8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Acting Speaker (Hon. P. Bamford) took the chair at 2.30p.m., and read prayers.
– When Item53of the
Tariff schedule was under discussion, the Minister for Trade and Customs promised to consider whether an additional duty on prunes was necessary. Has he doneso?
– Yes, and the evidence gathered so far shows that American prunes are being dumped into this country at a price which would give the producer less than1d. per lb. The inquiry; however, is not complete. We are endeavouring to complete it as soon as possible, and if the first impression is borne out, I shall ask the Committee of Ways and Means to take suitable action.
Comparison with American and French Tariffs.
– I wish to know if the Minister for Trade and Customs has had the contents of the documents circulated and authorized by the Australian Industries Protection League checked by the Customs Department, and, if so, can he indorse the certification of that organization in respect to - (a) the correctness of the comparisons, (b) the accuracy of the duties on the items contained in those comparative schedules.
– Yes. I had the figures checked, and can vouch for their accuracy.
– I have received from a member of the Queensland Parliament a letter in which this passage occurs : -
Lake agreed to purchase a banana plantation and he paid all the money he could on it. He has been in occupation for some time. He made application to the Soldiers’ Settlement Board for an advance, and his application was recommended in March last, and his papers marked accordingly. Before the advance of £547 was made, the Board was advised by the Commonwealth Department not to make any more advances to applicants desiring to purchase freehold land, until after the end of the present financial year (June).
I ask the Minister if he will state again the arrangements now existing between the Commonwealth and the States for the settlement of soldiers on the land.
– The statement read by the honorable member is not correct, because the Commonwealth Government has not at any time asked the Queensland, or any other State, Government to refrain from purchasing freehold or other land. The Commonwealth Government undertook to provide the money necessary for the settlement of soldiers on the land, and agreed upon quotas of men and money for each State, this agreement being come to at two conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers. Financial provision has been made by the Commonwealth Government during the present year for the settlement of soldiers by the’ Queensland Government, and every claim made by the State which has been in order has been paid by us.
– I ask the Minister for
Trade and Customs if it is intended that the officers to be appointed to two positions under the Bureau of Science and Industry shall start work almost immediately.
– The appointments will date from the time that they are actually made, when the officers appointed will take up their duties.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister if regulations are in existence under which Americans in this country are treated as aliens, and if obstacles are put in the way of their registering as shareholders in companies, or engaging in commercial enterprises in this country?
– I am not aware that that is so. Regulations are in force which enable us to review certain proposals, but their object is certainly not interference with American capital and enterprise in this country, which we rather welcome. I have to learn that any disability has been placed on any American company here.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister in a position to make his promised statement regarding the cashing of war gratuity bonds?
-I have a short statement to make about the war gratuity bonds and the relations between the Government and the soldiers in connexion with them.
– Can we debate it?
– I hope that it will not be debated. I propose merely to say what has been done. Honorable members will recollect that an arrangement was made by which the Government was to pay certain gratuities to all who had rendered war service. We were to pay ls. 6d. per day to every member of the Naval Forces and to every member of the Australian Imperial Forge who went on active service outside Australia, the period for which payment was to ‘be made being from the date of embarkation of each man to the 28th June, 1919. It was arranged, too, that we should pay a gratuity of ls. per day to each man who had enlisted for active service but did not embark, and the maximum period for which this gratuity was to be paid was six months. To carry out these obligations it was estimated that £30,000,000 would be required, and as that was considered at that time a’ sum that would strain the financial resources of the country, having regard to our other heavy war obligations, it was decided to issue bonds bearing interest at the rate of 5i per cent., free of taxation, and redeemable in 1924. The original understanding was that this would be a three years’ .arrangement, and that the total amount involved would be £30,000,000, but it seems to me now that when all liabilities have been met in connexion with the issue of these bonds the expenditure wik, be within £28,000,000.
– -The Government ought to pay the other £2,000,000 to the sailors of the mercantile marine.
– We have about as much. as we can manage now. The bonds .actually issued to the 30th April represented £25,831,936. Some claims have not yet been lodged-why, I do not know; perhaps some soldiers or dependants do not intend to lodge them. Others -have been lodged, but have not yet been determined. All sorts of complications arise, even in so simple a matter as determining who is the rightful claimant. Sometimes there are two claimants for the same bond. Many other phases of the kind are being investigated by the Board set up for the purpose . A great many claims are only now being sent in. But I should think that another £2,000,000 will cover the balance of our liabilities. Of the £25,831,936 worth of bonds issued, cash payments have been made by the .Government through the banks to the amount of £6,000,000. In .addition, cash payments have been made directly by the Government totalling £2,276,372.” Other bonds have been cashed by employers, traders, life assurance companies, and others, to a value of £5,136,799. The total cash or cash equivalent received by the soldiers and their dependants to the end of April amounted to £13,413,171. The bonds still held. by soldiers and dependants, total £12,418,765. It. will be seen, therefore, that of the total bonds issued more than half have been already cashed. The Government have all along continued the practice’ of cashing bonds in necessitous cases, ,and for soldiers wishing to marry.
If a soldier is in particularly necessitous circumstances he applies to the Treasury, and after investigation of the man’s position we cash his bond.
– It is almost impossible to prove necessitous circumstances.
– They have been proved to the amount of £2,276,000, however great the difficulty may be.
I know -that some cases are most difficult and complex, and for a variety of reasons.
In all, 320,000 gratuities have been issued, of which 170,000 have been already cashed. I hope the bulk of the holders of the remaining 150,000 will continue to held their bonds, for I cannot help feeling, as I have said all along, that those who do hang on to them will be glad in the sequel that they did so. The bonds are returning good interest, the income from them is tax free, and I am quite sure that any soldier who can hold’ them will be glad that he did so. At the time the bonds were issued, certain requests were made to the Government for the payment of cash, and an arrangement was made by which £6,000,000 worth would be cashed immediately through the bank?. We promised, further, to liquidate another £10,000,000 worth by the end of the present month. We placed first in the category of those who are to obtain cash out of the £6,000,000 provided by the hanks widows of members of the Forces, and next in order of preference come widowed mothers of unmarried deceased members of the Forces, mothers of deceased members if they were dependent on the deceased members, blind or totally and permanently incapacitated members of the Forces, members who married after discharge, and persons found by the War Gratuity Board to be in necessitous circumstances. All other classes of persons were to be paid by non-negotiable bonds maturing not later than May, 1924.The Government also undertook that a further sum of £10,000,000 would be provided in ‘ May of this year. The moment I realized our liability for May, I set to work to try to move off the bonds as safely as possible, taking all the care we could to insure that the soldier was not dealt with unjustly in the cashing transactions. I donot pretend to say that some soldiers have, not “fallen in.” I know only too well and regretfully that they have done so. But we cannot avoid all these happenings whilst human nature is what it is. We have done our best to prevent the, soldier being “ taken down,” and I believe withvery successful results, on the whole. My idea was to get out as much cash as possible in anticipation of the obligation falling due this month, and the result is that at the present moment nearly £14,000,000 worth of cash is in the hands of the soldiers or dependants.
– The Grovernment have provided only £8,000,000 of it.
– Of course; but’ no private employer could have found the other £6,000,000, if we had not permitted him to do so, and if we had not scrutinized the conditions under which he found it. The original arrangement was that these bonds were to be nonnegotiable. Had that contract with the soldiers been carried out, many of them would have been kept out of the cash until the end of this month, so that the soldier has gained everything by cashing his bond when he found it most convenient to do so.
– A large number of the soldiers wish that they had not cashed them.
– Probably they do. I have made arrangements to cash as many bonds as are necessary to complete the total of £16,000,000, which was promised to the soldiers.
Mr.Gregory. - That will mean an additional £1,500,000.
– It means that slightly over £2,000,000 will have to be found to carry out this arrangement.
– How is priority to be established?
– We propose to determine priority of need in the same way as we have been doing all along. After having discussed the whole matter with the representatives of the soldiers, they agree with me that we cannot get a better tribunal than the one which we already have. Criticism has, of course, been levelled against them, but they have carried through a task of great complexity and difficulty, and, upon the whole, have carried it through with striking success. One reason for that is that all the members of the War Gratuity Board are themselves returned soldiers, and therefore may be expected to be in sympathy with those who are claimants for this cash. General Wisdom, who was the President of the first War Gratuities Board, is at present the administrator of New Guinea. His administrative experience at the Front stood him in good stead. In addition to being an able man possessed of plenty of good common sense, he has had all the experience of a soldier, and knows the psychology of a soldier, and all these things, I have no doubt, helped him to make the cashing of these bonds the success that it was upon the whole. The position, therefore, is that when an additional £2,000,000 has been found we shall have discharged the promises we made to the soldier in full. Indeed, we shall have more than discharged what was in our minds at the time those promises were made. Then, the idea was that there would be about £30,000,000 worth of these gratuity bonds issued, and the estimate that £16,000,000 worth of them would be redeemed by the end of May was based upon that issue. We propose to give the soldiers £16,000,000 cash, notwithstanding that the bonds actually issued will really fall £2,000,000 short of the original estimate. I have no need to occupy further time. That is the proposal which we are making. It has been approved by the executive of the Soldiers’ League, with whom I have been a good deal in consultation, as well as by as many more members of the Forces as I could get into touch with. They all agree that out proposal represents a broad and generous discharge of the obligations which we incurred to the soldiers at the time these bonds were originally issued. I hope that when the ?16,000,000 worth of bonds has been redeemed we shall be in a position to redeem still more of them should the occasion require it. I hope, however, that very little more will be asked for by the soldiers before the maturity of the bonds, because I profoundly believe that those who hang on to them will, in the end, be both proud and glad that they did so.
Mr. ACTING SPEAKER. I have received from the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz. : - “The unsatisfactory administration of the Repatriation Department in regard to war pensions and other allowances to returned soldiers and their dependants.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- In the early part of the session I took action with a view to bringing under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation the position in regard to war pensions and other allowances which are administered under the Repatriation Act. Since then no improvement has taken place. I would have included in my motion the question of the administration ofWar Service Homes, but for the fact that in connexion withthat administration in New South Wales, a report is to be placed upon the table of the House in the near future. Upon that account I refrained from the action which I had contemplated. The matter which forms the subject of this motion is one of considerable importance, because it affects a very large section of those men who were in the fighting-line, and who, when leaving Australia, were promised that ample provision would be made for them in the event of their suffering any disability, either of a permanent or a temporary character. Yet, to-day we find that there are hundreds of complaints from returned men who are partially, or in some cases wholly incapacitated, because their pensions have either been reduced or discontinued. I remember reading the debate which took place in this chamber when the Repatriation Bill was under consideration. Upon that occasion it was pointed out by honorable members upon this side of the House, and particularly by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), that the transfer of war’ pensions from the Oldage Pensions Department to the Repatriation Department would prove very unsatisfactory to the soldiers themselves. I also recollect the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) moving to recommit that measure for the purpose of reconsidering this phase of the question. His motion was defeated by only nine votes, clearly demonstrating that at that time there was not a very large majority in this chamber in favour of transferring war pensions from the Old-age Pensions to the Repatriation Department. Since then it has been amply proved that the transfer was a mistake. The change has in no way reduced the cost of administration. As a matter of fact, the administrative costs under the Repatriation Department are greater than they were under the Old-age Pensions Department. In the latter Department we had officers who, by reason of long experience, knew exactly how to handle the claims of applicants for pensions. These officers were also very sympathetic with the claimants. They understood precisely how to deal with old people and with our soldiers. When the war pensions were transferred to the Repatriation Department a considerably increased staff had to be employed.
– That transfer was made at the request of the soldiers themselves.
– That may be so. I am altogether dissatisfied with the way in which the clerical work of the Repatriation Department is performed. Most honorable members have a large correspondence with that Department in connexion with these matters, and my own experience is that when it forwards replies to my communications it frequently omits to name the township in which the particular applicant concerned resides. . I have, therefore, either to keep a complete list of the names of the applicants who are communicating with me, or else to request the Department to forward me the address of the particular applicant whose claim is the subject of a departmental letter. One “would naturally expect that the Department upon receipt of such a communication would immediately forward the address of the soldier in question. But instead of doing so it merely sends a formal acknowledgment of the request with an intimation that the matter will be given consideration. Then, probably in three or four weeks time, another letter from the Department will come to hand. Upon the last occasion that this matter was discussed, we were told that the House had taken away from the Government the power to deal with this particular Board.
– Now, what does the honorable member mean by that statement ?
– The Minister said, in effect, that he could not very well interfere with the administration of the Commission.
– The honorable member has raised a point which is so important that he should be definite on the question of the powers to which he refers.
– I shall endeavour to prove that, in the Act, there is ample power invested in the Minister to deal with the Commission, or with any of the Boards acting under it. Sub-section 1 of section7 of Act No. 6 of 1920 states -
For the purposes of this Act there shall be a Repatriation Commission, which shall, subject to the control of the Minister, be charged with the general administration of this Act.
This is definite. It was intended, and was made clear, by this Parliament that the Commission, upon appointment, should be subject to the control of the Minister. After provision had been made for the creation of the Commission, Parliament decided, according to subsection 1 of section 13, that -
There shall be a Repatriation Board for each State, to consist of three members.
It is the State Board which is making the mischief.
– Will the honorable member proceed to quote sections 26 and 27?
– It is my intention to do so. I emphasize that it is the State Board which is causing the trouble. Instead of following the lines laid down by the Pensions Board - so permitting local medical men, or medical officers appointed by the Government in various districts, to make periodical examinations in order to ascertain the state of a recipient’s incapacity - the New South Wales State Board appointed a medical officer from Sydney. Here is where the mischief comes in. He goes out into the country and examines various former soldiers who have been in receipt of pensions. He makes his investigations, asks such questions as he may deem necessary, comes to certain conclusions, and testifies thereon that So-and-so is now only twothirds, or one-third, incapacitated, and that his pension should be accordingly adjusted.
– And very often his decision is against the advice of the local medical man who has been attending the returned soldier throughout.
– That is nearly always the case. The only construction I can put upon the consistent way in which these reports go against the views of the regular medical attendants is that the officer from Sydney desires to justify his appointment by the actual amount of saving which he is able to make for the Commission in respect of pensions paid.
Section 26 reads -
EachBoard shall be charged with the duties of -
The Commission may at any time direct that any particular case or cases of a particular class be referred to it for assessment or determination.
The wording of the section testifies beyond doubt that when this Parliament was dealing with the subject of pensions it sought to make the whole matter as clear as possible for the guidance and assistance of the administering body. Rather than that it might be said that the Act was in any way ambiguous, Parliament deliberately inserted the words - resulted from an occurrence happening during’ the period he was a member of the Forces, and, in the case of incapacity, the nature and extent thereof.
When previously addressing myself to this subject, the Minister desired me to bring forward particulars of specific cases. I did so, and I wish to add now that of those which .1 indicated one has been settled satisfactorily. The person concerned has been paid right back, and in full. In connexion with others, however, the State Board has refused to reverse its earlier decisions. I wish to draw attention again to the case pf a man namedSchubert. The Board has intimated that it cannot see its way clear ‘ to alter its former decision, because - in effect- the man was for four: months in camp in Australia and only a little more than one day in the trenches in Prance, after which he became afflicted with gout. The Board added that it is plain that such affliction was not occasioned by the man’s participation in war-like operations. The comment is attached that Schubert received the same kind of food while he was in camp in England as he would have had if he had been at home. His pension has been taken away, although he cannot work and has a family to keep. Does the section say that before a soldier may become the recipient of a pension he must have been struck down by a bullet or by a shell fragment? I repeat that it is framed in most definite language: “an occurrence happening during the period he was a member of the Forces.” Let me put it that I am eligible, and that I have offered my services. I am examined by the official medical officers and am passed. That is to say, I am presumed to be fit for active service abroad. If, after having passed the medical test, and having gone into camp, I develop some ailment and am unable by reason thereof to go overseas, and, following my discharge, I am unable to take up my usual employment, is my family to starve? Am I not entitled to say that - from whatever cause, known or unknown - my disability occurred after I had offered myself and had been accepted by my country for service in its behalf? Does not section 26 most clearly and specifically cover such a case, and the case of Schubert also? This man actually went to England and France. He reached the trenches.
– In the class of case to which the honorable member refers, it cannot be said that the ailment is the outcome of a month or two spent in camp. Gout is a long standing complaint.
– Even if I were to admit that the trouble might have been of long standing, that would not absolve the Government. The very fact of the Government’s responsible medical examiners having accepted ‘this man Schubert as fit, added to the circumstance that he had been able to go . about his ordinary employment right up to the moment of his enlistment, and so had been able to support his family, throws a positive obligation upon the country that he and his family shall not suffer.
– The medical examiners should never have passed him.
– Maybe o so; but that is an entirely different matter Once a man has been accepted, the Government must take the responsibility for his care; it is an inescapable obligation, and it was never intended that the definite terms of the Act should, or could, be so twisted as to render the Government free of liability. I guarantee that if a vote of the people were taken the unanimous answer would be that, after a man had offered his services, and had been accepted, if any hurt or ailment accrued, his care and support should become the nation’s obligation.
