16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon: “W. SL Hairs.) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Attorney-General whether the High Court, in the case of the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board v. Tonking declared that “ each individual grower has a legal right to be paid the full value of his fruit “ when acquired by the Commonwealth? Is the Government prepared to apply the principle of that decision in connexion with the acquisition of blue peas, by paying to growers of them the ruling market price of 21s. a bushel in lieu of the 15s. a bushel now being paid?
-In answer to the honorable member for Indi, I undertook to have a statement prepared showing the applicability to other acquisition schemes of the decision of the High Court in the case referred to by the honorable member. That statement will be made this week, and in it I shall refer to the question raised by the honorable member.
– As chairman, I present the first report of the Broadcasting Committee and move -
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether Seagulls, which are aircraft of an old type, are being used for dive-bombing exercises and whether any deaths have resulted from their use ? “Will the honorable gentleman also state whether it is considered that this obsolete type of aircraft is suitable for use in dive-bombing exercises ?
– I had not heard that the Seagull had been used for divebombing purposes. I shall institute inquiries, and supply to the honorable member whatever information I obtain.
Examination of Candidates
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) asked me last week a question concerning examinations for entrance to the naval service. He implied that ! certain questions having some political significance had been included in the examination papers. I have made inquiries, and have been assured that the interviewing committee had no intention of instituting a political questionnaire, and did not do so. The object of any question was merely to provide a point of contact for conversation. A question relating to secession was asked, but not one relating to the Prime Minister.
– Has the Deputy Prime Minister any information in connexion with the report in to-day’s press that yesterday eighteen coal-mines in New South Wales were idle, causing a loss of more than 17,000 tons of coal and involving 5,675 men? In view of the Prime Minister’s repeated appeals to industrialists not to impede the war effort, will the Government now consider the taking of positive action, by launching prosecutions for absenteeism,’ and, where considered desirable, drafting the strikers into the military forces?
– The Prime Minister has had this matter actively under consideration for several days. He has had consultations in respect of it with the AttorneyGeneral, the Minister for Labour and National Service, and, I believe, the Minister for Supply and Shipping. The honorable gentleman may rest assured that every action possible is being taken. A definite pronouncement will be made by the Prime Minister so soon as he is able to make it.
– by leave - I wish to announce that, since I made my secondreading speech on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill on the 17th February last, the Government has received a deputation from the Parliamentary Ex-service Men’s Com.mittee, which consists of returned soldier members of this Parliament. In consequence of the representations of the deputation, the Government has decided to extend certain of the proposed benefits, some of them by way of an amendment of the act and others by way of regulations under the act. The majority of these were recommended by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Repatriation, which was appointed by the Government to inquire into repatriation legislation. Those matters, which will necessitate my moving amendments when the bill reaches the committee stage, are as follows : -
Removal of the means test as at present applied to war widows. This will mean that the minimum pension paid to a war widow will be £2 10s. a week. In order to remove any misunderstanding, it should be stated that the only means test now applied in connexion with the pensions of war widows is in respect of widows without children who possess income from property exceeding £1 a week. Widows with children receive the maximum rate of pension without having to submit themselves to any means test. In respect of widows without children, although it has been the practice in the past to disregard all personal earnings, income from property exceeding £1 a week has been taken into account and the maximum rate of pension has been reduced by so much as the income from property has exceeded that sum; but in no instance, of course, has the pension been reduced below the statutory rate shown in the act. Notwithstanding this, the Government considers that the means test should be abolished in such cases.
Extension to fifteen years of the time limit of seven years in connexion with the wives of soldiers in the present war. This will mean that any wife who was married to a member of the present, forces prior to fifteen years after discharge of the member will be entitled to receive a war pension in respect of any incapacity suffered by -the member due to war service, or to receive a pension in respect of her husband’s death from war service. Any children born of such a marriage will be pensionable, notwithstanding the date of birth.
A regulation will be introduced to allow of free medical or hospital treatment being given in respect of all disabilities suffered by members of the forces who are receiving a war pension at the general rate for total incapacity under the first schedule, or at a special rate under the second schedule. This, of course, will include those soldiers who are blinded, temporarily or permanently totally incapacitated, or suffering from tuberculosis. It will bc necessary, however, in regard to this benefit to exclude certain diseases or conditions, and it has, therefore, been decided that such treatment cannot be given for infectious or contagious diseases, venereal disease, unless it is contracted during the course of the member’s service, mental disease, alcoholism, drug addiction, or chronic or incurable diseases requiring treatment for a prolonged period. It is the opinion of the Government that persons suffering from the above conditions, which ave not attributable to war service, should avail themselves of the ordinary civil treatment.
A regulation will also be introduced to give effect to the recommendation of the joint parliamentary committee that treatment, where necessary, and sustenance whilst undergoing treatment, will be given to all members who are suffering from venereal disease or its effects contracted on service.
Another request made by the Parliamentary Ex-servicemen’s Committee was that additional assessment appeal tribunals be appointed. The Government has considered this matter, and in view of the fact that the act at present provides that such appeal tribunals as the Minister considers necessary may be appointed, it is not intended to make any alteration at this stage, but honorable members may rest assured that should such a position arise that the present Assessment Appeal Tribunal is unable to cope adequately with the number of appeals, immediate action will be taken bv the Minister to remedy the position by the appointment cf such additional tribunals as he thinks fit.
It has also been decided that the Repatriation ‘Commission shall appoint special boards in each State, consisting of independent specialists in pulmonary tuberculosis. These boards will review all claims in respect of this disease, including future cases and those which have previously been rejected. It will not be necessary to amend the act to provide for the establishment of these boards or to introduce a regulation, as it can be done quite easily as a matter of administration under the Government’s instructions. I desire to point out that this plan will be put into operation as early as practicable, but I understand that the shortage of doctors is very acute throughout the Commonwealth, and it may mean that some difficulty will be experienced in obtaining the services of suitable specialists. Many of the cases previously dealt with, and those at present being dealt, with, have already been considered by specialists, but notwithstanding this the Government has acceded to the request of the Joint Parliamentary Committee and the Parliamentary Ex-servicemen’s Committee that further investigation of these claims shall take place upon application.
– In view of the fact that for some time past I have been trying to obtain information about the operations of the Australian Defence Canteen Services, will the Minister for the Army say why he issued a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald on this subject before doing me the courtesy of replying in Parliament to my questions?
– I assure the honorable member that in releasing the statement to the newspapers on Saturday last, I intended no discourtesy to him. It is true that he had asked questions in Parliament on the subject, but I had also been questioned regarding it by newspaper representatives and by other persons outside Parliament. It was for the purpose of making the information available at the earliest possible date that I released it to the press. The honorable member’s representations on the subject will be borne in mind.
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister when it is intended to lay on the table of the House the report of the Tasmanian War Industries Committee? Extracts from the report have been published from time to time, and it is impossible .for honorable members to verify them in the absence of the report itself.
– Inquiries will be made, and the report will be tabled if possible.
sonnerdale proprietary LIMITED Stanmore.
– Last week the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked me whether I would make available the papers in connexion with the erection of premises for Sonnerdale Proprietary Limited, at Stanmore. I have the papers here, and I shall lay them on the table of the Library.
– Has the Deputy Prime Minister seen a report in yesterday’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald in which Mr. J. S. Garden, described as liaison officer between the Minister for Labour and National Service and the unions, addressing striking textile-workers at the Leichhardt Stadium, said that the strike had been worth while because for the first time in the history of trade unionism-
– Order! Questions of this kind are becoming too frequent.
– Having regard to the Prime Minister’s threat that the Government would act if the employees failed to do certain things, will the Deputy Prime Minister, after consultation with the Prime Minister, order Mr. Garden’s removal from his present position for inciting the workers to strike ?
– I have not read the statement attributed to Mr. J. S. Garden, but I know that the Minister for Labour and National Service played a very prominent part in bringing about a settlement of the textile-workers’ strike. He is the responsible Minister at the head of his department, and I prefer to accept his view of the matter rather than that of a comparatively junior officer.
– by leave - During the last sitting of the House several honorable members directed questions to me on the temporary stoppage of work in the textile industry. I am now pleased to be able to inform the House, and particularly those honorable members, that the stoppage has been overcome, due to the co-operation of the Department of Labour and National Service with the officers of the Textile Workers Union, and that full production has been resumed. On Friday last, 120 shop stewards of all metropolitan mills in Sydney met at the Trades Hall and unanimously carried a motion pledging themselves to co-operate with federal officers of the union in achieving full production at all mills not later than Monday, the 8th March. On my instructions, a mass meeting of striking textile workers was called at the Leichhardt Stadium on Sunday afternoon, the 7th March, and the resolution of the shop stewards was put before the assembly. As the result of this meeting, and an appeal by me to the workers to resume, the meeting agreed, with a vote of five to one, to return to their mills at the first shift yesterday.
