15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. G. J Bell) took the chairat 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Treasurer give consideration to the publication, in one volume of Hansard, of the speeches delivered on the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, together with a copy of thebill as finally passed, in order thatthe general public may have an opportunity to study it in detail before it comes into operation?
– Yes, the Government will give favorable consideration to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion.
Mr.Curtin. - Will all the speeches, includingthose relating to the introductory stages of the bill, be published in the volume?
– The Government will consider that matter.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform the House whether the cable between Tasmania and the mainland is broken? If it is, will he undertake to have repairs effected as early as possible, in order to minimize the inconvenience that is being caused?
-It is a fact thatthe cablehas broken, and a search is now being made to discover where the break has occurred. Inthe meantime, the department is endeavouring to maintain one-way wireless communicationbetween the mainland and Tasmania.
– With regard toJapan’s protest against the ban placed by the Commonwealth Government on the export of iron ore, will the Prime Minister state whether the Government intends to make public the text of his reply to Japan, and ifso, when will this be done?
– One reply has already been made to Japan, and another is in the course of preparation. It has not been the practice of the Government to publish the text of communications of this kind, but a full statement with respect to the matter will be made very shortly and this will cover the ground indicated by the honorable member. I now askthe permission of the House to make a statement as to Australia’s iron ore deposits. [Leave granted.]
– The Commonwealth Government has almostcompleted its preliminary arrangements for the conduct of the survey of Australia’s iron ore resources. In the Statesof New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, the survey will be undertaken by the Mines Departments of the respective States, at the expense of the Commonwealth Government, some of the Common wealth’s geological staff being lent to the State Mines Departments for the purpose. The Tasmanian Government advises that its Mines Department is not in a position to do this work, and requests that the survey be carried out by the Commonwealth. The South Australian Government had, previous to the Commonwealth’s decision, already embarked upon a survey which it is conducting at its own expense,but the Commonwealth’s geological adviser will collaborate, and the Commonwealth Government will give financial assistancein the final preparation of maps. &c. In Victoria it is considered that no work is necessary at the present time, and in the Northern Territory there are no known deposits which could conceivably be regarded as possible of economic exploitation. The two best known and most important of Australia’s iron ore deposits are the Iron Knob group in South Australia, which has been exploited for many years by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and the Yampi Sound deposits in Western Australia. The Commonwealth Government is taking immediate action to initiate the survey of the Yampi Sound deposits. The Government’s geological adviser, Dr. Woolnough, is now on his way to Perth, where he will confer with the State geologist, and then proceed to Yampi Sound to initiate investigations of the Koolan Island and Cockatoo Island deposits.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) intimated to me that he had been informed by the union concerned that the men at present employed by the Yampi Sound Mining Company were to be given a week’s notice of the termination of their employment, consequent upon the Government’s embargo on the export of iron ore. The Government has, therefore, instructed Dr. Woolnough to arrange that as many as possible of these men shall suffer no break in their employment, by seeing that they are taken over from the Yampi Sound Mining Company and put straight to work in the driving of tunnels and the sinking of shafts, &c, which is an essential part of the investigation into the dimensions and quality of the ore body.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether it is not a factthat the Commonwealth Government, in association with certain State governments, is having a geophysical survey made of portions of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland? Is he aware that in Sweden, Germany, Russia and the United States of America, geophysical methods are being adopted for the determination of the iron ore resources of those countries? Has there been the slightest effort on the part of the Commonwealth Government to determine by geophysical methods the extent of the deposits of iron ore at Yampi Sound or elsewhere in Australia?
– The reply to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ Yes “. The Commonwealth Government’s geological adviser is, I am sure, fully acquainted with the procedure of technical men in all other countries in connexion with investigations of iron ore resources. No investigation by geophysical methods has yet been undertaken by the Commonwealth Government in determining the iron ore resources of Australia, but, as the Prime Minister stated a few moments ago, the Government is collaborating with the Mines Departments of the various States with regard to this matter. I have no doubt that, if the technical officers of the Commonwealth and. State geological staffs decide that geophysical methods are the best that could be adopted in determining iron ore resources, those methods will be used.
– Has the Prime Minister made any estimate of the time that is likely to be occupied on the survey of the Yampi Sound iron ore deposits? Is the Government disposed to await the result of a complete examination before coming to a final determination in regard to the embargo on the export of iron ore?
– No. I take it that when Dr. Woolnough has made a preliminary examination he will be able to give us some idea of the time that is likely to be occupied on the complete examination. The Government has made it, perfectly clear that action upon its decision in regard to the embargo on the export of iron ore will not be withheld until the examination of all the resources in Australia is complete.
– In view of the publicity given in the press last year by the chairman of the Geological and Geophysical Survey, as to the discovery of iron ore deposits at Portland Roads, and of the fact that in the report by Dr. Woolnough. read by the Treasurer no reference was made to this matter, is the House to understand that Dr. Woolnough has no confidence in the efficacy of geophysical methods for the discovery of iron ore or other minerals?
– I am afraid that I am not quite seised of the purport of the honorable gentleman’s question.
– The honor able gentleman read Dr. Woolnough’s report.
– I could not have read any reportby Dr. Woolnough, but I may have laid on the table of the House the report of the Geological and Geophysical Survey. I have done my best to put the senior officers of the Geological and Geophysical Survey in touch with Dr. Woolnough in respect of the very subject of which the honorable gentleman speaks. I know of no dispute between the two parties in regard to the matter.
– When will the Tariff Board’s report on the paper-pulp industry be released by the Government?
– The report has been considered by the department, and is now in my hands for presentation to Cabinet.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce state whether the Government has yet considered the recent request from the Egg Producers Council and the various egg marketing boards of Australia? Is the Minister in a position to make a pronouncement on the matter?
– The Government has considered the request, and, on the information available, it appears that there is no justification for the payment of a bounty at the present time. The Government will keep in view any developments of an adverse nature in connexion with the overseas market during the currency of the egg export season, and, if any action is thought to be necessary, the Government will again consider the position of the industry.
– Apropos the recent protests against a small increase of the price of butter, will the Acting Minister for Commerce state whether it is not true that when the sugar agreement last came up for ratification the argument for its continuance was advanced that since before the war the price of sugar had been increased by a less amount than had the price of any other household commodity except butter? If true, does not this seem to indicate that since the war the price of butter has increased less than hasthat of any other household commodity ?
– I believe that the honorable gentleman’s contention is perfectly correct. I may say that certain information for which he asked the other day on this point is being prepared and will be furnished to him at a very early date.
– Has the Prime Minister any information to offer in regard to the press report that the negotiations with respect to the revision of the Ottawa Agreement are being held up because of the very wide divergence of the views of the respective delegates in the matter of Australia’s trade policy with respect to articles 9 to 13 of the agreement ? If there is such a wide divergence, will the right honorable gentleman give to the House an opportunity to discuss any proposed draft agreement before the Australian delegates consent to it?
– An answer to the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question becomes unnecessary when I say that I have no information that would justify the assumption in the first part of the question.
-In view of the conflicting press statements regarding the negotiations, and the lack of any information given to this House with respect to the progress that is being made, is the right honorable gentleman in a position to indicate the nature of that progress?
– According to the information that I have obtained from the delegation, matters are progressing quite satisfactorily.
– In view of certain representations and claims by the Commonwealth Superannuated Officers Association, will the Treasurer make in the near future a statement setting out the attitude of the Government towards those claims?
– Representations have been made from time to time over the last few years. The attitude of the Government has been consistent, and, I believe, logical throughout. I can see no necessity for any further expression of opinion in regard to it.
-Will the Acting Minister for Commerce interview and negotiate with companies interested in overseas freightage on wheat, with a view to having a reduction made of the present freight charges?
– As a preliminary to the consideration of that matter, I should be obliged if the honorable gentleman would supply me with a list of the companies he has in mind.
– In view of the fact that Dr. Woolnough now proposes to prosecute a policy of shafting and crosscutting, instead of geologizing from the air, in order to obtain an estimate of the extent of the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound, will the Minister for the Interior call for a report from that officer stating why he has prevented our ground geologists from adopting this method of assisting the miners at Tennant Creek in their efforts to determine our assets of gold there?
– I would not attempt to make a technical reply to the honorable member’s question. I merely say that I believe there is very little analogy between the survey of iron ore resources and the possibility of gold contents at Tennant Creek.
– In view of the wonderful achievements of women air pilots in this country and in other parts of the Empire, does the Prime Minister endorse the statement made at the week-end by the Minister for Defence, that women are unsuitable for the Air Force, or even for commercial flying?
– I have no views on the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the Library any papers relating to the possibility of a trade agreement being made between the United States of America and Australia ?
– I am not in a position to do so.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether the press report is correct, that big defence works are being delayed until the trade depression is worse than it is at present?
– No delay is occurring in connexion with any phase of the defence programme; all of the works are being expeditiously carried out, and plans are being supplied by the Department of the Interior as rapidly as they can be prepared.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether any action has been taken on the recommendation of the Payne report, for the appointment of lands officers at Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, seeing that the Land Board is now ineffective?
– Considerationhas been given to that proposal of the Payne committee, and I believe that action will he taken with respect to it.
Administrative Capital Site
– Will the Minister for External Affairs state when he expects to he in a position to give to the House information relative to the establishment of a new capital at Rabaul?
– I hope to be in a position to do so in the course of a day or two.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Commerce what negotiations, if any, are taking place with Eastern countries, with respect to the improvement of the position in relation to the export of flour to those countries?
– Certain conversations are taking place, but at this stage it would not be politic to disclose the nature ofthem, even to the honorable member.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938. No. 50.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Attorney-General - N. L. Hutchison.
Interior - F. G. Doran.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Eastwood, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Maternity Allowance Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 51.
Sales Tax Assessment Acta (Nos. 1 to 9) - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 52.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 17th June (vide page 2280).
The Second Schedule.
Part I. agreed to.
– I move-
That paragraph (3.) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph : - “ (3.) The following contributions shall, unless otherwise prescribed,he credited to the Pensions Insurance Fund -
contributions by special voluntary contributors ;
contributions by and in respect of partially exempt employees;
contributions in respect of employed persons who have attained the maximum age; and
contributions paid in pursuance of section thirty-nine A of this Act.”.
This is a consequential amendment, and provides that so much of the contributions as are wholly for pensions shall be carried to the pensions insurance fund.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle) [3.23].- Will the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) explain why he includes in the amendment the words “ unless otherwise prescribed “ ? Do not those words imply that the commission or the Governor in Council will have power to vary the decision of this committee? It appears to me that the amendment, without those words, is adequate to express what I imagine is the intention of the Treasurer. The pensions fund will be credited with contributions made by special voluntary contributors, by partially exempt employees, and by those employed persons who have attained the maximum age. Also there is provision that contributions paid under clause 39a. shall be paid into the fund. I should not have raised the point at this juncture but for the fact that the procedure followed has put us in the extraordinary position of having passed clause 188 without discussion, and that clause will give enormous legislative power to the Insurance Commission. There is no reason why that legislative power should he evidenced in the schedule. The Treasurer may have some reason for wishing ultimately to vary the decision of the committee. If that is so, I submit to him that the proper course would be to bring down an amending bill, and let the Parliament decide whether the proposed course of action is deemed desirable. I object in principle, particularly in an amendment of this description, which sets out what contributions shall be credited to the pensions insurance fund, to a decision being varied by any authority other than Parliament. It may be said that it would be possible for Parliament to disallow any proposed action because “ as prescribed “ means “ as prescribed by regulation “. That, however, does not appear to me to be an adequate safeguard. What the Treasurer desires to do now is to lay down that certain contributions shallbe credited to the pensions insurance fund. I am agreeable to that being done, and I assume that the committee is also agreeable, but I see no reason why a subordinate body should be given power to vary our decision. If ever the time arrives when, in the opinion of the Government, our decision in respect of this amendment should he changed, an amending billshould be introduced, but we ought not to hand over to the Insurance Commission, or to the Governor in Council, the right to act as a. sort of superParliament, with power to alter the decisions of this Parliament.
. - There can be no doubt that the four classes of contributions mentioned should be credited to the pensions fund, but there is just one point that makes it necessary to insert the words “ unless otherwiseprescribed “. There will be men, on attaining 65 years of age, and women on attaining 60 years of age, who will remain in. employment. They will cease to pay contributions, but their employers will continue to pay contributions in respect of them. That is done so that there shall be no favoritism as between one class of employee and another. Persons who are drawing oldage pensions under the schemewill also continue to receive medical benefits for the rest of their lives. There is no provision for any part of the contribution paid by the employer on behalf of the employee to be paid into the medical benefit fund instead of the pensions fund. The words were inserted in the amendment because, if the provision of medical benefits for persons over the pension age becomes a heavy burden, it may be necessary for the commission, in order to balance the finances, to allocate a small portion of the employers’ contributions to the health fund. It is not an important provision, and the Government does notset any greatstore by it. The amendment merely gives power to the commission to maintain the necessary balance between the health fund and the pensions fund.
.- Will the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) inform me whether the whole of the contribution.* of married women who elect to pay
Is.6d. instead of1s. a week as special voluntary contributions, in order to obtain £1 a week pension, will be allocated to the pensions fund?
Mr.Casey. - Yes. They are the class of contributor mentioned in subparagraph (i).
– I appreciatetheexplanations given by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). Apparently the phrase “ unless otherwise prescribed” is to affect only contributions made under sub-paragraph (iii), that is to say, contributions in respect of employed persons who have attained the maximum age, and the Treasurer desires to make an allocation as between the pensions fund and the health fund.
– That is so.
– If that is all that we are asked to do that is all that we should do.
– I accept that.
– Then I move-
Thatthe proposed amendment be amended by omitting the words “ unless otherwise pre scribed,”, and inserting after the word” contributions fourth occurring, the words “ unless otherwise prescribed,”.
Amendment of amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr.Casey) agreed to -
That at the end of Part II., the following paragraph be added: - “ (6.)Notwithstanding anything contained in this Part, contributions paid in respectof persons to whom exemptionhas been granted under section ninety-six or under section ninety-seven of this Act shall be credited to the Pensions insurance Fund.”.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Rates of benefit payable under this act.
