7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Flight from England to Australia.
– Is the Minister for the Navy in a position to favour the House with a statement in regard to the aerial flight from England to Australia?
– I promised the honorable member yesterday that I would endeavour to obtain the information he sought. I have done so, and the following statement, supplied to me by the Defence
Department, under whose care the arrangements are, clearly outlines what we are doing in connexion with the flight : -
The air routefrom Darwin to Melbourne has been surveyed by flying officers. The route selected is Darwin, Newcastle Waters, Anthony Lagoon Station, Avon Downs Station, Cloncurry, Longreach, Charleville, Cunnamulla, Bourke, Narromine, Forbes, Cootamundra, Albury, Melbourne. The Australian Navy will co-operate by maintaining a patrol at sea between Kopang, on the island of Timor, and Darwin. Stocks of petrol and oil have been ordered, and will be made availableat Darwin, Cloncurry, Charleville, and Narromine. At these places there will be a flying officer with instructions for the guidance of competitors, and to assist generally. Supplementary landing grounds will be available if necessary at the other places named in the selected route, and a sub-depôt of fuel and oil at Avon Downs. Arrangements for the flight prior to reaching Australia are in the hands of the Air Ministry and the Royal Aero Club in England.
I may add that we have one of our vessels there at the present time with instructions to patrol the route mentioned, and to get into touch as early as possible with the machines. She will also look out for wireless signals from them. Two of them are understood to be fitted with wireless, and we can only hope that these plucky men, who are trying to connect us, through the air, with the Old Country, will be able to land safely. We will help them to the utmost of our ability.
– I understand that permission has been given for the importation of citrus fruit into Australia. Has the Minister for Trade and Customs power to cause a rigid inspection to be made of all such fruit so as to prevent the introduction of pests into the Commonwealth, and, if so, will he have that careful inspection made?
– There is power to insist on an inspection, and that work is carried out by the officers of. the State Agricultural Departments. No fruit is allowed to be imported into Australia without inspection. There is an absolute prohibition of citrus fruits from any country where citrus canker is known to exist.
– In view of a letter that has been received from the Metal Exchange, stating that additional supplies ofboth manganese and magnesia are not required at present by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd., will the Government allow the exportation of these two minerals to Great Britain?
– During the absence of the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy in England, I was obliged to give a good deal of attention to the question of metals, and the Deputy Leader of the Government (Sir Joseph Cook) has asked me to reply to this question. I am aware, of course, that manganese and related metals are not required in the same way as before the war,but I am not able to speak off-hand as to whether the embargo on the exportation which existed during the war has been removed. The Government are anxious to continue the encouragement of the production of such metals, and within the limits of safety will make all arrangements to that end. I will inquire into the position without delay, and advise the honorable member, so that he may convey the information to his constituents.
– Is it a fact that the proprietary of the Bayonet, the official organ of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League of Australia, has issued against the Postmaster-General a writ for damages for wilful destruction of property?
– I have no knowledge of any such action.
The following papers were presented : -
Economy Commission - Remarks by the Auditor-General and certain officers of the Auditor-General’s staff on Commission’s First Progress Report in so far as the Audit Office is concerned.
Papua - Report by Lieutenant-Governor of Papua on an Article on “Three Power Rule in New Guinea,” by Mr. Rinzo Gond.
Railways- Report with appendices on Common- monwealth Railways 1918-1919.
Ordered to be printed.
Central Wool Committee - Statistical Bulletin No. 1 - Wool Season 1917-18 - Supplement.
– In view of the urgent desire ofthe Treasurer to effect economies, and the magnificent reception which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has received in Queensland, will he take into consideration the question of abolishing the Commonwealth Police Force?
– It is quite a relief to find my honorable friend in a jocular mood since he is usually intensely serious. The honorable member is aware,I think, from statements that have fallen from the lips of members of the Government that the objective originally sketched in outside circles for the Commonwealth police has been altered of recent months. The object of the Department is to include under the one head all the investigation officers who are necessarily employed by their respective Departments. That is an economical and business-like arrangement. It will prevent any real overlapping of police activities as between the Commonwealth and the States, and will confine its operations to investigation work that is essential to the interests of the Commonwealth.
retention of Mr. Carey as Director: Proposed Royal Commission.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for Home and Territories to force Mr. Carey upon the people of the Northern Territory as Director of the Territory? Would it not be better before doing so to have an inquiry by a Judge, or some prominent and capable Commonwealth officer?
– I think the honorable member will agree with me that the officers are not to be forced out of the Territory, and that we must take such steps as are necessary in ordinary circumstances to see that they are returned. My latest telegraphic advices are to the effect that the vessel by which Mr. Carey, Mr. Evans, and Judge Bevan left Darwin is coming on to Fremantle, and that the officers will therefore pass through Melbourne. Their presence here may help in relation to the inquiry. As a matter of fact, a Commission is to be appointed to inquire into what are known as the allegations made in connexion with a letter referred to at a meeting of the Advisory Council. That letter has not yet reached me. I have the necessary commission prepared, subject to the contents of the letter, and as soon as it arrives a Commission will be appointed to inquire into the statements made. The officers may be here at the earn© time, but they will probably have to return to the Territory in connexion with the evidence to be given before the Commission.
– Does the Minister for Home and Territories know of any reason why Mr. Carey did not avail himself of the telegraph service in order to send any communication he desired to send to the Minister regarding the trouble that occurred at Darwin ? Will the Minister instruct the Royal Commissioner not to confine his inquiries merely to the matters contained in a certain letter, but to investigate also whether the inhabitants of the Northern Territory had any real grounds for their insurrection?
– I received such information as the Director (Mr. Carey) said could be sent by telegram; it was very little. The moment that I read that some “revelation” - that was the only word used - had taken place I telegraphed to know what further causes, not mentioned in the telegraphic announcements, were responsible for the uprising. The reply I received stated that the details could not be sent by telegram, and that the letter upon which the allegations are based could not be read apart from its context; a copy of it has been posted, and would reach me at the end of the week. I telegraphed again regarding that matter, but the letter has not yet reached me. It is impossible for me to frame the Commission for a judicial inquiry until I see that letter. Where it came from I do not know ; the allegation is that it was stolen. If the facts justify a wider inquiry, I shall not confine the investigationsto themere charges in the letter. I shall ask the Judge to investigate other matters that ought to be inquired into. Assoon as the letter reaches me I think the Commissioner can act.
– In company with several other honorable members, I recently interviewed the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) and the Acting Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Greene) with a view of ascertaining whether action could not be taken to find employment for a number of’ unemployed soldiers in the erection of country telephone lines. Under such a scheme the men, instead of receiving a sustenance allowance, would be engaged on remunerative work. I desire to know whether the PostmasterGeneral and the Acting Minister for Repatriation have seen the Treasurer with a view of obtaining the necessary money, and to ascertain what are the prospects of effect being given to the proposal.
– The honorable member is, of course, aware that his proposition involves three Departments- the Postal Department, the Repatriation Department, and the Treasury.
– Still his question is none the less valuable.
– I am not objecting to the question. I am merely pointing out that the proposal involves a conference between thethree Ministers. I have not had the matter brought under my notice, but will avail myself of an opportunity to confer with my colleagues, and see if such a proposal can be carried out.
-Is the Treasurer aware of the contents of a memorandum submitted by departmental officers in reply to the report of the Economy Commission ? If so, will they in any way modify his view of the Commission’s report, or was he in full possession of the information contained in the departmental reply when he spoke on the Supply Bill yesterday?
– I understand that the advice from the Treasury is that a memorandum embracing the whole report has not been completed. It is the desire of the Government toknow the views of the Department, and when those views are prepared in the form of separate or joint memorandum, they will be duly considered by the Government.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister, without notice, whether the Government will make every effort to improve the liaison work between the Mother Country and the oversea Dominions, so that in the event of any dangerous international complications
– Improve as to what particular?
– As to the international relations, so that, in the event of any complications arising in the future, the Dominions will receive ample notice instead of the very brief notice afforded at the outbreak of the recent lamentable war.
– The honorable member raises a question of the greatest importance. I can only tell him at the moment that steps have been taken in the direction desired. I agree with him, and hope that we shall not be left again with the same paucity of information as was available concerning that tragic outbreak. It meant that the Imperial machine was not all. that it ought to be. The closer we connect these relations, and the more frequent consultations we have the better. Nothing will take the place of close and complete consultations regarding these matters of the defence of the Empire and its common development. I am glad to be able to say that already there is some improvement in that respect, but there is yet room for a great deal more.
– In regard to the re ward of £10,000 offered by the Government for the discovery of oil, I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether, in view of prospectors having located oil sites in Queensland, where oil is a State monopoly, the Government will register their discoveries in order to protect th em in regard to their claim to the reward while they are spending money in further prospecting the discovery of payable oil?
-Something shouldbe done to protect those people, and I hope soon that somebody will claim the reward. ,
– Has the Minister for the
Navy received from Mr. King Salter, the manager at Cockatoo Island, and Captain Bromwich, manager of Garden Island, any official report that in connexion with investigations by the Economy Commission no information was supplied by those gentlemen or by any officers of the Department, and that the findings of the Commission are based on imagination rather than on actual facts.
– I am aware that both officers say that they did not know that such a Commission was in existence until they read in the press that their twoestablishments had been criticised. They both declare emphatically that they have never met the Commission. Until that matter is cleared up I do not think that I can say anything more.
– Take no notice of the Commission’s report.
– I propose to take notice of any report that aims at economy and efficiency.
– I have been assured that the Commission deputed junior clerks of business establishments to wander round the Postal Department and other public Departments in order to carry out the investigation. If it is true that the report of the Commission is the outcome of an investigation by such persons as to the value of the work done in public Departments, the country should be made aware of that fact.
– As I know little about the Economy Commission or its personnel, I ask the Treasurer, who knows all about it, to deal with the question.
– I am thankful for the certificate of my colleague that I know all about the Economy Commission. I do know a good deal about it, and Ithink there is no truth in the information which has reached the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). As its report shows, the Commission employed certain expert men from business houses to report on some features of departmental methods. I do not know all of those gentlemen, but I know one of them very well. He is an exceptionally able man, holding a high and responsible position in a big business establishment. He has had very wide administrative experience. The Commission was given the utmost freedom. It was allowed to use officers from the Public Service or to employ men from outside the Service for special work. In that way we hoped that the Commission, without doing all the detailed spade work itself, would best inform its mind of the practices of the Department, and be able to frame remedies accordingly if such were needed. That, I understand, is what the Commission did.
Memorials to Soldiers
– This morning I received from the Treasury a reply to a question I asked in the House regarding the exemption from the entertainments tax of entertainments organized on behalf of memorials to soldiers. The answer is one that will be of great interest to honorable members, and also to the public generally, and I ask the Treasurer to give publicity to the intentions of the Government.
– I have not seen the communication to which the ‘honorable member referred, but recently I have been considering, as I promised in this House to do, what exemption from the entertainments tax should be granted, and I think that the decisions of the Government will meet with the general approbation of honorable members. I shall lay upon the table the particulars of which the honorable member spoke.
Training of Soldier Settlers - Advances to Local Authorities - Settle^ ment in German New Guinea.
– Recently the Ugly Men’s Association in Western Australia established an agricultural college for the training of returned soldiers who intend to take up land, and they have requested the Government to assist them in financing the project. Is the Acting Minister for Repatriation in a position to announce the decision of the Government on that matter.?
– There is an agreement between the Repatriation Department and the various State Governments under which returned soldiers who intend settling on the land are trained in agricultural colleges. In Western Australia there is no such college, and the Government have welcomed the efforts by the Ugly Men’s Association to establish an institution of that kind for the benefit of soldiers. Negotiations have been entered, into with the Government of Western Australia for the placing of the proposal on a definite and permanent basis. Meanwhile, pending the completion of those negotiations, I have arranged to financially assist the Ugly Men’s Association to carry out their work.
– In regard to the distribution of £500,000 to municipalities and shires for the employment of returned soldiers, seeing that quite a number of districts have not taken advantage of the generous offer, will the Government arrange that portion of the unexpended grant is allotted to districts where large numbers of returned soldiers have been settled, and where highly organized gangs of men are engaged on road work, for the purpose not only of providing employment for returned soldiers, but also of making roads for soldier settlers?
– If there be any unexpended balances, I should say that they ought to be placed at the disposal of local authorities for the purpose which the honorable member has indicated. The money could be expended in no more useful direction than in assisting to make good roads. Any one who has had experience of the roads overseas will know that we are very much in need of better means of communication in this country. I should like to see many million pounds spent on the making of roads in Australia.
– Has any provision been made by the Defence Department for the establishment of soldier settlements in New Guinea in conjunction with the repatriation scheme?