During discussions with union officials, several instances were brought to my notice of employers having allegedly taken advantage of the stoppage for their own disruptive purposes and to discredit the workers in the eyes of the community generally. Probably the most glaring instance of this occurred on the night of Saturday, the 6th March. On that night one of the leaders of the Textile “Workers Union broadcast an appeal to striking textile-workers to return to their mills on Monday morning. He read the text of the resolution unanimously carried by the shop stewards and emphasized the need for continued production. Immediately the union official went off the air a paid advertisement, authorized by one Sydney mill, was broadcast. It informed workers at that mill that there would be no work available for them on Monday, the 8th March, and added that if sufficient workers did not present themselves to enable full production on Tuesday, the 9th March, the company would close the mill until Monday, the 15th March. Such was the provocative attitude adopted by one mill, whose directors were apparently more preoccupied with profits than with the nation’s peril and the need for maintaining full production of essential war requirements. When this matter was brought to my notice, I issued a strong warning to the mill in question, and to others which may have had similar ideas, that the Government would take a most serious view if mills were not ready for the resumption of work at the earliest possible date. In the published reports of the causes and progress of the stoppage, the public was again misinformed of the true nature of the dispute, with the result that the average man in the street, who has no knowledge of the conditions under which textile-workers spend their working day, was duped by the press into believing that there was no cause for complaint by the employees. But then, that is nothing new for sections of the press which have always displayed an aptitude for putting the workers’ side of a dispute in an unfavorable light? There was likewise no novelty in the alacrity with which members of the Opposition- without first ascertaining the facts, but merely upon prejudiced newspaper accounts - framed questions and launched attacks upon the workers which only led to further resentment and increased the difficulties of the Government in securing a resumption of work. I make no attempt to condone industrial stoppages in the present period of national danger, but believe that, with intelligent handling of industries through production committees, stoppages would cease to be inevitable. However, as conditions now exist, the germs of industrial unrest breed in the unhygienic mills and factories where the workers spend the major part of their waking day. The textile industry has working conditions and atmosphere requirements which are quite peculiar to it. Honorable members, who vaguely picture all factories as being fundamentally alike, may be interested to hear of some of the findings that were reached during an exhaustive survey the textile industry carried out by officers of my department during 1942. In all, 130 mills, employing more than 30,000 work rs, were surveyed in New South Wal s, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. Certain processes in the industry must be performed in rooms where temperatures are high and there is still air. Others throw into the air minute dust particles which enter the workers’ eyes, ears, nose and throat, causing temporary inconveniences and often permanent disabilities. Welfare officers who conducted the survey came to the major conclusion that an all-round improvement of the standard of working conditions was necessary in practically all mills. They laid down, improved standards for ventilation, air space, air supply, tempera ture control, the provision of forced draughts or respirators to protect workers from dust and fumes, the separation of various processes, and the provision of better lighting, of eating and drinking facilites, and of firstaid equipment. It seems apparent that, because of the strange conditions required for certain processes in the industry, some employers are taking advantage of them to avoid providing the adequate welfare facilities which could be reasonably expected by workers in modern industry. While such circumstances continue, it is clear that the workers in the industry will become resentful and will be prone to show their dissatisfaction of their conditions by stopping work. My department has prepared detailed codes of working conditions for both men and women textile workers, and the introduction of the codes into textile mills would go a long way to avoiding the insanitary and uncomfortable working conditions which too often lead to stoppages. I pay a tribute to the officials of the textile union, who co-operated with the Government throughout the recent stoppage in an effort to secure a resumption of work and a return to full production. I also pay a tribute to the textile-workers themselves, who heeded the advice of their leaders and returned to their mills to resume their important work of producing textiles to clothe our fighting services and the civilian population.
– I propose to move that the paper be printed.
– There is no paper.
– Order J A statement by leave is. not necessarily a paper.
– Does the Minister for Labour and National Service agree with the statement of the Chief Liaison Officer of the Department of Labour and National Service, Mr. J. S. Garden, that the strike was worth while? If not, does he intend to take disciplinary action against Mr. Garden?
– I have no evidence that such a statement was made by Mr. Garden. Honorable members should satisfy themselves of the authenticity of newspaper reports before basing questions
On them. By basing questions on untrue press statements, honorable members do damage to the national cause.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether it is a fact that, at a meeting of textile strikers held in the Leichhardt Stadium on Sunday afternoon, three Commonwealth peace officers were taking shorthand notes. Is it also a fact that, at Mr. J. S. Garden’s request, the shorthand writers retired from the meeting amid hostile comments from the crowd ? Will the Attorney-General inform the House on whose authority Mr. Garden took such action? Will he also investigate the incident and make a statement upon it in the House?
– I shall make an investigation. I do not know whether the officers concerned were sent to the meeting to report what happened there. I am aware, however, that on Saturday proceedings were pending against a number of the men for absenteeism. I shall furnish a fuller reply later.
Effect on Tyre Wear.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping received any advice from his responsible officers concerning the comparatively heavy wear on tyres on motor vehicles equipped with producer-gas units? If it be clearly established that the rate of wear is much greater in respect of vehicles using gas than in respect of those using petrol only, will the Minister review the instructions issued to owners of motor vehicles requiring them to equip their vehicles with producer-gas units under penalty of having their petrol ration reduced ?
– I think it may be taken for granted that the extra weight of the producer gas unit must have the effect of increasing the wear on tyres. However, if liquid fuel is in short supply we must seek a substitute, and the most ready substitute is producer gas. The whole idea is to keep essential vehicles on the road. Of course, it may well finish by our having neither liquid fuel nor tyres, so that the problem will, in some measure, solve itself. In the meantime, we are trying to handle the matter in the fairest way possible.
– I have received the following telegram from the Agricultural Bureau at Guyra, which is the most important potato district in New South Wales: -
Disaster facing whole potato crop Guyra district. Growers up in arms at procrastination of Government departments. Largely attended meeting of growers held sixth instant demand release of experienced potato-diggers from army immediately. Our present small supply of inexperienced casual labour useless with crops in their present moth-infested condition. Loss through ravages of grub to date estimated at 50 per cent, throughout district and is deteriorating with continued dry weather. Use every endeavour to supply efficient labour to save some part of remaining crop.
Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make every effort to have men r: leased from military camps in the neighbourhood of Guyra to dig the potato crop or arrange for potato-diggers to be sent there by the Department of Labour and National Service?
– I received a telegram from the same source yesterday. I took immediate action and the matter is now well in hand. Fifty potato-diggers will arrive at Guyra within the next two or three days. Some are already on the road. Their despatch was arranged by the Department of Labour and National Service. Investigations have failed to reveal that experienced potato-diggers are concentrated in any section of the Army. The infestation of the potatoes referred to in the telegram is seasonal.
Battle of the Bismarck Sea.
– In view of the overwhelming allied victory in the Bismarck Sea last week and its great significance to the safety of this country, will the Acting Prime Minister arrange for the display, at an early date, of Australian and American flags from Commonwealth offices, and ask the State authorities and private citizens to follow suit?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for the Army to the following resolution which was carried by the Shire of Mirboo: -
That this council requests the Minister for the Army to make an adequate supply of petrol ration tickets available to the headquarters of the Volunteer Defence Corps for attending parades and .other training activities, and also that it be urged that petrol be provided for the Volunteer Defence Corps purposes at army rates.
Will the Minister grant those two requests ?
– I shall discuss the matter will the Minister for Supply and Shipping. I have the greatest admiration for the work which the Volunteer Defence ‘Corps is performing throughout Australia, and the Government has ap proved my recommendation to set aside £100,000 for the purpose of appointing permanent officers to organize and control the Volunteer Defence Corps, and later to make a substantial increase of the war establishment. The honorable member’s suggestion will receive full consideration.
– Last week the honorable member for Melbourne (Mb*. Calwell) and the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked questions relating to the lack of hospital accommodation. The honorable member for Melbourne asked me whether I had read of the vain efforts of a mother to secure accommodation for her child, whose death occurred within a period of twelve hours, and I promised to inquire into the matter. The Minister for Health in New South Wales, Mr. Kelly, has informed me that the information given by the honorable member was correct and that there is a serious shortage of accommodation for. maternity cases in that State.
– This was not a maternity but an infectious diseases case.
– The honorable member for Bass asked me whether I had been informed that wards in tuberculosis sanitoriums in New South Wales had been closed because of lack of staff. T have ascertained that the position is substantially as the honorable member stated. Wards in the Waterfall Sanitorium have been closed because of a shortage of doctors and nurses. I have discussed the matter with the Minister for Health in New South Wales who has asked for help from the Commonwealth. Negotiations are in progress, and we hope that some relief will be forthcoming shortly.
– A fortnight ago 1 asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs for certain information relating to the publication of the newspaper the Standard. Although my questions were concerned only with matters of fact, I have not yet been supplied with the information. Will the Minister arrange to obtain the information for me this afternoon ?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs is still ill in hospital and I shall not disturbhim for the purpose of obtaining the information.As soon as he is sufficiently recovered, I shall ask him to furnish a considered reply to the question.
– I have no desire to embarrass the Minister for Trade and Customs while he is in hospital by seeking to obtain from him an answer to the question I asked a fortnight ago. It relates to matters of ordinary routine and could be answered, except in unusualcircumstances, by the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether or not there are unusual circumstances associated with the publication of the newspaper the Standard? If not, can the honorable gentleman advise the departmental head to supply an answer to the question?
– The honorable member’s question, if I remember it, was directed particularly to the Minister for Trade and Customs - his reason for this and that, and why such and such had been done.
– That is not so. I asked to be told of the conditions.
– I therefore considered that the question was one which the Minister for Trade and Customs should answer personally. I believe in the principle that Ministers should reply personally to all questions, and should not leave to departmental heads the responsibility for doing so. As this matter is of such grave national importance, I consider that the honorable member can wait a clay or two for the reply.
Leave: Sufferers from Malaria - Funerals of Relatives.
– by leave - Last . week the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) made representations to me that men on leave who contract malaria should be granted an equivalent period of additional leave. The practice which is now being observed is as follows: -
The personnel who contract malaria when on leave have been instructed to -
Personnel are granted recreation leave by their commanding officers, and that leave expires on the date fixed by the commanding officer and is specified on the leave pass. This applies whether the member becomes ill on leave or not. Commanding officers of hospitals have authority to grant up to fourteen days’ sick leave when personnel are sufficiently recovered to receive it. They are being instructed that, in any case where a man has spent a portion of his recreation leave in hospital, a period of leave at least equal to that portion is to be granted, even though it would not normally have been granted on purely medical grounds.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform me when I may anticipate a reply to a question I asked about a fortnight ago as to whether it was a fact that members of the Australian Imperial Force and the Citizen Military Forces, who were granted special leave to attend the funeral of a deceased relative, had their pay stopped during the period of their absence?
– I shall make inquiries from head-quarters to ascertain why the honorable member has not been furnished with the information. I assure him that he will receive a reply within 24 hours.
– Many diabetic patients in Sydney have made representations to me that for some reason they are unable to procure suitable foods. I understand this has resulted from rationalization of manufacture. ‘ There has been a serious deterioration of health and in some cases gangrene of the limbs, despite the use of insulin. As the actual number of diabetics needing such food can be easily obtained from the medical profession or hospitals and the amount of specially prepared food that is required can be accurately determined, will the Minister for Health take up with his colleagues the matter of the preparation of such food?
– Although I do not admit the allegation regarding a shortage of these foods, I shall refer the question to the Director-General of Health, and the matter will be investigated. I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper that, as the number of cases can be ascertained, the quantities of food required can be calculated for the purpose of organizing the supply. That work is already being done; the Australian Food Council has not overlooked it. The council was established for three purposes : first, to maintain the general supply of food; secondly, to prevent the waste through maldistribution
Or local shortages; and, thirdly, to provide substitutes when an inevitable shortage occurs. For the last-mentioned purpose, Dr. Clements, the dietitian, was appointed to the Food Council. Already tablets containing certain vitamins have been produced so that children will not have to go without orange juice. The matter to which the right honorable gentleman referred constantly receives attention. I agree with his statement that a supply of insulin without the appropriate foods would be practically valueless. I shall discuss the whole matter immediately with the DirectorGeneral of Health for the purpose of ascertaining whether any of the suggestions of the right honorable gentleman have not yet been given effect.
