23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question relating to a contract granted to Evans Deakin and Company Proprietary Limited, in Brisbane, to construct a ship of 7,500 tons for the Australian Shipbuilding Board. Will the Minister inform me when the contract was advertised, the closing date for tenders, and the date on which the contract was granted to the Evans Deakin company? Is the Minister aware that ship construction work now in hand at the yards of this company will be completed in the middle of next month? Is he aware that the keel of the new ship of 7,500 tons will not be laid until some time in February, 1962, and that the employees of this organization who are now engaged in shipbuilding work will be unemployed from about 20th October until some time in February next? Is it intended to grant shipbuilding contracts to the Evans Deakin company in the future? If so, will they be granted at times which will ensure that employees will not be unemployed between the completion of one ship and the commencement of another?
– The honorable senator has asked me a number of questions. I am sure he will appreciate that I shall have to make inquiries before I can answer some of them. In regard to ships built in Australia, the Australian Shipbuilding Board calls tenders on behalf of the builders. Long-standing procedures have been developed. I am not quite sure whether those procedures call for the actual publication of the contract and calling for tenders by advertisement, as I think was suggested by the honorable senator; but they ensure that each of the shipbuilders who are qualified to build the ship in question has an opportunity to tender. Indeed, something which is quite unusual in regard to tendering occurs. Discussions about the building requirements for a particular ship frequently take place between the Aus- tralian Shipbuilding Board and the yards before tenders are submitted.
As far as I. know, it is the intention of the Evans Deakin company to continue to build ships. This firm’s shipbuilding yard has earned for itself a very fine reputation. The Government’s policy on shipbuilding has been made known over a long period of years. I am sure the support that has been rendered by way of subsidies is appreciated by the industry. I shall have to make inquiries about the actual date when the construction of the ship mentioned by Senator Benn will start. I shall let the honorable senator have that information as soon as I get it.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On the day the Parliament rose, the Prime Minister said in another place, in reply to an isolated question asked by a supporter of the Government in relation to the European Common Market, that he, the Prime Minister, was desperately looking for suggestions concerning this important and continuing problem and every Minister concerned would be “ very happy if any member who has any notions about the matter will put him in possession of them “. In the circumstances, I ask whether the Prime Minister will convene a meeting in Canberra of representatives of primary producers, industrialists, bankers, trade unions, manufacturers and others who would be vitally involved, because this major problem of the twentieth century requires a great deal of anxious thought and immediate examination by organizations most vitally interested. I need not, but I will, add that I have put forward this proposal unsuccessfully for nearly five years.
– I well remember that Senator Hendrickson has put forward this proposal in the past; but it is not practicable in the circumstances. In my opinion, to convene a meeting of a group of people like those suggested by the honorable senator, all with different interests, would be quite unsuitable. The whole concept of the Common Market, as it is now emerging, is to look at the particular items of trade one by one. In a conference of people with different interests you could not get a common objective. Each of them has his own particular problem to deal with. What is happening-
– The Government has sent overseas public servants who have no knowledge of primary production.
– I do not agree with that for one minute. The honorable senator should not assume that the public servants who are overseas are not in the closest touch with the associations governing the various industries. In my opinion, this proposal is not practicable. 1 do not think it would yield the desired result. The departmental representatives who are overseas are now engaged in a detailed examination of the situation as it affects the various commodities. They are in close touch with those in Australia who are concerned with the industries affected. However, in view of the size and importance of the matter, I will ensure that the honorable senator’s suggestion goes before the Minister for Trade.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether I am correctly informed that the wool production of the United States of America is only approximately one-sixth of that of Australia. Am I correctly informed that a very small percentage of Australian wool finds its way on to the American market? Is it a fact that the countervailing duty against Australian wool is limited to our types of wool that are used for the manufacture of apparel? What efforts are being made to expand our wool market in the United States?
– A lot of water is running under the bridges in this matter and there has been a good deal of negotiation. So much so that I hesitate to answer the question without notice. I ask that the question be put on the notice-paper. In view of its importance and what is occurring, I think it should be answered by the Minister for Trade directly.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I am sorry for him he is having a bad time this afternoon. Mr. P. Shrapnel, chief economist of W. D. Scott & Company, leading commercial experts and industrial investigators, addressing a group of businessmen in Brisbane, said that the Government was paying only lip service to the more important objectives - full employment and sustained economic progress. As we know this to be true, is the Government capable of paying more than lip service to thesefactors which are essential to the development of Australia? If it is, how? Did the Minister notice that Mr. Shrapnel suggested that the Government shouldbudget for a deficit of £100,000,000 this year and that it was interesting to note that the elections would be held on 9th December-
– What is the question?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!
– I do not mind the interjection, Mr. Deputy President. Did the Minister notice that Mr. Shrapnel suggested that the Government should budget for a deficit of £100,000,000 this year, and that it was interesting to note that the election would be held on 9th December, a week before the November figures for unemployment-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! It. is nearly time the honorable senator asked his question.
– I am asking a question.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- It is nol a question. I ask the honorable senator to frame his question.
– May I, with your forbearance-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I have shown the honorable senator a great deal of forbearance.
– A week before the November figures-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator will ask his question.
– I commenced my question with the words “ Did the Minister notice “? ls not that a question? Anyhow the Minister has a copy of it.
– I did not see the statement, but I do not doubt that the honorable senator is correct when he says that the statement was made. One might be inclined to have some reservations because the statement is so out of keeping with the policy of the company with which Mr. Shrapnel’s name is associated. It is quite an incorrect statement. The facts belie the allegation that the Government is paying only lip service to the policy of full employment because in truth there has been full employment, there still is full employment and there still is economic progress. The Government is not paying merely lip service; it is actually delivering the goods.
According to the statement, Mr. Shrapnel suggested that the Government should budget for a deficit of £100,000,000. If my memory serves me correctly, that is a suggestion somewhat along the lines of the unsound policy advocated by the Australian Labour Party. The third question related to the release of the unemployment figures after the election instead of just before election day. Well, that is the Government’s misfortune. The employment figures are improving each month, and it would suit the Government better if they were to be released before election day instead of after it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. What is being done by the Administration of the Northern Territory to preserve flora and fauna, and relics of aboriginal culture, in areas now visited by tourists?
– If the honorable senator puts his question on the noticepaper I shall get an answer for him from the Minister for Territories. I do know what is being done to preserve fauna in the Northern Territory. Exports of fauna from the Territory are totally prohibited, and, indeed, that is the case throughout the rest of Australia. However, if the honorable senator will do as I suggest and put his question on the notice-paper, I shall obtain information for him about the preservation of flora.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by reminding him that approximately five weeks ago the co-ordinator appointed under the Civil Aviation Agreement Act decided that Ansett-A.N.A. should be allowed to operate into Darwin. I now ask: Is this decision likely to have the effect of transferring £200,000 per year from TransAustralia Airlines to Ansett-A.N.A.? Did the members of the Australian National Airlines Commission, which controls TransAustralia Airlines, unanimously decide to appeal against the co-ordinator’s decision to the chairman of the Rationalization Committee, Sir John Latham? Did Sir John Latham advise the Minister that because of ill-health he would be unable to hear the appeal for some weeks, and did he offer to resign, if this delay was unsatisfactory to the Minister? Did the Minister accept Sir John Latham’s resignation, not because of the time factor, but because he did noi want the appeal to be heard at all? Has Ansett-A.N.A. refused to agree to the appointment of a replacement to Sir John Latham - under section 14 of the Civil Aviation Agreement Act - thereby leaving it open to the Minister to nominate a retired justice of the High Court of Australia or of a Supreme Court of a State? Is it a fact that the Minister has not yet nominated a chairman to hear the appeal by TransAustralia Airlines? Does the Government now intend to introduce legislation, or to issue a ruling, which would prevent TransAustralia Airlines from appealing against the decision to allow Ansett-A.N.A. into Darwin?
– I well remember the question on this matter which the honorable senator asked some weeks ago. I have cause to remember it and so, I think, do a number of other people. Dealing with the question he has asked to-day, let me say that I am not in a position to give anything like an accurate indication of the probable effect on the revenues of either airline if Ansett-A.N.A. were allowed to operate into Darwin. The honorable senator has asked whether Trans-Australia Airlines has lodged an appeal against the decision of the co-ordinator. The position is that quite recently T.A.A. sought from me certain information with a view to deciding whether an appeal against that decision should be proceeded with. The airline informed the co-ordinator that it wished to appeal against his decision and subsequently asked me for information - which I am in the course of providing - so that it can decide whether to proceed with the appeal.
Sir John Latham was informed of the possibility of an appeal immediately that possibility arose. He then resigned from the position of chairman of the Rationalization Committee, stating quite specifically that his health - he has had a rather grave illness in recent months - was not sufficiently good to enable him to hear any further appeals.
– It would make anybody sick, would it not?
– I do not know. The honorable senator has his own standards in these matters. Sir John Latham’s standards probably are rather different from his. The parties themselves may nominate some one to take Sir John’s place as the chairman of the Rationalization Committee, and they are at this moment discussing that possibility. In the event of no agreement being reached, I, as the Minister for Civil Aviation, am required to appoint a retired Justice of the High Court of Australia or a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of a State. I have not been informed that the parties have failed to reach agreement on the appointment of a chairman of the committee. It is certainly not the intention of the Government to take any action to prevent T.A.A. or the other party involved in this matter from lodging an appeal. The whole purpose of the machinery is to enable appeals to be made from the decisions of the co-ordinator. There is no thought and no suggestion that any party will be denied a right of appeal.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the Senate of the number of persons registered as unemployed at 30th June, 1950, and at 30th June in each subsequent year up to and including 1961? Further, will the Minister state the number of persons being paid unemployment benefit at 30th June in each of those years, and also the total amount paid in unemployment benefit each year?’
– I shall have great pleasure in securing for the honorable senator the figures he wants. Indeed, if it would be of interest to him, as I think it would be for the. Senate,, it might be as well tO’ give more information than he wants. I could get the number of unemployed at. 30th June, say, 1945, in order to indicate the great improvement that hasoccurred over the years since 1950.
– Has the attention! of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral been directed to an Australian Broadcasting Commission “ University of” the Air “ television programme which waspresented earlier this week in Melbourneunder the title of “The Chifley Era” and; dealing with the 1940’s? I express no view on the highly partisan and somewhat romantic portrayal of the great Labour leader and distinguished Prime Minister as. it was presented by Professor Crisp. However, in view of the peculiar time chosen by the commission to televise this material - two months before a general election - and as the A.B.C. presumably is an impartial* body, will the Minister ascertain whether it is the intention of the commission to present a similar programme dealing with the- 1950’s and 1960’s, known as the Menzies era, and centred on the achievements of Australia’s greatest Prime Minister?
– I have not seen the telecast referred to by Senator Hannan, but I am aware that non-Labour leaders areregarded as being among, the great statesmen of the world. I am sure that many people would welcome a more personal’ look at these great men, and for that reason I shall bring the request of the honorablesenator to the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General.
– I address a ques-tion to the Leader of the Government inthe Senate. Now that the date of the forthcoming general election has been decided, will the Minister say whether the Government has considered, or intends to consider, holding a referendum in conjunction with the election for the purpose of seeking greater constitutional power, as recommended by the Constitutional Review Committee?
– I have no information which indicates that, the Government is likely to do as the honorable senator suggests.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, relates to Tariff Board inquiries. I understand that it is customary for the Tariff Board, before commencing an inquiry, to advertise that it intends to do so. Does the board make direct contact with the various bodies concerned, in addition to publicizing, the fact that an inquiry is to be held?
– I am not quite certain of the exact procedure adopted by the Tariff Board, but it does make every opportunity available for any interested party to come before it, give evidence, and express views on any matter that is the subject of an inquiry.
– ls the Leader of the Government aware that over the last two or three years residual oil has almost completely excluded coal from use in gasmaking in Sydney? Is he aware that in other parts of the world residual oil is poured away as waste? In view of these facts, would the Minister consider imposing some form of levy on the use of residual oil, using the funds for the development of by-products from coal?
– I think that the honorable senator rather overstates the position when he says that residual oil has replaced coal for this purpose. Residual oil has made some quite appreciable inroads into the use of coal for gas-making, but this whole matter was the subject of an inquiry by the Tariff Board. If Senator Arnold will refer to the Tariff Board report on the petroleum industry, which I think was tabled in the Parliament in this sessional period, he will find the pros and cons of the whole matter well discussed, with the Tariff Board, I think, agreeing with the view that the situation resulted more from the competition between refineries than from competition between residual oil and coal. The report contains an interesting dissertation on the situation, with facts and figures.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport seen a press article entitled “ Nullarbor Bottleneck “, which appears in to-day’s “ West Australian “, in which fits stated that Mr. L. A. Brown, Sydney manager of the Western Australian Government Tourist Bureau, has said that inadequate rail accommodation on the transAustralia line kept tourist traffic from New South Wales 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, below what it could be and also that Mr. K. E. Porter, the Adelaide manager of the bureau, had said that rail accommodation from Adelaide to Perth was inadequate? Can the Minister say whether it is a fact that it is impossible to obtain a definite rail booking from Melbourne to Perth before 7th December, 1961, or a return berth between Perth and Melbourne before 7th January, 1962? Because of the importance of the tourist industry to Western Australia, will the Minister direct his colleague’s attention to this matter and ask him to make more accommodation available?
– I have not seen the article referred to and, in view of the fact that it quotes statements by men in quite important positions attached to tourist bureaux in States other than Western Australia, I shall ask that my colleague examine it quite closely. May I say that in answer to a question asked by Senator Branson himself during the last week of this sessional period I quoted from a statement made by Mr. Opperman, in which he stated quite plainly that the initiative on many occasions - and recently - had been taken by the Commonwealth Railways to increase traffic on the EastWest route. At the time I answered the question, Mr. Opperman stated that he had not had replies from some of the railway authorities to which he addressed himself in this matter. However, as the matter has been reactivated in the manner indicated by the honorable senator, I shall ask Mr. Opperman to have the situation examined again as quickly as possible.
– I direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation a question which relates to one asked by Senator Kennelly and the answer in which the Minister admitted that the members of the Australian National Airlines Commission, which operates Trans-Australia Airlines, had unanimously decided to appeal against the decision of the Co-ordinator under the Civil Aviation Agreement Act to the Chairman of the Rationalization Committee, on the matter of operation by Ansett-A.N.A. of services to Darwin. The chairman of the committee, Sir John Latham, advised the Minister that he was unable to hear the appeal for some time and that he was prepared to resign if the Minister was not willing to have the hearing of the appeal delayed. Although AnsettA.N.A. wishes to operate flights into Darwin from the middle of October., will the Minister insist that those flights be deferred pending the hearing of the appeal by the Australian National Airlines Commission to the Co-ordinator under the civil aviation agreement?
– I take the opportunity to correct the honorable senator before I proceed to answer his question. Among other things he claimed that I admitted that Sir John Latham had advised me that in view of the present state of his health he was unable to hear the appeal for some time. Let me tell the honorable senator categorically that Sir John Latham did not advise me in those terms at all. Sir John Latham resigned. He did not indicate what Senator O’Byrne suggests that he indicated. Us simply resigned.
– What was the reason for his resignation?
– The reason, as I explained to Senator Kennelly, was that Sir John Latham’s health was in such a condition that he did not think that he could carry on as chairman. Accordingly, he resigned.
– That is what Senator O’Byrne said.
– What Senator O’Byrne said was completely different from that.
– It was not.
– It was. The honorable senator said that Sir John Latham advised me that the state of his health precluded him from hearing the appeal for some time. That is what the honorable senator said.
– I did not.
– That is what the honorable senator said. The honorable senator was engaging in a bit of smart work and it is well to keep him on the rails.
– You are dodging the issue.
– Not at all. As far as the hearing of an appeal is concerned, first an appeal must be lodged in specific terms. It is quite true that the date for the commencement of flights into Darwin by Ansett-A.N.A. is 15th October. I am extremely hopeful, and 1 expect, that this matter will be brought to finality before then.
– I, too, direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that, in the event of Ansett-A.N.A. being granted equal access to Darwin with Trans-Australia Airlines, 85 per cent, of all traffic carried on non-competitive routes will be carried by Ansett-A.N.A. compared with 15 per cent, by T.A.A.? If so, is this the Minister’s idea of fair competition?
– I do not know how the honorable senator arrives at the figures that he quoted but I suggest that if Ansett-A.N.A. operates into Darwin after 15th October, Trans-Australia Airlines will not permit it to obtain 8 per cent, of the traffic that is offering. T.A.A. will have equal access to the traffic on that run and I suggest that T.A.A. will obtain considerably more than the 15 per cent, referred to by the honorable senator.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs give the Senate any authentic and authoritative information about developments in Berlin since the matter was debated in the Senate two weeks ago?
– I cannot give the Senate any authoritative information as to developments in Berlin, nor do I believe that there have been any developments of significance in Berlin since this matter was last debated in the Senate. The whole matter is under discussion. Reports that appear in the newspapers of what may or may not happen are purely speculative reports.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services: What is the number of Australians who are receiving age pensions and the number who are receiving invalid pensions? How many receive the supplementary allowance of 10s. a week?
– The number of persons receiving the age pension is 562,790, and the number receiving invalid pensions is 88,642. I ask the honorable senator to place the second part of his question on the notice-paper.
– I address the following questions to the Minister for Civil Aviation: - Is it a fact that, whilst the present passenger traffic is divided approximately fifty-fifty between Ansett-A.N.A. and Trans- Australia Airlines, T.A.A. is allowed to operate only enough freighter aircraft to carry 40 per cent, of the total freight traffic at the specified load factor as against 60 per cent, carried by Ansett-A.N.A.? If so, is this a contravention of the Minister’s idea of fair competition?
– The system in relation to freight is precisely the same as that which is applied to passenger traffic on some competitive routes. As is well known, at the commencement of operation of the 1957 agreement, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was carrying considerably more freight than was Trans-Australia Airlines. We have devised a system under the rationalization scheme - incidentally, if the honorable senator would like to look at the particular determination, it is available to him - whereby T.A.A. can increase its share of the freight traffic as it is developed. In fact, it has demonstrated that it can increase its freight traffic. I repeat that the system in operation for freight is precisely the. same as that which operates on certain passenger routes and in relation to which the boot is on the other foot, T.A.A. having had the initial advantage.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation is having quite a go this afternoon. I should like to address this further question to him: Has AnsettA.N.A. intimated to him or his department that unless substantial assistance is forthcoming immediately that organization will not be able to meet its commitments? Is Ansett-A.N.A. at present receiving any assistance by way of guarantee or financial grant which has not been announced to this Parliament?
– No, I have not received from Ansett-A.N.A. a communication such as that referred to by the honorable senator. Of course, the fact is tha: Ansett-A.N.A. has met its commitments not always on the dot but frequently, as I have explained before, well in advance of the due date - never behind it. The present situation is that Ansett-A.N.A.’s commitments have been met right up to the minute. No guarantee has been extended to this organization which is not known to the Parliament and which has not been debated on many, many occasions.
– I should like to keep the Minister for Civil Aviation in form. Therefore, I ask him: Is it a fact that under the Airlines Equipment Act the aircraft allowed to be operated by each of the major airlines is limited to a number sufficient to carry 50 per cent, of the total traffic on the competitive routes and at a specified load factor? Is it a fact that, because of additional aircraft operated by its subsidiary companies, Ansett-A.N.A. can, and does, make available a greater number of seats than does Trans-Australia Airlines on special holiday and charter flights? If so, does the Minister propose to take any action to see that this situation is corrected?
– The whole purpose of the Airlines Equipment Act, which was passed by this Parliament in 1958, was to ensure that approximately the same equipment both in quality and quantity was made available to each of the two major airlines and, as the honorable senator suggests, that that equipment should be used at a reasonable load factor. As for holiday and charter flights, frankly I am not in a position to state the details. I shall check my recollection on this matter, but I feel sure that in this respect neither airline has any great advantage over the other. Speaking from memory, I think that the holiday and charter flight business is reasonably equally shared by the two airlines. That is all I can say at the moment.
