8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to he informed by the Treasurer if it is his intention to introduce the Public Service Superannuation Bill at an early date, in order to pass it into law this session?
– It is hoped that the Superannuation Bill will be introduced very shortly.
– Is it the intention of the Government to introduce legislation to enable the rates of pensions paid to limbloss and maimed soldiers to be altered, and, if so, when will such legislation be introduced?
– The Government has a Bill in preparation which it is hoped will be ready for presentation to the House in a few days.
– (Will the Government favorably consider a proposal for the erection of a memorial to the late Henry Lawson, the Australian poet, and for the . granting of a gratuity to his widow!
– The honorable member can hardly expect me to commit the Government to these proposals on the spur of the moment, but Ministers will consider the matter. The Commonwealth Government accorded a public funeral to the remains of Henry Lawson, Ministers being of the opinion that he was a typical Australian poet to whom this country owes very much.
– In view of the early assembling of the International Labour Congress, has the Prime Minister made arrangements for the official representation of Labour at the Congress, and, if not, will he immediately do so, in order that a satisfactory selection may be made by the Labour organizations?
– Where is the Congress to meet? ‘
– I understand that the holding of the Congress is associated with the Conferences held in connexion with the League of Nations, but I do not know whether a place has yet been selected for the next meeting.
– I shall look through the files, and ascertain when and where the next Conference is to be held. The
Government has always afforded opportunities to organized labour in this country to be represented at these meetings, and it is to be regretted that those opportunities have never- been used. Tomorrow, or on the first available occasion, I shall reply more fully to the honorable member, and my reply will inform the public when the next Conference is to be held, and what number of delegates Australia is entitled to send to it. Organized labour will then be able to mate its own arrangements.
– The South Australian Government is introducing legislation to repeal the industrial laws of the State, and the unionists of the State will, therefore, be deprived of the opportunity to have their industrial disputes settled in the State Courts. It is rumoured, too, that the Commonwealth Government intends to follow up the action of the State Government by introducing a measure to repeal the Commonwealth Arbitration Act, which, if passed, will deprive the South Australian unionists, and all others who are now in a position to do so, from taking advantage of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I ask the Prime Minister if it is the intention of the Government to move for the repeal of the Commonwealth Arbitration Act?
– The question opens a very wide field, and I can reply to it only in a general way, though, in doing so, I hope to make the industrial policy of the : Government perfectly clear to the people of this country. This Government is most emphatically in favour of the settlement of industrial disputes by legal tribunals; it does not believe in the abolition of legal machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes. But, as I have said many times, the Ministers and, I think, most persons in the community, are dissatisfied with the Arbitration Act as it stands, and, personally, I prefer industrial tribunals to an Arbitration Court. The opinions of the workers are divided. Representatives of organized bodies of workers from all parts of the continent saw me on the subject not long ago, and the balance of the opinion then given was in favour of in dustrial tribunals as against Courts. My answer to the honorable member’s question is that we are not in favour of taking away the means of settling industrial disputes by law. We stand for the legal settlement of disputes, but we shall make whatever modifications are necessary in the present law. We are . not in favour of abolishing arbitration, or the settlement of industrial disputes by legal means.
– There is on the business-paper a notice of motion in my name which is placed as low as it could be placed, notwithstanding that it reflects seriously on the competency, ability, and integrity of a Justice of the High Court, namely, the President of the Arbitration Court. I gave notice of that motion two weeks ago. I ask if the Government will give the House an opportunity to discuss Mr. Justice Powers’ award in the case of the Australian Workers Union versus the Pastoralists’ Federal Council and others?
– -If the honorable member’s notice of motion - which I have not looked into closely - reflects seriously on a High Court Judge, as he says it does, it is an improper notice of motion, and should not be on the business-paper.
– The honorable member should read it.
– Although the AttorneyGeneral has not read it, he says it “should not be on the notice-paper.
– I have accepted the description of the notice of motion given by the honorable member for Darling, who says that it reflects seriously on the integrity of a Justice of the High Court. A remark like that has no right to be made in this House.
– The motion itself does not do what the honorable member for Darling says it does.
– In the circumstances, I think the honorable member’s motion finds its proper place where it appears on the notice-paper.
– ‘Apparently the Government are determined to shield one of the most extraordinary decisions given in an Arbitration Court, by a man-
– Order! Before the honorable member can make a statement be must ask leave, and this he has not done. In reference to his remark that there is a notice of motion on the business-paper reflecting seriously upon a Justice of the High Court, I think that honorable members who read the motion referred to will see nothing in it which contains a serious reflection, no matter what may have been in the mind of the honorable member who gave notice of it. In any case, it does not appear on the businesspaper in the original form in which it was submitted.
Honorable MEMBERS - Hear, hear !
– In view of the statement that the Government are not prepared to allow discussion on my motion with regard to Mr. Justice Powers, I desire to withdraw it, and I now desire to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The award given by Mr. Justice Powers in the case of the Australian Workers Union versus The Austraiian Pastoral Federal Council and Others.”
– The honorable member is not in order in proceeding to dis* CUSS a matter the subject of a notice of motion on the business-paper. His motion cannot be removed until, after to-day. Consequently, it still remains upon the business-paper.
– Apparently the Government are determined to shield a very questionable Judge, and one who is just about as dishonorable as the Government axe themselves.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that on account of the increase in the rabbit pest in New South Wales, particularly in the north-western portion of the State, financial institutions are unable to advance money upon holdings unless they are wire netted, and will he give assistance to the State Government, if they require it, to enable them to finance these land-holders upon extended terms of payment, so that they may purchase wire netting? I may ex plain that it only came under my notice during the past week that this condition of affairs existed. The representative of a big financial institution told me that he would be obliged to refuse to recommend any further advances for the purchase of stock for ‘holdings which were not wire netted, and as I think that the State Government would appreciate assistance that would enable them to finance a scheme for assisting land-holders to enclose their holdings with wire netting, I would like to see the Federal Government render whatever assistance it can, so that ample supplies of netting may be made available to enable the holdings to be saved.
– The question submitted by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) covers a very wide field. I quite appreciate the gravity of the position, and realize the attitude taken up by the financial institutions who, of course, requiring security for their further advances, find, to put it plainly, that it is being eaten away by rabbits. But when the honorable member asks whether the Federal Government would be prepared to advance money upon easy terms of repayment in co-operation with the State. Government he asks us to do something which is without precedent in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Government will be very pleased to expedite the passage through this House of that portion of the Treasurer’s Budget which proposes to remove the duty on wire netting, which would certainly help very considerably. Perhaps my colleague will take a note of the matter, and make an effort to put through that portion of his Budget at the earliest possible moment. As for the other part of the honorable member’s question, without committing myself or the Government in any way, I shall be prepared to consider any proposal which the State Government desires to make upon the matter.
HIGH-POWER Station - Seventh DIRECTOR
– On 26th July last I asked the Prime Minister a question in regard to the erection of a high-power station on the other side of the world, and he said that he would have inquiries made as to the question of tenders and let me know at a later time. I recall his mind to my question, and ask whether he has the information available, now that he has been appointed the seventh director of Amalgamated Wireless Limited ?
– I shall make a note of the matter, and see what details can be obtained.
– I desire to congratulate the Prime Minister upon his appointment as seventh director of Amalgamated Wireless Limited, and at the same time I would like to know whether, in view of his departure for Sydney and the necessary re-adjustment of the Ministry, he will make provision for the restoration of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise) from the position from which he has been so diabolically ejected?
Question not answered.
Cost of Commonwealth Vessels Built in America.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Increase to Limbless and Maimed Soldiers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to each of the honorable member’s questions is “ Yes.”
Acting Deputy Commissioner in New South Wales : Complaints as to Buildings.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Telephone Mechanics :Working Hours - Telephone Calls to and from “Brunswick 360” - Postal Employees: Regulation as to Fraudulent Notes and Coins - Postal Works - Country Telephone Offices - Country Telephone Lines : Reducing Cost of Construction - Telephone Subscribers, Swanpool.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The information is not available in my office. It is the practice of the Department to furnish such information only on the subcriber’s request.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Before any officer is allowed to take up any position involving the acceptance of money on behalf of the Department, the head of the branch, or office, or postmaster concerned, must satisfy himself that such officer is thoroughly acquainted with all the features of genuine Australian notes. The officer should also ‘be instructed to keep a look-out for fraudulent bank notes, consisting of the backs of two split notes pasted together.”
It will be seen that the- instruction is not a new one, but a continuation of what was approved in 1909.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr.FENTON (for Mr. Blakeley) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Did an expedition go to late German New Guinea somewhere about January, . 1921, to report on the prospect of finding oil there?
Was the expedition sent by the AngloPersian Oil Company?
Who was in charge of the expedition?
Has a report been submitted in connexion with such trip?
Did the report deal with the prospects of finding oil in the whole, of late German New Guinea, or only atEitape?
Was the report favorable or otherwise?
Will he lay a copy of the report on the table of the House?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Promotions in Electoral Branch: Views of Public Service Commissioner as to Section 50 of the Act and Regulation 281. - Public Service Arbitrator: Determination No. 13 of 1922.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In view of the undertaking given by the Minister to obtain an expression of opinion from the Public Service Commissioner as to his understanding of section 50 of the Public Service Act and regulation 281 prescribed thereunder, will the Minister ask the Public Service Commissioner to supply direct answers to the following questions: -
Do not section 50 of the Public Service Act and Public Service Regulation No. 281 thereunder clearly contemplate that an officer himself shall be the judge as to whether he is likely to he “ affected “ by a report or recommendation or action taken by the Public Service Commissioner, and that in the event of an officer lodging an appeal there must be no final determination by the former until after he has received the recommendation of the Board of Appeal?
Does not Public Service Regulation 281 impose upon the Commissioner the duty of communicating, either directly or by public advertisement, withofficers likely to be affected by any report or recommendation made or action . taken by him, in order to afford such officers the opportunity of complying with the provisions of Public Service Regulation 281?
If affirmative answers are returned to the two preceding questions, will the Minister ascertain whether the senior officers of the Electoral Branch of the Home and Territories Department who were superseded by the junior officers Messrs. Turner and Ainsworth, of the same branch, had communicated to them directly or by public advertisement the nature of the report or recommendation made by the Commissioner in favour of the said junior officers?
’ If not, why were . such senior officers not so informed?
In view of the fact that the Public Service Commissioner has referred the appeals of some officers to a Board of Appeal, will the Minister ascertain how such officers became possessed of information relating to the Commissioner’s reports or recommendations, and were thus enabled to have their cases referred to a Board of Appeal?
– The Acting Public Service Commissioner will be asked to supply the information desired bv the honorable member.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– These questions relate to the rights of officers of the Public Service. The administration of the Public Service is under the Prime Minister’s Department. I am unable to . supply an answer to the questions.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - : 1, 2, 3, 4. Yes.
Demand for Returns by Queensland Commissioner of Taxes.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether the State Commissioner of Taxesin Queensland is justified in requesting Queensland taxpayers to make a return of war loan investments which have been declared by theCommonwealth to be free of State income tax?
– It is believed that the Commonwealth has no power to countermand a request made for the supply of such information to the Queensland State Commissioner of Taxes. The State cannot, however, tax the interest on these loans, or take the interest into account in determining the rate or amount of tax on income received from other sources.
Visit of Mr. Fisk to England
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether the percentage of arrears of payment on War Service Homes for the Commonwealth, viz., 4 per cent., provides for those unoccupied?
– If a house has not been occupied, there are no. arrears. Where a house, now unoccupied, has been occupied, and arrears have accumulated, they are included.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Land Tax Act 1910-1918, and to repeal the Land Tax Act 1918; the Land Tax Act 1919, and the Land Tax Act 1920.
Motion (by Mr. Greene for. Mr. Hector Lamond), agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the War Service Homes Act 1918-1920.
Motion (by Mr.. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to consolidate and’ amend the law relating to the imposition, assessment,, and collection of a tax upon incomes.
Motion (by . Sir Granville Ryrie)’ agreed to -
That leave be given to. bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the representation of the Northern Territory in the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Rodgers), agreed, to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Customs Act. 1901-1920.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 6th September, vide page 1954):
Postponed clause. 5 -
Provided that -
– I move -
That all words from and including the words “ Provided that “ to and- including the- words “the service of. the member” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words,. “ Provided that the amount payable to any member or employee under this section shall be not less than the equivalent of six months’ pay, and shall not exceed the equivalent of twelve months’ pay plus pay for the unexpired period of the service of the member or employee.” ,
I explained last night the intention of this amendment, and it is not necessary for me to go over the ground again. I think it was made sufficiently clear when the Bill was under discussion previously what the exact affect of the old proviso would be. That proviso is again incorporated in a slightly different form - there is no material change made in the substance of it by the amendment I have just moved.
Mi. SCULLIN (Yarra) [3.1]. - I move - <
That the proposed amendment be amended by leaving out the words, “ twelve months’ pay plus.”
– And what do you put in their place?
– Nothing. The amendment of the Minister (Mr. Greene) would then provide that the maximum amount shall not exceed pay for the unexpired period of the service of the member or the employee. The amendment provides that the minimum shall not be less than six months’ pay, but it also provides that the maximum shall not exceed twelve months’ pay plus pay for the unexpired period of service. This provision is intended for those who are near the retiring age; and I submit my amendment of the amendment because I am of opinion that if those who are nearing the retiring age under the retrenchment policy are given full pay for the unexpired period of their term they are very generously treated without the addition of twelve months’ pay. This Bill is necessitated by the retrenchment and economy policy of the Government, and the object is to compensate men for injury done. I wish to make it quite clear that the compensation provided in the Bill does not include furlough pay accruing. If retrenchment and economy are our objects, and merely to compensate men for injury done, why add twelve months’ pay? Let me remind honorable members of a case I cited when the Bill was previously before us. Tt was the case of a colonel, who is seven months from the age of retirement, and who, under this Bill, will receive as compensation nineteen months’ full pay. Had the services of this colonel been continued he would have drawn £495, but because he is taken to have suffered injury by being retired he is compensated to the extent of £1,345.
– At an earlier stage the Minister contradicted that theory.
– No>, he did not.
– I contradicted the theory that it was possible to pay a man for five, six, or seven years. That cannot be done.
– The Minister did rot contradict the statement that this colonel, with seven months to go, and something like thirty-five years of service, will be given twelve months’ pay plus pay for the unexpired period.
– That is so.
– If a man has one year to go, he can get two years’ pay ?
– Absolutely so.
– It altogether depends., upon the circumstances.
Mr-. SCULLIN.- Providing the man has twenty-four years’ service or more, he will be paid either twenty-four months’ pay for the twenty-four years, or twelve months’ pay plus pay for the unexpired period of service, whichever may be the lesser amount; that is, he will be given double pay for doing nothing. When the Bill was previously before us I asked the Minister whether he could give us some explanation of how such a man as this colonel came to be retired, and he made a most, extraordinary statement in reply When the clause dealing with voluntary retirements was being discussed, I raised the point that all those who were in a position similar to that of this colonel would, under the circumstances, be rushing to retire. To this the Minister replied, “ I assure you it will not be so, because, when this Bill goes through, there will be no men in the Service with less than four years to go.” I said that that was a most amazing explanation, because it meant that the men who had only a short time to go were the men who were being retired, and for many of them we were paying more for retiring them than would be required to keep them at work. I also remarked to the Minister, “ Surely the case I have cited is not the only case of its kind.” To this the Minister replied, “It is practically the only case.” On this I said, “I cannot imagine I have stumbled across the only case,” and the Minister replied, “ There may be one other.” Does the Minister still say that?
– There are two cases of a similar kind.
– I shall pin the Minister down to that statement. For the time I accepted what the Minister said, but I since made it my business to get the ‘Gazette notice referring to 100 officers in all, and I shall give honorable members the result of my investigations, which are not’ yet exhausted. I may say that 1 found fifteen cases, some worse than that of the colonel, and some not so bad.
– There are two cases of a similar kind to that of the colonel.
– We shall see.
– The honorable member does not understand the matter - that is the whole trouble.
– I understand the matter too well for the Minister. Let me give the House a list of some of the men gazetted, the dates for whose retirement I found by reference to the military- officers’ list. I shall attach numbers and not names to the cases, though I am ready to give the names to the Minister, or even to the Committee, if I am challenged. I do not see, however, any purpose in pillorying men who are not responsible for this Bill. Some of the men may have responsibility in this regard, but I do ‘not think all of them have. The following are the cases : -
I have taken a group of ten officers (one colonel, four majors, and five captains), and the aggregate length of time they have to serve is eighty-six months, whilst the total amount of compensation they will receive will be full pay for two hundred and six months. In other words, had those ten men continued in the service until the due date of retirement they would have received in salary, approximately, £4,000; but because they are being retired a few months before the due date they will receive, approximately, £10,000. And that arrangement is proposed under a Bill which is rendered necessary by a policy of retrenchment in the Defence Department! I cannot believe that the Minister framed this clause; I can only conjecture that it was drafted by some of the highly-paid officers who were interested. I can imagine that when they put their heads together there was a jingling of brass hats. At first the Minister said that there was only one case of the kind I have illustrated; then he said there might be one other; to-day he says there are only two similar cases. Is he making a deliberate misstatement, or is he merely juggling with terms? I am prepared to admit that there are only two cases in which the retiring ‘officers had only seven months to serve -before retiring in the ordinary way, but who will receive nineteen months’ pay under this scheme of compensation. But there are four officers who have only two months to serve, and yet who will receive fourteen months’ pay. If the Minister’s contradiction applied to the two cases which were identical in respect of the unexpired term of service it was a mere quibble. The excuse which the Minister offered for this proposal was that in the past it has been the practice to vote a gratuity to officers on their retirement. I investigated that statement, and ascertained that the practice applied only to a specially-favoured few.
– The Minister admitted that it was an act of grace.
– I think it was described as a compassionate allowance; but it was reserved for those high up in the service, and involved a special appropriation by this House for each individual case. The scheme now before us, however, applies to all retiring officers. Recently, when looking up the past history of the sugar question, I found in Hansard a speech in which the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) bitterly attacked the late Mr. Frank Tudor because he had, when Minister for Trade and Customs, issued a regulation providing for the increase of cane-cutters’ wages from 26s. to 36s. per week, and a reduction of their working hours from fifty-six to forty-eight. The term which the Minister applied to that regulation was “ political bribery.” I wonder what language he would find in which to describe the proposals which I have disclosed to the Committee to-day. There is no doubt that this is a policy of generosity reserved for those who have been drawing high salaries. There is no instance of any member of the rank and file getting such, treatment. The Government do not retire a ranker who has two months to go, but men who have been drawing high salaries are being compulsorily retired, and some of them are to receive seven times as much money for doing nothing as they would have received had they continued working. I have heard of a sergeant-major who enlisted, and went to the Front. He rose in the field to the rank of captain, was severely wounded, and, when he returned to the Front, was recommended for his majority shortly’ before the signing of the armistice. On his return to Australia, he reverted to his formerrank of sergeant-major, and if he is retired, his compensation will be on the basis of a sergeant-major’s pay, £250 per annum. I contrast his position with that of an officer who did not go to the war, but rose to the rank of colonel. He is to get nineteen months’ pay for seven months unexpired service. Had he not been retired, he would only have drawn seven months’ pay before retiring automatically. The sergeant-major - and there were many others like him, who were admitted to be the backbone of the Army - will get comparatively nothing. We shall be told that, amongst the fifteen cases I have mentioned, there is payment in consideration of active service. This Bill is not intended to remunerate men for active service.
– We should do so.
– Even if we should, only three of the fifteen I have mentioned were members of the Australian Imperial Force. There is another aspect of this scheme of “ economy.” Twenty-three of the officers , who are being retired have graduated from Duntroon College since the armistice was signed. I do not know what it costs to train cadets at Duntroon, but I have heard an estimate of £1,000 per man per annum for four years. If that be correct, it costs £4,000 to turn out one of these, graduates, and almost immediately after his training is com pleted, he is retired, and given £150 in compensation. Under the original Bill the minimum amount was to have been £200. Yet the Government still continue Duntroon College, and are still educating and turning out more officers when they already have a surplus. That is what they call economy! When honorable members on this side of the House moved to get an extra 2s. 6d. or 5s. per week for the old-age and: invalid pensioners, we were told that there was no money available. When we cite scores of cases of distress amongst the digger’s who fought for us - and I know of a great number of men who, I think, are harshly treated under the regulations - we are told that there is no money for them. But for the heads of the Defence Department there is an overflowing Treasury. Officers may be paid from three to seven times as much in compensation as they would have received had they worked to the end of their term of service. This is the “ hottest “ proposition of which I have heard for a long time.
