to face if this bounty of £2 a head is given to all manufacturers. According to the Tariff Board’s report, if we take the average cost of pyrites at the consumers’ works as 100, the position of manufacturers will be -
A most astounding feature of the Tariff Board’s report is contained in about seven or eight tables dealing with the cost of pyrites at the works and elsewhere. It says that the tables do not follow the same rotation. I would like to know why. What is the use of recommending equal figures in each State when the proposal is so garbled that one cannot follow it. The first point is the variation of costs that the manufacturer has to get on the same bounty of £2 a ton. I took the opportunity of getting a return of the prices of superphosphate’ a ton in each State. They are as follows: -
Those figures reveal that consumers in Western Australia are paying more than £1 a ton more than the highest price in any of the other States. If the cost of. landing the superphosphate on the farms is taken into consideration, it will be seen that Western Australians are at a big disadvantage because of the long distances. The average farm in Western Australia is about 200 miles from the factory, and the cost is £17 a ton landed on the farms. I visited a friend’s farm recently, and he told me that he used 300 tons of superphosphate a year at £17 a ton. Not many farmers are able to lay out £5,400 on superphosphate before they know what the season will be like.
I wish to direct attention to another example of the effect of the prices on Western Australia. An examination of the cost of producton of butter conducted recently by the Dairy Cost Board showed that superphosphate represents 6d. per lb. in the production of butter in Western Australia. In the eastern States, the comparative figure is Id. per lb. That indicates how necessary it is for farmers in Western. Australia to have cheaper superphosphate. I was amused a few weeks ago when I heard the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) urge, in an address that was broadcast, increased production as the best way of ending import restrictions. I agree with him. The more cheap superphosphate we can get, the more chances we have of increasing production.
– How will this motion make for cheaper superphosphate?
– I shall endeavour to explain that to the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) before I have finished. I direct the attention of the Senate now to the cost of pyrites to the different works. For example, in the report of the
Tariff Board, ait page 13, the board states -
If the simple average of the prices charged at the points- of production be taken as 100, the individual prices would be -
In an earlier section of the report, the board has; shown that the experiences, of manufacturers- who have used both pyrites and brimstone indicate that the advantages, derived from using brimstone range from 6s. 2d., to £4 9s. 6d. a ton of acid. They also- show that the payment of a flat rate of £2 a ton of acid will mean that some manufacturers will benefit unnecessarily, while others will not receive sufficient. The board can. see no method of distribution of bounty that will overcome this difficulty. By far the greater part of the acid produced in Australia is used for the production of superphosphate. Therefore, there is room for some adjustment of advantages and disadvantages in the price of superphosphate. This, however, will not be a. complete solution of the problem because all the high-cost manufacturers are not situated in one area. There will be areas, in which both high-cost and low-cost manufacturers, will be in competition. Again, there is an example of the unwillingness of some manufacturers to’ divulge costs of production. In the Tariff Board’s report at page 13 there is the following, statement : -
The prices charged by suppliers under contract to users, of pyrites from Mount Lyell, Tasmania, Captain’s Flat,. New South Wales, were given in confidence; The price of the material from. Mount Morgan,. Queensland, was stated to. be. £3. a ton at the mine. The main product material produced at Norseman, Western Australia, is, sold for more than £8 a ton. of concentrates at mine, while the pyrites. to: be. produced at Nairne (South Australia ),, is. expected to be- sold for a price which might represent about £3 a ton. at the mine. those prices are as stated at the mine, but,, for- example, Geelong has to obtain its requirements from Mount Morgan, in Queensland,, while a Victorian competitor willi obtain’ its raw materia! from. Tasmania. Obviously one producer will, have an advantage over its competitor. There can be only one conclusion. The com.- pally that has the advantage will either make bigger profits or will under-sell its competitor, providing each of them receives the bonus of £2.
– The honorable senator believes in competition,, does he not.?
– Yes,, on a fair basis.. As I have said, manufacturers in certain States will have a substantial advantage over others. This was recognized by the Tariff Board and,, consequently,, it suggested to the manufacturers that they might co-operate and establish a uniform Australian average price for pyrites into acid manufacturers’ works, but the reaction of some producers to this proposal was- not sympathetic The benefits of the suggestion- were borne out by the experience during- the war years just before the bounty was made payable. Then Australia obtained 92 per cent, of the brimstone from the United States of America and the remainder from Sicily. The ..American brimstone cost £16 a ton and the Sicilian cost £32 a ton and was rising. Therefore, the British Phosphate Company bought all the brimstone and sold it at an average price of £19 *a ton. Probably that suggested to the Tariff Board- a line of act-ion regarding the supply of pyrites.
In Western Australia, we will bn heavily penalized because the price will be £8 a ton a.t the mine. That is due to the- fact that in. Western Australia we extract only pyrites from the ore. There is no other mineral to share the cost. At Mount Morgan and in Tasmania, other minerals are extracted so- that pyrites can be produced more cheaply. The cost at Mount Morgan is’ £3 a ton, but vrc d> not know the cost at Mount Lyell’, because the company concerned will not divulge the information. I shall cite an example of the increase that is taking place in- the use of superphosphate in Western Australia. Four years ago, we used 10’6;,000 tons. It is estimated that, in 1955, Western Australia will- use 500,000 tons. Four or five years ag©;. superphosphate Cost £10- *a ton on. the farm, but now it is. £17 a. ton. I have no doubt that the- Government,, in opposing this motion, will state- that it has. carried out- the recommendations of the Tariff Board;, but the Government has not carried out all the recommendations. The Tariff Board states at page IS of its report -
Strong representations were made by some manufacturers against the provision in the Sulphur Bounty Act which limits profits of recipients of bounty to a maximum of 10 per cent, on funds employed. It was stressed that the preservation of this stipulation was no encouragement to investors to outlay capital for the conversion of plants, particularly as the net return after provision for reserves and taxation would be very low. The Board considers that the circumstances under which assistance is being sought by this industry are different from (lie circumstances usually associated with an industry seeking protection or assistance. In this instance the Government has been urging manufacturers to convert their plants to the use of indigenous materials and there is no limit to the profits that may be tn ken by any manufacturers who may choose to postpone conversion or who may decide not to convert. The strongest argument for the maintenance of the profit provision in the Act is that some manufacturers will, on the figures available, be obtaining bounty in excess of actual needs. The Board believes that some of this excess, if not all of it, will bc used to reduce the price of superphosphate.
That is the problem. Superphosphate is charged in each State at the same price no matter where it come3 from.. The provision that the recipient of the bounty shall not make a profit above a certain amount will be hard to. police. In the case of an establishment which is turning out .superphosphates from pyrites as well as from brimstone it will be difficult to ascertain what proportion is coming from brimstone and what proportion is coming from the pyrites.
There is another difficulty. Not only will the manufacturers have to convert their plants so as to use pyrites instead of brimstone, but they also will have to enlarge their factories because, by using pyrites instead of brimstone, they will reduce their production capacity by 30 per cent. It will be difficult to persuade people to invest in a company which will be subject to these conditions before it can obtain a bounty.