– My questions, too, are addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it not a fact that this Government authorized Trans-Australia Airlines to purchase a certain number of Fokker Friendship aircraft? Also, is it not a fact that T.A.A. found that it was not able to use all those aircraft? Further, is it not a fact that it then sold the surplus aircraft to other airlines in Australia so that they could retain their agencies and compete against Ansett-A.N.A., which was making great inroads into their traffic?
– It is a fact that Trans-Australia Airlines had approval to purchase twelve Fokker Friendship aircraft. Also, it is a fact that three of those aircraft are not now operated by T.A.A. One of them is one charter to East-West Airlines Limited, one has been sold to MacRobertson-Miller Airlines Limited in Western Australia and, speaking from memory, another is on charter to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Does he see any significance in the sharp rebuke that was given to the 85-year-old Chancellor of West Germany in the recent election in that country? Does he believe that the views being expressed in western Europe by Germany’s advisers on foreign policy are not necessarily the views of the majority of the West German people? Does he believe that a similar state of affairs could become manifest in this country on 9 th December next?
– I am not sure what implication the honorable senators reads into what he refers to as the sharp rebuke administered to Chancellor Adenauer. He seems to indicate that the German electorate administered a sharp rebuke to Chancellor Adenauer because of his foreign policy. If that is so, I would point out that Brandt, the Mayor of Berlin, who was one of the main contestants against Chancellor Adenauer and who received a greater vote than his party had received previously, went even further in expressing his views about what Germany’s foreign policy should be than did Chancellor Adenauer. As to what is likely to happen on 10th December-
– No, on 9th December.
– The result of the poll will be known on 10th December. As to what is .going to happen on 10th December, when the result of the poll is known, I can only say that 1 believe that history will repeat itself. Heaven help Australia if it does not)
– I address to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral a question which follows upon that asked by Senator Hannan regarding the statements made by Professor Crisp from station HV2. The honorable senator suggested that the history of the present Prime Minister from 1950 to 1961 should be telecast. 1 ask the Minister whether he would add to the suggested programme the history of the Prime Minister from 1914 to 1918 and from 1939 to 1941?
– 1 shall answer this question. We of the Liberal Party would be very happy indeed if that were done. We would find in such a television record the life and actions of a great Australian in all sets of circumstances. The great difficulty in the Labour Party is that within its ranks it has no one of the stature of the Prime Minister. That is why members of the Labour Party are always so bitter.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
I and 2. I have no recollection of the particular statement attributed to me by the honorable senator. However, in May, 1959, I did say:
So- far the improving conditions in Europe have not seriously affected1 Australia’s immigration programme and the total immigration target has been filled each year. But this has only been possible because our planning has been flexible and we have been willing to meet deficiencies in intakes from any individual country by recruiting from new sources.
It is widely recognized that the European Common Market objectives of a strong economic union, a sweeping away of trade barriers and a greater mobility of labour among the member nations are steadily being achieved. The fulfilment of these objectives may bring greater prosperity and security to the peoples of the Common Market nations. Nevertheless, there are considerations quite apart from full employment in a prosperous economy which, govern a person’s decision to emigrate.. Many seek wider horizons and opportunities for personal development which are denied’ them, even during periods of prosperity, in their homelands. Others see in a young and expanding country si better place for their children’s future.
It must be remembered, also, that the population of the Common Market countries is 170,000,000 and rising. Australia’s immigration programme seeks only a comparatively small margin of these people - our total intake of migrants since the war is 1,700,000.
On present indications, I see no reason, to assume that the I pattern of migration from Europe to Australia will alter radically because of changed circumstances in Europe. This view is held also by the permanent head of my department, Sir Tasman Heyes, who has just returned from a visit to our European migration posts. In his report to me he is quite- optimistic of our annual needs being met from these countries.
I know of no evidence, to support this statement Statistics- of unemployment do not differentiate as between’ migrant’ and Australian-born persons. It might be of interest to. the honorable senator, however,, that as at 8th September there, were in the initial reception centres, operated by my department only 112 Italian and eleven Greek migrants awaiting employment
This subject is’ one within the province of the Minister for Civil Aviation. I will refer this portion of the question to him.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the. Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and 2. Yes, in respect of imports under the British Preferential Tariff. Otherwise 7i per cent, ad valorem.
Debate resumed from 14th September (vide page 594), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Cooke had moved, by way of amendment -
Leave out all words after “ That “ insert “ the Senate condemns the Government for having failed to increase rates of payment of various Social Services to correspond with increased prices, and particularly condemns the Government for again refusing to make any increase in child endowment thus leaving child endowment unaltered since 1950, during which time its purchasing value has halved”.
– Mr. Deputy President, before the Senate adjourned last Thursday week, I was speaking about social services and directing the attention of the Senate to the desire of the present coalition Government to help all sections of the community in need of social service assistance. I will repeat some of the things I said on that occasion because it is a good story that bears repeating. Much as this Government would like to increase pensions to a very much greater degree than it has increased them, the provisions of pensions for the aged cannot be considered in isolation. As was well pointed out in the Minister’s second-reading speech, assistance for people in need of it because of sickness, unemployment, being widowed or just family responsibilities, and the provision of community help and preventive services are competing elements in any comprehensive social security scheme. The Government has the responsibility of determining the priorities that should be allocated to those elements within the limits of the finance available to it each year.
In the circumstances, the Government has decided that the best way to provide for the aged, invalid and widowed members of the community at present is to give as much support as it can to those people who are in need and to ease the means test as conditions permit. I should like to emphasize that the Government makes social service payments of various kinds which benefit about 4,500,000 men, women and children in Australia, and the cost of those benefits is almost £800,000 a day. I repeat that although we have 10,000,000 people in Australia only about 3,500,000 of them are taxpayers. The Labour Opposition, therefore, should be congratulating the Government because so many people have their needs supplied by comparatively few, instead of having moved an amendment which is quite divorced from the facts.
The bill before the Senate provides for an increase of Ss. a week in the maximum general rate of age, invalid and widows’ pensions. That is a plain statement of fact. The new maximum general rate of the age and invalid pension will be five guineas a week compared with £2 12s. 6d. a week twelve years ago. A married couple, both of whom are pensioners, will receive ten guineas compared with £4 5s. which they would have received in 1949. Where a couple without children own property, the value of which does not exceed £419, entitlement to receive some pension will remain until their income reaches £17 10s. a week. Where they have no income, other than income from property or child endowment - both of which are exempt - entitlement to some pension will remain until the value of their property reaches £9,500. A home, furniture, or personal effects - including a motor vehicle not used for commercial purposes - and certain other items, are not taken into account.
The supplementary assistance of 10s. a week will, of course, continue to be paid to qualifying age and invalid pensioners, in addition to their new rate of pension. This additional 10s. a week is paid over and above the maximum general rate to single pensioners, and to married pensioners where only one of the couple is in receipt of a pension or allowance. It is to assist them to pay rent for their accommodation if they are entirely dependent on their pension. The total receipts by way of pension and supplementary assistance of such pensioners will be increased from £5 10s. to £5 15s. a week.
The bill will also increase the maximum rate of allowance paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner, or a permanently incapacitated age pensioner, by 12s. 6d. a week, increasing the allowance from £1 15s. to £2 7s. 6d. a week. This is the largest increase which has been made in the rate of a wife’s allowance since provision for the allowance was first introduced in 1943. Also, the allowance which the wife of an invalid pensioner, or a permanently incapacitated age pensioner receives for the first child under sixteen years, will be increased from lis. 6d. to 15s. a week. As a result of the general increase in age and invalid pensions, and of the increases in the allowances paid to wives and children, an invalid pensioner and his wife together will receive a total increase of 17s. 6d. a week, if they have no children, and of 21s. a week if they have one child. If they have more than one child, they will continue to receive the additional pension of 10s. a week for each child after the first.
I come now to widows’ pensions. The new maximum general rate for a class A widow - one with a dependent family - will be increased from £5 5s. to £5 10s. a week. A class A widow with two or more children will receive her own 5s. rise, and in addition an increase of 5s. per week for each child after the first. The addition will raise the pension payment from 10s. a week to 15s. a week. A class B widow, and also a class C widow, will receive an increase from £4 7s. 6d. to £4 12s. 6d. a week. In addition to receiving this payment a widow may own her home, furniture and personal effects.
While I congratulate the Government on granting these increases, it is on the subject of pensions for civilian widows that I part company with the Government. A means test is still applied to the amount a civilian widow is allowed to earn. I feel that the Government is doing less than justice to a body of good citizens. The civilian widow does not ask that her pension should be the same as that of a war widow, but she does feel keenly that she is not able to use the talents she possesses in an earning capacity. I earnestly ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to have another look at this matter. I have appealed to him before, as have some of my colleagues in the Senate, but I again ask him to reconsider the earning capacity of a civilian widow.
Many more figures could be quoted in connexion with the increases in the bill, but I shall content myself by saying that the increases planned in pensions, unemployment benefit and sickness benefit will reach a total of over £274,000,000. In addition to the amount to be spent on increased pensions, expenditure under the Aged Persons Homes Act will probably reach another £2,000,000 this year. The help that has been given to aged people by this act is not apparently realized by members of the Opposition. Since the inception of the act 600 grants have been approved representing an expenditure in excess of £10,000,000. That is a wonderful story. If this Government had done nothing else than bring in this piece of legislation it would have done something to its everlasting credit. In connexion with the provision of financial assistance to help the housing problem of our aged citizens, the Minister for Social Services has recently issued the following statement, which speaks for itself: -
More than 600 grants have been made to the six States and the two Territories of the Commonwealth.
He said also -
Grants in excess of £10,700,000 had been approved since the inception of the scheme and, in the last financial year, the record sum of :£2,608,875 had been approved. “This is a subject in which I am particularly interested. One of the biggest problems (hat not only this country, but other countries also, faced when men returned from the war was a shortage of houses. The story of a shared kitchen is in many cases a story of tragedy right throughout the country. When homes became available and the young people left to live in new homes, the older couples found it almost impossible to carry on with no help available. There was the problem of having to get rid of the old home and of finding somewhere to live in comparative comfort in their old age. I know some intimate details about this matter, because some SO years ago my husband, who was editor of the “ Western Mail “, and his social writer, Mrs. Chase, devised a scheme suggested by an inspector of the rabbit-proof fence. It is rather an interesting story. This man was an inspector of the wonderful rabbitproof fence which was erected to prevent the eastern States rabbits from entering Western Australia. Lying one night in his lonely tent, and realizing he was getting on in years he wondered who would look after him in his old age. He thought it would be a good idea if some newspaper were to attempt to interest the children of Australia in doing something for the aged. He wrote a very remarkable letter to my husband. After discussing it, my husband and his social writer decided that what had been suggested was a very good idea and that they would put it into effect. So the “ Western Mail “, the weekly paper at that time, in its children’s column, inspired by those two people, proposed the scheme as a result of which the Silver Chain Nursing Link was established. That has grown into a wonderful organization and now incorporates the Bush Nursing Association.
At that time in Western Australia some of the old ladies in the community were accommodated in what was called an old women’s home, situated in the old Fremantle prison building. I cannot think of anything more depressing than spending the latter years of one’s life in a cell. The old gentlemen were treated rather better. They were accommodated in a building in Mounts Bay-road, almost next door to the Swan brewery. I understand that one of the fascinating features of that location was that at 11 a.m. every day they could take their enamel mugs to be filled with beer, as a donation from the brewery. There was almost an insurrection when it was decided to move both of these homes. The old men were moved to the Sunset Home, on a delightful part of the river at a place now known as Dalkeith, but they were not happy with the move because it deprived them of their daily ration of beer from the brewery. Possibly, however, that loss has been made up to them in some other way.
Those were the conditions under which old people were living in those days. Couples were separated in their old age, the old ladies going to the old prison building in Fremantle and the old gentlemen going to the home in Mounts Bay-road. I believe that the Silver Chain organization was a pioneer in Australia in the field of providing cottages in which old people could live in very good conditions. We do not call our occupants of the cottages inmates; we call them residents. In that way, and in many other ways, we do all that we can to preserve the independence of the old people. There are groups of these cottages now in various places in Western Australia. We are trying to meet the needs of people who do not want to leave their own districts when they ‘grow old, but would like to live in cottages in those districts in which they can be helped and looked after. I have had the privilege of being in this movement for over 50 years, and I have seen it grow. Whenever I go to another State one of the first things I want to see is how the old people are being looked after. Since the Aged Persons’ Homes Act has been in operation I have been delighted to find that in every State of Australia very comfortable accommodation has been provided for our older citizens.
Years ago, my colleague, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, raised in the Senate the question of geriatric treatment for old people. We saw the beginning of the provision of such treatment under this Govern* ment. Many old people, having received treatment, now find that they can still be of use to the community, and this gives them a new respect for themselves. I congratulate the Government on providing this additional help for old people.
I have some figures showing the number of homes for old people which have been opened since the Aged Persons’ Homes Act came into operation. Religious organizations have provided 116 homes, and charitable and benevolent organizations have provided 68. Two homes have been provided for ex-service people and seven have been provided by organizations otherwise approved by the Governor-General. This makes a total of 192 places in which older citizens can spend the remainder of their lives.
There is one aspect of this scheme to which 1 draw the Minister’s attention. In the administration of the act there is a rigid rule that every person accommodated in one of these homes must occupy a single room. Independence and privacy are things that we all value very much, but, when I visit some of these homes, I find that some of the people in them are very lonely indeed when they are made to occupy rooms alone. They would prefer to have somebody to share a room with them. I find this especially in the ex-servicemen’s homes. Quite often two old soldiers would like to room together, but the department insists that each person must have a single room. I believe that a little more elasticity in the application of that rule would be a very good thing.
I have referred already to geriatric treatment - to the treatment of old people by occupational therapists and physiotherapists. That has made a great deal of difference to these people and I congratulate the Government on the scope of the scheme and on the progress it is making. I congratulate the Government on the wonderful work that it has done generally in the field of social services. The amendment that has been proposed by the Opposition gives the Government no credit at all for the work that it has done along the lines that I have mentioned. In my view, it is a great pity that, instead of congratulating the Government, the Opposition has put itself into the position of stating something which is not in accordance with the facts. I congratulate the Minister for Social Services for his vision in this field of work, and I also congratulate the officers of the department. I cannot speak too highly of the departmental officers in Western Australia. I have taken to them a great many cases for elucidation, and I have received nothing but the greatest of courtesy and assistance. Many people in Australia to-day are benefiting from the Government’s wonderful social service work. Their hearts are full of gratitude for the comfort in which they are living to-day and for the way in which the burden of looking after themselves in their old age has largely been lifted from them. I oppose the amendment. I support the bill and congratulate the Government for what it has done.
– We have just heard Senator Robertson lauding the Government’s performance in the field of social services during the past twelve years. She spoke very truly when she said that the Government had the responsibility of determining the order of priority for increases of social service benefits. That is something that lies entirely in the hands of the Government. The measure before us is remarkable, not for what it does in respect of social services, but for what it does not do.
The Australian Labour Party has seen fit to move an amendment to the motion for the second-reading of the measure. Senator Robertson says that we should not have done so and that we should have congratulated the Government for its actions in the social service field. We cannot congratulate the Government for its neglect ot the Australian people in respect of social services. Senator Robertson has said that the Government’s social service policy touches 4,500,000 people in Australia. I say that it touches but very lightly a large number of deserving people in the community.
Senator Robertson went on to say that during the twelve years of office of the present Liberal-Country Party Government, it had improved its social service legislation with the object of promoting the well are of all sections of the community. That is not so, and the fact that it is not is one of the reasons which have prompted us to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill. No doubt the honorable senator was guided by what the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said in his second-reading speech, when he stated -
For the twelfth successive year, the LiberalCountry Party Government has introduced legislation to advance the social welfare programme of the Australian people.
Apparently Senator Robertson and the Minister believe there are sections of the community which do not deserve assistance in the way of improved social service benefits.
Senator Robertson should remember the mothers of Australia when she speaks of all sections of the community. I invite her attention to the maternity allowance. I say that any government should have a very high regard for a social service benefit of that kind because of the effect that it has on the bringing up of good Australians.
The maternity allowance was first introduced by the Fisher Labour Government many years ago. During the depression years the government of the day was obliged to reduce the amount of the allowance. In 1940, the basic allowance was £4 10s., with a maximum of £7 10s. for the third and subsequent children. Although no means test applied when the allowance was first introduced, such a test was applied during the depression years. In 1943, the Curtin Government more than doubled the basic allowance, making it £15 for the first child, £16 for the second child and £17 10s. for each subsequent child. The means test was abolished.
The basic maternity allowance has not been increased since that time. It has been said that the present Government, during its twelve years of office, has looked to the social needs of the people. Apparently, the mothers of Australia do not come within the sphere of those who are in need, according to the Government. I remind honorable senators opposite that when they condone the deterioration in value of the allowance that was paid in 1943 they are in effect saying that they have no regard for the large group of mothers in this country. The only increases of the allowance have been, first, that made in 1943, when the basic allowance was increased to £15, and, secondly, that made in 1944, when the Curtin Government added £5 in the case of twin births and £10 in the. case of the birth of triplets. In other words, the basic allowance was increased for multiple births. In 1947, the Chifley Government provided for £5 to be paid for each additional child in multiple births, lt also provided that £5 of the allowance should be paid to the expectant mother four weeks before the date of birth.
All that this Government has done to improve the maternity allowance has been to increase, from £5 to £10, the amount payable to the expectant mother before the birth. It has done nothing to increase the amount of the basic allowance, and even the increase to which I have just referred was not made until 1956. I should mention that this Government has made the maternity allowance available to the native population of Australia, if the natives concerned are not either nomadic or primitive. I have referred to this matter on a previous occasion. I see no reason why two disqualifying factors should apply to native persons. The act should be amended so that the disqualification relates to natives who are both nomadic and primitive, thereby making only one disqualifying condition instead of two.
The Australian Labour Party, when it takes the reins of government, will provide a maternity allowance of £30 for the first child, and amounts rising to £35 for the fourth and subsequent children. I know that there will be calamity howling about the social service benefits that the Labour Party is prepared to place before the Australian people. No doubt we shall be asked, “ Where are you going to get the money? “
– That is a very important point, is it not?
– Yes, it is a very important point, and we hope to be able to dispose of it.
– We would like to know where you are going to get the money.
– We hope to be able to dispose of that question to the complete satisfaction of the Australian electors. We believe that the Government has a responsibility to the mothers of Australia and that, at the very least, the value of the basic allowance that was fixed in 1943 should be maintained- I remind honorable senators opposite that the present Government parties stated during the 1949 election campaign that if they were elected to office they would not only increase social service benefits but also maintain their value. In the case of the maternity allowance, its value has greatly depreciated because of the inflation which has been nurtured by the Government. Those who support the continuance of a policy of that nature are betraying the trust that the Australian people placed in them in 1949.
The funeral benefit is another social service benefit that has been neglected by the Government. It, too, has been overlooked in the present Budget. The funeral benefit was introduced by the Curtin Government in 1943, the amount then being fixed at £10. During the whole of the eighteen years since then it has remained at that amount. Yet, honorable senators opposite contend that the Government should be proud of its record in the field of social services. I am a little at a loss to understand their attitude. We must read into their support of the Government’s policy a lack of regard for other members of the community. Do they think that undertakers are the only people in Australia who have not suffered from increased costs? They believe that undertakers are still able to take care of the remains of these unfortunate people at a price that ‘.vas fixed in 1 943 and are the only people in the community who have not suffered from the inflationary spiral. It is either that, or Government supporters believe that the children or relatives of aged persons are so well off as to be able to bear a greater burden in the disposal of the remains of old people. The Government has shown a callous disregard of what happens to the bodies of persons who have passed out of this life. Having paid age and invalid pensions to these persons when living, the Government does not care what becomes of their mortal remains. Tt is quite callous about this aspect.
