14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the ChaiT at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to-
That the House at its rising adjourn until ‘ to-morrow, at 2.30 p.m.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board upon the following subjects: -
All Flavouring Essences, Extracts and Ethers, Culinary Essences and/or Fruit Aromas at present classifiable under Tariff Item 11(b); Methyl Salicylate covered by Tariff Item 200(e).
Badges, Emblems, and the like (other than those of Woven or Embroidered Material) ; Buckles, Clasps and Slides for Hats, Shoes and other attire; Buttons, n.e.i., including Blanks and those partly finished; Mother of Pearl Buckles, Clasps and Slides for Hats, Shoes and other attire covered by Tariff Item 10B(r) (3).
Constant Current Transformers for use in connexion with the Series System of Street Lighting.
Electric Washing Machines of the domestic type.
Fire and Glazed Bricks; Bricks, n.e.i.
Fire Lumps; Fireclay Manufactures, n.e.i.
Kalsomine, Water Paints and Distempers, in powder form.
Paper, viz.: - Wrapping, other than Greaseproof, of all Colours (Glazed, Unglazed, or Mill-glazed),Browns, Caps not elsewhere specified, Casings, Sealings, Nature or Ochre Browns, Sulphites, Sugars, and all other bag papers, Candle Carton Paper ; Paper Felt and Carpet Felt Paper irrespective of weight.
Rubber Hose up to and including one inch internal diameter and Hose, n.e.i.
Strawboard, Corrugated and other.
Ordered to be printed.
– In view of the number of statements he has made since his arrival in Australian waters, will the Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties make to the House this afternoon a statement giving honorable members his impressions of his trip abroad, and state definitely whether he has yet submitted to the Prime Minister a report in regard to his negotiations for trade treaties?
– I have made no statement in detail, nor have I given any information of importance concerning trade treaty negotiations overseas. I am not in a position to make a statement to the House this afternoon.
– In view of the fact that Parliament will shortly adjourn for the Christmas recess, will either the Prime Minister or the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties make a statement in the House regarding the advantages, if any, which have accrued, or are likely to accrue, from the Minister’s long sojourn abroad at the public expense ?
– There is no intention to make any statement to the House in regard to this subject before it adjourns for the Christmas recess.
– Has the Minister for Commerce a statement to make with respect to the alleged hold-up of shipping in the port of Sydney?
– The Government is closely watching the position. It trusts that wise counsels will prevail; but should Commonwealth action become necessary, it will use whatever powers it possesses.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether the Government has yet come to a decision as to what form of assistance will be provided for the wheat industry, and what means will be employed to provide it?
– The Government’s proposals are at present before the House.
– Can the Minister for Commerce say what amount of the £12,000,000 set aside for the relief of necessitous farmers has been utilized for that purpose, and how many farmers have thus benefited?
– The information sought by the honorable member was supplied last Thursday or Friday in answer to a question asked upon notice.
– In view of the reply given to my question on Friday last, will the Minister for Commerce take into consideration the necessity to ask secured creditors, as well as unsecured creditors, to join in granting relief to necessitous farmers ?
– In the answer given on Friday last I pointed out that one reason for the small amounts paid to the States was that in several States the necessary legislation had not yet come into operation. When that has been done, it is expected that there will at least be £2,000,000 available for distribution this year.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether the Government has yet considered the draft scheme for a Citrus Advisory Council, which was submitted after the meeting of the subcommittee held in Melbourne on the 3rd and 4th October last. If not, will the right honorable member do his utmost to see that either that or an alternative scheme is considered at a very early date, because, unless put into operation shortly, it will be too late for the coming season?
– The Government is at present giving consideration to the suggestions of the conference to which the honorable member has referred.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that a new type of currency, which may be described as a sort of “ holey “ silver, is being issued in the Territory of New Guinea? If it is, what is the reason for differentiating against Australian currency ?
– I shall have the matter inquired into, and the information supplied to the honorable member.
Position in New South “Wales.
– During the weekend I was informed that men had been dismissed from main roads work in New South “Wales, through, it is suggested, a shortage of funds. “Will the Treasurer state whether any of the federal aid roads grant has been withheld from the States?
– No money applied for by the State governments has been withheld from them.
– In view of the newspaper reports concerning a second invasion of China by J apan, will the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs state whether the Government will instruct the Australian delegate to urge the League of Nations not to delay, as it did formerly, but to give a decision immediately as to Japan being the aggressor ?
– The Government has no advice of an invasion of China by Japan, and, as China has not yet raised before the League of Nations the question of any violation of its political or territorial integrity, does not propose to take the action suggested.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral any information regarding statements made by Dr. Sun-Yat-Sen, late President of China,, and also by the present Consul-General for China in Australia, that it is the policy of the war party of Japan to control China, and then to appeal to the people of India, as Asiatics, to join in the movement to retain Asia for the Asiatics, leading probably to an attempt to conquer the world?
– The honorable gentleman was good enough to inform me of his intention to ask this question. The department has no record that either Dr. Sun-Yat-Sen or Dr.Chen made the specific statement mentioned. Statements of a similar nature, however, are periodically reported as having been made by prominent Chinese on the objects of Japan. For example, Dr. “Wellington Koo, at the League of Nations Council meeting on the 6th December, 1932, said -
It is necessary for a lull appraisal of the situation in the” Far East, to understand the purport and bearing of Japan’s traditional policy of expansion mentioned in the Commission’s report. It is what the Japanese call the continental policy - that is, the policy of conquest on the Asiatic mainland, with two corollaries; the northward push - i.e., invasion into Manchuria and North China through Korea - and the southward push - i.e., invasion of Southern and Central -China and the South Seas, setting the base on Formosa.
ENTRY into Australia.
– In view of my representations in the past, and particularly last week, and of the article which appeared in the press during the weekend, will the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Defence make a statement regarding the lifting of the ban upon the entry into Australia of American aircraft?
– I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Defence, and hope that he will be able to make a statement upon it when he returns to-morrow.
– “Will the Prime Minister be in a position to inform the House before the adjournment for the Christmas recess of the date upon which the Monetary and Banking Commission will commence the taking of evidence in public?
– I hope that I may be in that position. In any case, it is expected that the commission will begin its work very early in the new year.
– Did the Minister for Commerce receive from the delegates of the Fruit Board, which waited upon him last week, the information that he requires in connexion with the apple and pear industry in Tasmania? If so, will he make the grant payable to that industry available before Christmas?
– Information is still awaited from several State govern ments.
– Did the right honorable gentleman obtain any information from the board?
– We received all the information that it had; but it is not sufficient to enable us to determine our course.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that the accommodation usually provided for honorable members at the Hotel Canberra is not now available, and that, in some instances, two members have been placed in a room? Does he think that that arrangement is in keeping with his statement, in reply to a question asked some time ago, that honorable members were likely to get an agreeable surprise in regard, to hotel accommodation? I am concerned about obtaining proper accommodation in order te carry out ray duties as a member of this House.
– Until the honorable member asked his question I was not aware that any alteration had been made in regard to the provision of accommodation for members of Parliament at the Hotel Canberra. I shall look into the matter.
– In view of the increasing seriousness of the Italo-Abyssinian situation, as reported in to-day’s press. has the Prime Minister any information te supply to the House, particularly in regard to the alleged movement of Italian troops towards the French frontier, and of French warships in the Mediterranean?
– I have no information to supply honorable members at the present juncture.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the following cabled reports in the press : -
It- is generally recognized that the next ten days will be the most critical period since 1914-18.
Next Monday the British Cabinet will meet to decide about the oil embargo against Italy.
British Ministers are anxious for further collective action by the League.
If so, does the right honorable gentleman consider that it is in the best interests of Australia that this Parliament should adjourn when a war threatens ?
– When Parliament does adjourn, it will be on the distinct understanding that it will be called together if considered necessary.
– In view of the unrest on the coal-fields, due to the further mechanization of the industry, has the Attorney-General yet given instructions for the appointment of a successor to Mr. Chas. Hibble for the purpose of reconstituting the Coal Tribunal? Will he consider a recommendation from the mining organizations regarding the appointment of a chairman?
– The answer to both of the honorable member’s questions is “No”.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the proposal to reconstitute the Interstate Commission has been finally dropped, or merely overlooked?
– The proposal has been neither finally dropped nor overlooked.
– Has the Minister for the Interior seen a report in the press that lubras in the Wave Hill district are being harshly treated, and, if so, has he any official information to give to the House? If not, will he obtain a report on the subject for the information of honorable members ?
– The answer to the first two parts of the honorable member’s question is “ No “. As to the third part of his question, 1 shall look into the matter.
– Is the Government giving consideration to the early introduction of a bill to provide for national insurance, in order that invalid and oldage pensions may be removed from the political arena?
– .Yes. Full consideration cannot however be given to this important subject while Parliament is sitting.
– In view of the fact that the Government has not yet redeemed its promise to solve the unemployment problem, does it propose to Supplement the grants made by the governments of the States as Christmas relief by making available parcels of food and clothing to the unemployed?
– No Commonwealth Government has ever done what the honorable member suggests, but generally, both Commonwealth and State Governments expedite some of the works which have been authorized, so that employment may be provided for as many as possible during the weeks immediately preceding Christmas. The Commonwealth Government, which is directly concerned with unemployment in the Federal Capital Territory, has provided full-time employment since before the end of November. The indications are that the more prosperous conditions generally throughout Australia will mean that greater employment than usual will be made available this year, and I hope that nothing will be done by either individuals or organizations to interfere with what is being done in that direction.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a public statement by the secretary of the Young
Men’s Christian Association to the effect that at the end of this year 100,000 boys and girls will be leaving school, but, as jobs will be available for only 60,000 of them, the other 40,000 will be unable to find employment? In view of this statement has the Government entrusted to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary fo;Employment (Sir Frederick Stewart) any investigation to provide work for youths leaving school? If so, has any report been submitted to the Government? When is some definite scheme on this matter likely to be presented to Parliament ?
– There is no need for the Government to await reports from any organization to be informed that a large number of young people com© on to the labour market year by year as they leave school. This aspect of the problem of employment has already received a good deal of consideration by the Government, and progress is being made with this aspect of unemployment amongst others. I assure the honorable member that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment, the honorable member for Parramatta, has not overlooked this matter in the report which he has made to the Government following his investigations abroad.
– Has the right honorable the Prime Minister received a report from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment on the 40-hour week proposal and employment generally as the result of his inquiries abroad? When may the House expect a statement on this matter; will such a statement be made before the House adjourns for the Christmas recess?
– The Government has received reports from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment, but they will not be considered until the Cabinet has an opportunity ‘to do so. I am afraid the Government will have to choose, its own time as to when a statement will be made to the House.
LATE Mit. JABEZ COON.
– I have received a message from Mrs. Coon thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy on the occasion of the death of Mr. Jabez Coon.
Motion by Mr. Casey agreed to -
That he have leave 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.
Debate resumed from the 29 th November (vide page 2253) on motion by Mr. Lyons. -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This legislation through which the Government will fulfill certain obligations towards men suffering from war disabilities is long overdue. I have certain complaints to make with respect to the entitlement boards. So far as Tasmania is concerned a board sits only once every twelve months, with the result that many applicants in that State have to wait for months before their cases are dealt with. Action should be taken by the Government to empower the Deputy Commissioner to deal with specific cases that come forward. I have in mind the case of a pensioner suffering from war disabilities, who was told that he was not entitled to receive medical treatment at the expense of the department, because his case had not been dealt with by the Entitlement Board, and because that tribunal had not determined that he was suffering from war disabilities. This pensioner had been gassed and had been wounded by shrapnel in the neck. A private doctor in Hobart definitely informed him that he was suffering lung trouble as the result of being gassed. But when he put his case before the Minister, the only reply he received was that the Entitlement Board would sit in Hobart at a certain time, and that he was not entitled to receive medical treatment at the expense of the department until such time as his case had been dealt with by the board, and his injuries had been adjudged as having been due to war service.
Another complaint to which I direct the attention of the Minister is in respect of tubercular cases. The Government claims that to-day sufferers from tuberculosis are to be given a pension of 18s. a week, but as every tubercular sufferer is already entitled to an invalid pension of 18s. a week, these men will be getting only 12s. 6d. a week, by way of special pension. The total amount the tubercular ex-soldier will be entitled to receive is 30s. 6d., made up of 18s. war pension and 12s. 6d. invalid pension. The Government is actually robbing Peter to pay Paul.
– I ask the honorable member to believe that that is not the case.
– I would not believe anything the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! That remark is most disorderly.
– I ask that the honorable member be called upon to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the remark, but the Treasurer should refrain from making disorderly interjections.
– Order I The honorable member’s remark reflects on the Chair. The Treasurer only said : “ I ask the honorable member to believe that that is not the case.” That is not a disorderly remark.
– I point out also that the wives and children of returned soldiers who have suffered from war disabilities and die as the result of such injuries, are left without a pension until the Entitlement Board certifies that such injuries were due to war service. I ask the Treasurer to give favorable consideration to the application of a widow in Tasmania whose husband was shot above the heart in the last war. He had in his pocket a Bible which deflected the bullet from his heart. The government of the day, when raising the first war loan, used a leaf of this Bible in order to swell the subscriptions to the loan, which, was advertised extensively throughout Australia. This returned soldier, however, received no compensation for the credit assumed by the government of the day, which advertised the miracle that the soldier was not shot dead. Yet, to-day, his widow and little child are left to the mercy of charity. The Treasurer has signed a statement to the effect that the widow will not get a pension. I give credit to the ex-Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes), because I believe that if lie had ‘remained in office he would have granted a pension in this case. The war widows will receive short shrift from tha present Treasurer, if he becomes Minister for Repatriation.
Some time ago, I mentioned the terrible plight of ex-soldie’rs who have been wounded and gassed. Some have been refused the pension on the ground that they suffer from alcoholism. The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) said that 1 could not indicate a case in which a pension had been refused because an ex-soldier was addicted to the use of strong drink, but I have in my possession a communication from the Repatriation Commissioners concerning an ex-soldier who was gassed and lost his eyesight for five weeks, and the letter concludes with the statement that he was suffering from alcoholism. To bring such a charge against a returned man is one of the meanest acts which could be perpetrated against those suffering from the effects of war. They must take either alcoholic liquor or drugs. The particulars which I have submitted to the House are absolutely correct, and I urge honorable members to co-operate in seeing that justice is done. Men who had up to three and a half years in the front line in France are entitled to favorable consideration when their health breaks down. It has taken the Government seventeen long years to fulfil the promises made to them, and even to-day they are not receiving the full consideration to which they are entitled. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that this measure represented only the first step towards giving full justice to these men. In the last eighteen year3 numbers of them have died without compensation having been paid by the Government. The expenditure which is now being incurred on their behalf does not compensate for the service rendered by the large numbers of ex-soldiers who gave their lives for their country.
Mr.WHITE (Balaclava- Minister for Trade and Customs) [3.35]. - Speaking not as a Minister, but voicing, I believe, the sentiments of service men generally, I consider that this bill, which further amends the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, gives an instalment of justice to, and will be much appreciated by, returned men of all classes. I agree with the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) that no monetary payment would be adequate recompense for lives lost, blindness, maiming or shattered health. I recognize, of course, that Australian governments generally, under repatriation schemes, have endeavoured to make some recompense to returned men and to the dependants of deceased soldiers by means of a pension system, medical treatment, and educational benefits for children; and this assistance has ameliorated their sufferings. There should be no repudiation of the promises made when the men left for the front. In that respect the community has an outstanding obligation. These repayments are more sacrosanct than any monetary debt arising out of the war. General Monash, the late leader of the Australian Imperial Forces, wrote -
By his military virtues, and by his deeds in battle, the Australian soldier has earned for himself a place in history that none can challenge.
We realize that if our soldiers had failed the debt would have been immeasurably greater than it now is. We cannot correctly appraise the loss which all the countries that participated in the last war sustained through the death of the flower of their manhood. The leaders in war may have proved the leaders in civil life, but in thousands of case3 their service as civilians was lost to us for ever.
Those who went to the front stood the acid test of war. They did not put their physical safety first. In peace time, whether in business, social or public life, pretence may carry a man a considerable distance; but, in war, the attributes of fortitude, courage and unselfishness predominate. Above the horrors of war - and returned men need no reminder of them - our men learned the value of courage, patience and comradeship. Their spirit of service and their practical patriotism were the bulwarks of our defence. They should not be forgotten, but should rather be emulated in public and private life. Theirs was . not the lip patriotism, of which Dr. Johnson spoke, when he. said: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Therefore, we cannot go back on the promises made to these men. At one time a certain government endeavoured to withdraw preference to returned soldiers, although it must be said to its credit that it quickly made restitution after protests had been made by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia.
In addition to the benefits provided for the maimed and injured, we should remember the preference promised to those who, on leaving for the front, had recently left school, or had given up opportunities for apprenticeship to trades. This placed them under a great handicap in civil life, and on their return it waa difficult for them to make up for the years they had lost, and to catch up to those who probably had not volunteered for active service. That is why the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, with such supporting associations and organizations such as the Limbless Soldiers Association, the Legacy Club, and the McCaughey Bequest are doing much in keeping with the spirit of that service. I commend that spirit to the House, because the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia realizes that its members have obligations as well as rights, and must face realities as well as support ideals. In civil life the returned man is standing up to his ideals by supporting the League of Nations. I mention this fact, in passing, because members of the Opposition who did not vote for the application of sanctions during a recent debate in this Parliament should know that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia supports the objects of the League of Nations.
– That remark is irrelevant.
– It may be, but I desire to point out that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, whilst supporting international ideals, also appreciates realities, and recognizes the need for the adequate defence of our own country.
– The honorable gentleman should support all the decisions of the league, and not single out one.
– Exactly. I support al! of the league’s decisions. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) would ignore those which affect the lives of millions of men.
The proposed amendments which provide for the commutation, of pensions will assist those who returned to Australia after being abroad for four years or more, and who had considerable lee-way to make up. Many of them invested their war gratuities in businesses, but owing to bad judgment, and, in some instances, circumstances over which they had no control, lost all they possessed. A service pension for unemployable men has been in operation in Canada for some years, and some have suggested that a similar pension should be payable in Australia. I pay tribute to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) for his advocacy of such a scheme. I regret that that right honorable gentleman who took such a prominent part in framing this bill is not piloting the measure through the House. The payment of a pension for prematurely aged soldiers and nurses is a provision which we all applaud. II. is difficult, however, to determine the number who have become prematurely aged as the result of war service, because many emerged from the conflict comparatively without injury and apparently in good health. Some of us were more scared than scarred. Those who served in the front line for any time and those who suffer from shell-shock, should surely be eligible for a service pension if they are unable to work. The payment of a pension for all pulmonary tubercular ex-service men has been discussed and supported for some considerable time, and whether they were or were not engaged in a theatre of war, they are entitled to consideration. The payment of a pension to prematurely aged men was made possible only by confining it. to those definitely engaged in a theatre- of war, and will exclude from eligibility about 25 per cent, of the men who served overseas. The payment of automatic war pensions to dependants of deceased blind soldiers and of deceased incapacitated soldiers is also overdue. As I know that other honorable members wish to speak on this bill, I shall be as brief as possible, but I wish to say that the Government has made 3omo very necessary amendments of the principal act. This measure transcends party politics, and is a valuable contribution which will tend to remove many of the anomalies that existed. The returned soldier does not ask for undue consideration. He realizes that all assistance granted to him is raised by the taxes which he and other taxpayers contribute, and that such assistance is governed by the state of the Treasury. I trust that there will always be both federal and State governments which will be appreciative of the services rendered to the nation by the returned soldiers.