Under this retrenchment policy, thousands of . working men are being thrown out of work at a time when there is a good deal of unemployment, but there is no compensation for them; they cannot even get work, although many returned soldiers are amongst their number. They simply receive notice, and. out they go. But for the officers who have been receiving high salaries, there is not only compensation for the work they have lost, but there is also a gift of twelve months’ pay. In all our Commonwealth factories, such as the Cordite Factory, the Clothing Factory, and the Harness Factory, the Government are discharging men for two reasons: firstly, because the retrenchment policy in regard to defence renders it unnecessary to keep the factories . in full operation, and of that retrenchment I do not complain ; and, secondly, because the Government refuse to compete with private enterprise, and for that, reason are closing down the Harness Factory and other establishments. Under the regulations, the employees are entitled, after eight years’ service, to receive furlough pay on reaching the retiring age. Some men who have reached sixty years of age, and have been . retired, have received furlough pay. Quite a lot of them, under the retrench- ment policy of the Government, and through its refusal to take work from outside in competition with private enterprise, have been turned adrift before reaching the retiring age, and although they have many years of service, they will not receive a penny of compensation. I have here the particulars of a case in which a man having ten years’ service, who has reached the age of fifty-nine years and eight months, is being turned adrift without a penny of compensation, although had he been continued at work a little longer he would have been entitled to three months’ pay. I ask members to contrast his treatment with that of men who had only two months to go. They were conveniently retired by the Government, and will be given fourteen months’ full pay by way of compensation. The provision shrieks of social influence exercised by men in high places. How can members who share in the responsibility of government, preaching economy and posing as safeguarding the public funds, complacently allow such a provision to pass? My amendment is a very generous one. The Government’s proposal provides for a month’s pay for a year of service; but the compensation paid must not’ exceed twelve months’ pay plus pay for the unexpired period of service. If my amendment is carried - as it ought to be - the compensation given will still be a month’s pay for eachyear of service, but it must not exceed full pay for the unexpired period of the term that the men have to serve. I would like to hear what argument can be advanced in favour of the Government’s proposal as against my proposal. If a man gets full pay for every month’s service of which he is deprived, I think he will be generously treated. It is manifest by the Bill that those who are’ drawing high salaries rule the Ministers, and that the Department is controlled by the “ brass hats,” who are the only persons who will benefit by the Bill. There is not a clerk who will benefit by it, notwithstanding the insertion of the word “employee,” and none of the rank and file will benefit, because none of them will be retired who are so close to the retiring age. Here are officers gazetted to be retired who have almost reached the retiring age. I say that the workers who are being sacked should get better treatment. There should be a juster payment of compensation to those connected with the factories, who should be given what they are entitled to if they are sacked before reaching the age of sixty. I do not believe in lavish expenditure upon those who have been drawing high salaries - in greasing the fatted hog; I take my stand with the poor and lowly. My amendment provides that the maximum that any man shall receive will be full pay for the unexpired portion of his term.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has, in a long harangue, talked at large about a matter to which he has evidently not given serious consideration. The provisions of the Bill apply to every rank in the service in exactly the same way - to the lowliest as to the highest - in proportion to salary. Had the honorable member understood that, he would see that there is no justification for his strictures on those occupying the higher positions in the military service. It is very easy to make an appeal to popular sentiment. There are persons who are always willing to lend a ready ear to the suggestion that too much is being paid to the man who is well off, and not enough to the other fellow. That is one of the cheapest arguments that it is possible to use, an argument which the demagogue uses to appeal to the mob, but not to thinking members of the community. It is the most reprehensible argument that can be used in this particular case.
– Then answer it.
– I shall do so; but I shall first tell the honorable member for Yarra what I think about it. We are dealing with men who have given their whole lives to the service of the country, and have done nobly arid well the work asked of them. It is a peculiar feature of military service that, ft a man does not rise above a certain rank within a certain time, he cannot continue in the service. It is a disability peculiar to the members of the Defence Forces which does not apply to other professions. The civil employees of the Department have a safe position until the age of sixty-five years under ordinary circumstances, but the military officer must retire much earlier if he fails to reach certain rank. Had the honorable member taken the trouble, when going through the list, to look at the rants of the men to whom his arguments applied, he would see that onlyone of them is a colonel, that there are only four majors, and that the rest are captains. Had their services continued, all but two of them would have been carried to a higher rank.
– That is not so.
– Every one of these officers would, I believe, in the ordinary course, and but for the retrenchment policy, have had an extension for at least twelve months or would have passed to a higher rank.
– In every case their retiring age is sixty, they all being quartermasters.
– So far as my knowledge goes, had they remained in the service they would have had an opportunity to rise to higher rank, or would have gained an extension of term. Consequently we are depriving them of much more than the actual period of service at their present retiring age. That is why this arrangement was proposed, and it applies to all ranks of the service.
– Will the Minister say whether promotion is, as a rule,, automatic?
– I have-not been long enough in the Department to be able to give a definite answer, but I, presume that so long as a man is competent his promotion is automatic.
– Promotions are almost invariably automatic.
– Suppose that promotion does not take place?
– I have stated that there are two cases with the military officers in which in all probability there would not have been promotion, or an extended term, and possibly it may seem that those cases are receiving somewhat liberal treatment, but certainly we are not dealing too liberally with the other cases. For quite a number of years it has been the practice, in view of the fact that an officer’s service was often cut short at a time of life when he had much useful work in him, and much sooner than the service of civil employees is ended, to give special consideration to those who were being retired. This applied to a great majority of cases. Parliament has recognised that practice over and over again, and compensation in accordance with it has been voted on the Estimates nearly every year since I entered the House.
– On about the same scale as the Bill provides for?
– We have allowed the men to go their full term, and have then voted them twelve months’ pay. In one or two cases we have voted eighteen months’ pay, and even as much as two years’ pay. I take full responsibility for this part of the Bill. When we were considering how best to arrive at a fair basis of compensation, we had regard to the fact that it had been the practice of Parliament to give men ‘who were retiring twelve months’ pay. It seemed unfair that men with a short period to go should get the full amount of compensation that a man who had a longer period to go would get, and therefore this provision was put in. And therefore we fix a definite amount as the maximum compensation to be drawn. That maximum is pay for the period of his unexpired service plus twelve months’ pay; and if that be less than compensation at the rate of one month’s pay for each year of service he gets the lesser amount. If that system, which applies right through the service from the highest to the lowest rank, be adopted, it will be doing, in the main, substantial justice. It will not be too liberal, because our proposals compare very unfavorably with those which have been made in other parts of the Empire. However, as between man and man in our own service, I think it will do substantial justice. No scheme can be arrived at which does not present some anomaly at one end or other of the scale. We tried quite a number of different schemes to see how they would best work out, but we found it utterly impossible to adopt any method which did not present, in some of its features, some anomaly. We believe that what we have put forward will give ‘as closely as possible substantial justice - that is to say, a month’s pay for each year of service as between man and man. The only reason for inserting the proviso was that a man with long service behind him and a comparatively short period of service ahead would, unless the proviso to which the honorable member is objecting were inserted, get an undue amount of compensation. The officer referred to by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) would, for instance, get an undue amount of compensation in comparison with other officers. What we are now proposing to give him is substantially on the same lines as the compensation this Parliament has voted year after year to officers of the Defence Forces who were passing out of the service. Naturally, those who pass out of the service are those who have been in it a long time, and have reached the retiring age. What we are doing now is simply repeating a provision made over and over again for those whom Parliament has singled out for this class of grant, only we are extending it to all ranks instead of to only the few higherpaid officers. We are not doing anything that is more than fair in respect to men who have given us many years of faithful service, and who, owing to the exigencies of the profession in which they have been engaged, have been called upon to lay down the work they have been doing many years before the average citizen is expected to retire. We have been accustomed year by year to vote sums of money to these men. Had we had, as we ought to have had long ago, a proper superannuation scheme, under which these men would take their pensions and go out automatically upon reaching the retiring age, we would not have had all this trouble.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) suggests that it will cost the Department more to put off these men than to keep them on. Can the Minister answer that statement?
– It costs us more this year in respect of these particular men, but their service has to be regarded in respect to the service as a whole. It is the expenditure which is built up on these men’s service which must be weighed. Their retirement means the cessation of other activities which would cost many more times the amount of the actual salaries received by the officers in question.
– If these men were not retired now they and others would have to be retired next year?
– The honorable member asks why we should retire the. men at all. It is suggested that we should let them remain.
– It is cheaper to do so.
– The honorable member for Yarra suggests that they should remain and simply go out at the end of their period of service on twelve months’ pay. /
– Evidently the honorable member proposes to go back on the procedure which this Parliament has followed for many years. He would not pay these men twelve months’ pay on retiring. Suppose- we did adopt the course the honorable -member suggests, and leave all these men at the top.
– Treat them as you do the ordinary workers.
– If the honorable member would, for a. moment, forget politics and cease appealing to the gallery, and if he would give attention to the ordinary work of the Department, he would see that what we have done is the wise thing. If we had left these men at the top, how could we have reduced our personnel, as we were obliged to do, except by getting rid of the captains instead of the colonels and majors whom the honorable member would retain? And then what would have been the result? The whole service would have been disorganized. We found it necessary to get rid of the men at the top, and then move higher up the scale the younger men, most of whom had had war experience; and I believe that that was the right thing to do. As a result, we have got more efficient service, which, in the event of trouble arising, will be of more use to the country. It would not have achieved the object of Parliament if we had let the older men remain where they were and sought to reduce the establishment by sacking men lower down, whose experience was of greater value than that of the older men, through no fault of the latter. One could not imagine a sillier or more stupid way of going about the business than to do anything of the sort. I believe that we took the wisest course. The whole compensation scheme is based upon one month’s pay for each year of service, but since it has been the practice of this Parliament to pay twelve months’ salary on retirement, I think we are only doing what is fair, just, and honorable as between man and man in the service, and merely giving the least compensation which this Parliament can honestly offer to men who have served their country so well, by adopting the scheme as set out in the Bill for the compensation, of those men with long service behind them and but a short period still, to go before reaching the retiring age.
.- The Minister (Mr. Greene) has endeavoured to- make it appear that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin)’ did not know his subject, but, as a matter of fact,, he has himself corroborated all that the honorable member stated .
– Except in one vital matter.
– The onlything the Minister failed to do was to give some explanation as to why this legislation should have come before us in its present form. I have a lively recollection of the debate upon . the second reading of the Bill, and of the discussion in- the early part of the Committee proceedings, when the view was advanced, and apparently the correct one, that there was considerable doubt as to the interpretation which the Minister sought to put upon this clause. The Minister told me that my interpretation was entirely wrong. To-day he admits that I was right.
– That wasnot your interpretation.
– I pointed out that, in addition to the allowance of one month’s pay for each year of service, the retiring officers would be able to get an equivalent of the amount of pay to which they would be entitled if they continued in the service-
– Provided the amount did not exceed one month’s pay for each year of service.
– Certainly. I pointed out the definition set out in the Bill of “ unexpired period of service,” which is: as follows: - “ Pay for the unexpired period of the service of the member” means the total of the pay which-, in the opinion of the Naval Board of Administration, the Military Board of Administration, the Air Board, or the Secretary to the Department of Defence, as the case may be, the member would probably have received had he continued, until the age prescribed by law for retirement or discharge therefrom, to occupy the office or hold the rank occupied or held by him at the time of Ms retirement or discharge under this Act.
That definition is very clear. We are discussing a serious matter. Under clause 12, already agreed to, until June next any officer can voluntarily retire, with the Minister’s consent, and through get ting the compensation payable under this Bill make more money than he would receive by remaining in the service. Yet we are supposed to be. retiring these men for the purpose of effecting economy. Because of the Washington Conference we believed that we were able to reduce the Defence staff and curtail expenditure. This naturally involved the dismissal of certain officer’s, but now we find that it will cost us more to retire them than to retain them in the service. As the honorable member for Yarra has pointed out, we could save money by retaining ten of these officers on full pay, and allow them to play golf every day.
– Yes, we could save £6,000 in the case of ten men.
– There is no doubt that the clause under discussion bears the interpretation we put upon it. The Minister himself admits that the view taken by the honorable member for Yarra is correct.
– In regard to the compensation these officers will receive if the Bill passes in its present form.
– I have never questioned that.
– I am informed, on good authority, that, while we are talking about economy and reducing expenditure-, there are more men holding positions of high rank in connexion with our Defence Forces in Sydney than were stationed there in pre-war days - that is to say, fourteen men are now required to do the work which was done by four men before the war.
– That remark applies to all the States.
– It is time thisParliament got to- work on such things. The extra ten men employed in Sydney are drawing certain allowances in addition to their pay, and I am further informed that some of them are getting pay on the score that they are incapacitated soldiers.
– Is the honorable member referring to the fact that some of these men are drawing war pensions ?
– I do not know, but I had the information from one of the men concerned.
– If the reference is to the drawing of war pensions the honorable member knows that the Government have never made any distinction on account of the receipt of pensions.
– It was never intended that an officer drawing £600 or £700 a. year should also get a war pension - that is to say, a man who is fit to do his work is not entitled to draw a pension in addition.
– Does the honorable member say that the employees at Lithgow should not- have their full wages and their war pensions also?
– But the ordinary soldier is from time to time boarded before medical examination boards.
– Is not the other man?
– I do not know. I desire to have inquiries made into that matter. The ordinary soldier who applies for a war pension has to go before the Medical Board. If the Board certifies that he is incapacitated to the extent of 75 per cent., then he gets 75 per cent, of the maximum pension. If it certifies that he is only 50 per cent, incapacitated, then he gets 50 per cent, of the pension, and so on. That has been the experience of all the men in my electorate.
– But when a “man has obtained his pension, whatever it is, we do not deduct it from his wages.
– No, but does the Minister think that an officer of high standing, who is doing the work that he was carrying out before the war, and is in receipt of, say, £800 per annum, should in addition receive a pension in accordance with the allowance provided for officers?
– The Pensions Act stands by itself.
– But that principle does not apply to a working man.
– It does.
– Every honorable member knows that as the health of a soldier improves and he is able to do more Work his pension is reduced, and that if he is fully restored to health so that he is able to work full time he loses his pension, altogether.
– That is so, but once a pension, whether it is 5s. or 15s. a week, is granted, we do not dock a man’s wages because he is getting that pension.
– I do not say that the Government have done so, but where an ordinary soldier is restored to health and is able to return to his former occupation and earn a full wage he ie regarded by the Department as no longer suffering any disability by ‘reason of his war service, and he does not get the pension.
– But he does.
– I know of hundreds who in such circumstances have had their pensions stopped. Men in receipt of big salaries should not also draw pensions. They should not be getting two pays. I have always advocated fair treatment for all who went to the Front but a man who is drawing a big salary should not in addition! receive a big pension. That sort of thing is an imposi-tion- on the country, since a man so situated is in no worse position than he occupied before he went to the war. I think that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) is working on right lines. His statement has been corroborated by the Minister, and, having regard to all the facts, the Committee, if it passes the clause as proposed by the Minister, will do an injustice to the taxpayers.
– Does the honorable member say that if the two men referred to by the honorable member for Yarra were automatically promoted, his argument would still hold good?
– What promotion would be possible within the two months they have to serve?
– The Minister has said that they are entitled to rise to a higher rank and might .be promoted. Every one knows, however, that there are no opportunities for promotion. Are we not actually providing for the retirement and compensation of men of higher rank because we no longer ‘ require their services? It is said that every student who goes to the Duntroon College costs the country £1,000 for his training. What -is the use of continuing that college for the training of officers if we do not require them. Two or three years after the’ students get through we shall probably have to retire them. The system is not fair to the boys or the country. The boys go to Duntroon believing that their future is assured. As soon as they get through, however, they will probably be dismissed, and will have to start life afresh. It is time that we faced these problems. There is no justification for . continuing the present expenditure on Duntroon College in order to train officers, while at the same time we are dismissing officers from the Defence Department or giving them the privilege of retiring and claiming the compensation for which this Bill provides. The honorable member for Yarra has done good service in drawing attention to this matter. On a previous occasion it was said that our interpretation of the clause was wrong, but the Minister now admits that the interpretation placed upon it by the honorable member for Yarra is correct. That being so, we have either to pass the clause as proposed by the Government, and so provide for an additional allowance to certain officers - an allowance over and above what is a. fair thing - or else .vote against it. This is not a matter of vital party significance, and no honorable member should consider himself bound to support the Government proposal. Those who believe in economy, and have preached it outside, should practise it in the Committee by voting for the proposal made by the honorable member for Yarra . In that way they will be doing only the fair thing by these officers.
.- When the Minister (Mr. Greene) first explained the provisions of this Bill I thought it was a very welcome measure by means of which he was endeavouring, apparently, to give statutory form to a system that had grown up, in a haphazard way, in the Defence Department, and had operated, in more or less general terms, through the Estimates year after year. I was of the opinion that the submission of a. measure of this kind to the House, in order to gain parliamentary approval of the principle of compensation, and the basis and extent of it was wise. I thought, however, that there was a, defect in the Bill, which the Minister’3 later ‘amendments endeavour to rectify. That is to say, the distinction made between the military and the civil section of the Defence Department, while perfectly - understandable, did not appear to me, at all events, to be in the bulk of cases quite justifiable. I know of several cases, most of which I have brought to the notice of the Minister, where men, who had served s for a long while in the military section of the Department, were eventually brought as physical trainers. into tha civil section. A considerable number 01 these men, not only had extensive war service, but, as their recognitions showed, a very creditable record. To treat these men with long professional military service, and an actual meritorious Australian Im perial Force career, merely as clerks - asmen who had never done anything else than the work of a clerk - was wrong. The proposal now before us puts them all on scratch. Whether the Minister’s proposals are over liberal or niggardly does not affect the rectification, of the original mistake to “which I have referred, or the assertion of the principle of compensation.
Owing chiefly to the research of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) an issue has arisen at this late stage between the Minister and the Opposition. The honorable member has submitted arguments in support of his contention and an amendment to qualify the more recent amendment of the clause proposed by the Minister. I take it that there is complete agreement between the Minister and the Opposition on two of the three points at issue. They are agreed that if there is to be retrenchment, as unanimously approved by the House, then there ought to :be compensation, and that, as a matter of principle, that compensation should be based upon a month’s pay for every year of service. They agree that there ought to be a minimum, which, apparently, all parties consider should be equal to six months’ pay, and that there ought to be a maximum. It is when we come to determine the maximum that the point of disagreement is visible. This, then, is the actual- position : The Minister proposes to provide compensation on the basis of one month’s pay for every year of service, subject to the condition that the compensation so granted shall not exceed what would have been the payment received for the unexpired portion of the man’s service plus twelve months’ pay. The honorable member for Yarra suggests that the compensation should be one month’s pay for every year of service, but that the amount should not exceed the pay which the man would have received had he continued in the Department for the unexpired period of his service. The anomaly is pointed out that., in view of the Minister’s explanation, it would be cheaper to keep a man in the Department until he automatically retired if no promotions were to take place. From the stand-point of the Government that is true, judging it only from the position this year; but if they kept the men in the Department, and promotion came along within the next six or twelve months, then those with more than six or twelve months to run would go to higher rank.
– None of them has more than a few months to run.
– Many of them have years to run.
– That is not the position in the cases I have pointed out.
– The most glaring cases are where men with two months to go have been registered for retirement. Several such cases have been pointed out by the honorable member for Yarra; and in those extreme instances the compensation seems to be excessive. A man who would receive two months’ pay if he remained in the Department for the balance of his term of service, would, under the Minister’s proposal, receive compensation equal to fourteen months’ pay.
– Had such a man remained in the Service, and had there been no compensation, the Parliament, in all probability, would have been asked to vote him compensation equal to twelve months’ pay.
– That is correct. In dealing with the Estimates in past years honorable members,, apparently, have been satisfied with that principle, and under it the men in the cases mentioned by the honorable member for Yarra would have worked for two months, and then have been granted twelve months’ pay. The only difference between that arrangement and the principle for which this clause provides is that the Department would have- had the benefit of the men’s work for two months.
– ‘But was the practice of giving men a grant equal to twelve months’ pay general?
– No; but I know that there have been many such cases. In my own time as Treasurer groups of such cases were dealt with.
– Only a specially favoured few have been so dealt with.
– Not at all. A great number of cases were dealt with at the close of the war. I remember a number of them being dealt with in 1919.
-i think that about twenty cases were dealt with in that year.
– I remember several men with the technical rank of colonel, and the courtesy rank of brigadier, and I think one with the courtesy rank of major-general, being dealt with in that way.
– There were no captains ?
– I do not know whether there were or not. But the principle of granting ‘twelve months’ pay by way of compensation to men who had to retire was. acknowledged and operated by the Department, and frequently approved by Parliament in more or less uniform order.
– Because there was no superannuation fund.
– Exactly. The only question is whether in the extreme cases to which reference has been made we are being too liberal. The Minister thinks we are not, whereas the honorable member for Yarra and his colleagues of the Opposition consider that we are. I am not concerned with the question of whether or not these men are officers. I do not believe in throwing at men such terms as “brass hats,” as long as the principle of the Bill is to apply to the rank and file, and to the junior as well as to the senior officers. That is all that we can insist on, and that principle, I believe, is being recognised now for the first time.
– In principle, but not in practice?
– Why not?
– Mention one case of a ranker who has received this treatment. The Department will not retire the ranker with only two months to go.
– I do not say that it will ; but where men are retired beforehand, and their expectations are threatened by the deliberate act of the Department, then the principle should apply to them, no matter what their rank may be. I accept the assurance of the Minister that it does, and certainly the wording of the Bill would indicate that that isso. It is useless to quarrel with the Government about reducing the staff of the Defence ‘ Department, inasmuch as we all asked them to do so. The Opposition, led by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), last year proposed to reduce the Defence Estimates by, I think, onehalf.
– By £500,000.
– No; we succeeded in inducing the Government to reduce them by £500,000.
– The Opposition proposed that they should be reduced by £2,800,000- the amount of the deficit.