I have still another case, that of a man named Amos, who is married and has five children. He has informed me that it is impossible for him to do a day’s work; and it is a fact, I understand, that he has not done a day’s work since his return. He was at one stage in receipt of the full pension, but the medical officer sent up from Sydney examined him and certified to the Board that he was not totally incapacitated. He is now regarded, therefore, as being only twothirds incapacitated, and his pension has been proportionately reduced. Seeing that the man cannot work, it is selfevident that he is totally incapacitated. While he was just as fully incapacitated as he is to-day, Amos was receiving the full pension. I appealed to the Board to review its decision, but have been informed that it is not able to see any reason to make an alteration. I wish to refer now to the case of a man named Taylor. The following letter from the chairman of the Repatriation Commission, addressed to myself, and dated 24th May, 1921, gives the particulars-
William R. Taylor, 2426, Private, 36th Battalion.
With reference to your representations to the Acting Minister regarding the case of the above-named, I have to inform you that careful consideration has been given to this case by the Commission, and, in view of the medical evidence, it cannot be considered that Ms incapacity is the result of, or was aggravated by, his military service. -His service record shows that a fortnight after he disembarked in England he was admitted to hospital, and he was almost continuously in hospital up to the time of embarkation to Australia. Moreover, according to his own admission, his condition was pre-existent. Under the circumstances, he was liberally treated in having been paid pension of one-half of the maximum rate from 15th July, 1917, to 27th January, 1021, and the Commission regrets it cannot approve of continuation of payment.
In this case it is said that the applicant admitted that the complaint was preexistent; but if the man was affected when he was accepted and went overseas, his illness became more acute, and, as he cannot now work, there is no justification for the Government breaking away from the promises made. We said at the outbreak of war that if the manhood of our community came forward and enlisted we would stand by them; but now, on the least possible pretext, the Government are endeavouring to get away from their obligations. I admit there may be malingerers, and if there are some who are deliberately endeavouring to obtain a pension on false pretences, they should be dealt with, because they should not take advantage of the concessions which the Government are providing for men who have actually been disabled. If men are able to work they should be prepared to do so; but, on the other hand, if some are incapacitated, or partially so, as the result of war service, and they were passed by the medical examiner, the obligation of attending to them until restored to health is resting upon this Parliament.
Another case has been brought under my notice, but as the person concerned is in the electorate of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), I forwarded the communication to him for attention. I am mentioning the matter, however, so that honorable members may be aware of the position. The man, who is named Skillicorn, is a miner by occupation, and states that on his return from the war he was granted a pension. Like an honorable man,’ when he had recovered sufficiently, he notified the authorities that he was able to resume his occupation, and requested them to discontinue his pension. A short time after he had resumed employment his old complaint returned, and he was as bad as ever, with the result that it was impossible for him to work. He found that the trouble which arose at the war had returned, and he applied to the Board for a renewal of the pension, but it absolutely refused to grant it.
– On what grounds?
– I cannot say at the moment, as the communication has been handed over £o the honorable member for Robertson. If a man who has been temporarily incapacitated feels that he can return to work, but later finds that he can no longer do so, his pension should be restored.
– There is always the right to review the restoration, increase, or reduction of a pension.
– I know that, because it is provided in the Act. The law provides that there can be an appeal from a State Board to the Commission, but in the cases I have mentioned, with the exception of one, the complaint is that the Board did not even send the complaint to the Commission. It decided the matter.
– What cases are those?
– Those of Schubert and Amos. My complaint is that the State Boards do not send the complaints to the Commission, and the Minister is not in a position to be conversant with the facts. I am not in any way blaming the Minister, because I know of no man who has worked harder in the interests of the soldiers than he has. The Minister, however, will have to take control of this matter in order to see that his officers carry out the intentions of this Parliament.
– He has a very bad lot of officers.
– That is just it.
– I will not admit that.
– The mistake has been in appointing men who have seen active service to high administrative positions who are incapable of carrying out the responsible work of the Department.
– Has the Minister directed the Commission to reduce pensions ?
– I would like to answer that interjection. There has been no direction from the Government or from the Minister for the Commission to reduce pensions.
– Men who are at present holding high administrative positions are totally unfitted for the work. It may be reasonable to employ returned soldiers for secretarial and clerical work; but at the head of such an important Department there must be highly qualified men, otherwise large sums of public money will be wasted.
– Why was any alteration made? Under the old system, everything proceeded smoothly, and there were no complaints.
– Yes; I would like to know why a change was made, because returned men are not getting as much sympathy from the officials who were members of the oversea Forces as they did from the officers who were previously conducting the work.
– They are dealing with them like a military corps.
– That is so. In order to show honorable members how this matter affects returned soldiers, I shall read a letter from the Maitland and District sub-branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, dated 21st May, 1921. It reads :-
My Committee desire me to convey to yon their appreciation of your very fine efforts in the House of Representatives on the question of pensions. We feci sure that you are sincere in your efforts for the betterment of our disabled comrades and relatives, and hope that you are granted the health to pursue this question to a successful issue- >
This is what I wish to direct particular attention to -
It is very hard, indeed, to have the fact brought home to us in such a dastardly manner that we are so soon forgotten, but very pleasant, on the other hand, to know that we still have friends who are not afraid to champion the rights we fought so hard for. We have some very distressing cases in our district, whose British pride alone keeps them from publicity, and we can only wait and hope that such cases will soon benefit by the result of your excellent efforts.
That, is a communication from a representative of the returned soldiers. These men opposed me at the last election ; but I am fighting for what I think are their rights. During the great crisis in 1914 and the following years, when men were being asked to go to the Front, we offered every inducement to those who were prepared to volunteer by saying that we would stand by them and see that their interests were protected. We said that they should not want as a result of their patriotism; but, although’ the war has only been over for two and a half years, the returned soldiers are beginning to realize that they are almost forgotten.
– History is repeating itself.
– Yes, and I am endeavouring to prevent it. I want honorable members who made promises to our fighting men to abide by them. I made promises in this Chamber in common with other honorable members, and I am going to see that they are carried out. I sincerely regret that there is a tendency to forget these men who did so much for us during that trying period. It does not reflect to our credit when we realize what is. actually occurring. Even to-day we hear much of patriotism and the freedom we enjoy under the British flag, but the very men who have been prating about their loyalty are not prepared to stand behind the soldiers who went forth to preserve our liberty. On every hand inducement was offered to men to go to the Front, but now it seems that their noble efforts are to be forgotten. The men are beginning to see the true position, and it is up to this Parliament to do something to rectify^ their wrongs. We can only create loyalty by making the masses contented and happy, but that result will not be achieved if we are constantly taking advantage of those who sacrificed so much for our liberty. We told them that they would have to endure hardships, but that when they returned it would be our duty to see that their wants were provided for. Are Ave to ignore our promises? I trust this House will do its duty, and that the Minister will take the whole matter in hand. I do not wish him to send these complaints on to the Commission, but to personally investigate them, and set up some standard for future guidance. It is the duty of the Minister to let the State Boards and the Commission know that .this House will not allow them to take advantage of the soldiers simply because they were not struck by a bullet or shrapnel. If men were accepted for service, and are now unable to follow their usual occupation they should be provided for. There are some instances in which -men who are performing light work are receiving one-half or twothirds of what they did previously. In any case in which a man is unable to do any work, he should be given the full pension. I ask the Minister to give this matter ‘his very serious consideration. I hope that he will give the Commission and the State Boards to understand that Parliament is deeply concerned with the interests of the soldiers, and expects them to administer the Act which it passed, and that unless they do so they must give way to persons more competent to carry out the job.
.- I have much pleasure in supporting the motion moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). I believe that honorable members generally are agreed that the .present method of .administering pensions is absolutely unsatisfactory. As one of those who voted for the appointment of the new Commission to deal with pensions, I want to say that, if I had the opportunity to-day, I should be very pleased to put the members of the present Commission out of office, and to restore the administration of these pensions to those who previously carried out the work. It really appears to me as if the majority of the present Commission seem to think that it is their duty to cut down every pension they can, with a view to saving money, and without consideration for the rights and justice of the cases of different individuals.
– I do not think that -that is a fair statement to make.
– I am ‘afraid that I must adhere to that statement, because I intend, to bring under notice one or two cases in which the action taken by the Commission seems to indicate that they must have had some consideration of the kind in mind. I wish to refer to some of the “ T B “ cases of men in different sanatoriums. I refer, first of all, to the case of James P. Cooke. This man enlisted and went to France. While at the Front, he was sent into hospital, and it was discovered that he had this fearful disease of tuberculosis, and he was sent back to Australia. He was put into a sanatorium, and it was there recognised that he was entitled to a pension. His health improved, and he was allowed to leave the sanatorium. His pension was’ continued for a time after he left the sanatorium, and then it was suddenly reduced, and he was granted £1 per week. The reason given for reducing his pension was that he had suffered - and this was admitted - from what is medically termed empyema. This really means an abscess on the lungs, for which an operation is performed, the pus is let out, and the abscess removed, but a scar is’ left on the body. Every one conducting a medical examination of the man must have seen this scar, and, by making inquiries, could have found out the cause of it. However, the man was passed as medically fit, .and went to the Front.
– They wanted men then.
– He might be quite all right, and fit to go. »
– I do not doubt that. He was passed by the medical officer as fit for active service, but now, apparently, because of the operation of which the scar is evidence, this man’s pension ‘has been cut down to £1. This is given as a sort of act of grace, and this man suffering from this awful disease, which requires all the nourishment he can get, is now asked to exist on £1 per week. It is an absolute scandal upon this Parliament and upon every one responsible for the work of repatriation that mou should be treated in this way. Like others similarly afflicted, this man is trying to keep life in his body as long as he can, and he is confronted with, the knowledge that his inability to obtain sufficient nourishment reduces his chance of living. I shall read a letter received from the medical officer of the Bedford
Park Sanatorium in connexion with this particular case. It is dated 26th February, 1921, and is as follows: -
Mr. J. P. Cooke is suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, and his present condition is due to war service.
The empyema for which he was operated upon may or may not have been tuberculosis. The empyema operation scar was visible at all examinations, and the man must have been in good condition to justify the medical officers accepting him for active service in spite of the history of empyema, about which, so Cooke tells me, special inquiries were made.
I shall not read the whole of the letter, but it goes on to say that this man might have gone through the war. He was perfectly fit for active service, which bears out what the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has said. The operation performed upon him did not necessarily prevent him being a strong, healthy man, and as Dr. Hayward, the writer of the letter, says, any medical man examining him must have noticed the evidence that he had been operated upon. He was passed by the medical officer in spite of this. There was no attempt to deceive the medical officer when the man submitted himself to examination, and yet, after all this time, we say to him, “ You can live as best you can on £1 per week. That is all that your country is prepared to do for you.”
I wish to refer now to another case. I shall not mention the name, because another honorable member is dealing with the case, and the only point I desire to mention in connexion with it is that Mr. A. H. Teece, a member of the Repatriation Commission, was approached by the Returned Soldiers’ Association of South Australia in connexion with it, and made the following statement in reply:–
Where the Repatriation Department alleged that a disability was existent before the war, and the -pensioner claimed that it was not, the onus of proving otherwise rested with the Department.
In this case, the man has been able to produce doctors’ certificates and other evidence necessary to prove that there was not a suspicion that he had suffered from this complaint or was likely to suffer from it. After receiving a pension for a short time this man is left to-day with absolutely nothing, although he is suffering from this awful disease.
– The honorable member will give me particulars of these cases.
– I shall give the Minister particulars of all the cases to which I refer. I should like to say here that I join with the honorable member for Hunter in admitting that the Minister does what he possibly can. My complaint is that the cases to which I refer indicate that there is some one outside more powerful than this Parliament in deciding questions of this sort, which should be decided by us. The lesson is that honorable members should, in future, be very chary about handing over to the control of any outside Commission or Board matters which should be left in the hands of Ministers who may be controlled by the Parliament.
– The honorable member could not expect the Minister to deal with every case.
– No, but it would be very much more satisfactory if the administration of these matters were under his control. I have to refer to two other cases, those of Messrs. Shaw and Sinclair, which are somewhat similar to those to which I have already referred. It was not denied, in either of these cases, that the men, prior to being passed by the examining medical officer, had suffered years before, and there was a suspicion that they had suffered from this complaint. There is no suggestion that the medical officer was deceived or that the men attempted to deny the facts. He passed them as medically fit; they were enlisted, went through all the camps, and went away from Australia.
– And were cheered.
– Yes, and they were cheered. They came back, and to-day are suffering from this complaint; but the Commissioners say that they were suffering from it before they went to the war, and refuse to give them a pension. In effect, the Commissioners wipe their hands of these men, and leave them to live as best they can. “When we were appealing to the able-bodied men of this community to enlist, every man who offered his services was cheered, as the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has said, and men were allowed to leave for the Front only after competent medical officers had certified to their fitness. The two men to whom I refer, in common with others who enlisted, were examined, not once, but on several occasions, and were submitted to a final examination just ‘before they embarked. How, then, can it be said that they were suffering from tuberculosis before they went away? They received a pension for a little while after their return, and were then informed that it would no longer be payable to them. “What is the reason for this treatment? Is it that the Commission are out to save money by treating returned soldiers in this scandalous manner, or is it because they have not a proper appreciation of what were the views of this Parliament in passing legislation with the object of doing the fair thing by our men who went to the Front?
I propose now to refer to the case of a man named Bromley, who does not come under the “ T.B.” category. He enlisted, was passed as fit, and went to the Front. While there he met with an- accident, went into hospital, and ultimately was returned to Australia. On his discharge, he was given a pension, which, later on, was reduced, and finally was stopped on the ground that he was fit to follow his usual occupation. The actual facts are that as soon as Bromley was able,, after his return, to get about, he Was given employment at the Keswick Barracks. He was suffering from spinal trouble, and could not stoop; but the work allotted to him at the barracks did not involve any stooping, and he was able to carry on. While at the barracks he received a pension. Owing to the gradual reduction- of work at the barracks, Bromley left, and got another job where he had to stoop, The consequence was that he was taken ill, and went into the Keswick Hospital. Before he went there, however, his pension had been stopped on the ground that he was able to follow his usual occupation. He remained in the hospital for months, and, although he is out to-day, he is told by medical men that he must always wear a spinal jacket, and on no account do any work which will involve his stooping. And yet the authorities say that ‘he is fit to follow his usual occupation, and refuse to give him a pension.
– What is his usual occupation ?
– He used to do labouring work, and those who certify that a man in his state of health is able to do such work should be asked to have a try at it themselves.
– Has he appealed ?
– Yes. He appealed, locally, and his appeal, I think, has been sent on. He has a wife and two children, and another little one is expected. What are likely to be the feelings of a man who is treated in this way? Those responsible for such treatment have no compassion. Their sole object is apparently to cut off as many pensions as possible. They seem to think that by making reductions in this way they are carrying out their duty. I do not think they are, and will join with others in an effort to force these gentlemen to realize what the Parliament wants them to do in the direction of carrying out effectively the duty of Australia to those who fought for it.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The “Minister (Mr. Rodgers) said a few moments ago that I was one of the most favoured members of this House. As to that, I can only say that I realize that one can get nothing but of the Departments by running hostile to their official chiefs. If a man cannot get anything out of t.hem when he has the influence of the Minister behind him, then there is absolutely no chance of obtaining redress. If honorable members generally get no more satisfaction from the Departments involved in this matter than I do - notwithstanding that the Minister says that I am one of the most favoured of members - then God help them!’ In my twenty years of parliamentary experience, I have not known a Department to show a more callous indifference to the requirements of members than that shown by the Departments dealing with war pensions and war gratuities. One can write letter after letter to them, get the support of the Minister, and yet not obtain a definite settlement. I have written to the Minister, obtained his support, received from him an acknowledgment of my letter^ and a statement that it has been sent on to such-and-such a Department, but month after month has gone by without any definite settlement. That has frequently been my experience. Here are two cases that are typical of dozens with which I have had to deal. The first relatesto a man whose position is very much like that of the returned soldier to whom the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) has just referred. He was called up and asked why he did not enlist. He said he was not able to go to the. Front; that he was physically unfit, inasmuch as he had an hereditary complaint. He was passed, however, as fit, went into camp, developed the complaint to which he had said he was liable, and asked to be paid off, but was kept there for nearly two years. He was finally paid off because he could not stand up. To-day that man is a derelict, living on the charity of his friends, and can get no relief from the Department. I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that the responsibility for the proper treatment of these men rests with the Government themselves. This man told the authorities that he had an hereditary complaint, but he was told to come up, was passed as medically fit, and sent into camp. I am concerned, not so much with the decisions arrived at by the Department from time to time in regard to various cases, but rather with the delay in dealing with matters submitted by honorable members. Surely when I address a letter to the Department, I am entitled to an answer. If I write to the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) in regard to a particular case I at once receive from him a letter to the effect that the case has been sent on to such-and-such an officer to be dealt with. But there the matter ends. I wait month after month, but hear nothing from the Department. Finally the man concerned comes to me and asks what I am doing in the matter. I reply, “I wrote to the Minister months ago, got an answer from him, and wrote to the Department, but no settlement of the case is forthcoming.” Then I have to go through the whole procedure once again. The Department seems to absolutely ignore the cases submitted to it by honorable members, There is one more case, which is typical of dozens. A woman whose husband was killed at the war had adopted a child from a few weeks old, and she was told by an officer that if she complied with the conditions of legal adoption she could get a pension for it. This the woman did, and was duly given a pension ; but it was suddenly cut off, and no reason given. I wrote to the Minister on her behalf, and the case was sent on to the officials, and I received an acknowledgment of the receipt of my letter. But no reason was given even then for depriving this woman of her pension. Why are not definite answers given to communications of the kind ? Apparently the Minister then forgot all about the case, but finally a letter came to say that the woman should inform the Department as to which officer it was who told her to legally adopt the child. How could the woman tell which officer it was 1 What does it matter who gave the woman that information ? The fact remains that she complied with the conditions, and yet the pension is cut off. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, when an honorable member writes to the Minister about such matters there is no definite answer.