– Last week the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) asked me -
I have since had the opportunity to examine the report in the Sydney Morning Herald, and can say that the figures quoted by the right honorable member for Cowper in relation to meat exports were not correct. The right honorable member stated, for instance, that Australia was exporting 150,000 tons less meat now than in the first year of the war. The total shipments of frozen carcasses in the first year of war approximated 250,000 tons. At that time space was available for all meat which could be exported. Honorable members will appreciate that an entirely different position obtains now because of the smaller shipping space which can be made available. For this reason, Great Britain has set down the order of preference as follows: Canned, dehydrated, and frozen meats.
The Government’s plans for this year envisage the export of the carcass equivalent of 185,000 tons, the bulk of which will be lamb. From these figures, it will be seen that the decrease of meat exports compared with the first year of the contract is equivalent to 95,000 tons, but it should be borne in mind that the decrease is related to shipping and not to production. It can be stated that Australia will fill every ship which can be made available. What is important from the viewpoint of honorable members is that the Commonwealth has been able to meet all its obligations to the Mother Country, to the Pacific peoples, and to the allied forces serving in the South- West Pacific, without in any way seriously interfering with the supplies of basic foodstuffs for the civilian population. When it is remembered that basic foodstuffs have been rationed in America and Canada, two countries of vast agricultural output and considerable man-power resources, the part that Australian producers are playing in maintaining supplies can be understood and appreciated.
– I ask the Minister for Transport whether any supervision is exercised over pool petrol agents in the country who are using big petrol wagons to deliver petrol to resellers. If such resellers could be serviced by rail tankers, . will the Minister direct that such rail transport be used and thus effect a considerable saving in the wear on rubber tyres ? “ Mr. GEORGE LAWSON.–I shall have inquiries made on the subject and furnish a reply later.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether there is any good reason why the officers of his department usually choose the western suburbs of Sydney, which are working-class areas, for the purpose of dragging women out of their homes, and men away from their usual occupations, to be drafted into other callings? Does not the Minister consider that a quest for- workers by departmental officials would be more fruitful if it were made in the eastern suburbs? Does he not think that those suburbs should be tested for female labour?
– I do not know to which call-up the honorable gentleman refers, but the call-up to secure additional labour for canning factories was made in particular districts, in the first instance, having in mind the proximity of the factories to the place of residence of workers. As far as possible, steps are taken to obviate travelling long distances to and from work. It has been discovered, however, that insufficient labour was secured on that occasion, and the honorable gentleman will be pleased to know that this week there will be a call-up in the eastern suburbs, including Vaucluse, Rose Bay, Point Piper, Bondi, and Potts Point.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service to the following paragraph in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald relating to the employment of women in canneries: -
Most of the 190 women and girls who began work at two Sydney canneries yesterday were called up by the Department of Labour and
National Service, and had no previous experience of canning. Most women who began work yesterday live in industrial suburbs and do not look as though they are unacquainted with hard work.
– Order! The honorable member is reading comment. I ask him to state his facts.
– The article continues -
Women from other parts of the metropolitan area will begin work at the same factories this week. At one plant an attempt is being made to ensure that women from the same social group work together.
Does the Minister consider that an article of this kind is calculated to assist the war effort, or does he regard it as an attempt to sabotage the important work in these canneries?
-The honorable member is seeking an expression of opinion, rather than information, and I rule that the question is out of order.
– Will the Minister instruct that statistics shall be kept, showing the production of the women called up from Vaucluse, Rose Bay and Bondi, in excess of that of women called up from the eastern and western suburbs of Sydney, in order that the House may be acquainted with the extraordinary manual dexterity of the women from the first-named districts?
– As women from the districts mentioned by the honorable member have been unaccustomed to hard work, and many of them will be engaging in manual labour for the first time in their lives, it would not be fair to make a comparison of their output at this stage with that of other women to whom the experience will not be a new one.
– Arrangements were made some time ago for poultry-farmers to obtain wheat at a special price for poultry feed, provided it was purchased in 10-ton lots. As many poultry-farmers in a relatively small way of business are unable to accept supplies in truck lots, representations were made to the Minister recently for a reconsideration of the arrangement. An order was subsequently issued that wheat should be made available to poultry-farmers at the special price in 15-ton lots. I ask the Minister why the increase of tonnage was made? Cannot arrangements be made for poultry-farmers to obtain supplies in less than 10-ton lots?
– I am pleased that the honorable member has asked this question. I shall take the matter up with the Australian Wheat Board. .1 realize that it is out of the question for poultry-farmers in a small way to buy wheat in 15-ton lots. I shall give instructions that the previous arrangement for purchases of 10-ton lots be reverted to. I shall also ask the board to consider whether a scheme can bc evolved whereby wheat for poultry feed may be distributed in smaller lots.
Debate resumed from the 11th February (vide page 556) on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That thu bill be now read a second time.
– No member of the Government party could reasonably accuse me of an unreadiness to support social legislation initiated by the Labour party. My attitude has invariably been to judge such legislation on its merits, quite regardless of what party had initiated it. This measure, however, leaves me cold, because I regard it as a deliberate confidence trick and a sham, practised on the very class of people of whom Government members are prone to consider themselves the special representatives.
The bill proposes to establish an entirely new legislative practice. As honorable members know, it has always been customary for Ministers, when introducing measures of social reform, to seek at the time authority to appropriate the sums deemed necessary to meet the Treasury obligations in connexion with them. In this instance, the Parliament is asked to hypothecate a sum years in advance of the legislation authorizing its expenditure. It is true that already trust funds operate in connexion with social legislation. In respect of invalid and old-age pensions, moneys are placed in a trust fund at frequent intervals, at the direction of this Parliament. But there is a real danger in the practice of making payments into a trust fund before the Parliament has authorized their expenditure. Since I entered this Parliament twelve years ago, I have heard honorable members who now sit on the Government benches accuse the Treasurer in the Lyons Government of having manipulated certain trust funds in order to obscure the real state of treasury funds. There is very real danger in that respect, and it will be tremendously accentuated if we break down the old tradition of making the appropriation subsequent to the legislative commitment. Because this measure introduces that dangerous practice, it is unacceptable to the Opposition. One could understand the proposal of the Government if the present were a period of prosperity and financial plenty, and if the intention were to place surplus funds aside, to be drawn against on a rainy day. Surely this is a rainy day; indeed, it is a day of deluge. It certainly is not the time to contemplate taking out of current resources the sum mentioned in the bill, and placing it in a fund for use years hence. The desperate expedients that were resorted to in order to ensure the success of recent war loans, and the plaintive requests of the Prime Minister to the working men and women of Australia to contribute at least £10 in order that the boys at the fighting front might not go short of the things that they need, may be readily recalled. Yet despite this it is proposed that at such a time £30,000,000 shall be taken from current resources and placed in a trust fund. The purposes for which drawings are to be made from thu fund have not yet been divulged to us.
The bill purports to do two things: First, to initiate a £30,000,000 social programme; and, secondly, to provide the £30,000,000 wherewith to finance that programme. I shall demonstrate that it does neither. Let us examine it, in order to see whether it predicates a £30,000,000 plan. The only specific items of proposed expenditure which were indicated to us by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in the financial statement that he made recently were maternity benefits, a liberalized maternity allowance, funeral benefits for old-age pensioners, and a sustenance allowance for the dependants of invalid pensioners. The total extra charge on the Treasury, for these four items amounts to only £2,525,000. I do not object to any of those proposals, or to the taking of such steps as are necessary to raise the money required. I believe that Parliament would do well to pay more attention ro the very serious decline of the birthrate. Prom the beginning of the century the rate has declined from 27 to each 1,000 of population to 17. The effect of this is that Australia is losing every year no fewer than 70,000 babies. I am not fool enough to imagine that the position can be wholly rectified by increasing the maternity allowance, though it has been established that there is a close relation between economic conditions and vital statistics. However, I do believe that if we can do something to alleviate the mental stress of the- mother during the period of her confinement and immediately afterwards we shall make a real contribution to the health of the children, thus reducing the incidence of infantile mortality, which is much too high in Australia. We deplore the loss of 60,000 Australian lives during the four years of the Great War, but it is a fact that during the four years of the economic war - that is, during the depression years from 1.929 to 1933- 24,S00 children did not survive their first year, whilst many thousands more who, in the ordinary course of events, would have been born were not born. Therefore, if the granting of increased maternity benefits has the effect of relieving the anxiety of mothers and enabling them to rear healthy children, I regard the money proposed to be spent as a worth while investment.
I also welcome the proposal to grant funeral benefits to old-age pensioners. I am personally acquainted with many oldage pensioners who, from their meagre income, put so much aside each week in order that they might escape the indignity of a pauper’s funeral. It is evident that a great many pensioners must follow this practice because there are many funeral organizations which accept contributions of this kind, and not all of them, unfortunately, are bona fide. This provision should enable pensioners to free themelves from the toils of such organizations.
I also approve of the proposal to supplement the sustenance allowance to families of invalid pensioners. The time is overdue when the- National Government should make an attempt to rehabilitate as many as possible of those who have been regarded as permanently and totally incapacitated. Many of them, I believe, could be restored to industry, and I trust that the recommendations of the Social Security Committee in this respect will shortly be given effect. One of the first steps towards rehabilitating such persons is to lift from their shoulders the crushing burden of poverty under which they have been labouring, and this proposal is a step in that direction.
The four proposals which I have enumerated represent the sum total of the social benefits which the Government proposes to introduce immediately. It is true that we have been informed by the Treasurer of certain other proposals which will, in due course, be presented to Parliament, but they arc of the future, whereas the tax for the purpose of creating a trust fund is very much of the present. .In order to show that the greater part of the. Government’s social programme belongs to the future, I quote the following extract from the Treasurer’s statement : -
Broadly, mir post-war iki in must be the physical development of our country linked up with expanded production and increased population. Measures directed to these ends must it. i in at ensuring a high level of employment which is fundamental to economic advancement and social security.
Further measures ure necessary to ensure minimum social standards throughout the community. Accordingly the Government now proposes to lay the foundation of a comprehensive scheme of national welfare which will lie developed progressively and will be brought into full operation after the war.
It id impracticable in war-time to devise and introduce a comprehensive scheme for all of these services. For example, under war conditions, the strain on our medical and nursing services is particularly heavy. But investigations are proceeding, and it is anticipated that it will be found possible to give effect to some of the services cither wholly or in part when the inquiries have been completed. lie goes on to suggest a term of six or nine months in which health and unemployment insurance could be initiated. T- he serious? We have specific social service proposals before us now and others suggested for future consideration, but a tax designed to establish the National Welfare Fund will commence on the 1st April next. That tax will fall heavily on the lower ranges of income. As late as lust week the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) expressed the traditional view of the Labour party that workers should not be compelled to pay for social benefits. This new tax is either a contribution by the workers to their own social services or a war tax. The Government must have it one way or the other.