The biggest problem in respect of social services, namely child endowment, is com- pletely overlooked by this Government. It takes great credit for having introduced child endowment in 1941, but I remind the Senate that child endowment had been paid in New South Wales since 1927. It was no innovation when this Government introduced the relevant legislation into this Parliament, and 1 say quite frankly that the Government did not take this action willingly. It was faced with the position that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration had decided that unless a system of family allowances was introduced for the whole Australian community, the court would have to increase the basic wage by 6s. a week. The Government then brought down legislation to provide 5s. a week child endowment for each child after the first. Quite clearly, this was not a voluntary act of the Government but was taken to relieve employers of a payment that, on the evidence produced before the court, they were liable to make. Once again the whole community accepted a responsibility of Australian employers. 1 remind honorable senators that conservative governments had been in office in Australia continuously from 1921 to 1941, except for the period of the Scullin Government in the depression days. In 1921 the Piddington royal commission recommended to the Government that a system of family allowances be introduced to the Australian community. That commission was established by a conservative government to inquire into what was a fair and just wage. Unfortunately, the terms of reference were so widely drawn that the commission did not fulfil the function for which it was primarily established, which was to ascertain what the basic wage should be. Because of the wideness of its terms of reference, it was able to inquire into the position of workers generally rather than what are termed unskilled workers. Nevertheless, it did find that the wage being paid in Australia at that time was very much less than what it should be. In order to overcome this position, the commission recommended a system of family allowances. Despite the fact that conservative governments were in charge of the treasury-bench over practically tha whole period, it took them exactly twenty years to follow the recommendations of the Piddington commission. lc is interesting to note that there have been only two increases in child endowment since it was introduced in 1941. Both of those increases were made by a Labour government. This Government stands on its record of having completely forgotten that there are in Australia children who are in need of social service assistance. The Curtin Government increased child endowment by 2s. 6d. in 1 945 and the Chifley Government increased child endowment by 2s. 6d. in 1948. It is true to say that the seven-year period between the introduction of child endowment and its second increase by the Chifley Government were not years during which an inflationary spiral operated in the Australian economy. Therefore, a doubling of the amount of child endowment was an increase in real money to the family. Any increase now would only go towards restoring the value of child endowment, because of this Government’s neglect to attend to the matter. The burden of restoring the value of child endowment over the period that it has been in office is very great. Nevertheless, this must be faced by whatever party is in government. There is no question that the Labour Party, when it is returned on 9th December, will attend to this matter.
The only thing that this Government has done in relation to child endowment - and it was done in fulfilment of an election promise - was the granting of child endowment in respect of the first child. That was in 1950. This is the year 1961, and again we find that the Government has completely forgotten about this matter. To its credit, it fulfilled its promise to the electors, but forgot about making increases as time went on. The value of the 5s. that was given in 1950 for the first child has now almost completely disappeared. The value of the 10s. given by the Chifley Government in 1948 is also almost invisible to-day. It is all very well to talk about supplementary provisions, such as free milk for school children up to the age of thirteen years. This applies only in certain sections, of Australia, because many Australians to-day do not even get fresh milk. Some honorable senators would do well to go into the back country of Australia where they would find that children do not get free milk and, indeed, do not get milk of any sort except from a tin.
– If they went to Carnarvon, they would be all right.
– They might be. There is a limited supply at Carnarvon. Carnarvon does not constitute the whole of Australia. It is only a small part of this country. The honorable senator should see what the people in the areas further north get. The people of those areas pay taxes that are used to provide free milk for only some Australian children. This. Government is one-eyed. It cannot see beyond the south-eastern corner of Australia. Its concern should extend to people out in the empty spaces of our land and it should ensure that all the people who pay taxes for these so-called social benefits may receive them. I know that people living in remote areas receive a zone allowance, which relieves them of some of the burden of taxation. But the mere granting of a zone allowance does not justify the Government avoiding its responsibilities to provide social benefits to the people in the remote areas of Australia.
When the Australian Labour Party puts forward its policy on child endowment it is asked where will it get the money to implement that policy. I say quite frankly that the Labour Party proposes, as far as possible, to restore to child endowment the value that it held in 1948.
– By what means?
– We will provide 10s. a week for the first child, 17s. 6d. for the second child and- £1’ for each additional child. We will have regard to the decrease in the purchasing power of money since child endowment was introduced. Since 1948 the value of money has declined, and consequently the amounts paid by way of child endowment must be increased.
– Do you intend to increase pay-roll tax in order to finance increased child endowment?
– We will change the incidence of taxation in the Australian community,, but we do not propose to increase the burden of taxation. In 1948 a certain percentage of Commonwealth revenue was devoted to child endowment. We say that the same percentage, should be devoted to< child endowment to-day. If child endowment payments in 1948 represented 12 per cent, or 15 per cent, of the national income, they should represent the same percentage to-day. It would be a simple matter to put that proposition into effect, but the Government has avoided its responsibility in this, regard. That is. the sole reason why it is able to say that to increase child endowment in accordance with Labour’s policy would cost an extra £60,000,000 or £70,000,000 a year. This situation has been created deliberately by the neglect of ‘this Government, and must be rectified. To continue to refuse to adjust child endowment in accordance with the decreased purchasing power of money is simply begging the question and avoiding a responsibility of government.
– Most people to-day are insured against maternity costs.
– Once again the honorable senator would rely on people taking care of themselves. He would force them into the hand’s of the insurance companies. He would avoid the responsibilities of government by telling the people: “Take care of yourselves; we do not intend to take care of you “. That is what the honorable senator has said. He wants to avoid the responsibilities of government by saying: “ We do not have to pay child endowment; the people have insured themselves “.
– That is right.
– So you have avoided the responsibilities of government. You say to the people, “We do not intend to look after you any more “.
– That is right.
– You say, “ Look after yourselves “.
– That is right.
– I am glad to hear the honorable senator agree that the Government has no- regard for the welfare of the people.
A Labour government will increase age and invalid pensions to £5 10s. a week. It will do that in an effort to restore the value of those pensions. Over the years pensions have lost their value and it is only in an election year that the Government, having made- such a mess of the economy, seeks to win votes by restoring age and invalid pensions to the proportionate value they held when it took office. At that time pensions represented 36 per cent, of the basic wage. The Labour Party will grant pensioners 5s. more than the Government is prepared to grant them and will thus restore in some small measure the value of their pensions.
– Is this the Opposition’s policy speech?
– It may be a bit rankling to the honorable senator to sit in her place and know that she. supports a government that has dishonoured its promise to the. people.
– It has done no such thing.
– This Government hasdishonoured its promise to the people. In 1949 the Government said that it would not increase social service benefits but would increase their value. Every honorable senator opposite who supports the Government has dishonoured the promise made to the people iti 1949. Senator Wedgwood should take that matter into consideration when she talks about social services.
A Labour government will reduce to ten years the residential qualification for an age and invalid pension. Many people who have come to Australia are, for various, reasons, unable to support themselves. For varying reasons their sponsors are not able to support them. Those people must get. along as best they can. We say that if they have been in Australia for ten years and. have given good service to Australia, for that time, they are entitled to qualify for receipt of an age or invalid pension. We will reduce from, twenty years to ten years the residential qualification.
A Labour government wilt increase the supplementary rent allowance to 30s. a week. The Government allegedly gave needy pensioners a rent allowance of 10s. a week. I say “ allegedly “ because in fact the 10s. goes not to the needy pensioners but to the landlords, who. increased rents to cover the amount, granted by the Government. We say that supplementary allowances should be paid for factors, other than rents. We will examine this matter to see to what extent we can give assistance to people who- are in need.
In the Budget and in this bill the Government proposes to increase some - I emphasize the word “ some “ - unemployment and sickness benefits. The Government proposes to increase by 10s. a week the unemployment and sickness benefit paid to an adult or to a married minor. It proposes to increase by Ss. a week the allowance paid for a dependent spouse and by 2s. 6d. a week the allowance paid for a dependent child. In other words, it proposes to increases the total unemployment and sickness benefit payable to a family of that size from £6 2s. 6d. to £7 a week. So this Government proposes to pay the unemployed less than 50 per cent, of the basic wage.
The Government has quite overlooked unmarried persons of sixteen and seventeen years of age. They are expected to exist on £1 15s. a week. Moreover, it has forgotten unmarried persons in the age group of from eighteen to twenty-one years. Those persons are expected to exist on £2 7s. 6d. a week. Does the Government want the family to carry the burden of those people if they are unemployed or are unfortunate enough to become sick? In addition, the Government completely ignores young persons in the age group of from fourteen to sixteen years who for various reasons are unable to continue with their education, who have had to go to work and who subsequently have become unemployed. Those young people may register for employment but they cannot receive any unemployment or sickness benefit. They completely become a burden upon their families. I have raised this matter before. Until such time as this Government is prepared to make sufficient funds available to the States to enable them to adopt a uniform schoolleaving age, it should provide unemployment and sickness benefit for all persons who are eligible for employment upon leaving school but who subsequently become unemployed.
Child endowment ceases when a child reaches the age of sixteen years. It seems to me that the Government expects a child between fourteen and sixteen years of age to be able to exist on endowment amounting to 10s. a week, or 5s. a week if that child happens to be the first in the family. These three classes of persons who should be eligible for unemployment and sickness benefit have been quite forgotten by the Government, despite the fact that it has said that all sections of the community are being looked after in its provision of social service benefits. Their plight is being touched upon by the Government, as Senator Robertson said a little while ago, but in many cases it is being touched upon very lightly.
Perhaps honorable senators opposite are in tune with the attitude of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) when they subscribe to an unemployment benefit of £7 a week. The Minister has said that a family of more than three could live on the present basic wage. A family of more than three unemployed persons is expected by this Government to live on £7 a week, not on £14 8s! But for seven days they get nothing at all. It is interesting to note that a person who becomes unemployed and registers for social service benefits must be out of work for seven days before he is entitled to any money. In most cases, three or four weeks elapse before he receives any benefit. So, whilst he is entitled to the benefit after the first seven days of unemployment, he has to wait for up to four weeks before receiving any money. Some one must carry him for that time. Out in the back country there are no facilities for people to register for employment and to claim the social service benefit. People in those areas must wait for the mail service before they can conduct their business with a capital city office many hundreds of miles away.
– What was the basis for payment of unemployment benefit when Labour was in office?
– You have floored him, senator.
– No, she has not floored me. What Labour proposes to do in regard to the unemployment benefit will be announced in the policy speech of ow leader.
– But what was the basis when Labour was in office?
– In terms of actual money, it was less than the present Government pays; but in terms of money value, it was greater.
– I do not remember what the basis was, and I am asking you to tell me.
– The maximum amount for a man, wife and one child was 50s. a week. That was when the basic wage was £5.
– How long did they have to wait after they applied for the benefit?
– They had to wait seven days. You, senator, were quite proud of this Government’s record in regard to social services. You have risen in this place and said that the Government should be congratulated upon its record in regard to social services.
– It should be.
– The Government has no right to congratulate itself upon its record in the provision of social services. It is all very well in this election year to say, “We shall increase certain social service benefits “. Of course, the Government created unemployment by adopting its November economic measures. It deliberately set out to create unemployment.
– Have you read the “Daily Telegraph”?
– I read the editorial in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. Mr. Menzies asked, “What does it matter if a few heads have to be knocked? “ That is indicative of this Government’s callous disregard of the unemployed.
– That is a quite unfair statement.
– It was published in the press and the Prime Minister has not denied it. He said that - or is alleged to have said it.
– That is a different matter.
– The Government deliberately created unemployment and it has deliberately kept down the unemployment figures as low as possible.
– And it has deliberately improved the state of the Commonwealth’s economy.
– That is a matter of opinion. If the honorable senator looks at the relevant figures, he will find that the income of the people whom he misrepresents in this Parliament - the farmers - has been declining over the last six years. In every year there has been a decline. In spite of that, the Government refuses to do anything about the wool pies - .the groups that are dictating the price of wool.
– A full inquiry into the industry is being made.
– The committee will make a full inquiry. Probably that inquiry will go on for five or six years and the woolgrowers of Australia will become bankrupt. That is the kind of policy to which the honorable senator subscribes. As Senator Drake-Brockman knows, the small woolgrowers, particularly those in Western Australia, do not want any inquiries. I have in my possession correspondence from the wool-growers and I know that they do not want inquiries but that they want a floor price scheme so they can get an adequate return for their product. Senator DrakeBrockman should not be lauding this Government, because the people who look to him for assistance are not receiving very much assistance from the Government. I say quite frankly that the Government has a complete disregard for a very large section of the Australian community in respect of social services. All the children, all the mothers and all the people who pass out of this life do not receive adequate attention from the Government.
The unemployment benefit is referred to frequently. I remind honorable senators that that benefit is also supposed to provide for people who are unable to work because of sickness. People in a state of ill health are expected to exist on £7 a week. I know that many honorable senators will say that when people are very sick and are in hospital they do not require the £7 a week and that if they belong to hospital benefits funds the greater part of their hospital expenses is met by those funds. However, I remind the Senate that breadwinners spend quite lengthy periods convalescing after illness and during that time they have to meet all the expenses that are attendant upon life outside a hospital. In addition, very many of them require special diets and foods. Yet they are expected to keep their families and provide the special things that they should have out of £7 a week. This Government is of the opinion that they should be able to do all that on less than half the basic wage. For those reasons I say that the Government stands condemned for having failed to live up to its responsibilities to the large section of the community in receipt of social services. I believe that the Labour Party is quite within its rights and is quite justified in moving the amendment to the motion for the second reading of this bill. I support the amendment.
– We have just listened to a remarkable speech by Senator Cant. It was a sort of pre-policy speech in which, instead of directing the attention of the Senate to ways and means of finding some practical method of assisting needy people, he attempted to buy votes. Never at any time did he say how much the benefits he proposed would cost. To increase child endowment for the first child by 5s. would cost £43,000,000 in a full year, but Senator Cant did not stop at that.
– At what rate would it cost £43,000,000?
– An increase of 5s.
– That is not true. The total expenditure is only about £65,000,000.
– You just will not listen.
– I have worked it out.
– But you could not work it out properly. You cannot add up.
– If you will listen, I will give you the figures.
– I will give you the numbers, if you want them.
– But, as Senator Gorton said, you cannot add up.
– How many children are involved at 5s. a week?
– If you check, you will find that such an increase would cost £43,000,000 in a full year; but Senator Cant was not satisfied with that.
– There are approximately 1,500,000 children involved in giving child endowment to the first child.
– Do your sums outside. You would still get them wrong.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator O’Byrne). - Order! Senator Wedgwood has the call.
– I said that an increase of 5s. in child endowment would cost £43,000,000.
– For the first child.
– If I did say “ for the first child “, I did so unintentionally. What I intended to cover was a general increase of 5s.
– That is what Senator Cant said.
– You talk too much to be able to hear.
– And you do not listen. Senator Cant did not leave the matter there. He promised increases in almost every type of social service benefit, but at no time did he inform the Senate or the Australian people how a Labour government would find the money that would be required.
– They want 15 per cent, of the national income to be spent on social services.
– Do not misrepresent me. I did not say that at all.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. -
Order! There are too many interjections. I call .Senator Wedgwood.
– Thank you, Sir. In supporting the bill I should like to congratulate the Government on having achieved a record in social services of which the people of this country are extremely proud. The Government’s achievement has not been surpassed by any government in any other part of the world, and it certainly has not been surpassed in Australia. Over the past twelve years the Government has introduced twelve budgets and in every one of them it has granted substantial increases to one section or another of the people who require assistance. That is much more than the Labour Party did during its term of office.
– Be fair. That was in a period of crisis and emergency, when your party could not govern the country.
– You know very well that the government of the day was defeated in the Parliament.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. -
Order! I call Senator Wedgwood.
– Thank you very much indeed again, Sir.
– They cannot take it.
– No, they cannot. Senator Cant mentioned that maternity allowances were granted by a Labour government in 1912, but he did not mention that it was a non-Labour government that granted age pensions and invalid pensions in 1909 and 1910. I think all honorable senators will agree that during the past twenty years great changes have been made in the social patterns of all countries.
– Except Australia.
– And certainly in the pattern of social service benefits in Australia. The effects of those benefits are reflected in the increased number of people who are receiving social service benefits to-day. Year by year larger and larger amounts of money are being appropriated.
– And year by year the population increases, so it is only natural.
– That is so. More and more people are receiving social service benefits. I should like to examine this matter objectively, if honorable senators opposite do not mind. Senator Cant did not attempt to do that. I should like to make an objective analysis of the social services situation as I see it. Senator Cant made a purely political speech and he does not want to listen to one that is objective.
– Members of the Opposition have a bad case and they want to bolster it.
– That is right. As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted by Senator Aylett, over the years larger and larger amounts of money have been appropriated for social services. It remains the responsibility of a Liberal or Labour government to see that it maintains an economic balance between all groups in the community. The Government has the responsibility to see that its social service expenditure is maintained at a level that can be supported by the present generation and that it will not impose an undue burden on future generations. I do not believe that any discussion on social services is on its true basis unless we consider that point. Regardless of whether the political party in office is of the persuasion of the Opposition, or of that of the present Government, that factor must always be taken into consideration.
We also have to consider the balance between the various groups in the community. In this respect may I repeat a criticism that I have made in this Senate before. I do not believe that at present we are maintaining a correct balance between the groups of people in receipt of pensions. I am one of those who believe that increases in money payments are not necessarily the best way to help needy people.
– 1 agree with you in some respects.
– Senator Dittmer agrees with that.
– But not if you go on to mention the pensioner medical scheme. I expect that you will
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order!
– The policy has been to grant flat increases in pensions. Such an increase has the effect of improving social conditions of some people who are in relatively comfortable circumstances, and at the same time not necessarily providing for those in real need - the people who are sick or indigent and have nothing but their pension. I believe that the time has come when We would do a service to the needy in the community if we were to consider ways and means of giving assistance through other forms of social services.
For the edification of the people who have been so noisy - some of them have now departed so perhaps I can continue in peace - I should like to say that for the year ended 30th June, 1949 - that was the last year of the Chifley Administration - expenditure from the National Welfare Fund on social services was £74,592,000, with £6,185,000 for health benefits, making a total of £80,777,000, whereas this year-
– May I ask you what was the national income that year?
– I have not equated that figure but was it not about £500,000,000?
– It would be over £1,000,000,000.
– This year- 1961-62 - the estimated expenditure is £273,987,000, which, if added to £84,243,000 for health benefits makes a total of approximately £358,000,000.
– The national income is approaching-
– Would you mind keeping quiet, if you possibly can?
– It is so difficult when there is misrepresentation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. -Order!
– I do not know whether it taxes Senator Dittmer’s powers too much to remain silent. Actually the increase in expenditure this year over the expenditure for the preceding year is £27,626,000, and it is £277,300,000 above the expenditure of the Chifley Government in 1949. I quote the figures to give an indication of the growth of social service benefits under the Menzies Government. Ft is completely ridiculous for Senator Cant to say that this Government has been recreant to its trust. No government in the history of Australia has given to its people a social service programme in any way comparable with that given by the Menzies Government, and I do not think that any government in the future will do better.
The bill provides for an increase of 5s. a week in the basic pension rate, bringing the amount to £5 5s. for a single person and to £10 10s. for a married couple. This is an increase of £3 2s. 6d. a week over the pension that was paid by the Labour Government in 1949. We should remember that in 1949 Mr. Chifley refused to give an increase of even one penny in the last budget he presented before his Government was swept out of office.
– But the percentage–
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. -Order!
– You do not like the truth.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I ask Senator Dittmer to help in maintaining order in the chamber. I point out that he will have the opportunity very shortly to speak on this subject.