– The honorable member ought to say that he himself has had many cases put through.
– I had one case put through, but it took months to handle.
– I shall give the honorable member a list of the cases he has had put through.
– In any case, the people concerned get disgusted and annoyed.
-Why should a member have to go to the Minister ? Why should these people not be able to do this business for themselves?
– The honorable member has been long enough in Parliament to be able to answer that question himself. Only this morning a gentleman came to my door with a letter from the honorable member, in which “My dear Anstey” was informed that the honorable member had sent this man along, and hoped that Mr. Anstey would do all he possibly could for him. I have done so, and yet the honorable member asks a question like that! Some of these men and women have been writing to the Department for twelve months without receiving any answers.Under the circumstances, to whom can they go but their parliamentary representative, who, however, is equally unsuccessful in extracting anything definite? These people then give up the matter in despair; and what is the result? The member loses their votes; and what more important loss could there be? I can only say that if I do not get some satisfaction - if, in reply to complaints, I continue to get the same old answers to the same old story from the same old crowd - I shall move the adjournment of the House every day of the week, and every week of the month.
– I asked the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) the question to which he refers because I maintain that these soldiers and soldiers’ representatives should not have to appeal to members of Parliament inmatters of the kind.
– What chance have they got if they do not appeal to members of Parliament?
– They have no chance; but such appeals ought to be unnecessary. I receive letters nearly every week complaining that, for reasons not given, pensions have been suddenly taken away. One man, who is a cripple, has five children to maintain, and yet his pension has been suddenly taken away. The Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) may laugh, but if he were in the position of’ that cripple he would laugh “ on the other side of his mouth.” I have had a number of hard cases brought under my notice, and, in the absence of any satisfaction from the Department, I propose to move the adjournment of the House daily, devoting a day to each case. I do not accuse the Minister of not attending to my letters, because only last week he rectified a particularly deserving case that I placed before him. Nevertheless, it is a scandal that unfortunate widows, who are deprived of their pensions, have to write to me, or some other members, and ask them to move the Minister in order that they may get their rights. The present state of affairs shows that there is something wrong. Why are these pensions cut off? The other day a widow wrote to me to the effect that, after her husband was killed, she was given a pension of £2 per week; but early this year that pension was cut down to £1, and no reason given. There is no doubt that it is the system that is bad. I could now submit to the Minister half-a-dozen fresh cases which he could not refuse to consider.
– There are hundreds of cases.
– That is so. Can the Minister not improve on the present system ? Is he not aware of the present state of affairs?
– Let us bring about a crisis !
– The weather is too cold for any crisis. The honorable member who interjects is jocular, but there is no man in the House who is more sympathetic with these unfortunate pensioners than himself; and surely if there is one section of the community to whom we owe consideration it is this. I have no hesitation in saying that there is not an honorable member who is not strongly of opinion that some change is necessary; and we ought to insist on something being done. We ought not to talk of creating a crisis. This is not a party question, and the Minister is thoroughly sympathetic, as we know from the efforts he made at the inception of the repatriation scheme. At the same time, there are unfortunate people who cannot obtain clothes and food for themselves and their children, although promised that they would be looked after, and they have been crippled and ruined by the war. I invite the Minister to look into matters for himself, and then inform the House that there is to be a change. I do not know that the officials in charge are unsympathetic, but, if not, they have a curious way of showing their sympathy. If these officials cannot efficiently carry out their duties, there are many men in the community ready and able to do so.
– Let us revert to the old system, under which there was no trouble.
– Let us have some system other than the present one. Many people apply for and receive invalid and old-age pensions who are not entitled to them, and, at the same time, there are many deserving unfortunates who are unable to get pensions. The whole question of pensions ought to be tackled by the Government. Unless the Government give the old-age and invalid pensioners enough to keep body and soul together, something will have to be done which the Government will not find very pleasant. I have no desire to make any threats, but I urge the Minister, whose heart, I know, is in his job, to give the people to whom I have been referring some satisfaction. Let ns go back to the old system, or adopt any system but the present one, which is rotten and unsatisfactory all round.
.- I join with those honorable members who say that a considerable change has been noticeable since the alteration in the system of administering the pensions. I also indorse the statement that once a man was passed by the proper medical authorities and sent overseas, from that moment the Government accepted the fullest responsibility for his future welfare, whether the decision as to his medical fitness for service was right or wrong. No doubt other honorable members have received, as I have, numerous letters complaining of f aulty ‘ administration of the Pensions Act, the frequent excuse for refusing to pension being that the injury received was not due to warlike operations. I may mention the case of a Gurkha, a steady, hard-working man, married to a white woman, and with a family of three children, whose injury the Department declared was not due to the war. As a matter of fact, that man had never had a day’s illness in his life before he went to the Front. After being in the trenches for about, six months, he was blown up one day and was injured in the abdomen by a piece of the falling timbers. Since then he has frequently been vomiting blood. Upon representations being made to the Department he was subsequently allowed a pension of 7s. 6d. per week and a few shillings for his wife and children. Whether his pension was reduced because he is a coloured man I cannot say, but, at all events, there was an admission that his injury was due to war-like operations, though he has been denied full pension rights. I may also quote the case of a man who had an injury to the knee of many years standing, but prior to the war it was practically all right, and he was passed for active service. As the result of excessive marching and hard work in the trenches, his knee gave way again, and it is now contended that as the injury had been sustained prior to the war, his claim for a pension cannot, be entertained. I could recite case after case in a similar strain, and I have no doubt that honorable members on both sides can do the same. I know of a consumptive boy who contracted the disease on active service, and for the last six months has been looking in vain for a convalescent home in New South Wales. I had a letter from him only this week stating that he was obliged to return to his own home because he could not get into a Government institution.
– I should like to say that no tubercular case which medical testimony states requires treatment is turned aside. If there is no accommodation in the town or city in which the patient lives, it will be found for him in some other town or city.
– Well, this boy has been unable to get treatment.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will give me his name privately. I can assure him that the case will be attended to immediately.
– I know of another man who was injured during the war and whose pension has been stopped. He has a wife and three children, and he is now living in one of the war service homes. He has no income at all now, and does not know what is going to happen. On his behalf I have put in at least four or five independent medical certificates, including one from the doctor who passed him for active service. This man is now living on the charity of his neighbours.
– Do you know what reason was given for the rejection of his pension claim?
– The departmental reply stated that there was nothing wrong with him, and yet when he came to see me he was hobbling with the aid of a stick. I have here the particulars of another case, which I think, should be placed on record, although I do not propose to give the writer’s name. This man, in his letter to me, states -
I have taken the liberty to address this letter to you. I wish to state that, owing to my ill-health, I have had to return to Newcastle so as to bo” able to get my doctor’s advice and treatment. … I sincerely hope that you will be speedily successful in regaining my pension, otherwise I do not know what is going to happen to my wife and baby. For myself, I do not care one iota, as my days aTe drawing to a- close for the want of proper nourishment, which I cannot get. But while
I have strength to ‘write, I shall fight for my rights. I met by accident the doctor who passed me for the Army yesterday, in the course of getting treatment, and he was quite surprised at my condition. I told him that the Department had suddenly discovered that I suffered from this disease before enlistment, and he said that he could swear against that, as I was in perfect health at that time; and I Can produce the evidence of our old family doctor, also. My grandmother lived to 85, grandfather 82, my father is now living in good health at 67, and also my mother at 63, and so I cannot see how this decision was arrived at. But God made no man perfect. Even the judges on the Repatriation Board are likely to make a mis judgment, as they have surely done in my case.
This man is in ike last throes of his disease, and yet he has been declared by the Repatriation Department not to be suffering sufficiently to justify a pension. When he enlisted for service overseas, none of these trifling, straw-splitting questions were asked of him.
– He must have been medically fit, otherwise he could not have gone.
– Of course he was. When this man, and all the others who were invited to enlist for war service, came forward, they were told that certain things would be done fox them in the event of any injury, and for their relatives in the event of their death on war service. Unfortunately, those promises are not being honoured, and I say it is time the Government took definite action in-regard to all these claims.
.- I rise to support the motion that has been submitted by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr, Charlton). Though I do not wish to repeat the instances given by honorable members who have already spoken, of soldiers injured on war service not being sympathetically treated, I desire to point out that this lack of sympathy and consideration for returned soldiers is not confined to the Pensions Department. It seems to be general through the whole administration of the Repatriation Department ; and with other honorable members who have spoken, I think it is time the Government took drastic action to remedy the present state of affairs. Things have come to such a p’ass that it is an absolute scandal in every direction. Honorable members are being inundated with letters from returned soldiers, or widows of deceased soldiers, in connexion with their claims ‘ for pension privileges. They say that they are being starved of the amount of pension due to them, and which this House considered they were entitled to receive. On the other hand we have evidence that the small saving made by interfering with the comfort of these people, who deserve our best sympathy and proper treatment, is wasted in other directions. When I had the opportunity of speaking a week ago in regard to the assets that would remain to the Commonwealth in connexion with the expenditure incurred in building war service homes and settling soldiers on the land, I was asked to give definite instances of actual waste, the cause of which is exactly the cause of the trouble in regard to pensions, and that is lack of proper organization. Undoubtedly if the administration of war pensions had been left in the hands of the Department which had been accustomed for many years to deal with pensions, the results would have been much more satisfactory. In the same way if the building of war service homes had been left to people who had been building homes for workers in the various States we would not have had the evidence of waste that confronts us to-day. I 4want to point out the lack of sympathy displayed towards soldiers who desire to obtain homes for themselves, and to urge that the Minister (Mr. Rodgers) should seize the earliest opportunity of effecting a complete change in the whole method of the administration of the War Service Homes Department. Indeed, the opportunity presents itself now by reason of the fact that there is no War Service Homes Commissioner. The Minister told us, in speaking on this subject last week, that about £10,000,000 had been spent on the building of these homes, but when we examine the way in which the money has been spent, and the return from the expenditure, we are met with evidence such as appears in a paragraph in this morning’s press, informing us that of fifteen houses built at Maryborough, Queensland, by the War Service Homes Commissioner eight are not utilized by soldiers, but are let to others.
– At the same time assistance is refused to men who have found houses already erected.
– Tes; that is another instance of the absence of sympathy. The same thing occurs in regard to the man who, having purchased a home, finds that the demands of his occupation necessitate his removal to a distant part, and is unable to effect a transfer of his property to another person who is anxious to buy it, but cannot do so because he is unable to present an eligibility certificate.
– I do not wish to interpose, but on this debate I will not ‘be able to answer the points now being raised by the honorable member. He will see that it is hardly fair on his part to deal with war service homes questions on a motion dealing with war pensions. However, I will afford him an early opportunity of dealing with the other matter.
– If the Minister will afford me another opportunity of dealing with the matter of war service homes I shall defer my remarks, except to say that definite instructions ought to be given to the Commissioner or Acting Commissioner that he must not have a kind of law of the Medes and Persians dealing with the matter, and should expedite the issue of certificates of eligibility so that the building of homes may be proceeded with.
– I have already given a direction that the fact that homes cannot be built is not a sufficient reason for stopping the issue of eligibility certificates.
– I am pleased to hear that assurance. Pending a statement by the Minister, and a full discussion of the matter, I hope the office of “War Service Homes Commissioner will not be filled permanently.
– Before an appointment is made the House will have an opportunity of considering the complete scheme of reorganization.
– I hope that the Minister will not follow the example of others, and keep men in acting positions for years.
– I indorse that interjection. Honorable members should not have placed before them week after week specific instances of men and women who have been harshly dealt with, instead of being treated with the utmost courtesy and consideration.
– I think the House will at once remove any stigma from the shoulders of the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) in regard to the administration of the War Pensions Act, because it is generally accepted that he is heart and soul in his desire to do the right thing to returned soldiers. In any case he cannot be expected to be responsible for the individual cases which arise every day as the result of inefficient .administration.
– Then why was not the administration of war pensions left in the hands of those who had been administering them efficiently?
– It was the desire of the representatives of the returned soldiers that the transfer should be made.
– It is their desire now to get the control of war pensions out of the hands of the Repatriation Commission.
– People always gain by experience. We, on this side of the House> do not profess to be perfect. But I have risen particularly to refer to one or two instances of inefficient administration. Members could speak for hours on the general disorganization of the Department without making any progress; but as we are constantly being invited, when discussing grievances of this nature, to bring specific cases under the notice of the Minister, I shall direct his attention briefly to two. A soldier, who had had considerable service overseas, returned suffering from heart trouble, shell-shock, and fits. In the Caulfield Hospital he was subject to frequent fits, but was discharged from the institution without a pension. When he made a claim for pension rights, the generous Pensions Department opened their hearts to the extent of giving him a miserable 10s. per week for himself, a wife, and two children, although he was totally unfitted to follow his pre-war occupation. Another case is mentioned by a lady who wrote to me on the 14th May from a place in the Corio electorate. I do not mention heT name, because it is not fair to persons who write in this way that their distress should be advertised. I have here the case of a soldier’s widow, who was for a time receiving £5 9s. per fortnight in pension and allowances, but, under the new regulation, which has been administered very drastically of late, she gets only 27s. 6d. per week, or £2 15s. a fortnight. In a letter that I received from her this afternoon, she thanks me for the interest I have taken in her affairs, and tells me that her husband died of pneumonic influenza after being sent back from overseas as medically unfit, and she goes on to say that unless the Department comes to herassistance, the home, or, as she terms it, the hut, built for her try her deceased soldier husbandmust be sacrificed. She cannot keep the wolf from the door, feeding and clothing herself and her children on the miserable pittance she gets from the Department. I may be chided by the Minister for having mentioned this case before taking it to him, but complaints of this kind are general among honorable members. There should be no need to go to the Minister with these grievances. What is needed is sympathetic administration, and the sooner the work is intrusted to persons having a little of the milk of human kindness in their composition, the better it will be for those whose cause we champion.
Time allowed for the discussion of the motion extended to 5.15 p.m.
.- I join with other honorable members in voicing discontent and dissatisfaction with the administration of the Repatriation Department. The Minister is sympathetic, but, unfortunately, he puts too much reliance on certain officials, and, apparently, takes their word for everything. I acknowledge that in several cases I have got satisfaction from him, but in others there has been considerable delay, and, in one instance, nothing has yet beendone. In this last case, an unfortunate soldier was drawing the full pension for a little while, and was suddenly deprived of it. Within a fortnight he claimed an invalid pension. Honorable members know how difficult it is to obtain that pension, unless the applicant is absolutely incapacitated.
Mr.Hector Lamond. - It should be much easier to get a war pension.
– Yes. This man has a wife and five children. He appealed to the Department, but it was three months before his first letter was answered, and for that time he and his family were starving. I then wrote to the Minister, and got from him an immediate reply; but there was a further delay of three weeks. Finally the man was told that he was suffering from a pre-war injury, and was not entitled to a war pension. Now, those who volunteered for active service had to undergo a stiff medical examination, not once, but a number of times, and there was a final examination just previous to sailing. This man must have been in pretty good health to be accepted by the authorities. I do not know whether he went beyond England, buthe was certified to by the doctors in Victoria as medically fit when he left Australia. Had he been suffering from any complaint previous to enlistment, the doctors who examined him should have discovered that fact. This man was willing to do his bit, and, of course, if he had suffered from rheumatism prior to enlistment, the trouble would have become worse in camp here, and would have been further increased by the life on board ship. But the man was accepted as fit, and no doctor can now say definitely that he had rheumatism before he enlisted. A doctor can merely guess at what may have been the original state of things. There seems a desire on the part of some doctors to cut down the war pensions as much as they can. I asked by interjection a little while ago if the Minister had instructed the doctors to do this, and he said thatno such instruction had been given.
Mr.Rodgers. - I now repeat that statement.
– I accept the Minister’s denial. Some of these doctors are exceeding their duty. I know of a case in which a soldier who was getting 42s. a week had his pension reduced to 28s. a week on the word of a lady doctor, practically without examination. She said to him that pensions would be a thing of the past very shortly, as the Government could not afford to pay them.
– No one has any right to say that. I repudiate the statement.
– It was like the impudence of this lady doctor to make such a statement. I wrote to the Department about the matter, but they passed it over, and this doctor is still entitled to examine returned soldiers. No man cares to be examined by a lady doctor.
– Where is this doctor practising ?
– In the Ballarat district. I do not know why the Department has appointed any lady doctor for this work. This lady’s remark showed that she has little sympathy with returned men. Weeks have gone by, and they are still waiting for a further examination; but they will have to wait months unless definite action is taken with the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation. Not long ago the allowance of a Mrs. Young was reduced. She has a sickly daughter, who . sometimes earns as much as 30s. a week, and she lost a boy in the war. The Department, in a letter to her, had the impudence to suggest that this girl could help to support the mother.
– Unfortunately that sort of letter is too common.