– How much money did Australia lose as the result of the aborted national insurance scheme?
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Nothing. That scheme was sabotaged, but not by me. I do not know whether the Treasurer denies that this new tax on the incomes of the lower-paid workers will represent their contributions for the provision to them of social services some time in the future. The national insurance scheme, for the establishment of which legislation was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament but did not come into operation, provided for a payment of about 2s. a week by lower-paid workers for the benefits which that legislation conferred upon them. Labour members bitterly fought against that provision, on the grounds that it was wrong to expect workers to pay for social services. Contrast their attitude then with the attitude of the Government to-day. Under the Government proposals, the man on £3 a week will have to pay a tax of 3s. a week as a contribution towards future social services. That man to-day pays no tax at all. The man on £4 a week will be required to pay an additional 4k. a week tax in order that he may qualify for some hypothetical benefit. The man on the basic wage of £5 a week will have his tax increased from 8s. to 13s. 6d. a week, an increase of 5s. 6d. a week, which is about three times the amount he was to have been required to pay under the national insurance scheme. Under that scheme that man would have become almost immediately entitled to benefit, but this scheme will entitle him to some benefit some day in the future. The man on £6 a week will have to pay an extra 6s. tax, and the man on £7 a week an extra 8s., whilst the man on £8 a week will have to pay 10s. a week more. I repeat that that extra taxation is either a direct tax for war purposes or is a contribution, called tax, towards some prospective social benefits.
– Or both.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Even when he has paid the tax the worker will not be nearly so secure as he would have been under a properly arranged and designated contributory scheme, because no scheme which depends for its finances entirely on the Treasury can possibly be safe, whereas under a contributory scheme the man who makes his contributions week by week builds up a. vested interest of which no misfortunes of the Treasury can rob him. We need not go far back into history to see how easy it is for social services which entirely depend on the state of the Treasury to break down, for in 1931 invalid and oldage pensions were slashed, not by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) or the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), but by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), a Labour Prime Minister, who was forced by the financial circumstances of the time to do something which normally he would not have even dreamed of doing. Instead of imposing contributions on the people by means of a tax, the Government should do the honest thing and call the new tax what it really is, namely, a war tax, and when the time comes make provision for the financial support of social services by a straightforward system of contributions.
This legislation purports to have two objectives. The first is the initiation of a £30,000,000 social services programme. I think that I have effectively dealt with that, for it is only a £2,500,000 programme, and the rest of the programme is being put by for some time in the future. The second is the provision of £30,000,000 a year with which to finance that programme. The second objective is as unreal as the first. Clause 5 reads -
There shall he paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, for the purposes of the National Welfare Fund, in each financial year (commencing with the financial year commencing on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and forty-three) the sum of Thirty million pounds, or a sum equal to one-quarter of the amount received in that financial year as income tax from persons other than companies, whichever is the less.
There is the rub - “ The sum of thirty million pounds, or a sum equal to onequarter of the amount received … as income tax from persons other than companies, whichever is the less “ ! Never will the £30,000,000 be appropriated for the national welfare fund until the income tax from persons exceeds £120,000,000, and never in our history has the Treasury raised £120,000,000 by way of income tax from persons. The Treasurer declared that in 1938-39 the Commonwealth income tax assessed on individuals yielded £7,000,000, in 1940-41 the sum of £30,000,000, and in 1941-4:2 the sum of £50,000,000. The estimate for the current year is approximately £70,000,000. It is true that the Treasurer pointed out that an additional £40,000,000 will he raised by the legislation which the House passed last week, increasing collections from the income tax this year to £110,000,000. Referring to the report of the Commissioner of Taxation, I find that income tax collected from individuals during the last ten years, which includes heavy additional taxation during two years of war, totals only £120,000,000 or an average of £12,000,000 a year.
– Does that include receipts from companies ?
– No, receipts only from individuals. Twentyfive per cent. of £12,000,000 is not £30,000,000, as mentioned by the Treasurer, but only £3,000,000. I am not so foolish as to believe that immediately the peace bells ring, we shall revert to pre-war levels of taxation. But even if the pre-war rates were trebled, the total to he appropriated into the trust fund would still be less than £10,000,000. That sum falls fantastically short of £30,000,000, which honorable members have been led to believe was the objective of the bill. Although the Treasurer has stated that he estimates that £110,000,000 will be collected from income tax next year, honorable members must not forget that under the uniform income tax legislation the Commissioner of Taxation is now the agent for the States. On their behalf, he will collect £33,000,000 per annum. That arrangement will terminate twelve months after the cessation of hostilities, or long before some of these visionary social services come into being. That analysis shows in bold relief the falsity of the idea that anything like £30,000,000 will be appropriated for the purposes of social reform. No serious objection could be raised to a prudent provision from surplus resources in order to meet the necessities of a rainy day, but this is not the time to incur additional legislative commitments. Therefore, I am opposed to the creation of the National Welfare Fund until the special nature of the Government’s proposals has been approved by this Parliament.
.- The National Welfare Fund, which the Government proposes to establish, will be far in advance of the national health insurance scheme which a previous United Australia party government introduced. That scheme offered free medical treatment and certain payments during a period of illness, but it contained certain objectionable provisions. For example, invalid and old-age pensioners, both wife and husband, would have been subject to the contributory provisions of the legislation, and a married man with a wife and two children would have been called upon to pay approximately 4s. a week in order to receive the health benefits of the meagre scheme. Under the present proposals, a man with a wife and two children, in receipt of £250 a year, will pay only an additional £1 a year for the privilege of receiving social benefits far in advance of those contemplated under the national health insurance scheme. This small additional payment will also entitle families to receive unemployment benefits, maternity allowances, funeral benefits, and assistance to purchase homes.
Invalid pensioners at present receive a pension of 25s. a week, plus the costofliving allowance. The Government now proposes to pay an allowance of 15s. a week for dependent wives of invalid pensioners. In addition, it is proposed to pay 5s. a week for the unendowed child of an invalid pensioner. Thus under these arrangements an invalid pensioner with wife and children will receive, apart from ordinary child endowments, a total family benefit of 45s. a week, plus the cost-of-living allowance on the invalid pension itself. The cost will be borne by the National Welfare Fund. I emphasize the disparity between the national health insurance scheme and this Government’s non-contributory scheme. Persons in the lower income groups with family responsibilities will be entitled to receive many benefits without being obliged to make the high contributions that they would have been compelled to make under the national health insurance scheme.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) tried to mislead the public regarding the advantages of the present proposal. He declared that the Government’s plan was visionary and illusory; but the people, who have every confidence in the Labour party, know that the necessary legislation is now being drafted. Some of the bills will be introduced during the next few days, although the more complex measures, such as that relating to the national health scheme, may be delayed for a short period. The much-discussed Beveridge report that has been presented to the British Government provides for a scheme of social benefits which is not nearly so generous as the scheme of this Government.
– No scheme is before us; that is our complaint.
– The Treasurer has already explained the Government’s proposals. The measures to implement those proposals will be introduced after certain other financial measures have been passed. The implication of the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta is that no scheme will be forthcoming. I do not accept that view. We may take it for granted that legislation to implement the Government’s plans will be submitted to us. The British. Government’s proposals are not so liberal as those that will be before us shortly. We have been informed in the press, during the last clay or two, that a contributory scheme of financial insurance and social benefits has been prepared in the United States of America.
Something has been said by the honorable member for Parramatta about the heavy imposts that this scheme will Pia .( upon people drawing incomes of between £2 and £3 a week. As I understand it. the only people on such low incomes who will be called upon to contribute in taxation for this scheme will be minors, who can well afford to make the payments required of them. Adult workers on the basic wage, or on a wage of about that rate, will not be required to contribute.
The Government is taking a step in the right direction in introducing this proposal now. This war is being fought partly in order to ensure economic stability to the people, and I consider that the Government is acting wisely in indicating its proposals in this regard, for by so doing it is showing the people that they have something worth fighting for. The greatest fear of the workers is the fear of to-morrow. This is especially true of people with families. Whatever can be done to assure such persons of some degree of economic security should be done at once.
The introduction of the widows’ pension scheme by this Government was evidence of its intention to help the ordinary people. It is true that, at present, that scheme is not of a very far-reaching nature, but the payments that are already being made to widows are very acceptable to them. The principle of the payment of widow.–’ pensions having been approved by the Parliament, the rates of payment, mav be increased from time to time as circumstances require.
It is essential also that people should be assured of continuous employment, and of the provision of adequate medical services. These two ideals should be realized as quickly as possible. The proposal for the payment of increased maternity allowances, and sustenance for dependants of invalid pensioners, and also funeral allowances are to be commended. The housing scheme of the Government also is praiseworthy. People should be guaranteed homes under reasonable conditions. It is true that labour and building materials for a comprehensive housing scheme are not available at the moment, because of war conditions; but undoubtedly the Parliament should formulate a comprehensive housing scheme no w so that it can be put into operation immediately the war ends. If we wait until after the war before making plans for the housing of the people - and honorable members opposite seem to want the Government to wait until after the war - building operations will have to wait until plans can be prepared,- which will mean considerable delay. The honorable member for Parramatta has contended that the time is not opportune for a measure of this description.
– That is not what I said. I said that the Government should tell us what its objectives are before asking us to provide money for them.
– As I understood the honorable member, he said that this was not the time to provide a comprehensive scheme for social services, and that that could wait until after the war.
– I said that the Government should tell us what it proposes to spend this money on. It has not done so.
– The honorable gentleman will find the Government’s programme set out. in the second-reading speech of the Treasurer. I commend the Government upon its proposal to provide, by regulation, free university education for an increased number of children. I hope that that principle will be extended to include all children who show capacity through their examination results. Assistance in relation to university education should be placed upon the same basis as child endowment. There should be no limit. The benefit should be available to every child of every family who can qualify for it by examination. In that way the scheme would be completely democratic and we should be assured that all competent boys and girls of the nation would receive a complete education. Thus they would become of maximum benefit to the nation. Under existing conditions, many boys and girls of inferior capacity frequently fail in university examinations, but because of the financial help their parents are able to give them, they ultimately obtain degrees in various professions. In that way many secondrate and third-rate men are practising and the community suffers because of their incapacity. That situation would be remedied if children of proved capacity could continue their education until they graduated from the university.