– I believe not.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT.- During the war Australian soldiers in the different theatres of war captured many guns and other valuable trophies. Most of them have already reached Australia, and the returned soldiers have expressed a wish that, as far as possible, when the distribution takes place the trophies shall be allocated to those centres which are the head-quarters of the units which captured them. Will the Minister for Home and Territories state when the distribution will take place, and what system will be adopted ? When will the commitee of which the honorable member for1 Robertson (Mr. Fleming), a returned soldier, is a member, commence their investigations, and will they see that the trophies are distributed throughout the Commonwealth, and not merely amongst the big cities ?
– The honorable member is correct in his assumption of the basis upon which the allocation of the trophies will take place amongst the States, and, as far as possible, within the States. In fact, I think that the principle laid down by the Imperial Government,as well as by the Australian representative in England, was that the trophies captured by particular units should, as far as possible, be allocated to the centres to which they belonged. I think they include about 800 guns, 3,800 machine guns, 520 trench mortars, 217 motor vehicles, a number of horsevehicles, tanks of a particular kind, a pontoon bridge that was thrown over the Suez Canal, and a number of other trophies. The bulk of them are already in Australia, and I thought it best to get a committee for distribution within the States appointed. That was done about a fortnight ago, and this being a Federal matter, and in order that I might have some assistance in connexion with the war museum, some membersof the Commonwealth Parliament have been placed upon the committee. The first meeting took place about the beginning of last week. The principle to be followed in the allocation amongst the States is that the trophies shall be so distributed that, as far as possible, the units which captured them shall receive them. In regard to distribution within the States, if there are about 3,800 machine guns, and about 3,000 towns with a population of 250 and upwards, one may reckon that each town of that size will receive a machine gun. These trophies will be distributed on the lines laid down.
Lt -Colonel Abbott. - Will country districts removed from centres of population receive consideration?
– Every district will receive consideration.
– Can the proposed distribution be made-
– I have repeatedly reminded honorable members that the practice of asking questions without notice is developing into an irregular form of debate. Long and involved questions, requiring long and involved answers, should not be asked without notice. I ask honorable members to put their questions simply and directly, with as little explanation as possible.
– Can the Minister for Homes and Territories give the House any information in regard to the offer made to construct railways in the
Northern Territory on the land-grant or some other plan? Will the Government consider the matter of railway construction in view Of the trouble in the Territory at the present time, and the absence of adequate means of land transit ?
– That offer was made really to the Prime Minister’s Department. The honorable member may rest assured that the matter of the construction of a transcontinental railway in the Territory will come under the consideration of the Cabinet.
– Some time ago I directed a question to the Postmaster-General in reference to a deputation he had received when on a visit to Adelaide, and he informed me that a certain amount had been placed on the Estimates to carry out the promises he had then made to the members of the postal staff in South Australia. Will the honorable gentleman now make it clear when he intends to honour those promises - whether it will be at any time during next year or the subsequent year?
– What promises I have made, orally or otherwise-
– You said there was £20,000 on the Estimates.
– I said that, as Postmaster-General, I had proposed an expenditure of £20,000 towards the building of post-offices, and the honorable member can see for himself whether or not that amount appears on the Estimates. I have been extremely anxious to proceed with those very necessary buildings, with a view to greater efficiency and economy. I am hopeful that in the new year the Commonwealth Government will assist me in realizing what I deem to be absolutely essentia] in the interests of the service.
– Some time ago the Postmaster-General promised that mail contractors who had suffered from drought would be given consideration and relief on the same lines as in 1914. Can the honorable gentleman tell us when those contractors are likely to receive their money ?
– When honorable members were pressing this matter on the notice of the Government, I was receiving many applications from mail contractors in country districts. I did not wait for a decision on the matter, but immediately set the Department to work to assess the merits of each claim, so that if it were decided to give relief time might be saved. The claims havebeen very largely assessed, but, naturally, many more claims are coming in; and until all are investigated I cannot give a definite reply as to when the men will be paid. As early as I can be assured that the claims are verified by the Department as correct, I shall ask the Treasurer to proceed with the payment.
Breaches of Discipline: Remission of Sentences
– I desire to know from the Minister for the Navy why it is there is so much delay in releasing the sailors who were sentenced to imprisonment by court martial on the Australia? Can they not be released at once?
– I replied to a similar question yesterday. I extremely regret the delay; but I am not able in a ruthless way to wrest this matter out of the hands of the Imperial authorities. Therefore, I hope the honorable member will make himself as content as possible, as I have to do, until the whole matter can be brought to completion. This, I hope, will not be very long.
– Is it possible in connexion with the English-owned boats and the Commonwealth line of steamers to secure space for the forthcoming fruit export season ? Circulars are being issued to the fruit-growers by individual agents, and I suggest that at the earliest possible moment the co-operative companies of fruit-growers should know whether they are to have their proper share of shipping space. These private agents, who have controlled the shipping for so many years, have, as I say, sent out circulars practically intimating that they have secured the space; and unless official information is published to the contrary, the co-operative companies will remain in doubt as to whether they are secure against loss.
– This matter hasbeen under my close attention for some time past. We have communicated with the Imperial Government asking them to definitely allot us a certain amount of space, and to allow the allocation of that space to be controlled by the Commonwealth Government. Up to the present we have not yet received any information from the Imperial Government as to the amount of space, if any, that is to be allotted to Australia for the coming season. As soon as we do get the information public notice will be given.
– Is the Minister for the Navy yet in a position to give the information he promised the other day in respect to a number of officers in the Navy Department receiving £400 a year and over?
– I regret to say that I overlooked the matter, and I have to apologize to the honorable member. 2 shall at once take steps to see that he gets the information.
Navy Board - Randwick Wireless Works
– I shall be very glad to answer that question if the honorable member will put it on the noticepaper.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott . - Unfortunately, this is my “ last time of asking “ - I shall not be here again.
– I think the question deals with a matter that we had better not decide at present.
– I am not thinking of myself when I mention the matter.
– I am sure the House generally regrets that the honorable member is about to leave us, and will, therefore, not be eligible for an office of the kind. There are others here, however, who may look, watch, wait, and hope.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that it is stated that Admiral Viscount Jellicoe, who reported on the Randwick wireless works, did not visit that establishment?
– I am not aware of the fact.
– I am informed that it is absolutely correct.
– Some time ago I directed the attention of the Assistant Minister for Defence to the case of a widow of a German internee named Roesler, who has had withheld from her the payment allowed to the wives of other internees. The real reason, I believe, for the withholding of the allowance may be gathered from a letter which this lady received asking her whether there was any means of getting her husband £50 out of the war loan; because the Department enjoined on this lady that she was to utilize her available capital before assistance was given to her. Her husband died from influenza in the Holdsworthy hospital, so that she is doubly unfortunate as a widow with two dependent children. This woman’s husband was employed for thirty years in the Post Office, and at the time of his death was entitled to long leave, for which his widow is unable to obtain any equivalent. Will the Minister make special inquiries with a view to giving to this unfortunate woman the assistance that is given to others in her position?
– Yes; I shall make inquiries at once.
– In view of a drought, which has not a parallel in the history of Australia, will the Treasurer be good enough to ask the Commissioner of Taxation in his administration of the wartime profits tax, the land tax, and the income tax to give special consideration to the sufferers on the land, so that they may not be harshly or unduly deprived of money so necessary to keep their stock alive ?
– Neither myself nor any other Minister is entitled to dispense with the law which the Government are supposed to administer. A few weeks ago, I informed the honorable member that the hardship clauses of the taxation measures, and the machinery devised to operate them, will give reasonable and proper relief in such cases. We do not, for instance, tax people on incomes they have not earned, and if it is difficult in a year of disaster to pay taxation on income earned the year before, due consideration is given.
– When the Treasurer was speaking yesterday, I interjected, “ You should see the Daily Tele- graph’s leading article on the 19th October, criticising Government extravagance,” but I did not hear his reply, which, according to the press reports this morning, appears to bear an implication of personal slander against me.
– There is no personal slander that I can see in the report.
– According to this report, the honorable gentleman made an imputation of a personal nature against me.
– I had not the slightest intention of doing anything of the kind.
– I am glad to hear the Minister say so, and there is no occasion for me to refer to the matter further.
– To the best of my recollection, the honorable member and I were exchanging interjections and replies across the floor by permission of the Chairman of the Committee of Supply, and the last word said by the honorable member for Cook (Mr.Catts) was the interjection to which he has referred. 1 replied that if the honorable member would look at what the papers had said about himself during recent months, he would not be bothering: me about what they had said concerning me, and there the matter ended.
– Did the honorable gentleman intend any personal reflection ?
– If the honorable member chooses to think that I implied any personal slander on him, I can assure him that I had no such intention. It is not my practice to impute personal motives to . honorable members whether they belong to the same party as myself or not.
asked the Assistant
Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– All those entitled to release have been released.
RetiringMinister’s Minute - Departmental Schedule.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Whether his attention has been drawn to a paragraph which appeared in the Daily Telegraph, Sydney, stating:-“ When the Necessary Commodities” Commission met this afternoon Mr. Justice Edmunds said he intended to draw the attention of theTexas Oil Company to the San Francisco Bulletin’s quotation of the price of petrol in America,10½d. per gallon, which was at variance to the price stated in evidence before him”?
If so, as the price ruling at present in Tamworth and district is 15s. per tin, while, according to the above quotation, in America it is 3s.6d. per tin, duty being at the rate of 1d. per gallon = 4d. per tin, totalling 3s.10d. per tin, can the Minister state to what the abnormal difference in price (11s. 2d. per tin) is due; and what action, if any, the Government intends to take to cope with the evident profiteering in this article?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Exemption of Agents
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of his statement made in the House on the 30th November last that all agents carrying on purely commission business would be exempted from taxation under the War-time Profits Tax Act, and seeing that’ this principle was incorporated in the amended Act, will he explain why these agents are now being taxed ?
– The Commissioner of Taxation states he is not aware that any agents exempted from taxation under the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act are now being taxed. Any agent who considers he is being improperly taxed should bring the question under the notice of the Commissioner.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Surplus Stores - Permanent Officers: Active Service - Lost Kit Bags
– On the 22nd October the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - 1 and 2. Tenders were invited for the purchase of the khaki jean, brown drill, drab drill, khaki wigan, and unbleached calico, and, as the prices offered were unsatisfactory, prices were fixed by the Department, and sales effected to whomsoever inquired, including business people and the general public.
The selling prices of the goods were fixed by the Department, and represented the market value of the goods. The Department is not aware of the prices at which the material is being retailed.
In compliance with the request of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), I now lay on the table of the House a return showing the periods of active service and present position of officers of the Permanent Military Forces.
On the 17th October the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), speaking on the adjournment, referred to an answer I had given in reference to some lost kit bags, and said that he was not satisfied with the answer, and read a letter from Mr. Rundell, whose son’s kit had been lost. I have had further inquiries made, and find that the answer I gave, namely, that only three officers’ kits were missing, which was based on a telegram received from the Commandant of the 4th Military District, was not correct. As a result of further inquiries, it appears that the fact that Private Rundell’s kit was still missing was overlooked by the Commandant when forwarding his telegram. It is now reported from South Australia that this kit has been located in Tasmania, and is being forwarded to South Australia.
The honorable member for Adelaide also referred to the language which was used towards Mr. Rundell, the soldier’s father, when he made inquiries at the Barracks. He read a letter, in which Mr. Rundell stated that. Sergeant Gill said, “ We were making such a fuss about our lost kits which was enough to make a man mad.” The honorable member also made use of these remarks -
When this gentleman was informed that they could do nothing for him, he told them that he had had the official reply given to me in the House, and they said, “ You bring Yates here. We will soon deal with him.”
Inquiries have been made in connexion with these two remarks. The Commandant states that QuartermasterSergeant Gill admits having said, “ We were making such a fuss about a lost kit which was enough to make a man mad “ ; but denies having said, “You bring Yates here. We will soon deal with him.” The remark admitted by QuartermasterSergeant Gill is being submitted to the AdjutantGeneral for the necessary disciplinary action. As for the other remark, it will be noted that the words of the honorable member for Adelaide were, “ They said.” Inquiries have been made, but no one can be found who admits having made use of the words. If Mr. Rundell can give the name of the official who used them, further inquiries will be made.
Restraint of Trade - Alleged Fraudulent Sales
– On the 21st October the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - j i
The Chairman of the Central Wool Committee states that’ all correspondence relating to the trouble has been forwarded to the Imperial Government’s Wool Representatives in London.
Until their conclusions are known, it is inadvisable to take any further action.
On the 21st October the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) also asked the following questions : -
Committee to obtain payments of funds, forfeitures, deposits, guarantees, or otherwise from any firms in Sydney in respect of fraudulent or improper conduct as regards the sale of wool, weight of wool, and the prices charged in respect of parcels in which there was a shortage in weight ?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The Chairman of the Central Wool Committee (Sir John Higgins) reports that the breaches In Sydney of Wool Regulations and Instructions of the Central Wool Committee were technical breaches only.