.- The concessions proposed to be granted to returned soldiers under this bill have been advocated for many years both inside and outside this House. Personally, I am inclined to agree with those honorable members who suggest that a decision to liberalize conditions of returned soldiers is long overdue. I congratulate the Government upon having had the courage to introduce this measure. It is’a wonderful advertisement of the recovery which Australia has made, in that it can afford to spend an additional £350,000 annually while many other countries are making frantic endeavours to balance their budgets. In common with other honorable members, I regret that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is not piloting this measure through the House. “With other returned soldiers, I appreciate the interest which that gentleman has taken in the welfare of returned soldiers, not only during the war, but also since it terminated. Although we regret that the right honorable gentleman is not in charge of the bill, I know that it would be unfair to give him all the credit for its introduction The Cabinet, which has to assume responsibility, had to be convinced of its necessity before it could be brought before Parliament. Although we give the right honorable gentleman credit for what he has done for returned soldiers, I feel that the Government and the members of all parties in this House are directly and indirectly responsible for its introduction.
Reference has been made to the liberal manner in which Australian returned soldiers have been treated. As one who fought in the last war, but who, unfortunately, did not fight with the Australian Imperial Forces, I may be permitted to say that no liberality could be too great for the Australian soldiers. Those who went from Australia were the pick of our manhood, and physically and mentally were in the forefront of the representatives of all nations engaged in that conflict. When the men of the Australian Imperial Forces were first seen in Egypt by the official historian, he described them as having the physique of Greek gods, and their initiative was second to none. With others they achieved the almost impossible task of landing on Gallipoli. They also evacuated that peninsula without serious casualties, -which, at the time, also appeared to be impossible. In the critical days of 19.18 the Australian Imperial Forces was the rock upon which fell the enemy attack. The German armies were continually harassed by the Australians and eventually their morale was broken. In the battle of the hundred days, from the 8th August onwards, the members of the Australian Imperial Forces were the spearhead of the allied attack. I should like to quote Major-General Montgomery, the chief of staff of the Fourth Army, concerning the historic battle of the hundred days. In referring to the withdrawal of the Australian troops from the line on the 6th October, 1918, he concludes concerning the Australians in these words -
During these days the Australian advance had covered a distance of 37 miles, and they captured 610 officers and 22,200 other ranks from ‘30 German divisions, and 330 guns.
This is what appeals to me -
Time dims many recollections; but the work of the Australians, their individual intelligence, .good comradeship, and bravery will always remain a vivid memory to those who had the honour and pleasure of working with them.
It has been suggested by some honorable members that these men, referred to in such glowing terms, enlisted because of the promises of what would be done for them on their return. With that contention I do not agree. I believe that most of the men -went overseas because they believed that Australia was in danger. That opinion was supported by the remarks of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) on Friday last. Among other things he said -
If it had not beon for the fact that they went overseas to fight for their country tho classes to whom taxes are being remitted would have no property or income on which to pay tax. It would have been taken from them by the Central Powers of Europe.
I am delighted to think that the statement was made by an honorable member who sits opposite. It bears out what I have always said,- namely, that Australians were fighting, not in a European war, but for the existence of Australia. Not only the taxpayers, but also the whole of Australia, would have been under foreign domination had the Central Powers been victorious. “We should therefore, give the returned men the most generous treatment that we can afford.
The increased benefits for returned soldiers proposed in this bill broadly fall into three main categories: (1) extended benefits to tubercular cases; (2) service pensions; (3) pensions to “burnt-out” men.
Every honorable member of this House I think has had difficulty with the Repatriation Commission over tubercular cases. The difficulties of proving that the insidious disease, as tuberculosis has been described by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), is due to Avar services, are tremendous In words more vivid than I can command the right honorable member has pointed out the fact that the dreadful conditions ‘in which members of the Australian Imperial Forces lived in the front line and in camps on the other side, weakened their constitutions, allowing tubercular germs to become active. It is wise and just, therefore, that, in order to qualify for a pension, all that these men will have to do is to prove: (1) that they enlisted, and (2) that they are tubercular.
The next main provision of the measure is that service pensions will be paid to returned men at the age of 60 instead of 65, and to nurses at 55 instead of 60, if they served in a defined theatre of war. Honorable members will remember that just about twelve months ago the Chief Medical Officer of- the Repatriation Commission started a controversy as to whether those who served in the theatre of war have prematurely aged in consequence of their service. He did not consider that war service had shortened the men 8 lives to any appreciable extent, but I am thoroughly in disagreement with him. It is possible that their lives might not actually have been shortened, but men who served in an active capacity in a theatre of war will be old before their time. For that reason I commend most heartily the provision of service pensions on the basis set out in the bill. The suggestion has been made to the Government that these pensions should continue as service pensions after the men. concerned have passed the age of 65 year3, by which I mean, that the men concerned should not become old-age pensioners at 65. If such provision has not already been made, I would ask the Treasurer if it can be made.
– The provision sought will be incorporated in the bill in a Government amendment.
– There is tradition and a sentiment among the men which will make them appreciate the fact that, until death, they are to receive a service pension and not an old-age pension.
The third class of beneficiaries provided for in the measure consists of what the Canadian people call “ burnt out “ unemployable men - men who cannot prove to any tribunal that they are suffering from ailments caused by war service. As an employer, I have had men come to me and I have given them employment, but after a few days they come to me and say “We cannot go on. We cannot settle down “. They ask for their cheque, take their swags, and once more take to the road. To say what is wrong with them is hard; it may be that they are suffering from shell-shock, as, while they look well enough, their nerves have given way and they aro broken men. It is possible that if they have some hope for the future, some guarantee that unemployment will not bring them hunger, they may even yet become normal; and, after a few years, they may once again become employable members of our community.
I am glad- that a new Repatriation Commission is coming into office, although I desire to make no reflection on the outgoing commission. It did a very difficult job well and sympathetically; but we are commencing another chapter of the history of Australian repatriation, and I think, therefore, that it was wise to establish a new commission which would not be bound down by such old traditions and customs as may have crept into the procedure of repatriation.
– Hear, hear !
– I feel that if this bill is to be of any use, it will have to bo administered in a sympathetic, as well as in a legal manner. 1 congratulate the Government on its introduction. It confers benefits which will not be grudged by the taxpayers and it meets the legitimate aspirations of the returned soldiers.
.- We on this side of the House welcome the bill, and, in agreement with other honorable members, I regret that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is not piloting it through the House. I believe that if it had not been for the fact that the right honorable gentleman was a member of the Government, it would never have seen the light of day. It, however, has been introduced, and it confers some benefits on a number of ex-soldiers. During my term in this House I have come into contact with a number of tubercular soldiers, many of them deserving cases indeed. The comforts which this bill will bring to them have been long delayed, as it is seventeen years since the cessation of hostilities and many men who would have come within the scope of the bill have passed away without receiving any recognition of their services, or any compensation for illnesses brought about by war service. My main grievance against the Repatriation Commission Entitlement Board is that men who are suffering serious illnesses caused by war service make application to go before the Board but have to wait from six to nine months before their cases are heard. A man in need of immediate medical attention may have his life endangered if such attention is delayed. More than one ex-soldier has lost his life because he has not been able to obtain special medical treatment at the time it was required. Only a couple of months ago I brought under the notice of the then Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) the case of a man who was practically dying because he could not get special medical treatment either at his home or at the local hospital. The right honorable gentleman personally interested himself in that case in consequence of my representations, and the special treatment required was made available. I trust that provision has been made in this bill to ensure that, in all such cases, special treatment will be made available immediately to ex-soldiers who require it. If clear provision has not been made to meet such cases, I urge that a suitable amendment with that object be made at the committee stage. Now that two or three additional entitlement boards are operating in Australia, the long delays that occurred under the previous procedure should be eliminated to some extent; but there are still insufficient boards in operation. A board may be dealing with a case in Brisbane, or in some other part of the Commonwealth, and an unfortunate patient in Sydney may be waiting two or three months for a hearing.. The need for this should be eliminated. When a man makes an appeal, medical officers should be available at once to deal with his case. I have heard it said, even in this House, that all the promises made to the men who enlisted for service overseas have been honoured. That this is not true is shown conclusively by the introduction of this bill seventeen years after the termination of the war. I do not think that one returned soldier could be found in Australia who would agree that all the promises made to the men who enlisted have been fulfilled. I am pleased, however, that at last improved facilities are being afforded to deal with the cases of men suffering from tuberculosis. I give the measure my hearty support, and trust that, if appropriate provision has not already been made, the Government will act on my suggestion to insert an amendment in the bill to ensure that immediate attention should be given to the claims of ex-service men who apply for special medical treatment.
– I cannot give a silent vote on this bill. I heartily congratulate the Government upon having introduced the measure, and, with other honorable members, I express most sincere thanks to t!he right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) for his painstaking work in the drafting of the bill. During the last three or four years many disabled soldiers have referred their cases to me for attention, because they have not been able to furnish the department with the necessary documentary proof that their complaints are due to war service. I have in mind, at the moment, the case of an ex-service man named dotterel, who lives at North Adelaide. He was unquestionably physically fit when he enlisted, and apparently his health was good when he returned to Australia, but he has since developed chronic asthma, with the result that for the last three or four years he has been unable to work. He has not been able to obtain an invalid pension because he cannot prove that he is permanently incapacitated. His wife, whom I have met on many occasions, and found to be an exceedingly bra.ve little woman, has during the last eighteen months gone out to work. She has done washing and other domestic work. Her health is now completely broken down. This is, in many respects, one of the saddest cases that has come under my notice, and I ask the Minister in charge of the bill to intimate, in the course of his reply, whether it and similar cases will be met under the provisions of the measure.
.- Together with other honorable members on this side of the chamber, I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this bill. I also express my regret that circumstances over which we, at least, had no control. prevented the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) from introducing it. The measure will undoubtedly remove many anomalies in our repatriation administration. I am sure that after the passage of this bill the Minister for Repatriation will be able to do his work under much happier circumstances than hitherto. Up to the present, he has found himself bound by rules and regulations some of which must have been handed from primeval times. This has, in many instances, hindered the passing of fair judgment on cases that have come up for consideration. No one can say definitely, from a medical viewpoint, what will happen to men who have been subjected to gas and high explosive attacks. I well remember one of the leading medical men in. London saying in one of his lectures that if any spinal trouble or nervous condition were present in a patient which could not be explained, inquiries should be made as to whether the individual concerned had ever been in a railway accident or a coaching smash. This, of course, was in the days before motor cars were so extensively used as they are today. In such cases, the doctor said, the accident could at once be assumed to he the cause of the patient’s condition. I have asked many medical practitioners much better equipped to give judgment in nervous disorders than I am, and also many surgeons, whether any clear and definite statement could be made as to the effect upon an individual of high explosives or gas, and in every case the reply has been in the negative. The lung of a human being is a very delicate organ, and is easily affected by tubercular germs. That is one reason why the medical officers attached to the Repatriation Department should always give an exservice man the benefit of the doubt when tubercular symptoms are present. The bill could, with advantage, have included a provision similar to that in an act of the United States of America, namely, that the medical history of men who volunteered for service should not be inquired into for periods prior to the date of enlistment. In Melbourne, during the war, recruits were medically examined in the Town Hall, adjacent to two of the busiest streets of the city, and the greatest medical genius in the world could not, under those conditions of noise and distraction, examine cases properly. I know that two leading surgeons offered the use of their rooms in Collinsstreet to the department at the time, but the offer was refused by one of the giltspurred roosters in the Defence Department.
I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister once more the case of Gunner Perry. Some members of this House may recall that I fought this man’s case for eleven days in the courts. The department opposed the application for a pension, but eventually I was successful in having a pension granted to him and his wife. He was taken from the court to an observation ward of a mental asylum in Melbourne, where he was kept for six months, and then released. In my opinion, he should never havebeen allowed to leave that institution. He went to Queensland, where he posed as a colonel and, no doubt helped by the glamour of his assumed military rank, was successful in inducing a young woman to go through a form of marriage with him. Because of an injury to his spine he was quite unable to discharge the marriage contract. Some time afterwards the girl to whom he was bigamously married discovered in his pocket a letter from his real wife, and naturally made a scene. The man gave her a severe thrashing, after which she disappeared, and shortly afterwards he also disappeared, and neither of them has been seen or heard of since. The police circularized the authorities in every State, and a warrant was issued for the man’s arrest on a charge of bigamy. The evil of the thing is that his unfortunate real wife had her pension stopped because she was unable to produce her husband dead or alive. The department expected this poor, weak woman to engage in a search for this man, and produce proof of his death if he had died, although the Defence Department and the police departments of all the States were unable to trace him on a warrant for bigamy. The woman’s health broke down, and eventually she was granted an invalid pension. My own belief, which is shared by many other people, is that Perry, and the girl whom he bigamously married, both committed suicide. I shall write out all particulars connected with the case, and submit them to the Minister during the recess, in the hope that justice will be done.
I am glad the Government has brought in this bill, which has my approval, because I believe that it will do much to ameliorate the lot of those who made their country the greatest gift in their possession, namely, their health and lives, in the war to end war.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Title and citation).
– The bill as printed provides that blinded ex-soldiers, who die from any cause whatsoever, shall be regarded, for pension purposes, as having died from causes arising out of the war. In a government amendment just circulated that provision has been extended to include all men in schedules 2 and 5 of the act, namely, those who were grievously injured, and also double amputees.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section twenty-two of the principal act is amended -
by omitting the proviso to the definition of “ Dependants “ and inserting in its stead the following proviso: - “ Provided that any such wife married, or child born, to a member of the Forces after that date shall, if the member has died or dies -
from the results of an occurrence happening during the period during which he was a member of the Forces ; or
from other results, but had been blinded as the result of war service, or had, as the result of war service, such defective eyesight that, in the opinion of the Commission, he had no useful sight, be deemed to he a dependant;”; and
Section proposed to.be amended -
In this part of this act, unless the contrary intention appears -
Dependants “ means -
Provided that any such wife married, or child born, to a member of the Forces after that date shall, if the member has died or dies from the results of an occurrence happening during the period during which ha was such a member, be deemed to be a dependant.
Amendment (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That paragraph (6) in the definition of “ Dependants “ be omitted with a view to insert in its stead the following paragraph: -
from other results, but the member, immediately prior to his death, -
was in receipt of a pension under the Second Schedule to this act or would, but for the third paragraph of that Schedule, have been in receipt of such a pension; or
was in receipt of an amount in respect of a disability described in any of the first eight items in the first column of the Fifth Schedule ito this act or would, but for sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (c) of the proviso, to that Schedule, have been in receipt of such au amount/’.
– This clause defines the phrase <J served in a theatre of war “ as meaning served at sea, in the field or in the air, in naval, military or aerial operations against the enemy in an area, or on an aircraft or ship of war, at a time when danger from hostile forces of the enemy was incurred in that area, or on that aircraft, or ship of Avar by the person so serving. One case that has come under my notice is that of a man who served throughout the war in the mercan-tile marine. When he died, the department held that, because he did not actually serve in a transport or on a vessel of the Royal Navy, it could not be said that he served in a theatre of war. After his death, his widow and children are not considered to be entitled to a pension. I suggest this is a matter which the Treasurer might well investigate to see whether it is practicable to evolve a more satisfactory solution.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Treasurer, but at the same time, I suggest that it does not go far enough. There are many ex-soldiers, double amputees, for example, who are at present in receipt of the full pension, together with an amount payable to them under the fifth schedule. Instead of confining the benefit proposed to be conferred by clause 4 to dependants of soldiers whose eyesight was injured by war service, the Treasurer now seeks to extend the benefit to the dependants of all soldiers whose cases are covered by the first eight items in the fifth schedule. If the whole of those in receipt of a 100 per cent, pension, in addition to those covered by the fifth schedule, were included a large number would not be affected. According to the latest report of the Repatriation Commission, there are only 577 such exsoldiers in the Commonwealth and it is reasonable to assume.that a large proportion, possibly 50 per cent, of them would be affected by the bill with which we are now dealing. Therefore, not more than 300 ex-soldiers would be affected if my suggestion were adopted. At present, on the death of those pensioners, their dependants have to appear before the Repatriation Commission to prove that the breadwinner’s death was due to war service. But if my suggestion were accepted, this necessity would not arise; the pension provided under this bill would be automatically paid. Even if the whole 577 were affected the cost would; not be very great. Certainly the wife would receive a widow’s pension, hut the total, pension payable would be less than the amount payable now. However, all that I arn asking now is that the dependants entitled to the benefits proposed by clause 4 should be those of ex-service men who are at present receiving a 100 per cent, pension plus any allowance provided under the fifth schedule.
– Although I clearly see the logic of the suggestion made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), no matter how far the Government went, it would always be asked to go further. The Government has already gone very closely into this matter to see how far it could go. It has been in close touch with the departmental officers, and they advise that the men affected by this proposed amendment are those in the worst case and to whom the privilege should really -be extended. The Government would, if it had the necessary funds, be pleased to extend the benefits very considerably. I regret, however, that it is unable to go further than I have indicated.
.- The scale of pensions provided in the fifth schedule needs revison. For instance, the pension provided for an amputee might be ample for one who is pursuing a clerical avocation, but it is quite insufficient for one who follows the calling of a labourer. The former, despite the loss of a leg, would be as efficient in a clerical capacity as he was before enlistment; but a labourer suffering a similar disability would be quite unable to earn a living in that avocation. The clause makes no provision for such persons, whose claims should receive consideration.
Amendment agreed to.
– I direct the attention of the Treasurer to the definition of “ permanently unemployable “, which means “ permanently incapable, by reason of physical or mental disablement, of being employed in a remunerative occupation”. It is, I think, rather ambiguous, and I fear that it may be defined in such a way as not to meet the case of men such as those referred to by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who are intellectually incapable of adapting themselves to other classes of work. It has occurred to me that perhaps the intention of the committee would be served if “ permanently unemployable “ were defined as meaning “ permanently incapable by reason of physical or mental condition of being employed in a remunerative occupation “.
– The portion of the clause to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has directed attention was extremely difficult to frame. The phraseology employed was chosen after close discussion with the members of the commission. Probably any definition within the range of common sense would be capable of criticism in some direction or other. I think I can best reassure the Leader of the Opposition by stating that it is sincerely proposed by the commission, acting under the instructions of the Government, to employ common sense and sympathy in the interpretation of the various provisions of the bill. I think the House can be sure that the commission would look sympathetically on the case of a man who had lost a leg, and who prior to the war followed the occupation of a labourer, and because of his intellectual unfitness could not engage in other duties.
.- I should like to see provision made for the widow of an ex-soldier who died from war injuries before his case was considered by the Repatriation Commission. We may take it that a man who passed the medical examination for active service ifould not, in the ordinary course, die suddenly from heart trouble or other cause. ‘ Many men suffering from shell shock or gas were discharged and died from war disabilities, but their widows are not provided for because they have been unable to prove that the disabilities from which their husbands died were the result of war service. I have had brought to my notice the case of a woman with one child who was left in almost destitute circumstances. Her application for a pension was rejected, but she has since received assistance from a private, fund.