.- This schedule differentiates between the rates of benefit payable to males and females. I intend to do what I can to remove that . differentiation. Pensions are regarded as the minimum on which people can be expected to exist. The maximum amount payable under this schedule is 20s. a week to male adults and married minors and 15s. a week to females. Women should not be expected to be able to live on a less amount than men. I move -
That the word “male”, paragraph (1) (a)
If this amendment, which would make the benefits uniform to both sexes, he accepted, I intend to move that similar amendments be made where appropriate in the schedule.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The amendment is not in order inasmuch as it increases the benefits under thebill.
– I move-
Thattheschedule be postponed.
If thisamendment be carried, it will be regarded as an instruction to the Government -
To reconsider the schedule,and to equalize the benefits.
The amendment seeks very little from the Government. We know that a Minister has saidthat women are inferior creatures and apparently the Government feels that they should lead inferior lives. Seeing that women have to make so many sacrifices under the scheme, including the forfeiture of their contributions upon marriage, I suggest that this concession should be granted.
– The purpose of the honorable member’s proposal is to provide the same rates of sickness and disablement benefits for women as for men, a very desirable end, indeed. The committee has debated, at great length on previous occasions the question of what women, generally, will get out of this national insurance scheme. It is my firm conviction, and that of the Government also, that the women of Australia are being very fairly dealt with. First of all. the women’s contribution is substantially less than that of the men. their contribution being based upon what they can afford to pay. Rightly or wrongly, women’s remuneration is, on the average, only a little more than half that of men, and the Government believes that the mandatory contribution of ls. a week is as much as they should bc asked to pay. For that ls. women will get, relatively; more out of the scheme than men for their contribution of ls. 6d., apart from the fact that widows’ pensions, and allowances for dependants that go with widows’ pensions, will be paid for entirely by the men. I have been advised ‘by the actuaries that, within a. relatively few years, the women, through the widows’ pensions and dependants’ allowances, &c, will be actually drawing more in money out of the fund than men will. The capital value of the widow’s pension and children’s allowance is estimated at £700.
– But is not that a charge against the husband’s contribution ?
– Then, if you deduct that amount from the husband’s contribution, you bring the men’s and women’s contributions nearer together.
– There is also the fact that women, during certain periods of their lives, are more inclined to sickness than men are.
– But the husband’s contribution makes no provision for medical treatment for his wife.
– I am speaking of working women who are contributors to thu scheme. Any liberalizing of the scheme in favour of women contributors would have to be done at the further expense of male contributors. Therefore, taking into account the very considerable additional cost to the fund, and, eventually, to the Government, that would be involved, the Government must reluctantly decline to accept the honorable member’s proposal.
– What about casing the feelings of the women by giving them representation on some of the subsidiary committees?
– I cannot see that it would be any help to women to give them representation on the various bodies that will be set up to act- in a. consultative capacity, and as channels of communication between the various professional and technical sections and the commission.
.- The speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was no doubt made very difficult for him by the complete inequity of the case he had to support. I can appreciate his unwillingness to re-state, at any length, arguments which, on previous occasions, have been overwhelmingly resisted. He says, in effect, that because a woman pays1s. and a man pays ls. 6d. a. week while in employment, a woman should get a different rate of pension from a man, and should also get a lower rate of sickness benefit than a man. He bases this submission on the fact that women receive less wages than men. He thinks it would be wrong to increase the contribution which would be required to place women on the same arithmetical relationship as men in respect of benefits. The Government bases its stand on arithmetic. The Opposition says, in effect, that this is more than an actuarial or arithmetical problem. We are dealing not only with female employees, but also with women who marry and whose husbands voluntarily continue to contribute on behalf of their wives, so that, when they reach the age of 60 years, they may, by inherent right under this act as insured persons, and regardless of the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, be entitled to a pension. Here is the anomaly which the Treasurer sets up: He says, in relation to parallel provisions of legislation in respect of the invalid and old-age pensions which impact upon women as part of the general problem of the social services of the Commonwealth, that the Government does not intend to interfere with the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act in so far as pensions payable to men and women are concerned. Under that act, neither men nor women contribute directly, but both are eligible for the same rate of pension.
– Although there is discrepancy in their wages.
Mr.CURTIN.- That is so. Their income has been different throughout the years during which they have been wageearners.
– Women getthe pension five years earlier.
Mr.CURTIN.- That is conclusive proof that under the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, a woman has a right to the same rate of pension as the man. In this case, the honorable gentleman is prepared to continue the eligibility of a woman to a pension five years earlier than a man, but he is not willing that she shall be paid the same rate of pension under this legislation. Thus, he puts women who contribute to this fund in a far worse plight than women who make no contribution at all to it, and who will become eligible for an invalid and old-age pension.
Sickness and disablement benefit in relation to invalidity also carry the same extraordinary anomaly, in that the rate to be paid to a woman under this contributory system is less than that to which a woman is already statutorily entitled under existing legislation in regard to invalidity,which does not carry a contributory obligation. That appears to me to indicate that the Government is putting forward, purely and simply, and with no apology whatsoever, an arithmetical plan that entirely disregards the whole social significance of woman in the national life. It reduces her essentially to the status of a commodity in the labour market. The Government says, in effect, that because a woman has to sell what she can sell for less than a man does, her rights under national legislation are to be measured, not on the basis of her femininity, but entirely on the basis of what an employer will pay her in the open labour market. That is a heresy with which I had hoped this world had no longer any temptation to experiment. The Treasurer ‘ fails to realize that if under the optional clauses of the bill which provide that a woman may have her insurance continued, a married woman so elects to be a voluntary contributor the fund from which her voluntary contribution will be paid, is precisely the same fund as that from which her husband’s compulsory contribution will be paid, namely, the wages which her husband earns. The Government’s assumption is, therefore, as I have said before, that on any real basis of equity the man alone is entitled to full benefits under this contributory system.
– There is the unmarried man to consider.
Mr.CURTIN- Of course; he will contribute for his pension of £1 a week.
– He will also help to provide the pension for widows.
– That is so, hut the Treasurer knows that during the first five years of the operation of this scheme, £2,000,000 a year of the total revenue of £13,000,000 a year will come from Commonwealth taxation. A woman, as a citizen and consumer of this community, will contribute, under sales tax and other indirect taxing measures, on the same basis as men.
– But no more than at present.
– I concede that; but the woman is a citizen of this country, and as the Treasurer proposes that Commonwealth resources shallbe used as a subvention to the fund, it is wrong to give a man greater advantages in respect of benefits than those given to a woman.
That should not be done so long as the national resources are used as one of the contributory elements to the general scheme.
– That is not a very strong argument.
– I think it is a strong argument. So long as the Treasurer draws on Consolidated Revenue for any of the income for this scheme he negatives his right to discriminate between citizens in respect of their rights under the scheme.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) ought to analyse the Consolidated Revenue.
– We cannot overlook the consideration that £2,000,000 a year is to be paid into this fund from Consolidated Revenue. The Treasurer has said that, as the scheme develops, that contribution will grow.
– Where is the revenue to come from if not from this source?
– It is to come from national resources - from the same source as other moneys which the Commonwealth expends.
– I cannot see it in the budget.
– The Treasurer .anticipates obtaining £2,000,000 a year for the purpose of this scheme from sources other than the direct taxation of employers and employees.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that this £2,000,000 should be obtained from direct taxation; and if so, in what way?
– The Treasurer could provide that persons not employers of labour in Australia, who will escape the payment of ls. 6’d. a week in respect of employees, but who, nevertheless, have a stake in the national welfare, should carry their per capita proportion of the national obligation in this respect, and should be called upon to make some contribution towards the cost of this scheme.
– That nullifies the honorable gentleman’s previous argument.
– I do not wish to escape that challenge. I simply remind the Treasurer that in my policy speech I suggested that £2,000,000, which it was estimated would be required to provide a Commonwealth scheme of pensions for widows with dependent children, should be obtained from Consolidated Revenue. The Treasurer is proposing to find £2,000,000 from that source for the general purposes of this plan. That amount will rise. If that be not true, the honorable gentleman convicts himself of having devised a scheme whereby the present burden in respect of pensions will be transferred from the general taxpayer to that section of the community which consists of employers and employees. He may choose either one of those arguments, but they are not both wrong. I challenge the Treasurer to say why, after an experience of approximately 25 years, an anomaly, by which the rights of females as citizens are made inferior to those of males, should be introduced. He cannot base his case upon the absence of necessity, for it will cost a. single woman who is sick just as much to live as it will cost a single man who is sick. Should a. single woman continue in employment until she reaches the age of 60, she will receive a pension of 15s. a week, whereas a man’s pension will be £1 a week. The truth is that the honorable gentleman was afraid to impose on a man a contributory system under which his pension would be less than the amount which he would receive under the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. He is far more courageous where women are concerned ; in their case he will re’duce the pension by 5s. a week.
I confess that I regard the part of the bill dealing with widows’ pensions as the most satisfactory feature of this legislation.
– At last the honorable gentleman sees some virtue in this bill!
– Ever since I reached the age of reason, I have advocated pensions for widows.
– When was that?
– I reached the age of reason earlier ‘ than did the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), and I am confident that it will last longer. I remind the honorable gentleman, and the country, that more than ten years ago I submitted a minority report, as a member of a royal, commission, in which a plan of pensions for widows was outlined as a relevant aspect of a system of family allowances. 1 still stand to the principles outlined in that report. Indeed, so consistent am 1 in my desire to see a system oi widows’ pensions established in Australia, that in the policy speech which I announced on behalf of the Labour party,I said that such a system would be given effect legitimately immediately a Labour government attained office. The Treasurer says that, because a man pays ls. 6d. a week and a woman only ls. a week, the women should receive reduced benefits, but I remind him that the man’s contribution of ls. Gd. a week carries with it the obligation to pay pensions to widows whereas no part of the ls. paid by the woman is hypothecated under the plan as a contribution towards widows’ pensions. I do not know the proportion, but some of the ls. 6d. will be paid in respect of widows’ pensions. The amount may be 4d. or 6d. a week. Should it he (id. a week, that would bring the man’s contribution to the same amount as the woman’s, but the benefits would be disproportionate. If the widows’ pensions were removed from the calculation for the time being and treated separately, we should be able to see whether or not it is true that the difference between the man’s contribution of ls.6d. a week and the woman’s contribution of ls. a week justifies a smaller old-age pension to a woman and a lower payment in respect of sickness and disablement. In my opinion, that difference is not justified, especially when I reflect on the working of the widows’ pension system in New South Wales.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has raised again the whole question of the difference between the benefits in respect of both sickness and pensions as between men and women. One thing that I think is worthy of notice in this connexion - and it has not been mentioned in this debate, so far as I am aware - is that statistics show that women actually receive moreby way of sickness benefits than men do, because women in employment are sick very much more frequently than men are. I do not sug gest for one moment that we should base on those statistics the treatment that we shall accord to men and women, but it is a point worthy of notice. The Leader of tha Opposition also referred to the disparity between the proposed payments in respect of old-age pensions to women contributors and to men contributors. I do not think that sufficient notice has been taken of the fact that, speaking generally, a woman will receive the pension for almost twice the period that it will be paid to a loan. A woman will cease to be a contributor at 60 years, compared with 65 years in the case of a man. and she will become a recipient of the pension five years earlier than will a man. Moreover, statistics show that, on the average, women live nearly four years longer than men do. A man who attains the pension age of 65 years can look forward to drawing the pension for about ten years.
– Statistics give the period as only seven years.
– According to statistics the average women lives three or four years longer than does the average man, and she commences to receive the pension five years earlier, so that for every man who will be paid a pension for ten years there will be a corresponding woman who will enjoy it for nearly nineteen years. Those facts must be taken into consideration when we are comparing the advantages of men and women under this scheme. The Leader of the Opposition said that a woman would receive 15s. a week under this contributory scheme, whereas under the existing Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act she would receive £1 a week if her circumstances were such as to entitle her to a pension. That is true; but the honorable gentleman omitted to say that there will be many thousands - I hope many tens of thousands - of women who, under the national health and pensions insurance scheme, will enjoy a pension of 15s. a week, but would not be entitled to receive one penny under the existing non-contributory scheme, because that pension is subject to a means test, whereas the pension under this scheme is a supplementary payment, or an addition to whatever a woman may have been able to save in her working life. This pension of 15s. a week may appear to honorable members, and. no doubt is, a modest amount; but it represents slightly more than the interest return on a capital investment of £1,000 in Government bonds. How many people in modest circumstances, and how many women would be able to’ save sufficient money to purchase that amount of Government bonds? Only the more fortunate would be able to do that. It has been argued that it is not quite fair that one woman, without making any contribution, is able to get an old-age pension of £.1 a week, whereas another woman who contributes to this scheme, will get a pension of only 15s. a week. Again, the whole case was not stated. In every instance in which a woman under the existing act is entitled to a pension of £1 a week, a woman contributor to this fund who draws 15s. a week, in like circumstances, will have an additional 5s. paid to her from the Treasury, making the total payment £1 a week. Only women contributors whose circumstances would prevent them from enjoying the old-age pension would be limited to 15s. a week under this scheme.
I rose more particularly to direct attention to the position with regard to the widow’s pension. I would like to know from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) whether some research was made - I have no doubt that it was - into the allocation of the money available for the payment of widows’ pensions, as between the widow with a family and a young childless widow. It seems to me, although I am open to correction, that something more could have been provided for widows with dependent children without increasing the appropriation for widows’ pensions, if the principle observed in the scheme introduced ten years ago had been adopted. Under that proposal, payments to childless widows were to be limited to three years. No doubt, there is every justification for paying a pension for life to a woman who has reached middle age when she loses her husband, but if a childless widow of, say 25 or 30 years of age, received a pension only for a sufficient time to enable her to make the necessary re-adjustments and take up her former occupation, it would be possible to make more generous pro- vision for widows with dependent children. We may be told by the Treasurer that examination of the figures relating to widows disclosed’ that not very much would be saved by adopting the suggestion that payment to childless widows should be limited to three years; that in practice, that period has proved ample for a childless widow to secure another husband, and that very little more would be drawn from the fund by paying all widows pensions for life. I would, however, like to hear what the Treasurer has to say on the point. Under the British scheme, there is a limitation of a widow’s pension in connexion with the marriage of a Man over 60 years of age with a woman who is many years his junior. In such circumstances, a woman who is left a widowdoes not receive a widow’s pension unless she had a child or children, or had been married for at least three years prior to the death of the husband, or if she was already in receipt of a widow’s pension. I do not wish to deprive a young widow without children of something which she might get, but I do think it would be better to use some of her benefit to provide a more generous pension to a widow with a family.