– My colleague, Senator Robertson, outlined all of the increases in the bill, so I shall not repeat them, except to say that the Government has granted increases in the allowance to a wife and children of an invalid pensioner. That has been advocated by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. The widows’ pension is to be increased by 5s., and the allowance for each child after the first is to be increased by 5s. I should like to add to what Senator Robertson has said regarding one important matter. I believe that the position of a civilian widow is still a most difficult one. The present bill does slightly improve conditions for her, but the fact remains that if her children are young she must go out to work to provide for them. She is forced, therefore, to leave them in the care of other people, and all too frequently force of circumstances eventually causes her to give the custody of her children to other people. That is not only a personal, but also a national tragedy. I shouldlike civilian widows to receive more to help them remain at home with their children.
– They should be allowed to earn more?
– I feel that it is not right for mothers to be forced to leave young children in the care of other people.
Senator Cant referred to the unemployment and sickness benefit. This bill proposes to increase the benefit by 10s. a week and to give the wife of an unemployed person an extra 5s. a week, and the children an additional 2s. 6d. a week, making a total increase of 17s. 6d. for a man, wife and child. One of the most remarkable features of the social service programme of the Menzies Government has been the general liberalization of the means test. We all know how beneficial this has been to a large number of people. The merged means test, introduced last year, was the greatest structural alteration of the social service scheme since the day when pensions were introduced.
– Where did this Government get the idea from last year?
– I hope that Senator Dittmer will not tell us that his party was the author of it. If he does, Ned Kelly will never be dead. As we all know, the merged means test replaced the former separate tests relating to income and property by a single, composite test. As a result, many more thousands of people became eligible for pensions. In 1949, 326,966 people were in receipt of age pensions or invalid pensions. On 30th June, 1961, the number was 562,790 - an increase of 235,824. Over the same period the number of people in receipt of widows’ pensions rose from 43,262 to 55,436.
Now I should like to refer to steps which I believe could be taken by the Government to give further assistance to needy people. Already the Government is giving limited assistance to some of the organizations I have in mind, and I believe that if that assistance were extended we could further assist needy sick people and at the same time save the Government a considerable amount of money. I am referring to organizations providing domiciliary nursing services. Some time ago a bill was passed through both Houses of the Parliament providing for the payment of a subsidy to these organizations in respect of any additional nurses employed by them. I feel that changes in medical and surgical treatment, more expensive and complicated hospital treatment, shorter stays in hospital and the problems of the care of the chronically ill and the aged are factors which are contributing to the need for an extension of domiciliary nursing services.
I have a very deep and personal interest in the Melbourne District Nursing Service and I should like to take up the time of the Senate now by giving an indication of the work that is done by that one organization. Similar work is being done all over Australia. I believe that an extension of these services would in many cases give more benefit to pensioners than an increase of the basic pension by ls., 2s., or 5s. a week. In the year ended 30th June, 1961, the magnificent Melbourne District Nursing Service had 8,614 patients. It made 231,677 visits, 173,713 of which were to pensioners. The average daily number of patients - of whom two-thirds would be bedridden - was 1,600, and the average cost of a visit was 8s. 9d. The number of miles travelled was 385,000. Repatriation and insurance patients comprised one-half of the intermediate patients, who numbered 1,492. So there were over 700 repatriation and insurance patients.
The benefits flowing from these services are manifold. Sick pensioners are encouraged to remain in their own homes, and by doing so, often their mental and physical condition does not deteriorate as rapidly as in institutions. The feeling of contentment at remaining in the community in which they live is of inestimable value to elderly pensioners and, indeed, to the community. I feel that there is a real need for an extension of the domiciliary nursing services and of the home health scheme, to which the Commonwealth Government contributes. My plea is that more and more money be diverted to services of this kind, from which, I believe, the indigent and the sick would gain much greater benefit than from small increases of basic pension rates. A pension increase goes to all pensioners, including those who are possessors of homes, cars and other property, and it does not give the assistance that is required to the indigent and the needy. The extension of these services is something that I hope the Commonwealth Government will examine. To me, it provides one of the answers to the problem of the rapidly increasing appropriation of money for social services.
– Are these bodies subsidized now?
– Yes. The State governments are subsidizing them, and the Commonwealth Government has moved into the field to the extent that it pays a subsidy for any additional nurses employed.
– You are advocating subsidies for organizations of this type?
– Yes. Next week has been set aside in Victoria as Mental Health Week. Therefore, I think it is appropriate that I should raise what I believe is a matter of importance to all mental hospitals, particularly those in Victoria. The Senate was indebted to Senator Branson about a fortnight ago for asking a question about the unexpended amounts of the grants for mental health paid by the Commonwealth to the States in the proportion of £1 to £2. Honorable senators will recall that in 1955 Dr. Alan Stoller, a Melbourne psychiatrist, conducted a three months’ survey and submitted to the Government a report that absolutely shocked Australia. He graphically described the conditions that existed in mental hospitals all over Australia. As a result of his report the Commonwealth Government decided to offer to the States £10,000,000 as part of a £30,000,000 capital works programme.
Senator Branson has received information to the effect that a considerable amount of that £10,000,000 has not been expended, although both Victoria and Tasmania have expended their allocations. The Victorian allocation was £2,750,000, and that amount had been expended in Victoria before June of last year. Because the other States have not taken up their portions, the Commonwealth Government is not providing any further money under the scheme to States that have already spent their allocation. I say without fear of contradiction that conditions in mental health institutions in Victoria have improved greatly during the last few years. Nevertheless, important projects are now being suspended because the hospitals in Victoria are dependent on the State Government for money which will barely cover day-to-day maintenance. Surely, it is time for an appreciation, on the highest national level, of the fact that the problem of mental health is as important, if not more so, to the community than is the problem, of physical health. Dr. Stoller, who is well known as one of the best psychiatrists, has said that it is the: number one public health problem of our time.
I believe that no money should remain unexpended while there still exists a need to better the conditions of the mentally afflicted in. every State.
– It would be all right if Victoria could build up a credit.
– Yes. Our people are ready to go. ahead.. Yet,, the programme is bogged down now because other States have not taken, up their quotas. For twelve months, this scheme that was so enthusiastically received in 1955, has. been languishing. There will be no money for capital, works.
– Is the trouble basically that some States’ cannot find the money to match the Commonwealth grant?
– That, may be so. Doubt was. expressed in 1955 as. to the ability of all. States; to match the Commonwealth’s contribution. Some of the Premiers complained - I do not know whether or not there was a basis for their complaint - that they had. not been actively consulted, in. the matter. The fact is, however, that the Stoller report resulted in the Commonwealth Government’s offer to the States to find the sum I have mentioned. Victoria has found the requisite amount, and we are grateful for the contribution of the Commonwealth Government. It has been authoritatively stated that, as a result of this scheme, the position of mental hygiene in Victoria is far better than that of any other State and, indeed, is a pattern for other countries of the world to follow.
I pay a tribute to the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Henry Bolte, who saw the need that existed in the State. I also pay a tribute to Dr. Eric Cunningham Dax, who was brought to Victoria by the State Government and who has been in control of our mental hygiene authority for some years; to the excellent staff which works with him, and to the members of voluntary organizations, of some of which I have the great honour to be patroness. It is to the credit of all those people that the treatment of the. mentally ill in Victoria provides a pattern that might well be followed by others. But there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done.
I do not have to tell honorable senators about the old methods of treating mental illness. In my own district there is a fortress-like building, that broods over the surrounding country. Such places were built like gaols, when the detention of the mentally ill was almost a punishment. To-day, we believe that those places should come down and that the open door should replace the locked door and the padlocked cell. There will always be some people who must be forcibly detained. Nevertheless, the attitude of the community towards mental illness has changed so much during the last decade that sensible people are to-day recognizing that money must be spent if we are. to give the care that is necessary and to provide the hope of recovery that, is so much desired, not only by the patients themselves but by all those associated with them.
In Victoria at. the present time there are approximately 9,000 people in mental hospitals. The. astonishing thing is that 80 per cent, of people will recover. That is the- (recovery rate to-day. Therefore, the frequency of the use of beds is comparable with that in general hospitals. Another point that I should like to bring to the notice of the Government is that 23 per cent, of the people admitted to those hospitals are over 65 years of age. Many of these elderly people are not suffering from acute mental illness at all. If accommodation were available in benevolent homes or in hospitals they - would be accommodated there. Although we are building up in the community a feeling that there should be no discrimination between the physically ill and the mentally ill, the Government itself discriminates between them. Under the Social Services Act, age, invalid and widows’ pensions are suspended when pensioners enter State mental hospitals, but payment continues if they enter benevolent homes. Similarly - and I do not think that the Opposition should be very proud of this - in 1946, when Commonwealth hospital benefits were introduced for patients in public hospitals, no provision was made for patients in mental hospitals. This means that patients in mental hospitals receive neither pensions nor hospital benefits on the normal scale. That is an anomaly so far as the patient is concerned and certainly so far as the hospital is concerned.
– What is the present position in State mental hospitals as to maintenance of patients? Are relatives or patients required to pay for maintenance?
– Not in mental hospitals in Victoria, for the reason that they have received no benefit at all. This matter has been placed before the Minister time and time again, and his answer has always been that traditionally and constitutionally the maintenance and care of mentally afflicted persons in State mental hospitals are the responsibility of the State Government. That does not stand up to examination, because general hospitals were originally the responsibility of the States, but the Commonwealth Government voluntarily agreed to pay certain sums of money according to the number of occupied beds and the status of patients. If those payments can be .extended to patients in general hospitals, it is high time that we had a look at the situation of mental hospitals. As I said before, the present position places at a disadvantage those people who are devoting their lives to the associated problems of mental illness. With the suspension of capital grants in Victoria, we feel that the position of our mental hospitals is most serious.
I do not for one moment apologize for taking up the time of the Senate. I feel that this is a No. 1 problem. There is a serious anomaly with regard to the conditions that apply to these people. I sincerely hope that the Minister for Social Services will have another look at it. Quite frankly, one could drive a horse and cart through most of the arguments that have been put forward over the years.
I do not support the amendment moved by Senator Cooke on behalf of the Opposition, for two reasons. One is that it is purely superficial. The second is that the purchasing power of the pension is higher to-day than it was in 1949. I have heard various amounts cited. In another place, the Minister said that it is 17s. a week higher. I .have not calculated it. The value of the pensioner medical and pharmaceutical services provided by this Government can never be measured in terms of money. No one could assess just what they mean to pensioners and their dependants. Therefore, it is immoral to stand in this Senate and say that the Government has done nothing for pensioners. By that scheme and by every other possible means, the Menzies Government has placed on the statute book legislation that will remain to its abiding credit long after we who are here to-day have left this Senate.
I commend to the Senate several of the ideas that I have placed before it. I believe that pension expenditure - my friend Senator Wright has addressed himself to this problem on more than one occasion - if allowed to expand as it has done during the past few years, can eventually be an intolerable burden on future generations. I still do not abandon my own belief that a contributory national insurance scheme is the answer. Up to the present, we have not achieved that. The merged means test has gone a good way towards removing many of the major criticisms that existed previously. I hope that whenever social services are debated in this chamber honorable senators will refrain from making pensioners a political football. Their needs are dear to all people, no matter what their politics may be, who have a love and respect for humanity. To come here and attempt through their needs to buy votes from the community outside does little for the pensioner and does little credit to the Senate. I support the bill.
– I was very interested to hear Senator Wedgwood describe the conditions of some of our mental patients. I was particularly interested to hear her say that it is estimated that approximately 80 per cent, of persons who are in mental hospitals recover and are able to take their places in the community again. I was not aware that such a large percentage of patients recovered. I support most of Senator Wedgwood’s comments in relation to mental hygiene. The care of those people who may be unfortunate enough to be placed in an institution for a period should exercise the mind of any government. We must admit that a certain number of them, irrespective of the medical aid obtained, are incurable and will not resume their place in the community.
I should like to carry the matter a little further than did Senator Wedgwood. I suggest that the Government should consider whether or not it is possible to pay a pension to those people who are confined to mental hospitals. Some are there for only a short period, some for a month, some for three months, and so on. During that period they have no income whatsoever. Certainly they are kept and cared for while they are there and they are given medical attention. But what is the position when they come out?
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was referring to patients in mental hospitals and I had complimented Senator Wedgwood on the case that she put forward for those people. She did a good job on that aspect of social services. I was rather surprised to hear her pass some critical remarks about the Government’s attitude towards patients in mental hospitals. She said that the Government discriminated against mental patients by suspending their age or invalid pensions when they entered a mental institution. I agree wholeheartedly with her remarks in that connexion. A pension should be paid to persons who are obliged to enter mental hospitals.
Social services cover a very wide field and affect a large proportion of the population. One is forced to that conclusion by the amount that is paid out in social service benefits each year. Many families receive social service benefits in one form or another, either by way of child endowment, age or invalid pensions or unemployment and sickness benefits.
The Government has on a number of occasions endeavoured to take unto itself credit for the amount of the unemployment benefit. I remind the Government that a Labour government first introduced the unemployment benefit. The requisite legislation was passed in 1944 and the first payments were made in 1945. Let us compare the amount that was paid in 1945 with the amount of the benefit to-day. In 1945 the basic wage for the six capital cities was £4 16s. a week. At that time the unemployment benefit paid to a man with dependent wife and one dependent child amounted to £2 10s. a week. In that case the benefit fell short of the basic wage by £2 6s. a week. A person in receipt of the unemployment benefit in 1945 was permitted to earn up to £1 a week. His total income, therefore, could be as much as £3 10s. a week, falling short of the basic wage by £1 6s. a week. To-day the basic wage for the six capital cities is £14 8s. a week. The unemployment benefit that is paid to a man with dependent wife and one dependent child is £7 a week. That amount falls short of the basic wage by £7 8s. a week. To-day a person in receipt of the unemployment benefit is permitted to earn £2 a week. Such a person may have a total income of £9 a week, which falls short of the basic wage by £5 8s. a week. It will be seen, therefore, that the difference between the basic wage and the total income of a man in receipt of the unemployment benefit is far greater to-day than it was in 1945. The further we go the wider becomes the gap. Some serious consideration should be given to that aspect of social services. In 1945 the permissible income of £1 a week represented approximately one day’s work. That meant that a man who was out of work could work for one day a week and still qualify for the unemployment benefit. But that is not the case to-day because I do not know of any industry where only £2 a day is paid to adult male workers. The present wage would be more in the vicinity of £4 a day. So in effect a person in receipt of the unemployment benefit may work only half a day without affecting the benefit. The Government should look further at this matter and increase the amount that an unemployed person is permitted to earn before affecting his right to draw unemployment benefit.
Another factor that should be taken into consideration is rent. In 1945 rents ranged from 15s. to 25s. a week but to-day they Would range from about 60s. to 120s. per week. In fact, very few people can find a house to rent for as little as £3 a week.
Whilst it is pleasing to see an increase in the amount of the unemployment benefit, my personal opinion is that this is a benefit that we should not have to pay. I contend that every worker who is able and willing to work should be provided with employment. He should not have to suffer the humiliation of drawing unemployment benefits.
Let me turn now to the sickness benefit, in respect of which an anomaly exists. In the normal course of events, a person who is employed and is in receipt of an ordinary weekly wage receives the sickness benefit in accordance with the normal scale immediately he becomes sick. However, a person who has been engaged in seasonal employment may not have been in receipt of income for a few weeks prior to becoming ill. An adult male who finds himself in that position qualifies, not for the ordinary payment of £3 5s. a week, but for an amount of £2 7s. 6d. I have had a number of such cases brought to my notice only quite recently. That is a very bad feature of our social service legislation. Some persons who are engaged on seasonal work quite naturally attend to their farms or orchards, as the case may be, between seasons with the result that, as I have stated, they may not have received any income for a few weeks prior to becoming ill. The Government should examine that provision of the legislation and endeavour to correct it. Irrespective of whether an adult male is earning income or not just prior to becoming sick, he is still losing because of his inability to work in his orchard or farm.
A few moments ago I referred to the gap between the amount of the unemployment benefit and the basic wage. There has been a considerable gap also between the basic wage and age and invalid pensions. I mentioned a few moments ago that in 1945 the basic wage was £4 16s. a week. The pension for aged and invalid persons at that time was £1 12s. 6d., leaving a gap of £3 3s. 6d. between the basic wage and the pension. Over the years that gap has widened continually. For example, in 1955, the basic wage was £10 16s. a week and the age and invalid pension was £4 a week - a gap of £6 16s. In this financial year the position is considerably worse. Whereas the average basic wage is £14 8s. a week, age and invalid pensions are to be £5 5s. - a gap of £9 3s.
The whole of the provisions for age and invalid pensions need to be adjusted in many ways. I am concerned particularly about invalid pensions. To qualify for an invalid pension, a person must be certified by a doctor to be 82 per cent, incapacitated. That does not leave him a very great margin to earn additional money. Consequently, a penalty is inflicted on a person who draws an invalid pension. An age pensioner may earn £3 10s. a week before his pension is affected, but an invalid pensioner, because of his incapacity, cannot earn anything like that amount.
Our social service legislation should be examined and adjusted to bring the various forms of pension more into line with one another. I suppose the worst feature of our social service legislation is the provision for child endowment. A lot has been said in this chamber and another place during the debate on this measure about the need to improve this benefit. I support those comments and express the hope that even at this late stage the Government will do something about child endowment. This aspect of our social service legislation has been sadly neglected by the Government since it assumed office. Just what has the Government done about the matter since it assumed office on 10th December, 1949? It has not provided for one increase. Admittedly, it has extended child endowment to the first child in a family, but that was an election promise. Probably it is the only election promise which the Government has kept.
– I would like the honorable senator to name a few of the promises that this Government has kept. We well recall that prior to the 1949 election supporters of this Government went about saying they would cure inflation, put value back into the £1, and so on. But the Government has kept none of those promises.
– Did the Government improve the employment situation?
– The employment situation has deteriorated badly during the past eight or nine months so we cannot give the Government very much credit for what it has done in that direction. I admit that the Government introduced child endowment in 1941. But why did it make provision for this benefit? lt introduced child endowment merely to avoid an increase of the basic wage.
– The Government did not do so willingly. It was forced into doing that.
– That is right. If my memory serves me correctly, it was done at the suggestion of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The court suggested that if provision was not made for child endowment it would have to increase the basic wage. Beyond extending the payment of child endowment to cover the first child, and to include aboriginal women, the Government has done nothing to improve this benefit. Although the Government can take a certain amount of credit for introducing child endowment at the federal level, it cannot lay claim to being the first government in Australia to introduce child endowment, because it. was not. We all know the history of child endowment. It was first introduced by a New South Wales Labour government.
– Labour did not happen to be in power up here.
– No, and more the pity. If Labour had been in power in the federal sphere child endowment, might have been introduced long before it was. Prior to the 1949 election the parties which constitute the present Government went out with the policy that they would introduce child endowment for the first child. I suggest that at that time that policy which they put forward to the people was only one of the baits they used to gain the treasury bench.
– We do not have to do that. We leave that to your party.
– You may feel that way, but I can quote a number of occasions when this Government has merely gone out on the hustings and held out a bait to the electors so that it would be elected as a government, as it was in 1949. I could enumerate the baits that have been held out by the Government from now until midnight and I would not exhaust the supply.
Unfortunately, the Government did not keep all the promises on social services that it made prior to the 1949 election. For instance, prior to that election Mr. Menzies said that the Government parties, if elected to office, would not only maintain the full value of all social service payments but also increase their value. I suggest that by the table that I used earlier this evening I have shown that the Government has not maintained the full value of social service payments and has not done anything like increasing them in proportion to increases in the basic wage. I have mentioned the gap which existed between the basic wage and social service payments in 1945 and the gap that exists in 1961. I believe that should be sufficient to convince people that the Government has not lived up to that election promise. Senator McKellar, who interjected a few moments ago, will probably asnwer that point if he has an opportunity to speak on this matter. The only governments which have increased child endowment over the years have been Labour governments. Child endowment was increased by two amounts of 2s. 6d. in 1945 and 1948 by Labour governments. This Government’s child endowment record does not stand up very well to that of the Australian Labour Party.