The honorable member is breaking new ground and therefore is out of order. The committee is discussing the definition clause.
– This case has been brought to the attention of the Minister and the decision has been against the widow. I hope, however, that the Treasurer will see if something can be done to rectify this anomaly.
– The case mentioned by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) does not come within the scope of the bill. There is adequate machinery in the Repatriation Act for applicants to state their claims and, in the event of rejection, for an appeal. This bill in no way interferes with the existing rights; in fact, it increases them in many directions. The case referred to by the honorable member has been dealt’ with in the department, and I give him an assurance that it will be reconsidered if he will submit it to me.
– Will the Treasurer answer the questions raised with regard to interpretation of the words “ served in a theatre of war “ ?
– ‘Does the honorable member mean men who served in the mercantile marine?
– Yes, and soldiers who became incapacitated in training camps in England and did not take part in the war.
– There is provision in the act for men who suffered disabilities in that way to get the ordinary war pension. I do not . think that the commissioner will interpret this clause as apply- ing to men who were in training camps in Australia or Great Britain.
– Therefore we take it that though a man has a war pension he may not be entitled to a service pension?
– That is so, by reason of not having served in a theatre of war. The honorable member for “West Sydney will, I think, agree that the provisions of the bill could not be extended to all men who had served in the mercantile marine.
– That decision would affect a man who had volunteered for enlistment and was instructed to remain in his present job on the ground that he would be of more service to his country in a merchant ship than in the Army or Navy.
– There may be other branches of the services in which there are cases not dissimilar to the one that has been cited. The Government could not considor extending the scope of the bill to include the mercantile marine. I fail to see how it could be limitedto cases such as those described by the honorable gentleman.
– Many members will regard the definition to which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has drawn attention as one of the most important features of the whole bill. Tt deals with what are known as “burnt out “ soldiers. Such cases are absolutely pathetic. In one instance, a man refused to apply for a pension because he con-, sidered that he could get along well enough without it. Eventually he found himself unable to support himself and his dependants, but he was unable to obtain a pension because, at that late date, hecould not connect his disabilities with war causes. Yet if his case had been regarded in the common-sense way contemplated by this measure, his physical disabilities were obviously due to his service at the front. I direct the attention of honorable members to the definition of “ permanently unemployable “. It is defined . as “ permanently incapable by reason of physical or mental disablement of being employed in a remunerative occupation “. The importance of the proposed new section 45ae is concerned in its application. A pension shall not be granted to a member of the forces unless the member - (a)has served in a theatre of war and is, in the opinion of the commission or board, permanently unemployable.
That provision is an indication to the commission that it must base its opinion on certain facts. The word “ opinion which leaves a wide descretion to the commission, is intended to be exercised in a reasonable and sympathetic way, and according to the intention of Parliament. The difficulty of framing a definition that will meet all cases is recognized. The new section has therefore been framed in comprehensive terms leaving to the commission the right to form an “ opinion “ on each case upon its merits, and in view of the comprehensive character of the provision I consider that “ disablement “ will meet the circumstances as well as would “condition” as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition.
– What would be a reasonable application of the words “ remunerative occupation” which are also part of the definition?
– If a man were incapable of earning the standard rates paid in an industry I should interpret that as being an indication that he was not capable of engaging in a remunerative occupation.
– Hear, hear !
– When a man is unable to come up to the standard demanded of him by a particular industry, he cannot obtain employment in that industry. Some standard will have to be set by the Commissioners.
– In coming to such a decision the Commissioners will have to pay some Tegard to the condition of the labour market at the time. The proviso contained in the words “ if a remunerative occupation cannot be obtained “ is not very much to the point. The Commissioners will have, of necessity, to deal with the position of affairs at the particular moment.
– It would amount to forming an opinion on the facts. A married man who was earning insufficient to maintain his family, pay the rent, and meet other extras, might be entitled to claim a pension if he could show that he could not do so by reason of his physical disability. ‘ This is, however, I should say, a matter of capacity to work. This measure is not a bill for the relief of the unemployed. In the administration of the provisions of the measure a man’s capacity for work would be taken into consideration. If he is incapable of working in one branch of industry he may be asked what class of work he can undertake. I recall the instance of a man who did nothing but labouring work. He lost an arm, and was therefore completely disabled, in that he waa unable to continue to engage in his former occupation. But it was decided that he was not eligible for an invalid pension, because he could use his remaining hand to drive a lift, or engage in clerical work, and hence was not utterly disabled. That man was really not capable of being employed on remunerative work, mentally or physically, he was unfit for it. It is true that some incapacitated men, on returning from the war, were found positions as drivers of lifts, because they were incapable of doing labouring work. They might be regarded as being engaged in a remunerative occupation. I take it that the condition of an applicant for a pension under this bill would be subject to examination. Before the war he might have been a clerk capable of performing his duties efficiently, but his injuries might have made it impossible for him to continue to work in this avocation, and, although the medical examiner might declare him fit to undertake physical work, he might not have the physical strength to do it on a remunerative basis. I should think that such a man would come within this definition. Individual cases, however, must be left “ to the opinion” of the Commissioners, and for that reason Parliament has charged them . with the duty, anticipating that applicants would be treated fairly, justly, and sympathetically.
– That has always been the position.
– In the framing of this measure, some elasticity has purposely been incorporated to enable the Commissioners to exercise judgment and sympathy.
.- The question that the committee is anxious to have decided to its satisfaction is: What are the principles upon which the commission intends to interpret this provision? It is very close to the problem that arises under workmen’s compensation acts in relation to a disabled employee who is alleged to be able to take light work. I should like to read what seem to me a very appropriate passage in the remarks made by Lord Justice Moulton in the case of Cardiff Corporation v. Hall -
If the accident has left the workman bo injured that he is incapable of becoming an ordinary workman of average capacity in any well-known branch of the labour market- - if, in fact, the capacities of work left him - fit him only for special uses, and do not, so to speak, make his powers of labour a merchantable article in some of the well-known lines of the labour market, I think it is incumbent upon the employer to show that such special employment can, in fact, be obtained by him.
That, substituting the commission for the employer, really embodies the policy that the commission ought to adopt. The passage continues -
If I might be allowed to use such an undignified phrase, I should say that, if the accident leaves the workman’s labour in the position of an “ odd lot “ in the labour market, the employer must show that a customer can be found who will take it. For in such a case we are not in truth dealing with fluctuations of the labour market at all.. We are dealing with the chance of someone being found who can, and will, avail himself of the special residue of powers which have been left in the workman, and seeing that it is as a result of the accident that the workman has been made dependent on the finding of such a special employer, it is right that those who are liable to pay to him compensation for his loss of earning power should only be allowed to take the credit for his partial capacity for work, if they can show that it can actually be made productive of remuneration to him.
Applying that, I should say that the commission should pay a pension to the “ odd lot “ soldier unless it can show that there is some person who is prepared to employ him at reasonable wages in his capacity as an “ odd lot “. In another case it was said -
If then, the residium of working power possessed by the workman does not leave open to him some well-recognized branch of labour, but is limited to special uses so as not to be a marketable commodity, the employers must show what particular kind of light work tha man is able to perform, and also must either prove that they have offered him that particular kind of work or give evidence that there is a chance of his obtaining it in the district if he applies for it.
We know that the majority of the lifts in the cities are manned by disabled soldiers. It would not, however, be fair to say to a soldier, “ You can obtain employmen as a lift-man and are therefore not entitled to a pension”. That would be to take an extreme stand.
– That happens.
– It seems to me that the principles upon which the department should act are clear. If the man is so disabled that he possesses only a residue of his former powers, he ought to receive a pension, unless the commission can show that there is a demand for his labour at a reasonable rate, and that he can find employment at that rate.
– I hope that in discussing this matter, the committee will have regard to the purpose for which the measure was framed. We are not to consider what is or ought to be the attitude of a court of. law, or even of an arbitration court, in relation to members of any organization or an individual who seeks from the court redress of some fancied or real injustice, but we are to deal with a special class of man who has been subjected to a strain far beyond that which an ordinary man suffers or can even realize. It is to deal with that class of man that this legislation has been framed. No form of words could express every aspect that will be presented to the commission or the boards, and every case must be dealt with on its merits. We ought to consider whether the efficiency or the opportunity for employment of the man whose casewill be investigated is so seriously impaired by active service as to render him no longer a desirable employee. We must also consider the state of the labour market at that particular moment. We are to remember that, as in times of depression, he will find much more difficulty in obtaining employment than ho would if there were such a demand for first-line industrial troops that there would be readiness on the part of the employer to engage men less efficient than the average. I agree with the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that some such principles as he has quoted are desirable; but at the same time I hope that the commission will not consider itself bound by any dicta that have been delivered by any courts, but will approach the matter with open minds; it is to create precedents, not to follow them. It will have to blaze a new track; to sail an uncharted sea; to give the world a lead and show how soldiers shouldbe treated. As I said on the motion for the second reading of the bill, it does not matter what our attitude towards war is. We owe something to this class of men. Words will not help them, nor will legal definitions. Who made them what they are? Their present condition was caused by a war. That war was, as they conceived and as I believe, one in which Australia’s interests - as my friend the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Fisken) has pointed out - were vitally concerned. They fought for Australia; they have suffered for Australia; and because of that, we are passing special legislation to provide for them. I agree entirely with the comment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that this is a farreaching measure. Where it will end, we do not know. But let us go along the right lines. We owe these men a debt; let us pay it.
.- On behalf of a class of men with whom I am particularly concerned, I should like to receive an assurance from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). I refer to certain soldier settlers in Victoria. It would appear that the interpretation to be placed on the clause is that men may benefit only if they are seeking employment on wages. This class of soldier settler in Victoria has for various reasons, but particularly because of suffering due to war service, found it impossible to carry on farming operations successfully. The Closer Settlement Commission in Victoria now finds it necessary and, in its opinion, right to say to some of them. “ You are not able to carry on economically and effectually your farming operations under the Closer Settlement Act ; therefore we find it necessary to cancel your lease and dispossess you of your property; but realizing that your disability is due to war service, we shall not leave you without a home over your head.” Many of these men have been given holdings of 4, 5 or 10 acres, with a small cottage in which to live. They pay a nominal rental of, perhaps, 10s. a week, and are told that they can remain there for the rest of their lives provided they pay their rent. They are given no security of tenure by law, but are dependent upon future governments honoring the intention of the commission. Some of them receive war pensions of 5s. or 10s. a week. They eke out an existence milking two or three cows, growing a few vegetables, and so on. I believe that they fall within the category of those whom this legislation is designed to assist by means of a service pension; but, according to the definition, it appears to me that a man must be willing to accept employment if it is available before he can be regarded as being entitled to the pension. I should like the assurance of the Treasurer that this class of men will not be excluded from the benefits of the act.
– I do not think that one can generalize about a class of men. Those to whom the honorable member refers are distinctly cases that would have to be dealt with on their merits.
– I take it that the Minister would not say that, because these men have a home and are able to milk two or three cows and grow a few vegetables, they are capable of remunerative employment, and therefore are automatically debarred from receiving a pension.
– All that one can say is, that the commission consists of men of common sense and sympathetic inclinations. I could not speak for the Government in reference to a whole class of men.
– The matter has to be left to somebody; leave it to the commission.
– So long as the definition does not exclude them.
– That is the point that I wish to make. I am not seeking the assurance that all of these men are entitled to this benefit, but that, because of the circumstances in which they are situated they will not as a class . be debarred from it.
– The question is, does their present physical or mental disablement render them incapable of being employed in a remunerative occupation. If it does not, they are debarred.
– Every one of those words must be interpreted sympathetically and with common sense.
.- I have made some inquiries in regard to this definition. Having experienced some of the anxieties expressed by different members of the committee, I began by looking up what was the practice of the Repatriation Commission when I was Minister, in dealing with another definition relating to the soldier who is totally and permanently incapacitated. That condition has been further defined by regulation as “ incapable of earning more than a negligible percentage of a living wage “. This second definition is an example of the impossibility of devising, by regulation or legislation, a formula which will cover cases exactly as Parliament desires. On those two definitions the commission, by a process of precedents, has built up an interpretation of the words “ permanently incapable of earning more than a negligible percentage of a living wage “ ; they are to be taken as meaning “ incapable of earning more than £1 or £1 5s. a week “. The definition in this measure is intended to be more liberal than that. The provision for the payment of this pension is combined with certain income and property restrictions, and, as I see it after a good deal of inquiry, it means, roughly, that a man would be entitled to the pension if his physical or mental disability were such as to prevent him from earning approximately the amount of income which would be a bar to his receiving the pension. In the case of the soldier settlers referred to by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen), I take it that the property clauses of this bill definitely safeguard a man from having his house being accounted as a bar to his receiving a pension. If the man’s incapacity was such that he could not do more than engage in light gardening, or, perhaps, milk a few cows, he should not be debarred from receiving a pension, unless the proceeds of his work amounted to more than £79 a year. It is known that this legislation is intended to liberalize the law so as to cover those whose incapacity is such that, although not totally and permanently incapacitated, they are permanently unemployable. The commission will, in time, establish its own precedents, and set up common rules, which will be far more satisfactory than any formula which this committee might embody in the bill.
.- I wish to refer to clause 16, which deals with . the pension payable to the de facto wife of a member of the forces. The principal act provides for the payment of a pension to the wife of a member of the forces only if she was his wife at the time when the incapacity due to war injuries arose. I desire that this provision shall apply generally, and not only in cases in which the marriage took place prior to the occurrence.
– I assume that the honorable member is referring to a member of the forces who innocently contracted a bigamous marriage. The main reason why provision has not been made in this bill for such cases is that a great many years have passed since the termination of the war, and the Government is of the opinion that every man’s marital condition ought, by this time, to be settled. It does not think that there is any necessity, so long after the war, to put the de facto wives in the same position as the de jure wives. In the case mentioned by the honorable member, the four or five children of the innocently bigamous marriage are in receipt of a pension. The commission treated them as adopted children. Under the act as it stands, there is no provision for any discretion on the part of the commission with regard to de facto wives. The Government does not think that it would be quite fair to open the whole field in order to meet the case - admittedly a hard one - of a woman who innocently contracted a bigamous marriage.
– Is there not some way to meet such cases?
– There is no power to make an ex gratia payment. I point out, however, that since the wife and the children of the member are in receipt of pensions, the Government is not attempting to evade its obligations.
– I desire to know whether this bill makes any reference to soldiers who fought in the South African war.
.- Having had an opportunity to consult the officers of the Repatriation Commission since- I previously spoke on this clause, I find that the number of exsoldiers likely to be affected, if my suggestion were adopted, was originally 577 ; but that a considerable proportion of them will be provided for under the amendments circulated by the Minister. My suggestion was that soldiers entitled to a 100 per cent, pension should, in addition, draw an allowance under the Fifth Schedule, and be included among those who are covered by the alteration proposed in clause 4. There are many cases of 100 per cent, pensions in the Fourth Schedule, some of which would be covered if my suggestion were adopted ; but their number would not be greater than that covered by the Minister’s proposal. The only amputees who get full pension are double amputees. For example, a thigh amputation is classed as one entitling the soldier to a 75 per cent, pension. Therefore, a returned soldier must have, in addition to his” amputation, a disability of at least an assessable value of 25 per cent - which means a serious disability - before he could be covered by the suggestion I put forward. I ask the Minister to consider this matter.
– In the short time at the disposal of the committee, I am unable to give this matter full consideration, but I shall look into it. Should the Government see its way to do what the honorable member desires, an amendment can be introduced when the bill is before the Senate.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Failure of pensioner to attend at review).
– On a previous occasion we agreed that, in some instances, soldier pensioners should not be required to attend to have their pensions reviewed. Does this clause affect that decision?
– This clause makes sections 28 and 29 of the principal act applicable only to war pensions. Similar provisions are made in proposed new section 45qa to deal with service pensioners. The clause does not alter the existing position.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 -
After section 29 of the principal act the following section is inserted: - 29a. Where, prior to the commencement of this section, a boardhas purported to cancel a pension in circumstances in which the commission is, under section twenty-nine of this act, authorized to cancel a pension, the pension shall bc, and, at all times from and after the date of the purported cancellation, shall be deemed to have ‘been, cancelled by the commission under that section.
Amendment (by Mr. Casey) agreed to-
That the words “, and, at all times from and after the date of the purported cancellation, shall bo deemed” he omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the words “ deemed to be, and at all times from and after the date of the purported cancellation “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 12 agreed to.
– The time allotted for the consideration of the committee stage of the bill, up to and including clause 18, has expired.
Clauses 13 to 17, and clause 18, as amended by the circulated amendment, agreed to.
Circulated amendment to clause 18 -
That the words “had been blinded as the result of war service, or had, as the result of war service, such defective eyesight that, in the opinion of the commission, he had no useful sight “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words: “immediately prior to his death -
was in receipt of a pension, under the second schedule to this act or would, but for the third paragraph of that schedule, have been in receipt of such a pension or
was in receipt of an amount inrespect of a disability described in any of the first eight items in the first column of the fifth schedule to this act, or would, but for sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (c) of the proviso to that schedule have been in receipt of such an amount,”.
Clause 18 as printed -
After section 39 of the principal act the following sections are inserted: - 39a. Where a member . . . had been blinded as a result of war service, or had, as the result of war service, such defective eyesight that, in the opinion of the commission, he had no useful sight, the dependants of that member shall … be entitled to receive . . . such pensions . . .
Clause 19 (Appeals).
.- On a previous occasion I asked that payment of any medical expenses incurred by a successful appellant should be allowed, and also that the tribunal should, when requested to do so by either the Commissioner or the appellant, state the reasons for its decision. Under existing conditions, an appellant does not know the ground on which his appeal has been rejected, and, consequently, he is handicapped in having his case further dealt with. I ask the Minister to give consideration to my requests.
– I shall have to advise the Prime finister (Mr. Lyons) to seek the advice of the . tribunal in regard to the matters referred to by the honorable member. Similar requests which have been made in the past have always been refused, I understand on good ground.
The honorable member also instanced the case of a soldier who had lost one eye as a result of war injuries, and was in danger of losing the sight of his other eye. He asked that the Government pay for the treatment of such cases and for any glasses which may be prescribed. In administering the act the Government will do what the honorable member has requested.
.- This clause provides for appeals being made within twelve months of the commission’s determination. There are many instances in which widows of deceased soldiers have had their claims rejected by the commission. It is not right that the widow of a deceased soldier should be debarred from receiving a pension merely because she has not complied with the provision requiring her to lodge her appeal within twelve months after the date of the determination by the commission.
– There has been no right of appeal at all.
– Will not that debar the widow of a deceased soldier who may have died five or six years ago, from re-applying for a pension after having unsuccessfully applied before? May not such a widow appeal again in respect of either the refusal of a pension or the rate of pension?
– This clause gives a right of appeal within a period of twelve months from the commencement of this legislation or the date of the determination of an appeal by the commission, whichever is the later, in cases where previously the right of appeal lapsed within six months of the termination of the war. The extension of time to twelve months is generous.
– This would not adversely affect the case of a widow who has had a previous application turned down?
– This clause liberalizes the existing provision.
– I am informed that fresh evidence may be brought forward at any time, and that no bar is put in an applicant’s way, a3 the honorable member fears.
