15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that the Government intends to adopt measures under the Standing Orders to prevent the consideration of amendments which have been circulated by honorable members on the Opposition side in connexion with the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill?
– On a previous occasion, I mentioned that the Government did not intend to curtail the discussion of the bill, provided it followed along the usual lines, and provided there was no indication of stonewalling, or unnecessary prolongation of the debate ; but it is the duty of the Government to carry through the legislation which has been approved by the people of this country, and I hope that there will not be any need to adopt the methods indicated by the honorable gentleman. Nevertheless, if such action becomes necessary, the Government will have to give serious consideration to theposition.
– Has the Treasurer been asked to receive a deputation from the British Medical Association next Thursday with regard to the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, and, if so, does the Minister intend to comply with the request of the association?
– I received a letter from the association, and, before it reached me, I read its contents in the press. That, I think, showed a lack of courtesy on which comment should be made. Up to the present time, the Government has made no decision in the matter.
– Does the Minister for the Interior propose to recommend to the Government the establishment of a federal department of transport, as reported in the daily press yesterday ?
– I am glad the honorable member has asked this question, because it gives me an opportunity to correct a misapprehension. Having received an inquiry on this matter from a member of the press, I said in reply that, later in the year, I expected to preside at a conference of State Ministers for Transport, and that, if such a proposal were raised at- the conference, it would be considered afterwards ‘ by the Commonwealth Government.
– Will the Minister representing the’ Postmaster-General state why the Australian Broadcasting Commission now postpones until the night sessions the broadcasting of com trade news and wheat market reports, which, until recently, were issued during the earlier sessions, since this prevents people in country districts from obtaining the latest news? Country agents receive the latest information by telegram.
– I have been advised that such a change has been made, but I understand that the alteration is considered to be in the best interests of the men on the land, as the news is broadcast - at a more convenient hour than before. However, I shall direct the attention of the commission to the honorable gentleman’s question.
– Is there any foundation for the report that, on the arrival of the overseas air mails at Darwin, the Western Australian mails are to be carried via Adelaide, or is there any truth in the alternative statement that one only of the thrice-weekly consignments of mails to arrive at Darwin will be carried on by the north-west route?
– No definite pronouncement has been made by the Government regarding the details of the scheme now .being formulated in connexion with the overseas air-mail service, the distribution of the mails in Australia, and the question of surcharges. When the whole plan is complete, the Government will make a statement regarding it.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether the press report is correct that the Government proposes to subsidize existing air lines in connexion with the carriage of mails from Darwin to Perth and Adelaide, and, if that is correct, does not the Minister consider that tenders, should be. called for such services?
– The Government has made no pronouncement whatever setting forth the details that have been referred to by various newspapers. As I have already stated in reply to another question, immediately a complete plan, has been evolved a full statement will be made by the Government.
– “Will the Minister for the Interior endeavour to devise means whereby the men employed in the parliamentary refreshment-rooms while the Parliament is in session may be more assured than they are now of permanent employment when the Parliament is in recess ?
– That, Mr. Speaker, is a question which, I think, could be more appropriately directed to you.
-The matter was mentioned on the adjournment on Friday last by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker). I then stated that the employment during the recess of stewards employed in the refreshment-rooms when the Parliament is sitting was a matter with which I could not deal.
– I now ask the Minister for the Interior whether he will give consideration to my question?
– I understood, at first, that the honorable member was referring to employment within Parliament House. If he has in mind other than parliamentary employment during the parliamentary recess I shall be glad to give consideration to the subject. I point out, however, that at present every person registered for unemployment relief work in Canberra is occupied on a full time job.
– That may not be the position during the next recess.
– I appreciate that.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has decided to have Australia represented at the Tokyo Exhibition, and, if the answer is in the negative, is there any good reason for such a reply?
– The desire of the Government is to be represented at the Tokyo Exhibition, but certain technical difficulties will have to be removed. Under the International Exhibitions Convention, certain exhibitions are approved, and, at the present time, the Tokyo Exhibition does not fall within the category of approved exhibitions. The Government is seeking to have the objection removed, so that Australia may bc represented.
– In reply to a request for the installation of a public telephone in my electorate, I was notified by the Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney on the 10th January last, that the telephone would be installed, but that some time would elapse before the service could be provided. Five months having now elapsed, I desire to know from the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, the reason for the delay in the provision of this public service.
– I shall have inquiries made, and the honorable member will be advised later regarding, the matter.
– In view of the wholly inadequate facilities provided for refreshments on the railway journey from Sydney to Canberra, will the Minister for the Interior endeavour to arrange with the Government of New South Wales for a dining car to bc attached to the day train which runs between the two capitals, so that persons who are obliged to use this train may be enabled to avoid the suffering dependent upon the development of chronic dyspepsia?
– I shall confer with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, and also make contact with the railway authorities of New South Wales on the subject.
– I ask the. Minister for Defence whether he will consider waiving the conditions which have been laid down in respect of the proposed participation of Royal Air Force machines in the Ballarat Aero Club’s Centenary Pageant ?
– The conditions are those usually imposed in respect of Air Force machines taking part in aerial pageants in different parts of the Commonwealth. It should be borne in mind that most of these pageants are intended for money-making purposes, to provide additional funds either for some charitable organization or for the aero club concerned. In most instances the public is charged an admission fee. The usual practice is for the clubs to pay the actual cost involved by the Air Force machines while they are in the air at the pageant. No charge is made in respect of the journey to or from the location of the pageant, as this is regarded as part of the training course.
– -I ask the Prime Minister what fees, salary, and travelling expenses have been paid to Dr. G. L. Wood since he became a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and also what fees, salaries, and travelling expenses have been paid to him since he began his talks for the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 10th June(vide page 2049).
Clause 25 - (1.) A woman who has been insured for not less than five years, who has ceased to be employed, and by and in respect of whom not less than two hundred and eight weekly contributions have been paid, may, if she is married and gives notice within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner, elect to become a special voluntary contributor under this act for old-age pension only, and thereupon she shall become such a contributor. (2.) Except in accordance with this section, a married woman who is not insured by virtue of insurable employment shall not he insured under this act.
. I move -
That the clause be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “25. - (1.) When a woman being an insured person marries if she -
had at any time before marriage ceased; or
at any time during the period of her marriage ceases, to be a person whose normal occupation is insurable employment within the meaning of this act, she shall until the expiration of a period oftwo years from the date of her marriage be treated as if she were an insured person in respect of whom contributions have been continuously paid. (2.) At the expiration ofthe period of two years referred to in the preceding sub-section, such a married woman may, if she gives notice in the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner, elect to become a special contributor under the act for (a.) sickness benefit, disablement benefit and old-age pension ;
sickness benefit and disablement bene fit; or
old-age pension only, and thereupon she shall become a contributor.
Except in accordance with this section, at the expiration of a period of two years from the date of her marriage, a married woman who is not engaged in insurable employment shall cease to be insured.”
The clause in the bill stipulates harsh conditions in relation to married women. For example, not only must they be insured for five years to be able to obtain by voluntary contribution even an oldage pension, but they must also have paid not less than 208 weekly contributions. In other words, they must have been paying into the fund for about four years. Honorable members who are familiar with the conditions laid down in the British act, will appreciate that this clause is far more severe on married women than the relevant section of the British measure. My amendment follows, to some extent, the British practice and is in direct opposition to the clause now before the committee. In the first place, it does not demand insurance for five years previous to marriage, but provides that for two years after marriage, an insured woman may be treated as though her contributions had been continuously paid. Further, if, at the end of the two-year -period, she gives notice in the prescribed manner she may become a special contributor for
Honorable member’s will appreciate that some concession to women in respect of medical and health benefits in the two years following their marriage would be of great value to them. Having had cover to that extent, married women should then be permitted, in my opinion, to continue as special contributors for any of the benefits to which I havereferred. The amendment I have moved is similar to a section of the British National Health and Insurance Act of 1936, which makes special provision for married women in the circumstances I have mentioned. Section 126 of that act reads -
Where a woman being an insured person under the age of 65 and a member of an approved society marries, she shall, if she had before the date of her marriage ceased, or if at any time during coverture and within twelve months after the date of her marriage she ceases, to be a person whose normal occupation is employment within the meaning of this act, ceases as from the date of her marriage or as from the date on which she ceases to be such aperson (which last date is hereinafter referred to as “ the date of unemployment “) whichever is the later, to be entitled to the benefits to which she would otherwise have been entitled under the provisions of this act, and in lieu thereof she shall-
subject to the provisions of this act. be entitled to the following benefits, that is to say -
sickness benefits for an aggregate of not more than six weeks in the period of twelve months commencing next after the date of unemployment, or if the date of unemployment was anterior to the date of her marriage, within so much of that period as is subsequent to her marriage; and for the purposes of this paragraph the first disease or disablement in respect of which such sickness benefit is payable shall not be deemed to be a continuation of any previous disease or disablement . . .
That section also makes provision ‘ for single maternity benefits irrespective of arrears, medical benefits and any additional benefits provided by approved societies. Women contributors are entitled to the same considerations as other insured persons for two years from the date of their marriage. The provisions of the British section I have quoted should bring clearly under the notice of the committee the object of my amendment. The clause now under discussion is particularly harsh on married women. For instance a woman, who, prior to her marriage has as an employee paid all her con tributions, ceases as soon as she marries to derive any benefit whatever, particularly in the event of sickness. It seems strange that the Government should ask the committee to agree to this clause under which unnecessarily harsh conditions are imposed upon married women.
– As the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) would increase the benefits, bring a larger number of persons under the scheme than would otherwise be the case, and increase the charge upon Consolidated Revenue, I rule that it is not in order.
– In those circumstances I move -
That the clause be postponed.
Should my motion be agreed to it will be regarded as - a direction to the Government to redraft the clause in such a way as to provide for the persons mentioned “in the amendment circulated.
– The intention of the honorable member for West Sydney ( Mr. Beasley) is to include in the bill women who, at the time of marriage, were either employed or were in their free insurance period. The honorable member has apparently overlooked thefact that the free insurance period, which was discussed at great length a few days ago, applies to women in the circumstances I have already described. A woman whose contributions were paid up to the date of her marriage and who goes out of normal insurable work would still be entitled to the full scope of the free insurance period. For instance she could claim medical benefits for an average of 21 months after her marriage. She would be entitled to free doctor’s attention and free medicine for at least eighteen months, and. for possibly two years. For about twelve months after marriage she would also be entitled to sick pay in the free insurance period. Such benefits would be available without further contributions, and would be very valuable particularly in respect of the first year or so of married life, when the periods of disability or incapacity are rather frequent. I venture to suggest that the honorable member has entirely overlooked the fact that, the free insurance period applies fully to paid-up women contributors for a period after their marriage. The honorable member has also overlooked that women on marrying can, for the relatively small contribution of ls. a week, continue their contributions in respect of an old-age pension. The average age at which women in Australia marry - at least in recent years - has been slightly over 25, and at that age the pension under this bill is worth 2s. 6d. a week. In these circumstances every married woman who contributes ls. a week would, on an average* be getting something worth 2s.i 6d. a week. Should a woman not marry until she is 32 years of age the proper contribution in respect of an old-age pension would be 4s. Id. per week. The right to contribute ls. weekly for an old-age pension is a very valuable provision, apart from the additional option, of which the Government has given notice by way of an amendment, that women may by paying ls. 6d. instead of ls. weekly obtain an old-age pension of 20s. weekly at 60 years of age. The optional contribution of ls. weekly or more, particularly the optional contribution of ls. 6d. weekly, is a very valuable provision to married insured female contributors. The Government has also announced its proposals to provide financial assistance to persons outside the scope of the bill by insuring the wives and children of male contributors in respect of medical benefits. The Government has already made known in broad terms its proposals in that regard. If a woman who has been insured marries an insured man, as in most cases she will, she will get the benefit of a potential widow’s pension for herself and a children’s allowance in respect of the children. Under clause 75 a woman, can contribute ls. or ls. 6d. a week and in relevant circumstances draw both a widow’s pension and an old-age pension, towards the cost of each of which she has contributed. The Government has gone to great lengths in this regard, and it believes that it has dealt fairly with women. Two, at least, of the largest of the friendly societies do not provide any cover for women in the circumstances mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. They are specifically excluded, and are not allowed to contribute for these benefits. For instance, the Grand United Order of Oddfellows, in Rule 164, lays it down that -
A married woman shall not be permitted to contribute for, nor to receive, sickness benefit.
Married women are permitted only to contribute for funeral benefit. A rule of the Manchester Unity Society states -
A married woman member shall contribute for funeral, benefit only, and shall not be entitled to contribute for sickness benefit.
I do not know whether this rule, or a similar one, is general in all friendly societies, but I believe it is in most. I am having inquiries made now regarding the position. The Leader of the Opposition overlooked the advantages of the period of free insurance, and also refrained from mentioning the two liberal options which the Government provides for women who marry in the circumstances mentioned by him. Therefore, I submit that the Government has gone to the limit in regard to benefits, and cannot accept the amendment.
– I cannot understand why the Government refuses to permit women to participate in all the benefits under this bill, provided they are prepared to pay for them. Why does the Government so carefully exclude the wives and children of contributors from medical benefit? If the benefit had been granted, there would have been no need for this amendment. The point I wish to make is that women, even though they are prepared to pay, will not be permitted to receive all the benefits of the scheme. The amendment simply provides that if a woman, after marriage, desires to continue for the rest of her life as an insured person, she should be able to do so, and will be eligible to receive all the benefits of the insurance scheme. The principal reason why a woman may desire to do this is that, when her husband becomes an insured person under the act, he will lose the right to medical benefit for his wife and children which he. enjoyed as a member of a friendly society.
.- Under the scheme female contributors will pay ls. a week for a pension of 15s., or, if they choose, ls. 6d. for a full pension, of £1, in addition to medical, . sickness and disablement benefits in both cases. When a woman marries, the scheme ceases, unless she or her husband chooses to continue contributing on a voluntary basis. She may become entitled to medical benefit if her husband makes the necessary contribution through a friendly society. We should ask ourselves, however, whether it is equitable that the female contributor should lose her contributions upon marriage. Wo know that the scheme has been worked out on an actuarial basis, and there is good insurance value, but I wonder whether the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has considered the possibility of arranging for some surrender value of the contributions of women when they marry. Of course, any sickness benefit a woman may have had during the period would be deducted. Every encouragement should be given to women in these circumstances.
– In any case, why should not women have the same rights under the scheme as men?
– When the scheme is in operation, the benefits no doubt will be extended. Indeed, that has been indicated by the Government.
.- Under the clause as it stands, women who have paid contributions for five years, will be permitted to continue as insured persons, if they so desire, by keeping up their payments, but women who have contributed for less then five years will be denied this choice. I have looked up the statistics, and find that 30 per cent, of women marry when they are less than 22 years of age. The approximate number involved is 20,000, and if they contribute at the rate of ls. a week between the ages of sixteen and 21, each would have paid into the fund approximately £13 at the time of marriage. Taking the average yearly contribution at £2 12s., the total sum paid by women in this group would be £50,000 a year, which the Government would collect, and for which it would give nothing in return.
– The Government will collect as much more from the employers.
– Yes, that makes the total of about £100,000 for which the contributors will obtain no return. They are even to be denied the right to continue their contributions in order to keep within the scheme. It is a sharp prac tice. These women will have to pay for an old-age pension as well as for sickness and disablement benefits, but the only benefit that they are likely to receive in the five years in which they will be contributing is sickness benefit and perhaps disablement benefit. In his second-reading speech the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said that women were to receive privileges in excess of those for which they would contribute. The women who marry before they have participated in the scheme for five years will not receive any such privileges. Either women from sixteen to 22 years of age should be required to contribute only for sickness or disablement benefit, or they should be permitted after their marriage, if they so desire, to continue their mem- bership of the scheme. At ls. a week each woman in five years will have paid £13 into the scheme, and that money will be entirely lost to her on her marriage. I stress the fact that she will have to contribute for an old-age pension which she may never receive. Figures cited last week showed that only .8 per cent, of women in the 55 to 59 years age group are employed in industry. That means that less than 1 per cent, of the women who will contribute for the old-age pension will receive it. Furthermore, whereas, male contributors will receive a pension of £1 a week, the pension for women i3 to be only 15s. a week. I think that they should be entitled to receive £1. I urge the Treasurer, however, to accept the amendment and thereby permit women, if they so desire, to continue their insurance after their marriage.
– I wish to reply briefly to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark). The amount that women will be required to pay is less than that necessary to cover their medical benefit, sickness benefit, and a small proportion of the administrative costs that can be allocated to those benefits.
– At what age ?
– At any age. If a woman enters at the age of sixteen she, of course, pays ls. a week. I am confining my remarks at the moment to the women who enter insurance at sixteen years of age, but my contentions are even more apposite in respect of women who enter at any later age. The cost of the medical and sickness benefits and the small fraction of administrative costs attributable to those benefits comes to considerably more than the ls. that they are to contribute.