– It was a callous suggestion to make. Another widow, Mrs. Lewis, who lost a boy in the war, had her allowance cut down. She gets a pension of 30s. a week, and 2s. 6d. for a girl of thirteen. A son of eighteen also lives with her, and the Department told her that it was the duty of this son to help to support his mother. He is a good son, but a boy of eighteen does not earn very much. It is all very well for an official who is being paid £1,500 a year to make these suggestions; but it should not be forgotten that we promised the soldiers who went away that their widows and mothers would be given a fair and square deal.
– Probably in the cases referred to the lads who were killed did not, before they enlisted, contribute to the upkeep of their mothers’ homes. That is made an excuse by the Department whenever possible.
– That is so. We made a grave mistake in the drafting of our Pensions Act; but the Act should be administered more sympathetically. Probably in this case the Department would say that, because the boy who was killed was not earning more than £1 a week at the time of his enlistment, he was worth only 15s. a week to his widowed mother, it being forgotten that had he not answered the call he would to-day be earning £4 or £5 a week, and be worth so much more to her. I hope the Minister will give consideration to these cases.
Now in regard to vocational training. A number of men who were being trained at the Ballarat School of Mines have been ordered to Melbourne. They are nearly all of them partly incapacitated, and most of them are married men. They are learning the trade of carpenters’, and I believe that 90 per cent. of those trained for that work have proved efficient. Now, in order to centralize everything in Melbourne, these men are being ordered to Melbourne, almost at a moment’s notice. They are to receive a miserable 25s. a week to maintain them while completing their training here. The Minister is surely opposed to this centralization policy.
– I have given the honorable member evidence of that.
– That is so. I appealed to the honorable gentleman in regard to a soldier who was ordered to Melbourne, and he countermanded the order. About nine returned men, who are buying homes in Ballarat on the instalment system, and who lived there before the war, and would, had they not volunteered for active service, be now in comfortable circumstances, are told to break up their homes, and go to Melbourne. The Deputy Commissioner has notified them that their sustenance allowance will cease on the 9th June unless they comply with this instruction. We have at Ballarat instructors as good as any in the metropolitan area.
– Is this being done on the recommendation of the Industrial Committee ?
– Well, I think it is wrong.
– I think so, too. I hand to the Minister a copy of the ‘Ballarat Star, which contains an account of a meeting held in the city last night to protest against the order that has been issued. I am sure that the Minister will, now that he has had the circumstances explained to him, veto it.
– You have at Ballarat, I understand, the organization and the training staff, and you have work for them to go to when they are efficient ?
– We have. It was shown at the meeting last night that 95 per cent. of the men turned out from the local schools have proved efficient, and that they have made £5,000 worth of material which has been sold for the benefit of the Repatriation Department. If the men cannot get at country centres training as good as is given in Melbourne, the Department should be prepared to make the small financial sacrifice involved in sending an instructor from Melbourne. I do not agree that the soldiers cannot get proper training at Ballarat. ‘ If, however, the Commissioner or the Industrial Training Committee puts that argument before the Minister, I hope he will order that an instructor be sent from Melbourne. I ask the Assistant Minister to have the fullest inquiry made into individual cases, and also to call the chiefs of the Department together and give them a lecture, telling them particularly to deal with appeals a little more readily than they are doing at present. When a man- lodges an appeal against the amount of money paid to him the matter should be finalized within a fortnight. I feel sure that instruction from the Assistant Minister to the head of the Department and the doctors to be a little more sympathetic in their dealings with incapacitated soldiers will have a beneficial effect.
– < As I know that there are other members who wish to speak in this debate my remarks will be brief. I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without making it clear to the Minister that I am quite in accord with the protest which has been voiced by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and others who have spoken on this motion. It is astonishing to me that action similar to that which has been taken to-day has been necessary at least three times this session. I am surprised that the Assistant Minister has not been able to do something to, at any rate, modify the grievances that are constantly brought before him. The fact that protests have been made from every part of the House is proof that there are good grounds for complaint. Of course, the Assistant Minister realizes that honorable members are not animated by any desire to attack his administration; they have said that they have found him hardworking and full of sympathy for the soldiers. But the House cannot be satisfied with that: We must have a change quickly, for I am afraid no Government could survive for long attacks such as are being made on the administration of the present Government in respect of soldiers I rose to emphasize two matters in particular. I hold that the question of whether or not a man suffered incapacitation from warlike operations should not be considered when dealing with his claim for a pension. With other honorable members, I say that if, .after a man was passed as medically fit for active service, he became incapacitated either in warlike operations or after his return from abroad> there should be no inquiry as to whether or not the trouble was existent prior to enlistment.
– Unfortunately, the law is not clear on that point.
– Possibly it is not, but the administration could be more sympathetic than it is. If the Assistant Minister agrees with the House generally that once a man has been accepted for war service the Government must shoulder their responsibility in regard to his incapacitation, I need say no more. These cases should be rectified at once, because they are the subject of general complaint, and I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) that no medical man can say definitely, in a large number of cases, whether or not the cause of incapacitation was pre-existent.
Another trouble arises in the determination of persons who may be considered dependent upon a deceased soldier. Other honorable members have mentioned that the claims of mothers of deceased soldiers for pensions have been refused because the soldiers had not been contributing towards the support of their mothers before they went to the war. The cases of these mothers are amongst the hardest of those dealt with by the Department.
– That interpretation was never intended when the Act was passed.
– One honorable member has already effectively argued that a young fellow who was, say, eighteen years of age when he enlisted would probably be earning very little, and his parents might not, at the time, need his help. Even though he was not contributing to the maintenance of his parents then, it is reasonable to suppose that he would be doing so if he were alive now and five or six years older than when he enlisted. The provisions of the Act governing these claims should he administered more generously, and regardless of whether or not the deceased soldier was contributing towards the keep of his mother before he enlisted she should be entitled to a pension if she is in need of it.
In regard to the general question of pensions administration, I admit that I supported, the Bill to place under the control of one Department all activities relating to soldiers. I thought that by this change soldiers’ affairs would be administered more effectively and more economically. However, the responsibility for the change is immaterial; the fact remains that the administration of pensions by the Repatriation Department is not what it should be, and there is no reason why the evils complained of should not be corrected. In the first speech I made in this House I complained that certain soldiers were not receiving the pensions to which they were entitled, whilst other persons who were not entitled to pensions were receiving them. At that time war pensions were administered by the same Department as controlled old-age and invalid pensions, and even in those days we had ground for complaint. Shortly after the publication of that speech I received a letter from the Commissioner of Pensions asking me to cite cases in support of my allegations. I immediately cited the cases of several soldiers and dependants who had been refused pensions to which I considered they were entitled, and I am glad to say that in most cases adjustments were quickly made, and the persons concerned received their dues. The Commissioner then invited me to mention persons who were in receipt of pensions to which they were not entitled. I replied that I was not prepared to do that. I did not consider it my duty to tell the Department of parents who were drawing pensions although they were not in need of such assistance. I remember that one case that I brought before the Commissioner was that of the mother of a deceased soldier; he was eighteen and a half years of age when he went to the Front, and the mother was sixty-five years of age and the father seventy-one years of ac;e. The mother was told by the Department that she was not entitled to a pension because she was not dependent upon her son before he enlisted. As a matter of fact, the parents were assisting the lad to pay for his education, and it was unfair of the Department to raise the question of dependence. That was realized ultimately, and the mother received her pension. I hope that this is the last occasion upon which the House will require to take action to expose the administration of soldiers’ pensions. I do not often make threats, because I realize that a threat must be carried out if the maker of it is to be respected. But I repeat that no Government can long withstand criticism such as has been hurled against the present Ministry on several occasions in regard to the administration of the Repatriation Department.
– I have been requested by the Repatriation Committee at “Wagga to bring before the House an extraordinarily hard case. Having regard to the seriousness of this complaint, and in order that I may have more chance of having it dealt with effectively, I shall forgo the remarks I intended to make on other ‘subjects and concentrate wholly upon it. Briefly, the facts are. these: The woman concerned was living with her family of three or four children, the youngest of whom was a little girl aged about one year and ten months. This woman deserted her husband and family in the most callous fashion for another man, and when the war broke out two of her sons enlisted. One of them was killed at the Front, and after his death a question arose in regard to the allotment of his war gratuity. The woman applied for the payment of- the gratuity to herself. The Repatriation League at “Wagga took a very active part in endeavouring to secure its payment to the little girl, who was living upon the charity of a woman in the neighbourhood. The child’s father had died in the meantime, so that she was practically an orphan, without any means of support. This matter was put before the Board, whose lack of sympathy I am wholly at a loss to understand, because when it was called upon to decide between the woman who had cruelly deserted this little girl and the child herself, it decided in favour of the former. In opposition to all common, sense and to all the dictates of humanity, it gave thewar gratuity to the mother.
– I hope that the honorable member is not suggesting that the Repatriation Commission is in any way responsible for that?
– I have had the case before the Minister previously, and that is why I am referring to it now. The Wagga branch of the Repatriation Committee wrote me as follows: -
Herewith Ihand you copies of correspondence whichhas passed in connexion with the application of-
I will not mention the girl’s name but will supply it privately to the Minister - for the war gratuity.
The letter then details the circumstances of the case, and proceeds -
In spite of the circumstances of the desertion of her child by the mother of this exsoldier, leaving the little girl dependent upon the charity of neighbours, the War Gratuities Board have decided that the payment of the gratuityshallbemadetothegirl’smother.
IntheopinionofmyCommittee,itisadis- graceunequalledtomakethispaymenttothe mother,andleavethelittlegirlstilldepen- dentuponthecharityofaneigbour.Ishall begladifyouwillbringthematterforward.
I did as I was requested, and the last reply which I received reads -
Your favour of the 1st inst., advising that nothing can be. done in connexion with this girl’s application for the war gratuity in respect of her deceased brother, as her mother has already been paid the gratuity, is to hand. This information having been communicated to my Committee, I was requested to thank you for the assistance you gave in the matter, and to ask that you take an early opportunity of ventilating in the House this outrageous action on the part of those responsible for the distribution of the gratuity.
I sympathize with the Minister for Repatriation, because he is surrounded by about the worst staff that he could get.
– I will not admit that.
– I am speaking, not merely from my own experience, because it has been pointed out by others that it wouldbe impossible for any Minister to conduct his Department satisfactorily while ‘he is surrounded by persons who do not seem to be possessed of that human sympathy which is so essential an element in. matters of this character.
– I do not wish to interrupt the honorable member; but, although the circumstances of the case to which he has referred are very hard, may I ask him this question, ‘ ‘ When is a mother not a mother “ ?
An Honorable Member. - When she deserts her children.
– She is always the soldier’s mother and his next-of-kin. Even though she may have deserted her husband and child, legally she is always the mother of her deceased son, and his next-of-kin.
– Of course, from the legal point of view, I admit that. But if the law is so absolutely opposed to common sense, why continue to observe it! It is no answer for the Assistant Minister for Repatriation to tell me that the law is so-and-so. If the law is wrong, obviously it is our duty to amend it.
– The case quoted is a hard one, but the law is as I have stated.
– Under the Act, has the Minister no discretion in a case of that kind?
– No. The law applies to the next-of-kin.
– But in this case for all practical purposes, the next-of-kin is non-existent. This woman deserted her little child as if it did not belong to her. Yet we are told that we must abide by the law. In such circumstances, I say that the law is an ass, or something worse.
– The honorable member was a member of this Chamber when the . War Gratuity Act was framed, and he should have seen to the matter then.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) was not a member of this House’ at the time of which he speaks, and therefore I can forgive his statement, because he does not know what happened then. Upon that occasion, I submitted an amendment to the effect that the administration of war pensions should be allowed to remain with the Department then administering them. Had that amendment been carried, none of this trouble, on which the motion for adjournment has been moved to-day, would have arisen. Our war pensions were taken out of the hands of a sympathetic body and handed over to officers who are dealing with the claimants for those pensions most unsympathetically.
– Nobody anticipated that a case would arise such as that which the honorable member has related this afternoon.
– That mother had no rights whatever.
– Is there not such a word in the Ministerial vocabulary as “discretion?”
– Of course there is. If I occupied the position of the Minister, I would not have hesitated to take this matter into my own hands, and to prevent the war gratuity’ being paid to a woman who had no earthly right to it.
– Parliament deliberately took thatpower out of the hands ofthe Minister.
– It did nothing of the kind. If. it did, the majority of which the honorable member forms a part is responsible. I believe that the Minister has power to redress this grievance. If the Assistant Minister will take a matter of this kind into his own hands, with a view todoing this girljustice, I am quite satisfied that his action will receive the support both of this House and of the country.
Mr.FOLEY (Kalgoorlie) [4.51].- In reply to the, honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I would point out that when the War Gratuity Act was under consideration this Parliament included in it a definition of the word “mother.” It also provided in the most definite manner possible, that even if a man who had deserted his wife and family for years, lost upon active service a son whom he had perhaps scarcely ever seen, the Department must not acknowledge any claim to the gratuity on the part of the deceased’s mother unless she first produced a properly signed waiver of his claim by the husband.
– That is not so.
– It is, and this Parliament must accept its responsibility for that position.
Mr.Charlton. - If the position is as the honorable member says it is, the sooner Parliament . rectifies it the better.
– There are many eases of that kind. I have dealt with dozens of them.
– But finally, I think, the payment of the gratuity was left to the discretion of the Minister.
– No. I admit,.however, that the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Navy possess discretionary powers in regard to the settlement of the “ other allowances “ which are mentioned in the motion of the honorable member for Hunter. As a consequence, little or no trouble has been experienced in connexionwith those allowances. In Western Australia there has scarcely been a complaint in regard to them. When this motion was launched by the honorable member for Hunter, he referred in a very gentlemanly way to the many persons who during the progress of the war had waved flags, and who generally indulged in a perfect frenzy of patriotism. He. spoke also of the promises which were made to the men who enlisted. In Western Australia I took a prominent part in a recruiting compaign, and I frankly admit that from almost every platform I told the people that the best which we could give them was not too good for. those’ who volunteered. I still hold that opinion. But there isno party in this House which has a monopoly of that view. There are just as loyal men on one side as on the other. I can only speak for my own State, but I am bound to say that the people of Western Australia, not only talked patriotically, but worked patriotically, with the result that they contributed £1,750,000- more than £3 10s. per head of the total population - to assist our returned soldiers. Until the Repatriation Commission took over the administration of pensions every case which came up for review, after an application had been refused, was passed on to me for investigation. I am not prepared to say that those who are administering pensions today are hard-hearted. Neither can I say that the medical officers with whom I have come into contact are at all callous.
As for these complaints regarding pensions, they are, after all, comparatively few:
-There are hundreds, and probably thousands, in New South Wales. The honorable member cannot speak fox that State.
– If the honorable member were to divide the total number of complainantsinto the grand total of those who enlisted from New South Wales he would see that the proportion is, as I have just said, very small.
– There are many who are suffering injustice who do not write to members of Parliament.
– No doubt; and, with respect to a great many cases, I am sorry that political influence has been brought to bear. It isnot fair that one member of Parliament, who may have a strong political “pull,” should be able to show that he can get things done, while others equally active in the interests of their constituents, and equally sympathetic towards returned men, cannot secure similar results. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) remarked) with respect to review and investigation of cases of complaint, that they ought all to be settled within a fortnight. I assure him that that couldnot be done, since inquiries, one way or another, often take much longer.Irecall an instance to show that particulars ofcases, as they are made public in pursuance of a policy of criticising the pensions administration, will not always stand investigation. The circumstances of a certain family w’eTe taken up prominently by the press in my State, under such headings as, “ Scandalous treatment of a soldier.” It was my task to make inquiries, and I found that the family was getting £6 2s. 6d. from governmental sources. Yet, before leaving for the war, the head of that family had never earned so much per week. Every case has to be dealt with on its own peculiar merits. In my opinion, there should be a committee of review established in each State, or in each district among a number into which everyState should be cut up. The task of such committees should be to investigate every case of complaint. Thus there would be brought about what honorable members desire. The committee’s ‘ should have the right of reference, not only to the Commission, at headquarters, but to the Minister also. That would insure that every person got a fair deal.
– I have only a few words to say in repetition of statements which I have already made about half-a-dozen times in this Chamber, but I wish to preface my remarks by saying that I do not condemn the departmental officials. Their duties are arduous, but they are doing well. Like other people, the Commissioners and members of the Boards are apt to make mistakes.
I have not heard a word to-day concerning one class of dependant who has suffered most heavily of all. I refer to the deserted families of men who are “ A.W.L.” Although I have frequently made known the hard circumstances of these unfortunate wives and children, I can secure no redress. I cannot even get anybody interested. There are probably, hundreds of deserted dependants in Australia. These are not getting pensions of £2 a week. They receive nothing whatever. The heads of their families enlisted and left’ Australia, in many instances chiefly to evade and cast off for ever their family responsibilities. It is my intention to bring forward this complaint time and again, until, perhaps, some redress may be secured. Australia has a responsibility in respect of these deserted people, who, through no fault of their own, have lost their breadwinners, and are getting nothing by way of support from this country,
– I do not propose to make a general statement concerning the pension laws of Australia or traversing the provisions of the Act; but there are one or two matters which require specific reference. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) stated that the responsibility for the administration of the Repatriation Act, and of pension matters generally, was cast upon the Government, and upon the Minister directly concerned. On behalf of the Government, I accept full responsibility for the policy laid down in the Act, and for the establishment by the Government of an administrative Commission. I may interpose here that pensions matters have now reverted to the Minister ‘for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), while it will be my task to continue to administer the War Service Homes branch. . The appointment of the Repatriation Commission was in response to a general demand on thepart of the press, the public, and the soldiers’ organizations, that the whole subject of pensions administration - both in regard to the actual assessment of pensions and to administration generally - should be removed from political control and vested in a Commission. The Government accepted that widely-expressed desire as a matter of policy, and thereto this Parliament assented. Sub-section 1 of section7 of the Repatriation Act states -
For the purposes of this Act there shall be a Repatriation Commission, which shall, subject to the control of the Minister, he charged with the general administration of this Act.