– This clause deals largely with the relevancy of appeals. It is proposed to amend section 45k of the principal act by omitting from sub-section 7 the words “ relevant to “ and inserting in their stead the words “material to, and has a substantial bearing upon “. I ask the Minister to explain the signifiance of the word “ substantial “ in this connexion.
– It is inserted with the object of reducing the number of appeals. Many appeals, which could hardly be described as frivolous, are, nevertheless, based on evidence which is not material at all.
– I agree with the insertion of the words material to”, but I would like to be informed as to the meaning of the word “ substantial “.
There may be instances where appeals are based on evidence which is not material; I have no complaint as to the provision for relevancy, but the words “ material to “ would cover that point. However, the insertion of the words “a substantial bearing upon “ conveys to my mind an obligation on the part of applicants to present a fairly weighty case. I suggest that the words “relevant to” in the principal act could be effectively replaced by the words “material to, and has a bearing upon”, leaving out the word “ substantial “, thus making this provision a little milder. The commission might hold that certain evidence is “ material to and has a bearing upon “ an appeal and proceed to hear the appeal, but might reject similar evidence as not being relevant if the phrase “substantial bearing upon” were to be applied.
– -Is not that a matter for interpretation by the commission?
– Not entirely; any comment the Minister may make would be valuable.
– It is not what I say, but what the commission will determine.
– I think that any comment the Minister made on this provision would be effective as a guidance to the members of the commission in interpreting these provisions. This is a new measure, and I feel sure that the commission will be influenced by the tone and trend of speeches in this committee. Tha commission will, naturally, be guided by such comment if it is supported by the Minister, but if that guidance is not given in the interpretation of such words as I am now dealing with, the commission, while inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to an appellant, may yet, on a strict, interpretation of the act, come to the conclusion that the appellant has to make out a very weighty case. The commission would, therefore, be influenced to reject evidence which it would otherwise accept.
– A member of the commission is present in the chamber now.
– I am pleased to hear that, and, I may add, I am very glad that the gentleman to whom the Minister has referred has been appointed a member of the commission, for I feel sure that he will carry out his duties with credit and with a sympathetic understanding of the ex-soldiers’ problems.
My next point relates to provisons contained in proposed new section 45q, sub-section 1, which deals with the effect of decisions of the Assessment Appeal Tribunal. It states that the decison of a tribunal shall be binding upon the appellant, and the commission for such period as is specified by. the tribunal, being not more than three years from the date of the decision, and if no time is so specified, for six months from that date. Why has this discretion been left to the Assessment Appeal Tribunal?
– This provision is very largely in favour of the returned soldier applicant, because he cannot have his percentage disability decreased within three years, but yet may be able to have it increased, as sub-section 2 of this proposed new section gives to the appellant the right to approach the appeal tribunal again.
– He can re-appeal, others cannot.
– This new provision is definitely in favour of the applicant.
– Dealing with the point raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) concerning the insertion of the word “ substantial,” I point, out that at present the appellant may reappeal if he has “ relevant “ evidence. As the Minister has suggested, the time of the commission is taken up by appeals that have no substance in them. Anything may be relevant, but if finality is to be reached, there should be substantial reason for disturbing a decision. The honorable member has laid undue stress on the word “substantial.” He has to consider the kind of tribunal that will interpret this law. It is more important that the tribunal shall be sympathetic, and shall bring to the interpretation of any words in this measure the right kind of spirit, rather than that the words themselves should endeavour to cover all cases. I appreciate the point raised by the honorable member ; he may rest assured that these words will not be interpreted in such a way as to prevent a man who has reasonable ground for a re-hearing, from receiving the consideration that he desires.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 -
Section forty-five l of the principal act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ against assessments by the commission of the rates of pensions of members of the forces “ and inserting in their stead the words “ by members of the” forces against -
assessments by the commission of the rates of pension payable under Division 1 of this part to members of the forces;
Section, proposed to be amended - 45l. - (1.) There shall be such assessment appeal tribunals as the Minister, from time to time, determines for the purpose ofdeciding; appeals against assessments bythe commission of the rates of pensions of members of the forces.
Amendment (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That after the word “commission,” paragraph(a), the words “or aboard” be inserted.
– This clause deals with soldiers suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. I would like the Minister to give the committee some idea of the terms upon which those determinations will be made. I do not profess to have an intimate knowledge of this complaint, but Isuppose that, as in all ailments, there are definite stages in the development of the disease. A conflict of opinion may arise between the testimony of the applicant and the opinion of the board as to the stage of the disease from which the applicant is suffering. . Similar circumstances obtain very frequently in regard to applications for invalid pensions, when a conflict between medical opinions arises., and because of such differences many applicants have not been treated fairly. In order to avoid similar situations in regard to applicants covered by this provision, will the Minister indicate just how the medical evidence is to be submitted, and whether, in the event of a conflict of medical testimony as to the stage of the disease or its pensionable nature, the applicant’s interests will be fully protected?
– Inthe first place, a departmental medical officer will make a recommendation, which will go to the commission, and, if necessary, through the commission on appeal to the assessment tribunal. I remind the honorable member that this tribunal consists of a legal man, as chairman, and two medical men, who are chosen by reason of their special knowledge of the disease from which the applicant suffers. In the vast majority of cases these medical men will be returned soldiers. Inquiry was made as to whether it is necessary in this measure to attempt to define pulmonary tuberculosis, and we were advised that no such necessity exists, as this provision enables a reasonable determination to be made.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 21 consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 22 (Effect of decision of Assessment Appeal Tribunals).
.- I doubt whether the advocates on behalf of soldiers before these tribunals are competent to represent appellants.
– Is the honorable member talking of New South “Wales cases ?
– I think my complaint will apply throughout the various States. I have been told by the best doctors that it is almost impossible for a layman to deal effectively with some of the cases which come before the assessment tribunals. Two doctors examine an applicant and a legal man makes the decision regarding the case. In one instance I represented an appellant who had had a bullet through one of his lungs. I obtained independent medical advice, and was informed that no layman could successfully contest the case against two doctors, who would probably disagree regarding it. I was assured that if ten doctors examined the man five would probably say that the wound was affecting the action of his heart, and the other five would declare that it was not. In another case in which I was interested the appellant had been shot through the forehead. The first doctor said that he was an epileptic. I expressed the opinion that his fits were due to the wound having affected his brain, and subsequently two doctors agreed that the man’s condition was attributable to the wound in his forehead. A returned man should have, not only an advocate before the tribunal, but also the right to call in a medical officer.
– A doctor may appear on behalf of an appellant at the present time.
– I am claiming for the appellant the right to call in a medical man at the expense of the department to watch his interests. One medical officer assured me that the present method of presenting an ex-soldier’s case is faulty, because a layman is pitted against two medical men. Many an unfortunate ex-soldier has been refused the pension because his case has not been properly submitted.
.- I am afraid that if appeals are not dealt with more liberally under the arrangement for which the bill provides than they were under the act as it stands, exsoldiers will continue to suffer great hardship. When the original act was passed, it was intended that the appeal tribunal should be an impartial body to ensure to the ex-soldier an independent examination of his rights to a pension; but, so far as my experience goes, appeals have always been decided in favour of the department. It seems to me that the ex-soldier should have a voice in regard to the appointment of a medical man to assist him in the presentation of his case. The tribunal will not be independent if it consists entirely of Government officials.
– Whenthereis conflicting medical testimony, the applicant does not receive the benefit of the doubt.
– That is so.
– The time allotted for the discussion of clauses 19 to 23 has expired.
Clause consequentially amended, and as amended, agreed to.
Clause 23 agreed to.
After Division 4 of Part III. of the principal act the following Division and sections are inserted in Part III.: -
Division 5. - Service Pensions. 45ac. In this Division . . . “ Income “ means any moneys, valuable consideration or profits earned . . . but does not include any payment or benefit -
by way of gift or allowance from the husband, wife, father, mother, or child of that person 45ad. Subject to this act, the commission or a hoard may grant a service pension not exceeding thirty-six shillings per fortnight to a member of thu forces who served in a theatre of war and who -
in the case of a man - has reached the age of sixty years but has not reached the age of sixty-five years;
in the case ofa woman - has reached the age of fifty-five years, but has not reached the agc of sixty years.
– I move -
That after the word “wife”, paragraph c in the definition of “ Income “, the words “ (whenever the wife was married to that person) “ be inserted.
It is necessary to insert these words so that the applicant may have the benefit of a gift from a wife, even though he was married to her after October, 1931. In the same paragraph, it is necessary to insert after the word “ child “ the words “(whenever the child was born to or became dependent upon that person)” Both these amendments will liberalize the provisions of the act. The further amendment of which I have given notice provides for the deletion of the words “ but has not reached the age of 65 years,” which appear both in paragraphs a andb of proposed new section 45 ad. A man can draw a service pension only between the ages of 60 and 65 years, and a woman between the ages of 55 and 60 years. After that, they will have to apply for an old-age pension in the ordinary way. By the deletion of the words mentioned, an ex-soldier may apply for a service pension at any time from the age of 60 years onwards, if he otherwise comes within the scope of the act. Even if he does not apply for the pension until he reaches the age of 66 years, he may still apply for a service pension rather than an old-age pension.
– Will the payment of the service pension continue automatically after the age of 65 years has been attained ?
– Will a blind ex-soldier be placed in the same position as an ex-soldier suffering from tuberculosis?
– I see no reason why he should not, but I shall give the honorable member an answer to his question later.
. -Clause 24 is one of the most important provisions in the bill, because it deals with the determination of the payments to be made to applicants. During the last few years we have had a considerable amount of experience in regard to the interpretation of “income.” In the States spheres at -the present time, the determination of permissible income arises in connexion with the provision of relief work. I desire to know precisely what “ income “ means under this clause, and I wish to be sure that money received for child welfare or child endowment purposes shall not be included as income in determining the service pension to be paid.
Is there some understanding between the Commonwealth and theStates to ensure that the States shall not take advantage of the payments to be made under this bill?
– Is not that point covered by paragraph (c) of this clause?
– Although it refers to sustenance and food relief it does not cover child endowment. It should be clearly specified that in determining income child welfare and child endowment shall not be considered. Although this is a matter which this Parliament cannot determine, we should express a definite opinion upon it. Under this bill we provide that pensions shall be paid to certain persons within a State, but those persons or others depending upon them may be receiving benefits from the State. If service pensions are regarded as income for State purposes, we shall be assisting the social services of States to the extent by which service pensions paid under this measure are deducted. I do not wish to enlarge upon the point, but it is worthy of the earnest consideration of this Parliament. Although we have not the power to direct State governments, this Parliament should express a definite opinion because, these pensions are paid for specific purposes and no other authority should be permitted to take advantage of them.
– Would any State government dare to do that?
– I understand that some have already done so.
– I did not think that a State Government would dare to do it.
– The State governments simply adopt the principle of making those responsible for administering the regulations relating to relief work or sustenance include service pensions as permissible income. Departmental officers may say that they have no discretionary power, and that the regulations have to be complied with.
– It would be possible for the son of a returned soldier to be deprived of relief work on that account.
– Yes, because of the income into the home.
I should like an explanation from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) concerning the position of unemployable men who may not necessarily be suffering from tuberculosis. For instance, men may be suffering disability due to being partly or wholly paralyzed. Is it intended to cover such persons under this clause or are they covered in some other portion of the bill? Are applicants entitled to a service pension and also an invalid pension at the same time? I am aware that this measure provides extensive benefits in a number of instances for single men, but it would appear that certain persons cannot receive an invalid pension and a service pension at the same time, because the bill provides that the pension must not exceed £79 6s. per annum.
– Tubercular patients will receive treatment free of cost.
– I know that provision is made for the treatment of tubercular soldiers in repatriation hospitals, but the pension to such patients is not only a reward for services rendered, but is also a recognition of the fact that they are suffering a disability for which they could not be compensated with money. I believe that the idea underlying the payment of service pensions is to give a man a chance to provide himself with more than he would otherwise be able to do. The nature of the disease necessitates special treatment. Tubercular patients must receive more attention and more nutritious food than a person suffering from other complaints. Such sufferers, in order to prolong their lives, are expected to live where the climatic conditions are favourable, and the additional amount provided by a service pension would enable them to do so. The Government should extend to such persons the full benefits I have suggested, and if it did so, it would not by any means be giving them too much.
– When the bill was introduced I was asked whether pensions paid by the Commonwealth Superannuation Board would be regarded as income.
– Is the honorable member referring to a superannuation pension paid to a retired public servant?
– Yos. Will such pensions be regarded as income under this bill.
– Special consideration should be extended to tubercular soldiers, even if in receipt of a pension from the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. I appreciate the value of what the Government is doing under this bill, but it should be recognized that those claiming a pension owing to other disability or sickness are not in the unfortunate position of those suffering from tuberculosis, who are entitled to all that the Government can give them. Having handled numerous cases of persons confined in sanatoria I have found that almost invariably the patient is racing against death. His life depends almost entirely upon obtaining nourishing food in ample quantities. Other pensioners are not in the same position. If a tubercular patient could obtain a full invalid pension, and also the ordinary service pension, or a pension payable by the Commonwealth Superannuation Board, ho would have a better chance of prolonging his life. Medical men who have dealt extensively with this disease say that it is a continual race against death, and that if highly nutritious food is not available, the patient soon develops galloping consumption, and dies earlier than he otherwise would. I urge the Minister to see whether it is not possible to give tubercular patients the fullest possible consideration and not to reduce the service pension because they are in receipt of a pension from some other source.
– The Government made an exception in the case of tubercular ex-soldiers by making the service ‘ pension and the invalid or old-age pension available. A single man receiving, say, a full invalid pension because he is suffering from tuberculosis will receive 30s. 6d. a week, plus free treatment, which is worth a considerable amount. Under this bill, a married man suffering from tuberculosis, with four children to maintain, provided he comes within the provisions of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, will receive 18s. a week invalid pension, and, as a service pension, will receive the balance of the 30s. 6d. - 12s. 6d. - by way of service pension. His wife will receive a service pension of 15s. a week, and 2s. 6d. a week for each of the four children may be paid. A majority of the tubercular men are married with families. In these circumstances, a married tubercular ex-soldier with a family may receive far more than the 30s. 6d. weekly mentioned by some honorable member. Some may receive from £2 10s. to £3 a week.
I may add, in reply to the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) that pensions payable by the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund were considered by the Government, but it is unable to exclude such payments from the definition of income.
– I desire to cite a particular case, and to ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) whether it will be covered by the amendment he has moved. A returned soldier, who was born in France, came to Australia and enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force in 1914. Some months ago, he was brought in to see me* at the office of the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney on the back of another returned soldier, because he had neither arms nor legs. After enlisting in 1914, he went abroad and was wounded.
He returned to Australia in 1916, and was granted a full pension of 30s. a week. In March, 1917, he again -offered for service and was accepted. While in camp, a war injury developed, and he became an inmate of the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick. Eventually he .was sent to Broughton Hall on a full pension, but after the armistice was signed, his pension was reduced to 20s. a week. In 1920, it was further reduced to 17s. 6d. a week. In 1921, he waa deprived of a pension altogether, but in 1922, it was restored to 7s. 6d. a week. In November of that year, it was cancelled altogether. Receiving employment on a ship in 1923, he left Australia and went to Canada, settling in the State of Alberta. The effects of his war service became more pronounced and he entered hospital to receive treatment. Eventually, after about 26 operations he lost both arms and legs. He has evidence supplied by doctors in Canada proving that his disability is due to war service. The Alberta Government granted him an invalid pension of 20 dollars a month. In February, 1935, he returned to Australia, but his pension continued until the institution of the new monetary system in Alberta. Since then I do not think that he has received anything and his case is before the Repatriation Commission to-day. His is a pitiable condition, as without legs and arms he can do nothing. Will a case of that description receive consideration under this bill? The man is a constituent of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden), who is now handling his case before the Repatriation Commission.
.- I should like some information from the Minister as to the position of tubercular returned soldiers who, in addition to receiving the invalid pension, will also receive benefits under this bill, but are inmates of the Waterfall Sanatorium or similar institutions which, for the purposes of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, are designated asylums. When a patient leaves such an institution, his pension ceases pending the granting of a new application. Can the Minister inform me whether a tubercular patient in such circumstances will receive the full service pension? I should like an assurance thai when the patient leaves an institution and is deprived of the invalid pension he will be paid 18s. a week, the full amount of the service pension, while awaiting the determination of his claim by the Commissioner for Pensions.
– I believe that will be so.
– The invalid pension amounts to 18s. a week and the amount of the service pension paid to tubercular recipients of invalid pension will be 12s. a week. I want an assurance that a person leaving one of these institutions and suffering the cancellation of his invalid pension will continue to draw the full service pension of 18s., and not lose 6s. of the service pension as well as the invalid pension. The 6s. difference between the service pension and the invalid pension represents a lot to the men concerned.
– I shall confer with the departmental officers on the question raised and answer the honorable member at a later stage.
– On behalf of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) I wish to obtain some information concerning sufferers from Parkinson’s disease or creeping paralysis. A man at Coonamble is afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, and doctors are not able to determine whether or not his suffering is due to his war service. Although unfit for work, he has been refused, a pension continuously by the Repatriation Commission, and he has a large family to support. Will he and men in like circumstances get a service pension automatically, without medical certificates? Under the bill applicants for service pensions have not the onus of proving that their disease was attributable to war service. Will a sufferer from creeping paralysis, in the absence of proof that his ailment is due to war service, be able to claim a service pension ?
– Sufferers from pulmonary tuberculosis are the only men who can get two classes of pension simultaneously.
– I ask the Minister to inquire closely into cases of the kind I have mentioned, and see that the sufferers are not penalized?
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) raised an important point in regard to permissible income in New
South Wales. In several instances in New South Wales, federal pensions have been taken into account in the calculation of the permissible income, and the amount of relief coming . into the home has been reduced accordingly. Several such anomalies have recently been removed by the Government of New South Wales; butI am not sure whether or not these pensions will be regarded as permissible income under the relief scheme in that State. I should like the Minister to give an assurance that he will enter into arrangements with the State Government to ensure that the pensions to be paid under this bill will not be included in the permissible income. If that is arranged, a lot of confusion and irritation will be avoided.
.- The case of a tubercular ex-soldier has been placed before the Repatriation Commission on numerous occasions, but he has been unable to produce proof that he contracted the disease as the result of war service. Finally, I communicated with the then Minster for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Hughes), who informed me that such cases would be covered by this amending bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The unfortunate soldier to whom I was referring died about three months ago. All the papers in connexion with his case are in the possession of the Repatriation Department. I urge the Government to make provision, if it has not’ already done so, for the widow of this man to be granted a pension. She would undoubtedly have been entitled to one had her husband lived for another three months. The War Service Homes Bill provides that soldiers’ widows shall be provided with a home, even if their husbands have been dead for several years. That precedent could be followed in connexion with such cases as I have just mentioned. I hope that this request will not be refused.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) when replying to certain requests made earlier in the debate on this bill by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) referred to the case of partially- blinded soldiers. I have received a request from the Blinded Soldiers
Association of Brisbane, that blinded and partially-blinded soldiers shall be dealt with under conditions similar to those applying to ex-soldiers suffering from tuberculosis. Many blinded soldiers in Queensland, and, I suppose, in the other States of the Commonwealth also, find it quite impossible to’ prove to the satisfaction of the Repatriation Department that their disability is due to war service. A telegram which I received to-day from the Blinded Soldiers Association of Brisbane contains this sentence -
Request that benefits provided for tubercular soldiers be extended to returned men who have become blind, such blindness not being recognized as war caused.