– Broadly speaking, the Opposition proposed to reduce the Defence Estimates by one-half. That was nearly twelve months ago, and honorable members opposite then voiced their views in favour of such, a reduction. Had their proposal been carried it would have meant the almost instantaneous and’ general discharge of huge numbers of men in the Department.
– It would have meant the dismissal of many more, because six months of the financial year had expired.
– It would have meant the destruction of one-half the personnel, and one-half of the stores and equipment votes for the Department. We should then have been faced with a demand for huge compensation payable to officers and men alike, and involving an expenditure very much greater than the Minister’s policy now forces upon us.
– The honorable member has omitted to mention one thing. He has forgotten to mention that the Leader of the Opposition did not stipulate that the Government should save £2,800,000 by reducing the stall, and then spend £300,000 bv way of compensating them on their retirement.
– No; but the Leader of the Opposition has said, not only this afternoon, but in earlier speeches on the Bill, that he believes in fair- play to the men who are being retired. Other honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), have made the same statement. What that honorable member objects to is what he alleges to be discrimination between the officer and the rank and file. It is not. to the principle of compensation that any honorable member of any party objects.
– I also object to men being paid more for retiring than for working.
– That is so, and the fact adds force to the honorable member’s argument. Parliament forced on an obviously reluctant Government a reduction of half a million in the Defence vote. Some of us tried to get further reductions - some would have made proportionate reductions in regard to the Navy and Air Force, but we were deterred by the action of the Government in promising additional economies. I, for one, cannot grumble, in view of the fact that we unanimously asked for’ a reduction, differing in degree, but still a reduction,’ in the Forces, when the Government propose these economies and retrenchments. I am prepared to deal fairly with the men who have suffered as the result of the deliberately considered action of this Parliament and the country in reducing the Forces. Everybody welcomed the result of the Washington Conference, the fruition of which occurred after the deliberations to which I refer. Surely no Government would have been worthy to, or could have continued to, sit on the Government benches, which would not, after the completion of those Treaties, have proposed substantial Defence reductions; , These were concurred in, I think unanimously, by the people, certainly with a wonderful degree of unanimity by all the members of the three parties in the House. It is purely a question of how the thing is to be done, and how much we are to give these men. I am prepared to support the Government in giving reasonable retiring allowances to men who are cut off from, their expectations, in most cases after a long period of service in a special arm of the State, which has incapacitated them for industrial, commercial, and other vocations. I think it would be improper and cruel to dislocate those men without some compensation.
– What about the munition workers and the men in the Harness Factory - are they not dislocated ?
– They are not in the same position. The men I speak of are not enlisted men in the Australian Imperial Force, but those who joined the Military Service in the old days of the professional soldier - men. who, when they joined, intended to devote the greater part, or the whole, of their lives to that particular kind of work.
– In the cases I have cited three-fourths of the men have done no soldiering at all.
– I was not aware of that. The honorable member, with considerate propriety, did not disclose the names of the officers.
– I can supply them.
– Quite so; but the honorable member properly said he did not wish to prejudice those men by suggesting that they were responsible because they are the recipients of the Government bounty. However, clearly men who de- vote their minds to this service are different from men in business, or men who learn a trade, or join a continuing department like the Railway or Postal Department, the business of which is to increase the activity and prosperity of the country.
– Men who have injured their health in munition works, or in defence work generally, have as much right to compensation as have any officers.
– As to munition workers, I do not pretend to know as much about them as does the honorable member, in whose constituency the works are. It occurs to me, however, that most of those men have learned a trade, and if they have not learned other branches of a particular occupation, the same facility they have hitherto shown will rapidly qualify them for other industrial craft work.
– Many of the officers have had clerical and administrative experience, and ought to be able to earn a living outside.
– Was the honorable member pleased with their work as clerks ?
– Not much!
– I have heard the honorable member criticise them in many cases and declare - no doubt, with accurate knowledge - that they were unfitted for the military job, let alone other jobs. Let us give a fair deal to those men. Do not let us be over-liberal, but, on the other hand, we ought not to object to pay because they are called “ brass hats.”
– Nobody has objected to giving compensation.
– No ; we are unanimously desirous to pay compensation; it is only a question of a basis of payment, and the amount that should be given. In view of the Minister’s explanation, although I was much impressed by what the honorable member for Yarra said in his closelyreasoned speech, I am prepared to. vote for the clause as proposed to be amended by f the Government, and not for that honorable member’s amendment.
. .-7- 1lit honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) is correct when he says that we ought to endeavour to give a fair deal all round. We, on this side, stand for a fair deal not only for military officers, but for all other workers in the Defence Department. I should have been more enthusiastic in my support of this measure if the Minister (Mr. Greene) had proposed some vote to provide retiring allowances for the workers under his control. The honorable gentleman speaks of the officers as having given the best years of their lives to the military service of the country; but he says not one word about the workers who have done the same thing, and who, moreover, in many cases, have ruined their health in making the ‘Department a success. There is not one word about retiring allowances for these men in their declining years. In the Department there are men who, under the regulations, are entitled to a sixmonths’ retiring allowance after twenty years of service ; but, as a matter of fact, there are men who, after thirty or forty years of service, are denied that allow- vance on the purely technical objection that their continuity of service has been broken. During those long years these men may have lost a week or a fortnight through illness, accident, or some other cause, and because of this they are denied retiring allowances.
– Is that correct?
– Yes; I could cite dozens of cases, which I have already communicated to the Minister and brought directly under his notice. On every occasion, however, I am met with the same stony reply, “ The continuity of service has been broken.” Because they have been sick for a day, or two days, these men are not allowed retiring allowance.
– /That is not so.
– I am prepared to give the names and the positions held by these men; indeed, I have written to the Minister and given them.
– I give the honorable member the assurance that if he gives me the name of any one man whose continuity of service is said to have been broken because he was sick for a day or two, I will see that the matter is put right.
– There was one man who has been refused retiring allowance after just on forty years’ service.
– He cannot have been in the Department for forty years, because it has not been in existence for that time.
– It is no use trying that quibble. This man was one of those taken over from the State.
– I tell the honorable member that if the reason given for noncontinuity of service be two days’ sickness, the matter, will be put right.
– It might be a week or two weeks in the thirty or forty years.
– The honorable member spoke of two days.
– I will say a few days; after all, a couple of weeks in twenty, thirty, or forty years are only a few days. Do we hear the Minister saying anything about the officer class losing a day . or two, a week or two, a month, or even a year, of service?
– If a man gets sick leave it is continuous service.
– “Got his sick leave!”I have given the Minister a definite case, and I could give him dozens. This old man to whom I refer has given the best years of his life to the service, and yet he is denied this right.
– I have made inquiries, and find that it does not matter how long the sick leave is for - even if it is for twelve months - it does not break continuity of service. There must be some reason other than sickness.
– I repeat that the only time this man lost was a matter of a couple of weeks in all his years of service, at the end of which he had to retire on account of ill-health.
I have in my hand a letter from the secretary of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, in which is quoted case after case of soldiers being denied their pension. Where is the great anxiety of the Minister to see a fair deal for these men?
– It is not this Minister’s job.
– It is the job of the Government, of which the Minister is a member. Why the anxiety of the Government to give allowances to men who have been enjoying good salaries for many years ?
– The Government is just as anxious in regard to any one who is entitled to a pension.
– The letter I have is an official communication from the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League.
– It has nothing whatever to do with the Bill.
– But it’ has to do with the attitude of the Government towards the officers of the Defence Department, as contrasted witu their attitude towards the men who manned the trenches during the war. In this letter there is cited the case of a returned soldier who had to sleep in the Sydney Domain for two nights. There is another case of a man with two children, aged eight years and fifteen months, who had ho pension, and received no assistance. This family received from the benevolent asylum, twice a week, a certain quantity of flour, two loaves of bread, two ounces of tea, one tin of milk, one tin of treacle, with some sago and a little meat. This man has been three months out of work, and yet nothing has been done for him.
– I do not think that all this is relevant to the Bill.
– The honorable member is quite in order in using this letter byway of comparison; but he must not pursue the comparison too far.
– I do not propose to give details, but merely to instance the most glaring cases. These men risked everything at the war; it was these men who were hailed asheroes, and for whom we waved flags and rang bells.
– That sort of thing ‘cannot be done twice - they are cheered when they go, but not when they come home again !
– That is quite evident. Another case cited in the letter is that of a man who is blind in one eye, and is losing the sight of the other, and who is living in a shed which was once a fowlhouse.
– The honorable member was in order in referring to these cases for the purpose of comparison, but, having done that, I ask him to direct his remarks to the clause.
– If the Government have so much cash to spare, surely the men with the greatest claims upon it are those men to whom I have referred. The anxiety of the Government should be to give them a fair deal. I can quote other cases and big headings in the daily press. There is this, for instance, which appeared in the Sydney Daily Mail of 26th June last -
Where some homeless diggers sleep at Newcastle. - Heart-rending instances of privations in industrial city. - Babies go hungry and cold. - Citizens awaking as curtain is drawn back from scenes of misery.
Newcastle, Thursday. Six hundred and forty-three A.I.F. men and 130 ex-Imperial soldiers, 25 per cent, of whom are married, are out of work in Newcastle.
Between 50 and 60 of these men sleep in the park or on the beaches at night.
– Order ! The honorable member is carrying this comparison too far.
– Those soldiers broke down many barriers when fighting for the people of this country, and if I can break down the barrier of military caste in fighting for them how I shall do so. It is a disgrace to this country that even one of those men should be in need, especially when the Treasurer is ladling out money lavishly in the form of relief to land tax payers, bonuses to meat exporters, and pensions for high military officials. Despite all this lavish expenditure, there appears to be no money to provide shelter and food for homeless diggers or for the dependants of the soldiers who fought for us. I am prepared to give a fair deal to the military officers, but the Government should- be fair to the whole of the members of the service. I hope the Minister will adhere to the promise he made about men in his Department who have lost their continuity of employment. I will see that those cases are submitted in writing to him.
– I repeat that if it can be shown that any man, through obtaining sick leave, broke his continuity of service, the lost time will be restored to him.
– And if I can also show that men who have had thirty years of unbroken service in the Department, except for the time when the Department was closed for a few weeks, have lost their continuity of service through the action of the Department in temporarily dismissing them, will he extend his consideration to them?
– That is another matter.
– Does .-the Minister say that it is another matter when any of the high officials of the Department have lost service? I stand for a fair deal for all ranks of the service, both military men and civilian. The engineers and clerks are as much entitled to a retiring allowance as are the officers.
.- The case put forward by the honorable member’ for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was almost convincing, and for a time I thought I could strongly support him, but his claim has one very grave defect. The honorable member said that’ the officers who are being retired are to be paid more for not doing work than they would have received had they worked for the remainder of their term of service, but the trouble appears to be that the apparent age of retirement is not the real one. The Minister has pointed .out that in almost every case these men would not have retired at the ages mentioned -by the ‘honorable member for Yarra, but would have stepped into a higher grade, and thus their term of service would have been automatically extended.
– That is not so in one case. If I can show that the Minister’s statement is wrong, I shall claim the honorable member’s vote.
– If the honorable member can convince me that the argument put forward by the Minister is wrong, and that the officers would not have automatically stepped into a higher grade, and thus received an extension of their term of service, I will vote with him. If, however, the statement of the Minister is correct, I will vote against the honorable member’s amendment. The issue hinges on whether the apparent age of retirement would, in fact, be the actual age of retirement.
This Bill is defective in that it does not recognise service abroad. I have heard it stated that it is not the purpose of the Bill to recognise active service, but any measure which deals with men who served abroad, and with other men in the same employment who did not serve abroad, should confer some advantage upon the former. It is a grave defect of this measure that it does nothing to recognise men who did go abroad, and who suffered all the attendant hardships. I have already said that some men who could not go abroad were as good as men who did. It was their misfortune that they could not go upon active service; nevertheless, the men who did go deserve the utmost that this country can do for them. Even though on their return to civilian life they took clerical positions, they still retained the hall mark of active service, and it does not matter whether they are professional soldiers or men who, having served with the Australian Imperial Force, have resumed their positions in civil life, they should receive recognition in this Bill.
It has been stated that the pensions of some returned soldiers are being cut down because of the money they earn. Unfortunately, that is true. The interjection of the Minister would indicate that he does not think that this is actually happening, but I can assure him that there are many returned soldiers whose pensions [have been reduced because they have gone to work and proved themselves capable of earning a little money. This has happened even to- men who are badly maimed, and it is a disgrace that such a thing should have occurred. We should encourage such men to get back their morale, and assist them to do- something for the good of the country. I hope that the Minister will look into this matter.
Another argument put forward by a member of the Opposition struck me as being’ extremely peculiar. It was that prior to this retirement scheme being formulated, only colonels and other highly-placed officers had received any retiring allowance, and then only as an act of grace, whereas now that consideration was “ being brought down to captains.” It seems to me that if in the past colonels had received a retiring allowance, it is fair that captains and lieutenants should get it now. The whole scheme of compensation should be on a graduated scale from top to bottom, and no man should be deprived of ‘his due share of compensation. The interjection that “ Now you are bringing it down to captains,” as if to do so were offensive to the Committee, was very unfortunate. The only way to be fair to all officers and men who are being retired is to grade the compensation on a perfectly even scale from the highest to the lowest.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) told us of men who had been deprived of their retiring allowance because their continuity of service had been broken by sickness. I hope the Minister’s denial that such a thing has been done is well founded.
Mi-. Greene. - I do not know of such a case, but if there is one, I will put it right.
– I wish to follow that one step further. The honorable member for Dalley also said that at one time the Defence Department threw certain men out of work and subsequently re-employed them, but destroyed their continuity of service. If that happened the continuity of employment was disturbed through no fault of the men.
– They may have been dismissed temporarily on account of a strike, or something of that sort. I do not know what the circumstances were.
– If their continuity of employment was broken through the action of the Defence Department, I hope the Minister will place them upon the same footing as those men whose employment was interfered with by sickness, and to whom the Minister has promised to restore the rights that attach to continuity of service.
In connexion with this measure as a whole there is one factor to be borne in mind. We know that retrenchment is absolutely necessary, and it is the will of Parliament, and the wish of the country, that economy should be practised in the Defence Department, amongst other places, but it should be .practised in the fairest possible manner to all concerned.
Sir ROBERT BEST (Kooyong) [4.35J. - I received with satisfaction tie decision of the Government to accede to the request made from all parts of the Chamber that the discrimination which appeared in the Bill as originally introduced should be eliminated,. In deference to the strong feeling that was exhibited upon that subject, an amendment has been brought down which, the Minister assures us, removes all discrimination between military officers and civilians. Those men who claim to be entitled to the same consideration were mostly officers who had been in the service for a considerable time, who had practically devoted themselves to their clerical occupations in the Defence Department for almost a lifetime, and were therefore incapable of successfully competing in the outside world of trade and commerce. I congratulate the Government on having acceded to the wishes of the Committee in that regard. There is a general desire to be fair to those who have been called on to retire, although much difference of opinion exists as to how they should be treated. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) thinks that there is unfair discrimination proposed in the granting of pensions, gratuities, and the like to the victims of compulsory retirement; but we cannot ignore .the statements of the Minister as to what we know to be the practice of Parliament in this connexion, and what he says is the practice of the Department. He has told us that, as a rule, instead of officers being called on to retire immediately they reach the retiring age, they are given an extension of service for twelve months, during which they may automatically become entitled to promotion to a higher rank, allowing them a still longer period of service.
– That is so in the great majority of cases.
– The honorable member for Yarra contends that an officer who is within two months of the term within which in his rank he must retire is not at tall likely to gain promotion entitling him to a longer period of service. But the Minister tells us that the practice is to grant such a man an extension of service for twelve months, within which time he may . automatically be promoted to a higher rank, and thus become entitled to serve for a still longer period.
– The Minister’s statement is as incorrect as the answer which he gave to me the other week.
– The Minister has also told us, ‘and we know it to be the case, that in a number of instances in which the period of service has been extended by twelve months Parliament has granted an additional gratuity of twelve months’ pay.
– That has been the practice for years.
– In these circumstances, a man in the position to which the honorable member for Yarra referred, would draw his pay for a period of two years and two months, rendering, of course, fourteen months’ service only during that period. Therefore, the proposal of the Minister is not glaringly unfair, al- though the honorable member for Yarra has so characterized it. As a matter of fact, a man in the position to which the honorable member has referred is done this apparent injustice: Instead’ of being given an extension of twelve months’ service and then a gratuity of twelve months’ pay, he is being given only a gratuity of twelve months’ pay, together with pay for the unexpired period of his service. I think that the Minister has completely justified the provision under discussion, and that if any one is to complain it is the men concerned, on the ground that they are not being treated as generously as has been the practice of Parliament and of the Department. I accept the statement of the Minister that the provisions of the Bill apply to all ranks. In these circumstances, and believing that there is a distinct effort on the part- of the Government to do what is fair and just to the officers whom they are, unfortunately, called upon to retire, I shall support the measure.
.- Although, no doubt, the Minister believes that he has told the Committee the truth about the men to whom the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has referred, I do not think he knows enough of the practice of the Department to be relied on. Could his statement be taken without reserve, there would not be so much to complain of, but I shall show that he does not know too much about matters of departmental administration. The honorable member for Yarra read a list of officers, without giving the names of those concerned, and the Minister has told us that certain officers, when they reach the age of sixty years, would get an extension of twelve months and then a gratuity for twelve months. I say, however, that none of the quartermasters are given any extension of their term of service.
– Departmental officers told me only two minutes ago that it was the invariable rule to give quartermasters two years.
– The Minister is not the only Minister for Defence who has been supplied with false information by his officials. The honorable member for North Sydney (Sir Granville Ryrie) was not given correct information about Gunner Yates. The honorable member for Yarra is usually very careful, and, having made pretty exhaustive inquiries, has assured the Committee that quartermasters get no extension of time; that the terms of their engagement definitely require them to retire on reaching the age of sixty years. Of those on the listthat ho read, the youngest is fifty-seven years and two months, and has very little chance of promotion. If the practice of the Department was followed, these officers would have no hope of a gratuity.
– Why penalize them? They may not have a “ bean.”
– What about the thousands of others you are penalizing?
– The honorable member is keenly desirous of the welfare of men who have been drawing good salaries for years. It may be argued that, because they have been following the military profession for so long, they are unfitted to enter upon ordinary business pursuits; but surely they should be in a better position to struggle against outside competition than are the sergeantmajors, sergeants, and others, seeing that for twenty or thirty years they have been earning a decent salary. They are more than generously treated in the Bill. I chalLenge the Minister to produce from the Estimates of past years a list of quartermasters who have been granted twelve months’ pay on reaching the age of sixty years. You will not find that any quartermaster has been so treated, and I do not think you will find that such a gratuity has been given to any one below the rank of colonel.
– There is not a quartermaster who has not risen from the ranks.
– They have risen from the ranks, and therefore they have not been given a gratuity on retiring.
– Is that why you object to them getting gratuities under the Bill ?
– There is no reason why these few specially-favoured individuals should be given an unfairly large gratuity. The Minister’s statement is that they are being dealt with liberally in the Bill ‘ because, had they remained on in the Service until they had reached the age of sixty years, they would have received a gratuity of twelve months’ pay. Within the past, no such gratuity has been given to quartermasters. Very different treatment from that proposed for officers has’ been given to the workers in the munition factories and woollen mills, although these men, under the terms of their engagement, had the right to re main in the Service until they reached the age of sixty years, and then to receive furlough pay for six months. Some of the officials of the Department have .been mean enough to dismiss such men at the age of fifty-nine years and six or eight months, thus depriving them of their furlough pay. Practically no consideration whatever is shown to those employees. I shall vote for the amendment. The list furnished by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) provides an unanswerable argument. He has cited the case of ten officers, who are to be given £10,000 for doing no work, but who, if they had continued in the employ of the Department for the remaining period of their term, would have been paid salaries totalling only £4,000. Such a situation is absurd, and altogether wrong and unfair. It is of no use for the Minister to say that these officials would have obtained extensions of their periods of service. They were nearing the retiring limit. Some of them were fifty-nine years and ten months old ; others were fifty-eight and fifty-seven. Ordinarily,, they would have gone out from the Department without compensation.
– Because we are giving the quartermasters the same compensation as the generals, the honorable member objects.
– Nothing of the sort I The Minister cannot furnish particulars regarding any sergeant-major who is to be treated in a similar manner to these officers just indicated. The latter are the leading lights of the barracks. They form a little social clique, and they have had a lot to do with the framing of this Bill.
– None of these officers has had anything to do with the preparation of the measure.
– Well, who did prepare it?
– I did.
– Then, it is no credit to the Minister. Honorable members on this side will endeavour to secure adequate compensation for employees in the various Government factories. We propose to give the Government an opportunity to be consistently generous to men who have given as many years of useful and valuable work in f actories as those who have been employed in administrative offices. Despite all the .injustice which will be perpetrated under this Bill, I would he prepared to vote against the amendment if the Minister could quote a single instance of a sergeant-major who will receive similar treatment to that which is’ to be given to those highly-placed officers dealt with by the honorable member for Yarra. That honorable member gave the specific case of one sergeant-major who has fought in two wars, who earned the rank of captain in the field, and was about to be promoted to his majority, but, who, upon returning to this his grateful country, was reduced to the rank of sergeant-major, and who will receive something like £250 upon retirement. There are crying instances of differentiations between those highly placed and others in humble circumstances. I know of the case of a woman who lost her boy in the war. She has been receiving a pension of £1 a week, but this sum was reduced by half, on the ground that the mother had been going out working at somebody’s wash-tub. Such instances disclose very harsh differentiation.