Machinery is provided. First, there is a Central Commission for the assessment of pensions and for general administration. Then there are the State Boards. There is a medical organization, which consists of the principal departmental medical officer assisting the Central Administration, a departmental medical officer assisting each State Board, and an advisory Medical Board assisting the Commission generally.This Board consists of some of the most eminent men in the medical profession, and, when required, the services of the most highly-qualified specialists are called uppn to deal with particular cases.
– And the decisions of these specialists are the deciding factors always.
– Not at all. They are called in to advise, but they have no power of awarding decisions. A pension is assessed after the examination of the complete medical records of a soldier abroad, and at home upon his discharge, and afterwards by personal examination by the departmentalmedical officer. The soldier has the right of appeal to the State Board, and a further right of appeal direct to the Commission, and the latter body has scope of reference to the highest medical authority in the land. I mention these details to show that the Government have provided machinery for the reasonable assessment of pensions, and ‘have fortified themselves and the Commission by power of reference to the best medical advice available. I wish to say here that, during the whole of the war period and since, the Government have been under a deep debt of gratitude to the Australian medical profession.
The gravamen of to-day’s complaints is more against the law, as it stands, than against its administration. I remind honorablemembers of the duties cast upon the Commission.These are very heavy, and they cover a wide range. I have had close association with the three Commissioners for some months, and I can testify that they have earnestly endeavoured to fulfil their obligations to the country and to the soldiers individually, according to the terms in which their tasks are expressed in the Act itself. I call the particular attention of honorable members to the matters which the Commission and the State Boards are called upon to determine. They are set forth in section 25 as follow: -
I listened very attentively to the remarks of honorable members, and endeavoured to got a general idea of the opinions held concerning the administration of the Department which, in their judgment, is defective. In the majority of cases it seems that the whole burden of their effort was to place upon the Commission, the responsibility for refusing to grant pensions tothose with pre-existing complaints.
– That is not so:
– I believe it is. Almost every honorable member who has spoken to the motion has expressed the opinion that if a manwas accepted for active service his fitness hasbeen proved, and he should be entitled to a pension if incapacitated. I find in some instances that there is some justification for such a request, hut honorable members must remember that that is not the law. If there was a pre-existent condition which has been aggravated by war service allowance is made for that aggravation; but a returned soldier is not granted a pension as a right because a pre-existent condition was not observed at the time of his enlistment. That is the chief cause of complaint against the administration. I have noted all the other cases mentioned, and I shall, as I did on a previous occasion when cases were submitted, pass them through the Department, and ask for an early decision.
– There are hundreds of cases that we cannot bring here. If the Minister would allow some one to go through the file it would be of assistance. There are many others that may be more worthy of consideration than those mentioned.
– I do not think I can be charged with inactivity or lack of sympathy in the matter of pensions, because I have endeavoured to domy best in the interests of returned men, even if it involves working through day and night, as I have done for months past. I shall place these complaints before the Commission for the purposes of analysis, and direct that close investigation shall be givento the statements made to-day. I have been pressed in certain directions to agree to some of the requests, but to do so would mean amending our existing legislation. At present there are in existence 222,398 pensions, and to amend the law and alter the incidence of pensions would be a very serious matter, involving heavy financial obligations. I can, however, promise honorable members that every endeavour will be made to continue to sympathetically administer the Act, even if it means Ministerial intervention. At this juncture I cannot promise to introduce amending legislation, but I shall bring the points raised by honorable members before my colleagues with the idea of giving assistance.
Delay to the extent of months is altogether unjustifiable, but it must be remembered that the Department, which is a huge one, is called upon to deal with hundreds of thousands of cases. I shall ask the Commission to see that speedy and sympathetic consideration be given to all claims.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Appointment of ComptrollerGeneral and collectors.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the Minister’s recent promise, will he say when he intends to appoint permanent collectors and a Comptroller-General?
– Steps are being taken to fill the positions mentioned.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce the Public Service Superannuation Bill this session, as promised?
– A Public Service Superannuation Bill has been prepared and has yet to be considered by a sub-committee, of Cabinet, but whether it will be introduced this session depends on circumstances.
Road and Street Construction - Plans of Hostel and Halls
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The replies are:-
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
When will he submit the plans for hostel and halls and other large works at Canberra to the Public Works Committee for inquiry and report?
– The reports upon these subjects have been received from the Advisory Committee, and will be submitted forthwith to Cabinet.
asked the Minister for
Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies are -
Commonwealth and the arrangements made for her maintenance and hospital treatment while in Australia. A further statement will be made next week.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies are -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether widows (other than cleaners) employed in the Commonwealth Service are entitled to the allowance for children paid to married;men and widowers?
– Not under the existing regulations governing- the payment of child endowment. The question of an extension of the provisions of the regulations in re spect of this matter ‘has, however, been under consideration, but a decision will not be given pending settlement of the plaint now before the Public Service Arbitrator in regard to the fixing of a basic wage for the Public Service.
– Yesterday the honorable member for. Brisbane (Mr. Cameron) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation the following question: -
Will ho furnish a statement for the purpose of comparison showing the maximum scales of war pensions payable by Australia, Great Britain, and other- parts of the Empire, as well as by our Allies in the late European war in respect of-
widow of soldier;
widowed mother of deceased soldier;
disabled soldier, his wife, and three children.
I am now in a position to say that the information asked for has been obtained, and is set out in the following statement : -
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 25th May (vide page 8654).
– I desire to draw the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) to the fact thatbuttons from Great Britain are admitted free, although they are being manufactured in the Commonwealth. I do not intend to more an amendment, but I would suggest that buttons, wholly of metal, other than trouser buttons, should be taxed at 30 per cent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent. I feel sure that this matter has been considered by the Minister, and I trust that he will bo agreeable to adopt my suggestion.
– I desire to move two amendments to this item, one of which deals with the question raised by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). The first amendment relates to braids, straw, or grass for hat-making. I move - “ (c) Braids, straw or grass, for hat-mak ing-
If this amendment is agreed to; it will make braids, straw, or grass for hatmaking entirely free, provided that when it is imported it is neither bleached nor dyed. ‘We are not giving any British preference, because this class of work is not conducted in Great Britain, and, consequently, there would be no object in making any distinction.
Mr.Charlton. - What is meant by bleached or dyed?
– It is a process of manufacture. If the braid is plaited, one of two things has to be done before it is made up into hat-shapes. Material has either to be bleached white, or dyed if it is to be used for coloured hats. If it is brought in in its original state, no duty will be charged, because the work of bleaching and dyeing will be done here.
Mr. JAMES PAGE (Maranoa) [5.251. - If the Committee agrees to the amendment which the Minister has moved, can we then go back to consider sub-items a andb?
– No; but I am prepared to withdraw my amendment temporarily if the honorable member has a previous amendment to move. I am not cutting out sub-item a.
-PAGE. - That is so, but the Minister has left out of that sub-item some things which were included in it previously, and I want to know why those things have been taken out. I have no objection to the amendment which the Minister has now moved, but Ithink it should be withdrawn until we hear his reasons’ for taking articles out of sub-item a which were previously included in it.
.- The items omitted from sub-item a, as appearing in the old Tariff, are buckles, clasps, and slides. They are now classified under item 208.
– What for?
– The reason is that the manufacture of these articles as well as the class of articles spoken of by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), was undertaken on a large scale in this country during the war. These articles are now manufactured here in very large numbers, and they have, therefore, been taken out of sub-item a, and have been put in an item under which they will be dutiable.
– I am satisfied so long as I know the reason for what has been done.
– I ask leave to withdraw my amendment temporarily.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I cannot prof ess to have a knowledge of the importation of goods, and I wish that some members of the Committee who possess that knowledge would look into these proposals to know how they affect the trading of the country. Prom information placed at my disposal, and from the attitude of the Minister, I am led to the conclusion that there is almost an absolute disregard of how the Tariff proposals affect the importation of various articles by the public. They are so mixed up in different items as to make the administration of the Tariff very difficult for the Customs Department and for the public, and necessarily, on that account, more expensive for the people generally. It seems to me that throughout this Tariff the Minister has accentuated this difficulty. I know that his desire is to make the Tariff more complete, but it is possible to go too much into detail, and I must say that all the other Tariffs I have read appear to me to have been framed with far greater simplicity than this. I point out, for instance, that if a person imported a knife,, fork, and steel in a single case, it would be found that each of the articles is placed for duty under three different items. That is carrying detail to an absurdity. Most of the articles covered by the items now under consideration are imported for purposes of manufacture, and the Minister desires that they shall be admitted free of duty, but he has transferred some of the items to other items in the Tariff under which they will be dutiable. In the case of small articles of this kind I think that is not justified. I move -
That sub-item a be amended by adding: - “ And on and after 27th May, 1921, buttons for attire not being partly or wholly of gold or silver; cotton featherstich braids; plain braids of one colour; piping; bindings; ferretings; fillettings; statute galoon; edgings for attire; webbings, n.e.i.; tinsel thread; boned beltings; boot laces other than leather; stay laces.”
These articles are required for manufacturing purposes.
– And many of them are not made here.
– I am given to understand that none of them are made here.
– The honorable member overlooks the fact that sub-item a is a free item.
– It is a free item under the British preferential column, but some of the articles included in my amendment are included in sub-item b and are dutiable at 15, 20, and 30 per cent. I do not intend to press my amendment, a.nd I do not raise the question with a view to putting difficulties in the Minister’s way.
– What is the use of moving the amendment if the honorable member does not press it?
– If the honorable member had been much in the chamber recently, he would have seen a hundred reasons for it.
– I do not see the object of moving an amendment unless the honorable member means business.
– I do not intend to press my amendment, because the information given to me may not fit in with the departmental ideas. I am sure that the Minister realizes that I am not trying to embarrass him, or, in this case, to increase or reduce duties. What I am fighting for is the simplification of the Tariff, and that, I believe, will do a great deal of good. It would assist importers in passing their goods through the Customs. There are grave difficulties to-day, and they are increased by the form in which this Tariff is presented. I should like to have my amendment on record, though, if the Minister explains that it cannot be accepted,I shall be prepared later to withdraw it.
.- We have made a number of alterations in classification that have been due to one of two causes. Either we were taking out of the free list certain articles which we considered should be dutiable owing to the fact that their manufacture had been established in this country, such as clasps, slides, buckles, and certain buttons, or they were considered necessary as the result of the experience of the Department in handling certain goods. Necessarily the Department gathers experience in the working of the Tariff.
– Do the alterations tend to simplification, so far as the public are concerned ?
– Certainly ; they are all made to simplify the working of the Tariff.
– There is a difference between simplification of methods of administration and simplification of the duties cast upon the public by the Tariff.
– I think that every simplification of administration tends to simplify the work required of the public. The two things are correlated. I am quite sure, from the many talks I have had with my officers over a number of those things, that when we come down to actual details, it will be found that there is a good and sufficient reason for every alteration made. I do not mean to say that the Department is infallible. We may have made mistakes in some instances.
– I am asking for the inclusion of bootlaces and staylaces, which already, under regulations, the Minister has admitted free under item 404. In one part of the Tariff they are liable to duty, while departmentally the Minister admits them free.
– Bootlaces and staylaces are free under the Tariff now.
– The Minister has put them under item 404.
– There may be a good departmental reason for doing that, but the public know where they are in regard to these matters.
– What I object to is that, after Parliament imposes a duty on an article, the Minister admits it free later by departmental regulation.
– I have already explained that matter over and over again. That principle has run through all our Tariffs. It would be utterly impossible to lay down in the Tariff a duty for everything we import in one form or another.
– Bootlaces and staylaces are very simple things to include in this item.
– They could be included in the item, but there are one hundred and one other things that might also be included. Instead of making the Tariff simpler by adopting the course suggested, we should make it infinitely more difficult. I feel satisfied that in regard to classifications the Committee will be well advised to leave the items as they stand.
– Where anything is left to departmental regulations, as bootlaces and staylaces are now, there is always trouble given to the public.
– I cannot agree with the honorable member, in view of the fact that hundreds of things are dealt with in that way. The trading public understand these matters, and know exactly where they stand.
– The difficulty is that they can be altered from day to day.
– Every alteration is published. If we were to attempt to alter the classifications, as proposed, we should merely create for the public, as well as for the Department, ten times more difficulties than we would remedy.
– Many of the articles in the item under review are required for what has become a very important business in Australia, namely, the manufacture and trimming of ladies’ hats. The Minister has put these goods under an item where they will be dutiable at 15, 20, and 30 per cent., because the manufacture of two or three of them has been started in Australia. I remind him that two or three of these articles are no earthly good for the millinery business.
– The honorable memberis entirely wrong.
– Will the Minister tell me where I am wrong?
– There is nothing in theitem on which we are collecting duty for protectionist purposes. There is no protection to any industry involved in this item at all.
– Then why did the Minister tell the Committee just now that the manufacture of three or four of these articles has been established in the Commonwealth ?
– Those were buckles, clasps, and slides. ‘
– I am talking about articles required for millinery.
– Clasps and slides are not in the item.
– But trimmings and ornaments are. It is not sufficient _ to have three or four people who have begun to make these fancy lines in Australia, because for this particular class of business infinite variety is necessary. If the Minister says that this duty is imposed for purely revenue purposes, that is quite another matter.
.- I desire to press this matter a little further. Under the departmental by-laws the Minister has taken the power to deal with dutiable goods under item 404, under which “ Materials and minor articles as prescribed by departmental bylaws for use in the manufacture of goods within the Commonwealth” are free if imported from Great Britain. .”Nearly all the articles included in my amendment have been so dealt with. Although, this Parliament may place a duty on certain goods, the Minister, by notice in his weekly Tariff circular, can transfer them to the free list. Later on he can, if he thinks fit, transpose them once more to the dutiable list. The question of whether or not an article should come in free should rest, not with the Minister, but with the Parliament itself. The alteration qf the wording of the item in connexion with buttons, i am advised, is merely a simplification. I am told that, at the request of the Chamber of Manufactures and the metal interests, we are to have a proposal for a duty on buttons. I shall deal with that proposal when it comes before us. As to my amendment, I am advised that -
Plain braids of one colour should be free, irrespective of width. Webbings are only used for manufacturing purposes, and are not used for external wear. At present they are included under item 106b, but are delivered free by the Minister as “ minor articles.”
If the Committee decides to put a duty upon them, that duty should remain until the Parliament otherwise determines. If we say they are to be free, they should remain free. It is not for the Minister but for the Parliament to say what shall or shall not be free and what shall or shall not be dutiable.
– If there is a large factory using these “ minor articles “-
– If we start a new industry in the bush, will the Minister take the duty oS the raw material that it requires? Any man who ventures to set up a factory in one of our cities, it seems to me, may get his raw material free of duty, whereas the man in the bush has to pay duty en all that he requires. Is that to be the policy of the Government ? I fail to see why it should be possible for a man who can bring pressure to beaT on the Department or the Minister to get his goods in for manufacturing purposes duty free, while the man who is not prepared to stoop to that sort of thing has to pay duty on all that he requires.
– On a point of order, I submit that the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is not entitled on this item to deal with the general question of departmental by-laws and the powers of the Minister. For nearly ten minutes he has been repeating statements that have already been made by him from time to time in regard to departmental by-laws and the power of the Minister to do certain things. There is no reference in the item to departmental by-laws.
– On the point of order, I submit that the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is entitled to refer to the departmental bylaws, since the Minister claims power under them to transfer items from the dutiable list to item 404 under which materials and minor articles “ as prescribed by departmental by-laws “ are free so far as the British preferential Tariff is concerned.
– The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory^) was quite in order in referring to certain articles having been taken out of this item and placed under another item by virtue of the power conferred on the Minister by certain departmental by-laws.
– Had I been complaining about the action of the Minister in allowing coal cutting machinery to come in free under item 174, I could have understood the objection raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). Coal-cutting machinery was probably dealt with in that way as the result of some of the influences to which I have been taking exception.
– I know nothing about any influence having been brought to bear upon the Minister. The honorable member spoke ju6t now of certain advice he had received. May I ask who is advising him?
– What has that to do with the honorable member 1
– The honorable member inferred just now that I had been using certain influence, and I think I am entitled to ask him who are his advisers.
– Not at all. I want it to be understood that I am not asking for lower duties. I am seeking merely for a simplification of the Tariff. If the information I have received ie correct-
– It is a pity the honorable member’s informant did nob come to us in the first instance and tell us what his trouble was.
– No doubt the matter has been placed before the Department. The Minister cannot be familiar with all the requests which are made to his Department. Tariff alterations are of weekly occurrence. Every week the Tariff circular, giving particulars of alterations, is issued.
– And it has been issued ever since there was a Customs Department.
– When representations are made to the Minister that certain dutiable goods not manufactured in Australia are required for manufacturing purposes -he transposes them either to item 174 or item 404. under which they can come in free.
– Do these weekly circulars deal only with such alterations ?