In opposing this motion the Government might cite the constitutional difficulties that were indicated by the Tariff Board. The matter seems to be governed by section 51, sub-section (iii.) of the Constitution, which reads as follows: -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Con.stitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: -
bounties on the production or export of goods, but so that such, bounties shall be uniform throughout the Commonweal th
That provision seems to indicate that the Government can only pay a bounty which is obtainable at the same rate by producers throughout the States. I have not been able to find any argument that would contradict that proposition in the report of the debates of the Federal Convention. The subject of bounties did not seem to receive very much attention. But I imagine that when that provision was included in the Constitution it was intended that conditions in the various States would be similar. Obviously, if they were dissimilar, certain States would gain an advantage over others. Another part of the Constitution which might have some bearing on this matter is section 99, which states -
Thu Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof. 1 was interested to read the statement of Mr. Justice Dixon in the case of Crowe v. the Commonwealth. At page 92 of Commonwealth Law Reports 1954, in relation to section 99 of the Constitution, Mr. Justice Dixon is reported as follows : -
In relation to trade and commerce as distinguished from revenue, the preference referred to by Section 99 is evidently some tangible advantage obtainable in the course of trading or commercial operations, or at least some material ostensible benefit of a commercial or trading character.
If the proposed bounty of £2 a ton is given equally to all manufacturers, a manufacturer in Victoria will have a decided advantage over competitors at Geelong. Whether that state of affairs will constitute preference under section 99 of the Constitution I shall leave it to the legal luminaries to tell us. But Mr. Justice Dixon’s interpretation of clause 99 was supported by Mr. Justice Starke in the case of Elliott v. the Commonwealth. The Geelong manufacturing company sells no small amount of superphosphate in New South Wales. There is a manufacturing company in New South Wales which obtains pyrites from close at hand - at Captain’s Flat. The proposed bounty might enable that company to reduce its price and under-sell the Geelong company in New South Wales. In other words, a company in one State would have been given preference over a company in another State. That position may have a bearing on this matter.
I do not admit that I have any obligation to propose an alternative scheme. But I suggest that further consideration be given to the possibility of pooling all supplies of pyrites and supplying them to all manufacturers at the one price. If that were done and the bounty of £2 a ton were paid to all manufacturers, then they would all be on the same footing and no State would receive preference over another.
– Would the honorable senator repeat that proposition?
– If the available supplies of pyrites throughout Australia were allocated, just as the British Phosphate Commission allocated supplies of brimstone during the war, and a uniform price charged throughout Australia, then, if the Government paid a bounty of £2 a ton, all manufacturers would receive their raw materials at the same price. This would reduce the price of superphosphate considerably in some cases although it might increase the price in certain other cases in which manufacturers had favorable contracts.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of Senator Seward. The right of the honorable senator to submit this motion is not disputed. It will be treated in a non-party manner. But honorable senators, particularly those from Western Australia, had better take care that the honorable senator’s motion is not carried, because, if it is, there will he no bounty at all. It is under the proposed regulation that the bounty will be paid. There is provision in the act for the payment of a bounty but it is the proposed regulation that will determine the rate of the bounty. In differing from Senator Seward on this matter, I should not like it to be thought that the Government is not mindful of the importance of that vast State of Western Australia which occupies onethird of the area of the Commonwealth, and which is peopled by about only onethirteenth of our population. Because of the drift of world affairs, it is probably the most important and the most vulnerable part of the Commonwealth. I. also come from a remote but, in my view, not an unimportant State, the State of Queensland, where we have vast areas and not nearly sufficient people to exploit and turn to profitable account the very rich resources with which we have been endowed. Right from the early days of federation, and regardless of the type of government in office in Western Australia at any particular time, the eastern States have not been unmindful of the needs and requirements of that State, and throughout those years, not ungenerous treatment has been meted out to it.
The case put up by Senator Seward this evening impressed me as one, not so much for decision by this Parliament and debate in this chamber, as for presentation to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The honorable senator pointed out that differing costs of production may be brought about on account of the vast, distances, and remoteness from electrical power, the seaboard, water, and so on, all of which are matters, in my opinion, for consideration by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, rather than for consideration in this chamber. Of course, Parliament is supreme, but there are certain matters which it, in its wisdom over the years, has seen fit to delegate to statutory bodies. The Tariff Board is answerable through ministerial channels to the Parliament, but I do not think that any of us would care to convert the proceedings of this Senate into a Tariff Board hearing. We have chosen a special board to inquire into matters affecting tariffs. That board is clothed with authority to summon witnesses, to hear evidence on oath, and to make a thorough and complete investigation. As a result of its advice, the Government makes its decisions. That is a specialized function. I think it is much better that matters which are appropriate to be dealt with by bodies such as that should be so dealt with, and that the
Governmentshouldthenhave an opportunity to examinethereport of thebody and take suchaction as it deems fit. Similarly, if any of the claimant ‘States -South Australia, Western Australia or Tasmania - feels that, due to particular circumstancesbroughtabout as ; a result offederation or by virtueof federal policy, it suffers a disability which dehars it from functioning properly : as a sovereign State, it has access to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Over the years,on the recommendation of that commission, Australian governments have not been ungenerous in meeting the needs of those claimant States.
Apart from disallowing this regulation altogether -andI take it that thatis the aim of the resolution moved by the honorable senator - I see no half-way course. A suggestion was made that it would be desirable, if it could be brought about, for this commodity to be pooled, as was done during the war. We are not living in ; a perfect world, and we have no legislative authority to bring about such a state of affairs. That was done, during the period of the war, either on a voluntary basis or by virtue of the defence power which was then vested in the Commonwealth. Butthere is no legislative sanction or authority whereby we could insist on such a state of affairs being brought about now.
Thehonorable senator said thatwe werenot adopting intoto the recommendations of the Tariff Board. Ido not accept that proposition. We are not dealing with the whole of the operations of the Tariff Board, but in relation to this bounty we are following precisely the recommendation of the board in regard to the quantum, method, and manner of allocation of thebounty. By inference, SenatorSeward suggested that, possibly, some of the ‘interested companies on the eastern seaboard wouldnot need any subsidy at all, and that huge profits might be made. Contingencies such as that have been provided for, although I personally belongto a government that ; sees no inherent, essentialevil in profit-making. There isa limit to the permissible profit which a company may make. It is121/2 per cent. of the capital engaged, if the company is to qualify as a beneficiary under ‘the bounty. lif theprofitexceeds 121/2 per cent.of thecapitalengaged in the industry, thecompany ceasestobe eligible to enjoythe bounty.
Apart from the suggestion of the honorahle senator concerning pooling, which we have no right, power or authority to enforce, he hasleft usdestituteof an alternative, other than the complete disallowanceof the bounty. There as no provision in the Constitution whereby we, as a. government, can make a differential allowance in a bounty forone State as distinct from another. I shallleave the legal aspectof the matter to the Attorney - General (‘Senator Spicer), who I hope will follow me later in thedebate,but such law as I recall impels me, with all the force at my command, to impress upon honorable senators that, with all the goodwill in the world, the Australian Government is expressly and in terms forbidden, in its allocation of bounties, to make for anything but complete uniformity. The ‘authorities on that are manifold.
Senator Seward referred in his remarks to section ‘99. The mischief aimed at in that section is the possibilityof one State being preferentially treated. Withoutboring the Senate, I should like to read an excerpt from the judgment of LathamC.J., in Willis v. the Commonwealth, reported in Volume ‘Common- wealth Law Reports, page668. This, I think, will emphasize tothe Senate the complete prohibition, as far ‘as this Parliament is concerned, against making any differentiation in the allocation of bounties. In other words, the Parliament is bound to see that bounties are uniform throughout the Commonwealth.. The Chief Justice stated -
Laws with respect to bounties on the export of goods fall under section 51(iii)andalso as lawsof trade or commerce undersection 99.Apreferenceinrelationtoanyofthese subjectswhichinfringedsection.99wouldalso be a discrimination or a prohibited lack of uniformity under one of theother sections. Preference necessarily involves discrimination orlackofuniformity,but discrimination or Jack of uniformity does notnecessarilyinvolve preference.