The Central Wool Committee are satisfied that there was no fraudulent intention, and it would be most improper to the parties concerned, and prejudicial to the best interests of the wool scheme, if technical breaches of the Central Wool Committee’s instructions were to be subjected to review after the Central Wool Committee had dealt with same, and imposed such penalties as, in their opinion, the breaches demanded.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The whole matter is the subject of inquiry.
– I desire to bring before the House a matter which I think it my duty to mention, as it affects the privileges of Parliament. On perusing the report of the Economy Commission, I notice that in paragraph 55 it is stated that other matters listed for investigation include: “ Expenditure in connexion with Parliamentary Library; the official record of parliamentary proceedings, and other parliamentary services.” As this Royal Commission has no authority from this Parliament, so far as I am aware, to interfere in any way with the various services of Parliament, it is my duty to call the attention of honorable members to this proposed serious encroachment on the rights and privileges of Parliament by the appointment of a tribunal unauthorized by Parliament to inquire into matters over which the Legislature has absolute and sole control. I have consulted with the President of the Senate (Senator Givens), and he shares my view that there is no authority superior to Parliament, and that Parliament is absolute master of its own expenditure, its own procedure, and its own actions. Once admit the right of any outside authority to supersede the authority of Parliament itself, the status of Parliament as the supreme authority of the country is destroyed. I do not propose, unless I am so directedby the House, whose mouthpiece I am, to sanction any inquiry of the. kind which is not authorized by Parliament itself. As Speaker, I am the custodian of the rights and privileges of Parliament, and until Parliament authorize me to do so, I shall not recognise for a single moment the right of any outside tribunal to presume to interfere with any of the services of Parliament.
– (By leave.)-I wish to make a brief observation on the remarks which you, sir, have very properly addressed to the House. The Royal Commission was appointed by GovernorGeneral’s Warrant, and not at the request or by the authority of the House, as you have correctly pointed out. The Crown, through its advisers, has no desire to establish improper relationships between any Royal Commission and Parliament; and I shall see that the law officers take immediate notice of your remarks in order to insure that no privileges which Parliament enjoys are in any way infringed by the operations of the Royal Commission.
– I intended, when I rose, to make it clear that there is no objection to a properly authorized inquiry into the services of Parliament. I do not want the impression to get abroad that any such objection exists. I merely wish to see that anything that is done is done in a proper way, so that the privileges of Parliament shall be safeguarded. There is no authority superior to Parliament which can arrogate to itself the power to appoint any Commission or other tribunal to invade the sphere of parliamentary jurisdiction in the conduct and direction of its own business. Parliament alone can appoint such a tribunal.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 2 -
The Governor-General may make such regulations and orders and do such things as appear to him to be necessary for carrying out and giving effect to the provisions of Part X. (Economic Clauses) of the said Treaty.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “ and orders.”
– I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
The alteration is purely technical. The clause as amended will still give the Governor-General power to make such regulations and do such things as appear to him to be necessary.I am informed by the drafting authority that the amendment is quite acceptable. .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend sections 24 and 26 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1917.
. - I understand that the rule is that once the Committee agrees to the motion founded on the Governor-General’s message, it is impossible for an amendment to be moved to extend the scope of the Bill.
– This is not the stage at which an amendment can be moved.
– I do not want to lose any of my rights in this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted. .
That Mr. Poynton and Mr. Wise do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Its purpose is to give effect to the proposed increase of the maximum rate of old-age pensions from 12s. 6d. to 15s. per week. On 30th June, 1919, the total number of old-age pensioners was 95,969r and of invalid pensioners 31,999, or a total of 1,127,968. In 1910 the annual payment on account of pensions was £1,624,454. By June last it had increased to £4,037,015. The proposed addition of 2s. 6d. will mean an added expenditure of £800,000 per annum, but in this financial year the additional amount payable is only £400,000, because the increased payment takes effect only as from 1st January, 1920. Section 24 of the Principal Act provides -
The amount of pension shall in each case be at such rate as, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner who determines the pensions claim deems reasonable and sufficient, but shall not exceed the rate of £32 10s. per annum in any event, nor shall it be at such a rate as will make the pensioner’s income, together with pension, exceed £58 10s.
This Bill increases the amount of £32 10s. to £39, and increases the amount of £58 10s. to £65. Section 26 of the principal Act provides -
In the computation of income -
This Bill increases the amount of 7s. 6d. to 10s. The wording of the Act remains as when it was first introduced by the then Labour Government, but we are increasing the amounts, just as was done by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), as Treasurer, when he introduced the Bill to provide for the last increase of 2s. 6d. per week. We are making no other amendments. The total amount of liability for these pensions will, when this amendment takes effect, be close on £5,000,000 per annum.
I am pleased to have been able to propose this increase, notwithstanding the existing strain on the finances, because, if there is any body of people deserving of the consideration of this Parliament, it is the old-age and invalid pensioners. In preparing the Budget, I made an extra effort to provide the necessary money in order to allow a little more for these worthy old people. The pensions have, at least, brought a little comfort into thousands of homes, and this has been one of the most humane pieces of legislation ever passed in this Parliament, but I do not think we shall have arrived at that stage of civilization which, in my opinion, is desirable, until we go even further. The most deplorable cases that come under one’s notice are those where the bread-winner has been cut off, and a family of young children have been left without provision for their maintenance. The war pensions scheme has made provision for a number of. those cases, but, during the war period, quite a number of other instances were brought under my notice where the breadwinner of the family had been cut off, and the mother left destitute, with a number of young children. We shall not have arrived at an ideal state of society until cases of that kind can be made a charge upon the public revenues of the Commonwealth. When that is done, some protection will be. given to those who are suffering through no fault of their own, and are often among the most thrifty, for we all recognise with sorrow that very little indeed can be saved to meet such emergencies. At any rate, by this Bill we have attempted to bring a little more sunshine and comfort into the homes of over 100,000 people who draw either the invalid or the old-age pension. The additional- 2s. 6d. per week will do no more than make the pension equivalent to what it was when the 12s. 6d. rate was first introduced. Although the financial position is rather tight, I believe the people will fully indorse the action of the Government.
.- I regret exceedingly that the health of the
Minister in charge of this Bill (Mr. Poynton) is such that it would be almost cruel at the present time to offer any criticism of his work, and I certainly do not intend to do so. I am pleased that the Government have taken this action to increase the old-age and invalid pensions, but I regret that they have not seen fit to go further in two directions that I shall briefly outline. In the first place, I should have liked provision to be made to allow a pensioner to earn an amount equal to the amount of the increased pension. Under the original Act, which was passed in 1908, every pensioner, in addition to his pension of £26 per annum, or 10s. per week, was allowed to earn up to £26 per annum. In 1916, when the pension was increased to 12s. 6d. per week, Parliament overlooked this point, and failed to insert a provision .in the Bill entitling pensioners to earn an amount equal to the increased pension. It is not proposed, under this Bill, to depart from the original provision, that a pensioner shall not be allowed to earn more than 10s. a week, although the purchasing power of the sovereign during the last few years has very materially decreased. Mr. Knibbs in Report No. 8, published in July of last year, and which, I think, is the latest complete report on the subject, shows to what extent the purchasing power of the sovereign has been reduced. He shows that, while in 1911 the mass unit in respect of dairy produce, meat, groceries, and house rent was 948, in 1917 it “had increased to 1,318, . or an increase of 40 per cent. He points out, further, that in respect of groceries and food, prices have so increased in the State capitals - where prices are but a reflex of those obtaining in the States generally - that in the first quarter of 1918 30s>. had to be paid for what in 1911 could be purchased for 20s., or an increase of 50 per cent. On page 61 of his report, Mr. Knibbs goes on to show that the wholesale prices of textiles and leather have so increased that the mass unit in respect of them rose from 1,000 in July, 1914, to 2,4-63 in the first quarter of 1918. That shows an increase of 150 per cent., in the cost of clothing and boots. Let honorable members who are married ask their wives what increases have taken place in the prices of towels, sheeting, and other textiles. Prices have been soaring, and the poorer people, we know, proportionately pay an infinitely greater increase than do those in more fortunate circumstances. If, as Mr. Knibbs shows, the price of groceries, dairy produce, and rentals have increased to the extent of over 50 per cent, since 1911, while the price of boots and clothing have increased to the extent of 150 per cent. , surely it is only reasonable that now that the pension is to be increased to 15s. per week, as compared with 10s. per week in 1908, the amount which pensioners were allowed to earn in that year should be correspondingly raised. ‘ If we do grant this concession, they will not be a penny better off than they were when the pension system was introduced. They will still be worse off, because the purchasing power of- their income, even then, will not be what it was in 1908.’ My desire is that we should help those pensioners who are endeavouring to help themselves. It has been said that the granting of a pension saps the manhood and womanhood of the people - that it takes away the incentive to work - and those who hold that view should be prepared to support the plea I am putting up for these old people. I do not wish to move an amendment, but I hope that the Minister in charge of the Bill will himself take action.
– Would such an amendment be in order?
– It would increase the pensions bill to the extent of £300,000 a year, since it would bring in a lot more pensioners.
– Having regard to the increase in the cost of living, pensioners, even if they were allowed to earn an additional 5s. per week, would still be worse off than they were in 1908. It ii sometimes said that Mr. Knibbs’ figures as to the cost of living do not exaggerate.
– They are a conservative estimate.
– They are.
– The honorable member’s Government, in amending the principal Act, did not make such a provision as that for which he now asks.
– I was not in the Government at the time the Act was amended. I take my share of the responsibility as a private member, and T say that we were all blameworthy for overlooking that point. The honorable gentleman was a supporter of the same Government.
– At any rate, if a mistake was made then, why should we perpetuate it
– Quite so.
I want now to make a claim for another section of the community who are suffering more than any other. I refer to the blind. When the original Bill was before Parliament in 1908, I urged the then Treasurer, the late Sir William Lyne, to extend it to the blind, and I secured from him a definite statement that invalid pensions would be payable to blind persons. Such people have since then been under the Act. Those who are being trained at our various institutions for the blind are allowed to earn a certain amount per week, and recently an increase of 4s. per week was made by the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind to those employed by them. Those who were in receipt of pensions, however, could not accept the increase, since, if they did so, their pensions would be correspondingly reduced. Some of them, who are expert in the making of brushes, baskets, and mats are able to earn up to £2 per week, and they receive no pension. Those who earn up to 10s per week are entitled to the full pension, but those who can earn 158. per week, under the law as it stands, do not receive the maximum pension. That being so, we offer them no incentive to become more expert. They know that if they do earn more their pensions will be reduced. Surely they are sufficiently handicapped without being subjected to this injustice.
– Again I remind the honorable member that his Government made no special provision for them.
– The honorable gentleman and I both supported the Government to which he refers, and the fact that it failed to do , what I now propose is no reason why we should not now take a step in the right direction.
– The only difference now is that the honorable member is in opposition.
– That is quite unfair. When I was a private member I tried to do something for the blind, and as far back as the session of 1901-2 did something for them, for which they have always been grateful to me. The honor- able member for Riverina (Mr. Chanter), who was Chairman of Committees at the time, will recollect that I moved the insertion in the Postal Act of a provision allowing literature for the blind to be carried throughout Australia free of charge, and we were the first country in the world to do this. The Barton Government said that they would provide for that by regulation, but I desired that an amendment should be made in the Act. When the Committee divided only two Ministers were left voting against the amendment; the whole of the other Ministers refrained from voting, and the division was called off.
My sympathy with the blind does not date from yesterday or the day before. This is no party question. It is not the duty of members of the Opposition only to assist the blind people. So far as I know, there are not half-a-dozen blind persons in my electorate. The bulk of them in this State are in the electorate of Fawkner. Therefore, it cannot be said that I am looking for votes. When a few days ago the blind people asked me to accompany them on a deputation, I immediately
Approached the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and only yesterday the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) and I were in consultation on this matter. I have no party object in proposing this amendment. Let any honorable member on the Ministerial side move the amendment I am suggesting, and I will support him. In the course of a. letter I have received, the following passage occurs: -
The blind man, if left to himself, is incapable of any useful work, and industrially, it is the crowning calamity that afflicts mankind. The blind man’s movements are painfully restricted. If he attempts even to get his own food or light a fire, he is a peril to himself and others. So far from the wind being tempered to the shorn lamb in his case he is constantly put to additional expense for assistance and care. On the other hand, if adequately assisted, he is capable of? all- the duties of useful citizenship, and men of his class have risen to positions of high distinction.
Any ordinary seeing person, however ignorant, can. acquire the rudiments of scholastic, and still more of industrial, knowledge by watching others. In Australia the least instructed seeing man can accomplish some manual work, and none who are willing to do so fail to get an adequate living. For the blind, effective instruction is essential.
– I know of some “blind workers on the Sydney wharfs who have been earning full wages.