– They show that some one ought to “get the sack.”
– I agree with the honorable member.
– That matter has nothing to do with this Bill.
– Maybe not; but the Government are prepared to give certain men fourteen months’ pay rather than keep them in employment for another two months, to the end of their period of service, and pay them for those two months.
Mr. ROBERT COOK (Indi) [4.561.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has “put up” a magnificent case, and, unless the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) can make it clear to me that the accusations of the honorable member, and the particulars which he has advanced, are not justified or correct, I shall be inclined to support the amendment. I would not complain, however generously the Government might decide to treat our returned men. I am aware that the payment of pensions is not involved in this measure, but I know of many instances where those payments are far from fair or adequate. The men employed by the Defence Department who have gone overseas to fight are entitled to more generous consideration than those who stayed at home. I desire to see fair play all round, and I emphasize that unless the Minister can successfully combat the arguments of the Opposition, I shall be bound to support the amendment.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) and the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) have dealt so ably with the arguments of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) that it is almost unnecessary for me to say anything further. However, I desire to place on record my appreciation of the fact that the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) are acting with the best intentions. But if the amendment is carried it will confer no benefit upon those who are being unfortunately treated. The effect will be to bring about a reduction of the amounts of compensation to be paid to certain persons, while nothing will be added to the sums to be given to those men for whom (honorable members opposite have spoken so sympathetically. That being so, I shall vote against the amendment. I am grateful to the Minister (Mr. Greene) for having agreed to amend the Bill to give a greater measure of fair play to the clerical staff - a very able and deserving body of men. Many of these did valuable work throughout the war. I am familiar with the services of one person in particular, to whom I shall refer. By his all-round ability, and by his devotion, he saved this country thousands of pounds. I refer to Mr. McGuire, who, I understand, was in charge of the Contracts Branch. His technical knowledge, his unfailing sense of justice, and his liking for hard work, are such as to render him worthy of every consideration; but he, like so many others doing the clerical work of the Department, would have suffered very greatly if he had been retired under the provisions of the Bill as original’ly pre- sen ted. I know of the case of another officer who had risen to the rank of captain, but gave up the active military side of his career in order to change over to the clerical staff. Had the Bill not been amended in order to give greater consideration to the clerical staff, this man would have retired under great disadvantage. Now that justice has been done to a very deserving section of the Service, I cannot see any objection to theBill passing.
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) was for some time Minister for the Navy.
– And if the honorable member cares to examine my record, he will learn that I did my share in the interests of the rank and file.
– I had expected that the honorable member would be able to throw a little more light on the situation than he has done.
– If the honorable member had been present when the honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Kooyong spoke, he would not have considered it necessary for me to provide more light.
– I heard those honorable members address the Chair. I also heard the honorable member for Denison indicate that he had been convinced by the remarks of those, honorable members as to the way in which he should vote upon the amendment of the honorable member for Yarra. The honorable member for Balaclava said that employees in the Cordite Factory, and other Government concerns, were not in the same position as professional military men for the reason that the factory workers had, at any rate, learned a trade, and were thus so much the better equipped upon leaving the services of the Government. Employees in the Government Factories do not support that line of argument: A man who has been working, for example, in the military Harness Factory finds himself at a great disadvantage when seeking to enter an ordinary -harness factory.
– Surely, he has had the advantage of being trained in a very good school.
– The point is that the school is- a different one. It is the view of nine out of every ten men who have worked in the Government Harness Factory that if they endeavoured to do piece-work in an ordinary factory, they would not be able to earn the minimum rate of pay. I know of men who have been engaged in the Cordite Factory for ten years, where they have been compelled to inhale unhealthy fumes. Men who have been at the Front have stated that, from the point of view of their general health, they would just as soon be back in the lines as working amidst the fumes of the Cordite Factory.
The employees are to be turned out, however, without receiving a brass farthing by way of compensation. They are being most unjustly treated.
– But if this amendment is carried, they will be in no wise benefited
– The honorable member cannot tell me that it would be impossible for the Minister to liberalize a Bill which is so considerate to the “ brass hats,” and give a margin of justice to other men who have rendered good service to the country. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) has said that if the honorable member for Yarra (Mr Scullin) can convince him that his argument is based on irrefutable facts he will vote for his amendment. The honorable member for Yarra has shown that if ten officers are kept at work they will be paid £4,000, whereas by retiring they will draw £10,000, and the Minister has made no attempt to justify the position or explain it. If he chooses to sling public money about in this way, surely we, as custodians of the public purse, should demand an explanation as to why these particular officers should be paid, for doing nothing, more than twice as much as they would get if they continued in their employment. The Minister says that no one has helped him to frame the Bill.
– No, I did not say that-. I said that I was responsible for the Bill as framed.
– I venture to say that some of the “ top notchers “ in the service have collaborated with the Minister in framing the Bill. The “brass hat” influence is evident in every line of it. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) would have us stop- this discussion and pass the Bill. The Minister was equally anxious to pass it on the first day be brought it to the House; he would have rushed it through; but as a result of the discussion which then took place he has seen fit to bring down further proposals which have considerably improved it. To-day’s discussion, I trust, will likewise have a good effect, and induce the Minister to take steps to do justice to certain people who have been badly treated. A man entering the Cordite Factory at fifty years of age, and retired after ten years’ service, would be entitled to furlough pay, but a younger man, passing out at the age of thirty-five, after giving fifteen of the best years of his life in the service of his country amidst the fumes of cordite making, in all probability handicapped for any other form of employment, has nothing done for him. If the Minister is in earnest in saying that he wants to do justice to these men, let him liberalize his Bill, and give them some slight reward for their excellent services, particularly as their health is poorer now than it must have been when they entered the Cordite Factory. But the attitude of the Government is only in keeping with what they are doing every day in the matter of pensions due to the men for whom, according to the Government of the day, nothing was to be regarded as being too good. I had a case under my notice a few days ago. A crippled returned soldier, who had been drawing a war pension for two years on a doctor’s certificate stating that he was suffering from rheumatism, was told quite recently that his pension was to cease. At his request I asked the reason for this, and was told that the authorities had come to the conclusion that the certificate given by the first doctor was wrong, and that the man waa suffering from something which was not rheumatism. That is the sort of economy which is practised by the Government, economy at the expense of the “ under-dog,” the cutting down of the pensions of the men who have no influence. The case I have mentioned is but typical of hundreds of others, in which men have been declared to be suffering, not from the ailments specified in the original certificates of medical men, but from other causes which do not entitle them to pensions. But the same Government that preaches this kind of economy at the expense of men who have no influence and whose voice is not heard cater in a Bill of this sort for those in the upper circles of military service, even to the extent of paying some of them ‘two and a half times more than they would have drawn if they had remained in employment. . It would be better for the Minister to keep the men referred to by the honorable member for Yarra, even if it were only for the purpose of punctuating the correspondence issued from the Department. It is outrageous that any Government which pTeacb.es economy should attempt it at the expense of men who have no influence - unfortunate war pensioners, maimed in body and suffering in health - while giving every consideration to those who have plenty of influence, and who, if they were deprived of their positions to-morrow, would not be obliged to sleep in public gardens, but, having enjoyed cosy billets, would really have a good time. Honorable members can tell Ministers of the sufferings of soldiers and the abuses of the system of settling soldiers on the land, but to all appeals the Ministry turn a deaf ear and talk economy. This Committee should not accept the bluff which the Minister for Defence has been accustomed to put up lately. We have a duty to perform, and unless the Minister can give some satisfactory reply to the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Yarra, I cannot imagine any one who is anxious to give a fair deal to the men whose cases I have mentioned voting against the honorable member’s amendment.
.- I am pleased that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) has brought forward an amendment, and I intend to support it, for reasons which I thought would have actuated honorable members opposite in supporting it, seeing that it proposes to give the men on the lower rung of the ladder the same privileges as are enjoyed by those on the top rung. During the second-reading debate I notified my intention of moving an amendment’ to clause 5 to give the “ under-dog,” of whom our friends opposite think they are the only champions, the right which is enjoyed by people in a higher sphere; but the Minister has done this. Although he has, certainly, made some differentiation in the amount to be paid, there is no such differentiation, which I contend there should not be, in the scale under the position of warrant officer. In the circumstances, I thought that my friends opposite would be only too pleased to accept the Minister’s proposal; but, apparently, they are like the out-back nigger, who wants sugar .if you give him tea, and milk if you give him sugar.. They always want more than they are-‘ offered. At any rate, they have nan monopoly in the prosecution of the casefor the ‘ ‘ under-dog. “ The Minister said that the military officers should get fairtreatment, and he has meted it out. E am only permitted to touch upon thos clause before the Committee. I have not yet seen a Bill in either Parliament of which I have been a member in which anomalies have not occurred, and I say definitely to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) that as regards the two cases-
– Two! I mentioned several.
– I am putting my own case and criticising that advanced by the honorable member. There is certainly an anomaly in regard to the position of the two highly-paid men mentioned by the honorable member, but anomalies occur in connexion with almost every measure. My sympathies always go out to “ the under-dog.” The honorable member referred to the position of certain quartermasters who really hold the rank of sergeant majors.
– Every case to which I referred was that of a major or a captain.
– The majority of these quartermasters are sergeant-majors. Will any honorable member of the Opposition say that a sergeant-major1 is too well treated in the matter of pay ? The Minister has not only provided for the man on the -top rung of the ladder but, by his amendment, he is giving sergeantmajors acting as quartermasters the right to go up. Instead of dragging down others to their level he is raising them. It is not possible for sergeantmajors in the Commonwealth Military Forces to rise to any postion carrying with it a big salary. The majority of them do not get more than £450 a year. If they receive the compensation to which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has referred they will have something with which to carry on. I am glad that the Minister has submitted his amendment. Many of these men, even if they did not take part in the recent great war, fought in the previous war. In any event they volunteered for service, anil were liable to be called upon at any moment to fight. There is very little gratitude in the composition of an honorable member who will cavil at the general rate of compensation proposed by the Government merely because one or two men may get a little more than that to which he thinks they are entitled. It is better to raise the standard rather than to bring down the men at the top. The Minister’s amendment provides for a fair thing, and will afford those who have not had an opportunity to rise something on which, when they retire, they may fall back. I hope it will be carried. The highest compensation payable under this Bill com pares unfavorably with the payment made under the Indian scheme. As the Government are bringing up the lower paid men and giving them practically the same rights as are enjoyed by the higher paid men, I think it absurd for the Opposition to try to destroy the Bill merely because of an anomaly in relation to the position of one or two officers.
– I have been glancing through the House of Commons Parliamentary Debates and other official documents, and have come to the conclusion that the British Government, nothwithstanding their enormous load of debt, have, in many oases, treated the men who were in the ranks during the war better than we have treated those who went from this country to the Front. The British Government have, apparently, realized their responsibility to a set of men whom the Commonwealth Government seem to be prepared to turn adrift. I refer more particularly to those who were engaged in the manufacture of munitions, as well as in naval shipbuilding. Many such men in Great Britain who carried out that work while in private employment were well treated by the British Government when, owing to necessary reductions in staff, they were thrown out of employment. I have pleaded again and again with the Government to do something for men and women in our munition factories who have been suddenly sent to the right about. I have asked that they shall be given not a pension or a superannuation allowance, but work. Many of these men are in a very serious position. Men who went to the Front and on their return were employed or resumed their employment in the Public Service have also been discharged. I shall vote for the amendment of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), not because I want to pull down, since I believe in the policy of levelling up, but by way of general protest against the treatment that is being meted out to the rank and file, many of whom have been to the Front, while others have been employed in our .munition factories. When a man complains to me that men in the Public Service are in a better position than he is, that they have regular work, and are granted annual holidays, I say to him, “ Why try to reduce the conditions of employment for such men? I prefer to endeavour to obtain for you and others in private employment the privileges enjoyed by public servants.” I could bring before the Minister men who were engaged ten years ago to work in the Cordite Factory, and were told that they would be permanently employed, but whose services have been suddenly dispensed with. Their health has been impaired as a result of working in the factory, but they have been thrown out of employment without any consideration by the Government. I have made appeals for the fair treatment of these men, but the Government have only given me the cold shoulder. Men who during the war were working in the Munition and Cordite Factories, are entitled to fair play side by side with others who are receiving very generous treatment indeed. By way of illustration I would refer to the position of an officer in the Defence Department who is about sixty-three years of age, but whose services have been retained, although I understand that he is practically over the retiring age. He is a wealthy man, with sufficient capital to enable him to erect half-a-dozen shops in a city area where land values are high. He is drawing a fair salary, and his services are retained, whereas men with nothing to fall back on are being dismissed. The arguments advanced by the Opposition in support of the honorable member for Yarra’s proposals are exceptionally strong. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) did not agree altogether with the views expressed by the honorable member for Yarra, but he went a long way with him. An honorable member opposite seemed to take to himself and his party all the credit for the remodelling of this Bill. If under these amended proposals greater consideration is being given to the civil side of the Department, it is owing chiefly to the opposition offered by the Labour party to the Bill as originally introduced. It is not the fault of the Opposition that men have been kept waiting for their retiring allowance. This Bill could have been brought in much earlier. As a matter of fact, the Minister has taken a considerable time to remodel it, and he now asks us to rush it through the Committee. I am not prepared to deal out lavish emoluments or compensation to those who are high up in the Service while the Government deny a fair deal to the men and women who worked in the munition factories of this country. Many of them have been dismissed in the .most ruthless fashion. A brigadier-general, a colonel, or a major seems always to be able to get the ear of the Minister, and as a rule a Bill relating to naval and military matters bears the impress of officers of high rank. A Parliament such as this should not tolerate that sort of thing. I intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), not that I am delighted to deprive men of privileges which they happen to enjoy, but as a protest against the treatment meted out to the rank and file in both the Naval and Military Forces, and particularly to the general employees of the Department.
.- If members opposite are satisfied, as they say they are, with the statement of the Minister (Mr. Greene), all I can say is that they are very easily pleased. The Minister- definitely stated on a previous occasion that the case of the colonel I cited was the only one of the kind, with the addition, perhaps, of another. I have bo-day cited fifteen cases which are definitely proved, and yet the Minister does not apologize or make any explanation. There is one fact that some honorable members seem to have lost sight of. This is not a Superannuation Bill, but a Bill to compensate men who have suffered injury in the loss of their employment. With that object I agree. There has not been one word said by any honorable member, certainly on this side, objecting to men, whether officers or privates, getting adequate compensation for injury done. A point I wish to emphasize is covered by clause 13, which provides that the measure shall not apply to any person who is discharged on having reached the age of retirement. Yet the whole of the Minister’s defence is that it is the practice of the Department to give some gratuity to men who retire. Whatever may have been the practice, it does not affect the present question at all; this is a Bill to provide compensation to men of different ranks because they have been deprived of certain years of service to which they are legally entitled The Government ‘are dismissing a number of officers, the list of which I have not been able to exhaust owing to want of time. I have shown, however, that ten of these officers in a group are costing the country £10,000 to retire them, while it would cost £4,000 to keep them employed. There has been no answer to that statement, except one to the effect that there has been a practice, in some cases, of giving gratuities. When we point out that these gratuities have usually been given to those of high rank, such as brigadier-generals, and so on, we have the retort that that is a funny argument on the part of the Labour party in support of an objection to paying those of all ranks. But this treatment will not apply to all ranks, nor does the practice of giving gratuities apply to all ranks.
The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) raised some questions to which I should like to reply. Eight of the cases I quoted are those of men over fifty-nine years of age, while three are over fifty-eight - the retiring age of all being definitely fixed at sixty. The major-quartermasters and captainquartermasters are in an entirely different position from that of the average officer, a fact of which the Minister did not inform honorable members. These men are engaged for a definite period, until the retiring age of sixty, irrespective of whether they rise in rank or not. The ordinary officer, when he reaches the age of, say, fifty, drops out automatically, unless he has obtained promotion, which gives him an increased term. The remark of the Minister would apply, to some extent, to those cases ; but the cases I cite are all of officers who have definite terms of service in the Military Forces.
– All of them?
– Yes, except that of the colonel, leaving fourteen cases qf the kind. The case of the colonel is admitted to be an anomaly. The whole of the fourteen officers, as I say, are men who cannot be retired before sixty, or continue in the service beyond sixty; it does not matter if they never rise to a higher rank, they do not retire earlier, as they would in any other arm of the service. It is those cases in which the majors and captains, and not the sergeant-majors, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie said, are affected. Some of these majors and captains only have two months, six months, seven months, and eleven months before they will be retired in the ordinary course.
– It is not a fair deal in those particular cases.
– Not as the honorable member for Yarra puts them.
– The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) is quite right. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) expressed himself as satisfied with the Minister’s explanation, because, he says, the men are due for automatic rises. Nothing of the sort; they are not due for automatic rises, but due for retirement; and under clause 13 they are specifically exempt from the operation of the Bill if they reach the age of sixty years. Clause 13 provides, as I have said, that everybody,’ on reaching the retiring age, shall retire without a penny of compensation; and all who reach the retiring age in the future, even when this Bill is passed, will, with the exception of a specially-favoured few, be retired with nothing. The Minister talked about the Bill applying to the lowest rank as well as to the highest. I challenge the Minister; to give me the name of a ranker-
– What does the honorable gentleman call a ranker ?
– Name a sergeantmajor who- -
– Oh, that is all right; I can give you 160 !
– Name a sergeantmajor who is fifty-nine years of age, and who is getting two years of pay for retiring. I ask the Minister to give me the name of a sergeant-major, a noncommissioned officer, or a member of the rank and -file, who is fifty-nine years and ten months old who is being retired on fourteen months’ pay.
– All right!
– The Minister cannot do so. But even if the Minister could give me the name of such a man, I am still opposed to his proposal. If this retrenchment policy had not been introduced those men would automatically have Retired at sixty, and the country would not have been put to the expense of providing this extra money. This is a retrenchment and economy proposal ; but if it had not been introduced these men would ha ave automatically dropped out, without compensation, as they have been doing ever since there was a Department. A retrenchment measure is now before us which gives a man fourteen months’ pay because he is retired two months before his time.
I should like to refer to the statement of the Minister, when he introduced the Bill, that the principle of it is not a pay- ment for services rendered - a point that was emphasized by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). This is not a Bill to pay for. any services rendered, but a Bill to compensate men for the injury done in dismissing them before their time is up. The Minister talks about men who are qualified for higher rank, but I have shown that in all the cases cited by me the men cannot be employed beyond the age of sixty, and I wish to know how much promotion a man can get in two months. Here is a list of the cases, showing men aged fifty-nine years and ten months, fifty-nine years and seven months, and fifty-eight years and tea months, the youngest in the list being over fifty-seven years of age. If the Government brought down a superannuation scheme that would be another thing, because it would apply to every one, but this measure cannot be applied to other members of the Defence. Forces.
– Good men who retire later will get nothing.
– That is so. When the Government have retrenched the Forces to the number they require, men will still continue to automatically retire without compensation.
– Such officers will get what it has been the practice to give.
– Only the specially selected officers.
– In the meantime, we hope to get through the Superannuation Bill, which will provide for all.
– But at present what is happening? Men are being dismissed from the Harness Factory, the Clothing Factory, the Cordite Factory, the Small Arms Factory, and so forth, without compensation; worse than that, the Government, by dismissing men before the retiring age, are depriving them of accrued furlough pay. These men were engaged on the promise that after so many years’ service they should receive this pay, but they cannot, of their own accord, retire before sixty and obtain it. Of course, if a man’s own misconduct brings about his dismissal it is his own fault, but here we have men, with many years of faithful service, who were drawn into those factories on the promise I have indicated, and who are now being deprived of their furlough pay. Within four months of a man reaching the age of sixty - and there are other cases not quite as bad - he is discharged after ten years’ service, and without his furlough pay. Yet we on thu side are told- that we are parsimonious when dealing with the military heads. The Minister has declared that the Government are compelled to retire the3« men, and contend that the service would be rendered more inefficient if other men than those selected were retired. My answer is that if the Government cannot carry out a retrenchment policy withont retiring this class of officers, my advice is to keep those officers on playing golf or some other game, and save £6,000 out of the £10,000. If the Government desire ‘superannuation, let them introduce a measure, and, if they so choose, make it retrospective. If compensation “were paid to these men retired from the factories, or even if jobs were provided for them, there would not be a word of protest from this side of the House. The Minister meets our arguments by saying that “it is all politics” with us. What do.es the Minister mean by “ politics “ ? Does he mean that we always stand by the men who have been on the “breadline” all their lives? If that is politics, I stand for it. The men affected by this Bill have had high salaries and many years of generous treatment ; but the man on the “breadline” goes out without a farthing of compensation, or any attempt to provide him with a job, while, at the same time, he is deprived of his accrued furlough pay.
– That case has not been answered yet.