In reference to a somewhatsimilar, if not identical, provision intheConstitutionof theUnited Statesof America, the SupremeCourt oftheUnitedStatesused theterm”geographicaluniformity”.In thesame case,Willisv.theCommon- wealth.LathamC.J..inreferringtothose wordsoftheSupremeCourtoftheUnited States,said -
So also section51(3.)oftheCommonwealth Constitution requires geographical uniformity in relation tobounties. Theremust not be, in the caseof bounties, any variation based upon locality within theCommonwealth,in considering this provision, it is not necessary to inquire whether there is absence of uniformity as”betweenStates or parts of States “. Any absence of geographical uniformity”” ( which includes the presence of any discrimination or preference ‘based upon locality) would constitute a ‘breach of section 51 (iii.).
That is thesection to which the honorable senator referred predicating the necessity of uniform bounties. His Honourcontinued - “The marked difference in language between the wordsofthissection and thoseusedin section99 cannot in myopinion be ignored. In the case df section 51 (iii.) . it is sufficient in order toinvalidate legislation ‘to find any differentiation ‘based onlocality in the widest sense. In the caseof section 99 it is necessary to show that a. preference is givento one State or partofastate over another State or part ‘of a State.
The Chief Justice also stated -
So in placitum (iii.) “Bounties on the productionorexportofgoods, butsothatsuch bounties shallbe uniform throughout the Commonwealth “ the Parliament is precluded from attempting to equalize the conditions which nature has made unequal. Again by section S8 lit as provided that “ uniform duties of Customs “ shall be imposed within two years. The inequality df the indirect effect o’f Customs duties in different parts of the Commonwealth is obvious to all personsacquainted with Its conditionsbut any attempttocorrectthis inequality is forbidden.
Inthe case Elliott v. the Gommonwealth theChief Justice said -
In the case of bountiesupon theproduction or export of goods the requirements ofsection 51 (iii.)isthat they shall be “uniform throughout ‘the Commonwealth “.Thissection would (beinfringed by absence of uniformity whether or not any preference was givento a State or part o’f a State overanother State orpart’thereof”.
It has been suggested that there is differentiation by the ‘Commonwealth in the matter of ‘federal aid road grants. But “they come under an entirely different section o’f the Constitution. Section ‘96 expressly provides that - “Duringa period of ten, years after the establishment o’f theCommonwealth ‘and ‘thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the
Parliamentmay grant financial assistanceto any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinksfit.
That is an express provision whereby , the Commonwealth may make grants to States, and pursuant to that provision substantial aid road grants have “been made to various Statesaccording to a formula which is not uniform.I point out also that section 96 empowers the Commonwealth to make grants only to States and not to individuals or to specific industries. Since.federation, the payment of bounties has been exclusively the function of the Commonwealth. So, with all the goodwill in the world towards Western Australia, and recognizing the tremendous importance to -the Commonwealth of the continued progress, prosperity and development ofthat State, I say that it is in the interests of this important industry that the regulation should not be disallowed. I cannot see any means whereby the disadvantages, which I admit Western Australia suffers under this regulation, could be adjusted without violating the Constitution and, therefore, taking completely futile action. Without wishing to offer gratuitous advice to my colleague, I ‘say that if Queensland were a claimant State, and the circumstances outlined by the honorable senator applied in that State, I would urge those interested to submit their case to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. That, in my opinion, is the proper tribunal to examine the details of the case, and to make recommendations upon the evidence that is placed before it. In conclusion, I warnall honorable senators that “the disallowance of this regulation could do nothing hut harm Ito Western Australia and ‘tothe eastern Statesaswell. Sofar as I can see, no benefits whatsoever would result.
SenatorFRASER(Western Australia) [9.27]. - I agree with the ‘Minister for Trade andCustoms (Senator O’Sullivan) that disallowance of ‘this regulation could donothingbut harm. The moverof the motion has not suggested [anything ‘that could taketheplaceof theregulation.I remind the honorable senator, too,that this Government removedtherailfreight subsidy onsuperphosphate, whichwasa seriousmatterforWesternAustralia because of the long haulagetothatState.
As the Minister for Trade and Customs has said, this is a matter to which the Commonwealth Grants Commission might well direct its attention at an early date. In October of last year, I ashed a aeries of questions about the sulphur pyrites industry at Norseman, in Western Australia. Incidentally, I point out that the establishment of that industry at Norseman was the work of the Chifley Government and I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) for his strenuous fight for this project. My questions to the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade and Customs in October last were as follows : -
The Dundas-road Board views with concern the importation into Australia of Japanese sulphur at a price considerably below Japanese cost of production made possible by previous sales to Australia, during the sulphur shortage, at extortionate prices f
That means, I take it, that the industry in Japan was being subsidized to permit the export of sulphur to Australia. The resolution continues -
It requests the Federal Government to implement the stated policy that 05 per cent, of al] sulphuric acid used in Australia be obtained from local sulphur-bearing materials. lt draws attention to the fact that, in Western Australia only 35 per cent, of acid is so produced although acid plants already converted by pyrite are capable of producing 55 per cent, of all acid.
That departs from the Tariff Board’s report, which stated that the converted plants are capable of producing 65 per cent, of all acid. The remainder of the resolution reads -
It considers that a continuation of the present policy of acid manufacturers could have very serious repercussions on Western Australian wool and wheat production when imports of sulphur from America are finally curtailed, which according to American and Australian experts, will take place between 1955 and 1960.
Will the Acting Minister give an assurance that the Government’s policy will be implemented and the future of the industry and its workers protected?
That is what the industry at Norseman wanted to do. It is capable of producing up to 55 per cent, of acid, but the Tariff Board recommended the production of 65 per cent. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) stated that the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) had supplied the following answers : -
A statement on the subject has not since been made by the Minister. Obviously, the Government is unaware that workmen were put off from a pyrites mine.
I take this opportunity to point out. that the position in this instance is typical of the attitude of Ministers in this chamber towards questions asked by members of the Opposition. Of course, 1 realize that departmental officers prepare answers to questions asked upon notice.
If Senator Seward had given an indication of what was intended to replace these regulations, if they were disallowed. I could have considered the matter on that basis. But he has merely moved for the disallowance of the regulations. An injury would be done to the industry unless something were ready to take their place. I know as much about the disabilities of Western Australia as does Senator Seward, but I do not think the disallowance of these regulations would assist that State to overcome its problems. In the absence of any information as to what it is intended shall replace the regulations, I intend to vote against, the motion.
– The motion proposes to disallow certain regulations in relation to the payment of a bounty on sulphuric acid. Such a motion is unique in this chamber, at least in my time, and Senator Seward is to be congratulated on moving it. Senator Fraser appears to be concerned about the fact that Senator Seward did not mention alternative regulations to take the place of those now being attacked. I shall endeavour, during my speech, to indicate to Senator Fraser the nature of an alternative regulation which might appeal to him. I hope that he will give to it his earnest consideration before the vote is taken. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) stated that generous treatment had been meted out to Western Australia by the present Government. Our illustrious leader, either wittingly or naively, drew a red herring across the trail. This is not a matter of State rights, ft does not concern Western. Australia, Victoria, or any other State. It has nothing whatsoever to do with State rights nr State boundaries. This is a bounty to private companies. It does not necessarily follow that any one State receives a blessing, or a disservice from the bounty. The Minister suggested that an alternative way out of this quandary would be to refer the matter to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I suggest that the proposed regulation is an unjust one. We would be guilty of the practice of dubious ethics if we referred the matter to the Commonwealth Grants Commission in order to rectify this injustice. I do not think that that would appeal to the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
a dis utility, not an injustice.