This, I submit, is a perfectly reasonable request, which should be given the sympathetic and favorable consideration of the Government. No doubt the passage of this bill will bring blessings to many thousands of returned men who suffer from tuberculosis, and I welcome it on that account; but provision similar to that being made for tubercular soldiers should also be made for blinded and partially-blinded soldiers.
– Is the honorable member asking that these men be granted a service pension?
– They should have both a service pension and an invalid pension, and be put on a basis similar to that of the tubercular ex-soldiers. It is claimed by the organization representing the blinded and partiallyblinded soldiers that many of them cannot obtain a pension to-day because they cannot prove that their disability is due to war service. I urge favorable consideration of this request.
The Treasurer, in his reply to the requests of the honorable member for Richmond, also said that the Government intended, by administrative act, to accord blinded soldiers certain privileges, such as free medical treatment and the like.
– What I said was that if a man had lost one eye and the sight of his other eye was becoming affected, the Government would, by administrative act, provide him with free treatment and spectacles.
– I think that that assurance will satisfy the Blinded Soldiers Association on that point; but I reiterate my request that blinded and partially-blinded men shall be placed on the same footing as tubercular soldiers in regard to pension rights.
– When the honorable member referred to this subject before, I was under a misapprehension as to what he meant.
.- While this measure does not give to exsoldiers the full consideration that they were promised at the time of their enlistment, it, at least, provides additional assistance for them in certain respects ; but I wish to make some observations regarding the definition of “ wife “ and “ child “. These, as they appear in the bill, are not sufficiently comprehensive. We must all recognize that, whatever measure of justice is now being accorded to ex-service men and their dependants, is seventeen years overdue. During that period many ex-service men have died, and their widows and other dependants have been left unprovided for. It is the duty of the Government to do whatever it can to help these unfortunate people. The fact that so long has elapsed without anything having been done for them only emphasizes the justice of their claim for consideration. Unfortunately, discrimination will be shown against certain dependants of ex-soldiers, even after the passage of this bill, unless the Government will agree to the making of certain amendments in it. As honorable members are probably aware, neither the wives of ex-service men who married after the 2nd October, 1931, nor children born after that date, are provided for. This, to my mind, is a rank injustice. It was never intended that ex-service men should be placed under disabilities of that description. The wives and children of these men should be protected. It is wrong, in principle, that the wives of some returned soldiers should be provided for, and those of others neglected. The definition of “wife” and “child” should be amended to ensure that full protection will be given in every case.
Some time ago I brought under the notice of the Repatriation Department the case of a young girl who married an exservice man believing that he was single, and bore him two children. After the man’s death it was discovered that he had been previously married, that his first wife was still living, and that no divorce proceedings had been taken. Although the lady with whom the ex-soldier was living at the time of his death had been drawing a pension as his wife, and a pension was also being paid in respect of the two children, the department immediately cancelled all payments upon the discovery of the unhappy circumstances to which I have referred. The first wife of this man had not received a pension, nor did she desire one. Surely no honorable member will deny that the pensions that had been paid prior to the death of the ex-soldier should have been continued after his death. I urge that sympathetic consideration be given to this case and others like it.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander), and the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), have referred to the circumstances of dependants of exsoldiers who have died from pulmonary tuberculosis comparatively recently. I brought under the notice of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), while he was Minister for Repatriation, the case of an ex-soldier named Day, of Oxford-street, Paddington, who suffered from tuberculosis. After his return from the war he obtained his discharge from the military forces in quick time, because he was anxious to get out of the uniform and return to civil life. At that time his state of health was not bad, although he was suffering slightly from tuberculosis. He did not, however, make application for a pension. Later, the disease developed, with the result that he lost his employment, and could not earn a livelihood. As the disease made rapid growth, he applied for a pension. This was refused, first by the Repatriation Department, and then by the appeal tribunal, because he was not able to establish that his complaint was due to war service. Because of the fact that he lost his employment, and so, his income, he and his wife and three children had to live in a couple of rooms under conditions that were not hygienic, with the result that two of the children also became affected by the disease I appealed to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), when he was Minister for Repatriation, to render some assistance to the family, but he said that it was impossible to do so because the act would not permit it. That ex-soldier has since died. It is too late to do anything for him, but his wife and children remain, and, even when this bill is passed, nothing will be done for them. I appeal to the Government, if it really desires to help deserving cases, to alter the definition of “ wife “ and “ children “ so as to include cases of the kind I have mentioned. I should also like to receive an assurance that the benefits provided in the bill will be made retrospective. In my opinion, the dependants of an ex-soldier who died of tuberculosis should receive a pension no matter at what time since the war his death occurred.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That after the word “ child “ paragraph c, in tho definition of “ Income “, the following words bc inserted “ (whenever the child was born to, or became dependant upon, that person.) “
Mr. WARD (East Sydney [8.18].- I am sorry that the Minister was not paying attention to me while I was speaking, and that he does not seem disposed to reply to the representations I made. The Minister must recognize that if the bill is allowed to go through in its present form a considerable number of widows of ex-soldiers will receive less than justice. If the necessary amendment is not made now, there seems to be little hope of its being made in the near future. If anti-Labour governments continue in office, the soldiers and their dependants will probably have to wait another seventeen years before any further concession is granted. Even then, nothing may be done unless another war should be pending. I believe that the present international situation has a good deal to do with the action of the Government in belatedly bringing in this measure. Honorable members opposite are not ‘ prepared to accept my opinion in that regard, but none of them has tried to explain why returned soldiers and their dependants have had to wait seventeen years for this measure of assistance. Many honorable members have charged those on this side of the
House with, not being sympathetically disposed towards the claims of disabled returned soldiers. Let those honorable members opposite who wear the emblem of service say whether, in their opinion, it is just to discriminate between one set of exsoldiers’ dependants and another set. Is it just that the dependants of returned soldiers, who die from tuberculosis after the passage of this bill, shall receive pensions, while dependants of exsoldiers who died before the passage of the bill will receive none? I forecast that, within six months of the passage of this measure, there will be just as many complaints of unjust treatment as there have been in the past.
– I should like to know the attitude of the Government regarding the natural children of ex-soldiers who die from tuberculosis.
– I shall explain that la ter.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Casey) agreed to-
That the words “but has not reached the age of sixty-five years” paragraph (a) proposed new section 45ad be omitted.
That the words “buthas not reached the age of sixty years “, paragraph (b ) proposed new section 45ad, be omitted.
.- I move -
That after paragraph (b) proposed new section 45ad the following paragraph be added: - “ (c) In the case of a widow of a deceased member whose death was thu result of pulmonary tuberculosis.”
The purpose of the amendment is to provide for the widows of those ex-soldiers who died from pulmonary tuberculosis prior to the passage of this amending legislation. The bill recognizes that tuberculosis, apart from being a dreadful disease, is one of those complaints which it is extremely difficult to ascribe to war service, or to prove that it has been aggravated by war service. As a result, hundreds of ex-soldiers who have suffered from tuberculosis since their return from the war have been denied pensions. Many of them have died, but their dependants have received no recognition, and will continue to be unrecognized, so far as pensions are con cerned, unless this amendment be agreed to.
– Is it suggested that payments should be retrospective?
– No, not the payments, but the pension rights should be made retrospective. We know, unfortunately, that in a month from now a number of ex-soldiers will have died from tuberculosis. Their widows will receive the benefit of this legislation. But in the past three months many women have been widowed as the result of their ex-soldier husbands dying of tuberculosis, and I submit that it is unjust to recognize the claims of widows in the former class, while denying all assistance to those in the latter class. The Government proposes to give one class the benefit of this remedial legislation, while denying it to the other, whose situation is in all essentials exactly the same. I submit that the extra burden on the budget would not be sufficiently great to justify the Government in withholding this measure of justice. This is one of those instances in which retrospective legislation is justifiable on the broad ground of humanity.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has put in the form of a substantive amendment the proposals put forward by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander), and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He has moved that service pensions shall be payable to the widows of men who had enlisted for the war, and who have since the war , died from pulmonary tuberculosis. That point was considered by the Government when the bill was being drafted. The Leader of the Opposition must know that, in matters of administration, it is always necessary to draw the line somewhere. Whenever an innovation is brought in by legislation, whenever anything is given to some people and denied to others, it is necessary to draw a line. The problem presents itself every day in matters of perhaps less importance than this, particularly in taxation administration. Parliament has set itself against the principle of retrospective legislation in most matters. Although the Leader of the Opposition, in moving this amendment, has been animated only by humanitarian motives, his proposal involves the principle of retrospective legislation, and is, therefore, not acceptable. Moreover, another important point is involved. The widows of those who have died from tuberculosis have been selected by the Leader of the Opposition for this special treatment, but the Government has been influenced by the fact that such women are in substantially the same position as the widows of ex-soldiers who died from other serious complaints, such as cancer, liver trouble, heart disease, &c. The position of the soldier himself is quite different from that of the widow; but, speaking generally, there is no difference between a widow whose husband died of disease and one whose husband met his death by accident. I recognize that this amendment has been moved in a humane spirit which appeals to all honorable members; but if the Government were to accept it, similar pension privileges would have to be given to the wives of all men who have died since the end of the war, whenever they were in poor circumstances or in indifferent and failing health in their later years.
– The Treasurer must recognize that in this bill the Government is making special provision for those who become widowed in the future as the result of their husbands dying from pulmonary tuberculosis. This legislation establishes the very distinction which the Treasurer is arguing against.
– The question of a starting point comes into it. Under the Canadian Act, the pension is given only to the man. When the soldier dies the widow, no matter what the cause of her husband’s death, receives no pension at all, though a small pension for twelve months is given to the children. But under the bill now before the committee, a pension is being provided for a man suffering from tuberculosis and also for his wife. Those are the general grounds on which the Government has reached its decision on this point, a decision which, I can assure honorable members, has not been reached in any hurried manner. For the reasons first given, that there must be a starting point for every measure of benefit to the people; and, secondly, that there is no distinction in reality between the widow of a man who died from that dreadful disease tuberculosis, and the widow of a man who died from any other complaint, the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– Why not accept the amendment and make it retrospective to 1930?
– Because this Parliament has always set itself against retrospectivity, whether the proposed legislation is to the advantage or disadvantage of the people. Occasionally it has been necessary in the past to make mildly retrospective legislation in respect of taxation, but whenever that has been done, there has been an outcry. For these reasons, and not because of stubbornness, the Government is reluctantly unable to accept the amendment.
– The premise upon which’ the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) makes his most important point in defence of the Government’s refusal to accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), is not actually sustained by the practice which we know is carried on by the commission. In cases where it has been established that the death of the soldier can be attributable to war service, a pension is now paid to the widow.
– ‘Such widows had a pension previously.
– At any rate they have been catered for. In this particular’ instance> however, the circumstances are entirely different. The Government has introduced legislation designed particularly to deal with those who are suffering from tuberculosis, because the commission and the Government believe that it is very difficult to determine as to the cause of this complaint. A decision has been arrived at that war service had some effect upon the condition of these unfortunate men. But the situation of the widow referred to in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is entirely different from that of the widow already catered for under the provisions of the Repatriation Act. The Government is prepared to accept the position that the disease ha3 been brought about or accentuated by war service, and accordingly is prepared to pay a service pension in such cases. I quite appreciate the Treasurer’s contention .that there must be some starting point. Nevertheless, the facts are that this bill has been framed on a basis entirely different from that of any other legislation introduced into this Parliament. All honorable members are approaching the consideration of this question in a sympathetic manner; all are desirous of doing everything possible to help these unfortunate sufferers from one of the worst diseases mankind has ever known. It may be argued that a wife who has tended her tubercular husband over a period of years, has herself contracted the disease in some mild form, and in this respect her circumstances are entirely different from those of a widow whose husband may have died from heart failure, neurasthenia, or some other complaint common to those who served during the war. I think it is only reasonable to ask the Government to accept this proposal and give to it a retrospective effect. It may be contended that the widows of soldiers who passed away many years ago - -and there is a responsibility on the Parliament for those widows and their claims cannot be ignored - have fitted themselves into useful occupations; but the widows of soldiers who died recently, say within the last twelve months, have a special claim for the retrospective application of legislation introduced for a special purpose. In this legislation we are, as it were, setting out on an uncharted sea in which we have not the experience of other countries to guide us. It has been said that in helping those suffering from this complaint we are paving the way for the rest of the world to follow. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said, these men are here, they must be cared for ; but the widows of those who have died are also here; we have also an obligation to them. If the Government is unwilling to make this legislation retrospective for a period of years, surely it is not too much to ask that it be applied retrospectively for twelve months.
– Why twelve months?
– The wives of soldiers widowed prior to that time may have fitted themselves into useful occupations, but surely those who have been widowed within the last twelve months, are still suffering as the result of their loss and are still in difficulties. I say that if the Government must insist on having a starting point, it might be prepared to accept the amendment and make it retrospective for at least twelve months.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) says that there must be a starting ‘ point. The Government admits that ex-soldiers suffering from tuberculosis are entitled to a pension. That being the case, they are entitled to it from the day when they contracted this dreadful disease, and what applies to the soldier, applies equally to his wife. But we are not asking the Treasurer to make the pension of the widow retrospective to the date of the soldier’s death. We are simply asking him to recognize the principle that pensions should be provided for all widows of tubercular soldiers. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has pointed out, the Government is creating to-day, tomorrow, and next week, two classes of widows of soldiers who have died from tuberculosis, one getting the pension, and one not, receiving it. The Treasurer has said that there, are a lot of soldiers’ widows whose husbands have died from heart disease, liver complaints and the like. There are hundreds of widows whose husbands have died from tuberculosis, but they ‘will not come under this bill, whereas the wife of a soldier who becomes a widow in six months’ time and comes under the provisions of the bill, will continue to receive a pension until her death. All the Leader of the Opposition asks is that the widows of soldiers who died from pulmonary tuberculosis he granted service pensions. The very fact that, to-day a soldier’s wife is entitled to a pension because her husband is suffering from tuberculosis is an admission that the Government admits its responsibility to her. I submit that the Government cannot but continue to accept that responsibility after her husband’s death.
.- I agree with honorable members on this side that the bill does not go far enough. Provision should be made for tho widows and dependants of soldiers who, having suffered shrapnel or other wounds, thereby contracted diseases from which they died. No one can deny that war wounds may be responsible for diseases which, in other circumstances, would not be contracted by a man who was physically fit. There is no justification whatever for the omission of such cases from this bill. Many men, after they returned from the war, preferred to strike out for themselves instead of appealing to the Repatriation Department. The widows and children of these men who died subsequently should not now be penalized. I know of many such cases and I hope that provision will be made for them.
– The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) makes an appeal to all honorable members, but I think that the point taken by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is a good one. We should know where the amendment will lead us. It is easy for any honorable member to give particulars of hard cases, but before deciding to meet them we should know whether they are to be regarded as a precedent that will lead us we know not where. We ought to know the effect of this proposal on the national finances but at the same time we should not reject it without the most careful consideration. I suggest with all respect to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Treasurer, that as the amendment makes a strong appeal to all honorable members, that the Government should give further consideration to it while the bill is being discussed in another place. The Minister in charge of the measure would then know what is involved in the amendment, and honorable members should have another opportunity to consider it if the Government does not see its way clear to accept it.
.- I am surprised that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) announced that he cannot accept the amendment. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has given particulars of concrete cases which will be penalized unless the amendment is adopted. He mentioned the case of a tubercular father, since deceased, from whom two children of the family contracted the disease. Under the bill the dependants of that man will receive no benefits. I am sorry that, after the stirring speech which he delivered on the second reading, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) should now suggest that we should draw the line somewhere. Unless the amendment is carried, the widows and dependants of returned soldiers who died from pulmonary tuberculosis, will be penalized. It is the duty of the Government to consider the widows and children of such men. Proposed new section 45am enacts that, if the commission thinks proper, a service pension may be paid to a member of the forces or any dependant being the wife or child, or the widow and any child of a member of the forces ; but the proposed new section 45an stipulates that if the wife re-marries, all such pensions shall be cancelled as from the date of the marriage. I hope that the Government will consider the position of widows and children of members of the forces who have died from this dread disease, and will accept the amendment.
.- I urge the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to reconsider his attitude to the amendment. The widows of ex-soldiers who die from tuberculosis are, I believe, amongst the most deserving of all war widows, because during the time of their husbands’ invalidity they make extraordinary sacrifices in order that their husbands may have a reasonable chance to fight their way back to good health. Special food and medicine, and special nursing attention are essential, and from my own experience, I know that the wives of many men suffering from this dread disease are themselves completely run down.
– They risk their lives in nursing their husbands.
– I agree, with the honorable member. They deny themselves and their children much in order to provide their sick husbands with as much nourishment and medical attention as is possible from the limited resources available. That is one reason why 1 hope that the Minister will give further consideration to the proposal. I am aware that many representations have been made to the Government urging it to include such a provision in the bill. Several honorable members on this side have brought this aspect of the legislation under the notice of the Minister; but, owing to the limited funds available, we realize that it is impossible to do all that one would like to see done. I consider that the Government has done remarkably well in the circumstances, but I hope that between now and the time when the bill goes before the Senate for consideration, the Government will give this matter further consideration.
– ‘Why not have tha amendment inserted here?
– The Government cannot be expected to adopt proposals until it knows what amount is involved. This Government has at all times done what it could in the interests of returned soldiers, and the bill is a further indication of its sincerity. Nevertheless, I urge the Treasurer to give us an assurance that between now and the passage of the measure through another place, he will consider the special claims of widows who have made such amazing sacrifices and who have done so much to try and restore to health husbands who had been suffering from this dread disease.
– I do not wish to repeat what I have already said upon the issue raised by the amendment, that there is no essential difference between the widow of a man who died from tuberculosis in one form or another, and the widow of a man who died from some other complaint.
– By this legislation the Government has suggested that there is an essential difference.
– The Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment to ensure payment of a service pension to the widow of a member of the forces whose death was due to pulmonary tuberculosis. That will include the widows and, presumably, the dependants of all men who have died from this disease from the period of the war up till the present time. However inclined one may be from humane motives to do what the honorable member’s amendment indicates, one must consider the cost, which undoubtedly would be very great.
– Only those widows who are not already in receipt of pensions would benefit under this legislation.
– I am considering the amendment as it was moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– .Some of those widows are already in receipt of pensions.
– The provision would be retrospective fifteen or sixteen years, and it would cost probably £250,000 or more. If the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition were accepted it would entail the expenditure of a very large sum of money. There is essentially but little logical difference between the respective categories of the wives of exsoldiers, who have died from tuberculosis and those of ex-soldiers who have died in poor circumstances from any other complaint. Suggestions have been made, particularly by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), that the period of retrospectivity should be limited to twelve months. It should be clear that the Government cannot accept an unknown liability of a degree which would subsequently have to be extended. However, it is quite willing to investigate this matter, and if, after examining it conscientiously from all angles, the Government finds it possible to grant any concession in this connexion, the necessary amendment will be made when the bil is being considered by the Senate. Further than that, I think it would be impossible to ask the Government at this stage to go with the amount of money now available, and bearing in mind increased commitments likely to arise during the coming years. The honorable member’s amendment, taken on its face value, might easily involve the Treasury in an expenditure of nearly double the amount of money immediately available for the purposes of this bill, and thus prevent the granting of concessions in other directions for some time.