I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this measure. It is evidence of its sincerity in relation to social progress. I regard this bill as a contribution towards the new deal which we are being led to expect after the war. People hear a lot about the new deal, and the Government is acting wisely in introducing this proposal as evidence of its good faith in relation to the future.
.- Because I believe that the method by which the Government is submitting its social programme is wrong I regret that I must oppose this bill. My opinion of this measure is apparently somewhat similar to the opinions of honorable gentlemen opposite of the national health and pensions insurance scheme which was introduced some years ago. Supporters of this Government, who constituted the then Opposition, condemned that scheme because they disapproved of its financial basis. They argued in favour of a voluntary scheme as against a compulsory scheme. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) that this scheme should be opposed on the four grounds which he mentioned. The whole proposal may be described as camouflage finance. If I could see the whole scheme in clear perspective, I might have pleasure in supporting it, but all the financial proposals associated with the social legislation programme of this Government are unsound. I consider it to be my duty to oppose all unsound financial proposals.
I find it rather difficult to understand why the Government has resorted to this method of introducing its social policy.
– Does the honorable member find any real difficulty in understanding the attitude of the Government?
– I do, in view of certain statements made by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). The honorable gentleman said, for example -
The Government proposes to establish a national welfare fund through which provision will be made to finance the full scheme. Commencing from thu 1st July next, it is proposed to pay to this fund out of general revenue an annual sum of £30,000,000, or a sunt equal to one-fourth of the total collections each year from income tax on individuals, whichever is the lower.
He went on -
In its early stages the fund will build up some credit balances which will be used later when the welfare scheme reaches full operation.
Later he said -
In the first year a substantial credit may accrue. These balances will not lie allowed to remain idle but will bo invested, and will thus provide a useful source of temporary finance for war purposes, which will be replaced by long-term borrowings when the moneys are required later for welfare purposes.
The people of Australia know that it is imperative for the Government to obtain money in order to finance the war. Unless the last farthing be obtained for this purpose, we shall be in trouble. Already the Government finds itself in a precarious financial position, and that puts the matter mildly. Therefore, the people of this country fully realize that additional taxation has to be borne in order that additional revenue may be raised. They would be quite prepared to accept from the Government the statement that it required an additional £30,000,000 in order to continue to finance war operations. Instead of doing that, the Government is using other means of obtaining that £30,000,000, and its intentions are hidden in the guise of a welfare scheme. I do not regard that as necessary. Why not tell the people that this is really a taxation scheme? I fail to see how it can be logically argued that a scheme of this kind can be launched by the formation of a fund which will be drawn on immediately in order to provide money for war purposes. Would not the simpler and more straightforward method be to tell the people that this extra taxation is needed, and then to say that the Government believes - as we all do - that further ameliorative welfare measures should be introduced under the heads set out in the bill - maternity, funeral, invalid pensions and sustenance? The Government could make it clear that it had those matters well in mind, and that, in a scheme of post-war reconstruction, it proposed to resort to borrowing on a scale that would fulfil the financial requirements. In fact, that is all that this proposal implies. For some reason, however, the Government has decided to adopt the present form, which I believe will not be acceptable to the people, and justifies the opposition of members who sit on this side of the House. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that this is actually a contributory plan of social benefits. Members of the Government party, when in opposition, were at great pains to make it clear to the people that they were totally opposed to any contributory form of welfare legislation. This measure cloaks the real intentions of the Government. I cannot see why the bill should not be withdrawn and recast along the lines proposed by the honorable member for Parramatta. I should have no objection to the introduction at present of a comprehensive national insurance scheme. It is to be deeply regretted that a previous government was not able to bring into operation such a scheme which would have been of very great advantage to the people and of tremendous benefit at present in providing large sums for financing the war, as is done in Great Britain. The honorable member for Parramatta made an excellent point when he said that any legislation, even in time of war, which would result in an increase of the birth-rate of this country, would be of great national value. That, however, could be done effectively after the war, when the time would be much more fitting and the scheme could be placed on a very much better financial basis than is possible at the present time.
I shall vote against the bill because 1 disagree, not with the social idea that underlies it, but with the method by which the Government proposes to finance the scheme. I trust that the Government will give consideration to the issues that are raised by honorable members, with a view to recasting the bill and placing the whole plan on a more honest and sound financial basis.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), in his second-reading speech, and also in hia financial statement, foreshadowed to the House the intentions of the Government. lt. proposes to bring down shortly certain measures which will impose upon the revenue a further burden of £2,515,000; that is to say, an additional £365,000 in respect of the maternity allowance; a new maternity benefit, estimated to cost £1,250,000; a new funeral benefit in respect of invalid and old-age pensioners, estimated to cost £260,000; and a sustenance allowance in respect of the dependants of invalid pensioners, estimated to cost £640,000. The sum which it is proposed to take from the revenues and to add to social service benefits does not approximate that which is to be appropriated. We have been told that during the course of this year, which ought normally to include an election, there will be sickness benefits, payable in approximately six months’ time, and unemployment benefits, payable in approximately nine months’ time. Normally, the unemployment benefits would not be paid before the election was held. This House will expire, by effluxion of time, in November. Normally, an election would be held some time prior to that date. Therefore, the House is asked to appropriate a large sum for the purposes of a scheme of social benefits, only -a small part of which is to be immediately in being and the great bulk of which is quite unknown to honorable members. Even if these proposals were placed before us in complete detail, they would not reconcile me to the fact that this House, on the initiative of the Government, has increased the burden of taxation upon receivers of small incomes, particularly the small wage-earners. It does not sweeten the fact that the exemption has been reduced to £2 a week. But this measure does not give the House any assurance that there will be a sickness benefit, or that there will be an unemployment benefit. It says that moneys may be taken out of the trust fund which is to be created for purposes of making payments in relation to health services, unemployment or sickness benefits, family allowances or other welfare or social services. The Government may range over the whole expanse of possible social services, but there is no indication what sort of services it is committed to, other than what is contained in the financial statement, or how much it proposes to expend on any or all of them. This measure contains the very important statement that the National Welfare Fund, for which the trust account is to be constituted, is to be established under the provisions of section 62a of the Audit Act, but this section seems to be an inappropriate one with which to connect a fund of this importance. It refers to a number of funds enumerated in the schedule, or which can be added to the schedule by the Treasurer. Most of those funds exist for a temporary administrative purpose, and the Treasurer is empowered under the section to put an end to any of them. It is provided in subsection 4 of section 62a of the Audit Act 1901-1934, that, the Treasurer may direct that any trust account be closed, and thereupon the money standing to the credit of the account may, after all liabilities have been discharged, be transferred to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That is a reasonable enough provision in respect of funds created for temporary purposes, but it is most unreasonable to ask this House to agree that so important a trust fund as this shall rest upon so precarious a basis ; that it shall be subject to the administrative power of the Treasurer to abolish the fund, and transfer the moneys to the Consolidated Revenue account.
– Could the Treasurer override the provisions of this bill when it becomes law ?
– He could in the way I have suggested. Moneys standing to the credit cif the trust account are deemed to be standing to the credit of the trust fund, and the Treasurer is prevented by the provisions of sections 61 and 62a of the Audit Act from expending money out of the trust fund except for the purpose of the fund, or under the authority of the act. He may abolish the trust account, but while money remains in the trust fund he cannot use it for any purpose except the trust purpose. Therefore, the money which it is proposed to put into this trust fund cannot be directly used for war purposes. The Treasurer anticipates that position by saying that the money is to be invested, and that the investment is to provide money which the Government can use for war purposes.
– Are not such moneys always invested?
– I am coming to that. The Treasurer, in his financial statement, speaking of this money, stated -
These balances will not be allowed to remain idle but will be invested and will thus provide a useful source of temporary finance for war purposes which will be replaced by long-term borrowings when the moneys are required later for welfare purposes.
In his second-reading speech on this bill he substituted “permanent” for longterm “.I agree that it is a proper thing thatmoney in a trust fund should be invested. Section 62d of the Audit Act provides that moneys standing to the credit of a trust fund may be invested by the Treasurer in securities of the Commonwealth Government or of any State, or deposited in any bank. That means that, instead of keeping the money in a bank, the Treasurer may invest it in Commonwealth or State securities, but the normal thing would be for the securities to be held by the trust fund and, when a demand was made upon the fund, the securities would be sold. That is what the act contemplates.
– How are they to be disposed of except by re-borrowing?
– The securities can be sold through the banks.
– Loans are always redeemed by borrowing again.
– It is provided that moneys standing to the credit of a trust fund may be invested in government securities, but those securities are negotiable, and may be sold at any time. This is what is going to happen : The money will be lent to the Government as an investment, and the Government will ultimately replace it by long-term or permanent borrowing. I cannot see why that provision is necessary when securities are held by the Fund for amountslent to the Government. I can understand why the money should be invested, but I cannot understand the special statement by the Government that the money, having been invested, will disappear, and will require to be replaced by long-term borrowing. The securities which represent the investment of the trust moneys are a form of wealth which can be negotiated, sold or otherwise disposed of. I cannot see why there should be longterm borrowing in order to restore a fund which should not be depleted at all I again emphasize the fact that the manner in which the bill is drawn places the fund on a very precarious basis. Without investing the money, the Treasurer could, in time of stress, abolish the fund, under section 62a of the Audit Act.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) pointed out that the Treasurer’s estimate of the revenue to be derived in a full year was £110,000,000. An amendment has been circulated which, if accepted, would reduce that amount considerably. The amount to be appropriated will be either £30,000,000 or one-quarter of the amount received from income tax on individuals whichever is the less. This money will be appropriated for the purpose of meeting immediate social welfare commitments amounting to ‘ £2,500,000, and for meeting, in the future, the indefinite commitments referred to by the Treasurer. What is the full scope of social services to which the Government has committed itself? The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) made great play with housing, but it seems to me that if housing is to be such an important service, it should have been mentioned specifically, whereas there is no specific mention of it, either in the bill or in the Treasurer’s financial statement. The things mentioned are invalid and old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, health, sickness, unemployment and other benefits. It seems to me that expenditure on the housing of the people is far too important a social benefit to be merely inter alia. I assume that the things which the Government has in mind for its programme this year are additional benefits to pensioners, sickness benefits, unemployment benefits, and maternity benefits. The Government itself says that it may be impossible this year to bring in acomplete scheme of health benefits as distinct from sickness benefits. The Government should say now what social benefits it proposes to finance out of the National Welfare Fund. It may say, “ We have not worked out the details yet, but these are the benefits on which we intend to spend money and these are the benefits we propose to give - sickness benefits, health benefits, maternity benefits “, or whatever benefits it intends to confer on the people.
SirFrederick Stewart. - That is what we are asking for.