.- It is time we had some women members in this Parliament to state their case whenever legislation of this kind is under discussion. Despite anything which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) or any other Government supporter may say, the sex inequality evidenced in this scheme is most unfair to the women of Australia.
– There is inequality in the respect of contributions.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) made a great- mouthful of the fact that female contributors would pay less than men because their wages are lower. This is one of the most undesirable features in the economic life of this country, and is largely responsible for the continued economic degradation of the people. Lower wages paid to women mean a lower standard of living generally. Such a pernicious principle should not be perpetuated in this measure. This Parliament should not recognize any inequality of the sexes. It should lead the way to reform instead of following slavishly the practices of the bosses and captains of industry. If female contributors do pay less than men to the fund it is indisputable that, because of the forfeiture of their rights under it following their marriage, the contributions which, they will have paid will swell the surplus, about which we have heard so much. A great number of young women enter industry at an early age. As employees they will contribute to this scheme for several years until their marriage. They will then go off the fund and all that they have paid into it will be profit, so the Government could very well afford to- dispense with this inequality in respect of benefits. The Treasurer also said that female contributors will require more sickness benefit than male contributors. I very strongly doubt whether female contributors will take more out of the fund in sick benefits than male contributors, because so many who will be contributing to it in the early years of their lives, when their health standard will be high, will go out of the fund following their marriage. Statistics show that they are more likely to require sick benefit in their later years because of family responsibility. Women are not so subject as men are to occupational sickness- or disease, and the statement that women would draw more sick benefit than men during the period of contribution to the fund is not borne out by experience. I consider that the widow’s pension should be at least £1 a week. There is no reason why it should be less than the old-age pension now payable. We have been informed that the value of the insurance to be provided will be £750. That may be so, but those responsible for the actuarial soundness of the scheme have been as liberal as possible in estimating the value of the benefits, and quite the reverse in fixing the rates of payment by the contributors. The Treasurer has remarked that a widow will receive the pension five years earlier than a male contributor. Speaking generally, however, men live longer than women, and, on the average, will draw the pension for a longer period.
– Does the honorable member contend that men live longer, on the whole, than women?
– Yes. The honorable member should know that for every woman who reaches the age of 80 years, 20 or 30 men attain that age. We do not need the assistance of actuaries or statisticians to prove that. In the past, the old-age pension for a woman has been the same as that for a man, but, under this measure, a woman is to receive 5s. a week less than a man. We are told that, if she can pass the means test under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, she will be able to obtain the extra 5s. It is deplorable that elderly people are to be forced to prove that they are in destitute circumstances. This savours of the time when women were considered to have no rights at all. We should not degrade the women of Australia by depriving them of the rights given to men. I hope that the Government will accede to the request of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost), and recast the schedule, so that women and men will receive equal payment under this measure. The honorable member for Gippsland remarked that, if a widow were without children, she could obtain employment ‘in industry. Of course, she could, but the provision of a widow’s pension of 12s. 6d. a week, and 3s. 6d. a week for each dependent child, savours of the days of the poor-house in England. It is an outrage, and a reflection upon Christian civilization, to ask a woman with three children to live on such a miserable pittance.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) was obviously and seriously in error in asserting so confidently that any benefits that might accrue to a woman by reason of the fact that she could qualify for theoldage pension five years earlier than could a man would be more than offset, because men live to a considerably greater age, on the average, than do women. Vital statistics show that the expectation of life for a woman is, on the average, four years longer than that of a man. Therefore, whereas a woman qualifies for the old-age pension at the age of 60 years, and a man at the age of 65 years, a woman would not only draw her pension five years earlier than would a man, but she would also draw it in all for nine years longer. The most effective answer to the criticism levelled against the pension rates prescribed in the schedule is to be found in the fact that the storm of criticism and indignation that burst on the Government when the provisions of this bill were first made known has completely died down, as a knowledge of the provisions of the measure has gradually spread, and as women’s organizations, generally, have properly acquainted themselves with the contents of the bill. There is no evidence to-day of that .opposition to the measure which was manifest prior to the secondreading debate. Representatives of various women’s organizations throughout the Commonwealth have interviewed the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), and they were present during the second-reading debate. The information acquired by them during that period removed their opposition to the bill, and enabled them to realize, f am sure, that, if there is any discrimination in the measure, it is not against women, but against men. That question, however, was dealt with thoroughly in the second-reading debate. I remind the committee that, of the total number of contributors to the fund, approximately 25 per cent, will be women, whose contributions will amount to one-sixth of the total contributions paid by insured persons. When the scheme begins to operate, women will draw 40 per cent, of the cash benefits paid, and, as the scheme matures, they will receive 34 per cent, of the cash benefits.
– How does the honorable member arrive at those figure5?
– l have been provided with them by those responsible for the actuarial soundness of the scheme. What I have said was stated, in substance, by the Treasurer in his second-reading speech. There may be ground for some criticism of the bill on the score of a maldistribution of the benefits, but that has yet to be established, and as far as I am aware no one has yet attempted to establish it. It is already shown beyond doubt that women will benefit to a greater degree than men in respect of financial payments,- not only relatively but absolutely. Whether the distribution of those benefits is a proper one is an entirely different question. Those responsible for the preparation of the bill had a choice, and they made their decisions according to their lights. The Opposition is still pursuing the course it has followed throughout the whole of the debate, lt is endeavouring to divorce the measure completely from sound insurance principles. We should not overlook the fact that this is an insurance bill, and that there should be some relation between . the contributions paid and the benefits distributed. We’ have already departed sufficiently far from that in order that greater benefits may be given to women. Probably the Treasurer had to choose between giving the full rate of widows’ pension to women, and not giving any pension at all. In the circumstances, I believe that he has made the wise and the proper choice. Again, he may have had to choose between giving still greater benefits to women and fewer benefits’ to men. I do not believe that that would be a proper choice to make. However, the outstanding, fact is that although the contributions by women to’ the total fund represent only one-sixth of the contributions of insured contributors, women and their dependent children will draw 54 per cent, of the total benefits payable under the scheme. The woman who really needs help when she reaches the age of 60 years will be able to draw from Consolidated Revenue, by virtue of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, an additional amount of 5s. a week, consequently she will not be at any disadvantage. Only those women who are relatively welltodo and are not in need of the money will be unable to take advantage of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act and draw £1 a week. That, as I see it, is the case for the Government. I do not consider that the objections lodged by honorable members opposite can be sustained in the slightest degree.
– I wish to draw the attention of honorable members opposite to the sickness and disablement benefits payable by friendly societies. I shall not give the names. but I have been informed that the figures which I have before me are those of four representative friendly societies. In the first case, the rate for the first six months is 21s. a week in respect of males, and 10s. a weekin respect of females. At the end of that period the rate drops to 15s. a week in respect of males and 5s. a week in respect of females. Thereafter, there is a decrease to 2s. 6d. a week. On the average throughout, women receive less than one-half of the amount received by men, whereas under this scheme they will receive three-quarters. In the second case, the contributions are roughly in the same proportion as is proposed by the Government - approximately two-thirds. The benefit is 21s. a week in respect of males, and 10s. 6d. a week in respect of females for the first six months. For the second six months the women draw 7s. a week, for the third six months 5s. a week, and at the end of 18 months, 2s. 6d. a week. I am assured that thatis roughly two-thirds of the amount drawn by men.
– ‘What funeral benefits do they draw?
– That is a different matter. The story is the same all down the scale. I remind honorable members that under the national health and pensions insurance scheme the rate for the first six months is, for men 20s. a week, dropping to 15s. a week, and for women, 15s. a week, dropping to 12s. 6d. a week. The 15s. and 12s.6d. a week respectively, will continue indefinitely in respect of both men and women up to old-age pension age, so long as that degree of disablement continues.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) asked a question concerning the marriage of an old man with a young woman. There is, as I think the honorable gentleman is aware, a provision in the British act under which, if a contributor over the age of 60 years marries, his widow does not draw a widow’s pension unless they had been married for three years prior to his death and there had been-
– “ Or “ had been.
– Or there had been a child of the union. The Government considered and rejected this provision. Should any abuse creep in, the position will have to be reviewed at some later date. The honorable member for Gippsland also mentioned the possibility of the pension being restricted in the case of the young childless widow.
– I suggested that something more might be paid to the woman with a family if a time limit were fixed in respect of the pension granted to a young childless widow.
– That matter was considered. I referred to it in my secondreading speech. The Government wished to keep the act as uncomplicated as possible, and eventually decided not to make any distinction against the young childless widow, who frequently re-marries. She who marries an insured man will renew her right to a widow’s pension.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) reminded the committee that an additional 5s. a week, making a total of £1 a week, will be available to those women who are really in need of it. That finally disposes of any suggestion of sex discrimination.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has argued that payments under this scheme should bear some relation to the contributions, the implication being that, as the contributions of women will be less than those of men, the pension should accordingly be less. Those who have asked the Government to improve the measure have always been met with the statement that the bill is based on the English model. In this respect it departs from the English act. It is a fact that, under that act, the contributions made by women are less than those made by men. But in regard to widows’ pensions and old-age pensions, the benefits afforded to women a.re as good as, if not better than, those to which men are entitled. In England there are two separate acts, although they are worked in conjunction with each other. Here they have been dovetailed. Under the National Health Insurance Act, the contributions of men and women are nearly equal. I believe that the contribution of the woman worker is 4d. a week, and that of the male worker 4½d. a week, while the sickness and disablement benefit enjoyed, by the woman is four-fifths of that enjoyed by the man. But when we study the Widows, Orphans and Old-age Contributory Pensions Act 1936, we find that a woman contributes 3d. a week, compared with a contribution of 5½d. a week by a man. The total contribution in respect of a woman is 5½d. a week, of which she pays 3d. a week and the employer 2½d. a week. The total contribution inrespect of a man is11d. a week, of which he pays5½d a week and the employer5½d. a week. Consequently, he has to pay 5½d. a week to acquire rights which are available to a woman for a payment of 3d. a week. The rights acquired are set out in section 1 of that act. The widow of an insured person receives a pension at the rate of 10s. a week, which is equal to the provision made in respect of the old-age pension; but, in addition, she receives an allowance in respect of children under the age of fourteen years, the rate being 5s. a week in respect of the eldest child, and 3s. a week in respect of every other child. The payment made to her, together with the allowance in respect of her children, is described as a widow’s pension. Orphan children, while under the age of fourteen years, and for a further period specified later in the act, receive an orphan’s pension at the rate of 7s. 6d. a week. An insured man or woman who has attained the age of 65 years receives a pension of 10s.a week, and the uninsured wife of an insured man who has attained the age of 65 years receives a pension of a similar amount.
– The two combined are no greater than is paid to a pensioner here.
– I am not referring to that. The honorable member for Macquarie contended that the pension should bear some relation to the contributions, and I am comparing this scheme with legislation upon which it is supposed to have been based. In this respect, as well as in other respects, this is less favorable to the insured person. There are many respects in which we have departed from the English act, and, in the majority of cases, the departure is to the disadvantage of the Australian scheme. Under the English act, the exaction from the woman contributor is about one-half of the exaction from the male contributor, yet the benefit in the case of the woman is equal to that enjoyed by the man.
– The English fund is drawn on only up to the age of 70 years.
– That is not the point. The suggestion is that inequality of contributions entitles the Government to pay unequal benefits. In England, where the contributions demanded from the woman are practically one-half of those demanded from the man, her benefits are equal to those of the man. From her widowhood onward, the uninsured wife of an insured man is paid at the old-age pension rate. The woman who insures herself is paid at the same rate as the man who insures himself; but, in addition, there are two classes of uninsured women who receive benefits, namely, the widow of an insured man, who receives a widow’s pension, and the uninsured wife of a living insured man, who, upon attaining the age of 65 years, receives a benefit at the rate fixed for the old-age pension - 10s. a . week.
– Both at 65 years of age.
– I am dealing with the argument, which the honorable gentleman himself adopted, namely, that inequality of contributions justifies inequality of reward. I want to refer to what the honorable member said about pensions for widows who marry at 60 years of age. First, I wish to place on record the fact that the English act makes the conditions of which the Treasurer spoke alternative. Section 3 of the “Widows’, Orphans’, Old-age and Contributory Pensions Act1936 of Great Britain, says -
Provided that the widow of a man who had attained the age of60 at the date of the marriage shall not be entitled to a widowsponsion unless either -
there are or have been one or more children of the marriage; or
at the date of the death of her husband three years or more have elapsed since the date of the marriage.
The conditions are alternative.
– Quite. I assure the honorable member that I did not attempt to mislead him.
– I realize that. The provision was inserted in that act to prevent the senior equivalent to “bangle marriages “. I do not think the Australian community would accept the statement of the honorable member for Gippsland that if a woman became a widow it was her duty to re-marry. Many members of this committee know of women who have been widows for many years. I know one who has been a widow for 50 years.
– I did not suggest that it was their duty to re-marry.
-! thought the honorable member suggested that it was their duty to re-marry in order to relieve the fund. ,
– I suggested that a period of three years would probably be a sufficient period of time for the widow to select and secure a second husband.
– I am glad that the honorable member was not responsible for the suggestion, of which I Jo not approve.