.- In view of the limited time available I desire briefly to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is incorrect when he states that it would have a retrospective effect, because the money would not be paid to the widows of soldiers who have already died from tuberculosis until the same time as the other widows who are to receive benefits under this bill, receive their money. All papers relating to soldiers who have died after having contracted tuberculosis are already in the possession of the department. No new applications can be made for the obvious reason that it would be very difficult .for a soldier to draw up an application after his death. The department would certainly have all the papers relating to soldiers suffering from tuberculosis who have died within the last twelve months.
.- 1 welcome the promise of the Government to investigate this matter carefully and exhaustively. The more I think of the equity of cases of this sort, the more difficult I find it to understand how they would be administered. I realize that it i3 easy enough to suggest that these benefits should be made retrospective to the dependants of soldiers who have already died from tuberculosis, and that the existence of tuberculosis as a cause of death can easily bc proved; but, as a matter of equity, can the benefits be confined to the dependants of men who have died from tuberculosis? Instances have arisen of men who have contracted incurable diseases such as cancer or creeping paralysis, and a number of other chronic diseases; some of them have been victims of terrible accidents in civilian life since the war. Surely in such cases, the widowed and orphaned dependants have just as strong a case in equity as have the dependants of a man who has died from tuberculosis. But if the benefit were extended to embrace all of these cases it would be exceedingly difficult retrospectively to get together the evidence in a number of border-line cases to decide whether a man who died ten years ago was then unemployable, or had died from some instantaneous or rapid civilian cause which would not render such a man or his dependants eligible for a pension in the future. I expect that many of us, whether we be returned soldiers or civilians, for a short time before our decease, will be unemployable, but not unemployable in the same sense as that applied to soldiers under the future administration of this act. It will be exceedingly difficult to prove one way or the other whether the man who died after a long illness was at that time, or had been before then, permanently unemployable, either because of the illness from which he died, or from some other disability. For that reason, although all my sympathies are in favour of granting such a concession I cannot in honesty do other than acknowledge that this is a matter which must be given very careful consideration indeed. The commission may be able to apply the measure to the dependants of the man who died comparatively recently; it may even be able to apply the measure to a man whose application for a war pension on account of disability has been disallowed by a tribunal in possession of all the papers. Consideration of all the facts in the papers may enable the commission to form a reliable opinion as to whether the man was in fact unemployable as distinct from suffering a disability due to war injury. But when I consider all these difficulties, and the further fact that the granting of retrospective benefits in any general manner without some proper provision for the allocation of the pension to the cases in the same category as this for which in future pensions are to be provided, I realize at once that the Government has not the money available to make such a wholesale concession. I am quite satisfied from the general generosity manifested in this measure that the committee, on a genuinely sympathetic ‘ scrutiny of the proposal, can rely upon the Government, before the bill passes through another place, to give the extension every consideration, and in that confidence I am prepared to support the Government to the full in not committing itself to accept or reject the amendment to-night, or if it is pressed to a division to reject it to-night.
.- I am astonished at the comments which have been passed in connexion with this proposal. The honorable member foi Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), for example, urges caution before there should be what he called restrospectivity in a general maimer opened up in connexion with these service pensions. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) went so far as to say that in effect he does not know how much money would be involved if the amendment which I moved were accepted. There is no element of restrospectivity in a general manner contained in my proposal. It is not the fault of the Opposition that this bill does not contemplate service pensions for those who are other than the victims of pulmonary tuberculosis unless they are suffering from other diseases and as the result are permanently unemployable. Such cases fall into two categories. The Treasurer knows that one of the distinctive features of this bill is to give the service pension to a sufferer from tuberculosis even though he cannot prove that his disease was caused or aggravated by the war. The Government has introduced this bill with, I make hold to say, the full concurrence of Parliament. As the result we are faced with the certainty that, when this measure is passed, victims of tuberculosis will be given pensions and treated while they live, and that when they die their widows will receive the benefit of service pensions. That is one of the major purposes of this bill.What my amendment contemplates is that those widows of soldiers who have already died and who have been similarly afflicted; who, if they were now living, would be given pensions, should be placed in the same position as those persons who will be widowed in the next few months or few years. The honorable gentleman knows that those who at present are suffering from tuberculosis and can prove war causes are being pensioned under a separate section of the act, and ho knows that those widows at present whose husbands died from tuberculosis and who could prove that the disease from which the men suffered was caused or aggravated by the war, already receive war pensions. Thus, there is not that general element of restrospectivity about this proposal which the honorable member for Wakefield suggests, and there cannot possibly be that magnitude of claims incubated by this proposal which should deter the Treasurer, who is already this year faced with a surplus of £2,000,000 over the amount for which he budgeted.
– Does not the proposal of the honorable gentleman mean that the widow of every man who has died from tuberculosis since the end of the war up to the present time should together with all future widows receive pensions?
– For those who are still living, yes; but many of them may have married again and many have probably died in the interval. This matter must be faced from the common-sense angle. Many of them are at present in receipt of pensions.When the honorable gentleman drives me to the acceptance of what my principle means, I hope that my explanation of it proves to be a better exposition of what is involved than does that of the Treasurer. My proposal does not bring on to the pensions list an inestimable number of widows. It is confined to a special category of widows whose husbands have died from tuberculosis and who were not receiving pensions when they died.For the Treasurer to ask about the inclusion of those who died from heart disease and cancer, my reply is that I have in my amendment retained consistently the principles of the bill. The honorable gentleman in his bill does not create special classes of pensioners who are suffering from cancer or heart trouble.
– They are service pensioners.
– Yes, if they happen to be unemployable, whereas pulmonary tuberculosis does not involve the condition of “ permanently unemployable “ as a stipulation for a pension. The very argument which the honorable gentleman advances against my proposal is one which comes contradictorily from him, because it represents one of the anomalous features of the bill which he has brought forward.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The time allotted for the consideration of this clause has expired.
Question - That the paragraph proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Curtin’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . ..10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as previously amended, agreed to, with the incorporation of the remaining amendments circulated by the Treasurer.
Circulated amendments made -
After the word “table”, first occurring subsection (1), proposed new section 45ae, insert the words “ irrespective of the age of that person “.
After paragraph a subsection (4) insert the following paragraph : - (aa) or was married after the first day of October, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-one; or
Clause as printed - “ 45ae. - (1.) Subject to this act, the commission or a board may grant a service pension to a person of any of the classes specified in the first column of the following table at a rate not exceeding the rate specified in the second column of that table in respect of that class : - .
Clause 25 agreed to.
After section fifty-seven of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “ 57a. The Commission may require any person, whom it believes to be in a position to do so, to furnish to the Commission a confidential report as to the circumstances or the financial transactions of any pensioner or applicant for a pension, or for assistance and benefits, under this act, or of any relatives of any such pensioner or applicant; and any person who, on being required to do so by the Commission, fairs, without just cause (proof whereof shall lie upon that person) to furnish a report within a reasonable time, or furnishes a report containing any statement which is untrue in any particular, shall be guilty of of an offence.
Penalty: One hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months.”.
.- This clause confers upon the commission power to demand information from any person who in its opinion may possess it, and if the information desired is not furnished, a penalty may be imposed. The commission may require any person whom it believes to be in a position to do so, to furnish it with a confidential report as to the circumstances or the financial transactions of any pensioner or applicant for a pension. This seems to be a reversion to those very bad principles which at one time were incorporated in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but were subsequently removed from it, under which a sort of inquisition was conducted into the affairs of the relatives of applicants for pensions. What makes this provision even worse than that is that the commission, apparently without showing any justification, may not only call upon any person whom it believes to be in a position to do so, to give information regarding the financial circumstances of a pensioner or an applicant for a pension, but also go further and demand similar information concerning any relatives of the pensioner or applicant for a pension. What is still more remarkable, the onus of proof is laid upon the person chosen by the commission. I suggest that, if we give to the commission the power to pry into the financial affairs of a pensioner or applicant for a pension, or of any relatives of such pensioner or applicant, the onus of proof that that person is able to supply the information should be on the commission and not on the person concerned. It seems to me absurd that any body, commission or other, should Iia ve the power to determine exactly what information a person can give. If a demand were made for the production of books or any other substantial property, the course here suggested might be logical. Information might be so indefinite as to relate to what a person lias in his mind. How is the commission to determine to anybody’s satisfaction that a certain person has information, when it might be merely photographed on his mind? This requires a good deal of explanation by the Treasurer.
.- On more than one occasion I have raised the subject of confidential reports being made to the Repatriation Commission concerning various aspects of its work. My main objection has been lodged against anonymous reports remaining on the files of ex-soldiers. I understand that, as the result of my protest, a change was made in that respect. Previously, persons could write an anonywow letter to the commission, and of necessity the commission had to probe into the truth or otherwise of the statements made. “Whether malice or any other reason dictated the making of the statements, even though the commission found them to be untrue, they were still retained on the file, generally in a sealed envelope. Having been for about ten years a member of the executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, New South “Wales, I have had a good deal of experience of repatriation matters, and I am glad that this clause is in the bill. As members of this Parliament, it is our duty to see that justice is done to all, and therefore we must consider the interests of the taxpayers who find the money. An obligation rests on the Repatriation Commission to probe every case thoroughly.
– The principal act empowers the commission to summon individuals before it to give evidence on oath and to produce documents. The proposed new section 57a is merely an extension of that provision to enable the commission to obtain evidence in writing, without the necessity for witnesses to attend in person.
– The trouble is that the information obtained is treated as confidential.
– Surely there is no objection to that? The proposed new section merely extends a power which is already reposed in the commission and has caused no administrative difficulties. Under regulations which have existed for several years the Deputy Commissioner, or the Registrar, may require confidential reports or answers to questions. Any person who makes a false statement in his written report is liable to a fine.
– A fine under a regulation?
– Yes, under section 25 and the general regulation power. There is nothing particularly novel in this proposal, and it is not thought that anything harmful will result from its enactment.
.- This clause is notable in that it brings before Parliament for the first time the exercise of a power by the commission under the authority of a regulation. A regulation which imposes obligations upon persons other than applicants for pensions should be a matter for the legislature. It is extraordinary that, on the authority of a regulation, the commission has forced persons who are not applicants for pensions to appear before it.
– That power could not be used in a court.
– It has been used to bluff people. Now, because this bill is before Parliament, the Government is seeking statutory power to do something which hitherto has been done under the authority of a regulation whose validity is questionable. The bill authorizes the commission to call upon persons to furnish reports in regard to, not only the applicant, but also his relatives. That is a most extraordinary power to confer on the commission. “What has the financial position of the relatives to do with an applicant’s claim for a pension? Under the existing legislation a person who is summoned as a witness before the Entitlement Board is subject to crossexamination in the presence of the applicant for the pension. The applicant hears all that is said,” both to his credit and to his discredit. Being aware of the evidence which has been submitted, the applicant has a chance to refute it. But under this proposal he will not have an opportunity to refute evidence of the existence of which he is unaware. Moreover, the onus of proof is placed on the person who refuses to give evidence. He has to prove that he does not know anything about the applicant. I am. however, not so much concerned with that provision as with the proposal to require persons to furnish confidential reports which the applicant for a pension will never see.
– He will see them.
– If the applicant is entitled to see the report, why is it to be treated as confidential? Could it not be submitted to the Entitlement Board under the provisions of the act which has been in operation for a number of years? This clause seeks to introduce a new provision authorizing the supply of confidential reports - confidential as between the person submitting them and the commission. It excludes the applicant from knowledge of the report. I regard the proposal as mischievous and dangerous. If the commission thinks that some other person can furnish it with information about an applicant, it should summon him to appear before a tribunal where he would be subject to cross-examination. He should have to swear to the correctness of his evidence. If confidential and unsworn reports are permitted, the door will be open to calumny, and applicants might be deprived of all their rights. The clause is not necessary for the effective administration of the act, and I shall vote against it.
– The Government is willing to omit the words “ or of any relative^ of any such pensioner or applicant”.
– The word “ confidential “ should also be deleted. It is unjust.
– The onus of proof should not be thrown on the person who is asked to furnish the report.
– There is a penalty for untrue statements.
– How can a confidential statement be proved either true or false?
– I think that xe may well leave this matter to the commission.
– Where is any penalty provided for an untrue statement?
– The proposed new section provides that any person who furnishes a report containing any statement which is untrue in any particular shall be guilty of an offence.
.- I move -
That the word “ confidential “ proposed new section 57a be omitted.
It is grossly unfair that a report, which may contain untrue statements, should be treated as confidential. I hope that the Treasurer will agree to the amendment.
.- I do not know whether or not I am the only member of this House who has ever appeared before the appeal tribunal. I have had some experience of that tribunal, and I know the procedure which is adopted by it. Prior to an appeal being heard, the appellant is permitted to study the file, including any confidential report which it may contain. If he wishes he may peruse any document prior to the hearing of his case provided that he undertakes not to use any information contained in his file, except for the purposes of the appeal. He signs an undertaking to that effect before any information is made available to him. He then comes before the tribunal and the onus is thrown upon him to make out a prima facie case. He can ignore anything on the file detrimental to himself and the onus is thrown on the Repatriation Commission to refute his claim. If it brings f forward any evidence - new or confidential or otherwise - the appellant must know of it. Having appeared so often before these tribunals, I assure honorable members that an appellant is not detrimentally affected in any way by these reports being made available. Considerable difficulty occurred previously when anonymous reports were placed on the appellant’s file, but, under this measure, all reports will have to be bona fide and must be called for by the commission from persons whom the commission considers to be in a position to give such evidence. That evidence must be placed on the appellant’s file and the appellant, before he appears before the tribunal, is entitled to see all the information that appears on his file.
– Does he see the signatures on all the reports on his file?
– Yes. Previously many of these reports were anonymous, but now all reports have to be signed.
Any person who furnishes an untrue report is liable to a penalty for so doing. But in all cases, if he wishes, the appellant can see that untrue report.
– Itis not on his file.
– Apparently the honorable member does not yet understand the position. If an appellant makes out a prima facie case before a tribunal and that case is combated by any confidential information obtained by the Repatriation Commission under this clause, it must of necessity come to the knowledge of the appellant.
– It never does.
– In that case a tribunal would have nothing to do with it.
– Let other honorable members have a “ go “ at this matter ; some of us know something about it.
– Apparently the honorable member does not know anything about it. If the report were not to be made available to the appellant, I should vote against this clause; but, because I know definitely that such reports must be made available to the appellant, I shall not oppose it.
.- I assure honorable members that the commission does not make a confidential report available to the appellant. I have appeared before appeal tribunals and entitlement tribunals and I know this to be a fact. If members of a tribunal were to be cross-examined on such reports in the same way as the tribunal cross-examines appellants on them, the appellants might get something out of such reports. I have in mind the case of a returned soldier who was deprived of a pension after he had received it for fifteen years. Several members have endeavoured to have the pension restored to that man. I secured his consent to examine his papers and among these I found a confidential report by a departmental officer.
As this was only a summary report, I asked the commission to make the original report available to me but it was not inclined to do so. Subsequently, I asked the wife of the applicant to furnish me with the names of the persons who supplied the evidence on which the confidential report was made, and I took nearly two days to visit these persons. I shall appeal on behalf of this man next week and I defy the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) to prove that the position is other than I have stated it.
– The time allotted for the remainder of the committee stage of the bill has expired.
Question - That the word proposed to be omitted (Mr. Gregory’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That clause 26 be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Casey) read a third time.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare the War Service Homes Bill an urgent bill.
Question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker. - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) put -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows -
For the remainder of the committee stage until 11.10 p.m.
For the remaining stages until 11.25 p.m.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 20th November (vide page 1809).
Clause 2 -
Section 8 of the principal act is amended by omitting from sub-section (2) the word “ three “ and inserting in its stead the word “ seven “
Section proposed to be amended - 8-(l) . . .
The commissioner may from time to time be re-appointed for any term not exceeding three years.
Upon which Mr. Thorby had moved by way of amendment -
That the word “seven” sub-section (2) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the word “five”.
.- The original act provided that the commissioner may be re-appointed for any terra not exceeding three years, and this measure proposes to extend the term to seven years. I understand that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) has now moved an amendment to reduce that period to five years. I propose to move that the term be for only three years.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member will be in order in moving such an amendment after the amendment now before the committee is disposed of.
– With all respect, Mr. Chairman, I submit that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) cannot move to insert the word “ three “, as that word is being struck out of the section by this clause What he should do is to vote against the clause. When discussing this clause previously the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron) stated that the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act provided a five years tenure for commissioners. It does not do so in specific terms, but I understand that the commissioners have been appointed for five years.
– The first commission was appointed for three years, and the reappointments were made for five years.
– The act does notspecifically provide for it.
– No; it is a matter for discretion.
– If the clause be defeated, the period of three years will remain.
– The amendment is to substitute the word “ five “ for “ seven “. If it is lost, it will be open to the honorable member for Hunter or any other honorable member to move an amendment to insert another number.
– I rise to a point of order. I raised this matter when the bill was last before the committee, and I fail to understand how the Minister’s amendment has precedence over mine. The honorable member for Lilley only made a suggestion, and the Minister said that he was prepared to accept it. Now the Chair is putting the Minister’s amendment and not allowing mine to be moved.
– The honorable member has forgotten that he did not move an amendment, although he suggested it. The Minister submitted as a compromise an amendment to substitute five years for the term of seven years specified in the bill. There is no other amendment before the Chair.
– The act provides that a commissioner shall be appointed for a period not exceeding three years. The bill proposes to amend that law so that the Government will have power to re-appoint a commissioner after having served a term of three years, for a further period not exceeding seven years. The committee raised certain objections to seven years, and, as a compromise, I moved that the word “ seven “ be deleted with a view to insert the word “ five “ in lieu thereof. If the amendment is carried, the Government will have power to re-appoint the commissioner for a term not exceeding five years. If the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is opposed to that, he can vote against it.
– By voting against the amendment we shall be voting in favour of a term of seven years.
– After the word “ seven “ has been omitted the honorable member may vote against the insertion of the word “ five “.
Question put -
That the word “ seven “ proposed to be omitted (Mr. Thorby’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
Question resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That the word “five” proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Thorby’s amendment).
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 -
After section twenty-nine of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “29aa. - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, where, in the opinion of the Minister, the payment by a widow or widowed mother of an Australian soldier of the full amount of any instalments required to be paid under sub-section (1.) of the last preceding section would cause hardship, the Minister may, from time to time, reduce the amount of any such instalments. (2.) No reduction under this section in the amount of any instalment shall relieve any widow or widowed mother from liability to pay the full amount of the purchase money or re,pay the full amount of the advance, as the case may be, together with interest thereon.”.
.- I move -
That after the word “ by “ sub-section ( 1 ) proposed new section 29aa the words “any unemployed purchaser or borrower “ be inserted.
Many people have borrowed money for the purpose of acquiring a war service home, and by so doing have got themselves into financial difficulty. This applies particularly to those who have been unfortunate enough to lose their employment. Such people are in an extremely difficult position through no fault of their own. While I have every sympathy with the desire of the Government to assist widows and widowed mothers of ex-soldiers, I think that special consideration should also be given to unemployed persons. I therefore hope that the Government will accept the amendment.