– Not yet. The honorable member for Balaclava said that this Bill was placing on the statute-book a sort of haphazard practice of the past. Nothing of the sort; there is nothing permanent about this Bill, which provides only for specific cases. It is not a superannuation Bill providing for all in the service, and, as I say, officers who remain in the service will drop out automatically as hitherto. Now the Government bring along the proposal to pay for more thai the injury done to those who are immediately retired, and we are entitled, in the interests of the country, and for th< sake of justice, to draw attention to it The plea has been put forward by th< honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) that these poor fellows might have nothing -when they retired, whilst the honorable member for Balaclava and the Minister have argued that because these men have been soldiering for a number of years they are not fit to compete in ordinary civilian life. Of the fifteen officers I have mentioned, eight have done no soldiering for the last ten years, and several of them have done no> soldiering at all. Two were clerks of works, one was an engineer, and the others were in charge of stores. The experience gained in their occupations is a sufficient qualification for men to earn their living outside, just as well as can men who have been labouring all their lives or have been working in the Harness Factory. Honorable members have said that the men who have been discharged from the factories have a trade to which they can go. The men working in the Harness Factory have been trained in special work, and that training is of very little use to them in the outside world.
– A deputation of master saddlers waited on me to protest against the product of the Factory being sold to the general public, thus showing that the product was good for. sale outside.
– I bought some of the product of the Factory in preference to that privately manufactured.
– The work of the men in the Factory was good, but some of the men have been trained in making military equipment and other special work, and they will take a long time to qualify for commercial work. The men -who were engaged in making harness and boots will, no doubt, find private employment in the outside world. Because the master saddlers protested against the Government selling the product of the Harness Factory, the Government ceased doing so, and many men employed in the Factory have been dismissed. The Factory was not established as a war measure; it was started in 1911, and employed eighty men from the first day, but now the employees are reduced to six. Why? Because the Ministry will not compete with private enterprise; they will not compete with their friends who placed them upon the Treasury bench, and contribute to their party funds. <
The ‘CHAIRMAN . - Order !
– I have nothing to say against the provisions of the Bill other than the clause now before us. The amendments proposed to the other clauses are good ones, thanks to the fight which was put up earlier in the Committee stage.
– Not by the honorable member.
– Every suggestion made in the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and myself has been adopted. The omission from clause 5 of the words which eliminated clerks from certain benefits under the Bill, the application to officers, noncommissioned officers, and privates, of the same basis of compensation, and the insertion of the words “ shall not exceed,” were suggested from this side of the House.
– The honorable member takes too much credit.
– The honorable member never opened his mouth. on the subject.
– I do not agree with the amendment.
– I cited cases and Showed the anomalies in the treatment of military and civil officers. That so disturbed members on the Ministerial side that they approached the Minister, and an amendment was brought down. The criticism from this side of the House has resulted in the improvement of the Bill. My attitude to this Bill is this: It is a measure to compensate men for injury done. If it does compensate them for injury done, that is all that is expected, and if the amendment be carried, it will insure that men who are nearing the retiring age will, if their1 services are dispensed with, be paid in full for the period of service they lose. In other words, they will receive a holiday on full pay for the unexpired portion of their service. In the circumstances, that is very generous treatment.
– I desire to make one further appeal to the Committee to reject the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). There are, of course, various divisions in which officers are graded in the service. I know the officer to whom the honorable member for Yarra was referring in the first case that he cited. In that particular class there is one other officer who, in all probability, would not have received’ promotion during the remainder of his service, and he is being retired with the minimum com- pensation. In regard to quartermasters, it is true that there is a definite limit to their term of service, namely, when they attain the age of sixty years. If that were all, there would be something in the honorable member’s argument, but it is not all. Section 27 of the Defence Act gives special power to extend their term of service for two years.
– Would the Minister, exercise it now that he is retrenching his staff?
– No, of course not; that is my point. Regulation 134 provides that - officers and soldiers of the Military Forces shall be retired at the ages set forth in the following table, but in special cases of an exceptional nature the Governor-General may extend the prescribed age of retirement for a period not exceeding two years.
As a matter of fact, it has been the almost invariable practice of the Department to extend the services of quartermasters for the maximum period of two years, and but for this policy of retrenchment, the quartermasters would have had two years added to their term of military service. I was particularly anxious to treat these men well, because there is scarcely a man holding the rank of quartermaster to-day who has not risen from the ranks. However, when it is suggested for the first time that they shall be placed, upon the same basis as the higher-paid military officers, and receive twelve months’ pay as compensation, the honorable member for Yarra and his associates oppose the proposal, and say that these men should not get that treatment. The quartermasters have risen from the ranks, and, owing to ability and industry, have carved out for themselves a special position in the Forces, and those are the men who, honorable members opposite say, should not get the compensation that is given to the higher officers. What we are proposing to do is quite fair. The official life of these men is being cut down, in such cases as cited by the honorable member for Yarra, by at least two years and two months, and all we are proposing is to pay them that retiring allowance which Parliament has always paid to higher military officers upon their retirement.
– What about the rank and file?
– We are placing them on the same level as the general. The honorable member for Yarra compared the treatment of officers with the treatment of sergeant-majors, but I tell him that there are 160 sergeant-majors who are leaving the service, and we have applied to them exactly the same rules as we have applied to the higher military officers. If there was any man who had not four years of unexpired service he had to leave automatically.
– Will the Minister mention an instance of a sergeant-major who is going out with compensation within two months of his ordinary retirement?
– We apply to sergeantmajors exactly the same rule as we apply to the officers.
– But you. made a different selection.
– No, we did not. The rule was that if a man was within four years of the age of retirement for the rank which he then held he must automatically retire; consequently there is not a sergeant-major with less than four years of service ahead of him who is not being retired. Whilst I cannot say definitely at the moment that there is a sergeant-major being retired who is within two months of the ordinary age al retirement, I have not the slightest doubt that included in the list of retirements are sergeant-majors who had less than twelve months of service ahead of them. A uniform rule was applied without one single exception, so far as I am aware, except where the number of voluntary retirements made its application unnecessary.
– Could the Minister produce a list of fifteen sergeant-majors situated similarly to the fifteen officers whom I mentioned?
– I have not the complete list of names here, but I have n< doubt I could do so. What we propose is justice, as nearly as is possible when i general rule is being applied all round In those circumstances I feel confident that the Committee will reject an amend ment which, if it were carried, would work a most grievous injustice to a nam ber of men. I cannot conceive of an; amendment which would create greater anomalies or do graver’ injustice to individuals than the proposal which is noi before the Committee. .
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the amendment (Mr. Scullin’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That the Bill be recommitted for the recon sideration of clause 3.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 3 -
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That after the word “ member,” twice occurring, the words “ or employee “ be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That after the word “ State “ the words “ or under the agreement contained in the Naval Agreement Act 1903 “ be inserted.
I explained last night the purpose of this amendment. After the year 1903, and before the establishment of the Royal Australian Navy, a number of men enlisted for service on the ships of the Royal Navy in Australian waters. They were an Australian Naval Force, and not members of the Royal Navy in the true sense of the term; they were known as “ A.N.F’s.” When the Royal Australian Navy was established these men, or so many of them as were still on the ships of the Royal Navy, came over to the Australian Navy, and what we wish to do is to make sure that their period of service on the ships of the Royal Navy, inasmuch as they were really an Australian Naval Force, lis counted to them.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments.
Standing Orders suspended; reports adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- Before the Bill finally leaves this Chamber I ask the favorable consideration of the Minister to the position of those persons who, having been employed in the Commonwealth Harness Factory, or hav- ing been in similar employment in the Defence Department, were discharged just before the time when they would otherwise have qualified for a furlough or retiring allowance. The Minister claims to have endeavoured to make the Bill as free of anomalies as possible, and to apply it justly to all the classes of persons coming under it; but the cases to which I direct attention are such as this: A person employed in the Commonwealth Harness Factory, who would have qualified for a substantial retiring allowance on reaching the age of sixty years, is discharged shortly ‘before he does so, and thus loses at once both his employment and hie prospective retiring allowance. Such dismissals seem to me almost in the nature of sharp practice; and to be most unjust. Then there are other cases in which long service should qualify-
– If, on examination, we find, as I think we can, that by an alteration of the factory regulations furlough pay, or so much as would have accrued at the period of the determination of service, may be given, I shall see that it is done.
– That will apply to other factories, too.
– I am pleased that the Minister is to give the matter consideration. Only a limited number of persons will be affected. Hardship is certainly inflicted when men who have given long and faithful service find themselves deprived by dismissal from compensation which they had just about qualified for, and would have obtained had they not been arbitrarily retired.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– I am glad to have the assurance of the Minister that he will deal with this matter by regulation, but could it not be dealt with by an amendment of the Bill in another place?
– It is not a thing that could be dealt with in the Bill, but if I can deal with it by regulation I shall do so.
– I take it that the reason the Minister would give for not dealing with it in the Bill is that the persons concerned have no legal claim, because the regulation provides for the payment of compensation on retirement after reaching the age of sixty. I would point out, however, that the officers whose case we have been discussing this afternoon have no legal claim to the year’s pay that the Government propose to give them. I understand it to be the statement of the Minister that he will give compensation in all cases where a sufficiently long period has been served to qualify for consideration.
– If the period to be served is eight years, and a man has served four years, I shall try to arrange that he shall be paid proportionate compensation.
– And in those cases in which men have served ten years but have not reached the age of sixty years, compensation will be paid for the years of service.
– So far as I can do so, I shall arrange for that.
.- I appeal to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) to give consideration to the case of a number of men who have been employed in the naval dockyard. Under regulations, they are entitled to six months’ retiring allowance after having given twenty years’ service. I do not suppose that there are more than a dozen or eighteen men concerned, but the greater number of these have been employed for considerably more than twenty years, first under the State and latterly’ in the Commonwealth service. The employees in whose behalf I am speaking have been deprived’, purely on a technicality, of their right to a retiring allowance. The Department has taken the stand that if an employee loses any time, no matter for what reason, the lapse amounts to a break in his continuity of service, and the retiring allowance is withheld. The Department is adopting a very mean and paltry attitude. About eighteen months ago the naval dockyard was closed down through no fault of the workmen. The authorities now say that the continuity of service of all the employees has been broken. No notice is taken of the reason for the compulsory stoppage of work. The Government should give sympathetic consideration to this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.24 to 8 p.m.
In Committee of Supply : Debate resumed from 17th August (vide page 1481), on motion by Mr. BRUCE -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Parliament - namely, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
– I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) and his officers upon the speedy manner in which they were able to present an approximate statement of the finances of the country so soon after the close of the financial year, and the fact that there was little difference between the figures then presented and those disclosed in the Budget as delivered by the Treasurer reflects great credit on the Treasury officials. The Budget itself may be fittingly described as an electioneering Budget. We have never had a financial statement in which so much endeavour has been made to throw out sops on the eve of an election to every section of the community. In the Budget now under’ discussion there has been something for everybody, with the exception of that very deserving portion of the community who are struggling on a small pittance at a time when the cost of living is greatly in excess of what it was years ago. I refer to the invalid and old-age pensioners, who ought to have had first consideration in the matter of improving their conditions.
– If that consideration had been given the honorable member would also have described it as a sop.
– The Honorary Minister is quite wrong in making that assertion. On numerous occasions I have urged the Government to utilize the accumulated surplus for the purpose of increasing invalid and old-age pensions.
As a rule Treasurers leave a very big margin in the Estimates on which they are working. For instance, in 1921-22 the estimated revenue was £61,787,350, but the actual revenue was £64,897,046, a considerable increase above the amount forecasted, and our present Treasurer is, apparently, following on the lines adopted by his predecessor (Sir Joseph Cook). He has estimated a revenue of £62,518,250, which he says is an increase of about £730,900 as compared with the -estimate of 1921-22, but as the figures of the actual revenue for that year were known to him, I submit that he should have made his comparison, not with last year’s Estimates, but with last year’s actual revenue; and then, instead of an increase of £730,000, there would have been an actual decrease of £2,378,796 as compared with the amount of revenue received last year. Any one reading the Financial Statement would believe that we were actually to receive more revenue this year than last year, whereas the Treasurer anticipates receiving £2,378,796 less.
The Treasurer estimates to expend out of revenue this year £62,023,693 as against last year’s actual expenditure of £65,106,949, a decrease of £3,083,256. Here, again, the casual reader would conclude that the cost of government was being reduced to that extent, whereas, as a matter of fact, the amount is in excess of what was estimated to be expended last year; because we are not to lose sight of the fact that £3,200,000 is to be taken out of the accumulated surplus and used as revenue for the purpose of defraying the cost of administration. Taking that . £3,200,000 into consideration, the actual estimated expenditure for the current financial year is increased as compared with last year’s expenditure by no less than £116,744, notwithstanding the fact that the Government propose to spend £1,177,459 less on defence from revenue this year. Therefore, there will be considerably more expenditure this year, and not less, as the Treasurer would have us believe.
– The honorable member cannot get away from the fact that we propose to spend £62,023,693 this year as compared with an expenditure of £65,106,949 last year.
– That is so; but I am putting another complexion on the figures by presenting the actual facts.
Although the Government estimate that they will spend £62,023,693, it does not follow that the amount will cover the whole of the expenditure from revenue for the year, because a sum of £3,200,000’ is. to be taken from the Surplus Revenue Trust Fund.
– But that will not increase the total expenditure of £62,023,693 by one farthing.
– It shows that we will be spending that £3,200,000 in addition to what we are taking from revenue.
– No. Every penny of our proposed expenditure is included in the £62,023,693.
– Except the proposed bounty, which conies out of the £3,200,000.
– The Treasurer would seek to indicate that the proposed relief from taxation will be made possible, not by the revenue to be obtained through the Budget, but because £3,200,000 is to be taken from the accumulated surplus.
– But the people will pay no portion of that £3,200,000. We simply forego taxation to that extent.
– The point is that if we do not take £3,200,000 from the accumulated surplus we shall have a deficit by remitting the taxation as proposed.
– I understood the honorable member to suggest that the real expenditure would be greater than the actual expenditure last year, namely £65,106,949.
– When we take into consideration the fact that we are remitting taxation, and making the amount up out of the Trust. Fund, such is really the case.
– No; the expenditure for the year is not increased.
– I know it is not to be regarded as expenditure: but the general public would believe that the proposed expenditure of £62,023,693 covered the whole cost of government, whereas we are remitting taxation for electioneering purposes by withdrawing £3,200,000 from the accumulated surplus.
– -By tipping the till.
– Of course, we are tipping the till. Surpluses which have been paid into a Trust Fund for years past are now to be utilized because an election is looming. The Government want to be able to tell the electors that they are reducing taxation on incomes, land, and so forth; but they are not providing for it in their expenditure. They are taking the amount from the accumulated surplus.
– Hear,- hear !
– Not only are we spending £1,177,459 less from revenue, on defence this year, we are also proposing to spend less from revenue on the Post Office. In 1921-22 we spent from revenue upon the Post Office no less than £89~3,166, but this year the revenue expenditure on this Department has been reduced to £168,232, which means a gain to the Treasurer on his revenue figures of £724,934. At the same time it is proposed to borrow considerable sums of money for this Department. Why should we not pay more out of revenue? We were able to do it last year; why not this year? Notwithstanding that the revenue expenditure upon the Postal Department last year was £724,934, the Department showed a profit of £600,00.0. The postal charges are to remain the same this year. Where, then, is the justification for reducing the revenue expenditure upon the Department to £168,232, and giving the Treasurer an advantage of £724,934 in his Budget ? If the revenue of the Postal Department this year is equal to the amount received last year, the Treasurer will actually get an advantage of £1,324,934. Are we justified in borrowing large sums of money for expenditure on postal work, and at the same time- utilizing as revenue the return derived from the expenditure of that money? It is not fair to the postal services to impose upon them the burden of paying interest on heavy loan expenditure when the Department is making a profit of £600,000 a year, and when the expenditure from revenue has been decreased by a similar amount. I am well aware that the money proposed to be borrowed is to be spent on reproductive works which should have been carried out long ago; but it is only reasonable that when a Department is able to afford the Treasurer an advantage of £1,324,934 in one year, it should not be asked to bear a loan expenditure of £2,950,000 in that same year, and should have at least £724,934 spent from revenue, so that the interest burden the services are called upon to bear may be so much less, if the Department is selfsupporting it should be put on a fair basis, and we certainly have no right to add to our national debt unnecessarily at the expense of one Department. The Government grab as much of the earnings of the Department as possible, and put them into the general revenue account. The expenditure out of revenue on postal works this year is £724,934 less than it was in 1921-22. In the case of the Federal Capital, there are three items - one of £34,900, another of £9,615, and a third of £1,500 provided for out of loan account, which last year we paid for out of revenue. These three items added to the £724,934, to which I have just referred, give us a total of £770,949, which last year was provided for out of revenue, but which this year is to come out of loan account. It is an easy matter for the Government to make the financial position look well by adopting such a system. The figures submitted by the Treasurer, when carefully examined, are capable of a very different construction from that placed upon them by the honorable gentleman. The true position is revealed in the facts I have just given. The total increase in the expenditure, which should come out of revenue this year, is actually £887,693. The Treasurer, as the result of hispolicy of providing for certain works out of loan account instead of meeting them out of revenue, as was done last year, is better off to that extent. These figures are really appalling, and demand very careful consideration. The expenditure out of loan in 1921-22 was: War loan, £7,567,977: works loan, £5,246,503, or a total of £12,823,480, whereas for 1922-23 the loan expenditure is to be £17,250,924, or an increase of £4,427,444. I take no exception to loan money being used where necessary for the development of the country, but I certainly object to works which were previously charged to revenue being provided for out of loan account, so that the Governmentmayswell its returns for the next financial year. The Government are proposing to provide out of loan for postal works as follows:- 1922-23, £2,950,000; 1923-24, £3,660,000; and 1924-25, £3,140,000; total, £9,750,000. That money will be spent on reproductive works, and my only objection is that the Postal Department should not be loaded with additional debt to that extent when it is making, as it will this year, a contribution of about £1,324,934 to the general revenue. We should provide out of postal revenue as far as possiblefor postal works.
I want now to refer briefly to the cost of loans. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) recently put to the Treasurer a question as to the relative cost of loan flotations in Australia and abroad, and the answer he obtained shows that the loans that we float outside the Commonwealth cost considerably more than do those raised within Australia. We are too prone to run abroad for loan money. The Government seem to be ever ready to float a loan overseas instead of tapping the local money market. During the war, we tried the local market, and it responded nobly to our demands. Australia to-day is better off than any other country that took part in the war, yet the Government are raising money overseas.
– The honorable member should not forget that the Government drained the Australian market very dry.
– The money that the Government borrow in Australia soon finds its way back through the ordinary, channels to the banking institutions, so that it is again loaned out, and is used to develop the country.
– It is much better to bring in fresh capital.
– That depends on the cost. The honorable member for East Sydney asked the Treasurer, on notice, the following question: -
Will he give the following particulars in regard to loans raised during the period that SirJoseph Cook, late Treasurer, held office: -
The Treasurer furnished the following re ply
There we have an interesting comparison. A £5,000,000 loan floated in London cost this country £166,303, whereas a loan of £26,612,560 floated in Australia cost us only £109,318. The Australian loan was floated at par, whereas the loan in London was floated at 95, so that, in addition to having to pay a great deal more by way of flotation charges, we got only £95 for every £100 of the issue of £5,000,000. It will also be seen that the cost of floating a loan of £10,086,940 in Australia was only £52,860 as against £153,177 which we had to pay by way of costs on the floating of a loan of £5,000,000 in London. All these loans were floated practically within twelve months. I do not know how to account for the difference.
– It is largely a question of underwriting charges.
– That may be so.
– Then, again, provision has to be made for the stamp duty in connexion with all the British loans.
– But that is small compared with the underwriting costs.
– Quite so. It is remarkable that, although we can float a loan here for about one-third of the cost of floating a loan abroad, the Government insist upon obtaining money overseas. This is a matter that should be carefully considered. The Treasurer, as a shrewd man, no doubt will carefully watch the money market, and whenever money is cheaper will do his best to liquidate some of our present loans as they fall due. We are not justified, however, in paying so much as we have done for the floating of loans overseas. It is about time that we were advised of the reasons for the increased cost. We have a High Commissioner in London to attend to these matters, so that the cost should not be excessive. It may be as the honorablemember for Balaclava says, that- the underwriting charges are largely responsible for the difference.
– It is impossible to float a loan in London except through the proper channels.
– If we knew exactly what those “proper channels” were - if the whole matter were fully explained to the House - we might be able to change the system. It seems, however, that the Government have got into a rut and cannot get out of it. ‘
Our gross national debt on 30th June last was £416,070,509. Of that amount we can expect to recover £74,949,731 r leaving us with a net national debt of £341,120,778. Alterations are being made in the rate of payment to the Sinking Fund. The Treasurer now proposes that the Sinking Fund shall be £ per cent., and he tells us that will enable us to redeem the national debt in fifty years. The year before last we had a sinking fund of 1 per cent. Last year we reduced it to f per cent., and this year it is being reduced to i per cent. Next year probably payments to the sinking fund will cease altogether.
– No ; I pointed out in my speech that we proposed to introduce legislation on the subject.
– A sinking fund of i per cent, would enable us to wipe out the debt in fifty years; a sinking fund of J per cent, would enable us to liquidate it in forty-two years, while a payment of 1 per cent, to the sinking fund would clear us of the national debt in about thirtyseven years.
– Provided there was no war in the meantime.
– Exactly. While we are paying into a sinking fund we are at the same time continuing to borrow, so that our national debt is increasing. While I freely admit that at a time like this, when we are suffering from the aftermath of the war, the Government is justified in borrowing to carry on public works in order to find employment for our people during a period of stress-
– So long as the works are reproductive.
– That is so; but the Government are spending loan money on many works that are not reproductive.