.- I support the amendment, which seeks to have the schedule re-drafted. For the life of me I cannot see how we can reasonably ask a woman who is working in industry, and who becomes sick, to live on less than is provided for a, man. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) contended that women experience more sickness than men. That is a natural law; they arc susceptible to more sickness. They ought not to be required to work in industry, but through stress of economic circumstances they have to do most laborious work under conditions that break many of them down. The honorable member for Macquarie should be fair to the women who will contribute under this scheme, and acknowledge that if they fall sick they are entitled to everything they can get out of the fund. A woman living in a room has to pay the same rent for it as a man would have to pay, and I have yet t;> learn that she can clothe and feed herself on less expenditure than a man. The honorable member for Macquarie and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) may have solved the problem of how a woman in industry can live on less than a man, but I have not solved it, and the women have not solved it. The bill seeks to subject them to a reduced standard of living. There can be no argument in favour of it. As for the statement that hundreds of women have informed the Treasurer that everything is right with the bill, I can counter that with the statement that hundreds of thousands of women have made representations to members on this side of the House asking us to oppose this inequitable provision. “Women in industry receive a lower wage than men, and they pay a larger proportion of their wages in contributions. In spite of that, they receive less in benefits. The actuaries who made the calculations did not consider that point; they merely prepared a statement for the Treasurer. The statements macle in support of paying women less are tlie old, old stories of tlie wife-beaters. A mau who takes a correct view of woman recognizes her position as one of equality, and admits that he can never repay her for her services.
– There is no wife-beating in the schedule.
– I said the wifebeater always comes back with the same argument ; he always says that the woman is receiving too much. I am keenly disappointed with the latter part of the schedule relating to widow,s with dependent children. How can any one defend a provision that gives a widow 12s. 6d., rising to a maximum of 15s.? If a widow has dependent children, she will receive, at the start, 12s. 6d. for herself and 3s. Gd. for each .dependent child. That 3s. Gd. is supposed to provide food and clothing for the child, and vet, we hear that every child is worth from £3.00 to £700 to the state. A woman who brings children into the world and has to provide for them has more claim than a man to a pension. A man cannot look after children as well as their mother can, and no man likes to have to do it. We have to consider this question from the point of view of the woman who has to rear her children. In New South Wales, the State. Government pays £1 to the widow and 10s. for each dependent child, without collecting contributions.
– Who brought in that scheme ?
- Mr. Lang, leader of the Labour party in New South Wales.
– And who found the money to pay the pension ?
– The workers find the money. They pay for everything. The money is not found by those wealthy people who live at Pott’s Point and St. Kilda. The workers provide even their wealth. When an orphan child is boarded-out to a foster-mother, a payment of 7s.6d. a week is made. That is a shockinganomoly. If it is right for a foster-mother to receive 7s. 6d., surely a mother should receive at least as much. The bill will provide 6d. a day to rear a child. A widow with four children must have a four-roomed house, for which she will have to pay 17s. to £1 a week, out of an income of 26s. 6d. a week. I make my protest, and take my stand, on behalf of those who suffer the most - widows with dependent children whom they have to feed and clothe. Had a Labour government been in office it would have provided £1 a week for the widow, and 10s. a week for each child. The revenue could have been obtained from the enormous wealth of the country. It we went about it the right way, we could provide better food, clothing, and shelter for every man, woman, and child than we provide at present. The Labour party is quite ready to go to the electors on this issue. We should ask the women to decide whether they would return a Government that requires a widow with dependent children to live on 15s. a week and 3s.6d. for each child. Supporters of the Government rear their children in the lap of luxury at Pott’s Point and St. Kilda. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) says “Haw, haw!” Would he like to see his wife left destitute with her child to support on 12s. 6d. a week for herself and 3s. 6d. for the child ? As a member of this Parliament, I receive enough to feed, clothe, and shelter my children, but hundreds of thousands of Australian workers have to rear families, equal to or perhaps better than mine, under shocking conditions. Under this bill, a widow with dependent children is to receive the munificent sum of 3s. 6d. a week to feed and clothe each dependent child. In order to emphasize the impossibility of their position, I cite the fact that bread in this city costs 6d. a loaf. I appeal to honorable members to reject that amount of 3s. 6d. a week with scorn. If there be anythingthat will tend to accelerate the decline of the birthrate it is this piece of legislation. An eminent clergyman once said that we were not giving enough to the future mothers of this country.
– Lang gave them enough.
– Yes, and great credit to him. Another leading Labour man, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), has been for many years an advocate of providing the widows and dependent children of this country with adequate sustenance. The widows of Australia rue the day they voted into power this Government, which has the support of the honorable member for Henty. I hope the wife and children of that honorable gentleman, and other honorable gentlemen, will never have to live on such a miserable pension as is provided in this schedule. I hope that that will never be the lot of my wife and children. 1 am here to fight for the people, who, under the existing system of economy, have to subsist under conditions of poverty and suffering. Let us be men and face the issue bravely, and bring in legislation that will enable the women and children of this country to be adequately fed and clothed..
– I protest against the idea that pensions and other benefits under this so-called national insurance scheme should be governed by contributions. 1 speak now on behalf of the isolated women “of the tropical north who have been forgotten bythe framers of this bill. In 1900, our forebears set out to do something for those women, but failed to achieve their end. I propose to state the case of the married women of Northern Australia who are charged with the duty of preserving the White Australia policy against odds.For the last 38 years, those women have been forgotten in thesouthern areas. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), referring to sick benefits, pointed out that the contributions were lower for women than for men, and that women drew benefits for longer periods. He pointed out also- I think it is a tragedy - that women live for five years longer than men. I pass by what the honorable member said because I realize that he was only putting forward the actuarial side. I refer to the report of the conference of the British Medical Association at Brisbane in 1920, when a young doctor, Dr. T. A. Nisbet, of Townsville, read a paper written by himself from notes left by his deceased. father who practised in Townsville for 31 years. Dr. Nisbet said -
The taxpayer of the south must he prepared to pay handsomely for the policy of White Australia. He “must be willing to give the people of the north wages large enough to allow them to live in well-built, cool houses, with mechanical aids such as electric fans, which would be considered a luxury in cooler climates. The working -man must be able to send his wife and children to a cooler zone, such as the tablelands of Atherton or the hinterland west of Cairns, for at least one out of three summers. Some form of domestic help must be found for the young mothers.
When Dr. Nisbet made that statement there was no free access from the humid sea-level sugar areas - a strip of country extending for 200 miles from Mackay to Cooktown - to the comparative coolness of the tablelands, but that access is now available. The same cannot be said about Darwin where there is no hinterland of any great altitude. There is some upland country 100 miles inland. The women in the tropical regions are the disinherited women of Australia. In an earlier part of ‘his lecture, Dr. Nisbet gave some startling information which should be impressed upon the people of the south. The Medical Journal of Australia reports him as having said -
An inordinate number of mothers were unable to suckle their young. The convalescence from the peurperal fever was longer than normal. Many of them returned to domestic work n week or so after the child was born. But the effect of the climate made itself felt sooner or later in the symptoms of neurasthenia debility. Dr. Nisbet spoke of the tired feeling which made women and children incapable of fulfilling their duties.
There is abundant evidence that unless women are able, periodically, to get away from the humidity of the tropics at sealevel, they are physiologically unable to produce third generation children of the same virility as those in the southern regions. I feel justified in criticizing Sir Raphael Cilento for having failed to place this information before Australia long ago. At this conference it was stated that the death rate in the tropical parts of Queensland was low, but this was due not to longevity but to the fact that inhabitants got away from the north during the autumn of their lives and also to the fact that many of the workmen were not Queenslanders of the third or fourth generation. The great proportion of the women in North Queensland cannot afford to take holidays in the cooler regions. I suggest that some provision for cheap sea or air service should be made in this measure to enable them to take a holiday at least once a year in order that the White Australia policy of which this country boasts should be real. The women of the north who are charged with the responsibility for the maintenance oi that policy should not be disinherited.
.- This schedule refers to -
On Friday, in compliance with a request made by me, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) introduced an amendment under which juveniles will receive benefits immediately they become contributors. I take it that these unmarried minors are in the same category and that the schedule should be amended to conform with the amendment that was made to clause 19. I should like an explanation from the Treasurer.
– A juvenile contributor is defined in clause 4 as being a person between the ages of .14 and 16 years. A minor is a person between the ages of 1.6 and 21 years.
– I am satisfied.
Mi. WARD (East Sydney) [5.17].- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) that the schedule should be postponed as an instruction to the Government to equalize the benefits under this scheme. 1 take a further opportunity to try to elicit from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) some information as to how this scheme is going to affect the social legislation already in existence in certain of the States. Before this bill was introduced, the Commonwealth consulted with the States, and, no doubt, among the questions discussed was one as to the manner in which this measure would relieve the various States budgets of the social responsibilities that they carry at the moment. In New South Wales, widows receive a pension of £1 a week, with 10s. for each dependent child of less than fourteen years of age. Under this scheme, a widow is to receive 12s. 6d. a week plus 3s. 6d. a week for each dependent child. Will a person insured under the Commonwealth scheme be deprived of rights that at the moment they have in New South Wales, or will a widow be permitted to draw the pension provided by the Government of New South Wales and. in addition, the pension provided by this bill? Or will the Commonwealth pension be regarded as completely eliminating the right of a widow to claim a pension in New South Wales? Will a widow be able to draw 10s. a week for each dependent child under the New South Wales legislation, and also 3s. 6d. a week for each dependent child under this legislation, or will the pension under this legislation off-set or eliminate the pension in New South Wales? These questions are agitating the minds of the people who will be directly affected. S,o far the Treasurer has not seen fit to give an assurance that this legislation will in no way affect the rights of contributors under the social legislation already in existence in the States. I listened with interest to the argument;” - or rather apologies - of those Government members who supported the proposal, of the Government to deny equal benefits to women under the scheme. The Treasurer quoted an opinion of actuaries, but. we know that experts can be obtained to support any and every cause for which their services are engaged. When the widows’ .pensions scheme was introduced to New South Wales, it was decided that the minimum pension that could be offered to a widow was. £1 a week, with 10s. for dependent children. No anti-Labour government ever intended to give the workers or their dependents more than the barest subsistence, so we may take it that £1 is regarded as an absolute minimum. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) need not fear that antiLabour governments will ever give the workers too much. The attitude of such governments towards the workers is in striking contrast to their attitude towards the widows of members of their own party.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member must confine his argument to the question ‘ before the Chair.
– It is relevant, I think, to point out that this Government is much more generous when it comes to making provision for the widows of its friends than when providing for the widows and dependents of the workers. I point out to the honorable member for Gippsland that, right throughout the history of Australia, the anti-Labour governments have been niggardly in their treatment of the workers, but generous in their treatment of those who belong to their own class of society. This insurance scheme has been cunningly devised, not to confer benefits upon the workers and their dependents, but to pare down to the barest minimum the allowances which the Go vernment is compelled to make to them. Any improvement of the conditions of workers has never been as the result of a concession given willingly by an anti-Labour government; they were wrung from it by the power of organized Labour. Women are now being unjustly treated because they have not yet realized the advantages of united action. They have not used their voting strength effectively. There are signs, however, that they are awakening, as was demonstrated recently during the Geelong election. If women availed themselves of the voting strength at their command, neither this Government nor any other would be able to deal unjustly by them. It is an absolute disgrace that any member of this Parliament should get up, as did the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), and argue that a dependent child is well provided for by an allowance of 3s. 6d. per week, and that the widow of a worker is being justly treated when she is given 12s. 6d. per week. The honorable member was not so exact in his calculations when he voted allowances to the widows of deceased members of his own party. If every widow and every child were given the allowances provided for in this scheme, it would do no more than perpetuate their poverty. This Government has for years been making promises yet this is all it has to offer. The State governments arc perpetually hampered by lack of money in carrying into effect any plans for social reform, because since the establishment of the Loan Council the implementing of financial policy is in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. Despitethis, the Labour Government of New South Wales was able to give widows a pension of £1, with an allowance of 10s.’ for their dependents, without exacting any contribution in return. The Treasurer has been in consultation with the Premier of New South Wales, and I have no doubt that they discussed this scheme of national insurance, yet the Treasurer is unable, or unwilling, to saywhether a widow residing in New South Wales will be able to draw a pension of £1 a week from the State authorities, and also draw a. pension under the national insurance scheme. I trust that women of Australia have paid particular attention to the statements of members of the Government expressing their opposition to the granting of equal rights to men and women. I hope that they will also look carefully at the provisions of this bill, and ask themselves whether their interests are adequately safeguarded. If they do so, and if they use their political power effectively at the next election, this Government will, I am convinced, be cast into political oblivion.
– The time allowed for this discussion has elapsed.
Question put -
That the schedule be postponed (Mr. Frost’s amendment) .
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Pro wse. )
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Third schedule, and the circulated amendments of the Government, and the remainder of the bill agreed to.
Circulated Amendments: -
The third schedule, paragraph 1, at the end of the paragraph insert the following subparagraph : - “ (d) Juvenile contributors, males and females - 5s. per week.”
The third schedule, omit paragraph 3, insert the following paragraph: - “ 3. Old-age Pension -
Males - 20s. per week;
Females - 15s. per week;
Females to whom section seventy- five A of this act applies - an additional amount of 5s. per week.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed : -
That the report be adopted.
.- The bill, as reported, is unsatisfactory in that it includes provisions that are anomalous, inequitable and in some respects vexatious. It is not a consistent bill, for it omits provisions that should be included in a measure to implement the scheme this hill purports to implement. The purpose of the measure is to insure employees against certain contingencies. Any fair-minded individual surveying the problems of this community would admit at once that unemployment is the chief contingency against which workers need to be safeguarded, yet this bill makes no reference to any means by which they may be enabled to carry on their normal activities as citizens during this most distressful period. Moreover, it leaves out of the ambit of its provisions very important sections of the Australian people. Not only is no provision made to cover unemployed workers, but also very doubtful provision is made to meet the circumstances of casual and intermittent workers. Many of the unsatisfactory circumstances to which I have referred, and which will, I am sure, be reflected when the bill becomes law, could have been removed had the committee been given adequate opportunities to consider important amendments to which honorable members had intended to invite attention.
Some of -the provisions of the bill have not been deliberated upon at all by the committee. We complain also that the bill confers tremendous legislative authority upon the Governor-General in Council, which will, in effect, enable the Executive to constitute itself an ancillary branch of this legislature to prescribe conditions upon both employees and employers which, if they should be prescribed at all. should be prescribed by the Parliament and not by the Executive.