I should also like to direct the attention of the Senate to this Government’s particularly bad record in relation to the funeral benefit. It has done absolutely nothing to increase the funeral benefit. Never at any time during its term of office has this Government done anything in relation to that benefit. I believe that this is the worst aspect of the social service benefits scheme. A Labour government first introduced that benefit in 1943. At that time £10 was given to assist in the burial of a pensioner. I suppose that a funeral probably would have cost in the vicinity of £25 to £30 at that time, whereas to-day the cost of a reasonable funeral is about £70 to £80. I submit that the funeral benefit is a glaring example of this Government’s repudiation of election promises.
– Did the Liberal Party ever promise to increase the funeral benefit?
– It promised to increase all social service benefits. Surely that is plain enough. Surely even the honorable senator can understand that.
– But you used the word “ all “.
– When you say “ social service payments “ I take it that you mean one thing and one thing only; that is, all aspects of social service payments. I think even Senator Marriott, who has just interjected, will admit that the funeral benefit is part of the system of social service payments. Surely he cannot get away from that.
I want to refer for a moment to the provision of the widows’ pension for deserted wives or divorcees. At present certain deserted wives and divorcees receive assistance in this particular field of social services. One of the factors which make a deserted wife or a divorcee ineligible to be paid this social service benefit is that she has not taken reasonable action to obtain maintenance from her husband or former husband. Many anomalies exist in this regard. I propose to illustrate one or two of those anomalies to the Senate. I will illustrate them just sufficiently to show the Government that there are anomalies in this provision of the Social Services Act. When a woman has been deserted by her husband who happens to be a pensioner, that woman has no hope whatsoever of obtaining maintenance from her husband.
In one case, which I know very well, the husband was about twenty years older than the wife. They had not lived together as man and wife for a considerable period, and eventually they parted. Now that woman is only in her mid-fifties and her husband is in his mid-seventies. She cannot obtain payment as a deserted wife. Her husband cannot afford to pay her maintenance because he draws only a social service pension, so she cannot receive the benefit provided under the Social Services Act. All that that woman is entitled to under the present set-up is unemployment benefit, and we well know that to-day the unemployment benefit does not meet the needs of a deserted wife. If we look into this case a little- further, we find that this woman has worked hard all her life, reared a large family and done much for Australia in helping to populate the country and contributing towards the economy of the country. Why should she be penalized at this late stage in her life for something which she cannot avoid?
In a number of cases divorcees cannot obtain maintenance from their former husbands because they have gone off to other States and it is not possible to find them. The divorcees cannot take legal proceedings against their former husbands because their whereabouts are unknown. Consequently, those divorcees are disqualified from obtaining that social service benefit. I believe that the social services scheme could be amended in a number of ways to correct the anomalies to which I have referred.
Another very bad anomaly exists as a result of the merged means test which this Government introduced in its 1960-61 Budget. We recall that prior to the merged means test coming into operation a pensioner couple were permitted to earn £364 a year. They could earn that amount in any given period; they did not have to confine their earnings to £7 a week. For instance were they to earn the £364 in two, three or four months of the year they could knock off work for the rest of the year. They could engage in seasonal work, earn the permitted income in eight or nine months and their pension would not be affected.
As a result of the introduction of the merged means test the situation is entirely different. Some persons drawing the pension accept seasonal work and earn up to £14 to £16 a week, but under the merged means test system, after the second or third week probably they will be asked by the Department of Social Services to state the amount of their earnings. When the department finds that these people are earning such an amount their pension is suspended for a period of time. When they complete their work their pension is restored. The amount of £364 a year cannot be earned in the same way as was permitted under the Social Services Act prior to the merged means test coming into operation.
I understand that the operation of this matter is left to the discretion of the Director of Social Services in each State. That being so we could have six different interpretations of the provision. The situation amounts to nothing more or nothing less than that. I feel that the Government should lay down a firm policy on permitted earnings under the merged means test. I again appeal to the Government to do something to correct these anomalies which exist in the Social Services Act.
As the Government is anxious to get this measure through the Senate fairly quickly I shall leave the matter there. I support the amendment put forward by Senator Cooke on behalf of the Opposition. I trust that the Government will, for once, see the wisdom of the amendment and will in good grace accept it.
– I want to make brief reference to my Tasmanian colleague, Senator Poke. At the commencement of his speech, when he equated pensions to-day with pensions in the long, long ago when Labour was in office, I felt that he was living in the past. I do not think that it is to the credit of the Parliament, nor to the pensioners, to live in the past so I will leave the matter at that. Senator Poke then passed on to the very serious question of the unemployment benefit. No member of this National Parliament wants any person in Australia to be unemployed. The Government and Opposition parties have, I sincerely believe, a policy of full employment. They would be most unchristian if they did not have that policy. However, with scientific advances and advances in mechanization and automation, we have suddenly entered a period in our national development when it is obvious that our boys and girls have to be trained at school, and given higher education to enable them to become artisans or specialists. There is very little scope left in Australia to-day for those who have no specialist training.
While we pass through that era there must, unfortunately, be a small percentage of our untrained population unfitted for to-day’s jobs who will, now and again, be unemployed. The whole world, but particularly a young country like Australia with great resources, is taking part in a march of progress. Unfortunately in all marches of progress some will be handicapped, frustrated and find themselves in awkward situations.
Now and again the Labour Party, particularly in an election year, claims that pension rates should be equated to the basic wage. We know that the basic wage is equated to the cost of living, and no more important man than the former leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Dr. Evatt, discussed this matter some years ago. With his academic mind, he applied himself to the question and pointed out that you cannot equate pensions to the basic wage because the basic wage differs from State to State. A terrific administrative problem would be created. It would be necessary to pay age and invalid pensions in one State at a certain rate, and in another State al another rate. The basic wage may rise or fall. Is there any party that can form a government in the National Parliament that would, if the basic wage decreased, bring in legislation to lower pensions? The only time in the history of the Commonwealth that pensions have been decreased was during the regime of a Labour government, but that would never happen again unless a great catastrophe befell this country, and if the government of the day decided to commit political suicide. I believe that the Labour Party’s spasmodic appeal to the Government to equate pensions to the basic wage is outmoded, wrong and unacceptable.
Senator Poke, who I thought made quite a reasoned speech to the Senate, weakened at one stage when he started to get very party political. He challenged the Government to say what promises the LiberalCountry Party had kept of those which it made at elections, when time after time the people of Australia returned it to power. We promised a new deal, a fair deal. We promised a simplification of taxation, and no one in Australia can deny that we have fulfilled that promise. We promise improvements of social services and a widening of the scope of social service benefits.
Later on I shall detail some of the things that we have done in that field. We promised to improve the defence services. When we came into power in 1949 our defence services were riddled with inefficiency. They had been cut down and had been almost immobilized. We promised to improve them, and no one can deny that we have improved them. That is another promise that was kept. We promised freedom from petrol rationing, which the late and honoured Mr. Chifley said could not be brought about. We had been in office only a few weeks when we abolished petrol rationing, and Australia continued to develop. That is another promise that was kept.
Senator Dittmer continues to interject. I have a budgerigar at home. I take no notice of it, and I take no notice of Senator Dittmer. If he has the moral fibre to stand up in this place and make a speech later, let him do it. I was challenged by Senator Poke to enumerate some of the promises that we have kept.
– I am to speak next. I shall have something to say then on what you are saying now.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I ask the Senate to maintain order. If there is any further disturbance, I shall immediately name the honorable senator concerned.
– We promised that, in office, we would free the people from the controls that had been put upon them, like handcuffs, by the Labour movement. We have done that. We promised expansion. Anybody in Australia will admit that during the last ten years this nation has expanded and developed to a greater extent than at any other period of its history. That is not due entirely to the Government’s work. It is due, to some extent, to good fortune and also to the moral fibre of the Australian people and of the new Australians whom we have brought to this country.
Senator Poke said that the only way in which this Government got back into power was by putting out baits. He used the word “ baits “. He must be a fisherman. I say in answer to Senator Poke that history shows that no opposition has ever won an election. A government wins an election or is defeated by the people. We have won election after election and we look forward confidently to winning again on 9th December this year.
– Tell us about the value of the £1, will you?
– 1 think we have put a lot of value into the £1.
This is a bill to amend the Social Services Act 1947-1960. This is the twelfth occasion since this Government has been in office on which the Senate has reconsidered this legislation in all its scope and with a sense of responsibility to those who benefit from it and to those who pay into the Treasury. The time has come for a re-appraisal of the needs of those who benefit under the legislation. The Government has a responsibility to the nation, which has not only these commitments, but many others, to meet. I suggest to the Opposition, through you, Sir, that they are commitments that the Opposition forgets. Honorable senators opposite have been so long in the political wilderness that they have forgotten the responsibilities of a national government. They are using social services only as a means to try to persuade social service beneficiaries to vote for them on 9th December, but I sincerely believe that the beneficiaries under this legislation abhor the attitude adopted by the Opposition. The statements of honorable senators opposite do not sound sincere, and the Opposition has no clearcut and practical policy for improving our legislation.
Social service legislation goes hand in hand with legislation for repatriation benefits. This bill proposes an increase of the basic rates of pension by 5s. a week. I do not propose to detail the many other benefits that are proposed in the measure. Senator after senator has enumerated them. If the press wants to publish those benefits, it has the opportunity to do so. They are fully recorded in “ Hansard “, and I shall not waste the time of my fellow senators by repeating them. I say without fear of contradiction that history shows that this Government has a proud record in the sphere of social service legislation. Each year since the Government has been m office there has been an increase of benefits, a widening of the scope of benefits and an introduction of new benefits.
Now I come to something to which I have not heard one Labour senator refer - the introduction of that memorable legislation to grant financial assistance to organizations providing homes for the aged. This Government has allocated about £10,000,000 for that purpose. Let me refer also to the merged means test, which was introduced last year. Of our total population of a little over 10,000,000 people, 562,790 are now in receipt of pensions. In homes for the aged, thanks to the legislation to which I have referred, there are now 6,850 elderly people. They are happily housed, well looked after and emotionally contented in the eventide of their lives.
The bill that we are discussing proposes an increase by £8,000,000 of the Commonwealth’s commitments in respect of social services for this financial year, during which Australia will spend approximately £274,000,000 on social service benefits. Australia is a nation that must develop in many ways, and its national government has many responsibilities in addition to those related to social services. Therefore, it is right that, not only the Government, but also the critics of the Government on the Opposition side, if they have any sense of responsibility - which I doubt - should look to the future. It is the responsibility of members of the Parliament to focus their eyes and their brains - if Senator Dittmer has any - on Australia’s commitments for 1962-63. Having regard to our present social service commitments, it seems that in that year we will have to find £360,000,000 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to meet known commitments - and this out of a budget of approximately £1,500,000,000. The Commonwealth has many other commitments which, like social service responsibilities, increase every year. So, we have to look at every aspect of Government responsibility in the right perspective and see that we give a fair deal to all sections Of the community, not only to a particular section of it. We believe in looking at the Australian picture as a whole. We do not believe in giving something to one element in the community, to the disadvantage of all the other elements.
In the year under review, the number of age pensioners increased by 24,768, due mainly to the gratefully and widely accepted merged means test. Because of advances in medical science, in hospital treatment methods, and in the care of the aged, many more people will live beyond pensionable age. Each year the number of aged pensioners will increase, and so will the numbers of all other beneficiaries of social services, regardless of whether we widen the scope of the benefits payable. If there is anyone on the Opposition side of the Chamber who has studied similar legislation and benefits in other countries, let him deny that Australia’s attitude to social service legislation compares more than favorably with that of any other country. I thought that I might hear someone on the Opposition side ask, “What about Russia? “ Who can deny that the record of this Government, over the last ten or twelve years, clearly outshines the callous and hollow policy of its predecessor, the Australian Labour Party Government? I hear no rebuke, no contradiction, when T say that.
I point out, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that the Labour Party imposed a means test on blind pensioners. We have removed that means test, and so, 5,790 pensioners in that category now benefit under the legislation. The supporters of the Labour Party have been saying, this afternoon and to-night, that our legislation is no good and that they are the only people who can help those who need social service benefits. Yet, when they were in office they had a ceiling, not only on social service benefits, but also on war pensions. We are not callous. We saw the need, and we wiped out that ceiling, to the benefit of all those who had been held down by the Labour attitude of “ restrain the people as much as you can “. Labour made no provision in its social service legislation for the hardship case. We realized that it was necessary to arrive at a basic pension that was fair to the great majority of recipients. But we went further than that. We decided that people living on their own and paying rent might properly be called hardship cases, and we granted a supplementary rent allowance of 10s. a week in such cases. There are in Australia to-day 91,000 pensioners who are benefiting from the action of this Government in that respect. The Labour Party did nothing in that field. It could not care less about those who were suffering hardship. Yet, honorable senators opposite criticise us.
We hear in this chamber criticism of the Government in respect of the treatment of aborigines. Did any Labour government in our history ever grant a pension to an Australian aboriginal? No! Labour did not think of the aborigines. They did not come within the Labour Party’s thoughts. This Government has granted pensions to all aborigines who are not described as nomadic, and even Senator Willesee will know what that means. What did the Labour Party do when it was in office to help recipients of pensions who were sick? It did not have a clue about helping them. It did nothing. This Government, which has been so strongly criticized by the Opposition, introduced the pensioners medical benefit scheme. We are proud of having done so. We believed that pensioners needed help and free medical benefits when they were ill because they could not pay the high costs of medical services to-day. They could not afford them when Labour was in power, either, but they had to suffer on, nevertheless. Now, 88 per cent, of recipients of social service benefits under this Government’s legislation receive free medical benefits.
One could go on in the same strain, but I think that a few comparisons between the Labour Party’s social service measures and those that we have put into operation are sufficient to give the lie to the contention of honorable senators opposite and to justify us in opposing the hollow-sounding amendment that has been moved to the motion for the second reading of the bill. The people of Australia are the judges, and when the Labour Party challenges this Government at election time and comes out with a lot of wild promises in respect of social services, the people will say, as they have said previously: “ Let us keep the team that we know gives sympathetic and valuable consideration to our requirements. Do not let us change it for those who blindly criticize and promise all sorts of things which they know in their heart of hearts they cannot do.”
That is my answer to the criticism of the Opposition. I hope, Sir, that I would not rise in this chamber to speak on such an important measure as a social service bill without making some suggestions to the Government, because there is no legislation that is passed by this Parliament which could not be improved. It is the responsibility of the government in power to consider every suggestion for improvement that is made to it. I know that we have a Minister for Social Services and, in the department, able and sympathetic men who work year in, year out, seeking ways to improve the legislation. But I am still brave enough to suggest that I, too, might put forward a worthwhile suggestion, after discussions with colleagues and other people, for improvement of the legislation.
We must always look to the future, remembering our national responsibility. We must see whether there are further avenues of assistance that we can rightly open to those in our community who, through ill fortune and no action of their own have come upon hard times, whether financially, in health or in some other form. We must see whether the benefits we now provide could be widened in the interests of some to whom it would be of value in hardship and trouble. I want to refer first to a matter of which I spoke earlier, namely, the 10s. a week supplementary assistance that we pay in cases of hardship. As I understand the position, that amount is now paid only to those persons who pay rent, and it is of great assistance. But I want to direct attention to those elderly pensioners who own homes and who have only a pension upon which to live. We all know that to own a home, even if it is paid off, costs money. Maintenance, re-painting, repairs, rates and taxes are hard to meet if one is drawing only a social service pension. I believe that the Government should look into that aspect of the legislation to see whether it could legally widen the scope to include those persons who, living alone and with no other income, own a house and have to meet all the expenditure resulting therefrom.
I have spoken already about homes for the aged. I praise the Government for this excellent social service legislation, which has bad an amazing effect on the lives of so many people and has induced the community to get behind the Government’s plan and to erect homes to make the eventide of life far happier for many people than it would have been without this provision. It is very easy for a senator to say, “ Spend more on Ais and that. Take less tax out of this and that.” Throughout Australia a movement is developing for the provision of community centres for age pensioners who live either in their own homes or in rented homes and have not the money to provide amenities, or friends to meet and talk with. Money is being raised, for instance in Hobart, for community centres for the aged. Thanks to this Goernment’s action, donations for this purpose are tax-free. I believe that the Government should consider a subsidy for the purpose, perhaps not £2 for £1, as with homes for the aged, but on the basis of £1 for £1, so that these community centres can provide the aged with a place where they can read, rest, meet others of similar age, yarn, have a cup of tea, perhaps watch television, and do whatever else the centre can provide. I am certain that if the Commonwealth got behind organizations building these centres and provided a £1 for £1 subsidy, the community would come forward with ready and generous support that would ensure that the centres were well furnished and comfortable.
I tread on the corns of some of my colleagues each year, but I feel that it is my bounden duty to express my view on child endowment. I believe that the whole subject should be reviewed. At times one has to rise in this chamber and decry the imposition of a means test, yet I believe that in our approach to child endowment there should be a means test, or at least we should make some other approach than that which we make at present. The Labour Party suggests that we should increase child endowment. It is very easy for an Opposition to say that. The point is that if a government increases child endowment by ls. per week, the extra cost to revenue will be at least £8,000,000 a year. As I have said before in the Senate, any government that increased child endowment by less than 5s. a week would be scoffed at and possibly put out of office, but a 5s. increase would cost about £40,000,000 a year. The fact is that child endowment does not make one iota of difference in the standard of living of many families with one, two or three children. It does not help the housewives and it does not help the children. It is just a cost to revenue both in cash paid out and administration. Yet everyone who studies our social services knows that hundreds of thousands of families in Australia need more money to provide what is required for their children. If we increase child endowment by 5s. a week, at a cost of £40,000,000 a year, we shall only be providing more money to a big percentage of families that could not care less whether or not they received it. A select committee of the Parliament should be established for the purpose, or the Government itself should go fully into the question of child endowment in order to prepare for the next Budget a new plan to help those in need and not those who already have enough. I never believe in feeding the over-fed or over-paying the well paid. I believe that from the Consolidated Revenue Fund we should provide money for the people who need it most. There are too many families receiving child endowment that they do not need, and far too many families who need more are not getting what they deserve.
I give credit to the Government for what it has done in this legislation. I give credit to it for not using the legislation in an election year for blatant vote-catching, or vote-catching in any shape or form. The Government has continued for twelve years to do what it thinks is right by those who are entitled to social service benefits, bearing in mind what it considers the nation can provide. So far as we are concerned, there have been no politics in the question, yet each year the Labour Party has introduced party-political considerations.
I close on one point about which I am very sincere. I do not believe that help for those in need, the aged, the invalids and other beneficiaries under this legislation, is the sole responsibility of a national parliament. I believe that we would be weakening the fibre of the nation if we took the sole responsibility for looking after these people. Years ago families accepted the responsibility of looking after their old folk and those who were ill or handicapped. Gradually the National Parliament hai assumed a large measure of responsibility in this connexion. I still think that we in this Parliament should, publicly and privately, when speaking to people point out that they were reared by their parents who made sacrifices for them and that they have some responsibility to those parents when they become too old to work or perhaps handicapped by illness or infirmity. The care of the aged and infirm is partly a community responsibility. If we were sincere we would tell that to the people instead of placing the responsibility too much on the Commonwealth Parliament. The amendment moved by the Opposition, like similar amendments moved each year for the last twelve years, is hollow and insincere. I do not think the Opposition wants its amendment to be accepted. I have pleasure in supporting the bill.
– May I express my gratitude for the opportunity to take part in this debate because on three successive occasions when major measures have been before the Senate those who sit opposite acted towards me like Ned Kelly. When the Stevedoring Industry Bill was before the Senate I was high on the list of Opposition speakers, but before I could rise in my place a Minister moved that the question be put. When the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Bill was before the Senate I was scheduled to be the second speaker from the Opposition side, but I did not get the chance to speak. During the debate on the motion for the printing of the Estimates and Budget Papers I was denied the right to speak despite the fact that the Senate had not sat on two Tuesdays so far in this sessional period. I express my appreciation of the decency invariably shown by the Country Party senator from Western Australia who, on the completion of his speech moved that the question be put, and so prevented me from speaking. I am sure that he did not appreciate the significance of his move. I express my appreciation of him because I personally hold him in esteem.