– How much more?
– Some considerable number of pence. That is the reason why there can be no surrender value.
– The Treasurer should supply details.
– I have made the calculation, but I cannot, just at the moment, supply details. I assure honorable members that what I have said is correct.
.- I was surprised to hear the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) state that a woman who had been employed previous to her marriage, and upon marriage quitted industry, would be entitled to a free insurance period. It seems to me, on reading the clause, that that is not so.
– Not at all.
– I think so. The clause reads -
People can be insured under this part of the bill in two ways, first, because they are in insurable employment and, secondly, because, although they are out of employment, they are entitled to free insurance. The person enjoying a free insurance period is not insured by virtue of insurable employment. I accept the statement that it is the intention of the clause to give a woman, who, on marriage, quits industry, a free insurance period, but I contend that in its present wording it does not do so.
– Marriage is not different from, any other cause of a woman ceasing to bc employed.
– - I should be inclined to agree with the point of view taken by the Treasurer if it were not for the words “ insured by virtue of insurable employment “, which have a limiting effect. The person who is insured by virtue of insurable employment is a person engaged in employment and not a person who is enjoying free insurance.
– I suggest that one is thecorollary of the other.
– I direct theTreasurer’s attention to the words “except in accordance with this section “.
– I intend to amend that and make it read “ except in pursuance “.
– That does not make any difference.
– Yes, it does.
– The person whoceases to be employed is not insured by virtue of insurable employment.
– It follows on.
– At any rate the clause should be clarified. If the intention stated by the Treasurer is actually the intention of the framers of the bill, the clause should be so altered that it will leave no doubt as to the meaning of it. It could be quite easily so framed. I cannot understand why the limitation “ by virtue of insurable employment “ is inserted in the clause.
– That is the only condition that could bring about the state of insurance.
– It is not. The person may be insured by being engaged in insurable employment, or by being engaged in a free insurance period.
– The one flows from the other.
– It flows, certainly, but why not be explicit?
– The honorable member is splitting hairs.
– If it is really desired to give women this benefit, why is the clause not made clear? I am not suggesting the words that should be used, but I do suggest that the clause should be re-considered by the Parliamentary Draftsman, and that an undertaking should be given to the committee that its meaning will be made clear.
– Why is sub-clause 2 required at all?
– The Treasurer’s view is that a working woman who marries shall enter a free insurance period as if she were an unemployed person, and at the end of the free insurance period she shall cease to be insured unless she elects to become a special voluntary contributor. I do not think that the clause gives effect to that intention, because it inserts the limiting words “ by virtue of insurable employment”. A person who is out of employment and insured is so. insured because the bill says that during a certain period, which is called a free insurance period, he is to be treated as if he were insured. If the limiting words were deleted the meaning would probably be clear.
Apart from that point I wish to show that the bill is lees beneficial to the workers than is the British act, which provides that the uninsured wife of an insured man may obtain an old-age pension without undergoing a means test. I admit that the age is later. Section 11 of the British act of 1936 provides that any person - who, being a woman who has attained the age of seventy, is the wife of a man n’ho is or was at any time entitled to an old-age pension under this act or any act repealed by this act; or who, being a widow who before the death ofher husband had attained the age of seventy, would have been entitled to a widow’s pension, if she had not then attained that age. shall be entitled to an old-age pension under the Old-Age Pensions Act 1930, at the rate of ten shillings a week, notwithstanding that any of the statutory conditions as to means, residence or nationality is not satisfied in the case of that person.
Under the British act a married woman is not only carried on as an insured person for two years, but is also given a protective right to obtain a non-contributory pension without undergoing a means test. In other words, she may obtain a noncontributory old-age pension without paying anything for it. The bill departs from the British ‘‘act in many respects, and in most of them to the prejudice of Australians.
.- The option that the clause gives is a valuable privilege to women who are able to take advantage of it, but I doubt whether the qualifying contributions should, cover a period of as long as five years. A large percentage of women will marry after having been insured for less than five years.I therefore suggest that the period be shortened.
.- The clause- provides for the sudden termination of the rights of women under the health benefit clauses of the bill on their marriage. There is provision, also, for special contributions for the purpose of providing for old-age pensions. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) desires to broaden the provision in order to give sick and medical benefits to women who continue their contributions after marriage. I am pleased to be able to support the amendment. In rebuttal of the honorable member for West Sydney, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) quoted the rules of two benefit societies. Those rules, however, should not be fatal to the amendment. They may be good or bad rules, but when Parliament sets out to frame a national health insurance scheme allegedly to preserve the health of the community, the fact that such rules exist in benefit societies should not be regarded as a bar to the making of any provision it is desired to make. Although it is said that the scheme is to preserve the public health, the bill insists that when a woman is working in an industry before her marriage she must be insured, but that shortly after she marries, if the Treasurer’s interpretation of the extended term of insurance is correct, her health shall cease to be any concern of the Government. She is not permitted to continue the health benefit. I suggest that the health of a woman after she marries is of at least as much concern to the Government as is her health before she marries. It seems to be illogical for the Government to insure a woman’s health compulsorily if she is single, and refuse to allow her to insure after she is married. The Treasurer has referred to the fact that women have certain privileges under the scheme, and he throws in widows’ pensions for good measure; but surely he will admit that, in calculating the amount of contributions, allowance has been made for widows’ pensions. Not only a woman’s husband, but also every other male is specially taxed to provide the widows’ pension fund. A widow who receives a widows’ pension is surely under no special obligation to the Government, because it hasbeen paid in contributions by every man, married or single, in the community. Thus when the Treasurer cites women’s pensions as- evidence that women are receiving generous treatment under the scheme, he is really mak-
Lng a special pleading in order to avoid giving women the same health insurance rights which every other insured person enjoys. He gives them nothing when he offers them the right during the whole of their married life to contribute for the old-age pension. When a woman marries she is more in need of health insurance than of pension insurance. An examination of vital statistics shows that relatively few women live to enjoy the old-age pension: the number who qualify for the old-age pension is considerably less than those who need health attention during married life. I agree with the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) that some consideration should be given to the case of a woman who is obliged to sacrifice five years’ contributions in respect of health insurance when she marries. In any comparison of the provisions of this scheme, as between men and women, we must remember that a woman who insures for health benefits at sixteen years of age and is forced to withdraw when she marries, say at 21 years, will receive no benefit in respect of the contributions which she has paid for those five years, whereas if a man enters industry at the age of 60 years, and is employed for five years, thus becoming an insurable person, he is entitled to all the pension benefits which these younger women would be entitled to and have paid for right throughout their lives provided they do not marry. I repeat that the special benefits included in this measure in respect of women are not really generous, because they are paid for, if not by the women themselves, then by the male insured persons, whether the latter be married or single. One of the most remarkable features of this measure is th at whilst it is called a national health insurance bill, it compels women to insure until they marry, but upon marriage debars them from qualifying for any medical or sickness benefits even by voluntary contribution.
.- I do not support the amendment proposed bv the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). However, with most honorable members I sympathize with its objective. I feel sure that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) himself hopes the day will come when not- only wives who were insured persons when single, but also all wives and families, will be enabled to participate in a national insurance scheme. But we must deal with such a scheme step by step in a practical way. A great reform of this nature which involves placing a section of our social services on an insurance basis, can only be. achieved in instalments, and I certainly am not prepared to support any precipitate action which may upset the soundness of the scheme in its initial stages merely in order to move more rapidly and possibly by so doing delay the inauguration of the first instalment. We should be careful, therefore, that, in each step we take towards the objective generally desired, we do not take any action which may have retrograde effects in other directions. An anomaly in this particular clause is that in many cases the woman- who marries before she is 21 - and, from some points of view, she is the best citizen - is not counted as being insured long enough to be eligible for a voluntary insurance for pension. We should provide no alternative in this measure which would make the postponement of marriage by women financially desirable.
– The honorable member is referring to the five years’ qualification?
– Yes. I am not suggesting that it is possible at present to provide voluntary health insurance as well as pension insurance. I accept the assurance of the Treasurer that that is impracticable at the moment.
On another point, I think the Treasurer said that the total contribution of a young insured woman is not sufficient to meet the cost incurred in respect of health, sickness and disablement benefits. Considering that most women are in the prime of life at that age, this seems incredible. In any case, if I have understood the Treasurer rightly, it would appear that the whole of the cost of the pension benefit must be borne by the Treasury.
– I did not mention the employer’s contribution, but only the employee’s contribution. The cost of the medical, disablement and sickness benefits, plus a proportion of the administrative cost, would come to more than the woman’s contribution of ls.
– At any rate, the employer’s ls. must be mostly set towards the pension?
– In those circumstances, if it is fair that a woman who marries slightly late in life continues for pension benefit, it cannot be less fair - indeed, it would be fairer, because the contributions have been paid for a longer period - for a girl who works for three or four years and then marries at the age of, say, 21, to have the right to continue as a voluntary contributor. In this respect, however, I do not propose to move any amendment, or to ask for an immediate reply, but I urge the Treasurer to go into the actuarial aspect of the. matter.
– On page 6 of the Actuarial Report, it will be seen that ls. 2d. covers the female contribution for health benefits.
– That leaves lOd. in respect of pension benefit. At any rate, a certain proportion of the combined contribution of the employer and employee is taken to accumulate in respect of pension benefit. A girl who .marries at the age of 20 and pays ls. a week for 40 years is a less severe charge on the pensions fund than one who marries at the age of 25 and contributes ls. a week for 35 years. Because of the social desirability of not doing anything to ]Jostpone the age of marriage, I hope that the Treasurer will agree- to include all girls who have been in employment from the age of sixteen until they marry. In ray opinion, the great majority of girls who marry will not elect to pay the ls. a week, but some of them will. We should not do anything to discourage early marriages.
– A qualifying period of five years was regarded by the Government as reasonable before a woman on marriage could avail herself of the valuable alternatives provided in this measure. I admit that the point raised by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) missed my apprehension; I did not see that the qualifying period could be regarded as a bar to marriage. On behalf of the Government, I am prepared to move an amendment to reduce the period from five years to four years.
– I suggest that the amendment should cover all girls who have been contributors to the scheme continuously from the minimum age at which they are entitled to insurance.
– I could not accept any period less than four years.
– A girl may be eighteen years old when she first becomes a contributor, and she may marry at 21.
– A girl who was not employed until she reached the agc of 20, would have been employed only one year on attaining the age of 21. I think that a reduction to four years could bc accepted with safety, and in order to go some way to meet the suggestion of the honorable member for Wakefield, I am prepared to move accordingly.
– In the event of the period being less than four years, could not a girl pay sufficient to make the contribution 2s. a week for a full period of four years, in order -to qualify as a voluntary contributor?
– I do not think that would be necessary. Most cases would be met by providing for a period of four years.
.- According to the latest Tear-Booh available, 8,000 spinsters under the age of 20 married in the last year under review. Unfortunately, the next age classification deals with the group between the ages of 20 and 24, so that I cannot say how many under the age of 21 years married. That second group embraces about 25,000 spinsters. It is an extraordinary assumption that spinsters will be in employment at sixteen years of age; hundreds of them at that age will still be undergoing tuition in. commercial colleges, schools of domestic economy, and other institutions. Apart altogether from the undesirability of girls working for wage3 at too early an age, that fact must be taken into consideration. A reduction to four years, as now contemplated by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), is not nearly so satisfactory a proposal as that contained in the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley).
That amendment provides that a girl who has been employed, and afterwards marries, shall have a series of options; she may contribute in respect of sickness and disablement benefits and old-age pension, in respect of sickness and disablement, or in respect of the old-age pension only. She herself will decide how many of the three options she will take. Under this bill, a girl who is employed will be compelled to insure whether she likes it or not, but immediately she marries she may continue in the scheme only in respect of an old-age pension. When we examine the actuarial position, we must take into account also the employer’s contribution; it is just as much a contribution to the insurance of his employees as are the contributions of the employees themselves, because if the employees were not insured the employer would not have to contribute. It would appear that the Treasurer is more concerned with getting contributions from employers and employees than with the general scope of the benefits to be given to females. As the honorable member for .Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) said, if it is to be assumed that the only way to provide a scheme of national health insurance is that it shall be based on compulsory contributions, this legislation should leave* the husband little or no option to’ continue his contributions in respect of medical service for his wife during the first three or four years of marriage. The Treasurer seems to be concerned mainly with political considerations and the load on the Treasury. I repeat what I said in my second-reading speech, that, when considering the rights of women, we have to face more than an actuarial problem; there is also the problem of sex justice and the obligation of the nation towards women and children. If, in order to do justice to women, wo must depart from the actuarial basis of the scheme, the departure should take the form, not of imposing extra contributions on women, but of drawing more largely on the Consolidated Revenue of the country. The Treasurer and those who believe that a system of contributory national insurance for health purposes is essential, say that a worker in receipt of £4 a week, as well as his employer - regardless of whether he is making a profit or a loss, because of the importance to the nation of the health of hi3 employees - must contribute, whilst- members of Parliament, and others in the community whose incomes are derived from property or interest paid to them by the nation, arc to make no contribution whatever. It is for that reason that the honorable gentleman is always able to contend that there are actuarial difficulties in the way of meeting proposals such, as that submitted by the honorable member for West Sydney. We should not delude ourselves into accepting a scheme that is not truly national. If the Treasurer is in earnest as to the need for a scheme of national health insurance he should accept the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney; and if its acceptance would impose an extra burden on the budget, he should require members of Parliament, land-owners and the rentier class to contribute towards the cost.
– It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), who is not responsible for the Commonwealth finances, to talk as he does. He repeated what he said in his second-reading speech; I propose to do likewise, and say that the financial obligations of this scheme and the ancillary schemes thai will follow it, will impose just about the greatest possible burden on the finances of the country, taken in conjunction with other financial burdens, such as defence and the general services, that the country can possibly afford. This is a very large and, if I might suggest, a very brave measure on the financial side, having regard to the obligations that it will entail on the people of this country, not only during the first few years of the operation of the scheme, but also in the later years as generation succeeds generation. I say that the bill represents the largest bite we could possibly take. For my part, I may say that during the last few months I have felt some qualms about the financial obligations that the bill will entail. To think that we can go on and on, increasing those obligations every day is impossible. Before that could happen, the Government would be obliged to withdraw the measure.
– The people would not miss the hill if it were withdrawn.
– I do not agree -with the honorable member. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) took exception to the words in sub-clause 2, “ insured by virtue of insurable employment “. During the last half -hour, I . have had an opportunity to consult the Government’s- legal- advisers in connexion with this matter, and their opinion - I do not by chance put this forward ‘to prove my own limited legal knowledge - entirely endorses what I said by way .of interjection, that the free insurance period is attributable to some prior insurable employment-
– I agree with that.
– And to contributions paid during the period specified in the bill. ,A person who enjoys a free insurance period is, during that period, insured by virtue of prior insurable employment.
– I do not agree with that.
– That is the advice upon which the Government proposes to act.
.- I would not have put this point forward had I thought it had.no substance. I did not take objection merely to the Government’s drafting of the clause. I repeat that I am not satisfied that the clause, as drafted, does cover the case of the person enjoying a free insurance period. I very much doubted whether the clause was intended to cover such a person. The only reason I say this, is because of the obdurate attitude taken up by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) as to the draftsmanship of the clause. I suggested that the clause should be so drafted as to make clear beyond any possible doubt that a married woman leaving industry on marriage shall enjoy a fr.ee insurance period. It will not be for the Treasurer, for me, or for the Parliamentary Draftsman, to interpret this measure; it will have to be interpreted, by the commission, and, possibly, by the courts. For that reason, the clause should make it perfectly clear beyond the slightest possible doubt, that a person who is not insured solely by reason of unemployment, but by reason of having a free insurance period, shall be entitled to benefit. It seems to me highly doubtful- and I could’ put it stronger than that - whether this clause does cover the case of a person enjoying; a free insurance period. There is nothing: at all in this measure to’ suggest that a married woman, upon leaving employment for marriage, is to get a free insurance period. To say that a person, ceases to be employed merely because shemarries and gives up her work seems tome a most unnatural construction to beplaced on the words “ ceased to be employed “. The words of the clause should, be made perfectly clear. I can see noreason, except, perhaps, egotism on the part of the Treasurer, for his refusal toaccept my suggestion. I, myself, did not propose an amendment of the clause; T merely suggested that it might be desirable that it be amended. I am not concerned whether it is amended or not because I do not think the bill will givethe benefits proposed; but if the Treasurer wants to make people believe that he intends to give this benefit to married women, he should lose no opportunity to make the wording of the clause perfectly clear.
– The words of the clause are those which the Parliamentary Draftsman regards as most appropriate to carry out this particular purpose..
– He does not say that in his note.