– I cannot accept the amendment. The purpose of this bill is to grant relief to widows, widowed mothers and wives of ex-soldiers in mental hospitals, and its provisions cannot be extended to cover unemployed persons. I cannot help feeling that the honorable member has moved his amendment with the full knowledge that it would be quite impossible for me to accept it.
.- I resent the statement of the Assistant Minister that I moved an amendment knowing that he would not be able to accept it. My proposal was put forward in good faith. Many unemployed persons have no income whatever. I have already expressed my sympathy with the widows and widowed mothers of ex-soldiers, so I shall not be misunderstood when I say that some of them have a little income, whereas the people whom I am trying to benefit have none at all. The unem- ployed occupiers of war service homes should be given some consideration.
– They have been given consideration in pursuance of the recommendations of the committee which inquired into this subject.
– It was claimed on behalf of the Government during the last election campaign that the interests of the unemployed could safely be left in its hands, but we know very well that these unfortunate people are still suffering greater hardships than any other class of the community. I desire that unemployed persons in occupation of war service homes shall be given some security of tenure. They should not be subject to eviction, as they are to-day. The Government should show some sympathy with them. Many private propertyowners are treating their unemployed tenants very sympathetically, whereas the War Service Homes Commission is the most unreasonable landlord in Australia to-day. It is treating its tenants with a degree of harshness that deserves the severest condemnation.
– Then why is the commission receiving so many new applications every month?
– Probably persons who have an assured income, and have had no experience of the War Service Homes Commission, are applying for homes. I know very well that, if many war service homes occupiers who have been subjected to harsh treatment by the commission could have their time over again they would have nothing to do with the commission, for they have had a bitter and sad experience. It cannot be denied that many war service homes are falling into rack and ruin because tenants have been evicted from them. Other homes are being let to new tenants at a lower rental than the original occupiers were obliged to pay. I resent the statement of the Assistant Minister that my amendment was moved in the knowledge that it would have to be rejected by the Government. My real purpose in moving it was to ensure, if possible, that more sympathetic treatment would be accorded the unemployed persons who have borrowed money for the purchase of their war service homes.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. James’s amendment) be so inserted - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . .7
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That after the word “ mother “ sub-section ( 1 ) proposed new section 29aa the words “ or orphan children “ be inserted.
I do not think that the Minister should object to this amendment, because it seems a very reasonable one. There is in my electorate a -widow with five children and. if she were to die, and no provision were made in this bill to meet her case, those children would be thrown out into the street. The country has a responsibility to the children of deceased ex-soldiers. The other day the Minister said that no widow had been ejected from a war service home during his term of office. * I have here a newspaper report which states that a widow was brought before the Kogarah court in July last on an application for an ejectment order.
– “Was she ejected?
– An ejectment order was issued, and I take it that it was enforced.
– It was not to my knowledge.
– In any case this woman was taken before the police court, which is a humiliating experience for a respectable person. I trust the Minister will see his way to accept my amendment.
– I cannot accept the amendment. I have examined the position, and acceptance of the amendment would place upon the War Service Homes
Commission a responsibility which should not belong to it. Already provision is being made for the widows and mothers of ex-soldiers, and for the wives of ex-soldiers who are patients in mental hospitals, but I cannot see that the commission should be called upon to keep in war service homes the orphan children of returned soldiers when both parents are dead. Of course, any equity which the parents may have had in the home will be preserved to the children, whose financial interests will be guarded by the commission.
.- I cannot see why the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby) should make a point of refusing every amendment moved from this side of the committee.
– That is not the position at all.
– The number of cases to which the amendment would apply is very small. I know of one case in my own electorate in which the orphaned children have some equity in the home. They have a guardian living with them, and it seems only proper that they should be allowed to remain in occupation of their home. Some are approaching adult age, and, if work were available, would be able to earn something. If, by the time they reach adult age, the Government has solved the unemployment problem, nothing could be better than that they should have security in the home which their parents left them. ;The Minister could very well accept this amendment, as it would not involve a great deal of expense; But honorable members on this side are forced to think that amendments proposed by them, no matter for what purpose, are not acceptable to the Government.
– I have already accepted two amendments to this bill.
– They did not come from this side of the chamber. As a matter of fact, an amendment, on almost similar lines to that suggested by the honorable member for Lilley (Sir Donald Cameron), and accepted by the Government, was suggested by an honorable member sitting on this side, but it was treated in a hostile manner by the Minister. Honorable members on this side are given scant courtesy. I regret that the Minister cannot see his way clear to accept this amendment, which is proposed in the interest of children left in destitute circumstances. There are not a great many affected, and as I have said, the cost involved would not be great.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), and am surprised at the objection of the Minister to it. After all, not many children are affected, and the acceptance of the amendment would be a great blessing and help to them. The Minister apparently believes that orphans may be cared for by relatives or by institutions of a semi-charitable nature. Perhaps what is actuating the Minister in his refusal to accept the amendment is the fact that the children concerned are not yet entitled to vote. I do not think the Minister has adopted a very statesmanlike attitude, and his opposition to the amendments reflects credit neither upon himself nor upon the Government.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Mul- cahy’s amendment) - put The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move-
That after the word “ soldier “ sub-section ( 1 ) proposed new section 29aa the words, “ or by the wife of an Australian soldier who is temporarily or permanently insane “ be inserted.
The object of the amendment and the consequential alterations which will be necessary if it is carried, is clear to all honorable members.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That after sub-section (1) proposed new section 29 aa the following words be added: - “ and in doing so shall take into consideration only the income of the widow or widowed mother, less child endowment or child welfare payments made by a State government.”
My purpose is to ensure that only the net income of a widow or widowed mother shall be taken into consideration in assessing the amount which she shall be required to pay. In its present form the bill contains no definite provision such as is found in the agreement with war service homes purchasers regarding the proportion of the net income of the widow to be assessed as rent. Everything is left entirely to the discretion of the Minister. In his second-reading speech the Minister, in reply to interjections, indicated that in determining the amount to be paid, the whole of the income of the home would be taken into consideration. All those objections that are urged against regulations relating to the permissible income of the unemployed in New South Wales will apply with equal force to the proposed new section in its present form. I am of the opinion, also, and I think the committee will agree with me, that it is entirely unfair to take into consideration the earnings of a widow’s children, because when they attain their majority the practice is for them to pay a proportion only of their earnings to the mother in the form of board. Therefore only that proportion of their earnings should be taken into account when determining the income of a widow. Furthermore, it should be noted that child endowment is paid in New South Wales for the maintenance of children.
– To assist in providing for the children in all respects.
– Not at all; child endowment is something in excess of the amount provided by the Arbitration Court which determines the absolute minimum upon which a man, his wife and one child can exist. The payment of child endowment is an acknowledgement of the fact that a man on the basic wage with more than one child is really living below the accepted living standard. Consequently an extra 5s. a week is paid to him for the maintenance of each additional child. The position of a widow with more than one child is even worse than that of a woman whose husband is in receipt of the basic wage.
– But she has not to keep a husband.
Mr.ROSEVEAR.- That may be so; but in all probability she has no income other than the widow’s pension which was provided for her by the Lang Government, and I repeat that her position is infinitely worse than that of a man on the basic wage. Child welfare payments are made in exactly the same way. I do not think that the Assistant Minister will claim that such payments are for the general upkeep of the home. Neither the Minister nor anybody else should be allowed to interfere with payments made by . a State for the maintenance of widows’ children. In view of the indefiniteness of the proposed new section we should have an assurance that the income of the widow will he clearly defined. At the moment it is not. To include in the widows’ income the payments which I have mentioned would be just as iniquitous in this bill as it is in the Unemployment Relief Act in New South Wales. There is nothing to prevent the Minister from regarding as income old- age or invalid pensions which are intended definitely for the maintenance of aged or invalid persons. The amendment, if carried, will define what is the legitimate income of a widow or widowed mother.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). The effect of it would be to create a distinction between the widows or widowed mothers or the wives of insane persons in one State and persons in similar circumstances in another State. It is incorrect to suggest that the department will embarass a widow because she is in receipt of child endowment. The child endowment payments referred to by the honorable member for Dalley are granted in some States and not in others. Thus, any attempt on my part to draw up a scale of rates of payment would be unfair. I assure the committee that every consideration will be extended to applicants who will come under the provisions of this measure, and every reasonable concession willbe granted to them.
– The time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the committee stage has expired.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Rosevear’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Circulated amendment to clause 3 -
That the words “ or widowed mother “ subsection (2) proposed new section 29 aa be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “, widowed mother or wife.”
Also circulated amendments (consequential) to clauses 5 and 6.
Remaining clauses and circulated Government amendments containing consequential amendments agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Blackburn) put -
That the bill be now recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 3.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill read a third time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Wheat Growers Relief Act 1934-1935.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Dr. Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the increase, by an amount not exceeding £4,500, of the sum payable to the State of Tasmania under section 9 of the Wheat Growers Relief Act 1934-1935. The principal act provides for payment to that State, by way of financial assistance, of the sum of £4,100 for each month during which a tax is imposed upon flour under the legislation which is at present in operation. As Tasmania produces very little wheat, and the amount that would be required to finance the relief to the wheat-growers in that State was estimated to be comparatively small, this special payment to the State was granted as a rebate, partly to offset the flour tax collected in respect of flour consumed in Tasmania. The monthly payment of £4,100 was calculated on a basis estimated to represent the difference between the total flour tax that would be collected on flour consumed in Tasmania, and the amount that would be required for the relief of wheat-growers in that State. The Government of Tasmania, under the terms of an act passed by the Parliament of that State, has been utilizing the amounts paid to make refunds to millers and others in respect of flour tax paid by them. The rate of refund was fixed by the Government of Tasmania, so as approximately to absorb the actual amount received from the Commonwealth. It has now been ascertained that the consumption of flour in Tasmania was underestimated, and that the payment made to Tasmania under the Wheat Growers Relief Act at the rate of £4,100 a month is proving insufficient to enable refunds at the rate adopted by the Tasmanian Government to be continued during the period under which the present flour tax is in operation. The Tasmanian Government has now made representations for payment of an additional amount. It is estimated that the amount that will be required by that Government will bo between £4,000 and £4,500, and Parliament is now asked to appropriate an amount not exceeding £4,500 as may be approved by the Treasurer. If the bill be approved by Parliament, it is proposed to authorize payment to the Tasmanian Government of an amount sufficient to meet the actual payments, but not exceeding £4,500, made under the Tasmanian act to which I have referred.
– What will be the total amount?
– The amount will be £4,100 a month for the period that the flour tax has been in operation, plus a further sum of about £4,500.
– Will the Northern Territory still be exempt?
– This bill affects Tasmania only.
.- The Opposition is in agreement with this bill, which is consequential to legislation already passed by this Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Minister for Commerce) [11.35]. - I move -
That, subject to lower rates of charges being prescribed by regulations made, and subject to exemptions allowed under order made, under the act passed to give effect to this resolution, charges be imposed at the rates specified in tile following schedule on all meat (being beef, mutton, lamb, veal, pork, bacon and ham, and including canned meat) exported from the Commonwealth after a date to be fixed by proclamation under that act: -
– It will be convenient if I explain the purposes of this measure at this stage.
This is a bill to provide a fund from which the administration and other expenses of the Australian Meat Board will be paid. Other export control boards are financed in the same manner, and the system has been found to operate smoothly and effectively. The bill will enable a levy of1/2d. a quarter, in the case of beef,1/2d. a carcass in the case of veal, and1d. a carcass, in the case of mutton, lamb, and pork, to be collected on meat exported. Corresponding levies are also imposed on piece meat and canned meat.
The rates specified are in accord with the maximum levies recommended at the Commonwealth Meat Conference held on the 5th October, 1935, which was attended by Commonwealth and State Ministers, and members of the Commonwealth Meat Advisory Committee.
– The other body can vary them?
– It may reduce, but not increase them. Provision is made whereby, on the recommendation of the board, lower rates may be prescribed by regulations. The bill also provides that any meat may be exempted from the charges upon report by the board to the Minister. The actual rates of levy to be imposed, and the classes of meat to which they will apply, are therefore matters for determination by the board.
On the basis of the exports during the year ended the 30th June, 1934, the maximum levies that could be collected would provide the board with a fund estimated at £25,000. That sum is much larger than will be required to meet the administrative expenses of the board and the cost of the London representative, but it is intended that there shall be an adequate surplus to provide for the carry ing out of judicious propaganda or advertising campaigns to promote the sale of Australian meat overseas, and for the undertaking of any experiment which, in the opinion of the board, is calculated to improve the quality of Australian meat intended for export. Other boards already in existence advertise extensively, and each year utilize the larger portion of their revenue for that purpose. In this they are, however, assisted by the Commonwealth Government, with the result that in no case has it yet been found necessary to impose the maximum rate of levy. It is anticipated that the Australian Meat Board will be in much the same position as other boards; nevertheless it is desirable that the rates specified in the bill should provide a margin for any contingency that might arise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. White do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Dr. Earle Page, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That a charge at the rate of1/4d. for each 30 ounces be imposed on -
To enable honorable members to appreciate the significance of this resolution I point out that the purpose of the bill which will be based on it is twofold - first, to include canned pineapples and canned fruit salad in the definition of “ canned fruits “ under the Canned Fruits Export Charges Act 1926-1929, so that the definition will conform with that already shown in the Canned Fruits Export Control Act 1926-1935; and, secondly, to validate charges levied and collected on canned pineapples since the 28th November, 1933, and on canned fruit salad since the 4th April, 1935, which were the respective dates on which these products .were brought under the supervision of the Canned Fruits Control Board. In response to representations from the canned fruits industry, and in view of the fact that canned pineapples and canned fruit salad were becoming increasingly popular in overseas markets, the Canned Fruits Export Control Act 1926-1930 was amended in 1933 and 1935, in order to bring these products within the provisions of that act. Coincident with the passage of the amending acts, a levy of one-twelfth of a penny for each 30 ounces of canned fruit exported was charged and collected on canned pineapples and canned fruit salad under the Canned Fruits Export Charges Act in the same manner as a similar levy had been collected on canned apricots, peaches and pears exported from the Commonwealth. The whole of this levy is paid to the Canned Fruits Control Board for the purpose of meeting the administrative expenses of the board in connexion with the orderly marketing of the products under its supervision, and for publicity and other services to the industry.
Advice has been received from the Solicitor-General that the charges levied and collected on canned pineapples and canned fruit salad should be validated by an amendment of the Canned Fruits Export Charges Act. The bill which will be brought down upon the passing of this motion and is merely of a machinery nature, has therefore been prepared to comply with that decision, and also to bring canned pineapples and canned fruit salad within the meaning of the term “ canned fruits “ in the act. In amending the Canned Fruits Export Charges Act, provision has been mads to enable the Minister to fix different rates of charges on different kinds of fruit should he so desire. A similar provision appears in the Dried Fruits Export Charges Act, and although it is not proposed at present to make use of the provision in regard to canned fruits, it is considered desirable to have it in the act should the necessity for such differentiation arise at any time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. White do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Dr. Earle Page, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend section -nineteen of the Financial Relief Act 1934-35.
This resolution is brought forward in order to provide for an increase of the appropriation for fertilizer subsidy for the year 1934-35. When the subsidy was first introduced in 1932, it was explained that many of our primary producers were not obtaining the best results from their operations because of their inability to make the fullest use of fertilizers. In some districts it was feared that the results of insufficient application of fertilizer, particularly on pastures and orchards, would extend far beyond the loss in yield for the year concerned, and would affect future production because of the set-back given to the pastures, trees and vines. The Government, therefore, granted the subsidy of 15s. a ton to encourage primary producers other than wheat-growers to use at least the normal quantities of fertilizers, and, if necessary for efficient production, to extend their use. The result of this policy has been a remarkable increase in the use of artificial manures in these classes of production. In the first year of operation a considerable quantity which would not otherwise have been used was applied, and in the year 1934-35 sales of fertilizers showed an increase of over 90,000 tons, most of which was for use on pastures, fruit production, vegetables, and similar forms of production. When the bill providing assistance for the year 1934-35 was introduced, it was not anticipated, either by the Department of Commerce or by the trade, that there would be such an increase, and provision was not made for iti Even as recently as the middle of October there was no indication that the increase would have been so marked, as the applications to that date totalled only £233,000. In the last fortnight of October, however, applications totalling approximately £90,000 were received. It is therefore necessary to increase the appropriation of £2500000 made for that year to £325,000, in order to provide funds for payment on the increased quantity used. The experience in respect of the year 1934-35 suggests that a considerable further amount is likely to be required for the year 1935-36, for which the sum of £275,000 has been provided, including provision for half-ton lots, which was not previously made ; but it is too early to make a definite estimate as to the probable increase. The position will, however, be reviewed early next year.
Having in mind the beneficial results accruing to our primary industries from the wider use of fertilizers, I commend this proposal to the favorable consideration of the committee.
.- In supporting the motion, I draw attention to an injustice that has been done to the growers of wheaten hay by the date fixed for the closing of applications for the subsidy. It was provided that these growers should be eligible for the fertilizer subsidy, as they were not entitled to the wheat bounty allocated last year. In some districts, where farmers grow wheat for hay as one of their regular crops, it is possible for them to foresee at an early period exactly what area they will cut for hay; but in other localities, the quantity of crop that will be cut for hay or left for grain is not known until well on towards the harvesting period.
– I rise to a point of order, and submit that the remarks of the honorable member are not relevant to the bill.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The bill is not before the committee, but I consider that the honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the motion.
– The motion relates to part expenditure only.
– But I contend that in considering an additional appropriation, opportunity is afforded to rectify an injustice already inflicted. However, if my remarks are not relevant I have no desire to delay the committee.
– I understand that a further appropriation is required to meet expenditure already incurred in assisting certain primary producers. One naturally desires to know how much of the subsidy has gone into the pockets of the large companies which supply fertilizers. We also have a right to inquire as to the prices charged for this commodity.
– The price is reasonable now.
– It seems to me that this is a good “ stunt “ for the companies dealing in fertilizers, so we are entitled to know how they operate, and whether they are taking advantage of the situation.
– They do not touch the subsidy at all.
– The advance is intended to enable farmers to increase the quantity of fertilizers used by them, and we should know whether the companies are taking advantage of it.
– The increased consumption of fertilizers, particularly superphosphates, consequent upon the operation of the subsidy, has led to a continuous reduction of prices. The price of superphosphate was formerly £5 5s. a ton, and to-day it is £3 10s. a ton.
.- I am not sure that the committee should agree to the motion. I should like to know whether this extra money will go into the pockets of wealthy companies, or will benefit struggling farmers. The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) has explained that a certain amount has already been provided to assist primary producers to purchase fertilizers, and now we are told that the amount has been found to be insufficient. The committee is asked to make up the deficiency. Notwithstanding the large payments already made to certain primary producers, apparently the amount appropriated is inadequate to meet the demand. It may be a sound business proposition on the part of some members of the Country party to support this proposal which means placing money in the pockets of some of their constituents. To subsidize purchases of fertilizers in the interest of primary production may not be altogether advantageous to this country. Primary producers should make a larger contribution towards the cost of the fertilizers they use. Would it not be better to place some limit upon the acreage or upon the amount? The information given by the Minister is very meagre. I protest against such large amounts being paid for the benefit of those engaged in certain forms of primary production, many of whom do not need the assistance they are receiving.