– Almost wholly. The Minister has made many alterations, acting sometimes, no doubt, on departmental recommendations. It is natural that many alterations should be required, but my contention is that a decision of the Parliament placing any item on the free list or making it dutiable should be varied only by the Parliament. Seeing that nearly every item I have included in my amendment has already been dealt with by the Minister under item 404, I shall certainly press it.
– It seems to me that we have reached a stage in our history when it is considered reprehensible for an honorable member to advocate any cause but that of the manufacturers. There is something radically wrong with the present situation, seeing that we are expected to give every attention to the claims of the manufacturer, and to pay no regard to the protection of the consumer. The man who has to carry the burden is not to be considered. I am in agreement with the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) in regard to the framing of this Tariff. In nearly every item we see a reference to departmental by-laws. It seems to me that in the circumstances it is unnecessary for us to discuss the Tariff. Why not hand over the whole schedule to the Minister and his officials, and let them deal with it as they please ? The honorable member for Dampier is also right in his statement that, the Tariff is altered from week to week without the knowledge of the Parliament. The Minister has power to make alterations. He can put dutiable articles on the free list and vice versa.
– I do not think he has the power to do that.
– He has been doing it.
– And every Minister for Trade and Customs has done exactly the same thing.
– I am finding fault not with the Minister, but with the Parliament for giving the Minister power to make such alterations. What is the use of our passing a Tariff if the Minister or one of his officials may alter it at his own sweet will? As the honorable member for Dampier has said, the man who can bring pressure to bear on the Minister may have articles required by him for manufacturing purposes placed on the free list, while the poor, struggling man in the country who has no influence has to pay a duty on everything. Why were the small lines to which the honorable member has referred taken out of the item under which they fell in the old Tariff? If the Parliament imposes a duty on any article I am convinced that it will he prepared to remit that duty where satisfactory reasons can he shown for doing so. I do not believe in a “ one-man show,” but that is what we are getting under the departmental by-law in regard to this particular item.
– I have tried to follow both honorable members who have spoken, but - I do not know why it is - I cannot get their point. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) has just said that we have no consideration for the consumer.
– Nor have you !
– Every action that we take under item 404 is in the consumer’s interest, and I do not know why the honorable member cannot see it. It is easy for me, after my long experience in Healing with the Tariff, to appreciate how that item works out, but I can quite understand that it is difficult for any one without that experience to grip it in the same way. There are a vast number of articles which come under various classifications, and are dutiable under the Tariff. Item 404 confers a special power which Parliament deliberately placed in the hands of the Minister, and it reads as follows : -
Materials and minor articles,as prescribed by departmental by-laws for use in the manufacture of goods within the Commonwealth. are free under the British and intermediate Tariffs, and dutiable at 10 per cent. under the general Tariff.
– Take the case of coalcutting machines, for example.
– We shall deal with coal-cutting machines when we come to them; they fall under a different item altogether. Inasmuch as Parliament deliberately gave this power to the Minister with the intention that it should be used, surely we are not to go on collecting the duties when the intention of Parliament was that these articles should be free? It would be utterly impossible to enumerate and set these out in detail - as no one can tell what minor articles would be covered ; the matter has to be determined when a case arises. That is done under item 404, and it is done in the consumers’ interest. If we collected the duty on a variety of goods, none of which can be made in Australia, the manufacturer would naturally have to pass it on, and, as I say, the action, when taken, is deliberately in the interests of the consuming public. I cannot see to what the honorable member is objecting.
– But if you put on a heavy duty, I cannot see where the consumer gets an advantage. You are talking of articles required in manufacture, but the duty remains on the articles that are manufactured.
– That is perfectly true.
– The manufacturer ought to have a ‘ ‘ taste of his own medicine. “
– If we wish to give some measure of protection to the manufacturer, all we have to do is to increase the protection so that he may pay the duty on the various articles he has to import.
– Does item 404 mean that the Department may take a duty off one week and restore it the next ?
– The position is that Parliament has included hundreds and hundreds of articles in some of the group items of the Tariff. It would be impossible to enumerate them, and so we have a large group oflines under n.e.i., which very often covers goodness knows what. The object of item 404 is that where articles are dutiable under the Tariff, and the articles are not made in Australia, the duty may be taken off; and if the manufacture of the articles is established, the duty is automatically imposed. There has always been such a provision in our Tariff.
– Shall we get the clauses to that effect in the Bill?
– Yes; and it would be practically impossible to administer the Tariff without some such power, as the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who has been Minister for Customs, knows. We are only doing what other people do; there is nothing new or fresh’ in the proposal, and, so far as I know, no one has ever raised complaint except the honorable member for Dampier.
.- In the case of tubes for bicycles, side-cars, and so forth, the Minister says they can come in free under item 404. I point out, however, that Parliament has said there shall be a duty on such tubes. Where articles have been classified, they should be dutiable in the category in which they are placed in the Tariff - all should be free, or subject to a duty as prescribed by the Tariff.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) agreed to-
That the following words be added: - “ (c) Braids, straw, or grass, for hat-mak ing : - (1) Not bleached or dyed - On and after 27th May, 1921, free. (2) Bleached or dyed - On and after 27th May, 1921, ad val., British, and intermediate, 5 per cent.; general, 10 per cent.”
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That thefollowing words be added: - “ (d) Buttons, wholly of metal other than gold or silver, of the class used externally on uniforms and liveries - On and after 27th May, 1921, ad val., British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.”
.- I am wondering whether the Committee think it necessary to have the slightest information when new proposals are put before us. The Minister has introduced an amendment to impose a duty on certain buttons, but has not given us the slightest information regarding it. Under the circumstances it would be as well for honorable members to know that the Associated Chamber of Manufactures met last week and came to the conclusion that this is a good time to ask for more duties. That chamber has sent out circulars, of which I have been able to obtain copies, suggesting that nearly everything that can be made in Australia ought to be made dutiable in the future. It has sent out word suggesting, in this case, duties of 30 per cent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent., drawing attention to the fact that the great bulk of buttons used for the uniforms in the various public Departments are imported free of duty, whereas they could all be produced in Australia.
– The sheet metal of which ‘they are made carries a duty.
– What is the metal that we need to import into this country, seeing that we have all metals here? Can the honorable member say what metal is imported for this purpose?
– Yes, there is a duty, British 35 per cent.-
– What I object to is the Chamber of Manufactures being able to “run” this Parliament. We have heard nothing from the Minister by way of justification for this proposedduty. It would appear that whatever suggestion is made for highduties is accepted.
.- Surely we ought to have some explanation of an item of this sort. I suppose that the largest users of uniform buttons are the State Governments, in connexion with their railways, tramways, police, and other services. Even according to the statement laid before us by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), these articles can foe made in Australia, if the duty is imposed.
– They are being made here.
– The statement is not that of the honorable member for Dampier, but is made by the Chamber of Manufactures. It is not a statement by theChamber of Commerce, or by importers. We should know why these new items are to be put in. The Committee is entitled to the information which we are now getting by way of interjection from honorable members opposite. The explanation should come from the Minister.
– When I first spoke on this item I gave the whole of the reasons. If honorable members in the Committee were not listening, that is not my fault. I gave the reasons very distinctly. I object to the honorable member saying that I have given the Committee no information.
Question - That the proposed new subitem d be added (Mr. Greene’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Woven materials in the piece or otherwise: - . . . Ribbons and galoons having not more than 48 ribs to the lineal inch, ad val., British, 35 per cent.; intermediate, 40 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.
.- I should like the Minister to agree to a small amendment in this item, by striking out the words “ ribbons and galoons having not more than forty-eight ribs to the lineal inch.” I understand that, as it stands, the item means a lot of trouble in the Customs Department, because, when these ribbons are imported, they have to be specially picked out and counted, and if they have not more than forty-eight ribs to the lineal inch, they are dutiable.
– That is the only way in which evasion of duty can be prevented.
– I really do not care what the duty is. I merely want to have this objection removed if possible. I am advised that the Inter-State Commission (vide appendix to report No. 193) received a request from the Australian Weaving Company for increased duties on galoons only up to 32 ribs to the inch. This was afterwards withdrawn and an amended proposition substituted asking for this increase on certain fancy galoons only. The present proposal set out in this item covers infinitely more ground and is a vexatious interference with the local manufacture of apparel, besides imposing a higher rate of duty on ribbons, otherwise identical with those in item 106b and increasing the difficulties of classification. If the Minister says the amendment will render the item unworkable, I shall not press my request.
– I understand the item has been so worded because that class of galoons is made here, and the object is to protect our own manufacturers. Therefore, the ribbons and galoons mentioned by the honorable member are placed in a class bythemselves.
Item agreed to.
Item 108 -
.- The Inter-State Commission recommended that feathers, undressed, should be admitted free, and that a substantial duty should be imposed upon the finished article, in order to encourage the local treatment of feathers. Would it not be an advantage to carry out their recommendation with a view to fostering Australian industry?
.- There are several persons in Australia who dress locally-produced poultry feathers and down. Then there are also local ostrich feathers which are prepared for use. For this reason we have retained the duty, which is not very high, on undressed feathers, and have considerably increased the duty on dressed feathers. The former will protect our own growers of feathers, and the latter will protect the person who imports undressed feathers and dresses them locally. The duty on dressed feathers has been increased by 5 per cent. British and 10 per cent. general.
Item agreed to.
– At the earnest request of the Inter-State Commission I altered the wording of this item as it appeared in the old Tariff.
Mr.Gregory. - It has proved unworkable?
– We were inclined to think it would, but were willing to give it a trial. However, it has proved quite unworkable, and, therefore, I propose to ask the Committee to revert to the original wording. I move -
That the item be amended by adding the following words : - “ and on and after 27th May, 1921, artificial plants, flowers, fruits, leaves, and grains of all kinds and materials, advai., British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent. ; general, 40 per cent.
– Many might be inclined to think that the artificial flowers industry is not worth encouraging, but it is an important source of employment to many persons in Australia. The local makers have great difficulty in getting a footing. They cannot expect the importing houses to help them, and unless they can deal directly with the retailers they are in a very peculiar position. Unfortunately they do not get that assistance which they need from the retail houses. At present large quantities of Swiss artificial flowers are imported, but as Switzerland has never been noted as a country which manufactures these articles, we are of the opinion that they are German flowers. I hope the Minister will consent to increase the general Tariff by another 5 per cent. I have seen women’s hats in milliners’ windows for sale at about £1 10s. each. The straw in one of these hats would be worth about 6s. wholesale, and the artificial flowers on it about 4s. 6d. wholesale, but the price of the article is increased considerably because of the number of hands it has passed through. The wholesale people may possibly pay 1s. per dozen for sprays, but by the time they are fixed in a lady’s hat the price is possibly increased by 300 per cent. The importance of this trade is not generally understood. There is an establishment in my electorate making artificial flowers, and employing about sixty hands but in New South Wales the business is on a much larger scale. I have with me some samples of the flowers produced by local makers. I have brought these samples to show what can be done in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I ask the Minister if he will favorably consider a proposal to increase the general Tariff on artificial flowers by 5 per cent.?
– I have already increased the duty by 10 per cent.
– The duties have been raised to 30 per cent. and 40 per cent. from 25 per cent. and 30 per cent.
– Why not make the rates 60 per cent., 70 per cent., and 80 per cent.?
– We should be doing something civilized if we did that. But as I know that if the Minister will not accept a proposal it is useless to press it, I shall not move an amendment.
.- The Minister has not told us why he has increased these rates from 25 per cent, and 30 per cent. Has he done it by way of acknowledging Australia’s obligations to the Mother Country, or does he wish to prohibit the importation of the finery and flimsies that the working girls and women of this country like to buy? I am surprised that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) should wish. for a still higher rate. Of course, if the Minister says that he needs the revenue, that is another matter.
Amendment agreed to.
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Apparel, articles of, viz.: -
.- The duties set out in sub-item a of item 110 are practically the same as those in the last Tariff. I notice that in one line the words “ Coats, girls’,” are substituted for the words, “ Coats, children’s.” I do not know how a distinction can be drawn between a child’s, a girl’s, and a woman’s coat. But I rose to ask the Minister why there should be a duty of so much per article and an ad valorem duty as well. Would it not be simpler to increase the ad valorem rates, and to get rid of the piece rates?
.- The object of this arrangement, which has been in force for some considerable time, is to protect the local clothing industry from the competition of endoftheseason goods sold at cut prices. It is a protection against dumping.
. -In the previous Tariff corsets were dutiable under item 110a at 10 per cent.
British and 15 per cent, general. Now they fall into item 110b, and are dutiable at 40 per cent.,, 50 per cent., and 55 per cent. To bring them back to the former rates I intend to move to make the duties 10 per cent, and 15 per cent. There has been sent to members a circular in which it is stated that hundreds of persons in Australia, but chiefly in New South “Wales, are employed in the making of corsets, but I am credibly informed that practically no corsets are made in this country, nearly all being imported, mostly from Great Britain.
– A great many are made in my electorate.
– These are what are known in the trade as “ maids’ corsets.” Even for these, all the material used is imported, and I am told that to make proper women’s corsets here it would be necessary to import skilled work-people as well. Therefore, I think that the rates of duty on corsets should not be increased. A duty on corsets is a class duty; it is a duty falling upon women as a class, because all women wear corsets. My lady buys a very expensive article, and other -women buy according to their means, but all use imported corsets. If local manufacturers had made any considerable attempt to produce corsets, I would be prepared to give them all the protection possible, but at present they are not making any progress in this industry, although several attempts at establishing it have been made. The Minister (Mr. Greene), in proposing to give increased protection to the manufacturer, is placing an additional burden on every woman in the country.
.- This discussion confirms me in the opinion that, in the interests of a great many people, there should be representatives of the opposite sex in this Parliament to assist us in the discussion of matters of this kind. I have been informed that, despite all that has been said as to the wonderful opening existing in this country for the establishment of the corsetmaking industry, there are at the present time only 175 people engaged in it, receiving a total wage of £507 per week. I have here a list of the constituents of corsets, and it proves that the whole of the materials for the industry have to be imported. The people who style themselves corset manufacturers have in the past produced only .about 5 per cent, of the corsets required to encircle the graceful forms of our ladies. The bulk of their output is brassieres, a form of bust bodice, and children’s corsets. There are also certain higher-class corsets, made from silk and satin, to which I cannot refer under this item, but I think careful inquiry would disclose that only .a very small percentage of the corsets required by the ladies of Australia is manufactured locally. Can the Minister furnish the Committee with any information to justify the increase of the Tariff from 10 per cent, to 40 per cent. British, and 55 per cent, general?
– Under the old Tariff, the impost of 10 per cent. British and 15 per cent, general was nothing more than a revenue duty.. There was no considerable manufacture of corsets in the Commonwealth. It is quite true that a certain number of expensive corsets were made locally, but the corset most generally worn by ladies was not made in Australia. The Inter-State Commission in its report on corsets said -
The Commission is of opinion that this industry presents greater claims for consideration than some of the industries already enjoying substantial Tariff assistance, and that it is anomalous that it should receive different treatment from that extended to ordinary apparel. Compared with many articles of apparel, it involves a greater amount of labour, and, further, it is of advantage in the boxing, labelling, and printing, which are necessary for marketing the article. There is no reason why the claims of the corset manufacturers should not have equal treatment to that already extended to other manufacturers of apparel
The Commission therefore recommends that item 106 (b) in the 1908-1911 Tariff, namely, Corsets, ad val., 15 per cent, general and 10 per cent, preferential, be omitted from the Tariff, and that corsets be included in item 106 (a), apparel and attire n.e.i., 40 per cent, general and 35 per cent, preferential.
That recommendation has been followed. Anticipating- that this item would be subject to some criticism, I made it my business to acquaint’ myself with the facts concerning the present extent of manufacture in the Commonwealth, and the prospects for the future. During the last twelve months, over 18,000 dozens of ordinary corsets have been manufactured in Australia. I have seen a large number of girls and women engaged in making corsets, and there is no question that the industry is being carried on on commercial lines.
– They are making brassieres as well.
– It is true that one factory in which I saw the actual operation of corset manufacture is owned by a firm which makes brassieres as well, but there are two quite distinct factories. Corset manufacture is carried on very extensively. I know that one large factory is now being established in Sydney in a six-story building, which is to be devoted entirely to the manufacture of corsets, whilst another large firm is making preparations to start manufacture in the Commonwealth. It is indisputable that, although this duty has been in operation for only a short period, the industry is in a fair way to become well established. I have followed the recommendation of the Inter-State Commission, which cannot be accused of having suggested any duties that were notreally warranted. I assure the Committee that the corset-making industry is being established on sound commercial lines, and that within a short space of time the local manufacturer will be able to cater for practically the whole of the Australian trade.
.- In order that the Committee may know exactly what it is voting on, I should like to move -
That all the wordsafter “Apparel” in item 110 (b) be struck out, and the words “ and Attire, corsets,” he inserted in lieu thereof.
I desire to revert to the same arrangement of the item as in the 1914 Tariff. If that is agreed to, I shall then move to alter the duty to 10 per cent. British, 15 per cent. intermediate, and 25 per cent. general. I have taken this action because I wish to ascertain whether it is the desire of the Minister (Mr. Greene) to obtain revenue from this particular item, or whether the duty upon it is intended to be protective in its incidence.From what. I have gathered, the honorable gentleman intends the duty to be protective, as he wishes to promote the manufacture of corsets in Australia.