– Such as on works at Canberra.
– Yes. I have already referred to three items relating to Canberra.
– All works are said at the outset to be reproductive. It is only after they have been started that we find that they will not be reproductive.
– Postal and railway works for the development of the country are absolutely necessary. It is idle to talk of immigration unless facilities for settlement are provided. This year we are paying £2,159,673 into the sinking fund, whereas in 1921-22 we paid in £3,000,000. I do not know whether it is claimed that a payment of1/2 per cent, is ample to meet our debts, but from my point of view it is high . time that the whole question was carefully investigated. I think that there should be a special Committee, consisting of members of all parties, to go into the whole question of the indebtedness of the Commonwealth. I do not think it should be a party matter at all.
– Do not you think the Treasurer has dealt very fairly with the national debt?
– I think that the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), like all other Treasurers, is doing his best in the face of a very difficult problem ; and that is why I suggest, in order to assist him, that there ought to be a. Committee of representative men from, different sides to go into the question of our. debt and to report to the House.
I now turn to the question of immigration, in regard to which the Government have taken up an entirely different attitude from that indicated by a statement made by the Prime Minister in this House. When we were dealing with the question some little time ago, the Prime Minister said that, so far as the Government were concerned, they would not assist in bringing immigrants to this country unless there was employment for them and provision made for their reception. He added that the Government were endeavouring to make some arrangement with the States to this end, but immigrants would not be brought out here and thrown, promiscuously on the labour market in the different capital cities. The sum set down under the head of immigration is £200,000, and some time ago I asked the Prime Minister the following questions: -
In connexion with the migration agreement just signed by the High Commissioner in
London on behalf of the Commonwealth, will he state -
The replies of the Prime Minister were -
This, then, evidently is no part of the arrangement entered into with the States, but one made with the British Government. There is no doubt that if the immigrant is fortunate enough to obtain - employment he may return ‘money that is advanced to him; but there is no guarantee of employment. The answers to my questions are a direct negative to what the Prime Minister had previously stated from his place in the House. What are these expected immigrants going to do? Are they going to join the already large armies of unemployed in our cities? Is it a fair thing to bring men out here when we cannot find employment for our own people? Will such a policy improve Australia in the eyes of Great Britain? In my opinion, the result must be disastrous. We are going, to spend £200,000 - which I suppose will be borrowed - not in a direction that will be reproductive, but in a way that will give a bad name to this country for years to come, and prevent the general influx of population. If we can find employment for our own people and there are vacancies here for others, I have nothing to say against immigration. If, however, we can make Australia sufficiently attractive we shall find plenty of people in other parts of the world ready to come here;, make the conditions good and we shall not lack immigrants. I do not wish to labour the question further than to show that the policy of the Government is a direct departure from what the Prime Minister said when we were dealing with the question some time ago. I repeat that in every State of the Commonwealth to-day there are thousands of able-bodied men unemployed; and it is for that reason that we desire public works to be started to absorb them, and to assist at the same time in developing the country. There is ‘ no likelihood of those men getting work for some years to come - that is, until the impoverished conditions prevailing in other parts of the world improve, and there is a greater demand for the commodities we produce. Immigration with some people is really a ‘ ‘ fad ‘ ‘ ; they have an idea that all they have to do is to shout “ Immigration!” and get the press behind them in the agitation, in order to show that they are doing something for the country. The true patriots are those who would make provision for their own people and afterwards bring their fellowmen from overseas when there is work for them to do. This heedless cry of immigration will not help the country, but, on the other hand, must do an immense amount of injury.
Then we have to consider the question of old-age and invalid pensions. As I said at the beginning, we have been endeavouring for the last few years to get the pension increased, realizing that the old people are entitled to more consideration. Every time we have made approaches in that direction we have received the “cold shoulder”; yet it is proposed ito take trust money for the purpose of reducing the taxation of people who are in a much better position than other sections of the community to bear it. I have nothing to say against the reduction of taxation, if it can be done legitimately; but we are not justified in removing the burden from shoulders that are well able to bear it, while the pensioners are not able to live on the pittance they receive. These poor old people should be our first consideration, and when their claims have been satisfied we may do what we like in regard to the reduction of taxation. The trust fund has hitherto been recognised by members of this House as created for the purpose of paying invalid and old-age pensions. Just before the House rose last December we passed a measure providing that the pensions might be paid out of the surplus; and here I may say that the particular surplus the Government is operating on for the purpose of reducing taxa tion was chiefly accumulated by members on this side when they were in power. In 1910, when the Labour Government was returned, there was a deficit of some £656,149, but in 1913, when we left office, there was’ a surplus of between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000. When the Labour Government came back to power, in 1915, that surplus had been reduced by over £1,000,000, but when we leftoffice after the breach in the party, the surplus had increased to something like £5,000,000. Very little has been added to the surplus, except when the Labour party has been in power.
– There was not £5,000,000 in the fund in 1916 when the breach took place- the highest figure was £3,000,000.
– I speak subject to correction; but, at any rate, I can say that the surplus grew while the Labour party had control.
– Do not forget the war I
– I do not forget the war. The surplus I speak of was accumulated prior to the war - in 1910-13. However, the point is that that money was always regarded as being there for the purpose of paying old-age and invalid pensions.
– The Labour party did not increase the pensions as the present Government have done.
– Yes, we did; and had we been returned at the last elections the poor people would have been receiving £1 per week all through. Further, if we are returned at the next elections, one of our first acts will be to increase the amount. On the 30th June, 1922, there were 144,115 pensioners, and an extra 5s. per week would amount to £36,029 per week, or £1,873,408 per annum. The Government can take £3,200,000 to relieve the taxation of the general public, but an extra 5s. per week, which would amount to the figure I have just stated, is denied to the poor people. It is said that the extra money cannot be granted, notwithstanding the fact that there is over £6,000,000 in the surplus fund. If evenhanded justice is to be dealt all round, we might, at least, take these pensioners into consideration and appropriate as much from the surplus as will give them each 5s. more per week. But no; these are the only people who are to be denied. One wonders why they are denied. It is probably because they have no great influence; they obtain no assistance from the press, and they are getting so advanced in years that many of them are unable to take much interest in politics; indeed, many scarcely know what is happening to themselves. It is because of these facts, no doubt, that they are left in the lurch.
The Treasurer has told us that the Government have given the matter of the maternity allowance every consideration, and that theyfind it a most difficult problem to deal with. The Government cannot see their way to interfere with the allowance for the present - it will be seen the statement is qualified - but what will happen after the election is quite another thing. The Treasurer has stated that if he did make an alteration to the extent of confining the allowance to those in receipt of incomes under £300 per annum, it would mean only £29,000 out of a total expenditure of £690,000, plainly showing that it is the poor people of this country upon whom we have to rely to increase our natural population. The sum of £29,000 represents 5,800 births in families of people in receipt of incomes of over £300 per year, out of a total of 138,000 births. It would appear, therefore, that there willbe no steps taken in this connexion this year, anyhow, though we are told that the Government will endeavour to co-operate with the States on economic lines. I venture to say that if ever the Government puts into operation the recommendation of the Medical Conference - which, I take it, is what the Treasurer has in his mind - it will cost this Commonwealth more than is being paid today. We cannot start erecting maternity hospitals all over the country without incurring very heavy expense. Some of us know what it costs to run hospitals, and we cannot make provision for one centre without also providing for others. Such hospitals would have to be extended throughout the Commonwealth.
– We have some magnificent maternity hospitals at the present time.
-I know that there are hospitals under the State authorities ; but the honorable member will agree that they are chiefly in thickly-populated centres.
– I do not think so.
– I fancy that New South Wales has, in this regard, made better provision than most of the States, and still we can go to many places in that State where there are no maternity homes.
– That is so.
– The Treasurer agrees with me. A change in the method, instead of being a benefit, may cost very much more than the £690,000 per annum expended at present.
In reference to the Public Service, the Government have decided that those officers in receipt of £310 per annum and over are to be removed from the operation of the Public Service Arbitration Act - . although an Arbitrator has been appointed - and it is claimed that this will result in greater efficiency and opportunities for advancement. The Government, on their own initiative, provided a Court for the Public Service, and appointed Mr. Atlee Hunt to preside over it. It has been in operation for a couple of years, and now the Government suddenly come tothe conclusion that those officers who are in receipt of over £310 per annum should not have the benefit of arbitration. That decision will not help to bring about contentment in the Public Service.
– Yet the Government say that they believe in arbitration.
– Yes ; and why this change? What does it mean? Is it the first step towards the breaking down of arbitration altogether? Having regardto the rumours we hear, and the statements published in the press from time to time, it is evident that there is behind the Government a certain section of the people who are determined to break down arbitration.
– Does the honorable member refer to the coal-miners?
– I do not; but probably the honorable member is -one of those to whom I am alluding. I warn the Committee that it may be a sorry day for the Commonwealth when arbitration is destroyed. I know that there are those in the community who think that, in consequence of the conditions brought about by the war, the time is opportune to make inroads upon the wages and working conditions gained by the workers during the last fifteen years. They know that the Arbitration Court mediates as fairly as is possible between worker and employer, and they think that if they can destroy the arbitration principle, they may deprive the workers of some of those advantages which they have gained. Evidence of that desire is provided by the meetings that are held from time to time to advocate the abolition of the Arbitration Court. What do the public servants say about that policy? This is a letter that was sent to me to-day by the General Secretary of the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association -
Proposed Amendment to Arbitration [Public Service) Act: Treasurer’s Budget.
I have been directed by the executive of my Association to invite your consideration of the proposal made by the Commonwealth Treasurer in his Budget: - “That the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920 should be amended to the extent of excluding from its provisions officers of the Service in receipt of salaries exceeding £310 per annum.”
This proposal meets with the strongest possible objection from all Commonwealth public servants, irrespective of the salaries enjoyed by them. Conferences of public servants have been held to discuss . the matter, and the following considerations have been advanced as proof of the unanimous contention that the Government’s proposal will mean both a loss of efficiency to the Service, and an injustice to officers : -
Claims are submitted for his consideration comprising very many matters besides salary conditions. It is confidently asserted that . the Arbitrator is in a better position to rectify certain kinds of anomalies than either the present Commissioner is, or the proposed Board of Commissioners would be.
The present Commissioner “ sits aloft in awful . state,” and allsubmissions to him have to be made through the unsatisfactory medium of written communication. The Arbitrator is able to hear evidence on various matters, and can form ‘his conclusions after having looked at the matter from all possible points of view. The decisions of the Commissioner are ex parte, and the point of view of officers is never adequately considered. The Commissioner has adopted the slogan that “the Public Service is not instituted for the good of public servants.” This is readily admitted, but it is pointed out that a rigid insistence upon a narrow formula leads to frequent injustice. Public servants have a right to consideration, at least, and the public, whose servants they are, would be the first to admit this.
The public servants are opposed to any effort to deprive them of the benefits of arbitration, and they are perfectly justified in. making a protest. They have a right to claim that their grievances shall be referred to arbitration, and unless that is conceded, we shall have little chance of getting a satisfactory and contented Service. If the public servants are constantly at loggerheads with the Commissioner, and have no means of adjusting’ their differences, there can be nothing but dissatisfaction in their ranks, and that will not conduce to the benefit of the Commonwealth.’
The Treasurer stated that the Government did not intend, at the present juncture, to propose a reduction in the wages of public servants, but they are of opinion that the allowance that has been granted to officers of the Commonwealth during recent years should be reduced in accordance with the reduction in the cost of living. We have heard a good deal about a reduction in the cost of living. At the end of last year a bold effort was made to break down the conditions of the workers on the ground that the reduction in the cost of living and the economic circumstances warranted a reduction in wages and an increase in working hours. The State Government of New South Wales recently reduced the basic wage of the Public Service to £3 18s. 6d. per week, and ever since the cost of living has been rising. I read in the press during the last few days that, even in Victoria, the living wage was fixed at £4 ls. 6d. on the basis of the Statistician’s figures. It is anticipated that the New South Wales Government will permit the Board of Trade - I admit the Board of Trade may act only with the permission of the Government - to declare an advance in the basic wage to £4 ls. in that State. Yet an endeavour was made which, I am sorry to say, was supported by men in this House, to reduce wages and working conditions on account of the reduced cost of living. To-day, we find that the workers are in no better position as regards the cost of living than they were before the reduction was proposed! ; on the contrary, they have to pay more for their living now than they did a few months ago. That experience illustrates how careful we must be in regard to these matters.
– Even the Prime Minister said that the cost of living was falling, and that wages would have to fall in proportion.
– The Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia and others were advocating a reduction in wages in order to restore economic stability - as if the starvation of the people who have to produce tha wealth of the country will conduce to the country’s welfare. Whilst the Government say that they will not reduce the wages of public servants at the present time, they intend to approach the Arbitrator from time to time for a review of the cost of living allowance. Nobody can take exception to their approaching the Arbitrator on this matter, but I da strongly object to them depriving men in receipt of a salary of over £310 per annum of the right of appearing before that tribunal. It is to be left to the Government to decide what salaries and conditions are fair for those men.
– Three Commissioners will be appointed who will decide that.
– Even if three Commissioners be appointed, why should the higher-paid officers be deprived of the right of going before the Arbitrator, to whom they and the Government could state their case, leaving it to him to decide on the evidence adduced ? No system could be fairer than that; but if it be right to take the privilege of arbitration away from men receiving upwards of £310 per annum, we should, to be logical, take it away from everybody. Arbitration is as necessary for those men as it is for those receiving less pay. Throughout Australia there is a class of men who, though they would have nothing to do with arbitration years ago, are now clamouring for it. Bank clerks, since they adopted the principle of arbitration, have received ever so much more pay than they received before. School teachers would never have entertained the thought of arbitration in years gone by, but to-day they are asking that their claims be referred to arbitration. In New South Wales they swear by arbitration, because they know of the benefits that it is likely to yield them. The Trea- surer was careful to point out that whilst the Government do not intend to reduce the wages of public servants at the present juncture, the whole matter will receive further consideration at a later period in the light of the conditions then obtaining. That is identical, almost word for word, with the statement made by Sir George Fuller during the recent State elections in New South Wales. He said to the public servants, “ Do not be afraid ; support the Nationalist party ; we shall not interfere with the conditions cf employment and salaries if we get into office.” The Fuller Government have been in office only a few months, and every public servant has suffered a reduction, and a further decrease is in prospect. Of course, a party must always be careful before going to the people to tell them that they do not intend to follow a policy of reduction, but as soon as the election is over, the successful party gives the people a taste of the medicine it had in store for them.
Now I come to the question of members’ salaries. I am surprised at the action of the Government, particularly of the Prime Minister.. I cannot understand a man who introduced a measure for the increase of members’ salaries, and who, on a subsequent occasion, when the increase was challenged by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), again supported that increase, now saying that he proposes to reduce the salaries by £200, apparently for no other reason than that he is about to go to the country. Either we are not worth £1,000, and were not justified in increasing our salaries to that .amount, or we should stand by that increase. I say now that I shall not flinch from the position I have taken up on previous occasions. 1 would not vote for a reduction, and then go back and face my constituents for all the gold that is in the Commonwealth. I shall stand by what I have done. I believe that a member of this House is worth every penny he is getting; any man who has to maintain two homes, and incur all the other expenses incidental to parliamentary life, has not much of his salary left. I do not like to refer to these matters, but how many members of this Parliament have died during our service in this House, and have left their wives so poorly provided for that they have had to go to work? Am I to be told that if I give the best’ years of my life to the service of my country, acting conscientiously in accordance with my principles, I should be able to provide for my wife and family? Men in less important positions outside Parliament are in many cases getting twice as much as we are paid, and nothing is said against them. Now, however, when we have to face the people in the near future, the Government propose to practically undo what we did at their instigation at the beginning of this Parliament. But the people of Australia will resent the pusillanimity of those who stultify themselves by voting to increase their salaries at a time when the election is two years off and vote to reduce these salaries by £200 per annum when the shadow of the election is upon them again. Those who do that must answer to their constituents, and they will not find that they have gained by their action. There is sufficient backbone in members on this side to enable us to place the true position before the people.
– If those to whom the honorable member has just referred are returned to Parliament, cannot they raise their salaries again?
– That interjection is justified. With one exception - and the gentleman to whom I refer has been thoroughly consistent in the matter - the members of this party, having voted for the increase of salary, will stand by what they did. We shall not run away from the consequences of our action because the Prime Minister and his Government now propose the reduction of the parliamentary allowance in order to gain votes. Those who do so will pay the penalty.
– At Bendigo lately the Prime Minister repeated that the position of a member of Parliament is worth £1,000 a year.
– The industrial policy of the Government is not to com~ pete with private enterprise, and the Commonwealth factories, .if the Government Departments cannot absorb their output, are to be closed. This is a departure from the earlier policy of the Prime Minister and his friends. The right honorable gentleman, with many others on that side, took a prominent part in establishing these factories, which have done good work, and stand to the credit of those who brought them into existence. It cannot be said that they have not been profitable, because they have paid their way, and some of them have made a good deal of money for the Commonwealth. Yet to satisfy certain persons in the community, it is proposed to close these factories. They must not come into competition with private enterprise. The Government talk of the need for reducing wages, and at the same time do all they can to keep up the cost of living; they do not assist the- people to get things more reasonably. Their view is that a Government factory must not come into competition with private enterprise, lest it should supply articles too cheaply. We have spent millions of pounds on machinery and plant, and this capital is to be allowed to remain idle so that Government enterprise may not compete with the private enterprise of the friends of the Ministry. Ministers fear to lose support. They fear, too, a breach in the Coalition party. To prevent these things they throw principle to the winds, and are prepared to get rid of the Commonwealth factories, or to allow them to remain unproductive. The Treasurer said that many of these factories, which have been giving work to large numbers of men, are for the future to be carried on with just sufficient hands to keep them going. Thus hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of machinery will remain unused so that Government enterprise may not come into competition with private enterprise. Ministers and their friends say, “ Let these public factories be sold. Do not use them to bring down the cost of living and make things cheaper for the people.” They do all they can to make the conditions of the workers harder, and at the same time cause them to pay exorbitant prices for the commodities they use. That is the present policy of the Government regarding these Commonwealth trading concerns.
At Bendigo the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) declared that, so far as he and his Government were concerned, not one stone of the temple of Labour would be removed; yet the right honorable gentleman is now not merely removing the stone, but is also taking away the very foundation of that temple.
– That is what he said at Bendigo, but at North Sydney he will say something different.
– We see how the Prime Minister is being driven by his newly-found friends. He has to sacrifice the principles of a, life-time in order to retain place and power. The people, however, realize his position, and the present state of affairs will not be allowed to continue. If our trading concerns are not to be utilized, why waste the public money on them?
We are told that the Commonwealth shipping is to be handed over to independent control. I say nothing against that; but I express the hope that there may be some stipulation that those controlling our shipping shall not work handinhand with the Shipping Ring that is increasing freights and fares in all parts of the world.
– They are doing that now.
– That is what may happen, and, if it does, what will become of the primary producers of Australia who wish to send their products to Great Britain and other countries as cheaply as possible? If those controlling the Commonwealth shipping work in with Lord Inchcape and other private shipowners, our primary producers will have to pay more for freight.
– In that case, it would be better to wipe out the Commonwealth Line.
– It would be better to have the understanding that our vessels are to be run only to pay their way, and to assist our people in placing their produce on overseas markets.
– That is what the vessels should do, and if they do not do it, they should be got rid of.
– The Commonwealth steamers should be run for the benefit of the country. Our primary producers should, get their goods carried at the lowest possible rates at which the ships can be made to pay. We should not aim at making big profits on the running of these vessels. The Line should be used to assist our primary producers, and to prevent the Shipping Combines from inflating freights in order to make huge profits.
– Why should the primary producers alone be considered?
– All our exporters should be considered, manufacturers and primary producers alike. Our products should be carried as cheaply as possible to the markets of the world, so that they may be sold there to advantage. % If that is done, we shall be able to increase our population.
I wish, now to refer to the Australian note issue, the results of which must be pleasing to the members of this party. I shall never forget the debates that occurred when it was proposed to establish a Commonwealth note issue. The Labour party was then on the Ministerial benches, and Sir Joseph Cook, Mr. Bruce Smith, and, in. particular, Mr. William Kelly, condemned the proposal, saying that we did not know what we were doing, and that if we had -understood finance we should not have proposed the establishment of. .a Commonwealth note issue. They said that there would have to be a sovereign behind each note issued. The Commonwealth note issue has now been, in operation for several years, and those who opposed its introduction have never attempted to put an end to it. A profit of over £7,000,000 has been returned to the people of the Commonwealth through the establishment of this note issue.
– ‘And it has not yet been used to the full.
– It could be further extended. Last year the revenue from the note issue was £1,150,000. Prior to the establishment of the Commonwealthnote issue the profit on bank notes went to . the banks. The Labour party may well be proud of the results which have been gained, especially when they consider what .was done during the war. Had it not been for the existence of the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth note issue, the Government would have found finance a difficult problem then. The people of the Commonwealth benefited largely during the war by the operations of the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth note issue.
The Government intend to amend the income tax law. It is proposed, among other things, to assess on the average income of a period of five years. I do not think that that is a workable proposition. It will not be satisfactory to the working people of the country, who have to be considered. Such an arrangement might prove equitable a3 applied to certain occupations, but it would be inequitable if applied to the workers. A man, during a period of five years, might make £250 in one year, £300 the next, £200 the third, £150 the fourth, and in the fifth, through being out of work, only £50 or £60. If he were taxed in the last year of the five on the average income for the five years he would have nothing with which to pay the tax.