The bill will make necessary the imposition of additional taxation of approximately £13,000,000 per annum upon the people of Australia. Of this amount, £2.000,000 will have to be borne by the general community, in that it will have to be furnished from Consolidated Revenue. The other £11,000,000 will have to be found from taxes imposed in pursuance of the provisions of the bill upon employees and employers. Many of the employers who will have to contribute to this tax receive very small incomes indeed in return for their enterprise. Many are, in fact, in such grievous conditions as the result of the present world situation, as to have made it imperative for the Parliament to give them aid from time to time. If this measure becomes law it will become more than ever necessary to afford certain sections of the employing class of Australia additional aid through various instrumentalities, particularly by means of increased customs duties and bounties, to enable them to pay the taxes which will fall upon them. The bill will also have an inequitable effect upon many categories of employed persons. Certain employed persons will be engaged in occupations exempt from the provisions of the bill. Among these are workers whose circumstances render more imperative than ever the granting of assistance in directions in which this bill purports to provide such assistance for other persons.
Another serious blemish of the bill is that it does not provide protection for the wives and children of employed persons in respect of health services. If this bill is to be regarded as expressing the Government’s view in respect of national health policy, the hopes of members of the Opposition party that the measure when reported from committee would be at least a little more generous than seemed possible at first, are dashed to the ground. We expected that the Government would at least place the wives and children of insured persons on the same basis in respect of such health benefits as was made possible, by Commonwealth subventions, for husbands and fathers. .Some of the anomalies of the bill have been made inevitable by reason of the fact that, although the Government has resorted to a compulsory system of national insurance, a most extraordinary series of optional provisions has been ineluded in the measure which, in themselves, flatly contradict the very premises on which the bill was said to be founded. As the result of this, the measure, although compulsory in principle, grants elective rights to husbands to do or not to do certain things to ensure health services for their wives and children. We have, in fact, reached a state of affairs under which it appears to me that, if the husband desires to bring his wife and children under the provisions of the measure, he will have To find approximately 4s. each week, which to a working man is a vastly different sum from ls. Od. a week. He will have to find ls. 6d. a week for his own pensions contribution and also to hypothecate the amount necessary to provide health services. In order to ensure medical treatment for his wife and children he will also have to contribute approximately ls. a week extra to some friendly society.
Then again, if he wishes his wife to receive a pension of £1 a week when she reaches 60 years of age, he will have to pay an additional ls. 6d. a week. So his total contribution will be 4s. a week. That would be such a burden upon the wages of the workers of Australia as to make it most oppressive. Further, the burden is not justified when we realize that large sections of the wealthy classes of Australia will be exempt from any contribution to the fund to be set up to make these services possible.
It has been emphasized in the course of the discussion of the bill, that one of the positive purposes of the Government is to transfer from the general taxpayers, according to the incidence of our income tax acts and indirect taxing measures, a. burden which at present is carried by the community as a whole, in respect of existing Commonwealth social services. The general taxing power of the Government, is called upon to find this money. This bill is, actually, the first example in the history of the Commonwealth of any departure, in connexion with Commonwealth social services, from the principle that social responsibility shall be borne by the nation and that the Parliament shall, at its discretion, pass each year the taxing measures necessary to provide the amount necessary for the purpose. This bill negates that principle in that it definitely calls upon employers and employees to make larger contributions than other citizens towards meeting the costs that are incidental to these services.
The anomalies of the bill are extraordinary. I have already pointed out that unemployed persons are not covered by the measure. During the discussion of the bill, the Government was impressed by the difficulties that unemployed persons would experience, but, unfortunately, so little impression was made that the only provision of the bill to meet their circumstances is a brief free insurance period. Clauses 20 and 21 envisage a two years’ free insurance period. If an insured person becomes unemployed he will, within the provisions of these two clauses, be entitled to a free insurance period of from eighteen months to two years, dependent upon when he loses his employment. During that time he will be entitled to medical benefits, that is, treatment by doctors and also medicine, after one contribution has been made. He may .also receive the sickness benefit, at the rate of 20s. a week, for six months, but only if 26 contributions have been paid. A female insured person will be entitled to only 15s. a week. The bill draws a definite distinction between the benefits provided for insured male and insured female persons. Disablement benefit will be provided during this free insurance period -only if 104 contributions have been paid. The free insurance period, therefore, is only to be observed if certain specified conditions have been complied with, so’ that more than mere unemployment is necessary to entitle an insured person to even the meagre benefits of this nature which the bill contemplates. Should an insured person who has been out of employment for two years die, his widow will not be entitled to a pension unless her husband had paid an average of 26 contributions during each of the three years immediately prior to his death. Although he may previously, when in employment, have paid 104 contributions in order that his wife would receive a widow’s pension in the event of his death, the fact remains that in the period immediately preceding his death circumstances may arise to disqualify his widow for a pension. Similar, but more burdensome, conditions apply to pensioners. Although the bill provides for an alleged free insurance period, the extraordinary fact remains that, whilst a man may have paid his contributions regularly for ten or fifteen years, or even for a longer period, and may never have been out of work, yet, if within the last five years prior to his attaining the age of 65, he finds it difficult to obtain employment on account of advancing years and growing inefficiency, he may be deprived of the benefits for which he had contributed. Should he, after reaching the age of 62 years, enter upon a period of intermittent employment, he would have to make an average of ‘39 contributions in each of the next three years in order to be entitled to a pension under this bill. It is true that the commission will have a reserve power’ under which he may be deemed to have paid contributions, but I submit that it would have been far more satisfactory had the Parliament guaranteed that a man who has been continuously employed for 20 or even 30 years, will at the end of a free insurance period have the same qualifications and rights as when he entered upon it. This provision in the bill negatives, to a great extent, whatever merit there may be in the free insurance period. Indeed, the free insurance period call be said to qualify an insured person for health services alone. The bill fails to ensure that, at the death of the insured person, his widow will receive a pension or, should he himself remain alive, that lie will enjoy the old-age pension which this bill professes to regard as a right which the man has acquired as the result of his contributions. Any bill which calls upon a man to pay contributions year after year and then, in the period immediately preceding the making of his claim, imposes irksome conditions which prejudice his claim, is inequitable.
According to the bill, a woman who marries must have been insured for three years and have paid 156 contributions before she can become a voluntary contributor for an old-age pension. In order to receive 15s. a week, she must voluntarily undertake to pay ls. a week; if she wishes to receive” £1 a week, she must pay ls. 6d. a week. Even allowing for the difference between the actual cash payments, the husband’s wage will be drawn upon to the extent of 4s. a week in order to cover himself and his wife and family, and to give to his wife equality with himself in respect of an old-age pension. Before marriage a woman in employment is compelled to insure for health and oldage pension, but after she marries she is to be refused permission to remain under the health provisions of the acf, and she may qualify for an old-age pension only by paying the whole of the contributions herself. She must make the contribution which formerly was paid by her employer. A girl, while in employment, pays for health and pension benefits. She is then in the healthiest period of her life, and naturally will not receive much benefit from her contributions. Should she get married, she will be given no refund of her contributions unless she becomes a voluntary contributor for an old-age pension. When an insured woman marries, she will become entitled, for two years, to medical, sick, and disablement benefits similar to those provided for persons who come under the free insurance provisions, provided she has made the prescribed number of contributions. The weakness of a system which rigidly insists upon insurance status as the qualification for its benefits lies in the fact that it disregards the impact of the economic system upon the lives of individual citizens in the community. Were all our citizens leading stable lives, and assured of regular work and regular incomes, I venture bo say that friendly society membership in Australia, instead of being less than 700,000, would be nearer to 2,000,000. Irregularity of work and interruptions to the receipt of income resulting from unemployment, makes it impossible for the average worker to achieve social security as the result of his own voluntary contributions to an insurance society. Whilst the substitution of compulsion for voluntary contributions may have the effect of compelling workers to provide something against the risks of the economic system in the absence of a proper Commonwealth subvention on a large scale, it merely substitutes a plan which will be cheaper for the ‘Government than the system which is already in operation. The substitution of this national health service for the existing health service in Australia really transfers from the Consolidated Revenue to the individual contributor a large part of the burden incidental to this service. Australia already has a health service; the States spend large sums of money on public hospitals, and friendly society organizations are rendering magnificent service to the family life of the nation. In addition, medical practitioners have always been generous in rendering service to the poor who cannot pay for such service. Although I am as conscious of the disorderliness of the existing medical service as is any one else in the community, the fact remains that the poor do get medical and health services at present. It is true that they have no guarantee of such services, but they do get them. Our all-health is due, not toa.ny inherent weakness of our health organization, or to any deficiency in our medical system; it is due, primarily, to low wages and the consequent inability of the poor to make adequate provision for food, clothing and shelter. In this bill the Government is merely substituting another form of health service for the existing service which, after all, is working fairly effectively. The bill does not make any provision at all to meet that difficulty which is the kernel of the health problem of Australia, namely, the inability of the people to pay for food, clothing and shelter during periods of depression. In many respects the bill will transfer the burden in respect of old-age pensions from the Consolidated Revenue to the employers and employees in the community. That will not be its immediate effect, but it is one of the ultimate consequences incidental to the bill. Although much has been said about the heavy cost of the existing system of invalid and old-age pensions, the fact remains that such pensions have for many years been regarded as among the greatest of the humanitarian achievements of this Parliament. “Whilst, in recent years, the pensions bill has grown considerably, I venture to say that the Australian people do not regard the expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions as something which is not socially ‘justified or economically wise.
One of the arguments adduced in support of the bill is that the money will circulate throughout the community. That is true. But the same argument applies to the money which at present is being expended on invalid and old-age pensions. That money now goes to those who have such urgent need of it that they immediately expend it in the purchase of the necessaries of life. Therefore, the social and economic consequences of the two schemes can be regarded as practically identical. I contend that there is a basic distinction between the origin of this money and the origin of the money which is now beng expended on pensions. At present, the wealthy section of the community is called upon to make a contribution, based on its capacity to pay, towards the cost of invalid and old-age pensions. The higher the income, the greater the levy now made upon that income to defray the cost of pensions. But in years to come no such fairness will manifest itself in respect of pensions, for we shall have substituted a flat rate of contribution, regardless of the ability of the citizen to pay for the service rendered. The bill before us is a retrograde step in taxation principles, because it substitutes a system which is inequitable and unjust in its incidence for one which is fair in that it is based on the ability of the individual to contribute towards it. The bill is full of anomalies; it fails to take cognizance of the greatest and most imperative need in Australia to-day - a plan to make assured regular incomes for those whose wages are now regularly depleted by recurring eras of unemployment. It fails also to ensure consistent adherence to the principles upon which it was constructed. Finally, the circumstances which marked the passage of the bill through the committee did not enable the committee to do justice to a measure which has such a. high-sounding title as a National Health and Insurance Pensions Bill. For a bill to be national in character, and for it to involve, as this bill was said to involve, a change in the attitude of the Commonwealth towards social questions generally, I venture the opinion that the committee should have been left unfettered in its deliberative competence, so that, the bill would have been a better bill, a more just bill, by ensuring the inclusion of those who have been excluded, whose circumstances make it all the more imperative that they should have been included. Then we would have been able to assure ourselves that,, whatever may have been the merits or the demerits of the measure, it, would have been the work of members’ of the legislature as the representatives of an enlightened community, and not merely the decision of the government of the day.
– I rise to ti point of order. My submission is that, as the bill has been reported with amendments, the report may not now be adopted ; the proper course is to fix a future date for the consideration of the report. Up to this stage the procedure of the bill has been governed by Standing Order 262a, which provides for the limitation of debate and the fixing of times for the consideration of the various stages of the measure, exclusive of any adjournment or suspension of the sitting. I point out, however, that Standing Order180 is now the relevant provision, and it is definite in its terms. It reads -
If a bill be reported with amendments, a future date shall be appointed for taking the report into consideration and moving its adoption, and the bill, as reported, shall in the meantime be printed; but if no amendments have been made, the report may be at once adopted.
My contention is that Standing Order 262a does not now apply, and that, as the bill has been reported with amendments, a future date must be fixed for the consideration of the report.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The point taken by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) does not succeed, because the vote taken by the House determined the time for the consideration of the successive stages of the bill up to its final stage. All stages must be completed at 6.13 p.m. to-day.
.- I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in protesting vigorously against the provisions contained in this bill. They cut right across the principles which hitherto have always been enshrined in Commonwealth legislation. The proposed disbursement of benefits under this scheme is contrary to the basic principles of all previous legislation of this description. We have always asserted, and with some justification, that Australia has led the world in social legislation. Thirty years ago, we affirmed theequality of the sexes in our pensions law, which was later copied by the British Government. I deeply regret that in this measure it has been left to an Australian government to repudiate principles of which previous governments and the people approved. I also object to the way in which this Government, contrary to established precedent, seeks to place upon a section of the community full financial responsibility for benefits to be given to contributors under this measure. The contributions to be levied are equivalent to a. cruel class tax on people who are least able to pay it. This bill will go down in history as the most reactionary piece of legislation which the Commonwealth Parliament has ever had placed before it for acceptance. The principle upon which the contributions are based is repugnant to our sense of social justice. I object to the measure, also, because Parliament has not had full opportunity to discuss its many and complex provisions, and to decide whether or not they should be accepted in this legislation. Honorable members have been subjected to the most irritating restrictions in the debate on this ill-conceived measure, and I feel sure that when the opportunity is afforded them, the electors will seriously challenge the Government that has brought this about. The people will not allow this measure to be foisted upon them, particularly in view of the fact that the newly-elected senators will be denied the right to consider the hill notwithstanding that they would be the most representative in that chamber to speak on this issue.
– Order! The honorable member must discuss the bill.
– I am merely giving expression to the truth about this business. I wish to make it clear that, by the procedure adopted to force this bill through Parliament, the Government and its followers have abused their Parliamentary power; they have ignored the principles of justice, and have inserted in the bill inequitable and unfair conditions. We, on this side, stand for the principle of national insurance, but we do not accept the provisions in this bill. It is an insurance proposal calculated on a profit-producing basis, but it is not what we understand as social legislation acceptable to Australian outlook. Unemployed persons have been entirely overlooked and no provision has been made for them. This should have been the first phase of any national insurance scheme. This legislation does not take into consideration in any way, that all-important problem. At an earlier period, this Government sought to make the people believe that it regarded unemployment as of transcendent importance, and yet when it comes to-
– The time for the consideration of the final stages of the bill has expired.