– He says that a free insurance period is attributable to some prior insurable employment and to contributions paid during a period specified in the bill, and that a person who enjoys a free insurance period is, during that period, insured by virtue of insurable employment. That is perfectly relevant to the words used in the clause which were designed for that particular purpose.
– He does not say that in the note.
– The words of his note are: “IS it were intended to apply to those actually engaged in employment, the clause would have been differently worded.” The clause as it stands is perfectly clear.
. -Just to carry that point a little further, it means, in fact, that a married woman, after her marriage, can enter a free insurance period for an average of 23 months, with a maximum of two years, so that every woman who marries passes on to a (period of free insurance with all benefits.
– The same as any other person who ceases employment, no more and no less.
– Every married woman, irrespective of the circumstances, who had contributed for 26 weeks prior to her marriage, is entitled to free insurance with all benefits. In that respect, she is entitled to the same benefits as a male, though, in the case of a male, the receipt of benefits arises mainly as the result of unemployment. In the case of the female, benefits will become payable because of her marriage.
– Marriage is an incident that ceases a woman’s insurable employment. That is not different from any other incident that may cease insurable employment. All that I said the other day about the free insurance period applies to the woman the same as it does to the man. I take exception to the use of the words “ irrespective of the circumstances “ used by the honorable member.
– I qualified that by saying that a free insurance period would accrue after 26 weekly contributions had been made prior to marriage. If an insured person, either male or female, makes contributions for 26 weeks, such a person is entitled to benefit.
– That is in accordance with clauses 20 and 21.
– In the case of the male, benefits would accrue as the result of unemployment; in the case of the female, it might be unemployment, but it would be largely because of marriage. That means, then, that after marriage, every woman who, as an employee, had made not fewer than 26 contributions to the fund, would be entitled to a free insurance period and all the benefits of the scheme.
– In accordance with the provisions of clauses 20 and 21.
– Why does the Treasurer try to involve the issue ? It is most desirable that the point which has been raised should be settled beyond all doubt. This scheme will affect, at the outset, 1,850,000 people, so its provisions should be stated in the plainest language, and free of all legal ambiguities. May we understand that after her marriage a female employee who, as an employee, had made 26 contributions, would be entitled to the. free insurance period and all the benefits of the scheme?
– I really cannot say more than I have said on previous occasions.
.- As I understand the position, from the statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), a female contributor to the fund will not be entitled to the medical benefit following her marriage.
– I was referring to the sickness benefit.
– Then a female contributor, upon marriage, will get no benefits under this scheme?
– The honorable gentleman is ignoring everything that I have said with reference to the free insurance period.
– I do not think it is possible for the Treasurer to give a clear interpretation of this clause. He cited the practice of lodges and then told us that this bill would not take away from married women any of their privileges under the scheme although he said he would be willing to reduce the insurance period for special voluntary contributors from five years to four years. A female contributor, when she marries, should be entitled to all the benefits which she would receive under this scheme if she remained single. The Treasurer is somewhat non-committal about the effect of this clause. He simply says that it will not take from married women rights to which they are entitled under clauses 20 and 21. We should not do anything to discourage women from getting married. Under this scheme female employees will pay contributions from the time they become employed - say, sixteen or seventeen years of age - until the time of their marriage. They will then cease to be employed persons. According to the Treasurer, they will then enter the free insurance period, and, under this clause, they may become special voluntary contributors for the old-age pension only. It is not fair to require female employees to contribute to the fund for so many years and then withold from them any benefits which they might enjoy by remaining single.
.- This clause is undesirable from its probable impact, not only on the scheme, but also upon our vital statistics. Recently the former Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) was so much concerned about the declining birth tate that he coined the slogan for Australians - “ Populate or perish This Government is giving financial assistance to various organizations to bring child migrants from Great Britain to Australia, yet in this clause it imposes an injustice on female contributors who, following their marriage, may desire to become voluntary contributors to the scheme. Since women are entering industry at a much later age than formerly, it is reasonable to assume that proposals of marriage are made at a correspondingly later age. This clause is a distinct inducement for women to remain in industry instead of marrying. Eor economic and other reasons it is desirable that the women of this country should be encouraged to marry as early as possible. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) should make the insurance period, not five years, but three months, in order, possibly, to reduce . the cost ‘ of assisted migration, and to help in other ways to improve the position in regard to our vital statistics. When women remain in industry longer than necessary they unduly deprive men of employment. That is another factor which should be considered by the Treasurer. He referred to the scheme generally as big and brave, and he feared that its repercussions might be such that Australia could not carry the financial burden that it would impose; hut I ask him to remember that this country produces sufficient foodstuffs and clothing to meet the needs of all of the people, and ‘that there is a large surplus for export. Every year large numbers of young men become qualified as doctors. Therefore, it appears to me that the problem is not one of avoiding an undesirable impact on the public finances, but one of framing such a measure as will enable those who have more than sufficient of the good things of life to help the section which has too little.
– In refusing to accept the amendment submitted by the member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has shown clearly that he has determined not to receive suggestions from the Opposition. Apparently there is no hope of a helpful discussion of the measure, and its passage without recourse to the steps to which reference has been made, unless the Treasurer takes honorable members on both sides into his confidence. I protest against the Government making promises to the members of its own caucus when particulars of those undertakings have not been made known to the Opposition.
- (Mr. John Lawson). - The honorable member should confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I protest against the failure of the Treasurer to take all parties into his confidence in connexion with this bill. He recently referred to other measures which the Government contemplated.
– As announced by the Prime Minister.
– The Treasurer will not tell the Opposition what he proposes to do to bridge the gaps in the bill to which attention has been drawn by the Opposition, but he suggests that other measures will be introduced later. Members of the Country party and of the United Australia party have said that they are quite satisfied that the Government intends to meet their objections to the bill by bringing down a further measure.
– With regard to selfemployed persons.
– I suggest to those members who have put up a fight on behalf of small farmers and shopkeepers-
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the clause under discussion.
– How can we accept the promise of the Treasurer, meagre as it is, that a new measure, which is to be introduced later, will meet the situation contemplated by the honorable member for West Sydney.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– It was suggested by some members that the Government intended to bring down further measures to deal with women and children. First of all, we protest that the wives and children of insured persons would not receive medical attention under the bill as it stands. The Treasurer, I think, said on one occasion that this omission would bc remedied by a later bill, but, whatever he may have said in other places, he has given the committee no indication of the scope of the supplementary measures. Almost his last remark was that h© doubted whether the country would be able to meet the cost of the scheme now before the committee.
– The honorable member does not usually distort what I say, and I do not suggest that he is intentionally doing so now.
– I again urge the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to connect his remarks with the clause.
– My sole object is to help the Treasurer to secure the passage of this legislation. A good deal of time would be saved if the Treasurer would inform the committee whether the Government proposes to introduce supplementary, legislation covering the matters regarding which the Opposition lias drafted amendments.
– I must protest against what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has said. No member, of any party knows more than the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has already stated in respect of proposed provision for the wives and dependants of insured persons. The sneering reference to caucus meetings is as uncalled for as it is irrelevant. No caucus meetings are held by honorable members on this side of the chamber.
– I did not sneer. The Opposition holds caucus meetings.
– But we on this side do not. You were good enough, Mr. Chairman, to allow the honorable member for Melbourne Ports a little latitude, and, perhaps, I may be permitted * reply to some- of his remarks.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I cannot allow the Treasurer any mora latitude than is . provided for by the Standing Orders.
– The statement has been made by the Prime Minister that the Government will, after due consideration, give financial assistance to such approved societies as provide for medical benefits, in order to enable persons insured under this compulsory scheme to have their wives and families covered in respect of medical benefits. That i3 all that has been announced. No member of any party ha3 more specific information than that. The Government will, after making proper investigations, embody a provision of that kind in some future, and I hope not very long delayed, hill.
.- The clause provides that women who marry will not be entitled to remain contributors unless they have been insured for five years before their marriage. I take - it that the point which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley; wished to clear up was whether the frei’ insurance period of 21 months would apply to’ women who married and tad not been insured for five years previously. Apart from this clause, if a woman or a man had made 26 weeks’ contributions, and had become unemployed, she or h© would be entitled to sickness benefit. The point that needs to be cleared up is whether a woman who marries, and has been previously insured during n period of 26 weeks, is definitely covered for the period of 21 months after marriage, whether she is in the same position as a man who has ceased to be insured for any other reason. If the Treasurer would accept the amendment, or postpone the clause to enable it to bp re-drafted as desired by the Opposition, I should think that the requirements of the committee would be met.
.- The purpose of the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is to ensure the liberalizing of the provisions of the clause. Women deserve every consideration from honorable members on both sides of the committee. Notwithstanding the statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that women will get more out of this fund than they will, pay in, honorable members on this side of the committee hold a different view. The Treasurer said that two or three months ago he had made certain calculations on this point,, but he was not able, at the moment, to give the exact figures. We question the accuracy of the honorable gentleman’s calculations. Surely it should not be difficult to place before us figures which he has prepared so recently, particularly as he has statistical assistance at his elbow. The honorable member for West Sydney referred to “the actuary’s report on the financial provisions of the bill, but his comments in this connexion were very lightly brushed aside by the Treasurer. In these circumstances I am entitled to ask for some more convincing information than the Treasurer has yet made available. The view of the Opposition is that many of the provisions of this measure discriminate unfairly against women. It cannot be denied that the British act is more generous in this respect. Sex justice has undoubtedly been disregarded by the Government. Even at this late stage. I urge the Treasurer to give more serious consideration than he seems disposed to do to the contentions of the honorable member for West Sydney and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). I direct attention to section 11 of the Widows, Orphans and Old-age Pensions Contributory Act 1936, of Great Britain, which provides that women who reach 70 years of age shall be entitled to a pension at the rate of 10s. without submitting to a means test. Moreover, that pension is not dependent upon conditions of residence or nationality. This shows clearly that the British outlook is more liberal than that of this Government, for the nationality and residence tests in relation to the granting of oldage pensions in Australia are very strict. A foreigner must have resided in Australia for twenty years to become entitled to a pension under our existing legislation. The honorable member for West Sydney and other members on this side have made out such a very good case in this respect that I shall not pursue the matter further. The Treasurer has en- tirely ignored the claim of honorable members on this side of the committee for more consideration for women who leave their employment upon marriage. No surrender value whatever has been stipulated in respect of the payments of such persons for the periods during which they are employed. We contend that that point should be equitably met. The honorable member for Bourke has a just grievance in respect of the ambiguous language of some clauses of the bill. We feel tha*t the intentions of the Government should be stated so clearly that all interested parties could easily understand them. The real meaning of this clause, as of other clauses of the bill, should be put beyond all doubt. I trust, therefore, that consideration of the clause will be postponed so that a re-draft may be submitted to us.
.- The case submitted to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) deserves a. better answer than it has yet- received. The Treasurer says that he is quite satisfied with his understanding of the position, but the points at issue will be determined ultimately by legal minds. The honorable member for Bourke is a legal practitioner and the Treasurer is not. We have, therefore, to take care that as little room as possible is left for difference of opinion by lawyers on this subject.
– Lawyers and then judges disagree. The matter may go to the Privy Council. During all this time married women are, apparently, to be left waiting for a clear statement of their position.
– Every time an honorable member on this side of the committee suggests the widening of any of the provisions of this bill, the Treasurer or some other representative of the Government replies that another bill will be introduced at a later date to cover the point at issue; but the injustices inflicted upon married women under this clause, for example, cannot be remedied by bills unrelated to this subject. Parliament should deal with the position now and not at some later date. Undoubtedly if this clause is passed as it is, the contributions of tens of thousands of married women to the national insurance fund will be confiscated.
– That is how the Government proposes to keep the fund solvent.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) pointed out that fact very clearly. It seems to me that the Government is seeking to enact in this bill some of the worst features of old time insurance before the insurance companies were compelled to set a surrender value on policies. The Treasurer is looking to confiscated contributions under this scheme - and I call it a “ scheme “ deliberately - to keep the fund solvent, and many such contributions will come from women before marriage. We have been told that women will receive greater benefits than men under this bill, but that remark must be applied strictly to women before marriage. Undoubtedly women contributors will lose the advantage of their contributions if they marry. If the Treasurer insists on the committee passing this clause without amendment, tens of thousands of pounds contributed <by unmarried women will be forfeited by them, and they can ill afford to lose the money. Reference has been made to women who marry at the age of 21 or 22 years, but what about women who marry at any age up to 28 years? The more this clause is examined, the more apparent it becomes that its main purpose is to .provide money to keep the fund solvent. It is,, in fact, a back door way to financial stability. For this reason, I strongly support the amendment. If the Treasurer has any real desire to combat the charge that one of the principal purposes of this measure is to relieve the Commonwealth Treasury of the liability to pay invalid and old-age pensions, he will accept the amendment. As the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) contended that a surrender value should be fixed in respect of contributions of insured females who subsequently married, I ask him to support the amendment in order that justice may be done to women subscribers. I can see no possibility of the complaints that honorable members on this side of the committee are making in respect of female subscribers being remedied by the introduction of some other bill. The contention that women subscribers will reap greater benefits than male subscribers from this scheme, and, in fact, greater benefits than they are really entitled to receive, is eyewash and hocus-pocus. The basis of this clause is wrong. Honorable members who hold the view that more equitable treatment should be accorded to women subscribers should support the amendment.
– I support the amendment. The clause as drafted is undoubtedly disadvantageous to female subscribers. The Government should do everything possible to encourage women to marry. If this clause is passed without amendment, it, will discourage them from doing so. It is apparent from even a casual reading of the clause that any woman subscriber who marries between 1939, when the bill is expected to come into operation, and 194*4 will be at a great disadvantage, for all her subscriptions will be confiscated. Obviously unmarried women may pay into the fund for periods varying from a few months to four years and eleven months and still forfeit all their payments. That is entirely unjust. This discussion has brought from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) at least one new statement. In replying to the speech of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), the honorable gentleman admitted that a profit would be made out of the contribution of ls. a week by females.
– Oh, no!
– If a profit will be made out of the contribution of ls. a week by females, clearly greater profit will be made out of the contributions of ls. 6d. a week by males, and also out of the employers’ _ contributions. I am becoming more convinced than ever that the purpose of this measure is to relieve the Treasury of part of its responsibility to pay invalid and old-age pensions. The Government is seeking to compel the workers to contribute towards the pensions they expect to receive in their oldage. I notice that the benches on the Government side of the chamber are very bare. I suppose this is the result of decisions of caucus this morning.
– We do not hold caucus meetings.
– We had no party meeting this morning.
– According to reports in this morning’s press, the Government intends to push this bill through, with or without discussion, but honorable members on this side of the committee will fight for the rights of female subscribers. We shall make every endeavour to see that justice is done to them. I hope that the amendment will be agreed to.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Beas- ley’s amendment).
The committee divided. (Ch airma n - Mr. Prowse. )
Majority’ . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendments (by Mr. Casey) agreed to.
That the word “five” in sub-clause (1) of clause 25 be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ four “ ; that the words “ two hundred and eight “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ One hundred and fifty-six”; and that the words “accordance with”, sub-clause (2), be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ pursuance of . “
.- The subject-matter of this clause, which is somewhat similar to that contained in a clause debated some days ago, has an important bearing on the whole basis of the bill. I move -
That the following sub-clause be added: - (3) A married woman who is not entitled to elect as provided by sub-section (1) of this section shall be paid the sum of the contributions payable by her and already paid.
The object of the amendment is to ensure that all moneys paid by a woman contributor who does not elect to become a voluntary contributor shall be repaid to her. It appears to be the intention of the Government to ensure the solvency of the fund by dispensing with any suggestion of surrender values. I understand that provision is made in our State laws that when insurance premiums have been paid for at least two years, the policy shall have a surrender value. In order to prevent insurance companies operating in Queensland from amassing huge profits out of moneys paid as premiums on policies subsequently surrendered, a law was passed in that State which provided that, in cases where premiums have been paid for two years, the policy must have a surrender value of at least two-thirds of the total amount paid in premiums. If it be the policy , of State governments to compel private companies to treat ordinary individuals decently, surely the Commonwealth Government should extend the same consideration to compulsory contributors to its scheme. The only way in which this scheme, which is being foisted upon the people, can be made solvent is by comipulsorily collecting large contributions from that section of the people least able to pay, and then refusing to confer any benefits upon them. This aspect of the scheme was fully debated some days ago when we were dealing with the position of unemployed persons, some of whom, after contributing for less than two years, will not benefit. After paying for a certain period, persons who become unemployed for a short time and then are re-employed for, say, up to 103 weeks and then again are unemployed, will be deprived of any benefit. This clause is similar, the only difference being that it relates only to women, and, instead of the period being two years, it is to cover a period of four years. Such a provision could be sponsored only by the two antifeminist Ministers in the Cabinet. On four occasions within two weeks, representatives of the Government have made statements derogatory of women. Every effort should be made to encourage marriage; if a woman who has been a contributor for four years marries and does not elect to become a voluntary contributor, she will lose all that she has paid into the scheme. In other circumstances, those who pay an additional amount will obtain only a slight benefit.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The adoption of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) would mean an additional appropriation, of Consolidated Revenue and is, therefore, not in order.