– There is a threat that if we do not accept the regulation there may be no subsidy at all.
– It is not a threat; it is a fact.
– If the Senate disallows this regulation the Minister is under an obligation to take action with respect to a subsidy that will be s p proved by the Senate. I shall not be browbeaten by threats that if we knock out, this piece of legislation there will be no subsidy for sulphuric acid. I submit that this is a matter which is not confined to Western Australia. The Senate should adopt a long-term attitude, and not take the stand that because, for the time being, the cost of production in Western Australia ? relatively high, it follows that that will continue, or that the cost of production in. say. South Australia or Queensland, will remain relatively low. Honorable senators from those States should be wary lost, in due course, the cost of production in their States should fluctuate, and they be hoisted with their own petard if they vote for the retention of this regulation.
– Is that a threat ?
– No. There is a bounty at the rate of £2 a ton on sulphuric acid. That basis is both unreal and inequitable. It is undesirable to have a fiat rate in. respect of a bounty of this kind. It will certainly have unfortunate consequences;. In the first place, some producers are making handsome profits even without the bounty. The bounty would increase their profits. Other producers, including the Norseman Mining Company, are producing sulphuric acid from pyrites at a loss. They need a subsidy. The bounty has the effect of increasing the profits of those who are already making profits, while not helping those who are now producing at a loss. A disastrous effect of the bounty is that it affects the price of superphosphate in the States where the cost of sulphuric acid is high. It will have that effect in Western Australia. I repeat that the present arrangement is both unreasonable and inequitable. The bounty is virtually a mining subsidy based on production. Any one who knows anything about mining knows that a subsidy on a flat rate is unreal, because geographical factors affect the cost of production. Moreover, the cost of production at the mine varies from place to place. Ore must be mined where it exists. The farther the mine is situated from the capital cities, the more expensive is its product. That is a factor which appears to have been overlooked by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) and by the board. Mining subsidies should not beataflatrate.Thebasisshouldbe thecostofproduction.
SenatorO’Sullivan.-Howwouldthe honorablesenatorovercomethe constitutional aspect?’
Senator VINCENT AstheMinister’sobjectionappearstobebasedon constitutional grounds, I shall read, for thebenefitof those honorable senators whosememoriesarenotlong,section9 oftheGoldMiningAssistanceAct,Passed bytheParliamentlastyear.
SenatorO’Sullivan -Aspecial section providesforthat.
– It provides for a differential subsidy: The’ same thing could be done in respect of superphosphate.
SenatorO’Sullivan: - The act does not provide for that.
– It should do so. Section 9 (1.) of the Gold Mining Industry Assistance Act 1954; read’s-
Subsidy is not payable in respect of bullion produced in a year by a person who is a large producerinrelationto that year unless thecostofproductionforeach ounce: of fine gold; contained in the. refined gold: produced from the bullion, exceeds £13 10s.
That section provides fora differential subsidy based, not on a. flat rate; but on; a formula which, in turn, is based on the cost of production. The present regulation, does not differentiate between States. We should have a subsidy that does not differentiate. All theargument advanced, on the ground of constitutional aspects and State rights are quite irrelevant. We could have a regulation based on a formula similar to. that in the.Gold Mining Industry Assistance Act. Irepeat that: the present subsidy is unreasonable, andinequitablebecauseithastheeffect of increasing the profits of some producers who are already making profits, while not, assisting those who are producing sulphuric acid at a loss. This is not. a matter for the States; We should have anotherlookat.the regulation, andshould give some thought to, producing one that will be fair, because it is soundly, based;
SenatorSPICER (Victoria- AttorneyGeneral) [9.49].IconfessthatI have experienced some- difficultyin making up my mind what,thosewhohavespoken insupportofthismotiondesiretoachieve. Agooddealoftheargumentwhichhas been advanced in support of the motion could more properly have been advanced when the Sulphuric Acids Bounty Act? was before the Parliament;.. The fact is that by the passing of that act, the Parliament provided for the payment of the bounty; If provided that the bounty should be payable in respect of sulphuric acid produced at a factory: It provided for a bounty on the production of sulphuric acid from prescribed materials of Australian origin and sold by the producer for delivery in Australia or used by the producer for the production) in Australia, of fertilizers. It also provided the mea n s by which the rate of bounty wastobe determined. The- rate of bounty in respect of any sulphuric acid is the ratewhich, is applicableto that sulphuric- acid as fixed, or ascertained in accordance with regulations. The regulations’ can be framed to prescribe for certain limited matters. They may provide for different rates of bounty in respect of sulphuric acid produced from different materials; or for different rates of bounty’ in respect of sulphuric acid of different strengths. The regulations may also provide that,in some circumstances, no bounty shall Be payable at all. Those are the only three provisions that can be made By way of regulations under the act.That is to say, the regulations; in prescribing the rate of bounty;aretobe confined tothose elements.
– Why cannot the act be amended’?’
SenatorSPICER.- We are dealing now with the situation upon the basis of the act as it is.
– We are here to amend acts, too.
– We are not, here to amend an act to-night. We are proceeding on the basis of a set of regulations passed in accordance with that act. At the moment, the act represents the will of the Parliament No regulationcanbebased upon it lawfully at this moment if it does not conformwiththe act. I suggest that the proposition put. forwardbySenatorVincent,whichhad relationtoabountythatwastobeascertainedwithreferencetothecost of production,wouldbegovernedbytheregulationthatisnot coveredby theact. Therefore, it could not be passed in accordancewiththisact.
SenatorWright.-Would it not be a circumstance that would not beprescribed, inwhich case no bounty could bepayableatall?
- Senator Vincent does not want to get , to the stage where no bountyis payable at all.
– Unless the cost is such and such.
SenatorSPICER. -Thesub-section points to three things to which the regulations may haveregard. They may provide fordifferentmates of bountyin respect of sulphuric acid produced with different materials orofdifferent strengths,ortheymayprovidethatno bountyshallbepayableatall. I suggest that there is no room, withinthe limitations : of that section, for regulations along the lines which Senator Vincent advocated.. I repeat that a good deal of what hasbeen said in this chamber to night would have been said more appropriately when the Senate was dealingwith the act. These are arguments if honorable senators like, for the amendment of the act, but there is no alignment whatever for thedisallowance of these regulations, having regard to the law as it now stands. Iam not prepared to admitby any means - as Senator Vincent seems toassume I am admitting - that thesituationcreated by the act and the regulations is an undesirable one. It is a set of affairs which proceeds very largely fromour constitutional posi - tion, and although we may criticize the limits placedupon thisParliament in relation to this matter by theConstitution, I amnot too sure in the long run that they lead to such completely farcical results as some honorable senators would have us believe.