– Then the amendment of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) will suit the honorable member all right.
– Under the ruling which has been given, to the effect that the insertion of a new item cannot be moved by a private member, will the Minister inform me whether there will be any difficulty in securing the insertion of a new sub-item c ?
– Of course, I do not propose to agree to the amendment suggested, but, provided that the Chairman is willing to accept it, I am quite agreeable to that course being adopted. Sub-item b reads - “Apparel, n.e.i.”
– That is just the point. We wish corsets to be specified.
– That is the honorable member’s amendment.
– If corsets are not specified in the Tariff, they will be classified as n.e.i.
– But we want them specifically mentioned.
– They are already included in sub-item b. The honorable member, I understand, wishes them to be excluded. The only way in which they can be excluded is by specifically mentioning them in the Tariff. Then they will be elsewhere included, and consequently will not fall under sub-item b.
– I . merely desire the assurance of the Minister that no objection will be raised to the insertion of the amendment which has been outlined by the honorable member for Maranoa.
– That is a matter for the Chairman to decide.
Amendment (by Mr. James Page) proposed -
That the following new sub-item be inserted : - “ c. Corsets. On and after 27th May, 1921, ad val., British 10 per cent., intermediate 15 per cent., and general 20 per cent.”
– The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) has stated that corsets are not manufactured in Australia. I do not know why he made that misstatement.
– I did not make any misstatement. They are not locally manufactured.
– The Minister (Mr. Greene) has already informed us that le has visited an establishment in which they are being manufactured upon a large scale. I, too, have seen it. The company engaged in this industry are erecting a large building, which they intend to extend as opportunity offers. The Minister has also stated that other large corset manufacturers propose commencing operations in Australia. ‘ They intend to follow the example of the manufacturers of other commodities overseas, who have intimated their intention to establish businesses within the Commonwealth. I was one of those who thought that this could not be done. I am glad to know that my opinion was not well founded. “We have been told that the proposed duty will be a sex tax. But the duty under the old Tariff was merely a revenue duty, whereas this is a protective duty, which willencourage the manufacture of corsets in our midst. I do not pretend to be a better judge of a corset than is any other honorable member, but I claim to be quite as good a judge. The article which is being locally manufactured is an extraordinarily good one, as anybody conversant with the drapery trade will admit. As a matter of fact, the more expensive style of corsets has been manufactured in Australia for many years. Ladies who could afford to pay £3 3s., £4 4s., or £5 5s. for a superior article have always been able to obtain it. But the present is the first attempt which has been made to manufacture corsets for general female use. The question which we have to determine is whether we desire that Australia shall become a manufacturing country. I am a Protectionist, and I want to see these goods manufactured here upon an increasingly large scale.
.- I think we are now quite satisfied that the object of the Minister (Mr. Greene) in proposing a high duty upon corsets is for protective and not for revenue purposes. But, in my judgment, the duty will merely be a revenueproducing one for many years. It will be a very long time indeed before corsets will be manufactured in Australia to the extent that is necessary to supply local requirements.
– The manufacture of corsets does not involve the use of expenpensive machinery.
– But I would point out that everything required in connexion with their manufacture must be imported.
Mr - In my own electorate, within a short time, certain persons will be making wires for use in corsets.
– That is a very small matter. My point is that most of the materials required in the manufacture of corsets will have to be imported, and imported free of duty. I wish-, also, to stress the fact that the women of Australia will be obliged to pay in the future considerably more for their corsets than they have done ‘hitherto, on account of the duty which it is now proposed to levy upon them. The estimated value of the corsets imported into the Commonwealth during the year ended June, 1919, was £875,000, and the estimated value of the corsets manufactured within the Commonwealth represented only about 3 per cent. of our requirements, or a total value of £26,000. As a local industry, the manufacture of corsets has never been a success.
– It has never been tried until now.
– Oh, yes, it has. But the corsets manufactured in Australia have been made chiefly for abnormal figures, and also in connexion with surgical cases. These must necessarily be made from measurements, and that class of corset has been manufactured locally. But no record has ever been kept of the value represented by these manufactures. The present price of corsets is something like 100 per cent. more than it was before the war. During the year 1919-20, nine months of which was covered by the Tariff of 1914, and the remaining three months by the present Tariff, the duty collected upon corsets amounted to £65,200. That period comprised nine months under the 1914 Tariff and only three under the Tariff of 1920. Had the duty been in force for the full year, the amount collected upon corsets from the United Kingdom would have been £99;166, and from the United States of America and Canada £41,981 - a total of £141,147. Canada and the United States of America, by the way, are about the only sources outside the United Kingdom from which corsets are imported. The total value of French corsets for the same period under review was only £394, and of Belgian corsets £217. Added to the total of £141,000 which I have just mentioned, there is always the 10 per cent. put on by the Customs Department, which involves another £7,000. Then there is to he superimposed the importer’s profits. He adds a further 15 per cent., and in addition there is the retailer’s profit on the amount paid in duty. Honorable members should realizewhat all these increases mean to the women of Australia when paying for their corsets.
– I will undertake to say that the women will get them more cheaply, made here.
– Either the Minister’s eyes have been shut or he is talking nonsense. It will be the same old story as during the war. The local manufacturer, behind this protection, will put up his prices as near as he can to the cost of the imported article. The total amount involved in the importation of corsets for 1920, including the 15 per cent. added to the duty by the importer, is about £170,000. That is the extra gum which Australian women had to pay. It is of no use to say that the industry when started in Australia can immediately supply the demand. It has to be built up gradually. There is the important factor of the hygienic characteristics of the modern corset, and it involves grave consideration to any one undertaking local manufacture. The main reason, I suppose, why so large a proportion of the imported corsets comes from the United States of America is because greater attention is given there to the matter of hygiene. The Industrial Australian of 5 th May remarks, regarding corsets, that “the ever-changing fashions demand the assistance of the artist and the expert to produce a beauty of form and deportment to coincide with the mode of the moment.” This is well put, but the writer should have taken into consideration the vital point of hygiene. Almost every woman in civilized communities wears corsets, and has done so for generations, so that there has evidently been some natural and physical reason for their universal adoption. This being so, it is imperative that the health and comfort of women should be safeguarded by expert and scientific manu facture. It stands to reason that such skilled manufacture can only be obtained at its best by long apprenticeship and acquired dexterity, and that, in evolving new fashionable shapes, the assistance of medical surgery must be invoked for the featuring ‘ of successful and healthful models. In the journal which I have just quoted, it is also stated that one-third of the local output at present - that is, after some years of work in the local factories - is discarded and sold at reduced prices as such. This shows that the Australian corset manufacturers, to gain their experience, have to supply a large number of corsets to the feminine public which cannot, from the very fact of present manufacturing inexperience, conform to hygienic standards, thereby constituting a menace to the healthy motherhood of the community. Women buy the corsets that suit them best, and their own instinct advises them that the corsets which are most comfortable to wear are most suitable to their health in every respect. I repeat that experience is necessary for the manufacture of the type of corset which women ask for to-day.
– How are Australian manufacturers to get that experience if we continue to import?
– I would not object to a duty of 15per cent.
Mr.Gabb. - That would not be enough to influence outside manufacturers to set up here.
– I think it would. I will give honorable members an idea of the increase which has taken place in the retail rates. A certain line of corset was retailed before the war for 5s.11d. That same article was sold retail during the war period, but before the imposition of high duties, at . 9s. 6d. It has been sold, since the high duties were imposed, for 12s. 6d. - an increase of a little more than 100 per cent.
– There has been the same relative increase with respect to almost every commodity.
– But here the increased duty proposed is from 10 to 40 per cent. It is not fair to ask our womenfolk to pay for the experience being gained by a few local manufacturers in the course of their blundering along for a number of years in the effort to turn out a corset of the type fashionably demanded. My desire is to secure the fullest degree of protection for the United Kingdom as against the United States of America. I do not care what duty may be imposed on American imports; but, so far as British corsets are concerned, the duty should be 10 per cent., or, at the highest, 15 per cent.
– The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) knows more about mines and mining than about ladies’ corsets. He has made some remarkable statements which indicate, as a matter of fact, that there is the possibility of a valuable industry being established in Australia. He failed to hit the point at which he aimed when he drew a comparison between the prices of a few years ago and of to-day. This was chiefly due to the fact that the type in fashion nowadays is utterly different. There has been a marked change in the character of this particular manufactured article - a difference which has had to do with hygiene. Apart from that altogether, however, women of to-day are asking generally for a very much superior article. And the very fact that it is a superior class of corset which women want nowadays makes the item as reasonable a one for protection as any other fancy article. I will cite, as an illustration, made-up imported costumes. A few years ago these were imported in huge quantities. However, the local manufacturer was given sufficient protection to establish the industry in Australia on an extensive scale. There is no reason why the same results should not accrue from a reasonable protection in connexion with the manufacture of corsets as have resulted by imposing a duty on costumes and other articles of attire. Encouragement should also be given to the establishment of the industry in Australia, because boxed corsets, being light and bulky, add considerably to the cost. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) said that a sixstoried factory had been erected in New South Wales. No one is likely to establish a six-storied factory in Sydney, where the land values are very high, unless there is a reasonable prospect of success. It must be admitted that a good deal of skill is required in the manufacture of modern corsets, and men who put their capital into costly buildings in Sydney and elsewhere will not be operating long before they will be able to produce an article quite as good as the imported. I admit that the Minister is asking for an extravagant rate, and if it is similar to that charged on costumes I shall support it. I cannot understand why this important industry was not established in Australia before, and I feel quite sure that the Committee will be prepared to give it the protection to which it is entitled.
.- In the South Sydney electorate there is a factory in which nearly £100,000 has been invested, and another is in course of erection, from which, it is said, the proprietors will be able to supply corsets at a cheaper rate than is charged for the imported article. Those engaged in the industry are keen business men, and know that if they do not produce a good article they will be unable to sell it. I may remind the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) that ladies who can afford to purchase the best type of corset do not purchase the imported article, but have them made to order by local manufacturers, whose operatives work under favorable conditions. Probably manufacturers have to import some of the raw material, but that cannot be used as an argument against the establishment of the industry, because when we commenced building we had to import lead, and slates, and other necessaries. When we first undertook the construction of locomotives it was said that they would cost considerably more than if they were imported, and every argument which has been used against the corset industry has been brought forward at different times in connexion with others. It is quite true that the business people of York-street, in Sydney, and Flinders-lane, in Melbourne, are endeavouring to get honorable members to keep the duties as low as possible. What for ? Not to enable them to employ more, but to keep themselves in a nice, comfortable position. The Minister is taking a step in the right direction, and we should endeavour to encourage this and similar industries by imposing a Tariff which is sufficiently protective. Every honorable member was asked on the hustings whether he was a Free Trader or a Protectionist. I said I was a Protectionist, because I wanted to see Australia self-contained, and I am now acting up to that promise. During the past twelve months manufacturers have been building up industries on the understanding that these rates would remain.
– Whose fault is that?
– It is not theirs. These duties have been enforced for the period I have mentioned, and as large sums of money have been invested in buildings, on machinery, and in training staffs, it is unreasonable to suggest that the rates should be reduced by one-half.
– Already there axe seven or eight factories throughout Australia. There are two or three in Sydney, and a similar number in Victoria.
– That may be so, and if additional factories are erected it will mean the employment of thousands of people. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) referred to importations from America and France, but I think it is a slander on the ability of the Australian people to expect them to use imported articles when they can be manufactured in this country.
– I am prepared to support a duty of 30 per cent. against France and America, and 15 per cent. against Great Britain.
-Could we work on that basis ?
– I do not think so. New industries cannot compete with those already established, because they have to incur heavy expenditure in the erection of buildings and purchase of plant, whilst other firms are producing and swamping the market.
– How was it done in New South Wales prior to Federation?
– Since that time the number of factories has increased by 200 or 300 per cent., and Protection has made New South Wales the leading State of the Commonwealth. I trust the Minister (Mr. Greene) will adhere to his decision, and give this industry the protection to which it is entitled. When honorable members were advocating increased duties on bananas and onions I did not offer any objection, because I thought they were necessary to encourage our own industries. If protection is to be given in one direction, why should it not be given in another?
– If any honorable member has made out a good case for lower duties it is the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), although he is in favour of a high Protective Tariff. He has informed us that there is a large factory in his electorate manufacturing these particular articles of ladies’ attire, and that there is another in course of construction. If these industries have continued successfully under the present Tariff, and new factories are being established, why should the rates be increased ? The honorable member has destroyed his own argument.
– The rates in this Tariff have given them protection, and allowed them to proceed with some security.
– These factories were established before the new rates were introduced.
– That is not so.
– They were there before, and, as they are growing like mushrooms, there is no necessity for higher rates.
– I want the existing duties to remain.
– Prior to Federation, what was New South Wales doing under a policy of Free Trade. She was exporting her goods’ to States working under a Protective Tariff. I can remember when the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) was Minister for Trade and Customs, bemoaning the fact that the industries in Victoria were losing all the trade.
– That is not so. I deny that.
– I remember seeing an announcement in a Queensland paper to the effect that boots and other articles were coming into Victoria in large quantities It is amusing to see consideration being shown to the poor manufacturer.
– To the poor importer.
– There is no difference between the poor importer and the fat manufacturer, because if one g’oes to Mosman’s Bay it is difficult to tell whether the palatial residences there are occupied by manufacturers or importers. I have not seen any of the working people in New South Wales living in mansions, cruising inmotor boats, or touring in motor cars. The honorable member for Dampier is fighting a very uphill battle, and is working hard in the interests of the consumers in Australia.
– For the importers.
– Well, what is the difference between fighting for the importers and the honorable member fighting for the fat manufacturer? I ask the Committee to permit me to amend my amendment by making the duties, British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent. ; and general Tariff, 30 per cent.
– The honorable member is slipping again.
– I am not.I believe that half’ a loaf is better than no bread ; and I think I know what the temper of the Committee is concerning this item. I want to have the duties reduced if at all possible.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. James Page’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Woes . . . . . . 25
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Item agreed to.
Item 111 (Articles of natural or imitation hair).
– As a further amendment of item 110, I move -
That sub-item bbe amended by adding the following: - “and on and after 27th May, British,. 35 per cent.; intermediate, 45 per cent.; general, 50 per cent.”
As I have already said, these goods are imported in boxes to maintain their condition. This means bulky cargo and costly freights, and, therefore, the protection I now suggest should be quite ample.
– Item 111 is now before the Committee.
– I rise to a point of order. I should like to know whether item 110 has been put to the Committee. There was an amendment moved to a sub-item, but I have not yet heard the item put as a whole.
– It was put whilst members were crossing the chamber after the division.
– I take leave to deny that. While honorable members were crossing the chamber the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) was on his feet, and moved an amendment. I want to know what he is moving his amendment to. It would be quite irrelevant to item 111, which has been called by the Chair,
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I presume that the honorable member’s amendment refers to item 110; but I remind honorable members that the Committee passed sub-item a of 110, and then sub-item b. There was then an amendment moved by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), and that was defeated. The consequence was that both sub-items of item 110 were passed, and there was no need to put the item as a whole.
– On the point of order, I wish to say that the honorable member for Maranoa moved that there should be certain duties imposed on corsets, under a new sub-item 110c. His amendment was rejected, and I take it that it is quite competent now for me to move that the duties be higher than those proposed by the honorable member for Maranoa, while they are still lower than the duties proposed by the Minister.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It was quite competent for the honorable member to have done that if he had done it in time.
– I did it immediately after the announcement of the result of the division, and before honorable members had crossed the chamber to resume their seats.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.:I admit that I called item 111 before the honorable member for Wakefield rose, and I therefore thought he was speaking to that item.
– Before honorable members crossed the chamber you, sir. gave me the call, and I moved an amendment for higher duties than those proposed by the honorable member for Maranoa.
– After announcing item 111 I called on the honorable member for Wakefield, and I thought he was speaking to that item.
– No. I wanted to move for higher duties than those proposed by the honorable member for Maranoa.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I am prepared to accept the honorable member’s amendment if it is the wish of the Committee that I should do so.
– On the point of order, the Chairman distinctly put 110a and then 110b. At the request of the honorable member for Maranoa, he again put the question to the Committee, and thehonorable member subsequently moved an additional sub-item o after 110b had been passed. Since the proposed subitem 110c has been defeated,. I take it that the whole of item 110 has been dealt with.
– I contend that the whole item has not yet been dealt with. I admit that when the Chairman called item 110 there was a discussion as to whether it should be put as a whole, and the Minister rose and said he had no objection to the sub-items being put separately if the Chairman did not object to that course. The Chairman had no objection, and sub-item 110a was put. Discussion arose upon it, and it was carried. Then sub-item b was put.
– What is the honorable member arguing for? I understand that the Chairman has decided to grant the privilege asked for.
– With all due deference to the right honorable gentleman, I have risen to a point of order, and, having done so, I am at liberty to discuss it under the .Standing Orders of any Parliament in Australia. I am going to discuss it irrespective of the advice of my right honorable friend. Sub-item b was put to the Committee, and then an amendment was moved as sub-item c by the honorable member for Maranoa. That amendment was defeated, but the whole item was not then passed. It was open to further amendment, and another amendment was moved by the honorable member for Wakefield before honorable members had resumed their seats after the division. In the circumstances, I contend that the whole item 110 has not yet been carried.
– The reason why the item was not put as a whole after the sub-items had been separately discussed was that no amendment had been made. It was unnecessary to put the item as a whole, a3 each part of it had already been passed.