– I believe that a blind man, Mr. Fawcett, was at one time PostmasterGeneral of the United Kingdom. Perhaps the most notable name in tha history of the blind is Helen Keller, who was blind, deaf, and dumb. Miss Aston, the secretary of the Association for the Advancement of the Blind, lost her sight at a very early age, but later matriculated. There are other notable cases of blind people achieving distinction,- but they are very few. I believe that the men in charge of the Institute for the Blind in Victoria are doing their best to help those who are unable to help themselves. That is probably true of every institute of the kind in Australia ; but if a man is forced to beg in the streets he can be no longer employed in the institute. The fact that our blind people have to beg in the streets, and parade their affliction before the public is a disgrace to our civilization. Some of these poor men are the breadwinners for families of six, seven, and eight. Some of them were miners and ‘ lost their eyesight in an explosion, and were too old to learn a trade. But if they learn a trade in the institute they can earn only 10s. a week there, and they must live outside, because they are not provided with board and lodging. Some of them are unable with their earnings in the institute, plus their pension, to keep themselves and their families. .One man, who felt obliged to beg in the streets on Friday nights in order to increase his income, was immediately turned out of the institute, so that, instead of begging in the streets on Friday nights only, he was compelled to beg all the time. That was not an improvement; his position was infinitely worse than it had been before.
– Will the honorable member’s amendment cover old-age and blind pensioners too?
– I shall move no amendment, because I know that any amendment that emanates from this side will be defeated. I hope, however, that some , amendment will come from an honorable member on the Government side.
– I have already circulated a proposed amendment.
– I shall vote for it.
– Why is no charge made that honorable members to-day are touting for the votes of the blind ?
– Why introduce that sort of thing?
– That was the charge levelled against this side yesterday in connexion with the war gratuity.
– I had the honour, and it is an honour, to be elected a life member of the Association for the Advancement of the Blind, because of what I was able to do for them in connexion with postage. Any other honorable member would have done the same. I am not playing up to the blind voters.
– It is utterly absurd to mention that; there are only 4,000blind persons in Australia.
– And I do not suppose there are half-a-dozen in my electorate.
In regard to the cost of living, I direct the attention of honorable members to the following letter published in to-day’s Age: -
Sir, - I have been waiting patiently for the last twelve months to buy myself a pair of house boots, thinking every weekthat footwear would be reduced somewhat in price. Now I am just barefooted; I cannot even walk on the uppers to save the soles, as the former are full of ventilators. And I am no school child, being not only a mother of five, but a grandmother of five as well, all Australians, including myself. And to have to go barefooted at my age, owing to the high price charged for footwear, is simply awful, to say the least of it.
My family being reared and away except my youngest son, who helps my husband, even then we find it impossible to make ends meet owing to the high cost of living. - Yours, &c.,
Dandenong, 22nd October.
The statements contained in that letter are facts, and we shall be doing no more than bare justice to the pensioners if we increase the amount they are allowed to earn. We shall be only reinstating them in the position they occupied in 1908, when they were allowed to earn an amount equal to their pension.. The special plea for the blind stands on a different footing. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated in Brisbane that the Government would pay to blind soldiers the pension which had been asked for, namely, £4. I shall not ask that much for blind civilians. It will be for the Government to fix the maximum amount they can earn; but to insist that they shall earn only 10s. per week in addition to their pension, is only compelling them to beg for a living in the streets, instead of encouraging them to go into the institutes to learn a trade. It will be a disgrace to this Parliament if we neglect the opportunity of amending ‘the present pension.
– I support the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). This is in no sense a party question, and the suggestion that any honorable member, in discussing it, is touting for votes, is too ridiculous to call for an answer.
– I merely referred to the fact that yesterday we were told that in paying the war gratuity, we were touting for votes.
– There are only about 4,000 blind persons in Australia, and as they are distributed throughout the Commonwealth, it is unlikely that their votes will substantially affect any election. I do not think that any honorable member addressing himself to this question does so for political reasons. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has taken a very deep interest in this matter , and intended to address the House on the subject; but, unfortunately, he cannot be present this morning, because he is engaged elsewhere on important public business. I, too, have taken some interest in the case of the blind pensioners, and I support the claim put before the House by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor). The pension of 15s. per week which this Bill proposes to pay to the pensioner is exactly 50 per cent. more than was granted under the original Act. The increase corresponds exactly with the advance in the cost of living. But if we are to allow the old-age pensioner to earn only the 10s. that he was allowed to earn under the original Act, we must bear in mind that that 10s. has been reduced in value by 33 per cent.. So that, whereas formerly he was receiving a pension of 10s., plus 10s. in earnings, making a total of £1, now, owing to the depreciated value of the currency, his total income is reduced to only 16s. 8d. The amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) proposes to increase the income to £130 per annum. That would have the effect of making good the depreciation of the 10s. the pensioner is at present allowed to earn, and put it on the same parity as the increase in the pension from 10s. to 15s. The case for the blind has been put before the House by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) in a very fair manner. The position of the blind soldier lias so influenced the mind of the Government as to induce them to grant him a pension of £4, plus, I understand, house allowance, which would make the pension equivalent to £5 per week. Surely an equally good case can be made out for the civilian blind.
– It is an argument that will be put up by the civilian blind themselves.
– Of course, but, as they are numerically few, those of us who are gifted with all our faculties, and with the most important, one of all, should see that justice is done to those blind people. Many people run away with the idea that the institutes for the blind are boarding and lodging establishments. They are nothing of the kind; they are training institutes where the blind people go to learn trades and professions, and thus fit themselves to earn their own living. A person who is blind is, in most cases, in possession of all his other faculties, and, for all practical purposes, a normal human being, with all the wants and desires of normal humanity; consequently, in ordinary course, if opportunity offers, he marries and rears a family. There are many with families of from five to seven which have to be provided for; and it will be seen what a fearful handicap the blind carry in ordinary life. It means in many cases that they have to go on to the streets to beg iii order that they may support their families with decency, though very often they ‘are able in this way to earn less than is really necessary to preserve their lives. When the Government can devote £25,000,000 as a bonus to soldiers, and add £800,000 to old-age and invalid pensions, they can surely ‘ afford the extra amount necessary to give the civilian blind proper means of subsistence.
I think the Government will find a very insistent demand on the part of the House for this reform. We are told that there are 129,968 old-age and invalid pensioners, and that the amount paid to them each year is over £4,000,000. The blind pensioners number about. 900, and represent a comparatively small expenditure, which is included in that paid to the invalid and old-age pensioners.
It must be remembered that I am not asking that the pensions to the blind shall be increased in amount. ‘ Only, a
Minister of the Crown may propose an increase in taxation, so that it would be impossible for us as private members to secure the payment of an additional amount to the blind. What we are asking is that the blind shall be allowed to increase their own earnings without diminishing their pension; and, in my opinion, it is a very reasonable and legitimate request.
A case has been submitted to me by the committee of the Institute for the Blind in Victoria, and I propose to read it for the benefit of the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. .Poynton) and the House. It is a true human document, and I am quite sure it will touch the hearts and sympathies of all who peruse it, describing, as it does, the position of people who are afflicted with one of the greatest of infirmities. If any of us had the option of losing our sight or of losing a limb or limbs, I have no doubt we should choose the latter. Men who have lost an arm or a leg are able to earn a living in many ways, but a blind man, particularly those not born blind, but who are subsequently afflicted with blindness, must go through the agonies of hell. Who can imagine his feelings when such a man realizes that he can never again look on the world as he did before? Every honorable member of the House must approve of what the Government has done for our blinded soldiers, and we only ask now that some consideration be shown to the civilian blind. The communication I have received from the authorities of the Victorian Institute for the Blind is as follows : -
The capital of life consists in the senses of sight, touCh, hearing, taste, and smell. Their value in industrial life diminishes in that order. For manual and other work sight is the most important of all, and touch less so. The other senses are not essential to the great majority of occupations. That blindness is the greater loss and differentiates the sufferer from other invalids is recognised everywhere.
Every civilized Government grants its blinded soldiers higher pensions and special treatment. In Australia .the returned blinded soldier has always received substantial preference over other invalids. The press of to-day (22nd October) contains the following announcement by Mr. Hughes: - “ We have agreed to pay the blind soldier the pension asked.” According to our information, this is £4 per week to married or single men as a pension, in - addition to house allowance.
Now there can be no possible difference between the helplessness of the blind soldier and the blind civilian.
The blind man, if left to himself, is incapable of any useful work, and, industrially, it is the crowning calamity that afflicts mankind. The blind man’s movements are painfully restricted. If he attempts even to get his own food, or light a fire, he is a peril to himself and others. So far from the wind being tempered to the shorn lamb, in his case, he is constantly put to additional expense for assistance and care. On the other hand, if adequately assisted, he is capable of all the duties of useful citizenship, and men’ of his class have risen to positions of high distinction.
Any ordinary seeing person, however ignorant, can acquire the rudiments of scholastic, and still more of industrial, knowledge by watching others. In Australia the least instructed seeing man can accomplish some manual work, and none who are willing to do so need fail to get an adequate living. For the blind, effective instruction is essential.
When so instructed the industrious blind become valuable assets to the State. This is shown by the circumstance that this institute produced goods to the value of £18,000 last year, and paid to blind workers, £6,531. Far better results still would be possible if conditions were improved. It is obvious that the newly blind or those of them who have hitherto not attempted to rise above their affliction, need all the encouragement and help possiblein the early stages of their training, whereas the present system of reducing his pension as soon as a novice earns a pittance, has the worst possible effect upon him, and frequently results in his complete discouragement.
Blind persons, in moving about, are subject to a unique nerve strain, being continually subject to mental anxiety. Their life is always at risk, and the necessary attendance increases their expenditure.
Many seeing persons, even though suffering from incurable disease, are able to engage in work, and may conduct business unaided, being able to guard against dishonesty by supervision. The blind, however, while often of fair business capacity, must employ seeing help. They are not only thus loaded with expense, but are exposed to other difficulties of which many cases might be cited : -
Mr. Burston, one of our blind workers, was formerly the owner of a hay and corn business, but through the dishonesty of a subordinate, who took advantage of his blindness, became unable to carry on. Another, Mr. A. Smith, was the owner of a wood yard, but met with the same difficulty. Our blind commercial traveller is handicapped by the necessity of employing a guide and by the extra expense of travelling so involved.
All other blind people whom duty or necessity compels to move from place to place are similarly handicapped.
Consumptives or other invalids are not in the same category with the blind, who are normal citizens except in regard to sight. The former foresee an early end of their sufferings : the blind must bear the deprivation till death releases them, often at the end of a long life.
The Treasurer suggests that the cases of the cancer or tubercular patient are worse than that of the blind. It may be pointed out that they can frequently conduct a business or practise a trade until near their end.
There may also be reasons why other invalids should not reproduce their kind, none of which apply to the blind. Unlike the ordinary invalid, the blind are generally physically fit, and are entitled to the marital and reproductive functions, which their earning power is inadequate to meet. If this is denied, the tendency is to influence them along the path of vice, with obviously harmful results.
That document sets out, very clearly the position of the blind in our community . It is a terrible eyesore to us all when we see blind people begging in the streets; in such a country as this is that should not be possible. I am amongst those who would not allow blind people to appeal to the public in this way; but we who take that attitude ought to be prepared to do something to remove the necessity for such a mode of appeal. Until some provision is made we must have blind people begging for a pittance; and this is a disgrace to our civilization. It goes to show that the community, generous enough in other directions, is not prepared to help those who most need their assistance. The amendment suggested is one that every man in the House can support. This is in no sense a party matter, and I hope the Government will give ear to the request that has been made, and comply with it at the earliest moment.
– I cordially approve and indorse all that has been said in support of this amendment; indeed, I gave up an engagement in Adelaide with the specific object of remaining here to support any proposal that might be made on behalf of the civilian blind people of Australia. This is in accordance with the promise which I made to the blind of South Australia, that on the first opportunity I should bring their case before this House. I do not do this with the idea of appealing to any section of the community; it is ourduty, if we are Christians, and gifted with all our faculties, to do what we can for others not so fortunately circumstanced. I am not a rich man, but I am prepared to bear my share of the cost of doing justice to the blind, and insuring that they shall never have the worry and anxiety of earning their own living.
As to old-age and invalid pensions, it is recognised that the amount paid now is not enough for an ordinary human being to live on ; and although I approve of an increase in the amount of the pension, I am not satisfied that the increase is large enough. Personally, I think the invalid andold-age pension should be £1 per week, and even that, in view of the rise in the cost of living, would not do them justice.
We shall not be just to ourselves if we neglect the present opportunity of seeing that the blind are provided for. The amendment to be moved would allow a blind person to earn up to £2 10s. per week without the pension being affected. That is all right as far as it goes, but it does not go as far as I should like. I do not wish to be twitted in the future with having voted for a proposal that a blind person shouldbe allowed to earn only £2 10s. per week, and, therefore, I desire to make it clear now that, in supporting the amendment, I am only accepting the best it is possible to get.