See page 2190.
Question put -
That the report be adopted.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker. - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) put -
That the bill now be road a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker. - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sittingsuspended from 6.25 to 8 p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1938-39, a sum not exceeding £8,824,700.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill makes provision, as follows, for an amount of £8,824,700 for ordinary services for the period of the first three months of the financial year 1938-39: -
Provision is made in this bill only for the amount which is estimated to he sufficient to carry on the essential services on the basis of the appropriations passed by the Parliament for the current year. The items making up this total represent approximately one-fourth of those appropriations, except in a few instances in respect of which where expenditure is heavy in the early months of the financial year. This measure differs from supply bills introduced at a similar time of the year in the past only in respect of the amount of the Treasurer’s advance. It has been the practice at this period to seek Supply for three months, and to provide an advance to the Treasurer of £1,500,000. During the current financial year and during the preceding year, the sum of £1,500,000 proved to be inadequate, and some embarrassment occurred towards the end of the first quarter when Supply ended, owingto the insufficiency of the advance. That is the reason why, on this occasion, the sum of £2,000,000 is sought. .
– Will the Parliament be closed for the next three months?
– This Supply will be sufficient until the end of September.
– It is disgraceful.
– Not at all. The Treasurer’s advance is mainly required to carry on uncompleted works in progress at the 30th June, and to cover unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure. It will also permit of a continuation of special grants to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, which will be paid in the early part of the current financial year on the same basis as those approved by the Parliament for the present financial year. If any adjustment is necessary, consequent on recommendations by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, it will be made in respect of later grants to those States. No provision is made in the measure for any new expenditure, or for any departure from present policy.
-Will the Treasurer explain why, since he is seeking Supply for only three months, he is asking for an advance to the Treasurer of £2,000,000, which is the normal provision for a year ?
– Normally, votes cease at the 30th June, and it is not the practice of the Treasury to carry over unexpended votes into the next financial year. This always leaves the Government in the position of having works in hand at the 30th June and, unless the advance to the Treasurer is adequate, there is no means of carrying on uncompleted works. If this practice were not followed, there would be a total cessation of a very large number of postal works, some defence works, and other civil works, from the 30th June until the Estimates were passed. That, of course, would throw many men out of employment and cause considerable difficulty. I again assure the House that this measure provides for no new expenditure, nor does it implement any new policy.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Representation Act 1905.
Bill brought up by Mr. McEwen, and read a first time.
Mr. McEWEN (Indi- Minister for the
Interior) [8.13] - by leave. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As honorable members are aware, the Constitution directs that the representation of the States in this House shall be in proportion to the numbers of the people in the respective States, subject, of course, to the requirement that no original State shall be represented by less than five members. The Representation Act 1905, which is the machinery measure designed to give effect to the constitutional direction, provides that, for the purpose of determining the numbers of members to which the several States are entitled, there shall he an enumeration day every five years - normally, on each decennial census day, and at the date midway between those days. It is proposed by this bill, however, to amend the law so as to provide that, in future, enumeration days for the purpose of determining the numerical representation of the States in this House shall he those only on which a census is taken. The reason for this proposal is, simply, that the representation of the States in the Commonwealth Parliament is considered to be far too important to be subject to alteration except on the basis of definite and unquestionable information as to the population of the respective States, such as oan be obtained only by an actual census.
On two occasions hitherto, in 1916 and 1930, this Parliament approved of the avoidance of the inter-censal enumeration day then falling due; in 1916, because of the effect on the population of the absence overseas of the Australian Imperial Force, and, in 1930, for reasons analogous to those obtaining at present. The action taken in 1930 was fully justified by subsequent results, because, whereas, on the Statistician’s estimates of 1930, Queensland was entitled to an additional representative, the actual census of 1933 disclosed that that State was not so entitled, and, consequently, had there been no avoidance of the enumeration day then ordinarily due, Queensland would have secured, for a period, a representative to which the State was not truly entitled.
The last enumeration day under the Representation Act was the 30th June, 1933, the date of the last census, and, as a period of five years will have elapsed by the 30th June, 1938, that would, except for this proposed amendment, be the next enumeration day.
If the law were permitted to continue unchanged, and the 30th June, 1938, were appointed an enumeration day, the ascertainment of the numbers of the people and the determination of the number of representatives to be chosen for each State would, as required by the representation regulations, be based on the population returns supplied by the Statistician as up to and including the 31st March, 1938. These returns may not -be available before the 30th June; but those furnished as up to the 31st December, 1937, show that, for the purposes of representation, New South Wales and Queensland have each advanced by sixteen points, while Victoria has receded by 28 points since the date of the last census, with the result that, on the 31st December,. 1937, New South Wales was only one point, and Queensland six points, short of the qualification for an additional representative, whereas Victoria needed to drop only another four points to lose a member.
So that honorable members may be fully cognizant of the position, I may state that the estimated population of the respective States as at the 31st December, 1937, and the representation figures derived therefrom, were as follows: New South Wales, population 2,710,738, representation figure 28.49 ; Victoria, population 1,859,487, representation figure 19.54; Queensland, population 993,461, representation figure 10.44; South Australia, population 591,201, representation figure 6.21; Western Australia, population 457,111, representation figure 4.81; Tasmania, population 238,990, representation figure 2.51.
As New South. Wales advanced by over two points in the December quarter, and also by over two points in the JanuaryMarch, quarter of last year, it is highly probable, should the 30th June, 1938, be appointed an enumeration day, that that State, on the Statistician’s returns, would thereupon become entitled, by a very narrow margin, to an additional representative, whereas there is a remote possibility of Victoria’s representation beind reduced by one.
I particularly desire to stress, however, and the point is deemed to be of vital importance, that the population figures contained in the Statistician’s returns, other than those resulting from a census, arc estimates only, and, while most carefully compiled, must, after a period of years, possess a very definite element of uncertainty as to accuracy. In such circumstances, especially as the margins are liable to be so extremely narrow, as in the present instance, that even a slight degree of error may mean the improper gain or loss of a representative, it is considered that the only reasonable and just course is to avoid altogether any possible risk of wrongful disturbance of the representation of the States on a basis so unreliable.
It may be added, in relation to the present instance, that while the population of New South Wales is undoubtedly progressively expanding, such population, according to the Statistician’s returns, tends to rise more steeply in the warmer period of the year, from which it may be conjectured that the returns relating to that State, taken as at December or March, in reality reflect a seasonal ‘ abnormality resulting from an influx of a temporary or transient nature.
Again, while recognizing that representation is based on total population and not on the number of qualified electors, it is pertinent’ to remark that the average enrolment for each division in the more populous States on the 31st March last was as follows: New South Wales, 28 divisions, average enrolment 57,433 ; Victoria, 20 divisions, average enrolment 57,220; Queensland, ten divisions, average enrolment 58,839; South Australia, six divisions, average enrolment 60,814. The average per division in New South
Wales is already 3,000 lower than the average in South Australia. With an additional representative in New South Wales, the difference would be increased to approximately 5,000.
For the reasons given, it is proposed by the passing of this bill to provide that henceforth census days only shall be regarded as enumeration days for the purpose of reviewing the basis of the numerical representation of the States in this House. If the bill be passed, tha immediate effect will be that no enumeration day will be appointed on the 30th. June, 1938, but that the next review of the existing representation of the respective States will stand -over until the results of the next census are available. By that time, provided the Statistician’s estimates are approximately correct and the trend of population movement indicated therein continues, it would appear likely that, arising out of the actual count of the people at the census, both New South Wales and Queensland will become qualified for an additional representative, while Victoria will lose one.
I submit the bill to the House, confidently believing that all honorable members will agree that the course proposed is both wise and just.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Drakeford) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1030, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to the House the result of its investigations - erection of a terminal building at the Kingsford Smith Aerodrome, Mascot, New South Wales.
This proposal was explained to the House on the 25th August, 1937 (vide Hansard page 83), when it was referred to the Public Works Committee in the following terms : -
It is proposed to erect at the Kingsford Smith Aerodrome, Mascot, New South Wales, a terminal building to provide accommodation for an organization to control the aerodrome as an. airport. At the present time, the air passenger services, which are operated by six companies in Sydney, are making considerable demands on the use of the aerodrome, apart from the Aero Club and other flying and training organizations. “The daily attendances of the public amount to 150 on week days, 500 on Saturdays,’ and about 2,000 on Sundays. The passengers using the air services number about 500 a week, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that this number will increase to 5,000 a week. The handling of passengers and their friends is dealt with by the private companies, which have booking offices in the city, and independent areas in the vicinity of their hangars, to deal with their business at the aerodrome. The proposed building will bc the terminal station, which will function as a central point for the control of public visitors and passengers and for the control of aircraft. With the increasing number of aircraft arriving and departing, it is necessary, in order to avoid accidents, to place all operations under strict discipline. It is proposed to place the station in charge of an aerodrome control officer, who will control aircraft movements by keeping aircraft in their hangars or in the air until the way is clear for them to take up passengers or to land. This officer will control aircraft within a radius nf (i miles by means of the signalling and aerodrome lighting facilities to bc operated from the- station. The station will also provide for a route control officer who, in close touch with the meteorological officer and the wireless operator, will control aircraft outside a radius of 0 miles. The terminal station has been designed as part of a general scheme to provide for the development of the airport, and will occupy a .central position in the vicinity of the existing Aero Club building. The building will bo of brick construction, consisting of a small basement, two floors, roof buildings, and totalling 24,000 square feet. The ground floor of 15,110 square feet will provide a central point for the embarkation and disembarkation of passengers, and the general layout is designed on the principle that the ingoing and outgoing passengers shall lie dealt with in separate sections of the building.- Accommodation is to bo provided for dealing with customs, postal and medical services, weighing and handling of baggage, operating companies’ offices, cafe, waitingrooms, ka. On the upper floor, covering 0,2(13 square feet, the control officers, meteorological officer, wireless operator and control equipment will be accommodated. The estimated cost of the building, including electric light, heating and hot water services is £51,000.
The Public Works Committee, in recommending the proposal, suggested certain modifications which, it is estimated, will reduce the cost by approximately £3,000. “
– There is no need to stress the necessity for the construction of this building as quickly as possible, because that is recognized by every person who has any knowledge of the matter. I believe there are numerous people in New South Wales who. are anxious to undertake the work. But there are one or two features which the Minister .for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) and the Parliament should take into consideration. Whilst the building itself will be of modern construction from both the utilitarian and architectural viewpoints, the means of ingress to and egress from the aerodrome are not what they should be, because of the absence of decent roads in the vicinity. The Public Works Committee, of course, had nothing to do with that matter. I strongly urge the Minister to get in touch with the State authorities, with a view to obtaining their co-operation in the making of necessary improvements in this direction. Many people thought that Mascot was the best place for a central aerodrome, but because the land was boggy they feared that it would not provide a good -landing ground. The experts, however, came to the conclusion that the fact that the site was water-locked and sandy would make it one of the best for a landing ground. I think all members who were associated in the inquiry will agree that there was only one feature with which they were dissatisfied, and that was the condition of the approaches to the aerodrome. It was agreed that if arrangements could be made for vehicles to get in and out without congestion and bungling, everything would be satisfactory. The little saving in money referred to does not represent the whole work of the committee. My view is that the suggested re-arrangement is of much more value than the saving of a few thousand pounds. The proposed layout of the buildings, particularly the internal arrangements, including the provision for aerial, postal, and medical officers, was not systematic. We have so re-arranged the buildings that the public and officials can go in and out in an endless stream. Business will be greatly facilitated. It would be advisable to put in hand immediately the construction of a proper roadway.
It is absolutely necessary in the interests of business, and for the safety of life, that the training of pilots should not be carried out on any aerodrome devoted to commercial aviation. Even nowthe congestion is dangerous, and commercial aeroplanes will soon be using the aerodrome for the whole of the 24 hours of every day. I would urge the Minister to keep in mind the probability of having shortly to decide that the training of pilots must be undertaken elsewhere. I support the motion and hope that the House will pass it without delay.
Mr.FAIRBAIRN (Flinders) [8.33].- As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has pointed out, the proposal isurgently needed for the improvement of the Kingsford Smith aerodrome. I support very strongly what he has said about the danger of carrying on training operations on an aerodrome that is used for big commercial aircraft. No opportunity should be let slip of pointing out the danger. In all capital citieswe need not merely one adequate airport, but also one for training purposes and one for private aircraft operating like private motor cars. It is very timely that the honorable member should have referred to this matter, because the idea seems to prevail, particularly at the moment in Melbourne, that if one adequate aerodrome is provided in each capital city nothing more will be required. Thai, of course, is absolute nonsense. Even at the present time it is a considerable menace to safetywhen aircraft landing at the speed of Douglas or Lockheed types use the same aerodrome as is used for training purposes.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports considers that the buildings recommended are adequate. They are, in fact, I think, more than adequate for some time to come.However, it is probably good economy,whilewe are building, to provide for 20 or 30 years ahead. The matter of approaches to the aerodrome does not come within the province of the Commonwealth Government. But the other remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Portswere a valuable contribution to the development of aviation in this country.
– What has this to do with the motion?
Mr.FAIRBAIRN.- I quite realize that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is far more interested in trying to embarrass his political opponents than in trying to do something for the good of his country, I do not place the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in that category; on the contrary, I would say that he has set out to do something useful for the community, and I support him in his efforts. I frequently have noticed the great danger that already exists. An instructor carrying out instructional work does not go up, make a landing, and return to the hangar. Instructional work consists almost entirely of taking off, landing, and taking off again.
– I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member for Flinders is in order in making an address designed to impress honorable members as to his knowledge on this subject, and not keeping strictly to the terms of the motion.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon.G. J. Bell).The motion before the House relates to certain works as explained by the Minister. The honorable member for Flinders is quite in order.