Quite early in the historyofthe High Courtof Australia, this question of the power ofthe Parliament todeal with bountiesand pass lawsin relation to bounties which were uniform was considered in the caseofTheKingvsBarger
Although the honorable senator -who moved this motion found it difficult to believe that the framers of the Constitution, when they said bounties must be uniform, did not conceive that the Parliament would be able to take into account the different conditions existing in various States,, it is quite clear from this case that the position wasquite the contrary.I quote, inconnexion with this case, from the judgment of Chief Justice Griffith, who was a member of the Convention, Mr. Justice Barton and Mr. Justice O’Connor, who put this matter quite clearly. Theydealt with the matter from the taxationangle, and also from the viewpoint of bounties when they stated in their judgment -
Thefacethattaxationmightproduce indirectconsequenceswasfullyrecognizedby theframersof the Constitution. They recognized, moreover, that those consequences would not,inthenatureofthings,beuniform throughoutthevastareaoftheCommonwealth,extendingover32parallelsoflatitude and40degreesoflongitude.Thevarying conditionsofclimate-tropical,sub-tropical andtemperate-andoflocality-nearorat greatdistancesfromtheseaboard-makean effectual discrimination for many purposes between the several portions of the Commonwealth. Lest, however, the Parliament should desire to bring about equality in theincidence of the burden of taxation, or what has been called an equality of sacrifice, by discriminating between such different portions, they were expressly prohibited from doing so. Tito words ofplacitumii-“taxation”;butsoasnot todiscriminate between States or parts of States” - recognise the fact that nature has already discriminated, and prescribe that no attempt shall be made to alter the effects ofthatnaturaldiscrimination.Soin placitumiii.-“Bountiesontheproductionor export of goodsbut so thatsuch bounties shall be uniform throughout the Commonwealth “ - the Parliament is precluded from attempting to equalize theconditions which culture hasmadeunequal.
It is in that set of circumstances that we have to approach the problemof bounties.
-How is that distinguished from section 8sub-section (2.) of this act that enables the proper authority to prescribe different rates of bounty in circumstances that may he distinguished by regulation themselves.
– Inthis case, the rate ofbounty prescribed in each particular case in relation to reach particular set of circumstances is a uniform bounty.
– The act authorizes a differential bounty, as did the award in Barger’s case.
– 1 do not think that it does. It provides for a uniform bounty but for varying rates of bounty according to particular conditions. It is on that basis that this regulation has been proposed. Whatever this Parliament might do, constitutionally or otherwise, it cannot bring about equality in these circumstances. Senator Seward said that the cost of superphosphate in Western Australia would be greater than the cost in the eastern States and that, to that extent, the man who produced wheat in Western Australia would have a higher cost of production. But the wheat producer in Western Australia is 2,000 miles nearer the market on which the greater part of his wheat is sold. Should that be taken into consideration in determining the rate of bounty that should apply? That may be a reason why the price of superphosphate in Western Australia should be a little higher than it is in the eastern States. It is not possible to bring about complete equality in these matters. As far as bounties are concerned, the Constitution has included the very wise provision that a bounty must conform to the principle of uniformity. But the motion before the chamber, if agreed to, would only destroy the regulation that has been proposed. It will put nothing in its place. I suggest to Senator Vincent that the act does not authorize such a regulation as he proposes. So the choice before the Senate is between the payment of the proposed bounty to the manufacturers of Western Australia and other States which will reduce the price of superphosphate, and the destruction of the bounty. With the destruction of the bounty, the producer in Western Australia would obviously be called upon to pay more for his superphosphate than he pays at present. Under these circumstances, I suggest that no case has been made for the disallowance of this regulation.
.- Under normal conditions, I should sit back in glee and watch a Government supporter attacking the Government, and seeking to disallow a regulation that the
Government had tabled. I regard the motion before the House as one of importance. I rise to speak to it, not only in compliment to that fact, but in compliment to the honorable senator who has moved it. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) need have no qualms about this being a non-party matter. The matter has not been considered by the Opposition, and could not fairly have been considered by the Opposition until it had heard the case presented by the mover of the motion. So every member of the Opposition is free to vote as he wishes in relation to this matter. lt may be trite, but, at all events, .1 propose to make the comment that the importance of this matter arises from the importance of superphosphate in the production of Australian goods, particularly primary products. For a long period, we have been dependent upon the importation of brimstone for the manufacture of superphosphates, and such imports necessitated the use of dollars. Last year, the Opposition supported a measure which proposed to pay a bounty on sulphuric acid produced from raw materials available in Australia, the idea being to make this country independent of outside supplies of such a vital commodity and to relieve the strain on dollar funds. Thar fact alone makes this- issue a matter of great importance. Senator Seward made a useful point when he claimed that the conversion of the production of sulphuric acid from a. brimstone basis to a pyrite? basis was proceeding at too slow a. rate. I think that the honorable senator i.= entitled to information as to what progress is being made in that respect. In view of Australia’s dependence upon imported material, I think that it is the patriotic duty of! sulphuric acid producers to proceed as rapidly as possible with that conversion.
There was virtue in the suggestion of Senator Seward that some attempt might be made to pool sulphuric acid manufactured from pyrites in Australia and distribute supplies at a uniform price. Tt has been possible to take such action in stone throughout Australia.. I understand that the British Phosphate Commission has, in agreement with manufacturers, arranged the distribution of brimstone at a uniform price ‘ throughout Australia. At least, the Government could have undertaken to call a conference for the purpose of examining Senator Seward’s suggestion. It is important to the nation that the proposed conversion should take place, and the Government could well have undertaken to call manufacturers together in order to ascertain whether an arrangement could be made, even though the Government might experience constitutional difficulties in establishing a pool. Ways have been found of overcoming such difficulties in connexion with other commodities.
I do not accept the suggestion of the Minister for Trade and Customs that the manufacturers of sulphuric acid should apply to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for assistance. The Commonwealth Grants Commission is a body whose charter extends only to consideration of applications by the States under section 96 of the Constitution. I am sure that the Commonwealth Grants Commission would not consider representations from manufacturers of sulphuric acid. But if the Government wished to equalize the position between Western Australia and the other States there is no reason why it should not make a grant to Western Australia under section 96 of the Constitution in order to compensate that State for any freight difficulties which it might suffer or any mining difficulties that might be encountered. I join with Senator Seward in inviting the Government to address itself to the problem that is presented by the fact that primary producers experience different costs of production owing to fluctuation in the cost of superphosphates between States, particularly of superphosphates manufactured from pyrites. I do not agree with the Minister for Trade and Customs, again, when he says that the whole of the recommendations of the Tariff Board were adopted.
– I did not say that. I said, in regard to this bounty.
– The honorable senator was referring simply to the matter nf the rates?
– Then I misunderstood him. In actual fact, the
Tariff Board recommended that, in the payment of the bounty, there should be no regard to the degree of profit that may be made by any producer, and in the measure which this Parliament passed last year, and which the Opposition supported, the Government included a provision to condition the bounty where profits exceeded 12£ per cent. We approved the decision of the Government in that matter.
I do not propose to go over the constitutional position. I should imagine that, merely referring to the placitum in section 51, which authorizes the payment of bounties but determines that they shall be uniform throughout Australia, it would be scarcely necessary, in view of the clarity of those terms, to go into the decided cases. In Barger’s case and also in Elliott’s case, both of which were cited by the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), it is quite clear that the High Court concurred in the view that there could not be discrimination in rates of bounty. Although the act itself appears to authorize some form of discrimination, that is not the fact when one examines it a bit more closely, because there may be discrimination in the rate of bounty in relation to different materials. There may be a rate of bounty for one material and an entirely different rate for another. The same principle applies to differences of strength. What would seem to be a permissible fluctuation or discrimination under section 8 of the act, on analysis turns out to be still under the obligation of the Constitution to preserve uniformity in relation, to particular materials, strengths, and so forth.
I confess that I was disappointed that Senator Seward had no alternative to take the place of this regulation. I agree entirely with what Senator Fraser said, that if the Senate were to disallow this regulation, all bounty would cease to he payable at that minute, not only to Western Australia, but also to producers in all other States, and that some active steps would be required to put something in ite place. So that, from that viewpoint alone, I should oppose the resolution. It is not sufficient merely to disallow a regulation as a protest and to submit nothing in its place.