– That is not the proposal.
– The averaging is only to ascertain the rate of tax.
– As I understand the proposal, the income of each year for a period of five years is to be totalled and divided by five to get at the average. In such a case as I have just mentioned a man might have nothing “with which to pay the tax.
– In the case mentioned he would not be taxed. 1
– If that is so, I have nothing to say against the proposal 1 so far as it affects the workers.
– If a man has a taxable income of £500 he may possibly have to pay at a higher rate.
– I am prepared to give that aspect of the proposal further consideration. I think that bonus shares should be taxable. I do not understand on what ground they are exempt. Of recent years many large companies have . been giving bonus shares in addition to paying large dividends.
– Is not that one way of distributing profits?
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, in addition to paying high dividends, has given a bonus of £4 on each share.
– Last year the company paid 17 per cent.
– The effect of the bonus I speak of was to restore to the shareholders £4 of the original value of £20.
– Did the bonus represent capital?
– It represented undivided profits, and profits should be made to pay income tax. I am pleased that the Treasurer has decided to increase the exemption to £200. I never was in favour of making the exemption in respect of tie income of a single person less than that of a married person, and did not agree to the taxation of all inpome over £104 received by a single person. I have always contended that the exemption should be higher, and I am prepared to accept an exemption of £200, putting single and married persons on the Fame basis, but giving an allowance of £100 to the married man in respect of his wife. Married men should have such an allowance. There should also be an increased deduction for children. At any rate, the result of these remissions will be of benefit to the working people, and the only regret I have is that the proposals do not go far enough, and were not brought in years ago, because we find working people with a limited income asked to pay income tax when they are unable to do so. Quite a number of men have waited on me within the last few months because they find that they are unable to pay their income tax. They may have had a good time last year, but they have received their assessments just when, through unemployment or because they have had intermittent work, they find they have not the money with which to pay the tax.
I cannot understand the attitude of the Government in regard to the proposed bounty on the manufacture of wire netting, fencing wire, and galvanized iron, which is to be accompanied by a reduction of the protective duty on’ those articles. It seems to me that there is little justification for the removal of a duty imposed only a short time ago by this Parliament.
– It looks like an impending election.
– The honorable member is quite right in anticipating an early election. The iron and steel industry established at Newcastle was afforded the protection which it is now sought to remove, and there is quite a number of subsidiary industries drawing their raw material from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company which will also be affected. ‘What inducement will there be to manufacturers to establish works in Australia for making galvanized iron or wire netting if the duties are removed?
– There is no permanent guarantee in a bounty.
– No; because Parliament can decide at any moment that the bounty shall not be paid; and if that is done there will be an end to the particular industry concerned.
– The House can wipe out a duty at any time.
– Of course; but, as a rule, it is not done. When a duty is fixed it is regarded as stable. On the other hand, a ‘bounty is frequently subjected to criticism, and can easily be taken off.
– A bounty has to be voted each year, whereas a duty, once imposed, remains until removed by Parliament.
– The matter is of considerable importance. There are 3,000 men employed at the Broken Hill Proprietary’s steel works at Newcastle. It is certainly true that during the last seven or eight months the works have been practically idle, not more than 700 or 800 men being engaged. The following remarks made, by the chairman of directors of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at a meeting of shareholders, as reported in the Argus of 26th August last, are very interesting : -
Alteration in Tariff. “ The statement made by the Federal Treasurer last week that the Government was reducing the duties upon wire netting, fencing wire, and galvanized iron imposed eight months ago, and introducing a bounty in its place, is most .perturbing in its incidence, hnd adds to the many anxieties under which we are at present labouring. The application of the percentage bonus is not definitely known, but if it is to be a bonus gradually diminishing, then it may amount to but little just at a time when it may most be needed. Feeling that the future was assured under the Protection policy, the company duplicated the wire-rod mill, and lias made other material improvements to this plant, so the sudden change from tho ‘fixed duty has come as a considerable shock, and it is difficult at present to say how things will work out. A large subsidiary industry, the manufacture of galvanized iron, came to Australia when it was known that a fixed duty had been decided upon. Otherwise it might not have been done. Tho directors, too, will feel very disturbed now, and may not expand to nearly the same dimensions as they might have done. This in turn would mean that their requirements of our steel will bo much lessened.
In order that your directors might be in possession of the knowledge of the latest improvements and practices in the steel industry, several of tho company’s technical officers have been abroad, and have returned, bringing with them much information of , a valuable -nature. The economics which it is hoped” to effect by reason of these visits should result in a saving in the cost of production. The last twelve months has been a period of anxiety, and we cannot say that the horizon is_ yet clear - it has demanded the most strenuous efforts of your management to carry out their arduous duties. I therefore would like to convey to the general manager, secretary, and the various staffs the board’s’ appreciation, and I think I may also add the shareholders’; of their loyal and zealous efforts to keep this huge concern in working order. They have spared no effort to economize in every direction and to bring into effect every up-to-date improvement.”
The motion for the adoption of the reports and balance-sheet was agreed to, and the retiring directors, Messrs. Bowes Kelly and Harvey Patterson, were re-elected.
It is evident that the Government’s proposals will have a disastrous effect upon “this concern. We all know how much we had to depend upon it during the war period, and how we talked- about fostering it, so that, in the matter of iron and steel commodities,’ Australia might be self-contained.
– Did not the honorable member hear the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) this afternoon ask the Prime Minister for assistance, so that people might get wire netting, with which to keep the rabbits out of their paddocks?
– That has nothing to do with the matter. It does not follow that the imposition of a duty on wirenetting increases the cost of the commodity.
– The imposition of a duty always does so.
– In many instances it has happened that an article has been cheaper shortly after a duty has been imposed.
– In the case of onions only.
– It would appear that there are some honorable members who object to certain duties but not to others which affect their own particular interests. Instead of taking a large, national view they take a narrow view; they are not concerned about having things made in Australia by our own people, bub would rather have them made in other countries under conditions which are not as good as those which obtain in Australia.
– There are not many places where the working men are not as well off as they are in Australia.
– In Germany and Belgium, where many of the goods we purchase are manufactured, the workers arc not as well off.
– But the trouble is that while the price of wire netting is as high as it is the farmers cannot use it.
– The price of everything is high, owing to the war. During the war period no one was more active in prosecuting the war than the farmers and the farmers’ representatives.
– But the war is now over.
– It is certainly over, but surely honorable members do not imagine that we can get back to normal times so speedily. We must suffer for years yet, and bear burdens that are quite unavoidable. Our Australian workers will have to be paid wages in accordance with prevailing circumstances, and our manufacturers cannot be expected to produce commodities as cheaply as they can be manufactured in countries where the rate of exchange enables speculators to operate to great advantage and augment the fortunes they made during the war. If my farming friends are anxious to show their patriotism, let them do so by helping to develop Australia.
I have dealt with the different matters contained in the Budget. I reiterate what I said at the commencement of my remarks, that the Financial Statement is simply window dressing on the part of the Government. It is very evident that there is an election not far ahead. However, the Government will not be able to gull the people by bringing in proposals at the eleventh hour for the purpose of securing votes. There, is no guarantee as to what will happen afterwards. The remission of taxation is not provided for, except by withdrawing money from the accumulated surplus, and what can be done in this direction may be done again next year. Then when the accumulated surplus has disappeared, the Government will have to resort to additional taxation. Closely examined, the Budget provides no relief whatsoever apart from the £3,200,000 taken from the accumulated surplus, and the cost of government is higher.
– The honorable member cannot say that, since the estimated expenditure is £3,000,000 less.
– It is easy for the Treasurer to say that the expenditure will be £3,000,000 less, but when the money to be spent from loan which was formerly taken from revenue and the £3,200,000 to be withdrawn from the accumulated surplus are taken into account, it will be seen that the expenditure will be considerably more than that of last year. If honorable members will go through the Treasurer’s’ figures as I have done they will readily see that the cost of government is greater, and not less, than it was last year.
– Has the honorable member indicated where savings can be effected?
– I have done so on many occasions. It is ridiculous that there should be two methods of taxing, State and Federal. The two should be combined. In fact, they should have been combined long ago.
– It is not our fault that they have not been so combined.
– I do not know whose fault it is. I believe it was a mistake to take away the administration of war pensions from the Old-age Pensions Office. It was done, possibly, with the idea of keeping the Repatriation Department in evidence at a time when its work was gradually being reduced. I believe that money could be saved by transferring the administration of war pensions to the office which formerly undertook it satisfactorily, and that the little work then remaining to be undertaken by the Repatriation Department could be taken in hand by other Departments. There are many ways in which money could be saved, but no attempt is made in that direction. There is no improvement in this Budget so far as the finances are concerned, and, as I have already indicated, the expenditure has been increased, and not reduced.
.- There is an old and trite saying that government is finance, and finance is government. The suggestion underlying it, although not new, is true, that the base of all government is money. Our means condition our policies, our resources govern our ambitions. There never was a time when those statements were truer than they are to-day. The importance of a clear vision and correct appreciation of finance to the Commonwealth and to the nations who engaged in the recent war, in the present decade, cannot be exaggerated, although, having, regard to the few honorable members who are present in this Committee of Supply, one would hardly think that was so. It appears to me that when so serious a subject as the Budget is before, the Committee the bulk of the members of the House should be present. Spectacular or dramatic subjects, however, usually attract more attention and a larger attendance.
In the Budget we ought to take stock of our resources; we should look at the immediate past, survey the present, and speculatively scan the future. Upon our understanding of the past and the present, and our accurate anticipation of the future, depends almost entirely the wisdom or folly of our ambitions or objectives. The Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) has given us his views and the views of his professional officers upon these questions in a statement that, I think, was admirably clear both in mode of presentation and in matter. I do not always agree with his interpretation of facts or his enunciation of policy ; but there was no mistaking the meaning of his statement. In some respects, it was quite a frank, an unblushingly frank, statement; but there were one or two subjects on which he was scarcely so candid. Some important and pressing problems were postponed for subsequent consideration and settlement.
Broadly, I agree with the Leader of the Opposition. This is an Election Budget, designed to influence the voters in the constituencies in favour of the Government. I do not say that is sinful. I believe that every Government exhibits a tendency to flirt with the electors, but some of them do so more audaciously than others. It is an error in tactics, however, to do so openly and to be so transparent about it. This Budget may or may not prove to be a votecatcher. It was clearly intended to be; but, unfortunately for the Government, the snare was set in the sight of the bird, and although the bird will probably consume the crumbs, he may prove wary when dealing with the snare itself. /I do not object to gifts for the taxpayer, but I believe the taxpayer will ask that those gifts be provided from a different source than that contemplated by the Treasurer. I think the taxpayer, would rather have them from definite and continuing economies, and not from a squandering of our patrimony. Of that, however, I propose to speak later.
I desire, first of all, to take a very brief look at the immediate past. Last year, according to the Treasurer’s figures, the Government showed a deficit of £209,000. Honorable members will probably recollect the treatment of last year’s Budget in Committee of Supply. The Committee was alarmed at the magnitude of the proposed disbursements, and made resolute and sustained endeavours to reduce the proposed expenditure. In that it was successful. According to the records we lopped off, in one lump, £500,000. We should have gone further but for the persistent assurances of the Government that it would cut the expenditure to a still greater extent as the year progressed. The Committee, trusting to the pledge of the Government, desisted from further efforts. What happened? The Estimates as submitted by the then Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), amounted to £64,604,458. We cut that down to £64,104,458. We took off half a million. The Treasurer, however, admits that- he spent last year not £64,104,458, but £65,118,628. In other words, he admits that he and his predecessor, between them, disbursed £1,000,000 more than the Parliament authorized, and £500,000 more than the amount for which the Government originally asked. The wishes of this Committee were as plain as the sun at noon-day. The Government, however, took no notice of our wishes, nor did they have regard to their own- promises to the Committee. The more frugal the Parliament was the more prodigal became the Government. This Committee asked for a decrease. It got an increase, and no apology or explanation has yet been offered the Committee. I do not want to place undue responsibility for all these things upon the present Treasurer, because, if I remember aright, he took office at the end of the second quarter of the year. Honorable members who have held office as Treasurer know that commitments are very often arranged in perhaps too lavish a scale for the first half of the year,, and that a Treasurer who comes to take charge of the Treasury for the last two quarters finds that Cl brake is probably not equal to the pulling power of the Departments. But as government is a thing possessing continuity of existence, we must put the responsibility on the Government; and, except in a few individual cases, the Go vernment responsible for the start of this financial year is responsible for the finish of it.
After this very brief, and, I hope, justifiable, comment on the expenditure of last year, I should like to outline the outstanding features of this year’s Budget as they occur to me. The first point is that the Postal Department is still to be used as a taxing machine. The Leader of the Opposition made allusion to the profits earned last year and expected this year. It is clear that postal receipts are again to be used in aid of revenue, and that the Department is to be used as a taxing machine. The second point is that we had last year, as I have already mentioned, a deficit of £209,000. The third is that ordinary expenditure is still rising. According to the Treasurer’s figures, it has risen 100 per cent, in eight years. TEe fourth point is that the total disbursements this year are to be greater than last year by £1,344,000. The Trea-‘ surer, as reported in the newspapers, said at the Rotary Club luncheon yesterday, that the expenditure this year would be £3,000,000 less than last year. If he was reported in extenso, he did himself an injustice.
– I was speaking of the expenditure out of revenue.
– The newspapers did not mention that the expenditure referred to was out of revenue. According to the newspaper reports, the honorable gentleman said that his expenditure this year would be £3,000,000 less than it was last year. The expenditure out of revenue is certainly £3,000,000 less, but the figures which were alluded to by the Leader of the Opposition, but not summarized, are these: -
It will thus be seen that the total expenditure for this year is to be £1,344,188 more than last year. I am not complicating the argument at this stage bv a reference to the remission of taxation alluded to by the last speaker. It appeared to me that he used the figures in a way that I should not feel justified in employing them. I have given a fair comparison of the bare figures of revenue and loan expenditure in the two years 1921-22 and 1922-23.
The fifth feature of the Budget is that this increase of £1,344,188 is proposed notwithstanding huge savings in defence expenditure, induced primarily and justifiably by the results of the Washington Conference. The sixth point is that this increased expenditure is also notwithstanding the natural and inevitable falling off in expenditure under three distinct headings, namely, on war pensions by £278,000, repatriation by £321,000, and other war services by £779,000, or a total falling off this year, as compared with last year, on these three items of expenditure, of £1,378,000. Notwithstanding savings in defence, and these fallings off, in the region of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, our expenditure is still l£ million pounds greater than last year.
The seventh point is that, even allowing for these savings and fallings off, the surplus of £494,000 anticipated for this year is contrived by transferring expenditure, as the Leader of the. Opposition has wisely and forcibly said, from revenue to loan account. I do not trouble honorable members with all the figures; but, broadly, in one Department - that of the Postmaster-General - £3,000,000 is expressed in those transfers.
– That is not correct
– I beg the honorable gentleman’s pardon. I was inadvertently led into a mistake. That is the sum. transferred this year,’ and the sum last year will have to be taken off it. The eighth point is that when all this is taken into account - all these important factors of our finances - if the redemption fund were not deprived this year of a substantial contribution this surplus would then be turned into a deficit. These facts are more alarming when it is remembered that recently a new source of revenue - the note issue profits of £1,150,000 anticipated for this year - has been brought to account and swallowed.
– It was included last year.
– Yes. It was appropriated to revenue in last year’s Budget for the first time, though I do not think it was a full year; but this year the full amount is expressed in anticipated receipts. If it were not for those figures our position would be worse by that amount of £1,150,000.
Let me recapitulate briefly, and gauge the cumulative effect of all these factors. After gigantic savings in defence and the natural falling off in the expenditure on war pensions, repatriation and war services, transfers to loan of large sums of money formerly borne by revenue, the starvation of our redemption fund and the consumption of the profits of the note issue, we are only able to show a surplus of less than £500,000. In the face of these startling and interesting facts, the Treasurer proposes to remit taxation out of the reserves of past years, amounting, broadly, to £3,200,000. I think that if we sanction this, we are truly a prodigal and easily satisfied people. My friend, the Treasurer, calls this sound finance.
– Hear, hear!
– I call it the high way to bankruptcy, if we go on long enough. Let me now take the proposal of the Government to use the accumulated surplus in the relief of taxation. When the Treasurer sat down to design his Budget he could have attacked his task in either of two ways. He could have repressed expenditure to the utmost limits of prudence, and have reduced taxation by the amount saved; or he could have laid hands on the surplus, and dissipated, it partially or wholly. The first method would have been irksome and, in some quarters, unpopular, but the second method was pleasant, and the Treasurer succumbed and took the easy road. He elected to play the role of a dispenser of gifts rather than that of economist. He consequently borrowed the savings of his predecessors rather than make them himself, and he leaves to his successors the uninviting task of putting revenue and expenditure on a sound and enduring basis. Non-recurring savings - I use the word advisedly, and dwell on it with pardonable emphasis - non-recurring savings are to provide for recurring doles. One encore to that performance, and his resources are exhausted. Then what? I think the only man who would be undisturbed by that question would be the late lamented Wilkins Micawber. The taxpayers to whom the Treasurer proposes to hand .largesse will not, I think, refuse to take it, but they will be clearly conscious of the vicious principle behind the generosity.
Government expenditure in Australia in Federal and State arenas has been, and is, rising alarmingly, and thoughtful folk are resolved, I believe, that tie cost of 1 government must come down, and that economy is possible without impairing real efficiency. I have here figures recently published in the press, originally, I believe, in the Sydney Daily Telegraph or in the Age of Melbourne, and though I have not had time to verify them completely, my investigations lead me to believe they are approximately correct. They give a comparison of the number of employees of the Commonwealth and the State Services, and the total amount of their salaries, in the years 1900 and 1921. In 1900 the number of employees, State and Federal, was 89,831, and in 1921 it was 248,976. In 1900 the salaries of these employees amounted to £11,733,815, and in 1921 to £55,689,613. I believe that the people have also resolved that the activities of Government must in the future be more confined than in the past, and reduced to the absolutely essential services the community demands, at least so long as this country, which so ardently shrieks for development, has the unproductive wan debt under which we unfortunately labour. In other words,* the nation, like the individual, must live within its means, and if it cannot afford luxuries it must “cut them out.” This community I believe, is not prepared to continue (indefinitely to pay heavy war imposts just because it is difficult or disagreeable to enforce economies in the public Departments of the Commonwealth and States. If economies are not practised, these* remissions of taxation must surely be reimposed. If we do not presuppose that, we must suppose something else that no member of the House will agree to; that is to say, that our Protectionist Tariff, which we hoped would block importation, and stimulate our secondary and tertiary industries, will settle down as a large revenue collector. I do not believe that, although the present condition in London of the balances in favour of Australia certainly incline leading financial and mercantile houses to a larger system of importation at present. That, however, is because Australia’s credits are swollen there, and it is the only way they can be transferred to Australia. We hope the Tariff will effect its purpose; but if it does not - if it does not prove a Protectionist Tariff, but becomes a big- revenue earner, I hope that in the near future the Government will amend it. It was designed, not to collect heavy revenues, but to protect the industries of this country.
The Treasurer may say, in his own admirable way, smooth things about statutory commitments. He may suggest, as the Prime Minister (Mb. Hughes) on more than one occasion has suggested, by direct expression or implication, that we must honour our war obligations - that there must be no repudiation at all of our statutory commitments. To me there is nothing sacred in statutory commitments as statutory commitments. The Government that introduced them may recommend alteration, and the Parliament which sanctioned them may approve of the alteration. No one suggests the dishonouring of definite obligations into which this country and Parliament cheerfully and intelligently entered. The Treasurer may talk to us about special appropriations; but there is no sanctity about special appropriations as special appropriations.
– I may tell the honorable member that in all my speeches I have said’ that there is nothing sacrosanct about either.
– I do not remember the Treasurer in his pre-Budget statements using that expression. I do remember him showing the difficulty of economizing because of these statutory obligations and special appropriations, and he stressed in his own way the small area in which economies can be effected because of the commitments which Parliament has sanctioned.
– I have said that it cannot be done unless the policy is reversed.
– Quite so. The Government dare not repudiate the decision of Parliament in matters of this kind until Parliament alters it. But the Parliament that did it can_undo it.
– I agree with that.
– If this Parliament does not- do it its successors can, and the whole question of expenditure should come under review, marking first of all the things which we have contracted to do, and while those ‘ contracts last no unholy hand should be laid upon the money which, has been set aside for them. When that has been said the question of economy - has not been settled for all time. The Treasurer has heard of “ Geddes’ Axe.” I remind the Treasurer of this axe, because I do not believe either the Treasurer or other Ministers, with the multifarious duties they have to perform, can possibly attack the question of saving money in the Departments and at the same timedischarge their administrative tasks. The British Government recognised that, and appointed a special commission, at the head of which was Sir Eric Geddes, who was supported by a body of influential and powerful commercial .men. If the members of the Commonwealth Government require the assistance of such men I would not hesitate for a second, if I were in their place, in securing the services of capable men to deal with this problem.
– Did not the honorable member appoint such a Commission when he was in office ?
– Yes; and it brought in a report, which has been placed in the archives for mice to nibble. The Government have slept on that report.