When we are debating a social services bill we should be charitable about the needs of others. The Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner), when referring to the brilliant and analytical speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) on the Estimates and Budget Papers, said it was a speech without a theme and that he could not follow its thread. Nobody on this side of the chamber is responsible for the lack of perspicacity of the Leader of the Government in his approach to these problems.
Senator Wedgwood made an extraordinarily constructive approach to this problem and I pay a tribute to her. She was concerned at the position of civilian widows. The Labour Party, through Senator Cooke, has enunciated its attitude to the problems confronting civilian widows. After twenty years the Government has at last increased the pension paid to civilian widows. The Government has not been particularly charitable or generous, but at least it has done something. It has acted only because of the persistent hammering of the Labour Party and because it faces an election when it may be menaced with defeat. That is why it is now prepared to give something to these people.
– Why do you say that the
Government may be menaced with defeat?
– Well, we may be faced with victory or defeat. The honorable senator knows my modesty on al) occasions and in relation to all matters. I do not say that the Labour Party will win the election, although we are entitled to victory. I say that we may win, just as the Government parties may win. The result is in the hands of the people.
– Have you no confidence?
– Does the honorable senator want me to speak for an hour? If he does I could do that quite easily. Let me proceed and praise Senator Wedgwood for her constructive ideas. She talked about the amelioration of the means test. In February, 1960, the Labour Party sought information on this matter. Unfortunately we adopted the wrong approach. The approach that we adopted was not the one that I advocated.
– You always adopt the wrong approach.
– Mr. Minister, leave interjections to the senator behind you. Do not bring yourself down to his level. In February, 1960, the Labour Party approached the Department of Social Services seeking to know what the amedioration of the means test would cost. We got the response that I expected from the
Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). We submitted an argument that the Government adopted and to which it gave expression in its Budget last year. We gave you the idea and you did not dare to ignore it. I myself would not approach public servants for information. I think they have, enough to do. My approach would be through the responsible Minister, but all we got for our efforts was a rap over the knuckles from the Minister for Social Services. If the Minister did not know what amelioration of the means test would cost he was acting irresponsibly, because an easing of the means test was announced in the 1960 Budget Previously the Minister had told us that the cost of easing the means test could not be estimated. Despite that, the Government proceeded to ease the means test.
– What does that prove?
– Who asked that question? He would not be a clown because clowns are smart. He would be a complete idiot.
– Will you say that outside?
– I will say it inside or outside about the honorable senator who interjected, because there is no likelihood that I could not sustain my case.
Senator Wedgwood said that assistance ot the needy should be extended. If I may congratulate her and hope not to handicap her by doing so, may I say that I thought she made out an extraordinarily good case.
With regard to Senator Branson, that distinguished representative of Western Australia - in the, process of time and in the interests of Western Australia, I hope, soon to be the extinguished representative of that State - he said not very long ago when the Repatriation Bill was under discussion that I darted in and darted out of the debate. That legislation and the legislation that is the subject of this debate deal with the rights of the people and that is why I am interested in them. I could use a word to describe Senator Branson that is not dissimilar in sound to the pronunciation of his name, but I would not dare to use it here. Senator Marriott said to-night that we must encourage children to seek higher education. He said that unfortunately some children leaving school will not be .able to find work. This afternoon I asked a question based on this problem.
– I said “ from time to time “.
– I will answer my question now in my own way.
– Do you not like interjections?
– I do not mind them. I can handle them easily enough, particularly if they come from you.
– The great I-am.
– No, but I am a man who knows something whereas some people know little. Remember the question that I asked this afternoon! I asked why the election was to be held on 9th December when the unemployment figures for November would not be released until after that date. The answer is that the children who will be leaving school this year will be unemployed. But I could not get that answer. I was not permitted to ask my question fully. Many children who will leave school this year will not be able to get jobs. That is why the election is to be held before the November unemployment figures are released. But Senator Marriott says that a few of those children may be unemployed. Does he know what Mr. Shrapnel thinks about this matter? Mr. Shrapnel is a representative of that distinguished firm of W. D. Scott and Company Proprietary Limited, commercial experts and industrial investigators, which was praised this afternoon by the Leader of the Government. Senator Spooner was surprised that one of that firm’s chief economists should have said that in January next year he expects at least 150,000 persons to be unemployed. I did not use that information in my question; I intended to follow it up to-morrow in another question. In case you think I am getting off the rails, Mr. Acting Deputy President, this is all part and parcel of the social service set-up.
– You are not getting off the rails. The fact is that you were never on them.
– I am running along on a monorail; I do not need two rails to guide me.
– You can run a monologue, anyway.
– I can, if I have an interested and intelligent audience. But that audience would not be on the other side of the chamber. Reference has been made to periods of unprecedented expansion. Is there anything peculiar about that? All the civilized nations have expanded, but Australia is one of the countries that have expanded least. That is particularly so in relation to education, but we shall deal with that when we are considering the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department. When you have had extraordinarily good seasons and when you have been selling primary products on a seller’s market, would you not expect the country to expand?
Senator Marriott praised the new Australians and referred to the contribution they have made to the development of this country. But, although the Government realizes that the new Australians have made extraordinary contributions to the development of this country, it refuses to reduce their qualifying period for social service benefits from twenty years to. ten years. In this place a responsible supporter of the Government rises and speaks about the extraordinary contribution made by the new Australians; but in the other place, I repeat, the Government condemns any suggestion that the qualifying period for new Australians should be reduced from twenty years to ten years.
The Government has done something worthwhile in the provision of homes for the aged. However, we do suggest that it should extend its assistance. In subsidizing on a £2-for-£l basis the money that is provided to erect homes for the aged, the Government has done something really worthwhile. I am quite willing to offer my praise to the Government, but I repeat that it should extend its assistance by helping local authorities that are prepared to build homes for this purpose.
Senator Marriott said that the improvement of social service benefits this year will cost £8,000,000. The Commonwealth will collect revenue amounting to £1,960,000,000. So £8,000,000 does not seem to me to be too much. Peculiarly enough, Senator Wedgwood and Senator Marriott were, in some measure, critical of the Government. I compliment them on their stand. However, I must be fair to Senator Marriott; he did praise the Government for its provision of supplementary assistance amounting to 10s. a week. This morning I asked how many pensioners were in receipt of this assistance, but I was unable to obtain that information from the Leader of the Government in this place. Senator Marriott said that he thought this form of assistance should be extended. But 1 feel certain that, if we were to propose increasing the supplementary assistance to 30s. a week, either by regulation or as a result of investigation by officers of the Government, every Government senator would vote against the proposal.
We who mingle with the pensioners appreciate their problems, but supporters of the Government, in their superciliousness, think these people can survive on the money they are at present receiving. We know they simply cannot survive. I said a little while ago that I was unable to obtain the desired information when I asked Senator Spooner how many people were in receipt of the supplementary allowance. I had hoped to have that information before I spoke to-night. We see just how mean a government which collects an extraordinarily large amount of revenue can be when it says it will give 10s. - half of £1 - to one partner of a married couple. You people opposite cannot be too mean, can you?
I have dealt with the remarks of the two previous speakers on the Government side. Now I wish to deal with the matter of child endowment. The Government has claimed that it was responsible for the introduction of child endowment. Legislatively it was responsible. This Government introduced child endowment in 1941, and honorable senators opposite know the basis on which it was introduced. Child endowment was introduced because the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration said that if it awarded a basic wage which was commensurate with the rights of a family it would be placing an inordinate burden on industry. It was Sir Arthur Fadden, the then Treasurer, who insisted that child endowment be introduced. The present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was then the Minister for Labour and National Service and the present Leader of the Government in this place waa not even a member of Parliament. But child endowment was no innovation in Australia. It was introduced by a Labour Government in New South Wales years earlier.
– Are you saying something good about Lang?
– That was something which was particularly good about him, yes. He was a Labour leader who was responsible to the Labour Party and its policy. What is wrong with that? Why do you not go up to Queensland, where the Country Party and the Liberal Party are not responsible to their executives? They are brawling (up there, just as you are brawling in Victoria. Have you settled the differences between Mr. McEwen and his associates yet?
– I made a simple inquiry. I did not mean to irritate you.
– I am directing a simple inquiry to you. If you like, I shall ask a further question of you or even write a letter to you. To get back to the matter I point out that child endowment was first paid on a Commonwealth basis in July, 1941, following what was virtually a direction from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. We realize that both parties have to accept directions - some of them under cover and some frank and open. Endowment amounting to Ss. was then paid for the second and subsequent children under the age of sixteen years. That payment represented 5.8 per cent, of the then basic wage. In 1945, the benefit was increased from 5s. to 7s. 6d. The rate then represented 7.8 per cent, of the basic wage. In November, 1948, the payment was altered by the Chifley Government to 10s. a week, representing 8.4 per cent, of the basic wage. In June, 1950 - there may be a measure of contention about this; the Government may be entitled to the credit - the Menzies Government introduced a payment of 5s. a week for the first or only child. Labour thought that a greater sum should be paid for the second and subsequent children. Labour may have been wrong and the Menzies Government may have been right. Interestingly enough, that payment represented 3.1 per cent, of the then basic wage, which was £6 15s. a week. Incidentally, although the average basic wage is now £14 8s., the payment for the first child is still 5s. a week.
In 1958, the Labour Party proposed a payment of 10s. a week for the first or an only child under sixteen years of age, 17s. 6d. for the second child and 20s. each for the third and subsequent children. In November of that year the basic wage was £13 ls. A payment of 10s. represented approximately 3.8 per cent, of the basic wage; 17s. 6d. represented 6.7 per cent.; and 20s. represented approximately 7.6 per cent. If we correlate those percentages with the present basic wage, that payment of 10s. would now be lis., the 17s 6d. would be 18s. 9d., and the 20s. would be 21s. 6d. What has this Government done to increase child endowment rates? It has done nothing. Yet on the hustings, in this chamber and in another place the Government claims the credit for having introduced child endowment. The Government has been forced into paying child endowment. As I indicated earlier, I am prepared to give the Government credit for introducing the payment for the first child. All the Government did was make a gesture. Yet we hear honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber saying that they are not prepared to buy votes. On this occasion the Government has increased pensions by 5s. a week. It will not even face up to its responsibility to the family, which is a constituent part of Australia and which will be the means of making Australia a great nation. The Government will not face the facts.
The Labour Party has said that, if elected to office, it will immediately grant 30s. a week by way of supplementary assistance, some cases to be determined by regulation and some to be left in the bands of departmental officers. One speaker - I will not mention the name - introduced the matter of mental services. I do not know how that comes into this debate because it is not particularly appropriate to the bill now before the Senate. It is more concerned with the medical set-up. The supporters of the Government should be really ashamed. The pension is taken away from a pensioner immediately he is admitted to a hospital for mental diseases. Irrespective of how lavishly honorable senators opposite praise the late Ben Chifley, in a period of extraordinary economic demand his government made a contribution for the maintenance of people in such hospitals. This Government makes no contribution to their maintenance in hospital and it takes their pensions away completely on admission. Yet an honorable senator on the Government side of the chamber talks about mental hospitals. Some one on that side of the chamber interjected and asked how much the New South Wales Government failed to collect from the Commonwealth for the purpose of mental hospitals. He should have a look at the Queensland position. In that State there is a brawling Country Party-Liberal Party government which does not know what it is going to do. Senator Kendall is about to interject, but I will answer the interjection before he makes it. That proves that Labour has not a monopoly of brawling. At least our brawls are open and frank and we can still remain friends after them. We are not like members of the Government parties who are secretive, cutting each other’s throat in the dark and denying the rights of fellow members of the parliamentary party. At least we stick to our mates. We are not like members of the Government parties, because they have no mates.
– Are they having trouble in that Country Party-Liberal Party Government?
– You would not know how much trouble. Will you pardon me for answering the interruption, Mr. Acting Deputy President?
– You are interrupting yourself.
– I was delayed so long by the previous speaker in relation to the time limit that was imposed that I am not bound by any time limit now. In Queensland there happens to be a man who was elected to the Parliament as an independent. He resigned from the Country Party because he did not think he could win the plebiscite. He was elected for Redcliffe as an independent. He went into the State House and joined the Liberal Party after about eighteen months.
– What has this to do with the bill? I suppose that he is applying for the age pension. Are you talking about social services?
– I am answering an interjection from this side of the chamber, just as I answer interjections from the Government side.
– Why not talk about the bill?
– When interjections are made from my side, I will deal with them. Anyhow, he might need social service assistance because he could be disabled, having regard to the way the Country Party is treating him. I will endeavour to look after him because he is a Queensland citizen. If the honorable senator who has interjected looked after Queensland as well as I do he would be doing very well.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I ask the honorable senator to keep to the bill.
– In passing, he happens to be a member of the Liberal Party, but in the House he is an independent and cannot be a member of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. That is all I will say now. I will answer Senator Ormonde’s interjection in full detail later. Mention has been made of pensioners participating in the pensioner medical service. I do not know how that came into this debate. I intended to deal with that matter in the debate on the estimates of the Department of Health. Since 1955, provided that a pensioner does not receive more than £2 a week he has been entitled to the benefit of the pensioner medical service. Am I in order, Mr. Acting Deputy President? This matter was referred to earlier when you were not in the chair.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - If it was referred to, the honorable senator may mention it, but do not go into great detail.
– As you know, Sir, the value of the £1 has depreciated and the Government has done nothing about it. It is not game to have a go. You know what the £1 of 19SS was worth, compared with what the £1 of 1961 is worth and, more particularly, what the £1 of 1962 will be worth. Yet the Government is not prepared to increase the social service benefits. I am quite frank and fair about this matter. The Government has given pensioners certain benefits, but let us not forget that there has been an expansion of the national income. Some one said that the national income was £100,000,000. He has not got a clue. At the time to which that person was referring the national income was more than £1,000,000,000. Now it is approaching £7,000,000,000. The Government claims credit for giving certain benefits. How ridiculous can honorable senators on the Government side become, when we think of those things and realize the plight of pensioners. Under which government have pensions reached the lowest percentage of the basic wage since the war? None other than successive Menzies Governments. On two occasions the pension was just over 29 per cent, of the basic wage. Both those occasions were when Mr. Menzies was Prime Minister. On this occasion, because this happens to be an election year, the percentage is up a bit. When we consider the pension in comparison with the basic wage, the Government has no reason to be proud of its record.
At least two honorable senators on the Government side - Senator Wedgwood and Senator Marriott - were completely fair. They have suggested that a measure of help should be given to pensioners and their dependants who need assistance. They suggested that domicilary and other assistance should be given to them. Why those two honorable senators at least should not support the amendment is beyond my comprehension.
We say that in an expanding economy such assistance should be given, but the Australian economy will, not be expanding because of the effect of the European Economic Community and because of the lack of foresight of successive Menzies governments. Years ago it was realized that if the United Kingdom was to survive economically she must join the European
Common Market; but the Government would not face up to that issue. We believe that although this bill contains something worth while, as long as the Australian economy is expanding the Government should be able to provide assistance for widows who are dependent on pensions; child endowment should be increased to a worthwhile payment because the family unit makes the greatest real contribution to the development of Australia. If the Government cannot provide full employment, as Mr. Shrapnel of W. D. Scott and Company Proprietary Limited said, why not provide a decent sustenance for people who are unemployed? If honorable senators opposite talk about people in hospitals for mental diseases, why does not the Government make a decent provision for such people? If the Government provides homes for the aged, as it has in certain ways, why not provide assistance to all organizations which are prepared to build such homes? I plead with the Government. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) must realize that certain of his supporters are discontented. If nothing is done now and if, by some misfortune, Mr. Menzies is returned as Prime Minister and Senator Spooner is still the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as I am certain he will be if Mr. Menzies is returned as Prime Minister, I hope and pray that the Government will not introduce a supplementary Budget in February which will deny people more than the Government has denied them already.
– I come into this debate somewhat late, and I do not want to use the valuable time that I have left discussing what the Labour Party or the Government did, as I am afraid too many honorable senators on the Government side have done. I want to devote my time to asking the Government to correct some of the anomalies that exist at the present time. It is true to say that the social service field is very complex and that its complexities have grown over the years with the extension of benefits. I think it is equally true to say that the correction of some anomalies will inevitably create other anomalies. It is to some of these things that I want to direct attention in the closing stages of this debate.
I mentioned in passing, when speaking to the motion that the Estimates and Budget Papers 1961-62 be printed, that the introduction of the new merged means test was a very great step forward by the Government in the right direction. I gave whatever degree of credit was due to the Government for introducing that provision. The introduction of that provision created one of the anomalies to which I referred earlier because it placed the emphasis of benefits on the person who had assets, and reacted by comparison adversely on the person who earned income. It may be possible to give a brief illustration of the way in which the merged means test reacts unfairly against the person who has invested at least some of his substance down the years in superannuation. At one end of the scale, a married couple with £6,000 in the bank could have a pension between them of more than £5 a week. They could have also the income, whatever it may be, associated with the investment of that £6,000. I go now to the other end of the scale to a pensioner married couple, the male partner of whom invested a major portion of his savings in superannuation. If he receives £10 a week, and assuming that he has only £400 in the bank, it means that he is getting approximately the same amount per week as the person with £6,000.
I should like the Minister for Social Service (Mr. Roberton) to reflect on this matter because it is most important. Let us imagine the Social Services Act, as it will be constituted at the end of this session of Parliament, being frozen, as if it were the millenium or the finish of time. There would be no more improvements and no more alterations made. If we could visualize a situation such as that, as members of Parliament we would have to advise members of the public that it would not be in their interests in the future to take part in any superannuation scheme. I think that is a fair comment. It emphasizes how the merged means test has created an anomaly for persons in receipt of superannuation payments. Consider the two illustrations. The pensioner who does not worry about superannuation, but thriftly puts his savings in the bank, can accumulate an amount of £4,040, which is the maximum permissible amount, beyond which the pension is affected. Another person, in exactly the same occupation, contributes to a superannuation scheme, reduces his standard of living by the number of units he takes, in the hope of having some extra assistance in his old age. The merged means test as it exists at present creates a grievous anomaly and inflicts a grievous injustice on the person who invests at least some of his savings in superannuation, and in doing so reduces the standard of living of himself, his wife and children by the weekly amount he pays into the fund.
I repeat that this Parliament should direct its attention immediately to correcting that anomaly that exists in regard to the person who is receiving superannuation in excess ot the permissible income of £7. I think it is fair to say that at the very least we should as a parliament increase the permissible income from £7 to £10. That would be going only half-way towards correcting the anomaly that exists at the present time. I do not think for one moment that the Government set out to create an anomaly of that character. It introduced the merged means test. I should say that there has been a tremendous difference of opinion about whether the original idea sprang from the mind of the Labour Party or the Government. There are strongly contending opinions on that, but it is only a side issue. I think the introduction of the merged means test was a step in the right direction to assist people who have been thrifty, but I feel the Minister should pay some concern to the matter I have raised. I feel sure that some Government supporters have realized that this anomaly exists and I hope that they will raise their voices so that we will not have to wait twelve months to have anything done about the matter. We can too often make ourselves comfortable by saying that we will do something about a matter such as this next year.
I studied the speech of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) in another place who, like myself comes from South Australia. I am not suggesting that the honorable member is not just as much concerned with the trials of aged people as
I am, but I noticed that on this issue he said -
I am disappointed that on this occasion the Government did not feel itself able to widen the terms of eligibility for the special hardship cases. I believe they should be widened to cover all single persons, widows and widowers, who have no income other than their pension.