– I also would like to see the amount increased.
– The pension should be paid irrespective of what the recipient is able to earn; and I would put the civilian blind on the same plane as the blinded soldiers.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.45 p.m.
– I do not intend to detain the House very long, as most of the ground has been traversed by the, honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), who has placed before the people the most salient features in regard to the claims of the blind persons in this community. However, I wish to place on record the following opinion, expressed by the secretary of the blind workers in South Australia, in a communication forwarded to me -
Of course, our greatest present need is sufficient means to enable us to meet the increased cost of living, which is as for others. There arc a number of our people who are receiving the whole, or part of the pension, and, as you know, the limit, including the pension, is 22s. 6d. per week, you will realize that for men, with board and clothes to pay for out of that sum, the amount is nearly useless; especially as they have to work the regulation hours of labour (forty-eight) for 10s., or as much as will make the amount up to the limit. Asthe Act stands, it is a bar to their receiving more wages, as their pension would immediately be decreased, and they would have to forego even a small certainty for an uncertainty, owing to the piece-work system with fluctuating bonuses. Quite recently, the Board of Management, who have frankly admitted that blind workers are receiving insufficient, have ex pressed themselves as unable to do anything practical to relieve the stress, and have made some temporary and unsatisfactory arrangements for slight increases in very urgent cases, pending the settlement of the pension question. I believe there is a special clause in the Act relative to the Miners’ Association which enables a memberto receive the allowance due to him in addition to the amount of income allowed by the Act. A blind soldier is also not limited in his income, and it is with a view of making some such special provision for the blind, as a class, that I call your attention to these facts. If blind persons were permitted to receive their utmost possible earnings, even with additional bonuses’ and the full pension, they would be receiving amounts far below the basic living wage awards, for it is only as managers, collectors, &c., that they ever receive more than the merest pittance. It may be argued that they are not invalids; that is so, but wo are, . perhaps, the most heavily handicapped class, apart from actual invalids, and we are expected, and are perfectly willing, to produce that share of the commodities required by the community that lies within our power. Surely we are justly entitled to more than the barest existence.
Thanking you in anticipation,
My view is that the pension should be paid without any limitation as to the earnings of blind workers. Those who are engaged in the making of mats, baskets and brushes are employed in an industry which is a profitable one in the country; and I think every chance should be provided for them to continue their work under congenial circumstances. Otherwise, these people are driven on to the streets to become mendicants. However, I have every confidence that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) will see. that justice is done, and that these people are treated generously.
.- In discussingany measure dealing with invalid and old-age pensions, it is quite natural that we should review the unfortunate fact that our social system renders it necessary to provide old-age pensions, and that people are not’ able to make provision for their own old age. However, we must meet conditions as they are, and I am glad to see that the Government have seen fit to increase the rate of pension from 12s. 6d. to 15s. per week. I wish to take this opportunity of referring, briefly, to one or two phases of the question.
There is a demand in various parts of Australia for the payment of pensions to widows and orphans. I know that it is well-nigh impossible, in the dying hours of a session, and on the eve of an -appeal to the electors, to give to any phase of the question not covered by the* /immediate clauses of the Bill under discussion the consideration which it deserves; but in the future the matter of (making provision for the payment of pensions to widows and orphans will be one of those acts of social justice to which this Parliament must devote considerable attention, so that a means may be devised to overcome the hardships suffered bv this section of the community.
Every honorable member knows how hard it is to secure uniformity in deciding what “ incapacity “ means. Men and women who are paralyzed, and thus incapacitated, find it difficult to secure certificates from doctors as to their permanent incapacity, because at some time in the dim and distant future it may be possible for the paralysis to be removed, and the sufferers thus restored to partially normal health. In many instances, medical practitioners, regardful of their professional reputations, are exceedingly careful in diagnosing what is permanent incapacity. The Returned Soldiers Association is asking the Government to provide in the War Pensions Act for a definition of the words “ permanent incapacity,” and whenever the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act comes forward again for amendment, I think it will also be necessary to make provision in it for a more distinct definition of the same words. Any person who is unable to follow his usual occupation, as the result of disease or some visitation of God beyond his control, should ‘be recognised as one who is permanently incapacitated.
The debate to-day has mostly centred on the question of the amount that persons in receipt of a pension should be permitted to earn, so that they may be able to receive the full pension. I agree most cordially with what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has said upon this matter. There is no justification for preventing any person from earning the equivalent of the amount of the pension ; but I am curtailing my remarks on this subject to an absolute minimum, as time is limited, and as other honorable members wish to devote attention to the Bill. I quite agree, also, with the argument put forward. by the Leader of the Opposition in reference to blind people.
We are all intensely sympathetic towards those who have lost their eyesight, those from whom the beauties of our everyday world are shut out for ever. It is exceedingly difficult for the Government, or any individual, to justify the present position in relation to the limitation upon the earnings of blind workers when we compare it with the promise which has been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to pay £4 per week to blind soldiers. I recognise to the full the debt of gratitude we owe to the men who went oversea and lost their eyesight as the result of their war service, but at the same time we should treat with the utmost consideration all those others who have lost their eyesight in commercial or industrial occupations, and help them to the best of our ability.
By a recent amendment of the’ Act the Government granted to pensioners who were living in State institutions and other homes for the aged a sum of 2s. per week for themselves, and paid the balance of the pension to the State or other authorities controlling the institutions. The Budget-papers show that the pensioners who were receiving 2s. per week for the year ended 30th June, 1919, number 2,139 for the whole Commonwealth. Of these, 632 were in New South Wales, 519 in Victoria, 435 in Queensland, 257 in South Australia, 217 in Western . Australia, and 79 in Tasmania. The amount paid to them direct came to £11,019, while £55,750 was paid to the various institutions and benevolent asylums for their maintenance. Parliament acted wisely when it indorsed the principle of paying these people, a proportion of the amount of their pensions, but no provision is made in this Bill to increase that payment proportionately to the increase in the pension. In order to be just to this limited number of people we should maintain the original proportion. Previously we gave 2s. out of 10s., or onefifth. We should therefore provide in this Bill for a payment of 3s. out of the 15s. I intend’ in Committee to move an amendment to effect that alteration. I hope the question of the blind people will receive favorable consideration at the hands of the Government, and that they will accept the amendment outlined by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith). I trust, also, that they will gee their way to agree to the amendment I have foreshadowed.
.- The original Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was passed in 1908, and the amount then laid down as the maximum oldage and invalid pension was 10s. per week. Since that time the cost of living has increased by leaps and bounds. The Commonwealth Bureau of Statistics estimates, according to a report printed in the Melbourne Argun of the 22nd instant, that the cost of living has increased since the outbreak of the war by 47.6 per cent. The purchasing power of the sovereign has certainly been reduced by 50 per cent, compared with the year when the Act was first agreed to. If we wish to maintain the pensions at the level laid down for them by Parliament, they should be increased to £1 per week.
I favour the amendment of the Act now, to “come into operation on the 1st November -
The Government have framed this legislation so as to limit to the utmost the amendments that may be moved. It is. impossible to submit an amendment which goes outside of the order of leave, and the order of leave is strictly limited to certain specific sections of the principal Act. It is, therefore, not within the competence of any honorable member to move an amendment, however desirable, which goes outside the particular provisions mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s message.
Another limitation imposed by the Standing Orders is that no private member may move to increase the burdens upon the people. If I moved an amendment to increase the pension from 12s. 6d. to £1 a week, I should be at once ruled out of order on the ground that it is not competent, under the Standing Orders, for any private member to increase the charges upon the public revenue. That is an obstacle which I want the old-age pensioners to understand. The disadvantage under which’ honorable members on this side labour is that they have no opportunity to put to the test amendments which they regard as both urgent and desirable.
I base the claim of the old-age and invalid pensioners upon this simple act of justice, that Parliament intended’ them to have 10s. a week when this legislation was first passed, and that those who have control of the cost of living and of prices have reduced the purchasing power of the sovereign to such an extent that £1 is necessary to-day to purchase what 10s.. bought then.
Those who earn incomes from the1 increased cost of living, or from the increased prices charged to the people, are the’ persons who ought to be called upon to provide this extra amount. Otherwise the profiteers in this country are getting an undue advantage, even at the expense of the invalid and old-age pensioners.
If time were not so limited; and I had an opportunity to move an amendment, I should certainly do so, and thus place the full responsibility upon the Government for voting against it. I urge the Government to amend their own Bill in order to bring the increase into operation on the 1st. November. There is no reason why it should be postponed until the beginning of the new year. We should give the old-age and invalid pensioners at least this increased amount, and give it to them, too, as a Christmas box before Christmas. The comparatively small amount of money involved ought not to deter the Government from bringing the Bill into operation immediately, and I appeal to them to accept my suggestion.
.- One would like, on an occasion like this, to review what has happened under the old-age pensions scheme, and suggest improvements; but there is scarcely time to go into the subject properly, and, in any case, it would not be of much use, because the Bill is brought in, not to deal with the whole system, but to amend the existing Act in certain particulars so as to increase the maximum pension from 12s. 6d. to 15s. per week. I am glad the Government have been able to see their way clear to come to the assistance of the old-age pensioners at a time when the cost of living is soaring, and almost everybody in the community is feeling the pinch. One point which we can urge upon the
Government with every justification and with some chance of securing its recognition, is the question of allowing old-age [pensioners to earn more than the statutory amount of 10s. per week in addition 4o the pension. If 10s. per week was considered in 1908 a proper amount for a pensioner to be allowed to earn in “addition to his pension, surely now, with the cost of living increased so greatly, all those who are able to earn more should be permitted to do so. I have never been able to understand why there should be any objection to the proposal. It would not burden the revenue in any way. Those old-age pensioners who are able to do a day’s work are not so numerous that the extension of this privilege to them would mean any interference with the labour market. The work they are able to do is of only a light and casual character.
– But this proposal would mean an increase of £300,000 a year in our’ pensions bill, since it would broaden the pension area.
– How would the pension area be broadened unless we reduced the age at which a person is entitled to receive a pension ?
– It would mean that every man and woman within the pension age who had an income of 15s. per week would be entitled to a pension, whereas at present only those whose income does not exceed 10s. per week are entitled to the full pension.
– In any event, I think that those who are on the old-age pension list should be allowed to increase their income to the extent of £50 or even £100 a year if they could. It would be in the interest of the whole community. I understand that an amendment has been circulated to allow pensioners to earn up to 15s. per week, and I shall be glad to support it.
There is another section of the community to whom this concession would be still more valuable. I refer to those who have, unhappily, lost their sight. ‘ I have had letters from those who take an interest in the blind of our community, and who put forward a plea, the logic and justice of which cannot be denied. If the Government are not prepared to say that old-age pensioners shall be allowed to earn up to 15s. per week instead of 10s. per week as at pre sent, I hope that they will at least admit of that extension -in the case of the blind. I agree with all that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has said on the subject. On more than one occasion I have urged that special consideration should be given to the blind, and now that we have before us a Bill on which definite action can be taken in that direction, I shall be glad to help them by supporting the proposed amendment.
.- The only logical way in which we could give effect to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) that pensioners should be allowed to earn as much as they could, would be to make the pension system universal by declaring that every person over a certain age should be entitled to it. If some old-age pensioners could earn 25s. per week,’ others who could not do so would demand an increased pension* to put them on the same level. I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister (Mr. Poynton) the position of inmates of charitable institutions who desire to obtain a pension. Under a ruling given by the Crown Law authorities, an inmate of such an institution is not entitled to claim a pension. If he leaves it for a week or two, however, and then applies, he can secure a pension, and may then return to ‘the institution and draw a pension of 2s. per week. The Department would save money by doing away with this system and allowing inmates of charitable institutions to apply for a pension. The present practice should certainly be remedied.
I have been in communication with the Department for some time in regard to the position of a man who draws £25 per annum by way of an annuity. Under a ruling given by the Crown Law officers, the Pensions Office, in estimating, the amount of the pension to which he is entitled, takes into account the capital value of his annuity, and makes a reduction of £1 per annum for every £10 of that capital value. Those who recognise their responsibility, and do something to provide for themselves in their old age are thus unduly penalized.
– Is the position of such a man any worse than that of a man who has money in a bank in respect of which he receives interest?
Mr.WEST. - My complaint isnot that any deduction is made in respect of the annuity of £25 that this man draws, but that, in estimating the amount of the pension, £1 per annum is deducted in respect of every £10 of the capital value of the annuity.
– I do not think that is altogether reasonable. If the honorable member will let me have particulars of the case, I will see what I can do for him.
– Mr. Collins, the Pensions Commissioner, is a very excellent officer-
– My experience is that he is often prepared to strain the Act in order to meet a deserving case.