Itisratherinterestingtonotetheway inwhichtheTariffBoardhasmadethis particularbountyoperate.Brimstoneand itsimportationaretheconditioningfac- tors.Whentheaverageimportedcost ofbrimstone,ofastrengthof100per cent.is £2210s.aton,thenthebounty payableshallbe£2aton;butastheprice ofbrimstoneimportedtoAustraliafalls; thebountyrises.Thereasonfor that,ofcourse,istodiscouragethelocal producersfromusingbrimstoneandto encouragethemtousetheAustralianraw material,pyrites.Theincreasewilltake place,inthosecircumstances,attherate of ls. 9.d.foreach5s.ofthefallinthe importpriceofbrimstone.Theninthe converseposition,asthepriceofimported brimstonerises,itsuseislikelytobedis- couragedbythelocalroducers,andthe rateofbountywillfallatthesamerate -1s.9d.foreach5s.Irecordthatas quiteaninterestingfact.
Inallthecircumstances,Ifindmyself agreeingwiththosewhocontendthat thereisnopowertomakevaryingrates ofbountyapplicabletoaparticularcommodityofaparticularstrength.Ialso amnotpreparedtodisallowaregulation thatdoesgivesomebenefittoprimary producersinthiscountrywhoaredoing apatrioticjobwhentheyundertakethe greatercapitalcostsofconvertingtheir plantstoproductiononabasisofpyrites asagainstthatofbrimstone.Iunder- standthatittakesa30percent.bigger capitalinvestmenttooperateonapyrites basisinsteadofabrimstonebasis,so thatthosewhochangeoverpatriotically areentitledtosomeencouragement.In thosecircumstances,Ishallrecordmy voteagainstthemotionsubmittedbythe honorablesenator,althoughIbelieve thatinraisingthisveryinteresting matterhehasdonetheSenateaservice.
SenatorPALTRIDGE.(westernAus- tralia)[10.16].-Lackingawigtotoss uponthegreen,Ienterthisdebatewith somediffference.Nonetheless,asaWes- ternAustralianrepresentative,Ihavea specialinterestinthissubject,andfor thatreasonIwishtomakeitperfectly clearwhereIstandandwhy.Ioppose themotion.Idosowithafullappre- ciationofthemotivewhichinduced SenatorSewardtobringthematterfor ward.AstheLeaderoftheOpposition (SenatorMcKenna)remarked,Senator SewardhasdonetheSenateaservice inpointingtoadifficultywhichwein WesternAustralia,particularly,ex- perienceinconnexionwiththeproduction ofslphurandtheminingofpyrites. Forthatreason,heistobethanked.It isonlybycontinuallypointingoutthese disabilitiesthatwecanexpecttoreceive anyameliorationofthem.
IopposethemotionbecauseIconsider thattheparticularthingswhicharemade possiblebyrule4of1955wouldbecom- pletelycancellediftheresolutionwere adopted.Underrule4,pyritesispre- scribedasabountiablemateral,anda rateofbountyisfixed.Merelytodis- allowtheregulationwouldcancelthe varythingswhichtheregulationnow does,andwouldremovethebenefitswhich itbestowsupon,theindustry.ThatI consider,wouldbeadisservicetothe industryinWesternAustraliaasin everyotherpartoftheCommonwealth.
Iwasparticularlyinterestedinthe pintmadebySenatorVincentthathe wouldnotbebrow-beatenbyathreatthat cancellationofthisrulewouldmanthat therewouldbenoreplacementoftherule inanotherform.Iwasimpressedby thatpint,becausewhenthismatterwas firstplacedonthenoticepaper,Iwas inducedtofavourit;andI,likemost otherhonorablesenatorswhowerein- terestedinthematter,undertooksome researchintotheprobableeffortofdis- allowingtheregulation.Imustsay thatalltheargumentsIhaveheardto- night,togetherwiththeresearchthat Iwasabletomakeleadsmetothe viewthatitwouldbeextremelydangerous todisallowtheregulation,becausewe cannot,itappears,escapetheconstitu- tionalpositioncreatedbysection51(iii), whichdealswiththesubjectofuniform bounties.Ihadalookasmosthonorable senatorsdid;atseciton99oftheConsti- tution,thinkingthatsomereliefmight beprovidedthere,butashasbeenclearly shownto-night,thedecisionsoftheHigh Courtruleoutthatpossibility.So,with verymixedfeelings,andwithafull appreciationofthemotivesbehind SenatorSeward’sactioninsubmitting thismotion,Iexpressmyoppositiontoit.
.: - I congratulate Senator Seward on bringing, forward this motion to-night because, it does give the Senate something unusual’ to. talk about. Having considered the motion over- the: week-end,, I regret that, I. cannot support it. The honorable senator is advocating the: disallowance: of a- regulation- under which- manufacturers throughout the Commonwealth are getting- a subsidy, of £2: a. ton on. sulphuric: acid made from: pyrites’. I. believe that Western Australia’s record in establishing the manufacture of sulphuric acid front pyrites; at Norseman,. 450: miles from Perth,, is, excellent.. Western Australia, ham probably done, better than has any, other State- in the Commonwealth up to date-. We: were warned after the war that there would be a shortage of- brimstone: and!, as, far back as 1951-52, the quantity of brimstone, allowed into Western Australia; foa:- the manufactures of sulphuric,- acid) was limited. The result was that the manufacture’ of superphosphate: decreased.. So, the State government, of the. day encouraged the; production of pyrites at Norseman. Manufacturers of sulphuric acid who; had been, using, brimstone for this purpose; changed their plant to* the use of pyrites. The Norseman Mining Company has spent about £75,0,000 believing; that the shortage of brimstone? would continue. But within: two years the: price- of imported brimstone dropped from £25> 10s-. to: £2.0 5s;. a ton-,, thus making; the- cost of. producing. sulphuric acid from brimstone; lower than the; cost; ofl’ producing it from pyrites’ which, had to- Be taken 450 miles to, Perth to* Be treated.. As; much more brimstone-. wass available, it; would have: pa-id manufacturers through the Common.wealth, to abandon: production’ of sulphuric: acid from pyrites-,. However;, the Oatley report: to, tha American. Government stated that brimstone would be scarce- in 195.6, and that, there- would hean acute. shortageby, 196.0;. So1,, if the- Common-wealth- and. State Governments had decided not teencourage the manufacture, of sulphuric acid from pyrites, but. to. allow all- the. brimstone! that was available to. come toAustralia, from America.^, although- we might base gained something; immediately, we would be running out of brimstone by 1960 Therefore, this Govern ment, came forward with, a proposition under which it was. prepared to- assist, the manufacture of sulphuric: acid from pyrites by the payment of a bounty of- £2 aw every ton of sulphuric- acid so produced, and, although the price’ of brimstone has fallen from £25 10s. a. ton to £20 5s. a. ton, (he bounty will make the production- of sulphuric acid from, pyrites payable. For every additional 5*s. a ton by which the price of imported brimstone falls, an additional’ bounty of ls.. 9d. will be paid by the Commonwealth,, until’ the price of brimstone has fallen a. further £5,, when the bounty will be £4 a ton.
I listened with keen, interest to. the suggestion that, sulphuric acid produced in Australia should.be pooled.. However^ th« Minister for Trade a-nd Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), the Header of the Opposition (Senator MeKenna-) and the AttorneyGeneral, (Senator Spicer),-, who> are all’ legal gentlemen and understand constitution far better than, I do>, believe that constitutional difficulties make, that impossible: Senator Vincent claims; that the- bounty will enhance- the: profits of companies;. It will’ certainly enhance the profits- of companies until1 those profits reach 12-£ per cent., and’ then, the bounty will be. reduced.