I believe that point of view has been put forward by more than one Government senator during this debate. I do not think I am misquoting Senator Marriott when I say that he suggested that supplementary assistance is given to people who pay rent. A very stern qualification indeed exists in the case of people seeking supplementary assistance for rent. The initial qualification is that they must have no other form of income other than the pension and that they have to pay rent. It means that the. number of people who in fact do benefit by this - what I might call - a step in the right direction, is unfortunately very small.
I return to the point I was making. It may be comfortable to think that we can correct some of these things in twelve months’ time. That comfortable thought ran through the whole speech of the honorable member for Sturt in another place. If there is a sense of injustice associated with this provision, to which the honorable member for Sturt and other Government supporters, as well as members on the Opposition side, have directed attention, we should not be thinking in terms of having the matter corrected in twelve months’ time; it ought to be done immediately. If the injustice is sufficiently serious to warrant that, then to talk in terms of doing something in twelve months’ time is to beg the question and is to play politics, to some degree at least, with the sufferings of the people concerned.
I come now to a very human problem in the field of social services, to which I have directed attention quite often during debates of this kind. Elderly pensioners are sometimes forced to leave their homes because of illness or infirmity. Immediately a pensioner leaves his home, it is then regarded by the Department of Social Services as a capital asset and the pension is reduced according to the value placed upon the asset. Not very many people are affected by this position, but those who are affected suffer great hardship, and that hardship is communicated, in some degree to their families. Let me take the case of an old lady, a widow, who has lived in her own home for 50 years and then, because of infirmity, has to leave her home and go to stay with relatives or enter a hospital or an infirmary. At such a time her expenses are greater than they were when she was living normally, but the Social Services Act prescribes that the branch of the Department of Social Services in the State in which she lives must, at some time, if there is little likelihood of her returning to her home, regard the home as a capital asset. This, in many instances, results in the pensioner concerned losing part, if not all, of the pension, at a time when his or heT expenses have increased.
It has been argued that people who come within this category could rent their homes, but that is not as easy as it sounds. Many old people have a great sentimental attachment to their homes and to the belongings which they have accumulated over the years, and they refuse to entertain the idea that outsiders should be permitted to rent their homes and tread within their walls.
– If rent were paid, that would reduce the pension.
– That is so, but the hardship if rent were held against the pensioners would not be so great as the hardship that would be involved if the capital asset of the homes were held against them. I realize that they cannot have it both ways.
– The commissioner has a discretion and can defer making an adjustment until a pensioner has made permanent arrangements.
– I thought I had made that point. I said that the commissioner had some discretion in relation to the time at which he had to assume that the person concerned would not be going back to the home. At the expiration of that discretionary period, he would, under the act, have no alternative to saying that, as it seemed unlikely that the pensioner would return to the home, the capital value of the home had to be held against him. As I have said, these people cannot have it both ways. I do not suggest that they should be able to receive rent and remain entitled to a full pension, but I say thai the present provision inflicts an injustice upon them. Not many people are affected, but when people are affected the problem runs through to their relatives and to all others involved. I believe that the problem could be solved quite simply by saying that when old people have to leave their homes to enter a hospital or an infirmary, the capital value of their homes should be disregarded in the calculation of their pensions. What would it cost to do that? I have not gone into the mathematics of the problem, but I think this concession would cost very little. It would pay great dividends in the form of peace of mind for the old people concerned.
I hope that something will be done about this problem, which crops up repeatedly and causes trouble. I hope that the Minister will tell us his thoughts on it when he replies to the debate. I hope that I shall not have to keep on raising the question, because it is one that can be so easily dealt with.
I want now to touch briefly on a matter which is associated with the unemployment benefit and which has caused a good deal of disputation in the Senate from time to time. I refer to the percentage of the total work force which is represented by the number of people unemployed at any time. I think this is an important matter, and I am not the only one who takes that view. I have before me a very excellent article written by a person who is associated with the Brotherhood of St. Laurence. I commend it to honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. It is a penetrating article which shows that the author has approached the subject with a considerable degree of humanity and after a considerable amount of thought. This problem of the percentage of the total work force that is unemployed at any time has been discussed in the Senate from time to itme, but I feel that even now there is a certain degree of misunderstanding about it. It is important from the viewpoint of the unemployment benefit and of future employment that we should not have a hit-or-miss idea of the percentage of the total work force unemployed at any given time. It is important that the position should not arise that Ministers from time to time make statements on this subject which, if not untrue, are such that they can be challenged and their accuracy doubted very strongly. The article states -
The main criticism of the work force as defined-
That is, by the Government - is that it includes a large number of people who are unlikely to be exposed to unemployment unless there is an exceptionally severe depression. A substantial proportion of the total work force consists of permanent members of the Public Service and Armed Forces who have a high degree of employment security. The total work force also includes business and professional people, employers and the self-employed, as well as the unemployed.
If these groups were excluded, the unemployed as a proportion of the work force that can be reasonably considered to be exposed to unemployment would be much higher than the 2.7 per cent.
The article goes on to make what I consider to be a most useful suggestion, which should be given every consideration. The article states -
A more precise breakdown of the employed work force should be made. The number of unemployed should be related to these totals and this set of figures should be published in addition to the present percentages of unemployed to total work force. This will provide a clearer picture of the sections of the work force most affected by unemployment.
Figures should also be made available to show the duration of employment as measured by the length of time people are registered for employment. Periodical bulletins should also show the ages of persons unemployed.
The article goes on to make a host of other useful suggestions and then makes this final point -
If the Government has this information it should reveal it. If it is not available it should be collected and made public.
The article raises two vital points. First, we should not be arguing across the chamber, trying to score debating points off each other, about whether the percentage of the total work force unemployed is 2.7 or 4.7, or about what the percentage was fifteen years ago, compared with the present percentage. There should be a breakdown of the figures, as suggested in the article, to reveal the trends in the unemployment field. We could then direct our thoughts towards curing some of the disabilities. The article states the steps that should be taken to correct the unemployment position as it relates to the various age groups. If we followed that advice we would obviate future wrangling about the vexed question of what constitutes the true number of unemployed. Even better, we could turn our minds towards the attainment of corrective measures based, not on hit or miss methods, but on an understanding of the types of people unemployed and “the categories of tradesmen and unskilled workers within the various age groups. That, I think, presents easily our biggest problem. The tendency to-day, in some forms of highly competitive business, is to assume that once a man has passed 50 years of age, unless he has a highly developed degree of skill or knowledge, he is over the hill. He is no longer wanted. Some instruction on these matters would, I think, go a long way towards overcoming our problems.
There are many matters that I would like to discuss, because I have made a study of social services, but I realize that time will not permit me to do so. I wish to make a final point which concerns the allowance paid’ to the wife of an invalid or age pensioner who is not herself of pensionable age. I know that the wives of some pensioners who have the care of children are to receive an increase in their allowance, but I refer to the wife of an invalid pensioner who has no child under sixteen years of age in her care, who is between 55 and 60 and is in receipt of an allowance of £1 15s. a week. I want to know, and I hope that the Minister will tell me, why those people are discriminated against while other persons who qualify for pensions are receiving at least some measure of justice under the Budget. How can such people live on the pension of £5 5s. and the allowance of £1 15s., or a total of £7 a week? Even the Government suggests, on the basis of its own figures, that the minimum amount that people should be asked to live on is £10 10s. a week. I am not trying to be smart about this matter: I think it is too important for that, r should like the Minister to say how he expects those people to make up the leeway of £3 a week between their combined pensions and those of a married couple on the age pension.
It might be argued, theoretically at least, that the woman could get a job, but if she bad an invalid husband who was completely incapacitated, and if she was approaching the evening of her life, it would be very difficult for her to find a job. Even if she could overcome that first almost insurmountable barrier, how could she leave her husband while she was earning the necessary amount to provide some degree of comfort and decent living?
– Could she earn any amount without it affecting her husband’s pension?
– She could earn a certain amount. But I am not dealing with that aspect.
– I am only asking for information,
– Yes, she could earn a certain amount. I do not want to create the impression that she is not at liberty, within the provisions of the social service means test, to earn some money. The point I am making is that it is physically impossible for her to avail herself of that opportunity afforded by the Social Services Act.
– If she earned anything she would not get the £1 15s. a week.
– Yes, she would get the £1 15s., but I am not arguing on that score. I am saying that it would be physically impossible for the wife of an invalid pensioner or an age pensioner who was completely incapacitated or over the age of 70 years, (o earn anything. The question I have asked should be answered, not for my personal satisfaction, but to satisfy the conscience of the Senate. I want to know how those two people are expected te- live, in this day and age, on £7 a week.
– It is £8 15s.
– I think the Minister is trying to imply that that is the maximum amount, with earnings and other allowances. I am speaking of the case in which it is physically impossible for the. woman to earn anything, and I do not want to be sidetracked.
I hope that some consideration will be given to this question. Next year, unless something is done, the position of these people will be ever so much worse than it is now. I hope that honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber will have a talk with their Cabinet colleagues and ask them whether something can be done. I should hate to think that there was in the Senate, on either side, even one honorable senator who did not agree 100 per cent. with the argument that I have presented on this point. I shall leave the matter there. I would like to be able to refer to other subjects, but I understand that the time is limited, and 1 appreciate the circumstances. I trust that the suggestion I have made will not fall on deaf ears.
– I crave the leave of the Senate not to reply in detail to the various matters that have been raised during the course of the discussion. I think it can fairly be said that this has been a good debate. It has indicated that many honorable senators, on both sides of the chamber, have devoted a good deal of time and thought to the subject of social services. We are now in the position that we reach each year. The Government has very carefully considered all the various proposals that have been advanced. It has decided on the steps that it proposes to take in the coming year and has inserted the relevant proposals in the Budget. I hope that the Senate will not think me discourteous in not replying to the various points that have been brought forward, some of them very good ones. I have risen mainly to say that, for the reason I have given, the Government is unable to accept the Opposition amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Cooke’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator theHon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . 4
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - They were inside the door.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I beg your pardon! They were inside the door before I said, “ Lock the doors “.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.-I ask for leave to make a procedural amendment to the contingent motion standing in my name.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move -
That it be an instruction to the committee of the whole on the bill to consider the following request for an amendment to section 21 of the principal Act, viz.: - That the House of Representatives be requested to amend section 21 of the principal Act by omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) the words “ twenty years “ and inserting in their stead the words “ ten years “.
This section of the Social Services Act 1947-1959 has stood since the introduction of the legislation. It is felt that it imposes a real hardship on many people who come to this country by invitation of our Government and become citizens. Some British and other immigrants come to this country from the places of their birth or previous domicile which have social service benefits that are equivalent to ours or are at least fairly generous. After five years they may become citizens of this country. If they become invalids after five years they qualify for an invalid pension. Yet many of our new citizens who work here for a good proportion of their working lives and pay taxes, including social services contributions, have to wait twenty years before qualifying for an age pension. The Senate should treat as urgent the making of a request to the House of Representatives in this matter.
It is possible now for an immigrant to enter this country at the age of 49 years as a healthy man, having paid taxes and social services contributions in his country of origin and sacrificed the benefits that he would have enjoyed had he remained in his own country. Even if he becomes a citizen of Australia after five years, he will be 69 years of age before being able to claim an age pension. This is an important matter. We should take cognizance of it at this stage, when we are vying with other countries to get citizens of calibre. The proposed amendment to the original act would permit a reduction from twenty years to ten years in the period of waiting by new Australian citizens. It must be as clear to the Government as it is to us that this matter should be given urgent consideration.
– The Government is not prepared to adopt the procedure of referring this matter to the Committee of the Whole. A major matter of policy is involved. No provision is made for it in the Government’s programme for social services this year and, therefore, we are not prepared to facilitate the procedure suggested.
Question put -
That the motion be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
.- I move-
That the Senate will resolve itself forthwith into a Committee of the Whole for the purpose of considering the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1962, and the Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1962, with the exception of Estimates of Special Appropriations and of Expenditure from Loan Fund.
Mr. Deputy President, this motion
– I rise to order. I direct your attention, Mr. Deputy President, to Standing Order No. 416, which reads -
No Senator shall allude to any Debate of the current Session in the House of Representatives, or to any Measure impending therein.
The relevant portion of that standing order to which I invite your attention are the words -
No Senator shall allude … to any Measure impending . . . in the House of Representatives. In considering the terms of that standing order I first direct your attention to the word “ measure “, which has been under consideration on a number of occasions. It is referred to in the Oxford English Dictionary in the sense that is relevant to this standing order as -
A legislative enactment proposed or adopted.
I underline the word “ proposed “. A measure refers to a proposed legislative enactment; not one that has been adopted. Then I direct your attention to the word “ impending “. The word that the Parliamentary Draftsman has chosen is not the word that one would expect, namely pending. A piece of legislation that is pending would, I take it, be as set out in Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary where the word “ pending “ is defined as -
A legal proceeding is pending as soon as commenced and until it is concluded.
So the proceeding itself has to be commenced, and until such time as it is concluded it is pending. The Draftsman did not choose the word “ pending “. He chose the word “ impending “. “ Impending “, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, has this connotation -
That impends or is about to fall or happen; hanging over one’s head; imminent; near at hand. “ Impending “ does not necesarily contemplate that a proceding would be commenced in the sense of a measure, that the proceeding is specifically under way in terms of a bill, but simply that it is imminent, that it is close at hand. That is the first point that I make. The standing order concerns itself with a measure that may be a proposed measure, that is not floated, that is not in operation but which is imminent, which is close at hand, which is threatening but has not yet occurred or commenced. -That is the important construction, I submit, to be placed on that standing order.
I wish to direct your attention also, Mr. Deputy President, to the proceedings in the House of Representatives in this matter. The Senate will be familiar with section 56 of the Constitution, which deals with the way in which a bill appropriating revenue may originate. That section reads -
A vote, resolution, or proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys shall not be passed unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same session been recommended by message of the Governor-General to the House in which the proposal originated.
The purpose of that section in the Constitution is to keep control of the appropriation of revenue or the initiation of a measure for that purpose in the hands of the executive government. The executive government will make a recommendation to the Governor-General, who will submit a message to the House of Representatives as the starting point of a measure to appropriate revenue. A measure for the appropriation of revenue cannot arise in any other way. Constitutionally there is a bar to such a measure arising in any other way. It is interesting to note the terms of the message that is endorsed on the Estimates that in fact are referred to in the motion moved by Senator Spooner. If you look at the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1962, you will see, Mr. Deputy President, Message No. 25 from the Governor-General. It is in these terms -
In accordance with the requirements of Section fifty-six of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Governor-General transmits to the House of Representatives-
Not to the Senate -
Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year ending on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-two and recommends an appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund accordingly.
That is the very document which Senator Spooner now invites us to consider. The message was not sent to the Senate; it was sent to the House of Representatives. 1 will submit in a moment that that particular message, with the connotation which it is given in our Standing Orders-
– Mr. Deputy President, I direct your attention to the time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate,I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
I want to refer now to the procedure that is followed in the House of Representatives in relation to the Estimates after the message has been delivered. I refer to the “ Votes and Proceedings “ of the House of Representatives for 16th August, 1960. The information I am about to quote appears at page 136 of the “Votes and Proceedings “. Two messages were reported to the Speaker. One related to the proposed appropriation for the ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth and the other related to capital works. An order was made that the messages, together with the accompanying Estimates, be printed and referred to the Committee of Supply forthwith.
This was the second step: In the Committee of Supply, which was formed immediately, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) delivered his Budget speech and moved that the first item in the Estimates be agreed to. The House resumed, and the Committee of Supply was authorized to sit at a later stage. I direct attention to the fact that in the open House, not in the Committee of Supply, the Treasurer then presented the Budget Papers 1960-61 and the paper on National Income and Expenditure 1959-60. Those papers were ordered to be printed.I point out that those two papers - the one relating to the Budget and the other the paper on National Income and Expenditure which we commonly referred to as the White Paper - were dealt with in the open House quite apart from the Estimates.
The next development was a motion by the Opposition that the first item be reduced by £1. The committee deliberated, and the amendment moved by the Opposition was 1960. Then the debate proceeded for a period until, on 13th October. the matter was concluded in this way: The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) moved -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £742,389,000 for the services of the year 1960-61, viz,: -
Then follow certain details. That motion was agreed to. The resolution of the Committee of Supply was reported to the House and was adopted. Then in Committee of Ways and Means the Minister for Defence moved -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1960-61, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £475,533,000.
The House resumed and that resolution was reported. The House having adopted that further report, Mr. Townley and Mr. Harold Holt were ordered by the House to prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution. That is the first point at which the bill is mentioned. The bill was then dealt with and passed through all its stages without debate of any kind.
The position is that the message has been delivered. I quote from the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives in indicating that the message has been received and the first item has been agreed to. I indicate to you, Mr. Deputy President, that the message was received on 15th August; on a subsequent date, as recently as 13th September, the debate was still proceeding in the House of Representatives; and you, Sir, must know that it is still current.
I suggest to you that, in the light of the construction that I have put upon Standing Order No. 416, the measure was impending from the second that the message from the Governor-General was received in the House of Representatives. The message addressed to that House makes a specific recommendation for an appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That cannot be done except by a bill that is passed by both Houses and in due course is assented to by the Governor-General. My submission to you, Mr. Deputy President, is that that was a proposed law that was impending, imminent or close at hand from the moment the message was delivered to the House and referred by the House to the committee.
In conclusion on this submission, 1 submit that this is the inescapable preliminary to the initiation of a bill. No notice of an appropriation measure is given in the House of Representatives. It originates on a message and members of the House are instructed to bring up a bill before the chamber. The procedure that we are used to in this chamber is that a bill is floated on a message or on notice. A bill appropriating revenue does not originate on notice in the House of Representatives; it originates on the message from the Governor-General recommending an appropriation. In my opinion, the only proper construction to put upon Standing Order No. 416 in those circumstances is that there is a bill impending in the other place and, as you yourself must be aware, Mr. Deputy President, it has not yet been disposed of.
I have cited; secondly, and far more importantly, it would be an offence against the provisions of the Constitution itself; and thirdly, even if it were not either of those things I still think that it would be an evasion of the spirit at least, if not the letter, of the Constitution. I am not prepared to wrap all those matters together. The Minister’s question will be answered fully by the time I have completed all that I have in mind to say in this place; but at least I have given him that preview. 1 think the Senate should be gravely concerned about a situation that goes to its very roots vis-a-vis the House of Representatives. This is no new argument as to the procedure in a matter relating to money bills, if 1 may use an inexpert term. It was decided centuries ago that the Lower House, the more popular House, should have the control of the purse. However, in this instance in Australia the matter goes further because that safeguard is written into the Constitution itself. Therefore, I am suggesting that it is a matter of the utmost moment. I think it is of great importance for this chamber to contemplate that members of another place may be very jealous - and rightly so - of any usurpation of their rights in relation to money bills.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Having in mind the seriousness of the point of order and having listened to what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said, I am of the opinion that this is such an important question that the Senate should have before it any points of order that will be raised. I now ask the Senate whether there are any more points of order to be raised on this question.
You asked, Sir, whether there were any other points of order to be raised. I indicate to you that there are, but 1 say that it would be an unfair procedure to wrap the three propositions into one and to dispose of them with one ruling.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I do noi want Senator McKenna to think that it is my intention to prevent discussion on points of order. My idea is that the Senate should have before it the points of order that are going to be raised. You say, Senator, that you intend to raise three points of order but that you think that they should be dealt with separately. I think it is only fair that we should know what points of order are going to be raised. I do not want to wrap the three points of order in one parcel, as it were, or have them all covered by one vote.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Yes.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Are you now dealing with your point of order based on Standing Order No. 416?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I just want to know exactly where we are.
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate . . .
Towards the end of section 53 the following words appear: -
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
What are the exceptions? The first is that any law appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation shall not originate in the Senate.. The matter we are considering deals with the appropriation of revenue. We. are concerned with the appropriation of revenue and not with taxation. 1 submit to the Senate that a measure dealing in any way with the appropriation of moneys can come to this chamber, under the Constitution, validly and properly, only on messages from the House of Representatives transmitting a bill and seeking the concurrence of this chamber.