– I rise to a point of order. What evidence has the Chair that the amendment, if agreed to, would increase the appropriation?
– Refunds must be made out of Consolidated Revenue, which is made up of contributions paid under the scheme. Therefore, the amendment would have the effect of depleting the Exchequer to that extent,
– In that case, I shall move that the clause be withdrawn with a view to its being re-drafted so as to give effect to my intention.
– A motion to that effect has already been defeated.
– The honorable member may vote against the clause, but the motion for its postponement has already been dealt with.
– I am not asking that it be postponed. I am asking that it be withdrawn and re-drafted.
– There is no provision for a motion for the withdrawal of a clause. It may be postponed, agreed to, or disagreed to.
– I submit that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) should assure the committee that the fund would be involved, and that there would be expenditure out of Consolidated Revenue beyond that authorized in the message of appropriation. Until we have that assurance, I do not think the Chairman is justified in ruling as he has done.
– The amendment which was to add a new sub-clause to read -
A married woman who is not entitled to’ elect as provided in sub-section (1) of this section shall be repaid the sum of the contributions payable by her and already paid- would impose an additional burden on the budget. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that I discussed this point when I was speaking previously and I have had occasion to repeat-
– I rise to a point of order. If the amendment is to be ruled out of order on the ground that it would imposean additional burden on the budget, the Treasurer is not in order in debating the matter.
– I understand that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) desired the Treasurer to make a statement, more particularly regarding the ruling of the Chair that the amendment is out of order.
– That is not so. I asked the Treasurer to say whether or not the proposed amendment would involve a burden on the budget.
– The question, therefore, is that the clause, as amended, be agreed to.
– This clause merits further consideration. It will probably be found, if further debate is permitted, that some honorable- members, who sit behind the Government benches, will support the amendment of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker), and the Government might be induced to reconsider its attitude. The great objection to the clause as it stands is that women who are insured will, upon marriage, lose their contributions. Some provision should be made for refunding to women contributors a part, at least, of their contributions upon marriage. It is a generally recognized principle in insurance circles that, after premiums have been paid for a period of two years or more, the contributor, upon ceasing to be insured, is entitled to some refund of what he has already paid. Honorable members do not wish any section of the community to be unfairly treated, but women contributors will be unless the further consideration which has been asked for is given. We know that both the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), now sitting at the table, have expressed themselves forcibly on the subject of the status of women, and we can only draw the conclusion that they are seeking to put their opinions into effect in this measure. If the amendment is not accepted it will be proof that they have no desire to see justice done to women.
– It is impossible for me to avoid the conclusion that honorable members of the Opposition are, of set purpose, seeking to obstruct the passage of this bill.
– I rise to a point of order. The expression is offensive to me as Leader of the Opposition.
– It is quite true.
– If the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) persists in interjecting, I will name him.
– The statement that honorable members of the party which I lead are obstructing proceedings, is objectionable.
– If the Leader of the Opposition considers the statement offensive, I ask the Treasurer to withdraw it.
– Certainly I shall withdraw it, and I substitute the word “ delaying “. On almost every clause, I have had to repeat the same explanation at least three times. One honorable member of the Opposition after the other has got up and asked the same questions, and I have had to give the same answers. Therefore, it is impossible to avoid the deduction that honorable members of the Opposition are deliberately delaying the passage of the bill.
– Not deliberately.
– Yes, deliberately.
– I might say with, equal propriety that the Treasurer, himself, and his supporters are deliberately delaying the passage of the bill.
– That is not so. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has referred to refunds to women contributors’ who marry. I have already, on two occasions, given an explanation on this point. We must remember that this is not ordinary insurance. In ordinary insurance, the insured person pays the whole of the premium attributable to the risk. In this scheme an insured person pays, in the early years, about one-third of the premium, and, in the later years, not more than onequarter. Honorable members opposite have claimed that women who go out of insurance after a comparatively short period should receive a refund, but I maintain that there is no justification for that claim. The risks against which they are covered while in employment are only partially covered by their contribution. For medical, sickness and disablement benefits, the premium required to cover insured persons, even starting at the age of sixteen, is more than ls., and beyond that age the cost is greater.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has entirely mistaken the situation. It is true,- as he says, that this is not ordinary insurance; it is a system of national insurance, and has been devised because the Government believes ‘that, on the grounds of high policy, it is desirable that employees should be insured. Now, ordinary insurance leaves to the individual the right to choose whether he will insure or not, and whether or not he will pay certain contributions. This choice is not allowed to him under the Government’s scheme. He is compelled to pay. Because of the element of compulsion on the employees and knowing that it would invoke very strong political repercussions, the Government has imposed a similar obligation upon the employers, and will itself make subventions. The Government is devising this system of insurance, which contains no provision for refunds, not only for the good of the employees, but also in order to safeguard the Commonwealth against what the Government believes will, in the future, be a very large pensions hill, which at present is being met out of Consolidated Revenue. Therefore, the comparisons which the honorable gentleman makes, when they suit him, are to cite existing practices. The Treasurer said that the friendly societies gave no refunds and that nothing should be done under this scheme which the friendly societies did not do.
– If the honorable gentleman wishes to quote me, he should quote me correctly.
– In this instance the honorable gentleman cited what the friendly societies refuse to do-
-1-! stopped there.
– As justification for this Parliament refusing to do something, the honorable gentleman takes out the parts of the present practice that suit his case and when he finds that the present practice does not suit his case, he says that we should not be tied to present practice. The reason he gave is that the insurance companies collect the whole of the premium from the person insured and that in this case the premium will be divided between the insured person, his employer and the Government. It is to be collected with the object of safeguarding the Commonwealth against a high pensions bill. An extraordinary feature of this bill is the inequitable way in which the women are treated in comparison with men. Women are denied the option of continuing their contributions for the whole of the benefits which this bill contemplates, but men are not. Because there is distinction in the rights of women as against the rights of men to the benefits of this bill, there should be, I submit, some adjustment in respect of .the ‘contributions that women will make. The male employee will be able to develop equity continuously and that equity will be safeguarded by the free insurance period, but the woman is to be shut out because of marriage. A man does not lose his insurance status as the result of marriage,, but the woman does. This clause unjustly discriminates between men and women. A woman may be employed and may contribute for ten years and then marry. She is then entitled to make a voluntary contribution in order that she may have the old-age pension. She is not entitled to contri bute for any other benefits. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked whether it was a fair- thing that the Government should refuse to extend the other benefits to women if they should elect to continue to contribute towards those benefits. The argument that there is no surrender value is one-sided. The Crown has had not only her contribution but also the contribution from her employer. We shall agree to pass the clause, as amended, provided that the Treasurer undertakes to look into the practicability of some refund to the married women who will be affected by this measure. If he should find that it is practicable, then in another place a Minister acting on the Treasurer’s behalf could insert a request amendment and we could deal with it when the bill came back to us. The Treasurer has failed the committee as collaborators in working out a plan for national insurance. He says, “ Only such amendments as political interests of my supporters compel me to introduce will I ask the committee to consider “. That has been the attitude of the Treasurer. In the caucus he has agreed to make amendments to the bill, but in the Parliament of the nation he refuses even to consider amendments. That is no way for Australia to initiate a system of national insurance.
– I am sure that it is not necessary for me to tell the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) the elementary principles of insurance, but I shall do so. Insurance is the pooling of risks in which some persons draw nothing, and others draw a very great deal from the pool. In this instance the position has been narrowed down to as to whether or not women after relatively few years or any number of years of contribution should be given some refund. Many people under this measure will get many hundreds of pounds, perhaps £1,000 more than they will put into the fund. They will be the unfortunate people whose risks will have matured through death or other misfortune. Other persons will get nothing. If these people paid the whole, or even a substantial portion, of the premium relative to their risk, there would be some -case for a refund; but the women about whom we are talking will not even have paid to the pool the premium in respect of the risks that are. covered up to the time that they go. out of insurance. I submit that there can be no refunds in a measure of this sort. If refunds were allowed the Government would be faced with the need to pay a huge subsidy.
.- This clause, as I see it, is a somewhat grudging concession in certain stipulated circumstances in favour of the married women. It declares that a woman, who has been insured for not less than five years, which period I understand the Treasurer- (Mr. Casey) has agreed, under pressure, to reduce to four years, and who has ceased to be employed shall be entitled not to the full benefits of the measure hut to qualify for the old-age pension. Sub-clause 2 states that -
Except in accordance with this section, u married woman who is not insured by virtue of insurable employment shall not be insured under this act.
The Treasurer asserts that notwithstanding the words “ insured by virtue of in.surable employment “ a married woman would be entitled to the free insurance period. I support, to the best of my ability, what was said by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) about the words “by virtue of insurable employment”. It is stated emphatically by the Treasurer that that does not impinge upon what is known ;as the free insurance period which applies to persons under clauses 20 and 21 which define the rights of persons who have ceased to be employed or have ceased to be contributors. The Treasurer says, and after consultation with his legal advisers, repeats that a married woman becomes an unemployed person within the meaning of clauses 20 and 21. I challenge that statement. The honorable member for Bourke, as I understood him, contended no more than that at least it raised an issue of grave doubt. I did so because, on marriage, a woman attains a new status in law; she becomes a different person, and is treated under the bill as being a different person. To -contend . that the emphatic words “ except in accordance with this section, she shall not be insured under this act” would not be regarded in a court of law as a complete answer to those who say that, on her marriage, she ceases to be employed like any unemployed person, would be dangerous.
– The matter referred to by the honorable member has already been debated by the committee, which has substituted the words “ in pursuance of this section.”
– That does not affect my argument. I want to crave the attention, and if I may ask him for it, the opinion, of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) on this clause. The Treasurer, backed by his legal advisers, takes one view, and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) - who is, I submit, an equally respectable authority - has submitted another view. The honorable member for Bourke has at least raised a doubt, and I am inclined to accept his view. Unless the married woman, as many women have to do, goes to work in the real practical sense of that word, she cannot be insured under the bill. Any one reading the bill could not very well form any other opinion. There are many women who, unfortunately, have to go to work under the existing social system, to keep their homes together. It may be manual work by which they become money-earning.’ It is for that contingency that the bill provides, but, as it seems to imply, only for that contingency. The hill does not contemplate a woman becoming, on marriage, like the persons mentioned in clauses 20 and 21, an unemployed worker. Clauses 20 and 21 refer to the person who has had a job, but has lost the benefit of it, and is no longer a worker. I beg of the honorable member for Warringah, who, at the moment, is the only person in this chamber who enjoys the distinction of being a King’s Counsel and an eminent member of the Bar, to give the committee the benefit of his opinion on whether there is a very grave doubt as to the meaning of the words used, and whether the meaning members on this side of the committee place on them should he accepted. I make that request in all good faith. I venture to believe that the Treasurer will direct that, in another place, the matter should he considered.
He is a little “ touchy “ this afternoon, and has refused to give even a promise that the matter will be reconsidered. The responsibility rests still on the committee, and I maintain, with the utmost confidence, that if the view submitted and argued so learnedly by the honorable member for Bourke is not accepted, it at least raises an element of doubt that ought to be resolved.
– I have stated the Government’s intention clearly. I have no objection to the clause being clarified. The Parliamentary Draftsman has redrafted the clause in a form which leaves no possible room for doubt, and, as the Government’s intention is clear, I see no reason why the clause should not be amended accordingly. I therefore move -
That all the words after the word “ section in sub-clause 2 be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “a. married woman shall not be insured under this act -
unless she is engaged in insurable employment, or
except during a period of free insurance to which she is entitled under this act by virtue of insurance during such employment.”
– I think the Treasurer ought to have agreed to make that alteration a little earlier.
– The draftsman believes that the alteration is entirely unnecessary. Since the intention of the Government, as I expressed it, is clear, the alteration is in no sense a concession. The clause, as amended, will mean no more and no less than the Government intended in the first place - an intention that the draftsman, in whom I have complete faith, tells me would be given effect by the sub-clause as printed.
.- The amendment is entirely satisfactory to me. The only contention I made was that the intention of the Government ought to be placed beyond all reasonable doubt. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) himself, when explaining the position during his second-reading speech, said -
The scheme provides that a man who loses his job will be entitled to a continuity of insurance for a period varying between one and a half and two years.
Nothing in the Treasurer’s speech would lead any one to believe that the woman who had married would be entitled to a free insurance period.
– The word “man” includes “ woman “.
– I accept the Parliamentary Draftsman’s view that he regarded my suggestion as unnecessary, but another body may not regard it as unnecessary.
.- I am glad that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has moved this amendment. Although I agree with his legal advisers that the free insurance period is attracted by the words “ by virtue of insurable unemployment “, I think they are inapt words to convey the intention of the clause. When, as has happened in this instance, members of the committee, who are legal men, express a doubt as to the meaning of a clause, it does not matter whether some other legal men disagree with their view or not; it is the Government’s duty to make clear its intention. In this case, the Government has indicated that it desires to have a certain section covered and a certain benefit extended to a particular class. I should have thought that it would have taken an earlier opportunity to have the intention made manifest in the way in which the Treasurer now suggests.
.- As he has seen fit to yield a little in this matter, I ask the Treasurer, (Mr. Casey), to reconsider his decision with regard to the refunding of this class of contributions. If he cannot agree to refund the whole of the contribution, he may see fit to go halfway.
– But the woman’s contribution does not now meet the risk it is paid to cover.
– Then, logically, it would be best not to include any women who want to be married.
– This class is not carrying anything like the total medical risk for which it is covered; I am not talking about pension benefit.
– That means that women as a whole are not carrying the benefits which they will be entitled to receive; therefore, the contributions of that section which become unemployed, and will themselves be no longer able to benefit, will be used for this purpose?
– That is not so at all.
– Any woman who, within the next five years, becomes unemployed will lose whatever benefits’ she may have been entitled to in respect of her contributions. Except that she will now be entitled, under the amendment which the Treasurer has just moved, to certain free insurance benefit, her payments during the next five years will be totally lost to her.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– The words of the clause speak for themselves. Should a court be called upon to interpret the clause it will not be concerned with the meaning placed upon certain wordsby the Treasurer; it will be concerned purely with the ordinary meaning of the words used. We do not want a repetition of the incident which occurred in a certain case in which a lay attorney-general intervened and gave his opinion as to where a particular comma should have been placed, and for his pains was censured, and rightly so, by the court. Courts interpret the words of an enactment in the ordinary meaning attached to such words, and I suggest that the ordinary meaning of the words used in this instance is that apart from free insurance, a woman who has been insured for less than five years will lose all her contributions.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– And she will lose those contributions in order to assist in the balancing of the budget so far as this particular aspect of the scheme is concerned.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 26 -
Subject to this Act, contributions at the rates declared by the Parliament shall be levied and paid by the persons by whom the contributions are so declared to be payable.
– I regret that owing to ill-health I was unable to participate in the second-reading debate and to make my position clear in respect of this measure to honorable members. I wish the Government to understand clearly that unless amendments can bo made with regard to exemptions I certainly will do all I can to defeat the bill. This provision as it stands is unjust and oppressive to that section of the community composed of small employers who will be compelled to pay for the insurance of their employees although in many cases an employee will be in a better position than his employer to meet such contributions. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has described this measure as a grand national scheme designed to benefit the workers. To me it seems extraordinary how little this scheme is being appreciated by the people of Australia as a whole. I do not know how many letters of congratulation the Treasurer has received in respect of it, but I have received hundreds of telegrams and messages from all sections of the community in every part of Western Australia pointing out how difficult it will be to operate the scheme, and how it will affect many sections unjustly. I cannot understand the Government’s haste in so important a matter. Members of Parliament may be enabled to study fully the provisions of the bill, but the public is not being afforded any opportunity to realize what is involved.
– What does the honorable gentleman mean by haste?
– I point out that many bodies dealing with the administration of charities and pensions and controlling such institutions as country hospitals complain that the people generally are not acquainted with either the advantages or disadvanages of the scheme. In that respect the Government has acted with undue haste, and so far as I can see the attitude adopted by the Treasurer towards honorable members is that this is the Government’s scheme and they can take is or leave it. Consequently it is difficult for any honorable member to have an amendment accepted. Various organizations representing women and primary producers, as well as banks and commercial associations, are making serious complaints in this respect. In fact, I venture to say that the Treasurer has received very few letters of commendation on the scheme.
– I have received very many indeed.