– -Is1 the Government not by that provision introducing a lack of uniformity?
– F shall not enter the legal* debate. I am interested’ in the matter only from the viewpoint of Western Australia.. If the Sen-ate- agrees to disallow: the. regulation, users- of superphosphate in Western1 Australia must suffer-.. If Senator Seward: and’. Senator Vincent had been- able- to produce’ a- planthat would’be of greater benefit to Western Australian farmer? than-, the regulation which they propose, to disallow;, I should have had great pleasure in. supporting them.. However,, I listened to. both honorable’ senators- closely and neither of them could suggest anything, better than we have at present.. Western Australia does suffer a. disability iia: that pyrites has to be carried from Norseman to the coast, a distance of 450’ miles. But I am interested in the effect upon the farmer. I am a, farmer; and I buy a lot of superphosphate. I believe that if the motion is defeated, I will pay less for my superphosphate, as will all other farmers in the Commonwealth, than I would if the; motion were carried. Therefore, it will give me great pleasure to vote against the motion.
. - The debate on the legal position in relation to bounties has revealed that there are certain difficulties associated with them. I shall have no hesitation in voting against the motion to disallow the regulations. At least, they provide for something, but Senator Seward, like Oliver Twist, is asking for more. I commend him for doing so. When the measure was before the Senate, I pointed out that although the bounty was decided upon in the light of the determination of the Tariff Board, as far as Western Australia was concerned, it would be sufficient only to enable the industry to continue to produce. The Tariff Board recommended -
That the Sulphur Bounty Act 1930-1044 be amended to provide for -
That regulations under the amended Act he introduced prescribing -
The bounty ceases when the landed cost of brimstone duty free is £25 10s. a ton or higher. That means that the cost of producing pyrites in Australia must be kept below £25 a ton for it to be a workable proposition. The production of pyrites in Australia was commenced as a war-time measure. The position was desperate and large amounts were being expended by governments, mining companies, and sulphuric acid companies on producing pyrites. The busines has now got off the peg. The evidence given by the proprietors of the Norseman mine was that they have spent £750,00 in providing plant to bring pyrites of a very good quality to the surface at a low cost, but before it can be converted into sulphuric acid it has to be transported for hundreds of miles to the treatment works. When the Tariff Board conducted its inquiry, it was estimated that the average cost of production of 25,00 tons of pyrites in Western Australia would be £30 a ton. After the new plant was installed, production costs dropped by £1 10s. to £28 10s. a ton. Even if they had been able to produce at the full capacity of the plant, the cost of production would have been £26 a ton - still not a workable margin under the bounty.
The Government needs to give very serious consideration to allowing this industry to be maintained on full production basis for its national value. Both Senator Eraser and I objected, when the bill was before the Senate, to the importation of cheap sulphur and sulphuric acid from Japan. As we pointed out, American sulphur was not so cheap, but it involved dollar expenditure. The Government has the necessary power to regulate the importation of these commodities.
It has been shown that sulphuric acid can be produced in South Australia for about £15 10s. a ton. Yet, despite a wide variation in the cost of sulphuric acid, superphosphate, of which it is an expensive ingredient, is sold at a flat rate throughout Australia, no reduction being made as a result of the lower cost of production in that State. It is assumed that, although the bounty must be payable at a flat rate, when the manufacturers obtain sulphuric acidat varying prices - some quite low - the lower cost should be reflected in the price of superphosphate. There may be some levelling off of the profits of thu company, which are considerable. The Government should give consideration to maintaining, on a satisfactory basis, an industry that i’s so essential in war-time. During that time, when inadequate quantities of superphosphate were used, production fell back, and did not reach its former rate until larger quantities of superphosphate were again applied to the land. That was so particularly in Western Australia, which is a vast State where the land needs superphosphate to produce good crops. By the use of trace elements production can be increased considerably. If the Government will take notice of what Senator Seward has said, his action to-day will have a twofold advantage. It will show that superphosphate must be obtainable at the cheapest possible rate, and that if there is a bounty which operates uniformly throughout Australia, even though the cost of production may vary as much as from 33 to 45 per cent, in different parts of the Commonwealth, there is need for an investigation by the National Government. This is surely a matter of national importance. If the Government is awake to the importance of superphosphate to agricultural production it will not rely on what Senator Seward has put forward, but it will investigate the cost of producing superphosphate, and in’ particular the cost of producing sulphuric acid, in order to save our industries. Agricultural production is essential to our progress and development in times of peace, and in time of war it is essential to our survival.
– I have no objection to the intention of the regulation, but “.her a regulation comes before the Senate we should satisfy ourselves, before we agree to it, that its form, as well as its substance, is correct. Our regulationmaking machinery, like a sausage machine, turns out thousands of regulations which few people read. When we do get one sausage before us, we should examine it carefully, and see not only what meat is in it, but also whether the skin has been broken, and whether it contains any foreign substance. I call attention to the fact that in the act under which the regulation is made there is reference to a year. The term is carefully defined. In the regulation, however, matters are regulated by quarters. Every one knows that a quarter can mean a quarter of a year, but evidently the lawyers were not completely satisfied on that point, because they defined “ quarter “. I now ask the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) why it is that the principal act speaks of years and the regulation defines “ quarter “. In regulation 6 (4.) everything is mentioned in terms of quarters. Is there anything slip-shod in the drafting, or is there anything likely to promote litigation? Lawyers are proverbially splitters of hairs. One prominent lawyer once said that he could drive a coach and four through any act of Parliament ever passed.
– That is because of the kind of legislators who pass them.
– That may be so, but it is our duty to make sure that any regulation made under an act does not introduce unnecessary complications or promote litigation.
– Unlike Senator Scott, who said he would be happy to vote against the motion, I am unhappy to part company with Senator Seward. I am not convinced of the correctness of the statement that if the regulation is disallowed there will be a complete vacuum. I was disappointed with the remarks of the Ministers who spoke to that effect. That state of affairs would come about only if the Government, in a fit of pique, said that because the Senate had come to a certain decision it would leave the ball at the feet of honorable senators, and do nothing. In the unlikely event of this regulation being disallowed, there is nothing to stop the Government from operating in the good spirit displayed by Senator Seward, and doing something to assist the users of superphosphate, particularly those in Western Australia.
I am bound to say that Senator Seward has left us in a position where it is difficult to support him. He lias not given us anything in the way of a proposal to the Government, excepting a practical idea which is outside the control of this chamber. Reference has been made to the constitutional position. The Constitution is a crumbling edifice behind which people are sometimes inclined to hide. It would seem that the case law is beyond doubt, and that the regulation is unconstitutional. I take the view that nothing is unconstitutional until the High Court says so. If we were to challenge every act of Parliament we might find that many acts are unconstitutional - even those which have been operating to our benefit for a long time. “Well over twelve months ago we were promised that there would be an inquiry into the Constitution, and six months ago I asked whether that subject was still alive. I hope that the discussion to-day will spur the Government to act in that matter.