– The honorable member was in office when the report was submitted.
– That is true, and I assisted the Commission in every possible way. I would have done my best to give effect to its recommendations had I remained a member of the Government, which, as honorable members will doubtless recollect, I did not.
– There may have been good reasons for pigeon-holing the report.
– There may have been. During the war the taxpayers, I believe, cheerfully submitted to the heavy impositions placed upon them, but I do not believe they will continue to submit . to such impositions if Parliament does not attempt to return to normal expenditure. I agree with the Treasurer that we cannot hope to get back to a pre-war basis, because this country has marched many leagues since 1914. But economies may be effected, and if this Government cannot discover in which direction money can be saved, their successors will be bound to do so.
Let me speak for a few minutes on the remission of taxation. I do not think it would be wise at this juncture to occupy the time of the Committee in discussing the taxation proposals in detail, because they can be dealt with more fully when the measures to give effect to them are submitted for our consideration. In the first place, it is proposed to lift the exemption from £104 and £156 to £200, and to abolish the distinction between single and married taxpayers. This may be a popular proposal, but I do not approve of it. People should have a visible interest in keeping down taxation, and the rates of £104 and £156, which I consider were appropriately applied before, might well be maintained. The figures in regard to the number of persons who paid income tax and the yields from taxation are interesting. I have not had time to get later figures than for 1920; but the Treasurer will have those for later years. The Government Statist’s figures show that 4 per cent, of the taxpayers - not of the people - pay 80 per cent, of the taxation.
– They have the wealth.
– That is why they pay it. And 96 per cent, of the taxpayers pay 20 per cent, of the taxes. Putting it in another way, one twenty-fifth of the taxpayers pay four-fifths of the taxation, and twenty-four twenty-fifths of the taxpayers pay one-fifth of the taxation. I believe, as I shall have occasion to show shortly, that we are treating some of the heaviest taxpayers in the Commonwealth in an injurious and ruinous way. I gave some illustrations in Committee of Supply last year which honorable members will find interesting. I quoted, I think, four cases where men were paying the great bulk of their income to the Treasury, although they were embarking and persevering in important industries in this country. I have . been intrusted with a further illustration by an ex-member of this Chamber, who has given me the liberty to use it. No one will doubt the Word of the Honorable Agar Wynne, who figured so conspicuously in this Parliament for a long while. He gave me an illustration of what is happening to-day with the Caloola Pastoral Company, in Queensland, which has two properties, which were purchased for £123,000. During the seven years of the company’s existence it has paid one dividend amounting to £7,000, or rather less than 1 per cent, for the whole term. In the years 1919-20-21-22 it paid in taxation and rents £12,698. About £2,900 was charged for war-time profits tax, the amount being made up by the Department’s valuation of calves and other stock, which value, although fixed, could not be realized. Although the company has paid during the years I have mentioned a sum of £12,698, its losses in 1920 amounted to £5,981. In 1921 the loss was set down at £527, and in 1922 loss and depreciation was estimated at £15,000. If any of us were associated with an enterprise of that kind, which is beneficially aiding the productivity of this country, circulating capital, providing employment, and paying wages, and had to meet with treatment of that character, we would say that the taxation levied on him was decidedly unfair. If we were able to place the microscope on the heavy grades of taxation, it would be found that during the war and since we have been injuring business, employment, and production, and placing an unnecessarily heavy burden on enterprise. The Treasurer clearly showed that he did not wish to do that; but it would be infinitely better if, instead of tinkering with a small exemption, he discovered and removed inequities in our taxation system. The proposal of these five remissions of taxation and of the substitution in a sixth case of a bounty for a duty, seems to be founded more on a desire to placate certain persons than to ascertain the equity or justice of certain impositions.
I come now to the position of the Government in respect of trading enterprises. I believe that the Government should get out of trade. President Harding’s maxim, “ There should be more business in government, and less Government in business,”, cannot be said and learnt too often in this country. Our experiences even during the war, when these interventions were not only justified, but were absolutely demanded by the circumstances of the case, convince us, I am sure, that no bureaucratic management is .equal to management by experts whose lives have been spent in the business. In connexion with the Wool Pool the Government for once were able, through the Central Wool Commit- tee, to bring to their aid the most expert men in the management of this ‘ business. There we had cheerfully rendering assistance men whose life-times’ experience was levied upon, and brought about a complete success,** beyond the expectations of even the founders of the scheme. But in regard to all these Pools, whether of meat, wheat, or wool, the time has come when the Government should not step forward to finance, by guarantee or advance, these gigantic operations. I do not think it is a proper thing for the Government to do, for this reason: If they are to logically follow the responsibilities of their undertaking they will meddle with the management;’ if they do not they will hand those obligations over to people who are not their proper custodians. They must either leave the Pools to be run by people who have not advanced the money, or they must sit upon the Boards and interfere ;with the control.
– The Government must control them.
– I do not believe in further Government intervention in the control of any of these great marketing operations. The Government, after the war, by their assistance gave an opportunity to the co-operative instincts of the people to operate. The people have had ample time to do that, and I hope the day is rapidly approaching -when the Government will step clean out of these operations and declare that they will handle no more trading operations - competitive or
Otherwise. I think that such a step would be in accordance with the wish of the people and in their interests.
Mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech and the Treasurer’s speech da the question of unifying the railway gauges. The Prime Minister has referred to the subject frequently. Evidently the Government have committed themselves to a proposal to unify ;the gauges of Australia as soon as they can secure the concurrence of the State ^Governments interested, and, of course, pf this Parliament. Any agreement which is arrived at between the Commonwealth and. the States must receive the authority of this Parliament.
– The Government do not count upon that. They take it for granted.
– I do not know what is in the minds of Ministers, and I do not wish to argue the question with any implications. I believe that the State Governments, who will have the responsibility of operating the unified system and financing the conversion charges on top of the present capital charge, are as good judges as are any in this House as to whether the unification of gauges should be proceeded with quickly. Apparently the Government of New South Wales is divided in purpose, but with a leaning towards saying “No” to the proposition, and questioning, “Why should we spend £7,000,000, which is the suggested debit on that State, when no real benefit will accrue to the cash-box of the Railway Commissioners? “ The Victorian Government, on the other hand, say, “Why should we be debited with these untold millions in order that our system, which is perfectly satisfactory to us, may be ripped up, and during the process of conversion, disastrous dislocation occur in the handling of freight and passengers throughout the State?” It is unwise for any Government in charge of Commonwealth affairs to try to force the hands of the States, which are in as good a position as are we to decide how far these millions, which they may be called upon to spend, would go in their own developmental projects. Victoria or New South Wales or any of the wider States might easily say, “ The five, ten, or twenty million pounds which we are asked to pay as our share of the cost of this project would go a tremendous distance in further increasing our population, land settlement, and the conveniences and comfort of our people.” And if there is no necessity looming on the horizon of Australia within the next decade, why should we, with a huge war debt and £400,000,000 of other public debts, spend £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 upon the unification of railway gauges?
– Is the honorable member against the unification of the gauges ?
– I am, under the present circumstances of Australia, financial and governmental. And I hope that if this proposal does come before Parliament in agreement form there will be a keen de bate, free of party politics, on the question of development as against the rectification of the gauge differences.
In reference to the figures of postal receipts and expenditure, I believe it is time that we made a clear cut between general revenue and postal receipts, and between general expenditure and postal expenditure. In other words, we should do with our trading department as the States have done with their principal trading department - segregate it entirely in regard to finance. The States deal with railway revenue in a way totally different from that in which they deal with ordinary revenue. They keep it on separate sheets and show it separately. The people, accordingly, know whether freights and fares should be raised or can be lowered. They know whether receipts or expenditure are rising or falling in a clearer way than this information has hitherto been shown in the balance-sheets of the Commonwealth. And the Commonwealth’s great trading department, the Post Office, should have its finances shown separately and distinctly.
I commend the work of the Notes Board. The Government chose with wisdom the personnel of that body, and the men associated with this new responsibility have interpreted the desire of the Government and Parliament with singular fidelity. The reduction of the issue which has been achieved since the Board took in hand the work is proof of the knowledge and wisdom that has guided them in their deliberations. I hope that the Government will support the Note Board in any way which, to the Board, may seem desirable in their wish to get back, without undue haste - which has its danger as well as undue delay - to the gold basis to which the Treasurer referred in dealing with this matter.
I want to deal with one other question only, and that is the Sinking Fund. The Treasurer opened up this question in respect to our national debt. It is an important phase of national finance. In a few sentences, the Treasurer settled the whole debatable question of a sinking versus a, redemption fund. That problem is as old as modern public debts, and those of us who try to read something of its literature know that eminent authorities in all the generations that have considered it, have been found ranged on both sides. I will not discuss it at full length until the Bill comes down, but I think I may be pardoned for enumerating what appear to me to be the guiding considerations regarding it. The Commonwealth operates, at present, a Redemption Fund. The Treasurer prefers a Sinking Fund. I do not, and I want to tell him and the Committee why. If his remarks were to go without comment or challenge people might properly infer that £ per cent, per annum paid into a Sinking Fund would do better work than per cent, per annum paid into a Redemption Fund. That is a legitimate deduction to be drawn from his somewhat desultory observations, but reflection, of course, will show members that this is a preposterous theory. I do not suggest that the honorable gentleman harbors it, but I say that one may draw those deductions from his words. The Treasurer’s suggestion to the lay student of this matter is that there is some magic in compound interest which, if you apply it, produces a better result with a lower contribution to a Sinking Fund than with a heavier contribution to a Redemption Fund. There is, of course, no magic in compound interest. There are defects in. our existing method of a Redemption Fund, but they can be remedied. There are difficulties and dangers inherent in either of the two forms of Sinking Fund that neither its creators nor its administrators can successfully guard against. While a Redemption Fund has striking and obvious advantages, its principal drawback is that the payments into it for redemption, and. the payments for current interest, decline with the decline of the debt. The Treasurer has very properly put his finger upon the indefinite, but noticeable, diminuendo that goes on in a debt when you operate in that way. But if Parliament desires, it can establish and operate a constant instead of a diminishing payment for both purposes, and that would remove the only plausible csr reasonable objection to a Redemption Fund. The arguments against a Sinking Fund are, to my mind, these. I have said that there are two kinds of sinking fund. From the Treasurer’s remarks, I am justified in assuming that he desires to establish one which would hold and manage its fund as one entity until the debt waa wiped out. In other words, it would lift, hold, and invest, Say. £22,000,000 per annum for, say, fifty years, and would, liquidate our war debt. The £22,000,000 would be made up of £20,000,000, interest £2,000,000, representing a contribution of Jj per cent, per annum on a debt of,, say, £400,000,000. Like all heroic debt extinction’ measures, it seeks to put a heavy load on posterity, and, in my judgment, will surely fail. Its first and chief danger is that it would amass gigantic funds, which would be at the mercy of any impecunious Government in the future. You may put the fund in trust. I have seen that done in this honest little State of Victoria, and when a Government came along which was needy enough and strong enough, it took it out of pawn and used it. Politics, no matter how high the flight of its leaders, will always savour, in young countries at least, of opportunism in finance as in policy, “ trust “ precautions notwithstanding. To create a huge fund like this would inevitably, in the near future, tempt the cupidity of some party or Government, or Treasurer, who would break down the very purpose of the original Act, and all the precautions would go to the winds. We have had experiences of that all over Australia, and those of us who have tried to read the reasons see that they are likely to recur. That danger must be guarded against; but it cannot be guarded against with a huge permanent fund. The second drawback is in relation to the employment of this huge fund. If it is conceivable that Parliaments of the future would permit the gradual evolution of this fund until it attained, say, £200,000,000- which is half our national debt - or £300,000,000 - which is three-quarters of the debt - the fund would be too heavy to secure profitable employment in this country. A sum of £300,000,000 would be as large as the total mobile resources of all the financial institutions in Australia.
– Would the Government not employ this money to buy up its own bonds?
– I am talking of a sinking fund, not a redemption fund. I am speaking of a sinking fund which puts money in the safe and only takes it out to earn interest, and uses that interest to earn further interest, until the whole sum, in forty or fifty years, is sufficient to redeem the debt. There, comes a time when the fund has amounted to £200,000,000, £300,000,000, yea, £400,000,000. I say that that fund could not find profitable and healthy employment under anything like existing conditions in this country. The third objection is that it would not make for cheap money. I would like my honorable friend the Treasurer to analyze that statement, and, in considering the uses to which such a fund could be put, to guess what its probable effect would be upon the money rates of the country. The Trustees’ duties would be to earn as high a rate of interest as they could on the sinking fund. The Treasurer’s duty is to get as cheap money as he can. There would be at once and constantly a conflict between the Trust and the Government which would not make, ‘as the present system makes, for easing the redemption position in respect of our national debt, because the two would work in opposite directions. The fourth consideration is that this, according to the Treasurer, is to be a slow extinction proposal, only per cent, per annum being paid into the fund. This contribution, according to the actuaries, would extinguish the debt in a little over forty-eight years.
– On a 5 per cent, basis.
– Five per cent, is what the honorable gentleman assumes would be earned ; but that seems to be too high a rate to- calculate upon safely. That is probably why he has allowed an extra two years to give him leeway. If we found a fund in that way, the duty of the Trust will be to keep money high, so that the fund may effect its purpose, while the Government and the people will do all they can to depress money rates with a view to the encouragement of Government and private undertakings. As this extinction proposal is to operate so slowly, it must presuppose no fresh world conflict, no other war that would interfere with the gradual and complete development of the scheme. Now, who can say safely that it is correct finance to spread our commitments for debt extinction over a period of fifty years on the assumption that no further calamities will come upon us to upset our calculations? . Another feature of thos proposal - which, pf course, is not final, but must be considered - is the precipice at the end of the fifty-year period.. If we contribute to a fund £22,000,000 per annum for a period of fifty years, and then suddenly stop, what will happen to the finances of the country when the period closes?
An Honorable Member. - That will not- worry us.
– That is so. As George R. Sims, the author of the “ Dagonet “ ballads, wrote twenty years ago1 -
As I shall be still in my little green bed,
I won’t let that circumstance trouble my head.
Bub we are asked to stretch our minds over the next half-century and accompany the Treasurer in his imaginative peregrinations, and we must try to see what is at the end. If the country is to contribute steadily to a redemption fund with a precipice at the end, I do not think that my honorable friend would like to be Treasurer when the period of contribution ceases.
– It is not probable that 1 shall be.
– We have to consider the effect of the honorable gentleman’s proposal on the country’s finance. At the end of the fifty-year period, or towards the end of it, there will be preparations to defeat the accomplishment of the scheme, or a saturnalia of expenditure the like of which has never yet been equalled in any British community. None of these objections, except perhaps the. precipice at the end, can apply to a redemption fund. The cancellation and reduction of the fund by the contributions that go to it from the Treasury takes money out of the reach of the Government of the day, and finally cancels that portion of the debt. There are no mammoth funds created to tempt Treasurers or to dislocate money markets.
– It buys its own paper.
– Buys or redeems, and, in some cases, both. As it is at present operated, and even to a greater extent if operated at a constant figure for the next score of years, it would tend to help any Treasurer towards cheap money, and not to hinder him. It certainly would not impede him, and to the extent that it was wisely used it- would help him. If another war were to break out, say, twenty or thirty years hence, substantial reductions and cancellations would have been already effected, and our debt would have been reduced proportionately and placed beyond danger. I think that even then posterity would probably mend its hand, and reduce any constant contribu- tion that we had decided upon. But our duty;, I believe, is. to. make, as heavy a contribution as we. cam in- this generation to the extinction of the. debt, and not pass it. over to the- baby,, who will have his own accumulation of. problems. We ought, out of the riches and satisfaction that have, come through the. conclusion of the war, to do our utmost to. extinguish as much as possible of the debt. It is our duty, too, as the honorable member for Hunter has said, to retard the growth of fresh debt, which to the extent that it increased would operate adversely against either a sinking or a red’emption fund. We should take, as I believe the Treasurer has done, long’ views on this question, but I de, not think that we should take too long steps> in case we may defeat the very purpose of these, views. We cannot read the minds of our successors who will have charge of. this country,, or foretell their actions. Therefore I say,, let us do in the next twenty or thirty years whatever the resources, of this country will allow to reduce and cancel a substantial proportion of the war debt of this country. I would at present,, instead of making wholesale, remissions out of savings, prefer to embark upon an economic search., and, pending that, to pay at least f per cent, of our debt as a definite and constant contribution, say, for ten or twenty years, to a redemton fund to be operated, if you will, by trustees in the manner proposed by the Treasurer. The honorable gentleman dealt with one other matter relating to this scheme in an informative and instructive way: the conversion of the loans ahead. On that point may I tell the honorable member for Hunter, who inquired about some of the features of London finance, as compared with Australian finance, how it is ‘ that the difference in loan flotation expenses is made up? All the loans we floated in Australia during the war were floated without payments for underwriting. The expenses of raising the money comprised commissions to the broker, advertising, and the general cost of publicity and collection. But. in London, where finance has been bedded deep for two or three centuries at least, they. have made their own tracks, and it does not matter how influential a Government may be, when it goes to London to borrow it cannot cut its own way through the forest.
– Because of private enterprise 1
– Yes; and because of a system that the conservative British minds think better than anything we may suggest to them. They say, “This is the way we do business: these are our charges.” There used to be a charge of 1$ per cent, for’ underwriting: The underwriter did not get the whole’ of that. If he could keep 2s. 6d. or 5s, of the. 30s.. for himself he was generally lucky. He had hia clientele of subordinate brokers to whom he passed a proportion of the loan, and to whom he paid part of the underwriting charge. Thus British finance flows though a large congeries’, of people all’ interested in making the success’ of a loan. They do make a success of it; but you have to pay them for what they do. The advertising charges are not much heavier in Australia than in England; but there is, in addition, a. stamp duty, which in certain circumstances is called a’ composition, duty, and it amounts, I think, to 12s. 6d. per cent; on- the capital value, of the money raised. Those two charges, of underwriting, and stamp duty are not borne, by loans, raised in Australia, hence, the extra money to be paid amy when we raise money in Great Britain. My friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.. Charlton) knows as well as any other honorable member that there, are other considerations that must guide a Govern-ment than the expense, of floating a loan. For war. purposes Australia raised in one year £114,000,000. Suppose, that money fell due on one date. Would you transfer that, to Great Britain by raising the money there, or would you transfer to Australia some of the loans we raised in England? In Victoria a pious resolution was passed, in 1906 or 1907, that this State should raise all. its own loans, for public works and for paying off loans maturing in England. But the banks and the commercial community, who felt the pressure of this payment of debts, began to complain, and the policy began to reflect itself intimately and! visibly in many important phases, of mercantile and financial life.
– There was-, no Commonwealth Bank in those, days. ‘
– The Commonwealth Bank has no magic wand. It has done good work in expressing, as it does, the accumulated credit of the Commonwealth ; but it cannot do impossibilities. If the honorable member will discuss that point with the Governor of the Bank he will find that that gentleman takes the same view.
– He might not be right.
– If he agrees with the honorable member, it may give him additional comfort.
– More can be done than is being done at present.
– I do not desire to deprive the Commonwealth Bank of any of the credit to which it is entitled, but it cannot do impossibilities. It has to study the reservoir from which its supplies are drawn, the same as any other bank in the Empire. The amount of money raised in Australia for war purposes was a revelation to us.
– You said it could not be done.
– In one year I raised £114,000,000; but it could not be done a second time, because the spring would dry up. It was done as a result of a deep feeling of responsibility and loyalty on the part of the people of Australia to find funds for the war out of their own pockets; but we cannot go to those same people in times of peace and ask them to find similar sums for public works projects.
I think the position as to conversions was correctly stated by the Treasurer. We are, apparently, in for a time of cheaper money. The Bank of England rate is lower than it has been for a long time. In 1913, one year before the war, the Bank of England rate was 5 per cent. It is3 per cent, to-day; and, notwithstanding the difficulties in exchange, and the international complications, it does appear as if the Treasurer may safely rely, when the time comes, upon securing the conversion of the loans at lower rates than those for which our war loans were floated. I have endeavoured to say a few things that occurred to me when studying tie Budget. I do not think the Budget has elicited general approbation from students who have made it their business to study it, and I think the community is in doubt, because of the early approach of the elections, as to whether the Government will keep within their estimates of expenditure. There is, I believe, disappointment amongst the financial community that the nettle has not been firmly grasped; and there is a realization that, in the near future, some Government, and some Treasurer, will have to cut down expenditure, or else re-impose the taxation that is now being remitted.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to . grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for war pensions.
.- I think that the House is entitled to some explanation from the Treasurer on this matter. If we consider that the measure is not doing justice to those entitled to war pensions, this is our only opportunity for making alterations.
– This Bill makes no alteration in connexion with pensions. It is merely for the purpose. of appropriating moneys into the Trust Fund for the payment of these pensions.
– A lot of the pensions are not nearly adequate.
– The honorable member can raise that point on another occasion. This Bill is for a lump sum that will be used from time to time to pay whatever pensions have been granted.
– Is it the intention of the Government to take any steps to increase these pensions?
– The question was asked and answered to-day in regard to maimed and limbless soldiers. That is the only phase of war pensions in regard to which the Government have announced any policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration of Go vernor-General’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be -made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purposes of financial assistance to the State of Tasmania.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220907_reps_8_100/>.