– It would be difficult at this stage to specify the benefits in detail.
– Yes, but the Government could say how much money out of the £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 which it will place in the National Welfare Fund it will have available for sickness or unemployment benefits and, on that basis, it could say what benefits a sick person or an unemployed person shall receive. The Joint Committee on Social Security has done a great deal of work and has evolved schemes, and the Government cannot say that it has no material at its disposal on which to work. It has been suggested to me privately that the Government proposes to spend £15,000,000 on unemployment benefits when it has the national welfare scheme in operation. It should be able to tell the House what amount it proposes to expend on unemployment benefits.
Although it does not seem very easy under this bill to debate schemes of social relief, I should like to say that I for one do not believe that invalid and old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, and allowances for children should be put, either directly or indirectly, upon a contributory basis. The National Health and Pensions Insurance Act of the Lyons Government provided for direct contributions. The system in operation in New Zealand is based on indirect contributions. Every one who is able to do so contributes on a flat rate through tax, and every one is entitled to benefit regardless of whether he has contributed. The national security tax and the social security tax are lumped together and every body contributes at a flat rate of 2s. 6d. in the £1. Under the direct contributions method proposed in the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, the only persons who would have benefited were those who contributed. The difficulty of that scheme was that a man might have contributed for years and years and then drop out because of inability to make further contributions as the result of unemployment. When he again obtained work he would have had to start afresh. We objected to that provision as well as other provisions of that act. I believe that the relief of oldage, invalidity and sickness are burdens that ought to be borne by the community and financed by a tax graduated according to ability to pay. I do not believe that persons receiving £2 or £3 a week are able to pay. The only concession I make is that I believe it may be possible to say that there ought to be a special tax, the proceeds of which would be hypothecated for the relief of unemployment only, and that only persons in work should pay that tax. I prefer the non-contributory to the contributory plan. But what the Government is doing under this bill and under the new taxation scheme is to substitute indirect contributory benefits for the direct. Instead of having to make a direct contribution, as he would have had to do under the national insurance scheme of the Lyons Government, a man will be required, under the scheme proposed by this Government, to make an indirect contribution. Practically every person who earns will be making that indirect contribution. This scheme brings the range of income tax down to too low a level. I do not like this bill, but I do not intend to vote against it. I registered my protest during the debate on the Income Tax Assessment Bill. There is a Spanish proverb which says : “ Such a man would steal a sheep and give the trotters away in charity.” As the sheep has now been stolen from its owner, I am prepared to vote that the victim shall at any rate get back the trotters. All he will get under this scheme is the trotters of his sheep and I propose to see that he gets them.
.- I intend to vote against this bill and I shall state the grounds for my objections. I t is necessary to examine the bill to see whatit purports to provide. On the faceofit, it provides that £30,000,000, or 25 per cent. of the personal income tax, whichever is the less, shall be put into a trust account to be applied togeneral welfare purposes. If this measure receives the approval of the House I assume that the Government will set aside annually £30.000,000, or less, for those purposes. If that is so, we are being asked to commit ourselves for an indefinite period to taxation at high rates which at the present time only war can justify. We have been given the most shadowy information in support of the proposal. It is necessary in dealing with this matter to know the background. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), as Leader of the Opposition, declared without equivocation in heading the attack on the Fadden budget in 1941, that not even war would justify a government in taking one penny from those persons in receipt of only £300 a year, and that opinion was echoed by all his supporters.
– And by the Independents.
– Yes. The Labour party nailed its colours to the mast when it declared that not even for the purposes of war should persons on low incomes be taxed. There was no purpose in our pointing out that those persons had an obligation to contribute something towards the cost of war to preserve them as well as the rest of the community, for the compelling fact was that it was necessary to tax the lower ranges of income if only for the purpose of restricting the spending-power of the community. I. will not go into details now, but the Labour party sowed the wind and it is now reaping the whirlwind. To the degree that the purchasing power of money was dwindling, it imposed a flat tax upon the workers. Although the worker is not yet conscious of that fact, he will be very shortly.
– A flat tax of £1 in every £5.
– Yes ; £1 in every £5 is taken from the worker in terms, not of money, but of purchasing power. The effect is exactly the same. Because of that initial fault, the Government has incurred the obligation of imposing additional taxation upon the worker. The views on finance held by certain Ministers, particularly the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini), have been at least in recent measures before this House, completely denied by the Treasurer, and I doubt whether they will recommend themselves to any one possessing any knowledge of the subject. The cold fact is that it would require a better man than the Minister assisting the Treasurer, and he is adept at explaining anything, to explain how he reconciles the policy of the present Government with the countless edicts upon finance which he has proclaimed to the people from time to time. I suppose that sooner or later he will attempt to reconcile those two conflicting policies. I am unable to do so; but perhaps I have not the same degree of perception as has the honorable gentleman.
The Government was faced with the obligation of going back upon its policy after a great deal of damage had been done. Honorable members on this side of the chamber had repeatedly pointed out to Ministers that their policy would react to a worse degree upon the worker, the longer the remedy was delayed. Now, the Government has imposed a tax upon incomes on the lower ranges; but it resorted to the neat device of linking the rates of income tax with the present proposal. If I stopped to conjecture what took place, I should not be long in arriving at the truth. I can imagine what happened in the party room. Some one said : “ Gentlemen, it is obvious that we shall have to tax the lower ranges of income. How shall we get away with that in view of the fact that w’e have repeatedly said that in no circumstances will we tax them for any purposes ? But something must be done “. Then one or two honorable members, with adept minds, whom I would not have difficulty in identifying, replied : “ What we shall have to do is to tie this taxing proposal to a social welfare scheme. If we do that, we shall have a pretty good chance of getting away’ with it. Without it, we shall be lost “.
– And the Treasurer said : “I agree to the proposal, so long as it means nothing
– The Treasurer, who knows what he requires and how to get it, said recently that he was a mere cog in the machine. Doubtless, he agreed that so long as the machine went where he wanted it to go, he did not mind what particular impedimenta were loaded upon it. I doubt whether this proposal emanated from the Treasurer, but I have a shrewd suspicion of its source. However, that is not important. The Treasurer was obliged to introduce this legislation, which is allied with the income tax rates bill. This measure will raise an additional £40,000,000, of which £30,000,000 will be appropriated for the National Welfare Fund. I wonder whether any honorable member can truthfully say that he believes that story. Is there any one outside of an asylum who will declare that he believes it? It is upon examination revealed as a pretext as shallow as any that has been placed before this House. Indeed, it raises an issue of great importance, because this House is now asked to approve the establishment instanter, of a fund, for £30,000,000, and this amount will continue to be provided annually until the cessation of hostilities. Thenceforth, I assume, taxation will replenish the account. But whether the fund totals £20,000,000, £40,000,000 or £100,000,000, how is the debt which will be created in the meantime by advancing these moneys for war purposes to be paid ? The money will be obtained by borrowing from the public. I have already drawn attention to the views expressed by honorable members of the present Government upon the inequity of taxing the lower ranges of income; but one shining light Of the Ministry has expressed views upon post-war reconstruction which I find most appropriate to quote at this stage. Upon the plea that the last Fadden budget could not be stomached by the people because it would bring the country to disaster, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) delivered a severe attack upon those financial proposals and the previous Government was defeated. The AttorneyGeneral, who is renowned for his ability to choose the right, words to convey his thoughts, declared -
My main criticism of the budget is, I believe, the criticism of most of the people - that the adoption of its principles would tend to destroy all hope of building a greater and happier Australia. What would happen to schemes in respect of housing, rural development, re-establishment of primary industries, and the improvement of our general standards of living, the development of education, child welfare and the like, if such a budget were to characterize Australian economy during the next two or three years J A crushing burden of debt, which would be too great for Australia to bear, is threatened. “Post-war credits “ is a synonym for “ post-war debts “ so far as public finance is concerned.
He continued in the same strain, claiming that if the policy of the previous Government were continued the country would stagger under an intolerable burden, from which it would never escape.
– That was before the Government discovered the “ four freedoms “.
– Since then, we have witnessed another change of front. The Ministry appears to have the ability to change its views as the chameleon changes hue according to the colour of its background.
M r. Menzies. - The Government opened up a second front.
– At least a second front. The Government proposes to do the very thing, as the basis of post-war welfare, which the Attorney-General previously condemned. The proposal is to set aside this year in a so-called trust account the sum of £30,000,000, and 1 assume that similar sums will be provided annually until the war ends. The words “ trust account “ convey to gullible members of the public that the money is set aside for the benefit of the people. That fact seems to have been taken into consideration by the Government when preparing this measure. The Government puts the money into the account, but- takes it out again. The Government has the audacity to tell the people that this is a continuing scheme of national welfare. Last week, an honorable member used the word “ bogus “ and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, took exception to it. Whilst I shall not describe the fund as “ bogus “, I shall, using the mildest language I can apply to it, characterize this legislation as a piece of legerdemain, or political chicanery.
The honorable member for Bourke described clearly to the House the characteristics of a trust account under the Audit Act. No honorable member who paid close attention to that speech could come to any conclusion other than that this bill’ contains no proper safeguard. We have not been given any indication of how the National Welfare Fund is to be expended. The Government has requested that £30,000,000 be provided.
Why not £60,000,000? Did the Treasurer take the figures out of a hat? If not, he should be able to tell us how the total was reached. . We have been given an explanation in relation to only £2,500,000 of the total. Any one with even half an eye, and with defective sight in that half, must see that all the Government is doing is to build a facade of social welfare to hide the fact that the people are being taxed for war purposes; it is only a pretence that the money will be used for social welfare purposes. Every honorable member with the slightest sense of responsibility, upon being asked to approve of the raising annually of an additional £30,000,000 by taxation, is entitled to ask, “ Exactly what is this money required for?” I should not offer the slightest objection to the most libera] social benefits scheme, but I offer the strongest objection to being asked to vote public money without being assured that the expenditure will be adequately safeguarded. We should be told definitely how the money is to be applied.
– Why did not the honorable member introduce a social service programme while he was in office?
– That has nothing to do with the case. I. do not know anything about the activities of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) elsewhere, but in this Parliament he i= renowned for talking with his tongue in his cheek.
– The honorable member’s statement is quite untrue.
– I have no desire to elaborate the statement.
– -At any rate, I did not consult newspaper executives over the week-end about my views.
– Such cheap remarks show that the honorable member is in desperate straits. I do not intend to be diverted from what I intend to say. In his financial statement, the Treasurer raid, in relation to these proposals -
Increases of uniform income tax on individuals are now proposed which are estimated to produce £40.000,000 in a full year. This sum will provide for the contribution to the National Welfare Fund-
That is the £30,000,000- and the increased repatriation and invalid pension benefits and will also provide some further contribution for war purposes.