Tuesday, S December 1955
– I cannot allow the remarks of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) to pass without offering some explanation. This is not a matter which concerns only the members of the Australian Country party, because quite a number of other supporters of the Government benefit under the subsidy paid to certain primary producers.
– It is a case of plundering public funds.
– I object to that statement, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the remark.
– The position should be stated clearly to the committee. In the past, Parliament has voted a subsidy of 15s. a ton on all fertilizers used in the production of primary products other than wheat. I remind the honorable member for Barton that the wheat-growers do not receive any of this money. The point raised by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) should be considered by the committee, because we are now asked to vote a sum to provide a subsidy of 15s. a ton on a larger quantity of fertilizers than was anticipated would be required when the original bill was passed. It is only reasonable to assume that when a farmer sows a crop he cannot tell whether that crop is to be cut for hay or grain. Consequently, it it only when the harvesting period is approaching that he knows what proportion of superphosphates has been used in the production of a crop of hay, on which he is entitled to a subsidy of 15s. a ton, and what proportion on a wheat crop, for which he is not entitled to a subsidy. Further, instead of some honorable members objecting to additional money being provided, they ought to be pleased to realize that the Australian farmers, by expending their own money, have increased the use of fertilizers with a consequent increased output of primary products. This provides additional employment, and also increases the volume of exports overseas. Every ton of fertilizer used provides work, not only in the factories producing it, but also on the farms and in transport work. This in turn creates a demand for the products of secondary industries in Australia. I trust that the honorable member for Barton will bear that fact in mind when the tariff is under consideration, and if he is to be consistent will ask for a substantial reduction of some customs duties.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Paterson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Dr. Earle Page, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.Because of the unsatisfactory drain that it had previously placed through the Keswick military grounds in the Boothby electorate the Defence Department recently placed a spoon drain or overspill drain through the property, which is also unsatisfactory. The first drain had devastating effects, flooding the people out of their homes in Maple-avenue, Keswick, after overflowing at a point within the military grounds. When the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) visited Adelaide, a few months ago, I arranged with him to receive a deputation from the Unley City Council, the West Towers District Council, and residents of Mapleavenue, Keswick. The Minister will remember having received the influential deputation which placed before him the views of the councils and of the inhabitants of Maple-avenue, as he gave a sympathetic hearing to the various requests and asked that those concerned confer with the State Director of Commonwealth Works, South Australia, Mr. Rolland ; the engineer for the South Australian Government, and the engineer of the City of Unley. He promised that the whole matter would be investigated and that he would be glad to consider the engineers’ reports.
On the 27th August, 1935, the Minister wrote the following letter to the council : - “ With further reference to your letter, I desire to invite your attention to the report ( 1 935 ) of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works (South Australia), concerning metropolitan flood-waters and more particularly to the evidence of the engineer]nchief (see page 5 of the final report). The Defence Department cannot acknowledge any liability in the matter of damage caused by flood-waters and is concerned solely in the protection of its own property.”
The Minister’s reply has incensed the Unley City Council.
The city surveyor, who was directed to report on the Minister’s letter, reports that there is nothing on page 5 of the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s report concerning metropolitan flood waters which relieves the Defence Department from any responsibility in providing adequate drainage for the protection of Maple-avenue and the Anzachighway. It is clearly stated that the flooding of the Maple-avenue properties is due to the inadequacy of the provision made by the Defence Department to convey storm waters through the grounds of the Keswick barracks. A list of new drains discharging into the Keswick Creek is not quite correct in the fact that the three drains in Unley mentioned were constructed seven or eight years before the 5-ft. military drain was duplicated. The report also states: “It is understood that the military authorities are now constructing a bank designed to protect Maple-avenue from inundation.” This has since been completed, and been investigated by the Engineer for Surveys of the Engineer-in-Chief’s Department, who definitely reports that further work is essential for the safety of the properties in Maple-avenue, and that the new earth drain is far from adequate. The city surveyor further reported that the Engineer-in-Chief reported to the Commissioner of Public Works on the 23rd November, 1934, recommending that a box drain be constructed at a cost of £6,170, the federal authorities to contribute £4,000 towards the cost. On the 6th February, 1935, in a further report to the Commissioner of Public Works he referred to the proposal that the Commonwealth Government should pay approximately £4,000 and the State Government £2,000 on an underground drain, and stated that the Commonwealth Government was undertaking certain work on its own responsibility, and that there was no reason for criticism of this scheme if the bank was properly constructed and the drain was of sufficient capacity. The Engineer for Surveys reported to the EngineerinChief on the 14th March, 1935 : “ Have examined and surveyed the earth drain as constructed by the Commonwealth Public “Works Department through the military grounds at Keswick to deal with the overflow from the concrete drain at the entrance of the two 5-ft. pipe3, and find the work as constructed will not cope with the overflow such as during the last flood.” He has prepared a scheme for utilizing to a degree the work already done by the Commonwealth by deepening the drain, providing an apron to prevent scour and a box drain to allow the water to enter the bridge over the Anzac-highway before leaving the military property. He further states that the Commonwealth has made no provision to prevent water overflowing the southern wall, which he considers is essential for the safety of the properties on Maple-avenue. Following these investigations by the Engineer for Surveys, Mr. Rolland. Commonwealth Director of “Works, and the Unley city surveyor conferred, and considered the scheme a good one. ‘The city surveyor reported -
He had conferred with Mr. Councillor Dunks on the reports mentioned above, and we are of the opinion that the Minister for Defence should be written to, asking him to carry out the scheme prepared by the Engineer for Surveys, as he promised the deputation, on the Anzac-highway, that if the three engineers concerned conferred and brought forward a satisfactory scheme, it would be carried out. Further, that as Adelaide, Burnside, and the showgrounds, in addition to Unley, contribute flood waters to the drain which passes through the military barracks, the Commissioner of Public Works be requested to press the Commonwealth Government to carry out the permanent box culvert scheme or improve the existing works as set out in the report and scheme of the Engineer for Surveys.
The council resolved -
That the report be received and adopted, and a copy sent to the Commissioner of Public Works and Mr. Representative Price.
Neither the Minister’s letter to the Unley City Council nor the idea of passing the troubled waters on to the next fellow gives any satisfaction to a great number of electors in Boothby. The Minister promised the deputation that he would ask the three engineers concerned to confer. This was done and the engineers came to a decision. I now want the Government to carry out the engineers’ findings. In its latest scheme the Defence Department has made no provision to allow the flood waters again to enter the drain in the military property immediately before reaching the Anzac Highway, which with the South Australian centenary drawing near we hope to make a magnificent thoroughfare bordered with fine trees. The present proposal will, undoubtedly, cause no end of trouble if it is carried into effect. I have received word from the Unley City Council, under date the 31st October, to the effect that it is definitely of the opinion that the new earth drain will not cope with the overflow, and that the Maple-avenue properties will still be liable to be flooded, because of the inadequacy of the earth drains and the fact of the southern wall immediately before the 2-ft. 5-in. diameter pipes not being high enough. Big floods played havoc with the properties in Maple-avenue in October, 1924, February and May, 1925, and December, 1930, with the result that the residents suffered great loss, in respect of which they have received no compensation from either the Commonwealth or the State Government. I again ask the Minister, to grant compensation to those who were unfortunate enough to suffer through the Keswick military ground drain overflowing. I also urge the Government to carry out the recommendation, which has the endorsement of the engineers of tho South Australian Government and the Unley City Council, and the Commonwealth Director of Works. If it does so it will render a service to the residents of this area to which they are justly entitled, and which they will greatly appreciate.
.I direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) to a serious complaint regarding the accommodation provided for to-night at Hotel Canberra for members of this Parliament. When Hotel Canberra was leased to a private individual, the Minister assured us that we would be agreea’bly surprised at the arrangements made for our accommodation. We have been surprised, but not agreeably, for we have found that the rooms usually occupied by us have been made available to strangers, while honorable members have been put two in a room. To-morrow, when the honorable members of the Senate arrive in Canberra, they also will find that their usual accommodation has been withdrawn from them, and they will be put two in a room. It is the duty of the Government to make sure that satisfactory arrangements are made for the accommodation of the members of this Parliament. If such accommodation cannot be provided at Hotel Canberra, it should be provided at Hotel Kurrajong. It is unreasonable that honorable members should be crowded together as they have been for to-night. Why should our rooms have been given over to strangers? I have no doubt that the lessee of the hotel can obtain a larger revenue from the strangers who have been put in occupation of the rooms we usually occupy, and from his point of view he is not to be blamed; but the Government certainly deserves condemnation for not having made sure that reasonable accommodation is available to honorable members. I can give an assurance that the persons in occupation of our rooms will not have a very happy time to-night. Why is it that only honorable members of the Opposition have been put two in a room?
– That is not so. I have been affected by the arrangement.
– If the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) is satisfied with the provision that has been made for him, I feel quite sure that the members of the Senate, who will find themselves in a similar position tomorrow, will not be satisfied. It is only fair that each honorable member should be provided with a room. The habits of one honorable member may not be those of another. I, for instance, always wish to read for a while before I go to sleep ; but the honorable member who has been placed in the same room as that I am to occupy may not wish to read. I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) will look into this complaint at once with the object of remedying it. I repeat my request that if adequate accommodation cannot be provided at Hotel Canberra, Hotel Kurrajong be made available for the use of honorable members. Probably if the arrangement made for us for to-night had been allowed to pass without objection, it would have been regarded as a kind of precedent. Probably the next development will be that we shall find ourselves segregated in the dining room. Honorable members of this ‘ Parliament may be placed in one particular part of the room, so that they may be singled out for observation as those who pay a lower tariff than other persons who are accommodated at the hotel. I should offer great objection to anything of that kind. If honorable members opposite are content to submit to such treatment, I can assure them that we on this side of the chamber will not accept it. I understand that, the person who has been given the use of the room that I usually occupy is a knight ; but that is no reason why he should have preference. His title does not give him the right to privileges of that kind. In any case, I feel sure that he will not have a very happy time to-night. I hope that the Minister will take immediate steps to remedy the complaint that I have made. I repeat that I do not blame the lessee of the hotel; I blame the Government. The surprise which has come to us as a result of the leasing of the hotel is not agreeable, a3 we were led to expect that it would be. Rather is it the very reverse.
.- The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) has made his complaint in intemperate language, and in a way that is hardly f ai r to the lessee of Hotel Canberra. It is quite true that honorable members have been asked to share rooms to-night, which is a very unusual thing. Exceptional circumstances have arisen, however, which have made this procedure unavoidable. I have been informed that the lessee of the hotel was taken entirely by surprise when he learned that this House would meet today, and that insufficient notice was given to him to reserve the usual accommodation for honorable members. Moreover, some honorable members have brought their wives to Canberra with them for this week, in order that they may attend a certain function on Thursday next. Exceptionally heavy private bookings have also been made which has brought about the congestion of which the honorable member for Cook has complained.
– What about the promise that the Minister made to us, when Hotel Canberra was handed over to a private lessee?
– I promised that reasonable accommodation would be provided for honorable members. Up to the present time no honorable member has had any cause to complain, and I give an assurance that, in the event of any honorable member not receiving proper treatment, I shall take into consideration the suggestion of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden). I point out, however, that two large and modern hotels are under construction in Canberra, and when they are completed within a few months they will greatly relieve the congestion which, owing to the tourist traffic, occurs at this time of the year. It would be unfortunate if tourists had to be turned away from Canberra, even though their presence here may mean a temporary inconvenience to honorable members.
– Is the Minister sharing his room with any one?
-I am not, but there is only one bed in my room. If there were two I should raise no objection in the circumstances to sharing the room with the honorable member for Cook.
– The usual practice in the conduct of hotels is to give regular patrons preference over those who stay at the place only now and then.
– I have already explained that the hotel management was taken by surprise.
– If the proprietor had been watching the newspapers he would have known of the change in the sitting days of Parliament. Honorable members knew of it a week ago, because they had to make the necessary arrangements. The present situation is the same as if the regular guests at a city hotel were turned out to sleep on the verandahs, because there was a sudden influx of visitors from the country. I am not prepared to submit to treatment of that kind. We have to come to Canberra to discharge our parliamentary duties, and it is necessary that accommodation he provided for us. Up till now we have regularly obtained accommodation at the Hotel Canberra, but when we arrived to-day we found that the rooms we formerly occupied had been handed over to visitors. In consequence, some honorable members have had to share rooms. The responsibility for this is on the Government. We do not propose to take this treatment lying down, because, if we do, we shall probably be called upon when the House reassembles next year, to endure the same kind of thing again. Visitors who come to Canberra only to attend functions can go elsewhere if they want accommodation. Let them go to Queanbeyan. Honorable members are entitled to their proper rest, and it is necessary that they have suitable accommodation. When the honorable member for Cook arrived in Canberra this morning, his room had been handed to some visitor from Sydney, who had probably never been in Canberra before. We protest against treatment of this kind, and hold the Government responsible for. it.
– It is unfortunate that the Hotel Canberra should be overcrowded at this time. I have discussed the matter with the lessee of the hotel, and I am convinced that he acted in good faith. For the last four years I have resided at the Hotel Canberra when the House has been in session, and I know that conditions are just as good under the present management as when the hotel was conducted by the Government. It was I who first brought forward the suggestion that the government hotels in Canberra should be leased to private persons, because I believed that the Government should not continue in the hotel-keeping business. At one time the Government was losing £52,000 a year on the hotels. At that time my wife and I were paying £12 a week to live at the Hotel Canberra, whereas now, we pay only £4 4s. each. For many years the Hotel Ainslie was conducted by the Government at a heavy loss, but since it has been takenover by a private lessee, it has been considerably enlarged, and I understand that the lessee is doing well. I have been assured by the lessee of the Hotel Canberra that he desires to meet the convenience of honorable members in just the same way as was done under Government management. We are in this Parliament the representatives of the taxpayers, and I am sure it would be a mistake from every point of view to revert to the system of government control of the hotels, which was responsible for such a heavy drain upon the revenue. I am opposed to the Government taking over any form of business undertaking, for honorable members know as well as I d.) that every business concern with which the Government has been connected has been a failure. I hope that nothing will be done to open the Hotel Kurrajong for members of Parliament. It would be impossible to make the place pay with members of Parliament staying at the place only two nights a week, and paying only 15s. or 16s. for the accommodation. Wherever we live w? must pay our way, and I know that it costs me more to live in Canberra continuously throughout the session, as I have to do, than it costs those honorable members who are able to return to their homes at the week-end. The hotel management must keep clean linen on the beds, and pay a staff to clean the rooms, &c., and these charges continue whether members of Parliament live in the hotels all the week, or only for two days. The Government is well out of the hotelkeeping business, which cost it so much money, and I warn the Minister that I shall oppose by every means in my power any proposal to revert to cbe former system.
– I protest against the present arrangement at the Hotel Canberra. The explanation of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) was anything but satisfactory, and the excuses he offered were very lame, indeed. I have a vivid recollection that, when it was decided some months ago to lease the Hotel Canberra, I asked the Minister whether accommodation would be available for members of Parliament, and the Minister assured me that it would be. The treatment which we are receiving is not good enough. I make no complaint as to the cost of the accommodation, but I say that the Minister has absolutely misled the House. In view of his promise that accommodation would be made available for honorable members, it is the duty of the Government to see that that accommodation is provided. It has been suggested that the Hotel Kurrajong should be reserved for members. Provided that
I can get decent accommodation at the Hotel Canberra, which is more convenient to the House, I shall continue to stay there. I have no desire to go to the Hotel Kurrajong, or to any of the new hotels which the Minister has stated are in course of erection. Senators arriving to-morrow morning will find that there is no accommodation available. I think the Government made a grave mistake in leasing the Hotel Canberra. Its first consideration should be the convenience and comfort of members of this Parliament. It is scandalous that members should arrive in Canberra not knowing where they will be accommodated. I do not blame the lessee of the hotel who, after all, is acting quite within his rights, but I enter my emphatic protest against the failure of the Government to afford members of this Parliament accommodation of the standard to which they are accustomed.
– I ask the Government to realize that members arriving in Canberra to attend to their parliamentary duties have not the choice of dozens of hotels, as they had when the Parliament met in Melbourne. In disposing of the Hotel Canberra the Government handed over to a private individual the accommodation most convenient to members of this Parliament. In carrying out their legislative duties honorable members are forced to come to Canberra, and to accept what accommodation the Government provides for them. When their parliamentary duties keep them up until the late hours of the night, they should be able to get complete rest, and the Government should see that the accommodation provided is the best possible. It seems to me that when any inconvenience has to be suffered by honorable members, that inconvenience is imposed upon members of my party, whether it be at Canberra or elsewhere. We are sick of it. I should not be surprised if the same discrimination against us is being practised at the Hotel Canberra. The Minister has explained that the present trouble has been brought about as the result of honorable members bringing their wives to attend a social function which is to take place this week. I do not wish to prevent any honorable member from bringing his wife to Canberra, but I do object to Honorable members being deprived of their rooms for the sake of casual visitors. Naturally the lessee will strive to make as much profit as possible, but, the Government having handed the hotel over to private enterprise, has an obligation to protect the rights of honorable members. For that reason I join with the members of my party in protesting against the cavalier manner in which they have been treated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.47 a.m.
The following answersto questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister repre senting the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
When will he finally consider the proposals for greater financial assistance, to be extended over a period of ten years, submitted by the Tasmanian Minister in Charge of Forestry (Mr. Cosgrove) ?
– This matter will receive the’ consideration of the Commonwealth Government at as early a date as possible.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will the Government consider allotting “ B “ class broadcasting licences for a period of not less than two years, and calling for tenders for the licences at the expiration of the current terms ?
– The initial licence for the operation of commercial broadcasting stations invariably covers a period of two or three years. Renewals are made for periods of twelve months, but the notification of renewal is issued on an application which must be made six months prior to the expiration of the licence. There is no intention of modifying the present arrangement, which experience has shown to be generally satisfactory. It might be of interest to state that, in the United States of America, licences are issued to cover a period of only six months, and, for some years after the inauguration of broadcasting, the licence period was restricted to three months.
Trade With Russia.
y asked the Minister for
Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
en asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of theannounced intention of the Royal Dutch Airways to extend their service to Australia, and bearing in mind the great advantages likely to accrue to Western Australia if the air-port is established in that State, will the Government offer every reasonable facility to the Dutch company in their enterprise and also bring the Wyndham airport up to date and made suitable for the requirements of the company?
– The Commonwealth Government has no knowledge of the intention of the Royal Dutch Airways to extend their service to Australia. I am aware that certain proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia indicate that the . Western Australian Government has been in touch with the Dutch company, but I have not been advised by that Government regarding these negotiations. I am aware also that a statement in certain sections of the press recently indicated that the new company Airlines of Australia Limited was in negotiation with the Dutch company to the same end, but subsequently the management of Airlines of Australia Limited denied that such was the case. The Wyndham airport is in regular use by the aircraft operating the regular weekly service to and from Wyndham, and further improvements are planned. The wireless and other facilities necessary for regular crossings of the Timor Sea have been provided at Darwin upon the advice of an expert committee, and the Commonwealth Government has no intention to provide duplicate facilities at Wyndham.
l asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Can he state when the improved accommodation for payment of pensioners at Prospect post office, South Australia, will be completed?
– It is expected the work will be completed by the end of the year.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 December 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351202_reps_14_148/>.