– The honorable member for East Sydney is probably notaware that one of the things provided for is a controltower. He isalso probably not aware of the function of a controltower. The officer in the control tower has to signal to each pilot when he may taxi into position, and when he may take off. When a pilot has landed the control officer signalswhen he may taxi back to the hangar. With both commercial and training machines operating at the same time the control officer’s task is extremely difficult. When an instructional machine lands the control officer does notknowwhether the instructor wishes to return to the hangar or to take off again. I feel that very shortlythe responsibilities of the control officerwill become much greater, and more than Ave have any right to ask one man to shoulder. Asprovision for an aerodrome cannot be madeovernight, I very strongly support the timely observations of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, with whom I agree that Ave must, as soon as possible, provide in each of the capital cities an aerodrome for training, another for private aircraft, and one for commercial aircraft. Private aircraft are not equipped, as commercial aircraft are, with wireless, which will, in due course, be used for signalling between the ground and machines in the air. Unless we provide necessary landing grounds the excellent and adequate buildings now under discussion will not be able to perform their proper function.
.- The carrying out of the works under discussion will supply a long-felt want. They have been long overdue. There has been some difficulty, I understand, owing to the resumption of land. Some people near the aerodrome had bought land to establish small businesses, but the area was resumed, and they had to walk out. I should like to see the buildings constructed by day labour. The principle of day labour is sound, as has been proved by work done by the Department of the Interior recently. While the control tower is being built some work should be done to provide for better lighting of the aerodrome, so that there will not be another failure of lighting such as occurred a few weeks ago. Lighting is important, if it is the intention of the Government to make Mascot the aerial gateway of New South Wales. Better lighting facilities should be provided for the approaches, for signalling, and for landing.
Another work that might be done is the placing of fingerposts along the road to Mascot. Any one travelling along that road to-day sees nothing to indicate the proximity of a big aerial terminal. It is important, also, that the commercial air activities should be controlled by a transport department formed with the co-operation of the road, rail, and air authorities. There is a multiplicity of controls at present, and I think air transport could quite well come under a department that would include the Railway Commissioner and the Road Transport Commissioner of New South Wales. I would suggest, also, that postal facilities at the aerodrome should be extended in order to cope with the increased postal traffic that may be expected.
.- In supporting this motion I would say that by the erection of the terminal buildings the. Kingsford Smith aerodrome at Mascot will become Australia’s first airport terminal. It will be to air travel what the Sydney ‘Central Railway Station is to railway travel. Moreover, it will be a suitable and practical memorial to Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. The buildings will be erected in accordance with the advice of experts who have viewed the most recent developments in Europe and Great Britain. There are complaints, however, of tho unsuitability of the landing ground, particularly in wet weather. When I visited the aerodrome a few Saturdays ago in inclement weather the condition of the ground was not in keeping with the importance of this terminal airport. In Europe, ground which is of a nature similar to that at Mascot is improved by the provision of concrete or similar runways and suitable tracks. The Publc Works Committee and the officers of the department should look further into this aspect of the matter.
– This proposal would commend itself to any one who has anything to do with transport and believes that all such services should be improved in the interest of the travelling public. I appreciate that the primary purpose of the motion is the construction of an air terminal at the Kingsford Smith aerodrome which will be a credit to Australia, but I agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) - I feel that the Minister has not overlooked it - that there should be co-ordination of all transport services, by rail, road, and air. I have been associated nearly all my working life with the railways, but I realize that all transport services, instead of being in cutthroat competition, should be coordinated. If that were done, and the mails also were handled by one authority, there would be no difficulty in having provision made for similar terminals in other parts of the Commonwealth. Under private enterprise, the Essendon aerodrome has been developed greatly with suitable buildings and runways, but I understand that it will be necessary to provide increased facilities there as well, whilst the road leading to the aerodrome also requires attention. The Public Works Committee is to be commended for its investigations, which have resulted in a reduction of the original estimate by £3,000. The close scrutiny given by that committee to this project, I think, renders it unnecessary for this Parliament to give this matter detailed consideration.
It would be wise to provide separate aerodromes for those aircraft which are not engaged in commercial transportation. What I have seen on my frequent visits to the Essendon aerodrome leads me to that conclusion, and I understand that similar conditions operate at the Mascot airport. With the modern facilities that are being provided for the direction of aircraft and the comfort and safety of passengers who travel by air, I regard the expenditure on this project as inevitable if Australia is to be kept in the forefront of aviation. 1 have much pleasure in supporting the proposal.
.- I was a member of the committee that recommended that, subject to some reduction of the original estimate of cost, this work should be undertaken. The reason which animated all members of the committee in recommending the reduction of cost, was that it was foreseen that when the terminal station was constructed at Mascot, there would be prompt demands for similar treatment of other capital cities, though, of course, the terminal stations in the smaller States would not need to be so elaborate as that at Mascot. In that connexion, I wish to press the claims of Perth, not that I make that a condition of my support of this motion, lt can be properly mentioned, however, that so far scarcely anything has been done by the Civil Aviation Department in the way of providing the Perth Aero Club-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Will the honorable member show in what way he is connecting his remarks to the motion?
– I am, perhaps, getting a little wide of the subject, but I hope that the construction of this work at Mascot will bring under notice the very great necessity for the construction of an adequately equipped aerodrome at Perth.
– in reply. - The points raised, by most honorable members who have spoken I shall bring to the notice of the Minister for Defence (Mr.
Thorby) who controls the Department of Civil Aviation. I come into this matter in the capacity of the Minister who has charge of the department that will actually undertake the work of construction, if the motion be carried. One matter, however, which might affect me directly in my position as Minister for the Interior, is .the suggestion by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) that the condition of the roads giving access to the aerodrome should be improved. The Commonwealth may have some authority in that respect under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. I shall investigate that matter, and, if possible, arrange that a direction be given for the improvement of the roads in the neighbourhood of the Mascot aerodrome.
– What about day labour ?
– It is not the policy of the Government to construct major works by day labour.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this bill be now read a second time.
It is proposed by this bill to repeal the Passports Act 1920, and to enact in its stead a new measure which will be more in line with the legislation that is in force in other British countries, and will remove some difficulties which have arisen under the existing law. The Passports Act 1920 was in substance a re-enactment of the War Precautions (Passports) Regulations 1916, which made it an offence for any person to leave the Commonwealth without being in possession of a passport or other document authorizing his departure. This provision was, no doubt, necessary during the war, and, possibly, for some time after the war. No similar provision is now in force in other British countries, and the Government considers that such, a provision is no longer necessary in Australia. It is, therefore, provided in this bill that the Minister, or an authorized officer, may issue passports, but it will not be an offence for any person to leave Australia without a passport.
Some difficulty has arisen in interpreting the present provision, because the Crown Law authorities have advised that, although there is a discretion to refuse a passport, the proper authority would be required to issue a permit or other document authorizing departure from the Commonwealth except in cases where the refusal could be justified on legal grounds, as, for instance, in the case of a person for whose arrest a warrant had been issued. On reviewing the matter, the Government found, as I have already indicated, that the existing Commonwealth act differs in this respect from the law in force in other British countries, and that in none of those countries is it compulsory for a person to obtain a passport before leaving the country. As a matter of fact, persons going abroad from those countries do obtain passports, because they would be subjected to a great deal of trouble and inconvenience in foreign countries if they were not in possession of passports. It is anticipated also, that if the present bill becomes law, persons leaving the Commonwealth will obtain passports for the same reason, but they will not ‘be liable to a fine of £50 or imprisonment for three months if they fail to do so.
This will, I think, bring our legislation into conformity with the ordinary conception of a passport, which has been described by an eminent English judge in the following terms: -
It is a document issued in the name of the Sovereign, on the responsibility of a Minister of the Crown, to a named individual, intended to be presented to the governments of foreign nations, and to be used for that individual’s protection as a British subject in foreign countries.
As a matter of fact, the form of passport actually issued in Australia is in conformity with this definition. The material part of the passport reads as follows ; -
I, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, request, in the name of His Britannic Majesty, all those whom it may concern, to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford him every assistance and protection of which he may stand in need.
I shall now refer to some of the more important clauses of the bill, and give brief explanations thereof. Clause 4 provides that the act shall extend to such territories of the Commonwealth as are specified by proclamation. It is intended that the provisions of the act and of the regulations made thereunder shall apply to Papua, Norfolk Island, and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea.
Australian passports are only issued to British subjects, but the definition of a “ British subject “ under this bill will include -
With regard to class b, it is the practice of the British authorities to issue passports to British protected persons, for example, natives of Samoa, and it is desirable that the Commonwealth law should provide for the issue of Australian passports in such cases.
Clause 7 of the bill, dealing with power to cancel passports, visas, renewals or endorsements of passports, is identical with provisions in section 8 of the existing act, except for the addition of the word “ renewal “. The power to cancel a passport is exercised only on rare occasions, as, for example, where it is discovered that issue was obtained by false statements. This also applies to visas, renewals and endorsements. A visa or endorsement of a passport to make it good for travel to some particular country may be cancelled if it is learnt that there is special abjection to the grantee proceeding to that country.
Clause 8 of the bill repeats a number of provisions contained in the existing act, but inserts a new provision giving power to require a person to hand over his passport in cases where it is known, or there is reason to believe, that it was obtained by false or misleading statements. The necessity for such a provision has been felt in cases, for example, where a passport has been obtained in a false name at Sydney, and the fraud has not been discovered until the boat by which the holder is travelling is about to leave Fremantle.
Another new provision is inserted by clause 10 of thebill, which provides that proceedings for an offence against the act may be instituted either in the State or territory where the offence was committed, or in the State or territory in which the defendant is found. This clause has been inserted to overcome difficulties which have arisen under the existing act through the necessity for instituting summary proceedings in the State where the offence was committed, thus involving considerable expense in cases where the offender is found in another State.
The final clause of thebill provides some additional powers to make regulations which experience has shown to be necessary. For example, power is required to make regulations with regard to the issue of certificates of identity in lieu of passports to persons who are unable to obtain national passports in Australia. This will apply to “Stateless” persons, and others who have no consular representatives in the Commonwealth. The other additions to the regulation - making power, relate to minor matters of administration, and do not call for special comment. I shall endeavour to supply any further information relating to details of the bill which honorable members may desire when it reaches the committee stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr.Ward) adjourned.
– I move -
That thebill he now read a second time.
The Ashmore Islands and Cartier Island consist of four small islands between Timor and Western Australia, about 200 miles from the north-west coast of that State, and approximately 450 miles west-south-west of Darwin. They are unhabitated, but beche-de-mer, low-grade guano and trochus shell exist in quantities. The islands were formerly under the authority of the United Kingdom.
In July, 1924, the Western Australian Government informed the Commonwealth Government that, for the purpose of dealing with illicit fishing, it considered that the islands should be brought under the jurisdiction of the State fishing laws, and, as the result of representations made to the Government of the United Kingdom, the Dominions Office informed the Commonwealth that the Government of the United Kingdom would be prepared to transfer these islands to the Commonwealth Government.
In 1925, the Western Australian Government stated that it was willing to undertake full responsibility for the control and administration of the islands. By order of His Majesty the King in Council, dated the 23rd July, 1931, the islands were placed under the authority of the Commonwealth. The islands were accepted as a territory of the Commonwealth by the Ashmore and Cartier Islands Acceptance Act 1933. Section 8 of the act empowered the Governor of Western Australia to make ordinances having the force of law in the islands.
The Solicitor-General of Western Australia later expressed doubt as to the constitutionality of the proposal that the State Governor should make ordinances for the islands. Apart altogether from the legal aspect, it appeared to the State government that the expense involved in policing the islands would be material, and out of proportion to the practical benefits to be secured. In the circumstances, the State government advised that it was reluctantly compelled to abandon the proposal to obtain control over the islands.
In the lightof the decision of the Western Australian Government, consideration was recently given to the question of whether any administration is necessary at this stage, and if so, in whom the administration should he vested. In its consideration of the matter the Government had in mind the possibility that the work of administration would be confined mainly to policing any fishing activities in the vicinity of the islands. The Government eventually decided that action be taken to bring the islands under the Northern Territory administration.
To give effect to this decision it is proposed to repeal sections 6, 7 and 8 of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands Acceptance Act 1933. . Thesesections read as follow : -
– (1. ) Subject to this act, the Governor of the State of Western Australia, acting with the advice of the Executive Council of that State, may make Ordinances having the force of law in and in relation to the territory. (2.) Every such ordinance shall - (a)be notified in the Gazette of the State of Western Australia; and
It is proposed to insert a new section 8 in lieu of the repealed sections. This new section will have the effect of placing the islands under the Northern Territory administration.
– I understand that the Government of Western Australia experienced great difficulty in administering these islands, and that because of the financial and other problems involved, it expressed its willingness to abandon control of them to the Commonwealth authorities. I take it that this bill is the outcome of a complete understanding between the Commonwealth and the Government of Western Australia. The Minister has given an assurance to that effect, and, therefore, I have no objection to the passage of the bill.
.- The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) has not stated what has been done, or what it is proposed to do, to protect the fisheries and other assets associated with the islands. We can understand that the effective policing of the islands would be a serious undertaking for the Government of Western Australia, as, indeed, it will be for the Commonwealth. If we enter into possession of potentially valuable territory such as this, which may in the future be useful as a base for flying boats, some steps should be taken, if not to occupy the islands, at least to visit them occasionally, so as to enforce the rights of Australian citizens over fisheries, and to see that these and other rights are not gradually acquired, through use, by people of other countries. It is our duty to see that Australian possession is effective, and not merely latent, lest it be later disputed by foreigners who might claim to have established some sort of rights in the islands.
– I understand that the Commonwealth is assuming control of the islands in order that it may do the very things which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has suggested. The Government of Western Australia does not wish to be saddled with the burden of administering the islands, and it has, in my opinion, done a wise thing in handing them over to the Commonwealth Government, which is the authority that must assume responsibility in matters of this kind. The Administration in the Northern Territory is equipped to carry out this work.
– Has the Minister consulted with the Government of Western Australia on this matter ?
– My predecessor in office did.
.- The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has raised a point which is worthy of the attention of the Government. There was a time when the hoisting of the national flag was considered sufficient to give a right to the possession of territory for all time. That has now been challenged; and the principle is asserted by some nations that a country is not entitled to retain possession of land simply by virtue of having formally annexed it. It is stated that a country must exercise some effective occupation of land; must either use it or take some action to show that it is active in respect of the rights it claims. Otherwise, there is danger of those claims being jumped. These islands have a prospective value, and steps should be taken to occupy them effectively.