A trust account is to be established into which £30,000,000 is to be paid. Apparently the next day the money will be drawn out of the account. In other words, the Government will lend the money to itself. This is the first time that I have ever heard it proposed, among reasonable men, that a trustee shall be entitled to lend trust money to himself. Apparently, the trust account is to be established, but it may be extinguished the next day. I cannot imagine any parliament in any country, agreeing to such a shadowy and nebulous scheme.
The honorable member for Bourke has indicated clearly that this scheme has no scientific basis. The amount of £30,000,000 has apparently been plucked out of the air. If not, it should be possible for the Treasurer to indicate to us how it was computed. We are entitled to a general outline of the programme to which the Parliament is expected to commit itself, and, for that matter, to commit future parliaments, for if this scheme can be continued up to a certain point future parliaments may not be able to disturb it, though technically one parliament cannot commit another parliament. Except for £2,500,000, the purposes for which the £30,000,000 is to be used are wrapped in complete mystery. If the Parliament, is prepared to accept such a proposal that will be the end of parliamentary control of the public purse. One of the proud claims of democratic parliaments is that they have always exercised control over the expenditure of public moneys. I have stated on a previous occasion recently that, although our expenditure is mounting to colossal proportions, the Parliament has not been given any evidence on which to judge the extent to which the increased expenditure is justified. All we have been told is that the money is required for war purposes. We have no evidence on which to determine whether 50 per cent., 75 per cent., or 100 per cent., is required for war purposes or. will be truly represented in an increased war effort. We are in utter darkness as to how the £100,000,000 recently raised by loan, and the additional £100,000,000 that is to be raised, have teen, or are to be, expended; yet we are expected to exercise a deliberative vote in this Parliament in relation to public expenditure! The final indignity is the request of the Government that we shall approve the expenditure of £30,000,000 without any information as to the manner in which the money is to be used. If the Government has in mind a genuine and comprehensive social service policy, expenditure in relation to it is likely to increase rather than to diminish, having regard to social trends throughout the world; yet no details have been given to us in relation to the matter.
I object to this bill on three important grounds. First, no government should have the audacity to ask Parliament to approve such a shadowy scheme. I heard an honorable member say that this is a blank cheque. So it is. My second objection to the measure is that it amounts to an imposition upon the people, because they are being duped into believing that the Government has formulated a social welfare programme, and that taxes amounting to £30,000,000 will be required to meet the costs of it in the first year. Clearly, there is no scientific basis for the scheme. My third objection is that, if we agree to the hill, we shall surrender our rights as members of the Parliament, and parliamentary control of the public purse, which is a treasured principle of democracy, will become a sham. If we agree to this bill our democracy will be merely a pretence.
I cannot be challenged on the liberality of my outlook in relation to social welfare. The only proper course for this Government to take is to submit a detailed scheme for the approval of the Parliament. That has not been done. I ask myself, as I ask every other honorable member, whether he can give approval to this measure and yet retain his self-respect? I consider the bill a hollow sham, and therefore indefensible. I have no doubt that the Treasurer has in mind certain principles in relation to social legislation. I have no doubt that, at some time, he will bring down certain schemes based on those principles. I say to him now : “ Bring down the schemes at once, and so permit us to retain some control over public expenditure; otherwise we shall have lost one of the most treasured attributes of a democratic Parliament”.
.- The Government is to be commended for having introduced its social welfare programme and for not having postponed it until after the war. Despite the frantic attempts of the Opposition to strangle the infant at birth, it will grow into a strong hefty adult in the years to come.
– Beware that it does not become a Frankenstein monster.
– The same old catchcries are employed as have been used in connexion with every other measure of social reform introduced into this country, particularly by the Labour party; for example, the “Frankenstein monster “ of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) ; the “ nebulous “ and “ hollow sham “ of the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Spender) ; and the “ fundamentally unsound”, “ fanastic “, “too visionary”, “wild cat scheme”, and “the time is not ripe” of others. It is urged that we should wait, as the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has had to wait for his national insurance scheme and his 40-hour week. It is argued that we cannot afford to undertake this expenditure at the present time. The proposal has been described as “phoney”, “a swindle “, “ a confidence trick “, and “ a most disastrous proposal which will bring ruin to this country “. When it was proposed 30 years ago to establish the Commonwealth Bank, the argument advanced against it was that it was a “phoney scheme”, and a “confidence trick”; that it would prove disastrous to the people of this country, and that the land would be flooded with “ Fisher’s flimsies “. Those “ flimsies “ are performing a very important function in this country to-day. This scheme will, in- due course, prove itself - as the Commonwealth Bank has already proved itself to be - a great boon. I have no doubt that it is susceptible of improvement. It is only in its infancy, and will evolve into something of greater benefit. I am glad that the Government does not intend to Heed the special pleading of the eminent King’s Counsel and other honorable members opposite who have adduced various arguments in favour of postponement until after the war. If there were a change of government, it would then bc postponed to the sweet by and by, and probably would never be brought into existence. I direct attention to the warning sounded by Sir Stafford Cripps in a speech that he delivered recently. It is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as follows : - “ Signs are not wanting that privileged, selfish interests are busily preparing to cast the future in the mould of the past “, said the Minister for Aircraft Production, Sir Stafford Cripps, on Saturday. “ Nor docs this development seem to bring any sharp reaction from those who formerly were so confident of future change “, he added.
Sir Stafford Cripps was speaking at his election as Rector of Aberdeen University. “ We are “, he said, “ approaching once again one of those critical periods of hope which occur in every great war as the prospect of ultimate victory begins to loom on the horizon. “ I notice with some distress a growing tendency to view the future with a certain degree of hopelessness, almost sour disillusionment. “ The confident expectation expressed very widely over the past three years that we should never return again to pre-war conditions and that there would be a fundamental change and marked progress shows signs of weakening just at the moment when the prospect of the war ending begins to materialize. Doubts are creeping in.”
I hope that doubts will not creep in with respect to this measure. The speech continued - “The Broken Spell. “ * “ A* study of the past shows that apparent agreement in the hour of peri], when the whole man and woman power of the country is essential for salvation, does not necessarily imply the same agreement when the peril is past. “*”’ This breaking down of the universal comradeship of war into a struggle for sectional advantage in peace was called by Mr. Churchill after the last war ‘ the broken spell ‘.”
Sir Stafford Cripps said he believed the failure had come after the last war because the progressive forces failed to strike while the iron was hot during the war, when the feeling of co-operation was strong and because they underestimated the support they would win tor a bold programme of changer
How wrongs were to be righted remained shrouded in a fog of uncertainty. It was vital that all progressive forces should come together on a common platform to defeat reaction, but their differences in theory kept them from common practice in action. They also underestimated the opposition. “ Education is the great defence of democracy “, said Sir Stafford Cripps, “ and education has taken strides forward.”
Tub Big Danger “ One factor is liable to militate against control by the people of post-war development. The whole population will be vastly wearied, and it will be harder than ever before to stir the people to a realization of how easily democratic power may bo used for what may seem plausible hut will turn out disastrous purposes. Our own vigour of mind and body alone will be able to save us from the soothing call to rest. “ The beneficence of war is its power to change intolerable situations. We must make the peace, too, capable of revolutionary change if we are to rid ourselves of war.” “’ GREAT TESTING time.” “ We approach one of those rare great testing times of the power of our democracy. Can it mobilize the longings, hopes and desires of the mas? of the people to be effective against the interests of reaction and the apathy of war weariness? Defeated totalitarianism may, like the French Revolution, impose its forms and ideas upon the victorious nations unless we are awake to the danger and determined in action. “ Much that we have built up for war we can adapt quickly and easily to the needs of peace. Those needs are many, but above all is the need for higher standards and better living conditions for the common people of every country.”
That is a timely warning. I am pleased that the Government will not agree to the postponement of the matter to the post-war period. It is in sympathy with the great mass of the people. While Labour is in office, we should ensure the passage of legislation conferring benefits which will give social security to the people in the postwar period. The Government recognizes that, because of war conditions, its total programme cannot be implemented at once; but it has shown sincerity by its proposal to bring certain benefits into operation immediately. These will be financed by means of revenue obtained from the income tax bill that passed this House last week. They include additional benefits to the wives of invalid pensioners, and a liberalized maternity allowance. We must not lose sight of the need for this latter assistance in wartime, because the population has to be augmented if we are to ensure that we shall not again occupy the position in which we were placed at the outbreak of the present war, should another world conflict come upon us. Japan, which is our principal enemy, is preparing for a future war should it be defeated in the present conflict, as I am confident it will be. The following announcement was made recently in the Daily Telegraph service : -
Japan is preparing to fight a 100-year war, according to a Tokio broadcast picked up in San Francisco. “ To this end “, the broadcast said, “ the Emperor is launching a public health and baby-breeding programme. “ The plan will include nation-wide physical training and encouragement of marriage.”
I am gratified at the intention of the Government to assist the birth-rate by providing that women shall be properly cared for during the period of their confinement. The Treasurer has indicated that another proposed benefit is a funeral allowance in respect of old-age pensioners. I do not believe that any honorable member on either side of the House will begrudge that benefit to those unfortunate persons who, as the result of the conditions that have existed in past years, now find themselves in a state of poverty. Later, there will be unemployment benefits. It will be a sorry state of affairs if, in the post-war period, there is large-scale unemployment, as was prophesied recently by the Leader of the United Australia party (Mr. Hughes). I trust that there will not be a repetition of what occurred after the last war, but that our industries will be converted to peace-time production for constructive purposes; with as little upset and unemployment as possible. If that is achieved there will not be a considerable drain on this fund. All must recognize, however, the impossibility of converting overnight to peace-time purposes an enterprise employing 2,000 persons which is now producing munitions. Naturally there will be a hiatus. This bill provides for that, and ensures that men will not be walking the streets looking for work. We must take steps now to ensure that, when the war ‘ is over, there will not be a large increase of unemployment. I never believed that there was any danger of civil war in Australia, but lately I have come to the conclusion that, unless preventive measures be taken, civil war is at least a possibility, having regard to the ill-feeing that is being promoted in certain quarters. The Government should take steps to provide for unemployment after the war, and it should be ready to embark upon an extensive housing programme. That the Government has already turned its attention to these matters is evidence of its good faith. This bill is not a trick; the Government has every intention of putting its proposals into operation.