Item agreed to.
Item 112 (Furs and other skins, and articles made thereof) agreed to.
Item 113 (Gloves).
.- Will the Minister (Mr. Greene) explain why harvesting, driving, housemaids’, and gardening gloves are dutiable at a much higher rate than are the better class of gloves ? There may be some reason for this differentiation, but it seems to me that the duty on gloves used in connexion with arduous labour should be lower than that on gloves that are really a luxury.
.- The reason why a higher rate of duty is imposed on harvesting, driving, housemaids’, and gardening gloves is that gloves of that class are made here, whereas kid gloves are not manufactured in Australia. ..
Item agreed to.
Item 114 -
Hats, caps, and bonnets -
Fur felt hats, in any stage of manufacture, per dozen, or ad val., British, 24s., or 35 per cent.; intermediate, 30s., or 40 per cent. ; general, 38s., or 45 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.’
Hats and bonnets of all descriptions and materials, n.e.i, including forms, pull-over hoods weighing not more than1¼ ozs. each, shapes, and frames, n.e.i., ad val., British, 30 per cent. ; intermediate, 40 per cent. ; general, 45 per cent.
.- The British preferential Tariff in respect of sub-item b, which deals with wool felt hats in any stage of manufacture, has been increased from 12s. per dozen, or ad valorem, 30 per cent. under the 1908-11 Tariff to 15s. per dozen or ad valorem, 35 per cent.I should like the Minister (Mr. Greene) to consider whether it would not be possible to revert to the 1908-11 Tariff so far as imports from Great Britain are concerned, while imposing, if necessary, a higher duty under the general Tariff. The hat industry has been carried on here for many years, and although I have not been able to obtain any statistics in regard to it, I understand that it is on a remarkably sound basis. I am told that the Denton Hat Mills have done exceedingly well.
– They make very good hats.
– Yes; and I believe they have taken full advantage of the market. My observations will apply also to sub-items c and d, which deal with furfelt hats and caps and sewn hats. Having regard to the time during which the industry has enjoyed a substantial measure of protection, I think it should be able to stand under the old rates. It has not been shown that there is any necessity for these increased duties, and I can see no justification for an increase.
.- The honorable member will find that I have not raised the duties fixed under the Tariff qf 1914. The reason is that in the interim local hat manufacturers have been able pretty well to cope with the whole of our trade. That being so, I thought it desirable that they should be left in that position.
Mr.RichardFoster. - The trouble is that there is too much of a close corporation so far as this industry is concerned. We want a little more competition.
– There is considerable local competition. Before the war we were importing something like £250,000 worth of fur, wool, and felt hats annually. During the war local manufacturers were able, and have been able since then, to take care of the greater part of that trade. The only class now being imported to any extent is the better make of fur hats of very high value. Even that branch of the trade is being catered for by a new factory which has been established quite recently in the electorate of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Biley). I believe that factory is now turning out practically as good a hat as is produced in any other part of the world. Inthe circumstances, I think it desirable to allow the duty under the 1914 Tariff to stand, at all events, for some little time to come.
.- I desire to support the proposal of the Minister (Mr. Greene). So far as I can see, the manufacture of felt and other hats in Australia is in very much the same position as the wool industry. I had occasion, not long ago, to purchase a new felt hat, and on making inquiries discovered that for imported felt hats preposterously high prices were asked.
– They cost almost as much as a suit of clothes.
– Yes. When I asked the shopkeeper for a Denton hat, he produced one, and although it was only about one-third of the price asked for the imported article, it was, in my opinion, quite as good. I have no shares in any hat factory, but I take this opportunity of saying a good word for our Australian hat manufacturers.
– I propose to move an amendment in sub-item e. The British preferential duty on hats dealt with in that sub-item has been reduced, owing to a purely clerical error. I therefore move -
That after the words “30 per cent.” (British), sub-item e, the following words be inserted: - “and on and after 27th May, 1921, 35 per cent.”
That is the rate which applies right through the item. The appearance of the words “ thirty per cent.” in the schedule was due to a purely clerical error in copying the Tariff from one hook to another.
– I should like to ask the Minister (Mr. Greene) whether he has given any consideration to the desirableness of improving the position of that branch of the industry which is making straw hats, and all forms of plaited hats or bonnets. Many persons in Australia have been engaged in all forms of straw hat manufacture. Competition from abroad is now becoming very keen, and those interested in the local trade have only lately discovered the peculiar position in which they# are placed. They approached me some little time ago with regard to the matter, but were rather late in putting it before the Department. If we can produce information showing the necessity for increased protection in respect of this branch of the trade before the Tariff goes to the Senate, will the honorable gentleman give us an opportunity to put that information before the Committee ?
.- The matter to which the honorable member (Mr. Mathews) has referred has recently been brought under my notice, but I have not had time to look into it. If, as the result of further investigation, we find it necessary to recommit the item in order to deal with the question, we shall certainly do so. I may remind the honorable member that quite lately we have taken action to assist that branch of the industry- which he has in mind. For instance, only to-night we have placed on the free list the straw braid which straw hat-makers use. We have also taken other action in the same direction in connexion with several items to assist the tra..! e. I am not. sure whether it is possible to do what the manufacturers are asking in regard to hoods, which are included in the sub-item, but if we find it necessary to bring the matter up again later on we shall do so.
– This is about the hottest proposition we have yet struck; but I have been expecting some of our prohibitionist friends to ask for a still further duty to assist this “ struggling “ industry. If honorable members had studied the item carefully^
I do not think they would be prepared to let it pass without a “ squeak.” The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has showed great concern for the wool felt hat-making industry, and has expressed the opinion that the Government are rightly protecting that branch of the trade. Has he nothing to say in regard to the duty on fur hats? We have in this Parliament honorable members who are never tired of attending big loyalty meetings in the Town Hall or Empire Day celebrations, and saying, most fervently, “God bless the Empire.” With a sob in their voices, they talk of the wonderful Empire of which we form a part, and refer with particular pride to that dear old Free Trade country, England. But when it comes to showing some practical preference towards the “ dear old Mother Country,” it is represented by a duty of 24s. per dozen on hats. I do not care how much the duties are raised against the foreigner. The hat mills here, particularly the Denton Mills, are paying exorbitant dividends, and yet we find high duties imposed in their favour from Tariff to Tariff. This duty against British hats amounts to prohibition. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) was only stating the truth when he told! us that when he went into a shop he was shown imported hats for which exorbitant prices were asked. I have been offered an imported hat, for which the price quoted was £4 10s. I should want a suit of clothes for that price.
– -There was no duty in that case to justify the price.
– I know that; the price is put up by either the importer or the retailer.
– It is exorbitant rapacity.
– If we are going to give British preference in more than name, the duty ought to be reduced
– Does the Minister propose to increase the duty on British-made hats ?
– The duty is exactly the same as in the last Tariff.
– I have increased the British preference.
– However that may be, I am going to test the prohibitionists in order to see whether they mean what they say.
– The Minister will first have to withdraw the amendment before the Committee.
– Perhaps the. Minister will temporarily withdraw his amendment ?
– “Very well; I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. James Page) proposed -
That the following words be inserted after sub-item c: - “and on and after 27th May, 1021, per dozen, British, 24s.; intermediate, 60s.; general, 80s.; or ad val., British, 35 per Cent.; intermediate, 60 per cent.; general, 80 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
.- I think that the honorable member for Maranoa is perfectly right in what he says. A factory has been established in New South Wales which is producing hats of better quality than those imported, but there is a prejudice against them because they are Australian-made. If we can kill that prejudice by excluding imported hats it is a step in the right direction.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That after the words “ 30 per cent.” (British), sub-item e, the following words be inserted: - “and on and after 27th May, 1921, 35 per cent.”
Item, as amended, agreed to.
Socks and stockings for human attire, viz.: - (a) cotton, ad val:, British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 40 per cent..; general, 45 per cent.
.- This it-em includes cotton hose, and I have noticed that in previous Tariff debates honorable members, no matter what their political faith might be, have many times expressed the opinion that this commodity is rated too high. The argument has been used for years in Australia, as on the present occasion, that these duties are formed for the purpose of building up industries. But when the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) was Minister for Trade and Customs he admitted that no cotton hose was made in.’ Australia. In the 1914 Tariff cotton socks were free under British preference, with a 10 per cent, duty under the general Tariff, but under the present Tariff the British duty is 30 per cent. I am quite with honorable members who desire to see industries established in this country, but if cotton socks are not manufactured here there is no industry to encourage; the consumers have to pay the duty every time, arid these in the present instance are the families of the lesserpaid employees.
– On what basis are the worker’s wages fixed ?
– “Unfortunately, they are fixed on the cost of living, a basis which, if I had my way, would never be used. On the gold-fields of Western Australia recently a wages award was given on the extra cost of living, included in the extra cost being that of the clothing of the children of the workers. The lower-paid men have to clothe their wives and families in cotton hose, for the price of woollen goods is almost prohibitive.
– Does the honorable member not think that it would be much better to devote his attention to increasing wages so that the workers may buy other than, cotton goods, rather- than cheapening the goods, and thus keeping wages down to a cotton-hose level ?
– The honorable member cannot point to one instance in which I have done anything but try to better the conditions of the workers. This industry has never been established in Australia, and any duties imposed will only be a direct impost on those less able to afford it. I move -
That after the words “30 per cent.” (British), sub-item a, the following words be inserted:” And on and after 27th May, 1921, 10 per cent.”
Up to the war period we always heard it said that the lowly-paid men in Great Britain could produce goods much cheaper than we can here, but at the present time there is no great discrepancy between the rates of wages.
– Has the honorable member forgotten, that in the cotton industry wages have only recently dropped 40 per cent. ?
– That is according to an arrangement entered into between the employers and the employed. In any case, that arrangement has been entered into only within a few days, so that if this item had been debated a fortnight ago the argument of the honorable member would not have applied. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) yesterday said that his heart never went out for one moment to the manufacturer, who was his last consideration. In this case the honorable member has no manufacturer to consider, but only the persons who have to pay for cotton hose.
– I shall show you In a moment that you know nothing about the matter.
– I give the honorable member credit for knowing everything that is to be known, but I know that the moment a duty is imposed on these goods we shall have them dumped into Australia by the same people who sent them here before, and the extra price will have to be paid by those least able to afford it. So far as Japanese goods are concerned, we have nothing to fear from them in Australia. They had their chance during the war, and I defy any honorable member to prove to my satisfaction that anything good ever came from Japan. Their productions are the cheapest and shoddiest that have ever come into this country, and, so far as they are concerned, I am content to leave that duty where it is, but I think 30 per cent, on British goods is too much.
.- I hope the Committee will not take serious notice of the statements made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) about the dangers of dumping, because this Tariff has been in operation for about twelve months, and dumping could have been indulged in during the whole of that time. What has been the result of the Tariff ? Is it not a fact that a great number of manufacturers have established important businesses in Australia ? The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) the other day produced some very good samples of stockings and socks which had been manufactured in ‘his division.
– At 12s. a dozen.
– They have not got much beyond the sample stage as yet.
– Those socks and stockings, cotton goods, are much cheaper than the imported article, and the establishment of the factory has prevented importers from putting up the price of socks and stockings against the people of Australia. This firm have their own engineering shops, and have manufactured their own knitting machines and other appliances for the production of these articles.
– They have spent quite £300,000 on plant and buildings.
– That is quite true. They have established their business in perfectly good faith, and in the belief that the Tariff would give them protection. The wholesale price for their socks is 9d. per pair.
– What is the retail price?
– We have no control over the retail price ; but the manufacturers are prepared to supply a cheap article, and, if sufficient inducement offers, they intend to grow their own cotton. If honorable members believe in- encouraging people to go on the land and produce the raw material for our secondary industries, here is a splendid opportunity for them to show their bona fides.
– We can grow cotton as well in Australia as any other country in the world.
– Of course we can; and this firm, an American concern, are treating the employees very well indeed. I have spoken to some of their men, who tell me that they are in the best job they have ever had, the work being light, the wages good, and conditions all that can be desired.
– How many hands are employed?
– I understand that they employ about 400.
– My information is that they employ 100.
– They employed 300 in the first factory.
– I believe that is so. They are about to establish another factory in my division, and so they are extending their business. I do not wish to increase) the price of these articles to the general public, but I say that it would be bad policy for the Committee to agree to any reduction in the items, and thus place this growing industry at the mercy of the importers.
– Whose fault is that? Does the honorable member mean to say that the Government can bring down a Tariff, and throw it on the table, and allow fifteen months to elapse before we have an opportunity to discuss the items?
– These people have established themselves in business here, and it would be a great hardship sow if, by a reduction of the duty, the whole of their business arrangements were dislocated. I hope the Minister (Mr. Greene) will stand by the item, and keep faith with all those firms that have come to this country.
. -I have discovered, in listening to the debate on those items, that apparently the workers of this country are having a fine time in the various industries that have been established, and for which protection is asked in this Tariff.
Mr.Corser. - They are well satisfied.
Mr.CONSIDINE.- If that is so, I want to know what is the cause of all this industrial unrest throughout Australia. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) informed the Committee this evening that the poorer paid workers in his division were obliged to wear cotton stockings, and in order that they should continue to do so he wants, not to improve their working conditions, but to make cotton goods cheaper. I have no desire to do that. I want the standard of living so raised that the workers of Australia will not need to wear cotton socks. I would prefer that they should wear the woollen article. I want to see every worker in this country in a position to wear the very best material that is obtainable.
– And why not, in view of the fact that wool is so cheap?
-I will allow the honorable member himself to answer that conundrum. He and the rest of his party are keen about prohibiting the importation of chaff and every other primary product that they sell, but they want other commodities to be free which they have to buy.
– We want to give the people cheap socks. Apparently the honorable member does not.
Mr,CONSIDINE.- I. do not want cotton socks at all. I wore them once, not because I liked them, and I have no doubt that the workers of Australia only wear cotton goods because they are ex ploited to such an extent that they cannot afford to buy the better class material.
– I have never pulled a poor mouth about the workers of this country. If the people in the honorable member’s division worked, as they do in mine, they would be able to have woollen goods, too.
– If they did in my division what they did in the honorable member’s,, no doubt I would not be here, and so I do not agree with the honorable member’s line of argument in that respect. But I am sure that if he goes back to Kalgoorlie, and tells the workers that he worked overtime in this House in order that they might be enabled to continue to wear cheap cotton socks, it will not contribute much to the success of his future election campaigns. Naturally, he does not want the attention of the workers in his division to be drawn to the fact that he is anxious that their wages shall not be increased to such an extent that they need not be compelled to continue wearing cotton socks, and that he is endeavouring to bring their prices down by a reduction in the Tariff. On the other hand, we hear him talking about dumping. The Protectionist argument is that dumped foreign goods ruin the local manufacturers. The honorable member cannot have it both ways. He complains about the high price of cotton socks and when, by interjection, I asked him how wages were fixed, he confessed they were determined by the cost of living. That has been my contention Tight through this debate on the Tariff, and sothe honorable member’sadmissionproves the soundness of my argument that the worker’s wages are fixed on the cost of the duty-paid articles. Does the honorable member contend that if the cost of living were reduced wages would remain at their present level? As a matter of fact, cotton socks, as one item of expenditure for the working man, would be considered by an ArbitrationCourt or Wages Board in arriving at a costofliving estimate, and to that extent it would influence thefinding. Therefore, does it matter very much to the working class whether we have a Tariff of 100 per cent, or no Tariff at all? The great mass of theworkers at any time only receive what is the averagecost of living.
– The honorable member ought to thank me for haying given him an opportunity to explain his position.
– I thank the honorable member for unwittingly giving me an opportunity of demonstrating to the workers in his division the economic unsoundness of hig own argument.
Mr. MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) [10.14). - A fortnight ago I visited ft factory in New South Wales, and was informed that the company were able to supply 4,000 dozen pairs of socks and stockings in three days. We also have, at Hawthorn, Melbourne, an establishment that can produce 200,000 pairs of cotton socks per annum. These businesses have been started under the new Tariff. I can show two pairs of cotton hose, one manufactured in America, and retailed at. ls., lid., and the other manufactured in Now South Wales at a wholesale price of ls., leaving a margin of lid., or nearly 100 per cent., which ought to be sufficient to cover all wholesale and retail profits. The American article is not as good a hose as the stockings made in Sydney; but the. wholesale, houses of Australia, wittingly or unwittingly, retard the progress of local manufacturers by the exorbitant price they demand for passing on the aiticle to the .public. A .profit of 6d. ought to cover all wholesale and retail profits on an article which is turned out by the factory for ls. I can also produce a pair of stockings made in Victoria. The quality is excellent,, but I cannot quote the price. These samples I have .ought to. convince honorable members that cotton stockings can be made in Australia; I was surprised at the quality of the articles produced’ in the. New South Wales factory. I want’ to point out to tho ‘ladies that the wholesale and retail houses are robbing, thom by the prices th’ey are charging for so-called silk stockings. . Artificial silk -stockings’, made in Sydney,, are sold to the wholesale houses for fs. 6d. per pair; but I saw the same stockings’ marked at the retail prices of 82s., 6d. and 2ns. a .pair in Sydney. While we. insist’ on ‘ the manufacture of these articles in Australia, we ought also to.be given power to deal with those who make undue profits out of the consumers.’
House adjourned at 10.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 May 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210526_reps_8_95/>.