– in reply. - In order to clear up any misunderstanding which may exist, I repeat that the ownership- of the islands wa-s vested in the United Kingdom, but that, on the 23rd July, 1931, the islands were, by an order of His Majesty the King in Council, transferred to the authority of the Commonwealth Government. By arrangement with the Government of Western Australia, an act was passed which empowered, or purported to empower, that Government to administer the islands. The legal’ advisers of the Government of Western Australia, however, called into question the constitutionality of that proceeding, and it is directly as the result of that action, and virtually at the request of the Government of Western Australia, that the matter now comes before this Parliament. I assure honorable members that the passage of this bill will be the best means of ensuring that there shall be laws in existence regarding these islands and that those laws shall be under an administration which possesses the means to police them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is not intended to alter, in any way, the spirit of the principal act. It is a simple measure designed, first, to remove any uncertainty as to the scientific meaning of certain terms used in tha principal act, and as to what substances are actually included within the term “ therapeutic substance “, and secondly, to simplify and facilitate the working of the act. Section 1 of the principal act is somewhat indefinite in its phraseology. There is some uncertainty as to what substances come within the meaning of the term “ therapeutic substance “ for the purpose of the act. Clause 2 of this bill is designed to remove that uncertainty. In addition, it provides that substances used for diagnosis shall be included under the term “ therapeutic substance “ as well as substances used for the prevention and treatment of disease. Clause 3 of the bill merely corrects a typographical error in section 9 of the principal act. Clause 4 provides that imported substances which do not comply with the act or regulations shall be forfeited. By inadvertence in the preparation of the bill, two clause* have been omitted. These have been printed and circulated as amendments which I propose to introduce at the committee stage. The first is to provide that the act shall operate as from the date of commencement of the original act, which has not yet been brought into force. The second replaces section 11 of the principal act - under which it is compulsory for the owner of any consignment of therapeutic substances either entering or leaving Australia to send samples to an approved laboratory for examination and analysis. This has proved cumbersome and unnecessary. Clause 5 of the bill provides that samples shall be taken and examined or analysed at a laboratory only when that is thought to be necessary by the officer authorized by the Minister. In order that this legislation shall work efficiently, it is proposed to circulate the draft regulations amongst the principal importers and others concerned before they are brought into effect.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Makin) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time
This is a small bill the intention of which is to change the term ordinarily, used to denominate this Territory, now commonly spoken of as the “ Federal Capital Territory”. The name hitherto in use, “ The Territory for the Seat of Government “ has been given by usage, no legal name ever having been given to the Territory by statute. The sole purpose of this bill is to authorize the use of the name. “ The Australian Capital Territory “.
The Government considers the term “ Territory for the Seat of Government “ to be cumbersome, and the new term more descriptive. Honorable members will agree, I feel sure, that the change of name will emphasize, as we should seize every opportunity to emphasize, our Australian nationhood and the single entity of this nation. There exists in the minds of many of our people what I believe to be a too-acute State consciousness. The name which we desire henceforth to use in legal documents in connexion with the Territory will be in line with the name given to the Supreme Court at Canberra, which is denominated “ The Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory “.
I am glad that this, one of the earliest bills which I have introduced as Minister for the. Interior, will emphasize recognition of the single national entity of Australia, a point which I did not miss an opportunity to stress as a private member. I commend the bill to the House and trust that it will have a speedy passage.
.- In view of the noble aspiration of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) in connexion with this bill, and also of the fact that it was, I understand, before the House on a previous occasion, I see no reason why I should disappoint the hope of the Minister that the measure might be accorded a speedy passage. I therefore shall not oppose it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, reported from committee without amendment or debate ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill- is to apply to visiting forces of the United Kingdom and colonies, Canada and South Africa their local disciplinary code when in Australian territory, with the consent of the Commonwealth Government. Since the enactment of the Statute of Westminster - which applies to or has been adopted by Canada, South Africa and Eire - the Army Act is no longer law in those dominions. The United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa have passed acts relating to visiting forces and similar action by the Commonwealth is now awaited in order that a satisfactory basis might be established’ for the discipline of visiting forces. In the absence of this legislation, Australian forces visiting the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa would, by virtue of the acts passed by those countries relating to visiting forces, continue to be governed by the military law of the Commonwealth in relation to their discipline and internal administration, but visiting forces from those countries would not be able to apply their own law, or to use Commonwealth machinery respecting relations with the civil power and civilians. Legal difficulties would also arise when forces of the dominions were acting together in regard to attachment of personnel, power of command, &c.
Appreciating the necessity for this complementary legislation to overcome the difficulty - in effect, the United Kingdom Army and Air Force Acts ensured recognition of the dominion’s code as law in all His Majesty’s courts wherever situated - the Conference on the Operation of Dominion Legislation, 1929, made the following recommendation: -
In connexion with the exercise of the extraterritory legislative powers, we consider that provisions should bo made for the customary extra-territorial immunities with regard to internal discipline enjoyed by the armed forces of one government present in the territory of another government with the consent of the latter. ‘ Such an arrangement would lie of mutual advantage and common convenience to alt parts of- the Commonwealth, and we recommend that provision should be made by each member of the Commonwealth to give effect to such customary extra-territorial immunities within its .territory as regards other members of the Commonwealth.
The Imperial Conference of 1930 also considered the matter, and the following is an- extract from the Summary, of Proceedings: -
It is assumed that all governments will desire to take such action as may be necessary to secure (1 ) that the military discipline of- any of the armed forces of the Commonwealth when present, by consent, within territory of another, rests upon a statutory basis, and (2) that there shall be no period of time during which the legal basis of military discipline could on any ground be impeached.
In brief, this bill will bring the Commonwealth of Australia into line with the United Kingdom, the colonies, Canada and South Africa, in connexion with the control of any of their forces whilst in Australian Territory, subject to the consent of the Commonwealth Government. It will also enable the Governor-General of Australia to authorize any department of the Commonwealth or a State to perform its normal functions in relation to such visiting forces. The Australian Naval Board., Military Board, and Air Board, are deemed to be departments of the Commonwealth, for the purposes of this act. The measure will also give legal authority for the detention and custody of prisoners sentenced by a service court of a visiting force, and power to deal with offences against visiting forces. It will also enable action to be taken against deserters from forces raised in other parts of the Empire.
As it is generally recognized that complete co-operation between the various defence forces has existed for many years, involving the interchange of officers and men, it is necessary to enable such officers and men to carry on their duties on the same basis as if they were members of the forces to which they are actually attached. If this measure be agreed to, officers on exchange from Great Britain to Australia, or on exchange from Australia to Great Britain, will retain their status and rights. The bill will legalize and make possible a single command, subject to the consent of the governments of the forces concerned. Another important phase of the measure is that it provides for the application of the provisions of the act to forces raised in mandated territories, and in colonies and dependencies of the British Empire. This bill’, of course, relates principally to visiting forces within Australia.
It is necessary, to overcome certain legal difficulties which have already arisen, and might arise in the future,, in connexion with visiting- officers and men attached to other branches of the Imperial Forces.
– Will there be reciprocity between the various authorities?
– Yes. The arrangement applies, only to Empire forces visiting the Commonwealth. While here they will be under the laws of their own country, and the discipline of their own officers; but any sentence imposed for breach of discipline will be carried out under the jurisdiction of the appropriate arm of the Australian Defence Forces.
– Does the arrangement deal only with punishments?
– No; it deals- with rights also. Indeed,, it deals with all matters relating to the control and discipline of visiting, forces, both as individuals and as groups.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brennan)” adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
Temporary Employees in Postal Department : Pacific Shipping Service.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In the Postal Department there are certain male cleaners who, although engaged in permanent work, in some instances for sixteen years, are still regarded as temporary employees. As such, they are not entitled to certain rights, particularly in regard to leave, which are enjoyed by permanent officers. In my opinion, and in the opinion of the union to which they belong, these men should be re-classified as permanent officers. Last year when it was proposed that certain temporary employees of the Repatriation Department should be made permanent, the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) gave an undertaking that if a case could be made out for similar treatment of other officers, sympathetic consideration would be given to their claim. I should be glad if these men, who are among the lowest paid in the department, could be treated as were those of the Repatriation Department, and given the status of permanent officers.
– I should be glad if the Minister in charge of the House would bring under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) the necessity for making an early statement regarding the granting of sub:sidies for the proposed new Pacific shipping service. In this connexion, proposals were agreed to at the Imperial’ Conference held last year. According to recent press reports, it is suggested” that two vessels of the Empress line shall run between Vancouver and Australia, pending a final decision regarding the construction of the new vessels as proposed in the agreement entered into between the Governments of the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Australian maritime workers are greatly concerned at the proposal to place on the run vessels on which coloured crews are employed. Last week the party whom I represent in “ this matter, the Sydney Maritime Council, carried the following resolution: -
That in the event of the Aorangi and the Niagara being replaced by vessels^ of the Empresa line, or vessels of other foreign lines, no running subsidy be paid by the Commonwealth Government unless such vessels are manned by Australia or New Zealand seamen.
The anxiety of the maritime workers has been increased by the fact that, so far, the Government has not been in a position to make a statement on the subject. From information supplied to me, it would appear that difficulties arose first between the Government of Canada and the other governments concerned, although later reports suggest that those difficulties have been overcome, and that the agreement is now almost ready for signature. I understand that the Government of New Zealand also has made some demands, but of the details
I have not been informed. In all probability, discussions are still continuing with that government. The concern of the maritime workers can be understood when we reflect that, if vessels of the Empress line are to take the place of the Aorangi and the Niagara, it will mean that vessels now manned under Australian conditions will be replaced by other vessels employing coloured crews. I cannot imagine that the Government would be a party to such an arrangement, and I have gone so far as to express that opinion to the men concerned; but, as I have no authority to speak on behalf of the Government, I should appreciate an official pronouncement on tha subject The Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) has been good enough to give consideration to representations made by me on the subject, and also to meet representatives of the men, who are confident that the Acting Minister will take all steps possible to safeguard the interests of Australian martime workers. Nevertheless, it would be more reassuring to have a definite ministerial pronouncement .on the subject, and, accordingly, I trust that the Prime Miinster will make an early statement.
– The subject raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has engaged the attention of the Government for some time. As a result of negotiations which have taken place, a considerable measure of agreement has been arrived at, but detailed information is not yet available in Australia. I can assure the honorable gentleman, however, that as soon as the Government is in a position to make known its intention in the matter, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will make a statement in this House. Any agreement which involves the Governments of the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, as well as the shipping companies concerned, is of vital importance to this country because of its effect on communications between the dominions. I give an assurance that, as soon as information is available, the Prime Minister will make a statement on the subject to the House.
– I shall bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) the representations made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in respect of certain temporary employees in the Postal Department, and shall endeavour to supply him with a full statement setting out the position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 9.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Duties on Importsfrom the United Kingdom.
Mr.McCall asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the total amount of duty collected on imports from the United Kingdom for the several years ended the 30th June, 1931, and the 30th June, 1937?
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice - .
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In connexion with the intended reduction in air-mail rates to Empire countries, will the Postmaster-General take into consideration a reduction in the air-mail rates to European and other foreign countries?
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
The matter has already been considered by the Government, but, in view of the financial commitments in connexion with the Empire air-mail scheme, it is at present unable to see its way clear to reduce the existing charges on air-mail correspondence to foreign countries.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What has been the total cost of construction of the granolithic footpaths and kerbs only in the city area of Canberra since its inception?
– The information is being obtained.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Treasurer give the following information to the House: - (a) The estimate of the private wealth of Australia in 1937, and the valuation per capita; and (b) a similar valuation of the public wealth of Australia, including railways, water conservation, and the probable wealth of the minerals which are not sold with public lands?
– I regret that the information desired is not yet available. An investigation into the private and public wealth of Australia is at present being made by the Commonwealth Statistician, but the extensive nature of the data required for such estimates renders it difficult to say when the investigation will be completed.
Fishing Industry: Survey in Tasmanian Waters.
d asked the Minister in Charge of Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The work carried out recently in Tasmanian waters by the Commonwealth fisheries vessel Warreen gives , promise of favorable results., in that a considerable quantity of tuna were found to be present. Further investigations will, however, be necessary to determine the distribution oi the fish throughout the year before essential data can be furnished upon which an extensive fisheries industry could be developed. The results of investigations will be made freely available from time to time in order to enable private enterprise to determine the merits of the industry. The Commonwealth Government considers that, by making available substantial funds necessary to carry out research and investigation, it is making a reasonable contribution towards the development of the fisheries industry.
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following information : - 1, 2 and 3. Judge Wells was admitted in 1924 in Sydney, and practised there as a barrister for nine years prior to his appointment as judge.
e asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following information : -
e asked the Minister repre senting the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Payments todr. G. L. Wood.
s. - On the 14th June, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) asked me a question, without notice, as to the salary, fees and travelling allowance paid to Dr. G. L. Wood as a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and also in respect of his talks for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. On the 15th June, in. furnishing the desired information so far as the Commonwealth Grants Commission was concerned, I indicated that the Australian Broadcasting Commission had been asked to furnish the information sought in the latter part of the honorable member’s question. A reply has now been received from the general manager, Australian Broadcasting Commission, stating that the commission is not prepared to make public the amounts paid to Dr. Wood in respect of his engagements with the commission.
Wireless Broadcasting : Relay of Germanprogramme.
s. - On the 15th June, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) asked a question,without notice, pertaining to a relay of a German shortwave station at a function commemorating the centenary of the arrival of German settlers in Australia. I have since ascertained that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, on the 8th June,gave a recorded relay of a German programme commemorating the centenary of the arrival in Australia of the first German settlers.The commission states that it finds occasional European relays are popular withlisteners, but that 90 per cent, of them originate with the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Railway Time-Table Between Capital cities.
Mr.McEwen. - On the 17 thJune,the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, uponnotice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1and 2. An alteration in the train service was recently made betweenMelbourne and Perth, the first train operating from Perth on the 5th June, 1938. No alteration was made in the service between Melbourne and Brisbane.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380620_reps_15_156/>.