– I believe he does; but in this case he is bound by the ruling of the Crown Law officers. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) will give favorable consideration to the two matters I have brought under notice.
. -I congratulate the Government on the introduction of this Bill, providing, as it does, for an increase of the invalid and old-age pensions, notwithstanding that there are so many other liabilities to face. I shall not dwell on this subject at any length, because most of the points which I had intended to bring before the House have already been dealt with by other honorable members. I agree with what the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) has said, and should like to see removed the restriction on the amount which an old-age pensioner may earn. I have brought the matter before not only the present Treasurer (Mr. Watt), but some of his predecessors, and the reply which I have always received is that to remove the restriction would be to greatly widen the pension area. The Minister in charge of this Bill (Mr. Poynton) has said that the proposal to allow pensioners to earn up to 15s. per week would increase the pension bill to the extent of £300,000 a year, which would mean a considerable increase in the liability of the Treasury. I hope that when next this House is considering the Old-age Pensions Bill the Government of the day will see their way clear to propose the payment of a pension to widows. They are as much entitled to assistance from the Commonwealth as is any other class of the community.
– Their cases are the most deserving of all.
– There is no doubt of that. Many of them suffer in silence; but they have done a great deal for the country. I recollect hearing the late Richard Seddon say on one occasion that every child brought into the world meant an annual value to the country of £300. The country is not deprived of the money which is paid in pensions to the aged and the blind. It is simply handed to those deserving people who have been the soldiers of the plough-share and the spade. It makes life happier for them by enabling them to live under better conditions, and is distributed amongst the business people of the community. No old-age pensioner dies wealthy. The money continues in circulation amongst the tradespeople; but, incidentally, it makes brighter many lives.My sympathy goes out to the blind people, and it cannot be said that I am pleading their case for political purposes ; I am simply carrying out a promise to one who will not vote on election day to bring forward this matter whenever the opportunity offered. I have seen the distress that is caused to the blind by the limitation of their income. Someof them live close to my home in Tasmania, and, seeing the conditions under which they are compelled to live, owing to their limited income, I felt it to be my duty to take steps to increase their income whenever the chance was afforded. The opportunity to do that has arrived, and I ask for sympathetic consideration by the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Poynton) of the amendment that will be placed before honorable members. I think Mr. . Andrew Fisher was the first Treasurer whom I approached on this subject, and he pointed out to me that immediately the limitation on the earnings of the pensioner was removed or extended a large -number of persons automatically entered the pensions list. I understand that that is the only objection which the Government have to the amendment of the earnings limitation. I hope the Minister will see his way clear to extend the limitation, because he will be doing a good service to many worthy citizens.
– The only perfect system is one in which every aged person is entitled to the pension irrespective of earnings.
– As We cannot get a perfect scheme, we must be satisfied with what we can get.
– -Do not lose sight of the fact that by this Bill the Government are giving the old-age pensioners another £800,000.
– Not to the blind..
– Yes, £60,000.
– I was not aware of the amount involved when I circulated my amendment. I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), and others who have spoken sympathetically in regar’d to this matter. I should like to see the limitation of earnings abolished. Some months ago when I was speaking on this subject, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) asked me why there should be any limit at all on the earnings, and I replied that the limitation was purely a matter of expediency. In the amendment which I hope to move later, I have kept the amount involved down to bedrock, in the hope that the Government will be able to accept it. I do not wish to make an unnecessarily heavy demand on the Treasury. My proposal does not go nearly as far as those who are immediately interested desire us to go. I understand that the society for the advancement of the blind ask that the blind pensioners shall be allowed an income of £3 per week, that being the minimum living wage. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) this morning voiced my sentiments exactly. I have framed my amendment with the one idea of having it accepted by the Government if possible. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) suggested that possibly it will be ruled out of order. That is for the Chairman of Committees to decide. But having in” view that possibility, I have made only a modest proposal in the hope that the Government will accept and father it. I hope we shall be able to come to some arrangement to assist those worthy people. They are a very fine body of men and women, who labour under trying conditions. They cannot see as we see; they perform, their work not as we are able to perform ours. We may think our labours difficult at times, but how much more so must be those of people who are deprived of their eyesight. The blind people lead exemplary lives, and bear their burdens with a courage that we would do well to emulate. Very seldom do we hear of a blind person being convicted in a Court of law. I quite realize the terrible strain upon the finances of the country, and that the Treasurer has the responsibility, which. I, as a private member, have not, of finding the money; but I hope that he will be able to give us the little concession we ask, even if the amount involved is £60,000.
– It cannot be £60,000.
– The Minister in charge of the Bill said that his responsible officers had advised him that the suggested amendment would involve an increase in the pensions bill to that extent. I am sure that they would not knowingly mislead the Minister, and I am assuming, therefore, that the figure is correct. I am surprised that the estimate is so large; but even if £60,000 is involved, I hope the Government will grant the advance that we ask.
Mr. FENTON (Maribyrnong) [3.45L - Our common civilization and Christi- anity will always be judged by what we do for those who are not able to fend for themselves. I was very much ‘ impressed on reading some’ years ago a remark made by a Japanese Ambassador in London. He saw on the one hand the flaunting wealth of the west-end and on the other hand the poverty, misery, and squalor of the east-end. He said, “ If this is Christianity, I shall remain a follower of Confucius.” What he saw was, not Christianity, but lack of Christianity ; yet his . remark, coming from such a source, struck me as being one of the most awful indictments ever levelled against a Christian community. We all realize the financial stress and difficulty. It is true that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) has cast upon him the responsibility of finding the money that this House grants-
– What did- the Labour Government do when they were in power ?
– The honorable gentleman knows that there is no tinge of party feeling in this matter, and I hope that none will be introduced. Has not the Treasurer awakened to the fact that never was the problem of living more acute for the poor people than it is today. And how much more acute must it be for those people who are in the evening of life, and will soon “ go west.” Every article that the poor must buy -costs them more. The old-age pensioner cannot economize by buying in quantities - 2 or 3 lbs. of butter, a whole cheese, or a chest of tea. He buys a half-pound of this, and a half-pound of that, and an ounce of something else, and, by buying in those small quantities, has to pay the highest prices. The new Parliament, whatever its financial responsibilities may be, will have to take into consideration this whole matter from A to Z. A dying Parliament cannot remedy many of the grievances of which we are aware, but we ought to accept the responsibility of taking some step towards that goal we are all desirous of reaching; and we should place our old people in such a financial position that ‘ the de.clining years of their lives will be happier and brighter. Everybody is aware that the value of the sovereign has so declined - that a pension of 15s. per week to-day will not relieve distress to the extent that 12s. 6d. per week would some years ago.
– But 15s. is better than 12s. 6d. to-day,
– That is true; but the increase is only small; it averages about £30 per annum. With the small sum they are allowed to earn when able to do so, it is a marvel how they manage to eke out an existence, unless they receive assistance from some other quarter. I have here a letter written by a man well up in years, and a very old friend of my own, who is in a position to travel throughout the State of Victoria, and he feels it his duty, wherever he may be, to make first-hand inquiries as to how the aged poor, especially old-age pensioners, manage to live. He writes -
Some have ferns to lay on, and old bags to cover them. They never have their old ragged clothes off from one year’s end to the other, and sleep with their clothes on to try and keep warm. This is the Arctic region in Victoria; if it is not raining it is blowing. They cannot buy boots or clothes, that is out of the question; they beg them. Some of their old huts have no fireplaces- Now, I consider a Government that would offer an old person less than £1 per week pension is only fit to legislate in Central China.
That is written by one of the biggest hearted men I have ever known. He has not much of his own to devote to relieving others, but he is full of sympathy, and anything he can do to help he is prepared to do.
In my opinion, the day is not far distant when we shall have to see how these old-age pensioners are housed. Some have young relatives, who can devote a little care to them; but many others, mostly of the old pioneer class in the mining districts, are living by themselves in huts. It is pleasing to know that quite a number band themselves together in little communities, so that they may purchase their supplies collectively, have the company of each other, and generally make their latter days a little more comfortable. In any ease this Parliament some time or other will have to consider the establishment of community homes for the aged poor who have no relatives; and to that end an elaborate scheme will have to be carried out. We are a rich community, and can not only do as much in this respect as other countries, but a great deal more; in fact, we ought to set the pace. Any amendment that may be moved for the purpose of granting further relief to these old people will have my ready support and assistance. I know that the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Poynton) has told us that he has gone as far as he is able, but if the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) submits the amendment he has foreshadowed I shall vote for it. As a matter of fact, I shall move an amendment myself if no one else does so.
As to our blind brothers and sisters, I indorse all that has been said by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) and others. The circular read by that honorable member set out in touching and eloquent terms just exactly the position of the unfortunate blind, and we must certainly stand by them more than we have done in the past, or be condemned for our inaction. This Parliament has done much better for other people in the community than they have for the old-age pensioners and the blind.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill road a second time.
In Committee: 1
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to. !
Sub-section (1) of section twenty-four of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1917 is amended -
by omitting the words , “ Thirty-two pounds ten shillings” and inserting in their stead the words “ Thirty-nine pounds”; and
by omitting the words “Fifty-eight pounds ten shillings” and inserting in their stead the words “ Sixty-five pounds “.
Section proposed to be amended - “ The amount of a pension shall in each case be at such rate as, having regard to alll the circumstances of the case, the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner who determines the pension claim deems reasonable and sufficient, but shall not exceed the rate of thirty-two pounds ten shillings per annum in any event, nor shall it be at such a rate as will make the pensioner’s income, together with pension, exceed fifty-eight pounds ten shillings per annum.”
– I move -
That the words “ sixty-five pounds “ be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof “ seventy-eight pounds.”
The object of the amendment is to allow old-age pensioners to earn more than they are allowed at present in addition to the pension.
– I am afraid the amendment is not in order, inasmuch as it increases the taxation of the people without a message from the Crown.
– If this amendment were adopted a greater number of people would take advantage of the pension than is the case at present, because of the fact that they would be allowed to earn so much more in addition to the pension. At present the limitation of the amount that can be earned prevents quite a number of people from availing themselves of the pension, because they find it more advantageous to do without it. In this way the amendment would result in increasing taxation. I have made my position clear from the first. I strained my resources to the very limit when I proposed’ the addition of 2s. 6d. to the pension, an increase which means an additional expenditure of £800,000. Nobody recognises the fact that there are a great many anomalies under the Act, some of which have not been mentioned to-day. In any case, the amendment only differs in degree from that of the honorable member for Denison.
– I rise to a point of order. I do not think that the objection of the Minister is a sound one. The amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) does not increase taxation inany way. Any increased amount paid in consequence of the amendment would be paid by those administering the Act in the ordinary course of departmental work. The amendment itself does not levy taxation; if may have the effect of increasing the amount paid by the Pensions Office, but that is a totally different matter from levying for the payment of pensions.
– I quite agree with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd). The Minister in charge of the Bill might just as well arguethat, because during the year a greater number of people may become old-age pensioners that thereby taxation is increased. The Minister is anticipating; no one can say whether there will be an actual increase or not. I am quite aware that as a private member it is beyond my province to propose to impose fresh taxation, but my amendment merely proposes to permit an oldage pensioner to earn 5s. per week more in addition to his pension than he is allowed to do at present.
– My position is similar to that in which I found myself when the War Pensions Act was before us in 1915. All money Bills must be preceded by a message from the Crown, and it is not within the province of the Committee to go outside the message. When the Minister who introduces the message assures the Chairman that a proposed amendment will have the effect of increasing the expenditure, and thereby increasing the taxation of the people, the amendment becomes out of order in accordance with our Standing Orders, rules, the practice of the British House of Commons, and the Constitution itself. I had to rule on the previous occasion that an increase could not be proposed by a private member, or even a Minister, without a message, and I now have to rule in the same way. While I have no desire to restrict debate, I am bound by the Standing Orders.
– I am aware, Mr. Chairman, that I cannot traverse your ruling, but I ask whether it is sufficient for you, in giving the ruling, to take an assurance from the Ministerin charge of the Bill that extra payment will have to be made without being shown that the proposed amendment will not impose new taxation; my point is that the proposed amendment itself does not impose taxation. Incidentally, extra payment may have to be made, but this amendment does not levy taxation for that purpose.
– I have to consider whether this amendment does increase taxation, and is, therefore, beyond “ the scope of the message.” So far as my reading and knowledge goes, my opinion is that the proposed amendment will have the effectof increasing taxation, and is, therefore, out of order.
– When the message was introduced I raised the point as to my right to move an amendment, and was assured by the Minister that I would have the opportunity of doing so. I regret the Chairman’s ruling exceedingly.
– The honorable member did not intimate the nature of his amendment.
– On the 21st October I asked -
Whether the Government will amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act so that pensioners may be allowed to earn an amount equal to the full pensions, as was provided in the original Act?