The motion before the Senate places the spotlight on the tremendous disabilities under which Western Australia operates as a partner in the federation. I know that every honorable senator is inclined to say that his State has peculiar difficulties. That may be, but, as has already been pointed out during this debate, Western Australia contains onethird of the area of Australia but only about one-thirteenth of its population. Obviously conditions in Western Australia, 1,500 or 2,000 miles away from the centres of population in the eastern States, must be different from conditions in those more densely settled areas. For instance, indirect taxation affects the people of Western Australia in a way that it does not affect the people of the capital cities. Those differences are seen clearly when we consider the mining industry; and if Western Australia were deprived of its mining industry, production in that State would be forced back to the metropolitan and agricultural districts. The pay-roll tax operates harshly on any industry which .has not reached the production stage. That is the position in the mining industry. Similarly, salestax bears heavily on the people of a State far removed from the centres of production. I look forward to the appointment of a body to review the Constitution when I am certain that strong evidence will be advanced to show the disabilities .under which Western Australia is at present ‘suffering.
I wish to refer to another matter upon which Senator Seward touched. Two States in Australia are doing more Wit their light lands than any other State. They are South Australia, which has had considerable publicity, and Western Australia, which is doing remarkable work in that direction, but is not receiving so much publicity. Trace elements are being used extensively in the work on light lands, but if the supplies of brimstone were cut off from Western Australia the situation would be difficult. It would be almost impossible to shift a bulky commodity like brimstone long distances in time of war, and the war potential of Australia would be seriously damaged. We cannot tell what part we shall have to play in a future war, but it is not beyond the. bounds of possibility that we will act again as a base for the production of food and materials. I commend Senator Seward upon bringing forward this matter. I regret that the Government has adopted an attitude that might be described as pique. I would be happy to support anything practical in connexion with this matter that is put forward by Senator Seward. I am prepared to support anything that will advance the development of the outback of Australia, particularly the areas in Western Australia.
.- The debate has been most interesting and of the kind that we should have in the Senate from time to time. Unfortunately, I cannot support the motion that has been moved by Senator Seward, because it seems to have become reasonably clear that if the regulation under discussion is disallowed, no new regulation which would meet the honorable senator’s requirements .could be passed under the act as it stands at present, with one exception, to which I .shall refer later. If the only way his requirements can be met is by amending the act, I suggest that the proper course of action would be to amend the act rather than reject the present regulation. It would be possible under the act, as it stands, to go some way towards meeting what Senator Seward wants by paying a bounty on the lines of the gold bounty mentioned by Senator Vincent, which is paid only when the cost of production reaches a certain figure. But if that were done, it would mean that no State in Australia except Western Australia would receive any bounty whatever.
– For the time being.
– On the present facts. The future is unknown. No State but “Western Australia would receive any bounty for the material it produced.
– Why not?
– Because I do not believe it right that bounties which are drawn from the pockets of all the people of Australia should be so manipulated that only an industry in a particular State receives the benefit of the bounty Particularly, I do not believe it right that industries which are inefficient because of physical, geographical and other factors beyond their control, should be subsidized from the pockets of all the people of Australia at the expense of industries in other States. Consequently, I suggest that if honorable senators from Western Australia believe that their State is badly treated, the remedy lies at. some future date in attempting to amend the act rather than by disallowing an existing regulation and nutting all States, including Western Australia, out. of a bounty until .such time as the act is amended. Therefore, I oppose the motion.
Debate ( on motion by Senator McLEAY) adjourned.
Training of NURSES.
Motion (by Senator O’SULLIVAN proposed -
That Hie Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to direct attention to a matter that is of importance to Australia. I tried to refer to it in an earlier debate upon medical benefits and health services. The matter to which I wish to refer is the shortage of nurses in city and country hospitals. I propose to submit to the Government a practical solution to the increasing difficulties that are presented by the shortage of trained nurses. In time of war, we rob the civil nursing services of staff, .and I believe that the Government should take cognizance of a case that has been put to it by the Australian College -of Nursing. The college was established by publicminded persons and nurses, in particular, as a memorial to nurses who lost their lives on the hospital ship Centaur. The committee which formed the college was influenced by the fact that no facilities exist in Australia to equip nurses for modern treatment of diseases or teach them administration. At one time, nurses were trained only to nurse sick people and their nursing training terminated there. Now the development of health services in Australia means that more technical training is necessary for nurses. They will be required to use serums in greater quantities, for example. If we propose to follow the example of other countries, we must give some consideration to the establishment of a nursing college and extend the training of nurses in peace and war.
The college to which I have referred was established in 1951. In that year, 31 students received advanced training. In 1953, 29 .students from Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, .’South Australia and Western Australia were trained. The scheme, therefore, has a national significance. In 1953, there were 28 students and, in 1954, 26 students from all States. That is, figuratively, a mere drop in the ocean compared with the requirements of Australia, .but it is the basis of a movement which should be given encouragement, -since its objective is the provision of trained nursing personnel.
– “Where is the college 1
– In Melbourne, but there are committees in each State. The Australian College of Nursing is prepared to expand its activities if it can get any encouragement. The funds with which the college has operated have been made np of contributions “by nursing staffs -and by donations from charitable and other organizations in the various Slates. .They receive very little .support from the States by way of grants. They are struggling to establish themselves.
Their presidents have been Miss A.M. Sage,C.B.E., former Matron-in-Chief, Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps, in 1949-50; Mrs. A. M. Walsh, O.B.E., of Western Australia, in 1950-51; Miss J. W.Townsend, of New South Wales, in 1951-52; Miss D. Bardsley, of Queensland, in 1952-53; Miss K. S. Scrymgour, of South Australia, in 1953-54; and Miss J. E. Lade, of Tasmania, in 1954-55. This organization is making a very determined effort to provide a facility for the lack of which every government, State and Federal, makes an apology. I shall let the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) have the papers that have been submitted to me in order that he may place the matter before Cabinet with the plea that some aid and encouragement be given to this noble attempt by these nursing sisters to establish a very necessary scheme of training. The following statement is made in the submission that I have received : -
It is to the discredit of the Commonwealth Government that it has, despite our many and varied approaches to it on the matter, not assisted us in any way whatsoever in this most vital and urgent undertaking-an undertaking that must inevitably have a tremendous bearing upon the betterment of our hospitals and the health of the nation generally.
I sincerely request the Minister tosubmit to the Cabinet the proposal to extend this training scheme and subsidize these people who are performing a voluntary national service and endeavouring to satisfy a want which no government has’’ hitherto taken seriously.
– Without any expectation on my part, Senator Cooke has brought before the Senate a matter which is engaging my attention. However, I do not think that the occasion is favorable for its consideration at present, because of the constitution of the Senate and the absence of certain senators. I rise to support the remarks that the honorableSenator has made in order to press the claims of this institution for greater consideration by the Government. At a later date, on a more advantageous occasion, I hope, with the support of many other senators, to bring the matter forward in a considered way.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Navigation Act - Regulations-Statutory Rules 1955, No. 29.
Defence Transition (Residual Provisions Act-National Security (Industrial Property ) Regulations- Orders - Inventions and Designs (4).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land,&c., acquired for Postal purposes - North Bondi,NewSouth Wales.
Meat Export Charge Act- Regulations- Statutory Rules1955, No. 28.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations- Statutory Rules 1955, Nos. 87, 28.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation- R. Tobias, W. A. Wells.
Defence Production - J. Comery, R. Hopkins, R. Roberts, G. A. Still, L. Wraczynski.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator,&c. -1955 -
No. 13 - Association of Officers ofthe Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
No.14- Australian Federated Union of LocomotiveEnginemen; and Operative Painters and Decorators’ Union of Australia.
Repatriation Act - Repatriation Commission - Report for year 1853-54.
Superannuation Act - Superannuation Board -Twenty-ninth Annual Report, foryear 1950-51.
Senate adjourned at 11.4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 May 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1955/19550504_senate_21_s5/>.