– And I have received hundreds of protests against the scheme. In reply to certain remarks hy the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) the Treasurer heatedly pointed out that one in his position had to consider the financial aspect of the scheme from the -point of view of what burden it placed on the nation as a whole, and in that respect explained how the burden was being borne by the employers, the employees and the Government. I ask, however, who really will be obliged to bear this burden. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) is prepared to move that so far as employees are concerned the Arbitration Court should take into consideration the amounts they will be obliged to pay under the scheme.
– I was referring to the burden on the budget.
– And I am considering the burden which this scheme will place on a certain section of the people; ultimately it will fall upon the shoulders of the producers.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to S p.m. [Quorum formed.’]
– The Treasurer objected to my statement that undue haste had been displayed in dealing with this bill. I do not complain of haste so far as the Parliament is concerned, but I do submit that the electors should have an opportunity to know more about a bill of such far-reaching provisions. Honorable members, particularly those from distant States, have no opportunity to get in touch with their constituents. I have received more than 100 telegrams, and a similar number of letters, from different organizations in opposition to this measure. The Treasurer has told us that he has received numerous letters congratulating him on the introduction of the bill, ‘but I venture to suggest that they have not come from members of the medical profession or from women’s organizations.
– A good many of them have come from doctors.
– From every part of my constituency I have received complaints about the bill. It may be that some of the complaints are due to the fact that people know bo little about it. The Treasurer said that any increase of the amount to be contributed by the Government would mean an additional burden upon the taxpayers, but I submit that any additional burden will fall, not on the taxpayers generally, but only on certain sections of them. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has given notice of an amendment to provide that contributions by employees shall be taken into consideration by the Arbitration Court when fixing wages. Manufacturers will, no doubt, approach the Tariff Board for increased duties to meet additional manufacturing costs resulting from the passing of this measure. Ultimately, the burden of this scheme will fall upon the producing and the professional sections of the community. What .answer am I to give to my constituents, 3,000 of whom are farmers who for several years have contended against low prices and drought conditions? Most of them do not enjoy an income of anything like £200 a year, yet they will be asked to contribute ls. 6d. a week towards the insurance of employees, many of whom are in a better position than they are. Others who will be called upon to pay contributions in respect of their employees are small road contractors who are fighting hard to make a living. Orchardists, poultry farmers, small tradesmen and employers ‘with incomes of less than £208 a year should be exempt from the necessity to pay contributions on behalf of their employees. Men who will have great difficulty in paying for medical services to themselves and their families should not be compelled to pay for such services to others. A national scheme of insurance should be generous, not only to employees, but also to others. Is it right that an honorable member of this Parliament who, like myself, receives £1,000 a year, apart from any other income he might enjoy, should be exempted from contributing to this scheme, merely because he is not an employer of labour? Others in the community who draw interest on bonds will not be required to pay, except insofar as they contribute to the Government’s payments as taxpayers.
A scheme of insurance whereby employers, employees, and the State, contribute to a common fund may have been all right in Germany in the days of Bismarck, before cartels and other agreements for the control of prices had become general, but since then industry has become organized, and manufacturers will be a’ble to pass on to others the cost of their contribution. I therefore move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “ and refunds of contributions may he made in accordance with conditions declared by the Parliament.”
The object of the amendment is to exempt employers with an income of less than £208 a year from the necessity to make contributions in respect of the insurance of employees.
– The bill, as drawn, makes no provision for the refund of contributions. All contributions are appropriated by the bill for the purpose of providing benefits which it insures to contributors. If inroads are made upon the amounts collected, either by refunds or otherwise, there will be a deficiency in the fund, which will then be unable to meet the obligations of the Commonwealth under the bill, and such deficiency will have to be made up by a further charge upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That charge is outside the scope of the message received from His Excellency the Administrator. Therefore, I rule that the amendment is out of order.
– I have no intention to dissent from your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I submit tha t my suggestion, if agreed to, would have the effect of reducing taxation. I realize that, in accordance with rulings previously given, an amendment moved with the object of reducing taxes may bc construed to mean the opposite, and, accordingly, may be ruled out of order, but I submit that that is a wrong procedure. However, in view of your ruling, I now move -
That the clause he postponed.
I do so for the purpose of enabling further consideration to be given to this provision. Should my amendment not be agreed to, I wish it to be clearly understood that I shall do all in my power to destroy the bill. I am prepared to accept any risk that may be associated with my action.
.- The statement of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that many farmers do not receive £200 a year may be confirmed by a reference to the returns in relation to income tax paid by farmers. In South Australia and Western Australia, at least 90 per cent, of the wheat farmers do not average £200 a year. Of 12,000 farmers in the latter State, 3,000 have gone off their farms during the last four years. I agree that employees should be covered for insurance purposes, but I point out that the obligation on the part of employers to make contributions on their behalf will present a serious problem to many farmers. Hundreds of young men who have found it impossible to obtain work during recent years hare gone to work in country districts rather than exist on the dole in the cities. Their position will bo made worse than it now is. The struggles of these men on the land arc unknown to most city dwellers. The effect of this bill may easily be to encourage dishonesty among people who are now struggling to make a living; it may lead to .agreements between employers and employees for the latter to accept a reduction of wages by ls. 6d. a week. To-day the wheat-growing industry is not sufficiently sound to permit employers to pay unless there is an understanding that employees will sell their labour for ls. 6d. a week less than the present rates. As requested by the honorable member for Swan, in these cases the ls. 6d. a week should be paid by the Government.
– I rise to a point of order. I respectfully submit that the Chairman’s ruling is based on wrong premises, inasmuch as it States that the acceptance of the amendment would increase the appropriation, and thereby make a further charge upon the Consolidated Revenue. I submit that it would do no such thing. Whatever costs may be added, or whatever contributions may bo deducted, the effect will be equivalent to reducing the surplus of contributions over expenditure. If the reserves he reduced they will be reduced by virtue of fewer contributions. The position is clear from an accountancy point of view.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order! The time for taking a point of order on my ruling has passed.
– I dissent from your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I endeavoured at the appropriate time to take my point of order, but the Chair did not hear me.
– The Chair heard no call on a point of order. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) was on his feet, and said that he did not wish to move dissent from the ruling and, therefore, moved that the clause be postponed. That question was stated, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) received the call, and I marked down the name of the honorable member for Darling Downs for the next call. ^ Standing Order No. 22S provides -
If any objection in taken to a ruling or decision of the Chairman of Committees, such objection shall be stated at once in writing and may forthwith bc decided by the committee; . . .
The honorable member’s objection w:as not stated at once.
– I desire to associate myself with the statements made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). The justification of the claim put forward by him must be apparent to every fair-minded person in this chamber. This bill, which, to my mind, is wrongly named a national insurance bill, is nothing other than an employees’ bill, and a partial-employees’ bill at that. If analysed carefully, this bill states to the people of Australia that a person who does not enjoy an income limit of more than £365 a year cannot afford to protect himself adequately against sickness or any form of disability, and cannot provide an annuity - it cannot be called a pension - for himself or, in the event of his death, his widow and children. On the same line of reasoning, surely it must appeal to honorable members that small employers, who are virtually only workers of the same class as the employees, cannot afford to make adequate provision for themselves if their income limit is less than £208 per annum. I submit that the request to exempt employers whose income is less than £208 per annum is a very reasonable one, and requires no elaboration or amplification. The justice of the claim is evident. When the inequity of the clause is so glaringly presented, and the anomalies so definitely established, surely no financial considerations should prevent the Government from giving justice to those employers who are in receipt of incomes less than are paid to their employees on whose behalf they will have to contribute. There is no need to mention the effect of this bill on those engaged in various industries which are detrimentally affected because of seasonal conditions and export prices. Consequently, it is only fair and reasonable that employers with an income of less than £208 per annum should not be compelled to contribute on behalf of employees for benefits which they themselves cannot afford. I remind honorable members that the gravest, most costly, and most disturbing problem, with which this country has been faced in recent years has been the problem of employment. Are we to penalize the very people who have made a substantial contribution towards a solution of that costly problem and, at the same time, have rendered great service to the nation by carrying on desirable export industries which have established for Australia valuable credits overseas?
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). I know of hundreds of fruit-growers who, during the last five or six years, have not been making as much a3- their employees. Some fruit-growers during certain periods of the year are obliged to go out and work for other farmers, and may be classed as employees as well as employers. Others who, in good seasons, were able to save a few pounds, now find after five unprofitable years that their savings are practically exhausted. Though they have continued to give employment to workers who have been with them for as many as 20 or 30 years, for some time past many of them have been drawing less than their employees. I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that many people engaged in primary production are carrying heavy mortgages on their properties. I know of some fruit-growers who have secured advances against their next season’s crop rather than dismiss employees who have been with them for a number of years. These are the men who will be penalized under this bill; although many of them do not earn as much as their employees, they are to be compelled to contribute ls. 6d. a week in respect of each employee. Under this bill, both the employer and employee will be penalized.. The bill should be withdrawn and re-drafted. I am glad that honorable members of the Country party are honouring the .promise they made during the second-reading debate, that they would seek to make the measure more just to the small employer. In this they will have the support of honorable members of the Opposition. Primary producers are recognized throughout the world as the backbone of any country. If farmers are compelled to dismiss their employees, the ranks of the unemployed will be greater than ever before because in every country the primary industries employ more men than any other industry. At a dinner at which I was present in England, the question was asked as to what industry employs the most hands. In reply, a member of the British Parliament said that, unquestionably, the primary producers employed the most hands. After several unprofitable seasons since the depression years, primary producers with small incomes will be compelled to contribute to the national insurance fund in respect of their employees, and thereby may, themselves, be forced on to the labour market.
.- I understand that the proposal is that those employers in receipt of an income of less than £208 a year should not have to make contributions to the insurance fund in respect of their employees, and that such contributions shall be made by the Government. I heartily endorse that proposal. In the Sutherland, Liverpool, Campbelltown, Mittagong and Camden districts in my electorate numerous small poultry farmers are struggling to eke out a living following a period of unemployment during the depression years. They are forced to employ labour, and although they are in receipt of small incomes, they will be compelled under this bill to contribute to the insurance fund in respect of those employees. This bill will place on their shoulders a burden which they will not ,he able to carry. As the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) has pointed out, it is postulated in this bill that’ any body in receipt of an income of less than £365 cannot provide medical benefits for himself and his dependants. Although many of these small farmers are making a bare living they will have to provide not only for their own health requirements, but also for those of other people. A large number of small poultry farmers who have endeavoured to establish themselves in small businesses, after having abandoned their usual avocations prior to the depression, have objected to the additional burden contemplated by this bill being imposed upon them. It is all very well to say that for each employee the contribution will be only ls. 6d. a week; the fact must bc remembered that this additional charge on their earnings will impose real hardship. Not so long ago, owing to a rise of the price of wheat many poultry farmers nearly went “ broke “ because they could not pay the increased price for poultry feed. What relieved one industry nearly knocked another out of existence. Although the Government has often come to the assistance of the wheat farmers and some of the larger fruit growers, nothing has ever been done for the small poultry farmers and market gardeners, whose life in present circumstances is almost slavery. These people are worthy of consideration. I want it to be understood that I am not speaking on behalf of a class of people who support me; quite a number of them are my political opponents; nevertheless, justice demands that they should receive very sympathetic consideration. I have no doubt that if the additional burden contemplated by this bill be placed upon them, many of them will be forced out of business and will again be thrown on the labour market. For these reasons I give my hearty support to the plea raised on their behalf by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and I urge upon the Government the desirability of shouldering responsibility for their contributions.
– I was not present when the honorable mem- ber for Swan (Mr. Gregory) spoke to this clause, but I have ascertained the substance of his ‘ remarks, and I support them. I also support everything that has been said in regard to the position of the primary producers, not only those engaged in the wheat industry, in respect of which I have very considerable knowledge, but also the dairy farmers and others who will ‘be hard hit by having to contribute on behalf of their employees to the national insurance fund. At present, drought conditions are threatening the wheat areas of Australia. Many producers have not yet recovered from the depression and are still carrying a load of debt acquired during the depression years. Many wheat-growers, to my own personal knowledge, have only in the last couple of years been able to liquidate their debts to workers whom they had continued in employment. To load those people with a further liability will be merely to impose a definite injustice on a. long-suffering section of the community. However, I do not intend to labour the point. I shall support the amendment.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) to postpone consideration of the clause until such time as the issue which he has raised has been settled. A great many small primary producers and other small employers whose incomes do not exceed £208 a year will be hard hit if the clause be passed in its present form. It has been suggested that they may be given a rebate of the amounts which they pay. Why cannot their exemption be provided in the bill and thus avoid the infliction of unnecessary hardship upon them ?
– I appeal to the Treasurer to give consideration to the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory).” No harm can result from the postponement of the clause in order that the Government may examine the proposal outlined by the honorable gentleman. The Treasurer can, without loss of dignity, accept the amendment in view of the fact that payment of contributions will mean so much to such a large number of small primary producers. All that the honorable member asks is that provision be inserted in the bill- to exempt from the obligation to pay contributions small employers whose income is less than £208 a year. Many primary producers, although at times they may have to employ casual labour, have incomes of even less than £100 a year. It is unreasonable to expect members of tlie Country party to accept, without a strong protest, any scheme which requires small employers to’ pay contributions in respect of their employees when they may be in a low financial position due to circumstances over which they have no control. A great many small farmers already find it extremely difficult to finance their operations, without having imposed upon them this additional obligation.
– Unfortunately I was absent from the chamber when the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) moved his amendment, but I understand that; he has moved that the clause be postponed.
– As an instruction to the Government to re-draft it so as to exempt small employers from the payment of contributions.
– The Leader of the Opposition might be good enough to allow the Chairman to state the position.
– The honorable member for Swan has moved that the clause be postponed. I ruled his earlier amendment out of order.
– On behalf of the Government, I agree to the postponement of the-clause.
.- Now that the Government hus abandoned the actuarial calculations upon which the scheme is based, and we are no longer to be guided by the opinions of these experts who have been advising the Minister in connexion with this proposal, it is only fair, seeing that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has intimated the Government’s willingness to exempt from the payment of contributions primary producers whose income does not exceed £20S a year, that other small business men and workers should also be similarly treated.
– All small employers are included in the suggested amendment.
– It is as well to have this matter cleared up. The Government would be wise to. agree to the suggested amendment, and in view of what honorable members of the Country party said earlier with respect to the effect of amendments on the actuarial basis of the scheme, the whole of the provisions of this measure should be redrafted. Let us consider the position of the worker. The scheme, which is spoken of as a national insurance proposal, is to be financed by contributions from employees, employers and the Government. If, by any basic alteration, the proportion to be paid by employers is reduced, it follows that the total amount to bo obtained from employees or from the Government must be correspondingly increased. This increased amount, if met out of Government funds, will have to be raised by direct or indirect taxes levied upon the community in general. I have shown that if relief is to be given to a certain section of employers, the burden on employees will be increased. I should like the Treasurer to tell us what the Government proposes to do. If it is right to exempt from payment of contributions the small farmer employers whose income does not exceed £208 a year, it is equally right to exempt from payment workers whose income is not any greater. There is no doubt in my mind that this is another instance of members -of the Country party, because they can decide the fate of the Government, forcing the Government to amend its legislation as they wish. They have forced the Treasurer to accept this suggested amendment despite the fact that earlier in the discussion Ministerial supporters declared that any material alteration, such as has now been suggested, would destroy the actuarial basis of the scheme. Members of the Labour party have been consistent all through the debate on this bill. There has never been any doubt about my position. I made it clear that I would vote for any proposal which I believed would destroy the bill because I am convinced that it has no merit. The Labour party can consistently vote against any of these pro visions, but members of the Country party are not in the same position.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the merits of the various parties.
– There is no need to- do that, because the Labour party has all the merits and the Country party none. Whenever the particular interests of the class which holds in its hands the political fate of the Country party members are threatened, they are ready to vote for any proposal, even if it will jeopardize the interests of the community in general.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks to the motion before the chair.
– Now that the Treasurer has accepted the ultimatum from the Country party and has agreed to postpone consideration of this clause, I should like to know if it will be re-drafted so as to include provisions that will extend the proposed exemption of small employers to workers whose income does not exceed £208 a year. The Treasurer is always pretty glib when he is called upon to explain certain aspects of bills which are not quite satisfactory to Government supporters, hut he is not so successful when he offers explanations to members of the Labour party. We were told earlier in the -discussion that certain amendments would upset the actuarial calculations upon which the scheme had been founded, and on that ground amendments proposed from this side were ruled out of order. I should now like the Treasurer to explain how he can accept this proposed amendment, because if the clause is re-drafted in the way indicated it will involve a considerable increase of the amount to be provided from Government funds to make good the loss of revenue due to the exemption of a certain section of employers.
– It would be as well to remind the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that the Government has not accepted any proposed amendment of the clause, so the honorable gentleman’s remarks are entirely irrelevant. All that the Government has done is to agree to the postponement of the clause.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has agreed to the postponement of the clause which is the whole substance of the bill.