I am certain that Senator Spooner’s motion originates in this place, lt is to the effect that the Senate will resolve itself forthwith into a committee of the whole for the purpose of considering the estimates of receipts and expenditure under two headings, first for the ordinary annual services and then for new works and other services. There are two exceptions that do not matter for the purposes of my argument. The point is that there is no message to us from the House of Representatives. When one looks at the document we are asked to consider, we find that it bears a message from the Governor-General to the House of Representatives, and that the House not having disposed of that matter, we are certainly breaching the Constitution in reaching out for a document that presently will be before us. It is a notorious, fact that it will be before us as the schedule to the Appropriation Bill. We will be asked to consider the real points of the bill in considering the Estimates.
Surely this is initiating a measure in this chamber. What else are the Estimates but the schedule to a bill?
There is nothing in the motion submitted by Senator Spooner which would prevent any Opposition senator from moving for agreement to or rejection of any of the items in the Estimates, or from seeking to make a request for an amendment to the House of Representatives. Had Senator Spooner wanted to prohibit that type of thing, he could well have done so in his motion. If he wanted to impose limitations upon the activities of the committee, the thing to do was, not to hope for the best in the committee, but to particularize in his motion what the committee could do. However, he has seen fit to leave the matter exceedingly wide and to ask us to consider the Estimates. That, I suggest, is entirely beyond our power.
Now I come to my third point. This procedure is a clear evasion of the spirit, if not of the letter of the Constitution, and the Senate should not countenance it. I have already canvassed the procedure laid down in section 56 of the Constitution. An appropriation may originate only by a message from the Governor-General - in this case we have a message to the House of Representatives - and it cannot originate here. As yet, there is no bill before us. There is a proposed law impending in the other place. This motion, in effect, invites us to consider an appropriation measure upon which we could move in the way that I have indicated. I say that the submission of this motion shows a lack of respect for the Constitution and a lack of parliamentary sense.
It cannot be denied that from time to time we have considered in this place motions proposing that Budget papers be printed and that the debates on those motions have proceeded simultaneously with the debates on the first items of the Estimates in another place. There are few occasions when I have not expressed my disapproval of such a motion. There have been times when I have not spoken on it at all, in order to indicate my disrespect for it or disregard of it. There have been other times when I have not led on it, for the same reason. On most occasions, 1 have commented on the relative futility of a motion proposing that Budget papers be printed when the whole 600 pages of the papers have already been printed. It makes no difference whether such a motion is carried or not, although I can see that it is a device of convenience.
I can well understand Senator Spooner - with a desire, which we all share, to end this session because an election is impending - seeking to find a method that will enable us to debate the Estimates simultaneously with the House of Representatives and to conclude this session earlier than would otherwise be possible. I can understand that, but we of the Opposition cannot subscribe to a proposal which, in our view, not only breaches the Standing Orders but is opposed to the very spirit of the Constitution itself. I think it would be undignified and irresponsible for us to debate a document which is now under consideration in another place, at the invitation of the Governor-General. We should lose all semblance of a House of Review if we got ourselves into that position. It is one thing to do as we have done from 1909 right down to the present time - that is, to debate the Budget on a futile, innocuous motion that the Budget papers be printed - but it is another thing in this day and age to extend that procedure to cover a consideration of the Estimates themselves on a motion that would enable substantive amendments to be moved.
That, I think, shows a complete lack of appreciation of the duties and responsibilities of the Senate. We could find ourselves in the position that we were debating a set of appropriations relating to a certain department ahead of their consideration by the other place. Does not every honorable senator see how incongrous that would be? I have seen the comment in Mr. Odger’s book that it is against the dignity and the independence of this chamber to make any reference to matters that are impending in the House of Representatives. Such action could be construed by members of that House as a desire to influence their deliberations, and I think it could be expected that that would be resented. There is nothing in the motion moved by Senator Spooner to prevent the Senate from taking positive action on these Estimates and there is nothing to prevent us from considering particular sections of the Estimates before they are considered in the other place. As one who has some appreciation of parliamentary procedures and niceties, I urge strongly that we do not allow ourselves to get into that position.
The procedure contemplated is that, as in the past, when the Appropriation Bills come across from the House of Representatives, there will be a first reading, a second reading, a committee stage, and then a third reading. This preliminary discussion will give us the opportunity to look at the Estimates in a leisurely way, and that. I believe, will enhance the value of the Senate. We will, in truth, be adopting a procedure that is quite similar to that of the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives receives a message and proceeds through the Estimates item bv item, in a way somewhat similar to that which we now propose. In practice, when the Estimates are finally incorporated in the bills that are sent to the Senate, there is very little discussion of them in the House of Representatives because the discussion has already proceeded at the committee stage. That is what we are aiming to do in the Senate by adopting this procedure. It is designed to give us an opportunity to deal with the Estimates in accordance with a procedure which we have, in truth, adopted in the Senate since 1909. Since that time we have debated the Budget Papers on a motion that the papers be printed. That procedure has been confirmed by various presidential decisions. If honorable senators look at the record of precedents they will see that it shows that from time to time matters have arisen and that Presidents have given rulings, such as that, in the debate on the motion “That the papers be printed “, senators must address their remarks to the Budget Papers; they must not indulge in personalities or discuss particular matters, such as, say, the Northern Territory. If honorable senators look at the records they will find six, seven or even eight presidential decisions which confirm that this is now settled Senate practice in the terms of Standing Order 416.
On the first point that Senator McKenna has raised I say - I hope in adequate terms - that what we are proposing to do in relation to the Estimates is what we have in fact been doing in the Senate with the consent of both sides, in accordance with a procedure that was introduced in the Senate in 1909 by the then Government, at the request of the then Opposition, and for years afterwards adopted and continued with approbation by both sides of the chamber.
The second point made by Senator McKenna was to the effect that the procedure was in breach of the constitutional provision that money bills shall not originate in the Senate.
My reply on this point is similar to the reply I gave earlier. The proposed procedure does not involve dealing with legislation. When the legislation comes from the House of Representatives it will be dealt with in accordance with parliamentary procedure. If I understand Senator McKenna correctly, he said that under this proposed procedure it would be possible to make a request or move an amendment. That is not in contemplation. It is not thought that that can be done. What is proposed is that, during the debate, if an honorable senator wants to make a request or move an amendment, he will stand in his place and indicate that that is what he intends to do. Then, when the legislation comes over, he may take action in proper parliamentary form. 1 cannot see how an improvement in Senate procedure could be regarded in any sense, as being in derogation of, or as against, constitutional provisions. We are not originating legislation, nor are we dealing with legislation here. What we propose is the adoption of a common-sense attitude. We have the papers tabled in the Senate and we know that it will be many weeks before the legislation comes from the House of Representatives. We all have been here a long time. We know that in the last days of the sittings of the Senate the appropriation bills come over from the House of Representatives, together with a great spate of legislation. The procedure that is proposed will enable us to deal adequately and in more seemly form with those matters.
On the final point, as to whether the procedure represents an evasion of the Constitution, I say with all the force that I can command that it is not an evasion of the Constitution. Surely, it lives up to the spirit of the Constitution because it will give honorable senators a better opportunity to do what is one of the most important aspects of their work. I think we have always prided ourselves on the fact that in the Senate an approach to the Estimates is different from that of the House of Representatives. We look at the Estimates closely. We consider the various items. We ask for information about them. We ask why expenditure is necessary, and we want to know the directions in which the money is to be spent. It is proposed to continue that procedure under better circumstances than have existed in the past. Mr. Deputy President, I ask you to rule against the point of order that Senator McKenna has taken.
The submission based upon section 53 of the Constitution is even more untenable. The only provision upon which Senator McKenna can fix his argument is that proposed laws appropriating moneys or revenues shall not originate in the Senate. In reply to my question, he conceded that the Appropriation Bill will originate in the
House of Representatives. This is no transgression of the section. In considering the Estimates, we are not purporting to originate in this chamber any bill to appropriate moneys or revenues.
His third submission is that this motion is contrary to the spirit of conventions that should prevail between the two chambers. I should think it would be timely enough for us to consider that point if we received any messages or resolutions of protest on the point from the House of Representatives. Further, our purpose in dealing with the motion to print the Budget Papers has been of such long standing that it would show what is regarded as the reciprocal attitude between the two chambers. As the Leader of the Government has pointed out, this motion is simply applying to the Estimates the procedure that has been followed with the Budget Papers.
My last point on the submission of Senator McKenna that this transgresses the spirit of the mutual relationship between the two chambers is this: If in the exigencies of the parliamentary session, the House of Representatives so programmes its business as to leave a short time for the Senate to consider the Appropriation Bill, surely both Houses of the Parliament would welcome the opportunity for us to take some preliminary note of the Estimates. Having been offered this most advantageous opportunity to debate the Estimates at greater n«th instead of during the brief interval allowed by the parliamentary programme after the House of Representatives has concluded its consideration of the Appropriation Bill, I would think that both chambers, unless one has some purpose to derogate from the authority of the other or to impair the prestige of the other, would welcome the course that would allow us to take full advantage of the time at our disposal for a preliminary consideration of the Estimates. When the Government is expanding the opportunity for the Opposition to investigate and criticize the Estimates, it must surely be unique for the Opposition to protest that the opportunity being offered is too great.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I have listened carefully to the submissions made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). who took a point of order on the resolution moved by the Leader of the
House (Senator Spooner). As usual, the Leader of the Opposition has given a great deal of thought to the subject and, as a layman, I do not intend to try to discuss the legal situation. That has been left to those who understand these matters.
I have taken every opportunity to investigate the submissions and have gathered information by discussing them with various persons. The conclusion I have reached is that the proposal of the Leader of the House does not contravene the Constitution nor is there any legal objection to it. The SolicitorGeneral has expressed the opinion that there is no constitutional or legal point that gives rise to any difficulty from our point of view or that calls for any comment from us. As Senator Spooner said, over the years ‘the Budget Papers have been considered on a motion that they be printed and if Senate Standing Order No. 416 were to apply now, it should have applied over the years to the motion that the Budget Papers be printed. However, the rulings of the President have been that in a debate on the motion to print the Budget Papers, any senator can make an open attack on ‘the Budget In my opinion, this means that Standing Order No. 416 cannot apply now.
On the legal and constitutional side, I point out that I am not a legal man. I have considered the points carefully and I have asked whether anything in the Standing Orders would be contravened by this motion. I have not been advised that the motion, in any shape or form, contravenes the Standing Orders. This view is supported by our highest legal authority.
For these reasons. I rule that the point of order is not upheld.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes. (Senator McKenna, having submitted in writing his objection to the Deputy President’s rulings)-
That the ruling of the Deputy President - That the terms of Senator Spooner’s motion do not contravene Senate Standing Order No. 416 - be dissented from.
I move, secondly -
That the ruling of the Deputy President - That the terms of Senator Spooner’s motion do not contravene Section 53 of the Constitution - be dissented from.
I move, thirdly. -
That the ruling of the Deputy President - That the terms of Senator Spooner’s motion do not constitute an evasion of the spirit of the Constitution - be dissented from.
That the questions of dissent require immediate determination.
To-night Senator Cooke proceeded to debate a question in precisely the same terms as Senator O’Byrne was employing when a point of order was taken by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). Nobody raised a point of order in that regard this evening. Where do you stand, Sir, regarding that ruling? Was Senator O’Byrne correct a few nights ago? If so, then Senator Cooke was correct to-night. Was Senator Cooke wrong to-night and was Senator O’Byrne right the previous night? You may recall that a little while ago Senator Arnold and I kept objecting to the procedure that had grown up in regard to the asking of supplementary questions. When we finally insisted, although the practice had been going on for twelve or eighteen months, the President ruled that there was no standing order to support it and therefore the practice must go by the board.
Senator Spooner, who spoke at some length, kept referring to the fact that this supposed practice was in accord with Senate practice. I waited until nearly the end of his speech before he gave one example. The only example he could offer was in regard to the Estimates and Budget Papers. It is true that the proposed course would be convenient, as Senator McKenna agreed right from the outset. It would be convenient in this regard, just as it is in regard to the Estimates and Budget Papers. Senator Spooner says that it is a matter of great convenience. Senator Wright made the point that the proposed course would give the Opposition a chance to debate the Estimates more fully and that it was strange that we should be objecting to it. We have about the longest set of standing orders that I have seen in any body with which
I have ever been associated. For four or five years I have been pleading with you, Sir, to try to do something about them. But we cannot throw them overboard when it suddenly suits our convenience. I say to Senator Wright that if we want to embrace this proposal with open arms, or anything else that might suit our conconvenience from day to day, a bar is constituted while we insist upon having a written set of standing orders such as we have at present. Your answer to that, Sir, is to do away with standing orders altogether and to rely merely upon the rulings of the President from time to time.
I reject completely your summing-up, which followed closely along the lines of that of Senator Spooner, to the effect that because we have accepted this procedure as a matter of convenience in relation to the Estimates and Budget Papers over the years, usage and custom in relation to that one item make Standing Order No. 416 null and void. There is no getting around this standing order. Indeed, I do not think that anybody has tried to get around it. Senator Spooner certainly did not. All that he said, in effect, was that because we had broken this standing order - in one way only - it was no longer valid. Let me repeat what the standing order provides -
No Senator shall allude to any Debate of the current session in the House of Representatives or to any Measure impending therein.
Senator McKenna has given clearly the difference in meaning between the words “impending” and “pending”. It will be unfortunate for this Senate if, because of the lateness of the hour, because we are in an election year, and because this procedure would be of great convenience to every senator - probably more to Opposition senators than to Government supporters - we turn our backs on a standing order that is so clear.
Both you, Mr. Deputy President, and Senator Spooner have referred to seeking advice on this matter. You said that you had sought advice here and there. Senator Spooner said that he had sought it in various places. You, Sir, said that you were not a legal man. You do not need to be a legal man in order to read Standing Order No. 416. Irrespective of what outside advice you get, the final responsibility in this matter rests with the Senate. We insist on the maintenance of our dignity and independence and on not being attached hidebound and hipbound to the House of Representatives. It would be most unfortunate if we threw away and turned our backs completely on a rule so clear as Standing Order No. 416 merely because the government of the day, in an election year, wanted to do something for our own convenience.
No Senator shall allude to any Debate of the current Session in the House of Representatives, or to any Measure impending therein.
I believe the difficulty could be overcome for this year without creating a precedent. The Standing Orders could be suspended for the reasons given by the Leader of the Government without openly contravening Standing Order No. 41 6. I urge the Minister to adopt that course.
Question put -
That the ruling of the Deputy President- That the terms of Senator Spooner’s motion do not contravene Standing Order No. 416 - be dissented from.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That the ruling of the Deputy President- That the terms of Senator Spooner’s motion do not contravene Section 53 of the Constitution - be dissented from.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That the ruling of the Deputy President - That the terms of Senator Spooner’s motion do not constitute an evasion of the spirit of the Constitution - be dissented from.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Wednesday, 27 September 1961
– Mr. Deputy President, I have already proposed a motion which seeks to introduce into the Senate a new procedure for dealing with the documents known to honorable senators as the Estimates, the principal contents of which come to the Senate in the form of the Appropriation Bill and the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill. 1 think it might be well for me to describe the present procedure, the reasons why it is proposed to change that procedure and the changes contemplated.
At the present time the Minister representing the Treasurer tables the Estimates and Budget Papers in the Senate at the same time as the Treasurer delivers his Budget speech in the House of Representatives. These papers are as follows: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending (on a certain date),
National Income and Expenditure, and
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States.
He then moves, “That the papers be printed “, and reads a condensed version of the Budget speech. This motion originates the Budget debate in the Senate. That debate being concluded, the Senate awaits the receipt of the two Appropriation Bills. After the first and second readings of the bills have been passed, the departmental votes appearing in the Estimates and included in the schedules of the bills are examined in detail at the committee stages.
During recent years, with the increasing volume of legislation which arises for consideration in the Budget session, this present procedure has become increasingly unsatisfactory. In practice it does not now give the Senate sufficient time to consider the Estimates. This has been traditionally regarded as an important part of the work of the Senate.
Let me illustrate the point by a forecast of what is likely to happen in this sessional period. In the last two years it has taken the Senate 28 hours over seven sitting days and 37 hours over nine sitting days to deal with the Estimates at the committee stage of the main appropriation bills. This year it is anticipated that the Parliament will rise on 26th October and that it will be prorogued on 2nd November. The present indication is that the House of Representatives is not likely to pass the appropriation bills until 13th October. The bills would then come to the Senate on the next usual sitting day which is 17th October. There would then be only six normal sitting days between 17th October and 26th October when Parliament is expected to rise. This is less than the time taken by the Senate to deal with the Estimates during either of the last two years. There would thus be insufficient time to deal with the Estimates in the Senate in the normal way before Parliament rises.
But in addition, of course, the Senate would be required to deal with the bills passed by the House of Representatives after it has passed the appropriation bills. There may be as many as 30 such bills. Manifestly the Senate could not deal adequately with this programme in the time available. Indeed it could hardly do so before the date on which it is proposed to prorogue Parliament. So under the present procedures we face the prospect that the Senate, having passed the important pensions legislation, will have little further legislation before it until 13th October and will then be unable to deal adequately with its responsibilities from that stage forward. In order to remedy this position it is proposed that instead of awaiting the passing of the appropriation bills by the House of Representatives as hitherto the Senate will resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole and consider the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure which are part of the Budget Papers already tabled in the Senate.
The Senate will not, and in fact cannot, pass the proposed expenditures at that stage. The committee of the whole will examine, debate and consider such items as it may desire. It will “ take note “ of each of them in turn. A motion to “ take note “ of certain matters has been used in the Senate previously as a vehicle for debate and follows practice in the British Parliament. The usual parliamentary procedure will not be varied when the bills are received in the usual way. The appropriation bills will then be subject to the normal procedure relating to first reading, second reading, committee stage, adoption of report, and third reading.
It is confidently anticipated, however, that the committee stage of each bill will be considerably shortened. Indeed, as the committee work will, in fact have been done adequately during the earlier debate it should be reduced to a formality unless any senator expresses his desire to move an amendment or a request for an amendment to one of the bills. The proposed alteration in Senate procedure will undoubtedly enable the Senate to operate more efficiently and effectively. We shall have ample time to deal with the Estimates and thereby reduce the pressure of work which is usually encountered in the last days of the session and which results in late hours of sitting.
Senators may be interested to know that the Senate introduced the present procedure of debating the financial proposals of the Government on the motion that the Estimates and Budget Papers be printed, on 13th August, 1909. The innovation was sponsored by Senator Sir Robert Best then Minister for Trade and Customs in the Deakin Government, in response to the request made from all parts of the Senate that an opportunity should be afforded to discuss the main principles of the Budget proposals. Senator, later Sir George Pearce, who at that time was a leading member of the Opposition, and also other senators from both sides of the chamber, congratulated the Government upon the introduction of a very desirable practice, which has been continued ever since then.
There will be no violation of accepted parliamentary procedures involved in the proposed change. The appropriation bills, will be dealt with in accordance with usual parliamentary procedure as has been already explained. If the proposal now under consideration is approved we will work from the documents already tabled in the Senate and entitled “ Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1962 “ and “ Estimates, of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1962 “. As the motion indicates, it is not proposed to discuss estimates of special appropriations and of expenditure from loan fund which form part of the estimatespapers but are not included in the appropriation bills.
As in previous years, it is proposed that all votes relating to each department will be grouped together and that departments - within the responsibility of each Senate Minister will also be grouped. However, on this occasion it is considered that, asthe appropriation bills are not before the Senate at this stage there is no necessity for separation of capital works items, and those items will be included under their relevant departments. This will enable every function and responsibility of each department to be considered at the one time. There will be such obvious advantages in altering Senate procedure in the way indicated that I hope the proposal will receive the support of the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 September 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1961/19610926_senate_23_s20/>.