The answer given was -
It is intended to adhere to the principle adopted by the Labour Government when the first increase in old-age pensions was approved; that is to say, pensions will be increased by 2s. 6d. per week without altering the amount which pensioners may earn in addition.
Ministers had ample notice of the amendment I intended to move. It is useless moving to disagree with the ruling because the motion could only be discussed at a later sitting, which we are not likely to have. Had honorable members been wise they would have stipulated that this Bill should be dealt with before other measures, seeing that it is designed to grant relief to unfortunate people in our community who are suffering from a physical infirmity, which prevents them from earning a livelihood. I take no exception to the Ministry saying that they will not give relief to these people. They must accept the responsibility for their attitude, but it is not fair to the Committee that it should be robbed of the opportunity to vote on the question of granting relief to those whom they think most deserving of it.
– The same point was raised in regard to the War Pensions Bill, and I gave a ruling on an exactly similar point. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) had moved an amendment to the Bill for the including of widowed mothers in the. pensions schedule, but the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jensen), who was then Minister for the Navy, raised the point of order that the amendment was not permissible, because it would add largely to the expenditure provided in the Bill. The point of order was widely debated, and I gave the following ruling : -
– The Minister in charge of the Bill has asked my ruling on the point of order - that as the insertion of the words proposed by the honorable member for Maribyrnong would increase expenditure, they are not covered by the Governor-General’s message. It is not my province to restrict debate, but if my attention is called to a specific matter, andI am asked to give a ruling upon it, I am bound to do so in accordance with the rules of the House, apart altogether from what may have been done previously, as suggested by the honorable member for Barrier, in regard to a matter which is not before the Chair to-day and has not been before the Chair at any time. The rules of procedure are clear. All Money Bills are preceded by a message from the Crown making provision for certain expenditure and no more, and the provisions of the Bill must be kept within the limits of that expenditure. Apart from the statement of the Minister that widowed mothers are already provided for in the Bill, and therefore there is no necessity for the amendment, as the Minister in his responsible position says that the insertion of the words proposed by the. honorable member for Maribyrnong would increase the expenditure beyond the provision in the Governor-General’s message, I am bound to rule that the amendment is not in order.. The only methods honorable members could adopt to secure the end. they desire would be to solicit the Government to bring down another message to cover the addition to the Bill which they propose. The amendment is not in order.
– If, after discussion on any particular matter, a Minister were convinced that the arguments used on all sides were fair, would he require a message from the Governor-General to precede any amendment he might submit for the purpose of increasing the charge on the Consolidated Revenue?
.- I move -
That the following new paragraph be added: -
by adding at the end thereof the following words: - “except in the case of a pensioner invalided through blindness, in such a case the pensioner’s income, together with pension, shall not exceed One hundred and thirty pounds (£130) per annum “.
– I contend that the same objection applies to this amendment.
– I regret to have to rule that the honorable member’s amendment, like the previous one, is not in order.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to. .
.- As indicated in my second-reading speech, I desire to move an amendment relating to pensioners in benevolent institutions. I move -
That the following new clause be added : -
Section 31 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1917 is amended by omitting subsection (2) therefrom, and inserting in its stead the following sub-section: - “ (2) If it appears to the magistrate that the claimant, although otherwise qualified for, is unfit to be intrusted with a pension, a pension at’ the rate of 3s. per week may be granted to the claimant, and payment of the pension may be suspended until the claimant has become an inmate of a benevolent asylum.”
Over a week ago I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) whether this provision would be included in the Bill, and I am sorry that it is not. What I am seeking is really a re-apportionment of the total expenditure. Instead of giving 2s. to the pensioner and 10s. 6d. to the institutions, I propose that out of the 15s. per week for which the Bill provides, 3s. shall go to the pensioner and 12s. to the institution.
– This Bill does not provide for an increase in the amount to be paid to the institutions. This will still remain at 10s. 6d. per week. The Bill provides for an increase of 2s. 6d. per week to old-age pensioners, but it does not increase the 2s. per week paid to pensioners in institutions, or the 10s. 6d. per week which the institutions receive. The amendment, if carried, would increase the charge on the Consolidated Revenue, and therefore I submit it is not in order.
– Apart altogether from the point upon which I have just ruled: that it is not competent for an honorable member to increase the charge on the Consolidated Revenue, this amendment has another fatal objection, and I am bound to rule it out of order. As is well known, and as I have recently repeated, nothing can be introduced in a Committee of the House which is not covered by the second reading of the measure. In this case the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) proposes to amend a section of the principal Act, which is not to be found in this Bill, and which has not been dealt with by the House in any way. In other words, thehonorable member proposes to amend a section of the principal Act which has not been referred by the House to the Committee. Therefore, his amendment is not in order.
– If the Treasurer should agree to the proposal, and bring it before the Committee as a Government amendment, would it be permissible for the Committee to deal with it, and thus do justice to the persons who come within the scope of my proposal ?
– In certain directions Ministers have powers which go beyond those of private members, but no Minister can introduce anything into a Bill in Committee which has not been covered by the message from the GovernorGeneral, or by the first or secondreading decisions of the House, particularly the second reading. No Minister has more power than a private member has to insert into aBill anything foreign to it. If the Minister could be persuaded to bring down another message from the Governor- General and another Bill incorporating what honorable members desire, it would be in order for him to do so.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22nd October (vide page 13816), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I urged the Government on Thursday morning last to give the House & little more information upon this Bill, and asked the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) to explain how’ it would affect certain persons who may have notified their intention to bring actions against the Government. I regret that the state of the Minister’s health is such that he cannot be present to-day. The Government would be well advised to withdraw the Bill in the circumstances. One citizen in the community has already begun an action against the Italian Consul in connexion with some matter with which the Department of Defence was concerned. I am not sure whether that will come under this Bill or not.
– It is quite clear from the wording of clause 2 that the Bill will not apply to it.
– It was the Defence authorities who took action in that case. They went to various places and, if I am correctly advised, removed Italians and compelled them to attend at the Consular office, from which they were then taken to the military camp. I believe the same thing happened at Broken Hill, where men were taken right away from the mines, shanghaied on to the trains, and brought away- without their people knowing anything about it. In the circumstances, I do not think it is right that we should pass this Bill. It is difficult enough at any time to fight a Government, and people are most reluctant to do so. On one occasion, when I was Minister for Trade and Customs, I had occasion to prohibit the placing of certain extravagant claims upon imported bottles containing a liquid. Those interested said that they could bring the material in in bulk, or import the bottles without the labels and have the labels printed in Australia, and I admitted that the Commonwealth Government could not stop them from doing so. They said that that way would be a lot cheaper than fighting the Government, and it is always the case that private firms or individuals do not want to fight a Government. Ministers would be well advised to withdraw this measure.
.- I enter a very strong protest against the passage of this Bill at this juncture. It is well known that there is a good deal of dissatisfaction in the business community with some of the things that have been done under the War Precautions Act.
We have passed a Commercial ActivitiesBill, based on an extension of regulationsunder that Act, and affecting quite a large number of vital interests. During’ the passage of that measure through the House, it was distinctly stated that action would be taken in the Courts to test itsvalidity, and the legality of anything’ done under its authority, as it was held’ that the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth were being exceeded in it. It is proposed by the Bill now before us to give a general and absolute indemnity, not only to the Government, but to every official and every department of Commonwealth activity for anything and everything in connexion with the work that has been done during the war. That isan obviously unreasonable proposal at this juncture. Nothing detrimental either to the Government or to the departmentscan happen if the Bill is postponed - at. any rate, until after the elections areover. That will give those interested an opportunity to decide whether or not they will bring their cases before the Court. This Fill is another indication of the peculiarly strange and unreasonable attitude adopted by the Government to block the rights usually extended to British subjects to have their cases heard and decided in a Court of law, whether or not the defendant is the Government or any department of the Government. The new Chief Justice pointed out the other day that law, and not force, should be the determining factor in the affairs of thiscountry, if there is any truth in that observation, it is obvious that any attempt to interfere with the due processes of the law, or to deny to any citizen the right to approach the Courts of justice, is an interference which should not be tolerated. If the Government have done no wrong, they need not fear any action that may be brought against them. This Bill creates the suspicion either that the Government are conscious of having exceeded their powers, or that they anticipate some action in the law Courts against them, and therefore propose to indemnify themselves by this statutory provision. The terms of the Bill are altogether too wide. The cover which the Government are seeking to secure for their unlawful acts is unreasonable.
– They were not unlawful acts.
– That is a matter of opinion. The Government have been careful to reserve to themselves unlimited and exaggerated opportunities to penalize citizens who differ from them in their political judgment, but they refuse to extend to the public as a whole the ordinary rights of British citizenship. What are the Government afraid of? What do they want this Bill for? There must be some reason for it. It is a most unusual Bill, and, so far as we have been able to discover - for there is nothing in the speech of the Minister who introduced it to help us in the matter - no similar legislation has been attempted in other British Dominions in connexion with war questions. We have nothing before us to indicate that the Government are in any danger of actions at law. What, then, is the reason for rushing this Bill through now ? Those of us who have had the heavy hand of the Government upon us during recent years have had to suffer greatly. Some of our friends have been imprisoned. Some have been heavily fined, and we are naturally suspicious. A measure to indemnify the Government and penalize citizens who differ from them ought to be regarded with a great deal of suspicion and dissatisfaction. The Bill is not only unnecessary at this juncture, but it is unwarranted. That the Government should want to put up such a cover as will be impervious to the proceedings of an average citizen, indicates timidity on their part in regard to their actions. I hope the Government will allow the Bill to go over till the next Parliament. Let it be one of the slaughtered innocents of this session, and, if the necessity arises to secure due protection for any officers or departments of the Government, the first session of the new Parliament will be a suitable and reasonable time to pass it.
.- The objections voiced to this Bill are quite legitimate and fair. In the early hours of yesterday morning, as soon as certain objections were raised to it, the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) readily agreed to postpone it, and many of us thought we had said “Good -bye” to it. The Minister ‘for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), in his second-reading speech, certainly did not satisfy honorable members on this side, who asked him to give justifiable reasons for submitting such a measure, not only at the tail end of a session, but at the tail end of a Parliament.’
– In a time of war a Government has to take on unusual responsibilities, and must be indemnified for them.
– In such times Governments do take unusual responsibilities and risks; but I believe that, so far as those responsibilities and risks are justifiable, no Court in this country or any other would convict them.
– The Courts must convict them.
– I am sure they would not. There is a possibility of cases already on- the way being blocked by this Bill. It seems most unfair and un-British to deprive men of their rights to bring an action in a Court of law if they have suffered injustice or damage. If citizens have been wrongfully imprisoned or fined, the Courts should be open to them. We have been living under a War Precautions Act, and under a Special Crimes Act, which was passed by this Parliament to rope in those who would do that which is contrary to the interests of the nation in time of war. Surely our legislation in that regard is ample. It does not seem right to pass a special Bill of this kind to block particular cases. If there are certain persons who have stepped outside even the bounds of the War Precautions Act - and surely that was wide enough to embrace everything - and have done a grievous wrong to any citizen of the Commonwealth, it is. unfair to indemnify them or the Government against any reasonable action that may be instituted in the future. I. have no desire at this late hour to delay the House, and I suppose we shall have to be content merely to enter our protest, but I think it is distinctly unfair for the Government, in the dying hours of the session, to attempt to pass a measure of this character. It is apparently designed to deal with two distinct classes. In one clause it is proposed to indemnify the corporate authority, that is to say, the Commonwealth Government, but under clause 3 an indemnity is provided for in respect of certain persons. I hope that the measure will be withdrawn. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that I, in my official capacity or otherwise, did a serious wrong to a Ministerial supporter - something that was wholly contrary to law - would not that honorable member feel seriously aggrieved if I were able, as the result of influence, to induce Parliament to pass a Bill indemnifying me, and so preventing him from going to the Court and having his wrong redressed? Is the Minister prepared to withdraw the Bill ?
– I am prepared to allow the debate to be adjourned until a later hour, as there is some other business with which we now desire to deal.
Mr.FENTON. - Then I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
.-I move -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work: - Erection of Ordnance Stores, Sydney, which said work was referred to the Public Works Committee, and the Committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries thereon.
The Military Stores Branch in New South Wales at present occupies two main storehouses, one at Darling Island and the other at Circular Quay. These are totally inadequate for requirements, and at the present time some twentyfive buildings situated in and around Sydney are occupied as overflow stores.
The two main store buildings are quite unsuitable for military use, primarily on account of their possessing no yard room. Furthermore, of the subsidiary buildings, some are rented premises, and others are drill halls pressed into temporary use as storehouses. The latter are all required for the purpose for which they were built, and cannot be used indefinitely for storage of equipment. The necessity for the provision of new, increased, and up-to-date accommodation for the Military Ordnance Stores in New South Wales has long been realized, and on several occasions prior to and during the war suggestions have been made by the Military authorities in this regard.
The Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration, in its report to His Excellency the Governor-General, made under date 13th November, 1917, drew attention to the inadequate provision which existed in New South Wales for the storage of ordnancestocks. The report stated that in the Second Military District (New South Wales) the stocks were housed in twenty-five stores in and around Sydney, the majority being un suitable and inconveniently situated. Under such circumstances, it was represented that it was difficult to exercise efficient or economical supervision, while the cost of labour involved in handling stores and providing against the ravages of rate, mice, moths, and other pests was considerable, and theCommission expressed the opinion that the immediate erection of a properly -equipped Ordnance Store was imperative. A further report, dated 14th February, 1918, again mentioned the matter, and added that one of the contributory factors which had resulted in the occurrence of discrepancies in the ordnance stocks was the lack of adequate storage accommodation.
Although the accommodation now available is overtaxed, theGovernment is faced with the necessity for providing cover for the military equipment for two infantry and one mounted division shortly to be returned from overseas to Sydney after use by the Australian Imperial Force on active service abroad. Arrangements have already been made for the erection of accommodation to store portion of this equipment at Liverpool, and portion will have to be eventually held in the new buildings proposed to be erected at Leichhardt.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works gave very careful consideration to the provision of this increased storage, and examined numerous witnesses, and went into the matter very minutely. The Committee had no hesitation in recommending that the erection of an up-to-date store at Leichhardt be proceeded with. They expressed the unanimous opinion that it would be in the best interests of efficiency and economy if the whole of the Ordnance Store business in Sydney were concentrated at Leichhardt, and that the existing store buildings at Darling Island and Circular Quay be utilized for other purposes. The Committee further expressed the unanimous opinion that a four story building should be erected, thus providing a total of about 170,240 square feet. It is to give effect to the recommendations of these Committees that I submit this motion. The Public Works Committee estimates the cost at £69,283,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from4.40 to 9.10 p.m.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request : -
Supply Bill (No. 3) 1919-20.
Northern Territory Acceptance Bill.
Loans Securities Bill.
Termination of the Present War (Definition) Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill (No. 2).
Land, Mining, Shares, and Shipping Bill.
Electoral (War-time) Bill.
Legal Proceedings Control Bill.
Bill returned from Senate with an amendment.
Senate’s amendment, adding new clause after clause 4, agreed to.
Resolution reported;report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’samendments) :
Mr.GREENE (Richmond- Minister for Trade and Customs and Acting Minister for Repatriation) [9.15]. - I move -
That the Senate’s amendments be agreed to.
The effect of them is to enable a nurse to purchase a dwelling and conduct a private hospital, or for two or more nurses to combine in so doing. The Commissioner is empowered to advance to them an amount not exceeding £700 each. That is to say, to three nurses who desire to combine in opening a private hospital the Commissioner may advance an amount not exceeding £2,100. I think this provision will be very acceptable to the nursing sisters who have been to the war,and may lead to establishing hospitals in many districts where such institutions are badly needed.
.- Soldiers’ cannot get an advance with which to enter into a business unless they prove that they were in business before their enlistment. I wish to be sure that there is no such restriction in regard to nurses.
– There is no restriction of that kind.
– Of course, if nurses were conducting hospitals prior to enlisting ‘they could get an advance for the establishment’ of another hospital. I desire to be certain that sisters who were merely working in hospitals will- be able to avail themselves of this provision.
– In the War Service Homes Act there is no restriction of the kind to which the honorable member refers. Any such limitation would be in the Repatriation Act, under which money may be advanced for the equipment of hospitals. This Bill simply relates to the provision of a building. The regulations are being adjusted in such a way that nurses will be able to conduct hospitals, provided they are otherwise eligible, regardless of whether or not they have previously been engaged in such an undertaking.
.- I think these amendments are a step in the right direction. Those nurses who have been to the Front are entitled to at least the same treatment as is given to the soldiers. As an advance is to be made under this measure to two or three nurses who combine together, I trust that it may be madepossible under the Repatriation Act for two or more soldiers to combine and get an advance for the establishment of a business.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
We have come to the end of a memorable Parliament - a Parliamentwhich, during its course, has been the repository and representative of some of the most stirring events in the history of the world. It began under the black shadows of war; it ends in a time of peace, which I hope may be long and profound, and worthy of the efforts of the brave boys who achieved it for us. There is nothing for us to do but to take ourselves to that great assize which is shortly to be held, and gather a fresh mandate from the people of the country, so that we may addressourselvesto the tasks arising from the war and from the circumstances in which we find our country at the end of it.
I wish to say that the Government are deeply sensible of the courtesy of members on both sides, and of the criticism they have offered from time to time, and of the real help they have afforded in the legislative efforts of this Parliament.
– Flattery !
– It is not flattery at all. I do not think my honorable friend will accuse us of flattering him. That Government is not doing its duty which resents helpful and constructive criticism in a Chamber of this kind. I have been in Opposition far too long to underrate the value of Opposition criticism.
– You were never guilty of criticism in Opposition, were you ?
– Never of anything but helpful criticism.
– I remember the honorable gentleman on this side of the House for about fourteen years. Awful!
– I have spent many happy hours in the chair now occupied by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), and I hope I have contributed in some small way to the building up of those volumes of Statutes which are the bulwark of the country to-day. Whether on the Government side or in Opposition, we all, I believe, do our duty to the best of our ability, and according to our own views of what we conceive to be required in the public interest.
Now, whatever we have done, whatever we have achieved, we are about to submit ourselves to the opinions of the people of the country. I believe that, on the whole, the people judge honestly and leniently the work of their legislators from time to time. That is my opinion now, after thirty years’ experience of Parliament; but whether the judgment be lenient or whether it be severe, we still have to submit ourselves to it; and I hope we shall go to the country feeling that we have done our duty. So far as this House is concerned, I believe we have done our duty. I make cordial recognition, here and now, to the help which has been so freely and generously given to us by the Opposition ; indeed, they have behaved so well that I hope they will remain where they are.
– Every Minister says that!
– May their shadows never grow less in Opposition; they are a first-rate set of fellows so long as they are on that side of the House. After the election is over, I hope to see some of them back again.
– There is no doubt as to that !
-I do not know; I hear that the honorable member’s seat, at any rate, is very shaky.
– I have heard that myself.
– May I turn now to offer you, Mr. Speaker, our grateful thanks for all your kindness and courtesy to the House, and our warmest felicitations on the firm and just manner in which you have presided over our deliberations. To the officers, one and all, we are indebted for many courtesies from day to. day; indeed, they oil the wheels of the Parliamentary machineso that they run with smoothness and celerity which enables us to get through our work. They are the silentbrigade, if I may say so, who hold up the whole Parliamentary institutions of the country while we politicians pirouette in the limelight. To them and to all concerned in keeping the machine going - from you, Mr. Speaker, in your exalted position, to the messengers and others who do their duty in their several ways - I wish to extend,on behalf of the Government, the most grateful thanks, and to say how warmly we appreciate all they have done for us.
– You have the chance of raising the wages of the servants associated with the House.
- Mr. Speaker, I am favorable to that course if you are. I hope we shall come back feeling mutual respect for each other after the fight is over.
.- The last sittings of a Parliament are usually held as we approach the season of peace and good-will, but, on the present occasion, we have a long row to hoe before we reach that season. Many of us will have a very busy time, and have to travel many miles throughout the Commonwealth. There will be stirring times both inside and outside the public meetings; and I agree with the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) that when we go before the court of public opinion we have to accept the verdict. As to whether the verdict on the present occasion will be wise or just I shall not be able to say until, perhaps, the 15th December, and then it will be much a matter of opinion.
I cordially re-echo the sentiments expressed by the Minister for the Navy in regard to the assistance received from you, sir, from the officers of the House, from the Hansard Staff, the messengers, and all concerned. In the course of some remarks earlier in the day I referred to the magnificent help we received from he gentlemen of the *Hansard Staff who sit at the table, and. I am sure that every honorable member is indebted to them. My experience must be that of every other honorable member, and they will agree that we received .nothing but courtesy and willing assistance from the whole of the officers of the House, including the messengers. The officials, of course, are not in the same position as ourselves; they go on, whether there be ©lections or not, whereas we may go on or go off. That depends on the court of public opinion.
We have, as the Minister for the Navy has said, passed through ‘ stirring times. Probably they were less stirring times than we shall have to go through in the near future, but I am sure we are all actuated by the same desire, and that is, to do the best we can for the Commonwealth of which we are citizens.
– Before putting the motion for the adjournment of the House, I wish to express to the right honorable the Minister for the Navy and Acting Leader of the House (Sir Joseph Cook), and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), the Leader of the Opposition, my thanks for the kind utterances and expressions of appreciation they have been good enough to voice in the course of their remarks, and also to offer on behalf of the officers of the House, their thanks for the commendations which have been uttered by both honorable gentlemen in regard to the services they have rendered. For myself, I wish to thank the officers of the House for the cordial support which they have always given to me in my capacity as Presiding Officer, and express my indebtedness to them for the ability and fidelity with which officers in all branches of the Parliamentary Service have carried out the various duties assigned to, them.
If the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), who has made a suggestion with regard to the granting of an increase of wages, had only been in the position I have occupied, and had his Estimates returned from the Treasury half-a-dozen times, with earnest appealsfor reductions on- account of the grave financial outlook, he would understand that in these times, when absolute economy has to be practised in public expenditure in all Departments, and when we have Commissions of Inquiry visiting all Departments of the Service to report on their expenditure, and suggest directions in which it can be curtailed, it is a difficult matter for the Presiding Officers of Parliament, in common with the administrative heads of every Department of the Service, to carry into effect suggestions of the kind, no matter how sympathetically inclined they may be towards them. It is always very pleasing to be able to raise salaries, especially when the money does not come out of one’s. own pocket; but the question of ways and means has always to be very carefully considered, and regard must be had to the public interest. . I regret to say that in these times, when economy is so necessary, even though the cost of living may be mounting higher and higher, it is a very difficult matter indeed to know what to do in regard to proposals to pay increased wages. There is no doubt that in the very near future, if the present abnormal cost of living is maintained, the whole question of salaries will have to be revised throughout the Commonwealth Public Service generally, as well as in the Parliamentary Service. But so far as the lower-paid officers of the House are concerned, as a recognition of the fact that the purchasing power of the remuneration they receive, has been considerably reduced by the increased cost of commodities and living generally, Mr. President and I, last Christmas, after consultation, made a suggestion to the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) that he should provide out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account a sum of money sufficient to pay bonuses to the extent of £10 each to certain of the lower paid, members of the Parliamentary Staff having dependants. That suggestion was carried’ out. On this occasion we propose to take a similar course, but to increase the amount of the bonus by about 50 per cent.
A proposal has been submitted to the Treasurer, and has received his concurrence, that a bonus of £15 shall be paid to all permanent officers with dependants receiving less than £204, that officers receiving over £204 and under £216, shall be paid a bonus of £9; that charwomen, who are only temporarily engaged, shall be paid a bonus of £7 10s. ; that certain employees on the Joint House staff, whose services are not continuous, shall receive a bonus of £1 5s. per month of service, and that half of the bonus shall be paid at the last December pay this year and the other half at the close of the financial year. These suggestions having received the concurrence of the Treasurer, will be carried into effect. So far as the lowerpaid officers are concerned, although we have not been able to do anything in the direction of increasing their salaries, we have at least endeavoured to do the next best thing. Some will be disappointed . because higher remunerated employees were not included, but that would happen wherever the limit was fixed short of including everybody. We hope that in the near future the cost of living will be considerably reduced now that the war is over, and we are enjoying the benefits of peace.
As we are all about to disperse, I can only express my regret that there are some of those with whom we have been associated as fellow-members of this
House who, for various reasons, have decided not to seek the suffrages of the electors again. I regret that we shall lose a number of honorable members in that way, who certainly would be an ornament to any institution with which they were associated, and I am sure honorable members on both -sides will be very sorry that we are not to have the benefit of their assistance in future legislation.
I thank honorable members generally for the support that they have given to the Chair, although at times we have had little ebullitions of feeling.
– Mostly in the morning.
– Yes; occasionally in the morning, when questions without notice are being asked, and there is nothing special before the Chair, it is particularly trying to keep matters within the ordinary bounds of our recognised procedure. But I candidly admit, and I desire to express my appreciation of the fact, that honorable members generally have always shown a most praiseworthy disposition to abide by the Standing Orders and assist the Speaker in carrying out the rules of the House. I can only say that I heartily appreciate the assistance they have given me. I wish them all a very Happy Christmas, and sincerely trust that the dawn of the New Year will inaugurate for each and all a new era of peace, happiness, and prosperity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Commonwealth of Australia to wit.
By His Excellency the Right Honorable Sir Ronald Craufurd Munro Ferguson, a Member of His Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Council, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief in and over the Commonwealth of Australia.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19191024_reps_7_90/>.