– It is not.
– This clause puts the insurance scheme on a contributory basis. To remove any doubt as to its purpose I shall read it.
Subject to this act, contributions at the rates declared by the Parliament shall be levied and paid by the persons by whom the contributions are so declared to be payable.
– That is self-evident, is it not?
– What does the Treasurer propose to do in respect of the succeeding clauses in Part IV., all of which are consequent upon clause 26? Does he propose to reconsider them ?
– I have had them examined. Surely the honorable gentleman does not think I am fool enough not to have taken that precaution.
– I would be the last to make any such suggestion with reference to the honorable gentleman, but I do say most emphatically that he has just now made an abject surrender to the influences which have been operating upon him ever since this bill was introduced. He has agreed to defer consideration of this clause, and by doing so has placed in jeopardy the principle of contributory insurance, because, should he decide to exempt certain employers from the obligation to pay contributions under this insurance system, there will exist the extraordinary anomaly of some employers being obliged to contribute under another bill for the insurance of their employees while certain other employers will be exempt from such an obligation.
– The honorable gentleman is assuming too much.
– The Minister is either humbugging the honorable member for Swan, or he is engaged -
– He is waiting for reinforcements.
– That is so. I can understand his agreeing to the postponement of the clause, but, having decided on that course, he ought to report pro gress, and deliberate upon the bill as it would be affected by any decision that the Government might reach regarding the re-drafting of clause 26. If that clause is not to be re-shaped, we ought to continue the consideration of the bill.
– What of clause 4 which also was postponed?
– That is merely the definition clause, every one of the definitions being dependent upon what is done with the subsequent clauses.
– The other clauses depend on the definitions.
-No; until the clauses are passed, we should not commit ourselves to the definitions. The Treasurer has decided to defer clause 26, because he believes that he cannot get it passed to-night, and, if he attempted to do so would have to accept defeat at the hands of the committee. If the Treasurer does not alter clause 26, he will merely have secured a victory over the honorable member for Swan, by postponing a decision until a division can be taken at a time when the honorable member and his supporters will probably be in a minority. That may be clever politics, but a Government that accuses the Opposition of delaying and obstructing this legislation can no longer advance that plea, when it finds that it is inconvenient to accept a decision on the various clauses in their proper sequence. What is the reason for deciding to reconsider clause 26? There must be a reason for it.
– To postpone it.
– If the Minister says that there is no other reason than the desire to postpone it, that it is not for the purpose of deliberating upon it, nor to consider the representations of honorable gentlemen of the Country party and see whether he can effect some approach to their position and reconcile those whom he now believes to be potential antagonists of the measure, then he placards himself as an obstructionist.
– ‘What is the motion? I do not refer to the motion which the honorable gentleman put into the mouth of the Chairman, but “the” motion.
– The honorable member for Swan moved to add “ and refunds of contributions may be made in accordance with the conditions declaredby the Parliament.”
– Be fair. That was ruled out of order by the Chairman. What is the motion now before the committee?
– To the honorable gentleman, I reply -
I’ would live long enough to know The worth and fairness of my foe; But never long enough to say One was my friend but yesterday.
I shall -not get angry over this matter. The Treasurer knows that the honorable member for Swan moved that the clause be postponed, hoping that by the carrying of that motion-
– What was the motion?
– The Chairman of the Committee put the question “ That the clause be postponed “. The Minister did not agree to its postponement, merely because it would be nice and pleasant to do so. The Treasurer, in agreeing to the re-consideration of this clause, has justified its postponement; but, if he has not agreed to its re-consideration, there can be no possible justification for its postponement.
I ask him, when re-considering the clause, as I am sure he will, despite anything that may be said by anybody else, to take into account the incidence of the contributions which would otherwise be payable under clause 26 as drafted. Thousands of workers are not required, under the normal taxation measures passed by this Parliament, to make any contribution to the Consolidated Revenue, but clause 26, as drawn, will make them contributors to the Consolidated Revenue, because the Treasurer has said that, if we increase thebenefits provided under the bill, it will be necessary to draw from the Consolidated Revenue by reason of the increase, of the appropriation. Therefore, the contributions specified under clause 26 will be contributions to the Consolidated Revenue Fund by employees and employers. The honorable member for Swan, I think quite properly, wishes to exempt from such contributions, certain employers. If he could not procure their exemption, he desired that they should be given a refund of their contributions.
Similarly, there are categories of workers whose circumstances compel them to accept employment at low wages. They are employed in the very industries that the honorable gentleman had in mind when he was seeking to exempt the employers. The returns of the rural industry employer are, we know, unsatisfactory and precarious. But we also know that the wages paid to the rural labourer are low, in comparison with those paid generally in industry, throughout Australia. The very uncertainty of the conditions in rural industries, the depression through which these men have passed, and their prospect as the result of the regression of prices, affect not only the capacity of the employer, but equally the capacity of his employees, to pay these contributions. The clause, as drawn, obliges the employer to pay1s. 6d. a week on behalf of each of his employees, and also obliges each employee to pay1s. 6d. a week, but despite the fact that the bill is said to be drawn in the national interest, it is not proposed to tax other sections of the Australian people who have an equal responsibility in respect of the financing of all measures which can be truly described as being in the national interest.
The Treasurer should take into account the incidence of taxation, in his reconsideration of clause 26. Our objection to the exemption of the rentier class from contributions in this connexion should be considered when deciding how far he will make refunds in respect of the contributions paid by employers in the rural industries. Obviously the gap will have to be filled, for it will not be contemplated, I hope, that the employees will be shut out from the benefits of the legislation, though the employers may be given a refund of their contributions. That refund will have to be met out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and, to replenish that fund, the Treasurer will have to get resources from somewhere. I suggest to him that it is fair and proper that national obligations should be carried by the individual citizens of the community on the principle that those who have the greatest ability to pay should be called upon to contribute the most. Just as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) pointed out that some employers cannot alford to pay this tax, so there are others so fortunately circumstanced as to be able to pay, and they ought to be called upon to do so. If insurance is an averaging of risks, as the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) has so well described it, then the insurance of Australians for a health service ought to be an averaging, so far as the obligation goes, of the resources and incomes of the people. The exclusion of the rentier class from an obligation of this kind seems ridiculous. A farmer who sells his produce through a commission agent may employ 20 or 30 men during a year. The commission agent may be making £2,000 or £3,000 a year, and only employing one or two persons. If he has only two employees, his contributions under this bill would not exceed 3s. a week; but a farmer who employs 20 men would be taxed to the extent of 30s. a week. The inequity of this tax must be at once manifest to members of the Country party and to the people generally. We submit that there ought to be in any reconsideration of this clause a full examination of its incidence as an instrument of taxation, for the clause is essentially drawn as a taxing device. The word “ contributions “ is used, but, in effect, there is to be a flat rate of tax equivalent to a poll tax on the employee of ls. 6d. a week, and on the employer ls. 6d. a week in respect of each of his employees. The more an employer extends his business, tlie more enterprising he is, the more eagerness he displays to help the Government to establish new industries, the greater will be the penalty imposed upon him, whilst those engaged in a variety of occupations not associated with employment as such, of whom we could name quite a number, and who, we know, have very large incomes, will escape this tax. The governor of the Commonwealth Bank, the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales, the general managers of large insurance companies and oil companies, and others who are in receipt of salaries of from £4,000 to £5,000 a year, because they are experts, would contribute nothing under clause 26 a6 drawn : but the workers, regardless of the smallness of their wages, or employers regardless of how low their profits might be, would be separately taxed in order that this scheme might be launched. Therefore, in the review of clause 26, the Treasurer should have regard to the facts I have mentioned.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has made an admirable political speech. I asked him across the table the simple question, “ What was the motion?” and the honorable gentleman refused sturdily to enlighten my darkness in that respect.
– Nothing but a quibble.
– Not at all. The honorable member who interjects knows a good deal about quibbles. I asked the Leader of the Opposition what the motion was, and now I ask you, Mr. Chairman, if you will tell the committee what the motion now before us is.
– The question now before the Chair is, “ That clause 26 be postponed “.
– The Leader of the Opposition attempted to put into your mouth, Mr. Chairman, and into the mouths of other honorable members, something other than the motion which is formally before the committee at the moment. Although he normally shows courtesy to me by answering my questions across the table, on this occasion he avoided answering the question which I put to him.
– I did answer it. I said that the honorable member for Swan had moved for the postponement of the clause, because he had been unable to move an amendment of which he had given notice.
– The simple, direct answer to the question, as the Leader of the Opposition knows very well, is “ That the clause be postponed “. The honorable gentleman’s political peroration was therefore based on his own imaginings. His purpose, as the Leader of the Opposition, is to advance his own political ends. His duty, as Leader of the Opposition, is to oppose the Government’s proposals, and to drive a wedge between Government supporters.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have said on many occasions that their only interest in this matter is to defeat the Government.’ They certainly are not interested in the Country party unless they can use them in a situation to the advantage of their own party and the embarrassment of the Government. That is common knowledge to all honorable members. This is the only occasion in this discussion on which the Leader of the Opposition has refused to answer a simple question across the table. He has side-stepped this issue in every possible way. Now we have the truth from the Chairman of Committees.
– Why did the Treasurer agree to the postponement of the clause?
– That is my affair.
– It is also our affair.
.- If the subject were not so serious the Treasurer’s quibble would be amusing. I cannot imagine that the honorable gentleman was in the chamber when the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) delivered his speech, the whole tenor of which was that it was iniquitous to call upon small employers in receipt of less than £208 per annum to contribute1s. 6d. a week in respect of each of their employees. The honorable member said that his object was to secure the exemption of small employers from this liability. His amendment was ruled out of order on the ground that it would increase the appropriation. The honorable member then took the only other course open to him to attain his object. He moved “ That the clause be postponed,” as an instruction to the Government to introduce an amendment to provide that these particular employers should be exempt from this weekly contribution.
– He said that he would destroy the bill if it were not carried.
– That is so. I listened with interest and approval to the speeches made by honorable members of the Country party in support of the contention of the honorable member for Swan that it would be unfair to force small employers in receipt of less than £208 per annum to make this contribution. The Treasurer no doubt counted the heads and came to the conclusion that if the motion went to the vote the Government would be defeated, and he agreed’ to a postponement of the clause ; but he now states that there was no instruction behind the amendment. Such a contention is absurd. As the representative of a large constituency of primary producers, I know very well that many primary producers engaged in small-scale operations actually receive less than £208 per annum. The overwhelming majority of them get far less than the basic wage. The last annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation for Queensland stated that out of more than 20,000 dairy farmers in Queensland only 717, or 1 in 28, earned income from personal exertion and/or property sufficient to oblige them to pay State income tax. Some honorable gentlemen opposite have said that Queensland is the most heavily taxed State in Australia. I question the truth of that statement, but in any case what is true ofQueensland dairy farmers and primary producers generally, is true also of those in other States. These unfortunate people have to depend upon seasonal conditions and also a fluctuating market for their products. They probably employ from one to, say, a dozen hands during the year for seasonal periods; but very often their own income is less than £208 per annum. To call upon these people to pay this tax and to exempt the rentier class, many of whom receive huge incomes, would be deplorable. Why should individuals whose salaries range from £4,000 to £8,000 per annum be exempt from this contribution, while small employers, struggling primary producers and small shopkeepers will be obliged to pay the tax without getting any benefit whatever? The purpose of this clause is really to impose a poll-tax of £3 18s. per annum on small employers in respect of every person employed by them. A similar tax is to be imposed upon the employees. It would be inequitable to force these unfortunate employers to pay this tax and allow the rentier class to go free, notwithstanding the fact that many of them receive large incomes from interest, rents and other sources. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has undoubtedly moved his amendment as an instruction to the Government to re-cast the clause, so that small employers of labour shall be exempt from this obligation. Surely no one will deny that a vote in favour of postponement carries with it that implication. It may even be said to imply the rc-casting of the .heart of the bill - or the casting out of it ! If the clause be retained in its present form an injustice will certainly be perpetrated, for many small employers in receipt of less than the basic wage will be heavily taxed. It seems to me that these people have been “let down” by the representatives of the Country party in the Cabinet. It will, therefore be interesting to “see whether the rank and file of the Country party in this chamber will condone this action.
– I have witnessed “a scene in this chamber to-night the like of which I have never witnessed before. The amendment before the Chair, as I understand it, is “ That the clause be postponed The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was most insistent that the precise terms of the motion should be stated, and even re-stated, from the Chair. In fact, had the motion been repeated by a less exalted person than yourself, Mr. Chairman, it must have been regarded as tedious repetition. Clauses have been postponed on many occasions in this chamber, and the argument used in advocating such a course has invariably been directed to what was involved in the postponement. An instruction has always been given to the Government in such cases as to what should be done.
– No instruction was given in this instance.
– -I disagree with the Acting Minister. On previous occasions when motions have been moved for the postponement of clauses of this bill, the Treasurer has not complained about the waste of time involved, but has invariably addressed himself to the reasons advanced in favour of postponement. This motion “ That the clause be postponed “ was moved in precisely the same spirit as previous motions of the same description, and in conformity with many excellent precedents. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), after submitting his amendment, intimated that he was not surprised by the view the Chairman of Committees had taken of it. He even said that he expected such a ruling, but he added that as his amendment was declared to be out . of order he had to take the only course open to him to secure the end that he desired, and so he moved “ That the clause be postponed “. He further said that if his view were not accepted by the committee on this point, he would oppose the bill to the very utmost of his power. What occurred subsequently? When the motion for the postponement of the clause was moved, no member of either the United Australia party or the Labour party rose to speak. The speeches all came from the Country party corner, and they were directed to the substance of the amendment. As one after another of the Country party representatives rose the Treasurer ticked them off on his fingers, and when a sufficient number had risen to show him that it was impossible for the Government to avoid defeat on the issue, he said “I agree to the postponement”. This, of course, i3 a vital clause of the bill. I remind the Treasurer that whereas the speeches on this subject have ali come from the Country party corner, when a similar move is made a little later to exempt small shopkeepers, the speeches directed to that end will be delivered by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who hurried across the chamber to tell the Treasurer to “pull out”. The pressure that will then be brought upon the Treasurer will be increased onehundredfold. The bill is doomed, and the Treasurer knows it.
.- The speeches delivered on this subject to-night have been most interesting, more particularly as this is a major clause of the bill. It is obvious that the Government has been defeated, although no vote has been taken. If the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is prepared to take the situation which he now faces as other than an instruction to make a fundamental alteration proposed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. .Gregory) his conduct can only be characterized as gross political chicanery. Honorable members are aware that the only method by which an amendment can be moved to this bill ‘ is by submitting a motion “ That the clause be withdrawn “, or “ That the clause be postponed “. Such a motion has been submitted on quite a number of clauses. Even when a clause is postponed for a specific purpose, the records merely show that the clause has. been postponed. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) said that he was not present when the amendment was submitted, hut when speaking earlier today on a previous clause, he accused me of being absent during a portion of the debate. The Minister was absent because he was attending a party meeting which was held between 7.30 and S p.m.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the clause.
– The supporters of the Government were holding a meeting at which they were to decide how they were to vote on this clause, and when the bells rang at 8 o’clock, many honorable members of the Opposition were in their places, but only about two supporters of the Government were present.
– Order ! I again ask the honorable member to discuss the clause.
– Am I in order in saying that the Treasurer, in interpreting the motion to postpone the clause, indulged only in specious reasoning?
– The honorable member’s remarks are now in order.
– During the debate on the clause, there was considerable activity, amounting almost to consternation, amongst Government supporters. Some honorable members of the Country party were opposed to the clause, but said that they would support its postponement. As only two honorable members on this side of the chamber debated this ‘provision, we cannot be accused of stone-walling. The Government Whip was busy, and even the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), who is so over-worked that a Minister to assist him has been suggested, was helping to whip up the Government supporters.
– If the honorable member persists in disregarding the direction of the Chair, I shall order him to resume his seat.
– I was merely saying that the Minister for Defence was assisting the Government Whip in an endeavour-
– The honorable member for Griffith will resume his seat.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has moved an amendment which, if agreed to, is to be regarded as an instruction to the Government to exempt small farmers, graziers and business men whose income is less than £208 a year from contributing to this scheme in respect of employees. I support the proposal of the honorable member because I also believe that all parttime workers, particularly those receiving less than the basic wage, should not be expected to pay ls. 6d. a week. It has been said from time to time that the operation of a contributory system is most inequitable, particularly as men working for part-time and receiving only perhaps £1 or £1 10s. a week will have to pay the same contribution as men who may be earning £10 a week. If the clause be postponed, I trust that all those whose income is less than £208 a year will be exempt from contributions to this scheme. [Quorum formed.]
Clause 27 (Contributions by voluntary contributors).
.- In view of the fact that this clause relates to voluntary contributions and certain subsequent clauses deal with contributions by juveniles, I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to. report progress at this stage. Up .to the present the committee lias not agreed to any clause which provides that contributions be levied, and therefore no clause has been agreed to for levying contributions or for laying it clown specifically that they shall be paid by the persons by whom it is declared that they shall be payable. In these circumstances it would appear that the principle of the bill has not been agreed to by the committee; therefore the other clauses which are derivatives of clause 26 ought to be deferred until the Government has decided what it proposes to do’ with that clause. The Treasurer must have agreed to the postponement of previous clauses for reasons which we shall be told about later, and until clause 26 is dealt with the bill should not be considered further. The Treasurer can tell the committee to-morrow what he proposes to do in respect of clause 26.
– The other clauses are not dependent upon clause 26. ‘Clauses 27 and 28 deal with voluntary contributions in respect of which no compulsion will be exercised.
– What of clauses 29 and 30?
– Clause 29 relates to juvenile contributors. There is no reason whatever why progress should be reported at this stage.
.- I move -
That the clause be postponed.
If the motion be agreed to it shall be regarded as an instruction to the Government to give further consideration to the rates of contributions from voluntary contributors.
The Treasurer has said that there will be no compulsion upon the persons covered by this clause to make any contribution. It seems rather contradictory on the part of the Treasurer to agree to the postponement of a previous clause so that provision may be made for the exemption from payment of contributions of certain persons receiving small incomes, while at the same time he is prepared to impose the full penalty upon voluntary contributors who in many cases will be persons who, at the time they become voluntary contributors, will not be receiving any income whatever. It is easy for the Treasurer to say that it will not be compulsory for any person other than those engaged in insurable employment to come under this scheme; but there will be instances of persons who have paid into the scheme for a number of years, finding that they will eitherhave to continue as voluntary contributors or sacrifice the money which they have already paid compulsorily. Thus a form of compulsion is exercised upon a section who will come under the scheme compulsorily, and who for various reasons have left the insured field, to continue membership as voluntary contributors. For that reason I think it unfair that the Government should agree to exempt certain employers and small farmers whose incomes do not exceed £208 per annum, and at the same time be proposing a clause under which a penalty of 3s. a week will be imposed on persons who are without any income but who wish to continue in the scheme, a large number of whom may probably have been contributing for many years.’ The committee having agreed to the postponement of clause 26 for the purpose of giving the Government an opportunity to carry out certain instructions of the Country party, should, if it wishes, to be consistent, also agree to the postponement of this clause. Voluntary contributors, who at the time may not be earning any income whatever, will have to meet their contributions out of the savings made when they were employed, or by means of the assistance granted to them by friends or relatives.
. -The remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) are quite irrelevant to the clause, which merely sets out its relation to the first and second paragraphs of part 1 of the second schedule in respect of contributions.
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Ward’s amendment) .
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority .. . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 28 agreed to.
Clause 29 postponed.
Clause 30 (Continuance of liability to pay contributions).
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has just given a demonstration of consistency by moving that clause 29 be deferred because it is relevant to a previous clause which had been postponed. I maintain that clause 30 is relevant to clause 26, which also has been postponed. Subclause 2 of clause 30 is as follows: -
Surely the Treasurer does not suggest that that sub-clause has no relation to clause 26? I am opposed to this subclause, and I suggest that the whole clause be postponed. The effect of subclause 2 would be to place a penalty on the employer who keeps in his employ a person who has attained the maximum age. The employer of a person who would be eligible to draw the old-age pension, but decides to continue in work, would, under this clause, have to continue making contributions to the fund. What is the purpose of this provision?
. -Clause 30 reads as follows:-
Thus, an insured man, at the age of 65, or an insured woman at the age of 60, will cease to contribute under the scheme, but his or her employer will be obliged to continue making contributions so long as the insured person remains in employment. The purpose is to avoid differentiation in favour of any class of employees. If this provision did not exist, the tendency might be for employers to employ persons of pensionable age to the exclusion of others.
.- The only logical course for the Government to pursue, after the postponement of clause 26, is to postpone all those clauses in Part IV. of the bill which relate to compulsory contributions. Clause 26 states -
Subject to this act, contributions at the rates declared by the Parliament shall be levied and paid by the persons by whom the contributions are so declared to be payable.
The bill provides for compulsory contributions, and for voluntary contributions, the latter by persons who choose to continue contributing after they are no longer required to do so. This bill does not prescribe the rates of contribution because that, presumably, ‘would be contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. The rates must be set out in a separate measure, in respect of which the appropriate resolutions had been moved in Committees of Ways and Means. Clause 26, which embodies the principle of compulsory contributions, though not the rates, has been postponed, and, therefore, Parliament has not approvedof the principle of levying contributions from anybody. It is only logical, in the circumstances, to postpone all those clauses which relate to the levying of compulsory contributions, until we have decided whether they shall be levied by compulsion, how they shall be levied, and what exemptions shall be recognized. The agreement of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to postpone clause 26 had no meaning if it did not imply that favorable consideration would be given to the proposition put forward by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in support of his motion for postponement. The Government has already refused to accept motions from honorable members on this side of the House for the postponement of clauses because it did not agree with the purpose behind the motions. In this instance, presumably, the Government does agree with the purpose behind the motion of the honorable member for Swan, namely, that certain classes of employers should be altogether exempt from the making of contributions. When the honorable member was told that an amendment to this effect would be out of order, he moved that the clause be postponed, and the Government, after honorable members had addressed themselves in support of the mover, agreed. It could have done so only for one of two reasons - either to gain time, or because it had decided to accept the honorable member’s proposal. I do not think that it was actuated merely by desire to gain time, because I cannot see that there is any possibility of its getting the numbers to defeat the proposal of the honorable member for Swan and his supporters. Therefore, the Government could only have meant that it was prepared to consider how far it could go in the direction to acceding to the proposal of the honorable member for Swan, and the postponement of the clause involves also the postponement of the decision to exact compulsory contributions from any one. That being so, it would be illogical for the committee to consider other clauses which affirm that there shall be exacted compulsory contributions from insured persons. Clause 30 is one of those clauses. The only logical course for the committee is to agree not to deal further with Part IV. until the Treasurer is again ready to consider clause 26. The honorable gentleman apparently thinks that the committee may continue with those clauses in Part IV. which deal with voluntary contributions; there are not many of them, and the only logical course for him to adopt is to post pone the further consideration of Part IV. until we have decided whether contributions are to be exacted from anybody. Clause 26 is the clause which provides for the levying of contributions and their payment by the people. That means the exaction of contributions.
– Does not that apply equally to voluntary contributions?
– No. Levying means exactions of contributions from people against their will. The rates have not been set out in the bill for the reasons advanced by the Treasurer in his secondreading speech, namely, that section 55 of the Constitution would not permit the rates to be set out in the bill, because they might be regarded as taxes. This bill defines “ contributions “ as meaning -
Contributions consisting of payments at the rates imposed by the National Health and Pensions (Employers’ Contributions) Act 1938 and the National Health and Pensions (Employees’ Contributions) Act 1038 and includes contributions made by voluntary contributors and by special voluntary contributors under this act.
The measures referred to are to follow this bill. The Treasurer, . having postponed clause 19, was consistent in postponing all the clauses relating to juvenile contributors, but having postponed the decisionwhether there shall be compulsory contributions, he is not consistent in asking the committee to proceed as if it had decided that there shall be.
My. CASEY (Corio- Treasurer) [9.47]. - The contentions of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) are based on the erroneous assumption that the Government, in agreeing to the postponement of clause 26, has thrown overboard the contributory principle. That is far from being the case.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member spoke as if this committee had registered some decision.
– The Treasurer invited the committee to postpone decision as to whether or not there shall be contributions.
– I do not agree with that for one moment. If the honorable gentleman suggests that clauses having nothing to do with compulsory contributions are to he deferred, he is wrong.
– Nevertheless, the committee may decide to do so.
– That is for the committee, not for the honorable member for Bourke, to determine. If the further consideration of clause 21 necessitates any new clauses in this bill, the Government will bring them down at the proper time. Meanwhile, these other clauses are strictly relevant and the Government intends to proceed with them. The Government has not thrown overboard the principle of compulsory contributions on which the whole bill is framed.
.- The only extent to which I disagree, if it may be called a disagreement with the reasoning of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), is that I submit, with some confidence, that the postponement of clause 26 renders it just as necessary to postpone the consideration of the clauses relating to voluntary contributions as it is to postpone those relating to compulsory contributions. My reason for saying that is that although contributions are in certain circumstances voluntary, nevertheless, this bill proposes to set up machinery for receiving these contributions into the revenues of the Commonwealth, and it takes control of those contributions precisely in the same way as it takes control of the compulsory contributions. The whole of the contributions, voluntary or compulsory, required in clause 26 are an essential part of the bill, and it is impossible logically to consider any clause in this bill dealing with contributions, voluntary or compulsory, until the committee has first decided that there shall be such contributions. I submit with great respect that to proceed to deal with incidental matters relating to contributions is an affront to this committee, which has deliberately postponed for further consideration the whole question of whether these contributions shall be levied compulsorily or made voluntarily or at all. To attempt to proceed with the details of contributions that have been deliberately postponed, I repeat, is an affront to this committee.
– Clause 26 was postponed at the invitation of members of the committee, simply on the proposal of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) to consider a certain class of the community. The question of whether the scheme should be contributory was not under discussion. This committee has yet to decide the amount of contributions to be paid by the various sections, both employers and employees.
– Voluntarily and compulsorily.
– I agree that machinery has to be set up to collect the voluntary contributions. Clause 30 merely states that the contributions arranged by Parliament to be paid by employees, whatever they may be, shall cease at the maximum age.
– How do we know that there will be any contributions?
– Whether the contribution be 3d. or 3s.-
– It may be nothing.
– It cannot be nothing because the Government’s proposal is for a compulsory contributory scheme.
– The Government’s proposals depend on the numbers behind the Government.
– I accept that. If the Government has not the support of the committee for a contributory scheme it must go out of office; there is no alternative. It has brought before Parliament certain proposals, under which contributions are to be made by both the employer and the employee, and the only question to be decided, unless the Government has lost the confidence of the committee, is as to the rates to be paid by employer and employee. We postponed clause 26 so that the Government might consider the further question raised by the honorable member for Swan. Clause 30 provides that whatever contributions Parliament may decide shall be paid by an employee, shall cease when he reaches the maximum age. That is the only question before the committee.
The amount of the contribution is to be decided later. Sub-clause 2 of clause 30, which provides that the employer of an employed person shall continue to pay contributions in respect of his employees so long as they remain in his employ, and irrespective of their age, is a very necessary provision. With due respect to the legal training of the honorable members for Bourke and Batman, I think their contentions are erroneous.
.- Clause 30, sub-clause 1, says that the amounts of contribution payable by the employed contributor, voluntary contributor, and special voluntary contributor, shall cease to be payable -when the employee attains the maximum age. When the committee was faced with the necessity, if this bill is to proceed, of deciding whether there should be a contribution payable by the employed contributor, it discussed the matter for a time and, by reason of the opposition to it in some particulars, postponed decision. The question remains undecided.
– Only the amount.
– How dare the honorable member for Parkes say “ only the amount “. What amount ? Small amount, large amount, any amount? The question which remains undecided is whether a contribution of any amount shall be paid. This committee has come to no decision. It faced the question and deliberately declined a decision, and it is an insult to this committee for the Government to proceed to consider, as having been decided, the very thing that this committee refused a few minutes ago to decide. I do not propose to address myself to the merits of this clause on the assumption that at a future date, with increased numbers behind the Government, this committee will do something which it declined to do to-night. I propose to address myself to the question of whether it can be dealt with at all in the light of the previous decision. It should come up for further consideration in the event of contributions, and certain classes of contributions, and at certain rates being decided upon. None of these points has been decided up to the present. This clause is contingent on the decision to be reached on clause 26. Sub-clause 2 of clause 30 reads -
The amount of contribution payable by the employer of an employed person shall continue to be paid so long as the person remains in his employment notwithstanding that the person has attained the maximum age.
– That is fair.
– It would be fair if any authority had been given by this committee for its passage, but no such authority has been given. This bill is difficult enough, and contentious enough - nobody recognizes its difficulty more than the Government and the gentlemen responsible for it - without attempting to deal with it by standing it on its head, assuming that it has a head, and legislating in regard to its feet. We cannot legislate in that way. The bill must be a consistent whole, if it is to be anything at all ; * subsequent clauses have to dovetail with the clauses that have gone before.* The Government was defeated on clause 26.
– The committee did not vote on it.
– The Government, having counted heads, was satisfied that any attempt to pass clause 26, which fixes contributions, would not be endorsed by the committee. The Treasurer weakly accepted defeat^ and said that for the reasons given by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) he would agree to the postponement of the clause.
– What has that to do with the clause under discussion?
– It has everything to do with it. I notice, with satisfaction, that the point of order comes in the form of a disorderly interjection from the Acting Minister for Commerce. What I am saying has everything to do with, the clause under consideration, because the clause cannot be intelligently considered or decided until we have dealt with clause 26. If the honorable gentleman had. been in his corner as of old he would be leading the fight against the Government. If he was not in the pay of the Government he would be sticking a dagger in its back. There is a very simple way of dealing with this matter. The Government should agree to progress being reported. Let it go home and put a wet towel round its head and come back to-morrow, after it has consulted its not too enthusiastic supporters and has decided what its attitude to the bill is. Let it not make the idle pretence that it can go on with the bill as if. nothing had happened. The Government has been struck in a vital part. Let it consult its medical adviser, for it has a bad day ahead of it to-morrow. The committee cannot deal with clause 30, and I decline to deal with it as a clause until we know whether we have any authority to deal with it at all. There I leave it, for the Government’s attitude is an affront to the committee. No Government, having heard the voice of the committee on a vital clause, has the right to ask the committee to deal with subsidiary matters relating to that clause as though nothing untoward had happened. The Government cannot escape the consequences of the committee’s declaration by merely sticking its head in the sand. It has to accept the realities of the situation, and they are in clause 30, and in any other clause that may relate to contributions. It has no right to proceed with such matters until the committee has decided whether contributions of any kind, voluntary or compulsory, shall be collected or levied.
– This is one of the clauses on which members of the Opposition, because of the extraordinary attitude of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), cannot remain silent. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has succeeded in frightening the Treasurer into accepting something he did not want to accept, and did not intend to accept. The Treasurer explained what the possible consequences would be of accepting something unpalatable to the Government and then meekly accepted it. The committee has now arrived at clause 30, which has a definite relationship to clause 26, and which, therefore, should also be postponed. Sub-clause 1 reads -
The amount of contribution payable by an employed contributor and the contribution payable by a voluntary contributor and by a special voluntary contributor shall cease to be payable when he attains the maximum age.
There are undoubtedly three classes of contributors specified, and the amendment of the honorable member for Swan undoubtedly had relation to contributions. The Government, realizing that it would not be able to obtain the support it anticipated when it introduced the measure, very wisely, in its own interests, and in order to escape defeat, decided to defer consideration of clause 26. Now the committee finds that it is asked to give consideration to clause 30, which specifically deals with contributions that have to be paid by certain classes of persons, -and yet it is claimed on behalf of the Government that the clause has no relevancy to clause 26. The logic of the Treasurer’s arguments, if there be any logic in them, is difficult for ordinary people to understand. If honorable membe rs who support the Government were free to express their views without instructions from their caucus meeting, they would stand up and say, as honorable members of the Opposition do, that it is unjust to ask the committee to deal now with clause 30. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) said that the clause relates to what may be only a small contribution; but the fact that the clause refers to contributions at all, and that, the Government in all humility accepted defeat on clause 26, shows clearly that we are dealing with matters of vital concern. In the final decision, there may not be any contributions by insured persons. The Government may act wisely and decide that it will obtain the necessary revenue for this allegedly national scheme by taxing the whole people as is proposed in New Zealand; that would have the effect” of distributing the burden equitably on all shoulders. The honorable member for Swan succeeded in obtaining further consideration for farmers of limited income, and similar consideration should be given to other sections with small incomes. I should like to see a national insurance act on the statute-book, but I want it to be a real national insurance act, and not such a one as is provided for in the bill. It is a rank injustice to give some persons relief while withholding it from others. I am prepared to support any amendment to relieve those who are on the lower rungs of the income ladder from the burden of having to pay contributions. Sub-clause 2 states -
The amount of contribution payable by the employer of an employed person shall continue to be paid so long as the person remains in bis employment notwithstanding that the person has attained the maximum age.
Surely it cannot be said that that provision has no relation to clause 26. The Treasurer is not here. I assume that is because he has gone out to obtain advice from his experts or legal advisers on whether clause 30 is related to clause 26. Probably after his consultation he will come back convinced - just as he was convinced after the honorable member for Swan had moved an amendment and he had had a count of heads made - of the wisdom of accepting the inevitable. I sincerely trust that he will be advised to that effect and will listen to reason, as he has done on other occasions. Several times he has proved that when pressure from the right quarter was put on him he is prepared to yield eventually. I hope the logic of those who have spoken on the Opposition benches will induce him to give reconsideration to this matter. I regret very much that he has ignored entirely the arguments put forward by learned men like the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and the honorable member for ‘ Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), who have had legal training and possess wide parliamentary knowledge and experience. He has said that they arc entirely mistaken. Surely he cannot accuse those honorable members of giving incorrect advice at this time. Surely they .are not to be classed as ignorant of the relationship between clauses 26 and 30. When the Treasurer comes back to the chamber fortified by tlie opinion of his legal advisers, and realizes how many members of the committee are opposed to him on this question, he will, I hope, agree that it is time to postpone the clause for the purpose of reconsidering it in conjunction with clause 26.
– Honorable members opposite who have addressed themselves to this clause have raised the question as to whether this scheme is to be contributory or non-contributory. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said that eventually it might be decided to finance a scheme out of Consolidated Revenue. [ point out that this issue was decided on the motion for tlie second reading, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) moved for a non-contributory scheme, and in effect, argued that employees should pay no contribution at all. The House decided then that it should be a contributory scheme and referred to the committee the question as to what the amounts of contributions should be. On clause 2-6 the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) urged that the position of certain classes of contributors should be further considered, and it is most unfair for honorable members opposite to say that the Government agreed to the postponement of that clause because the numbers were against it. I point out that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) advanced a substantial argument for the postponement of clause 19, which deals, with the application of this measure to juvenile contributors, and the Government, recognizing the justice of his argument, agreed to postpone it. [Quorum formed.’] In doing so .it simply honoured the promise given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that any sound proposal for the improvement of the measure irrespective of from what section of the committee it might come, would be carefully considered. The honorable member’s suggestion received the support of honorable members .generally and without a division the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) agreed that consideration of the clause should be postponed. In accepting the suggestion of the honorable member for Swan for the postponement of clause 26. the Government simply acted in like maimer. All that the committee is asked to decide on this clause is that whatever contributions may be decided upon later under clause 26 shall cease at 60 years of age in respect of females and 65 years in respect of males.
– There may be no con.tributions at all.
– I have already explained that it was decided on the second reading that the scheme should be contributory.
– That decision has been reversed by the postponement of clause 26.
– That is not so; the Government simply agreed that that clause should be deferred for further consideration. I feel sure that if the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) were to advance a sound proposition, the Government would extend similar consideration to it. I repeat that as this clause simply provides that whatever contributions are decided upon under clause 26 shall cease at 60 years of age in respect of females, and 65 years in respect of males, the committee can deal with it immediately.
.- It is useless for honorable members opposite to argue that this clause or, for that matter, any clause in this part of the bill, is not contingent on clause 26. I submit, therefore, that until a decision is reached on clause 26, the committee cannot reasonably deal with any of these contribution clauses, because an alteration of the amounts of contributions would radically effect all of them. For that reason the only sensible course open to the Government is to report progress so that it may have time to make up its mind in respect of clause 26. If we now deal with these clauses, it may be that when consideration of clause 26 is resumed, the Treasurer will tell the honorable member for Swan that that clause cannot be altered, in view of ‘ the committee’s decisions on the remainder of the contribution clauses. Furthermore, any alteration of clause 26 may involve reconsideration of all of the contribution clauses, and in that case we would be obliged to go over the same ground again ; we would simply be playing blind man’s buff. I again urge the Government to postpone further discussion on Part IV. until clause 26 is finally considered, and thus enable honorable members to deal rationally with this important- part of the measure.
– I join with those who have suggested that, following the defeat of the Government in respect of clause 26, the whole of Part IV., which deals with contributions, should be postponed. The Government’s decision in regard to clause 26 will affect the whole of Part IV. This morning, the press was full of rumours that, for various reasons, the bill was likely to be withdrawn. The position, from the Government point of view, is now considerably worse, for a major clause dealing with contributions has been postponed against the Treasurer’s desire. Necessarily the decision to defer clause 26 must affect all other clauses dealing with contributions. How can the committee deal with clause 30, which relates to the continuance of liability to pay contributions, when it does not know what the contributions will be or even the sections of the community which will be required to contribute? We do not know now whether contributions are to be voluntary or compulsory. An almost Gilbertian position has arisen. The head of the bill, as it were, has been knocked off ; yet its body goes marching on. I suggest that progress be reported, and that when the House meets again tomorrow, the Government should announce whether or not it intends to proceed with the bill. According to clause 30, an employee who is over the maximum age, will receive the benefits of this legislation, few though they be, without being called upon to make further contributions. His employer, however, will have to continue to pay on his behalf. It might be suggested that it is unfair that the employer should continue to pay after the liability of the employee to do so has ceased, and, indeed, when the employee is actually in receipt of benefits, but, as has been pointed out, the provision is necessary in order to prevent some employers taking advantage of the situation to give preferential treatment to certain classes of employees. Obviously, the postponement of clause 26 has altered the whole basis of the bill. The position now is almost equivalent to that which would have arisen had the Government accepted the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) at an earlier stage of the bill.
In the circumstances, the Opposition has every reason to be pleased with the course of events, and to be grateful to members of the Country party for their support. The people of Australia also will rejoice when they know the result of to-night’s deliberations in this chamber. I ask the Minister to agree to report progress.
.- I agree with honorable members who have said that by postponing clause 26, one of the most vital provisions of the. bill, the whole basis of contributions may be altered. Clause 4, which this committee has not dealt with, contains the following definition of “ Contributions “ - “ Contributions “ means contributions consisting of payments at the rates imposed by the National Health and Pensions (Employers’ Contributions) Act 1938 and by the National Health and Pensions (Employees’ Contributions) Act 1938 and includes contributions made by voluntary contributors and by special voluntary contributors under this act.
– The rates are contained in the schedules.
– We know that. Apparently the Acting Minister wishes to delay the work of the committee by discussing the schedule at this juncture, but I do not wish to do so. I point out that it is impossible for the committee to proceed further with the discussion of the bill, particularly when the most vital clause, not only in Part IV., but also in the whole of the bill, has been postponed. The side-note to clause 30 states “ continuance of liability to pay contributions “. The committee has not yet decided that the scheme shall be financed by contributions. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) has said that a contributory scheme has already been decided on by the defeat of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). To refresh his memory as to the actual text of that amendment, I shall read it. The amendment was: -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ this House is of opinion that in its present form the bill is unacceptable because - (a.) It seeks to place upon a contributory basis the payment of pensions for old age, invalidity and widowhood, which should be provided as a matter of right without the exaction of. individual contributions ;
It provides unequal benefits for men and women ;
It fails to provide medical benefit for the wives and children of contributors ;
By partially overlapping the field of friendly society activity it tends to discourage young men and women from joining these associations of selfhelp, thus threatening the continued strength of friendly societies without providing in full the services which they now render: and, therefore, the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted and a more liberal bill, freed from the defects now enumerated, should be introduced without delay.”
Paragraph a of the amendment refers to the placing of certain payments on a contributory basis, but (his bill provides for payments other than those in respect of invalidity, widowhood and old age; it provides also for sickness and other benefits. The Government has agreed to postpone the clause on which the very principle of contributions is based. The honorable member for Parkes has endeavoured to prop up a worn-out horse. During the committee discussion particularly, all sorts of doubtful tactics have been adopted. We had the ridiculous spectacle to-night of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) asking the Chairman to read a certain motion relating to clause 26. He was not in the chamber at the time the motion was proposed. The committee has not yet decided whether the scheme shall be based on voluntary contributions or compulsory contributions, or whether the scheme shall be contributory at all, nor has it decided whether the whole cost shall or shall not be placed on the shoulders of those who derive the greatest benefit from this Government’s legislation - I refer to the wealthy sections of the community. It is most unfair to place the burden of contributions on the worker who is the least able to afford it. For those reasons I believe not only that clause 30 should be postponed, but also that the remainder of Part IV. dealing with contributions should be postponed until the Government decides what it intends to do.
.- I move -
That the consideration of the remaining clauses in Part IV. be postponed until after the consideration of clause 20 has been resumed.
– That is not quite in order. The committee can deal with the bill only clause by clause.
– Then I move-
That the clause bc postponed.
I say with frankness that I propose this motion as an indication to the Government that, in the view of the committee, the whole of the remainder of Part IV. should be deferred until the committee has again had submitted to it, and has decided upon, clause 26. We could then proceed to deal with benefits quite logically without tying ourselves into a series of controversial knots because of the contradictory position in which the committee is placed in attempting to deal with certain clauses relating to contributions without first deciding that contributions shall be levied. I see no reason why the Government should not accept my proposal. I undertake that there will be no delay and that we shall proceed to deal with the benefits, the clauses in Part V., and the remaining parts. I put it to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that by the acceptance of my motion he will facilitate the deliberations of the committee and obviate what I believe to be at present an unsatisfactory endeavour on the part of the committee to deal with Part IV. I say to him quite frankly that we are anxious that this Parliament shall deliberate in some reasonable way haying regard to the views of honorable members generally regarding this very important bill. We believe that clause 26 is, in principle, the dominant provision of Part IV., and that that part is really meaningless until a decision has been made on clause 26.
– How can the benefits be determined until we know what amount we shall have to distribute?
– They can be dealt with just as logically as we are able to deal with contributions. We do not know who will be exempt or what conditions shall apply in respect, of contributions until we decide clause 26. I submit the motion as a reasonable contribution to the deliberative competence of the committee, and also as a means of facilitating and not ‘ delaying the consideration of the bill.
; - I cannot agree to the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). At an earlier stage, in reply to a question by the honorable member, I pointed out the necessity for making more rapid progress with the bill than had been made up to that time. The suggestion which the honorable gentleman now makes will in no way facilitate consideration of this bill. The committee has already passed clauses 27 and 28; clause 29 was postponed. If, by any chance, the further consideration of the postponed clauses, particularly clause 26, should necessitate a modification of clause 30, that can be done on recommittal. In the meantime, I suggest to honorable members that we should proceed to pass clause 30, whereupon progress can be reported.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Motor-car accessories are not recorded separately, but values of imports from these countries of parts and accessories, principally relating to motor cars, are set out and totalled on the accompanying statement.
n asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) The quantities of raw wool produced in Australia during the last four years, as compared with the rest of the world, have been as follows: -
An aggregate of comparable values for the rest of the world is not available.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Under the terms of the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, district allowance cannot be included in the weekly pay of the employee for the purpose of computing the weekly rate of compensation payable under that act.
Although the inclusion of district allowance in the weekly pay of the employee for the purpose of computing compensation would confer an advantage on the employees concerned, I. am not aware that the exclusion of district allowance is imposing severe hardships.
The injured employee, whilst incapacitated, received weekly payments of compensation under the act at the rate of two-thirds of his weekly pay, plus 7s.6d. a week in respect of each child under fourteen years of age. For the reasons set out in the reply to No. 1 above, district allowance was not taken into account in the computation of the employee’s weekly pay.
The matter will receive consideration.
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
When the re-organization of the distribution of oversea air mails from England is being considered by the Commonwealth Government, will provision be made for all English mails to be delivered in Hobart without surcharge, the sameas the present ordinary air-mail service?
– A full statement covering all matters of policy relating to air services and air mails will be issued by the Government as soon as all negotiations affecting these matters have been completed.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
21s. for Zone (1); 15s. for Zone (2).
An amount of £228,108 is held in trust for payment to ‘the commission at the rate of ls. per month per licence.
Emergency Aerodrome at Umbrella Fiat.
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the Douglas air liner Kurana becoming bogged recently when landing at the emergency aerodrome at Umbrella Flat, George Town, Tasmania, will he have inquiries made into the circumstances and take the necessary steps to have this aerodrome made safer for emergency landing in all weather, as far as possible ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
I have inquired into the circumstances of the Douglas air liner Kurana becoming bogged at Low Head emergency landing ground, near George Town, Tasmania, recently. This ground is provided to enable a machine to land in case of emergency only and under normal weather conditions has proved to be very suitable. Financial considerations make it difficult to ensure that all emergency landing grounds throughout the Commonwealth shall be of the same standard as capital city and other aerodromes in regular use as stopping places. As far as funds permit all grounds, including emergency landing grounds, are improved from time to time. I am informed that exceptionally heavy rain fell at this locality immediately preceding the landing.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply the following information: -
The excess of revenue over expenditure (excluding capital expenditure) of the Postal Department each year during the past three years ;
The capital expenditure made out of revenue during the same period;
The capital expenditure from loan during the same period;
The amount of interest paid each year during the same period; and
The loan indebtedness of the department on the 30th June, 1937.
– The information is being obtained.
Automatic Telephone Exchange at Rockhampton.
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice - .
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Importation op Pedigreed Stock.
n. - On the 8th June, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) sought information regarding the scheme under which assistance is granted towards the importation of pedigreed stock into Australia.
In accordance with the promise made by me to supply a statement on the lines sought by the honorable member, I desire to advise that the scheme in question came into operation on the 1st December, 1935. It operated until the 1st December, 1937, when it was extended for a further period of two years.
The parties who contribute towards the payment of subsidy under the scheme are the Commonwealth Government, the Commonwealth Bank and the State governments, who pay from funds equally provided by each, the following subsidy to the applicant: -
The shipping companies also assist by under-‘ taking to carry the stock freight free, but charge actual out-of-pocket expenses incurred by them.
Flat rates to cover out-of-pocket expenses have been fixed as under: -
Cattle - £34 13s. a head, including boxes.
Sheep - £1111s. a head, including boxes or pens.
Milch goats - £1111s. a head, including boxes or pens.
Pigs - £6 16s.16d. a head, excluding pens.
The scheme is restricted to pedigree breeding cattle, sheep, milch goats and swine (Berkshire, largo white, middle white, and Tamworth breeds only) produced in the British Isles, and purchased by the applicant in and imported from the United Kingdom to Australia.
It is a condition under the scheme that the applicant for assistance shall not sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of any of the stock within a period of two years from the date of arrival of such stock in Australia without first obtaining the approval in writing of the Minister for Agriculture in the State of import.
The following are particulars of the number of animals which have been imported into the respective States since the scheme first came into operation: -
s. - On the9th June, the honorable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), asked me the following question, without notice -
Is it a fact as reported in a section of the press, that an acute disagreement has arisen between the Commonwealth Governmentand the Administrator of Nauru, Commander Garsin, regardingthe alleged refusal of the Governmentto provide for the saiety of the British community there, including some hundreds of women and children? Did CommanderGarsia raise thequestion of the defence of Nauru in correspondence with the Commonwealth or suggest that plans be made for the evacuation of white women and children to Australia in the event of an emergency?
I desire to inform the honorable member there has not been any disagreement between the Government and the Administrator of Nauru on the subject matter of measures to be taken for the protection of the European population of Nauru in the event of an emergency.
At the instance of the Central Administration, plans are being formulated, as a precautionary measure, that would indicate to the Administrator the most desir- able action to be taken for the protection of the inhabitants of the island in the event of an emergency arising. The Administrator has submitted suggestions in regard to the matter and these are being fully considered in connexion with the preparation of the plans.
I notice that the report in the press links the matter with the completion of Commander Garsia’s appointment as administrator. . The Administrator has been advised that his appointment has been extended to the 15th August, 1938, and that it has been decided not to renew his engagement after that date. That decision is not in any way associated with the question of the protection of the inhabitants of Nauru in the event of an emergency.
Salaries in Patents Department.
– On the 8th June, the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) asked me the following question, without notice -
Is the Prime Minister aware that the Attorney-General’s Department is calling for applications from university graduates in science or engineering to fill positions in the Patents Office at salaries ranging from a minimum of £200 toa maximum of £350 per annum? If so, does the honorable gentleman think that that is fair remuneration or reasonable encouragement to higher education?
I desire to inform the honorable member that applications have been invited from persons desiring appointment to positions of assistant examiner of patents with commencing salaries as follow: -
Rising to amaximum of £354 per annum.
It is desired that applicants should possess a degree in mechanical or electrical engineering or a degree in science with electron physics as the major subject of an Australian or other approved university or its equivalent, and that, unless theyare returned soldiers, they should be between 21 and 30 years of age.
The appointees, who may have had little or no previous actual working experience, will be trained in the work associated with the examination of patents, and thereby become eligible for promotion in due course to the position of examiner of patents, which carries a maximum salary of £510 per annum in Grade 1 and £564 in Grade 2.
I am advised by the Public Service Board that, keeping in view the salary standards provided in the service generally by determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator and the Public Service Regulations, the rates fixed for assistant examiners - in what are in effect training positions - are considered to be fair and reasonable.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380614_reps_15_156/>.