– They have, m a general way, been indicated in the Treasurer’s financial statement. I am convinced that the Government is genuinely anxious to promote the health of the community. A previous Government introduced a national insurance scheme, upon which it expended £1,000,000, but it was then told by its friends who pulled the financial strings that they could not put up the cash, and so the scheme had to be abandoned. I am sure that, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was as much disappointed as any one at the decision to abandon the scheme. The present Government proposes to introduce social benefit schemes that will cost £30,000,000 a year. I trust that the national health service will not be postponed until after the war, as has been suggested. It has been said that the proposal cannot be put into effect now because of a shortage of doctors, but I understand that many doctors are cooling their heels on battle stations with very little to do, and some of them could be brought back to attend to the health of the civil population. We do not want after this war a recurrence of the pneumonic; plague which, after the last war, swept the world. However, if the physical resistance of the people is reduced, such a calamity will be possible. Already, alarming reports regarding the health of the people are coming out of Europe. Here is one of them -
The Associated Press of America says that trustworthy advices indicate that war conditions have created an alarmingly bad health situation in Europe, threatening a calamity worse than the fighting.
The shortage of doctors, equipment and medicines, plus the strain of war, diet deficiencies, and disease-infected and vermin-infested soldiers from the battlefields, it states, are creating a most serious problem for Germany. Medical circles are said to be alarmed at the increasing number of cases of dysentery, which is of epidemic proportions, and also tuberculosis, physical exhaustion, and spotted typhus
Surgeons, it continues, prefer amputation of seriously injured legs rather than the risk of infection from poor bandages and limited disinfectants.
Stomach wounds at the front arc nearly all fatal, and kidney wounds 87 per cent, fatal.
The death-rate is tremendous, and is likely to increase this winter because of over-work, poor food, cold houses, and bombing, among the population, whose resistance is steadily lowered.
Messages received in Zurich (Switzerland) from Brussels confirm a frightful increase in child mortality in Belgium, where rickets and scurvy, caused by lack of vitamins, were already widespread last year.
Parents are now keeping their children in bed, not sending them to school.
Thousands of children have died. Food is urgently needed from abroad to prevent lasting damage to the next generation, and all -;i arangements made for food after thu wai will be too late.
The following report has to do with conditions in Greece : -
More people have died of hunger in Greece ‘u were killed at the height of the enemy attack.
I have read that in France children are being born without fingernails and toenails, because of the malnutrition of their mothers. Mr. John Cudahy, American Ambassador to Belgium, stated recently that many parents in that country were keeping their children in bed in an. effort to curb their hunger, and it has been reported that more people have died of hunger in the province of Honan, in China, than have been killed on all the battlefields in that country. It behoves us, therefore, to guard the health of our people, lest epidemics, originating in other countries, sweep Australia. The Government should pay particular attention to the health of the people, and it should do what it can to promote national fitness. The Commonwealth Health Department has a staff of 600, and the cost of administering the department amounted last year to £267,953. Nevertheless, only £18,000 was voted for the promotion of national fitness. It is not of much use to maintain an expensive staff in the Health Department unless it is employed for the purpose of safeguarding the health of the community and of promoting physical fitness and public morale. A public campaign should be embarked upon for the purpose of educating the public on health matters. Recently, Dr. Wallace, Deputy Director of Public Health in New South Wales, stated - “ We spend £ I f>,O0U,000 a year on drink, £8,000,000 on tobacco, and huge sums on horse and dog racing, hut can afford only £5,000,000 a year for public health measures.” “ It seems likely that taxes will be imposed in the near future for public health measures”, Dr. Wallace added. “ The figures suggest that no hardship would be involved in forcing people to spend more of their money on their own health.
” Wo must abolish slums, feed the people and prevent disease. “ These tilings will cost an enormous amount of money, but the war has proved that we can. when forced, raise such sums. “‘The war has also proved that we can du a great deal more than we do in peacetime for the cause of national health. “ In England, hospital accommodation has had to be increased on a scale which in peacetime would have boon considered impossible. “ In war-time here, in -view of possible eventualities, we should be developing our hospital arrangements, instead of leaving thom at a standstill for lack of funds.”
That warning is given to us by a gentleman prominently associated with health matters in New South Wales. I hope that the Government will consider not only that aspect, but also the need for supervision of food supplies, because the provision of hospitals and other institutions is only treating the effects and neglecting the causes. Australia’s drink bill amounts to £40,000,000 a year and its tobacco bill to £20,000,000. Another £20,000,000 is expended on drugs, medicines and hospitals. Much of that expenditure could be avoided, if more attention were paid to the preventive side of public health, and that includes supervision of food supplies. According to the figures supplied by the Minister for Health, Australian people pay £16,700,000 a year for bread, supposedly the staff of life, but there seems to be no authority concerned about the quality of the bread delivered daily to people. In other parts of the world, considerable attention Las been paid to the quality of bread, and standards have been set. Australia, which grows large quantities of wheat, should be able to produce bread equal to the best in the world. Eminent medical men and. dietitians have given independent thought to bread standards in this country and their opinions have often appeared in the press, but there seems to be no government interest in the subject, in spite of the fact that it has been suggested that many of the stomach ulcers and other ailments which affect our troops are due to the fact that the flourmillers remove the vitamin content of the grain in producing white flour for bread. On that matter, I refer the House to an article published in Smith’s Weekly -
Medical Journal of Australia “ predicts that manufacture of bread from white flour as we know it may be prohibited.
White bread contains little nourishment; vital vitamins, calcium and iron being taken from the white flour when wheat is ground.
Much of the food value in ground wheat is in the bran, which remains in wholemeal . flour but is removed from white flour.
Medical Journal has been impressed by reports from England and America which wreck the conception local millers ami bakers have built up of white bread being the “ stall’ of life”, and revealing it in its true colours as a. miserable item nf diet, lacking in essential nutriment.
Local medical and scientific authorities are becoming extremely interested.
In England, it was discovered that white bread was -of little use as a food. legislation was passed, recently, forcing bakers to put nourishment into bread by using a wholemeal flour.
The same’ must be done in Australia.
American research scientists analysed white Hour and found it badly deficient in vitamin Bl, and such minerals as iron and calcium.
They have devised methods of restoring 20 per cent, of the original vitamin Bl contained in the wheat, 25 per cent, of the iron and 40 per cent of the calcium.
Wheat itself is rich in vitamins, calcium, iron and gluten (protein).
Millers get hold of it, and take away the bran which contains high percentages of vitamins, calcium and iron and, if possible, portion of the gluten, for separate sale.
The result is white flour, main feature of which is that it is tasty. As a food it is poor. Pigs and cattle,’ which eat the bran, got the nourishment.
The article goes on to describe wholemeal bread as the only palatable kind of bread which contains vital nourishment. It states that experiments carried out with two rats, one of which was fed with white flour, and the other with wholemeal flour, conclusively prove the dire effects of white bread. The first rat became puny and the second fat and well nourished. The experiment was reversed, with the result that the rat that had grown fat on. wholemeal flour became puny on a diet of white flour and the other rat that had been puny on a diet of white flour grew fat when fed’ with wholemeal flour. In pleading for close supervision of food standards in Australia I employ bread merely as an example. The supervision must be over the whole range of food in order that we may be able to develop our fitness and morale as a nation.
In fairness to the medical profession; I must say that members of it have paid considerable attention to national fitness. Many medical men are in favour of national health insurance and of the Commonwealth Government taking over the responsibility of the health of- the people. That is indicated in the following report of evidence given to the Joint Committee on Social Security, by Dr. Nott, superintendent of the Canberra Community Hospital, an eminent medical man, and a former member of this Parliament -
Under the present system, it costs too much to be born, too much to aspire to normal health, and too much to die “, Dr. L. W. Nott, superintendent of Canberra Community Hospital, told the Parliamentary Social Security Committee in evidence to-day.
He urged the nationalization of medicine as an integral part of any new social reconstruction. “Sickness always means an embarrassing charity or financial tragedy, too often the forerunner of domestic discord and unhappiness “, he said. It was unfortunate that the medical profession was brought up in rather a narrow atmosphere and in a field rendered mouldy by tradition.
The profession, Dr. Nott said, had developed a shortened horizon that rendered it indifferent to the realities of social changes and progress.
Dr. Nott’s final remark may apply to a section of the medical profession, but I think that the great majority agree that we should have a national health scheme.
That opinion is borne out by the following report : -
Nationalization of medical services - which is being carried out at present in New Zealand - must follow in Australia, according to a Sydney specialist writing in the Medical Journal of Australia. “ The medical profession as an organized body should begin to prepare itself immediately for the rapid changes that are coming inevitably upon it”, he writes. “It we accept the inevitability of the approaching change, and are prepared to believe that such change will revolutionize our present system of private practice, let us make a survey, prepare the ground and even, if possible, lay the foundations upon which society can build its new structure of national medicine, in which we can play a willing and active part.”
I am pleased to notice these trends on the part of the medical profession. A conference of medical men held recently in Sydney suggested for the consideration of the Commonwealth Government a plan for dealing with national health matters. It is set out in the following article : -
Views of Doctors’ Conference.
While agreeing that the health of the community is a national matter, representatives of various medical organizations, at a conference with the council of the British Medical Association (New South Wales branch) yesterday, expressed the view that the free choice of doctor is an essential feature of any medical service.
The conference met to discuss all types of schemes for the provision of medical service, and to recommend that considered to be in the best interests of the community.
The following resolutions were carried by at least an 8 to1 majority: -
That the following broad definition of the objects of a medical service be adopted: -
To provide a system of medical service directed towards the achievement of positive health, of the prevention of disease, and the relief of sickness.
To render available to every individual all necessary medical service, both general and specialist, and both domiciliary and institutional.
That the free choice of doctor is an essential feature of any service.
That the personal relationship existing between patient and doctor should be preserved.
That whilst the health of the community is a national matter, thereis a duty on every individual to accept a moral and social responsibility for his own health and that of his dependants. This individual responsibility must be one of the basic principles in any medical service.
That a whole-time salaried basis for a nation-wide medical service is not in the interests of the community.
The existing consultant general practitioner and hospital services with all adjuncts and these necessary additions: (a) safeguarding and improvement of nutritional and housing standards; (b) adequate provision for research and statistical investigation; (c) decentralized diagnostic laboratory centres throughout the Commonwealth; (d) an extended consultant service to make ready consultation available to all members of the community; (e) group practice initiated by members of the profession themselves; (f) extension through Government grant of the Flying Doctor Service; (g) increased subsidized practitioner service to outback centres; (h) extended industrial, venereal, immunological, and other preventive medical services; (i) extension of the present maternity services; (j) extended hospital construction and equipment with special reference to tuberculosis, mental diseases, the crippled, bedridden, and the aged; (k) extension and improvement of standards of postgraduate training with a subsidy to medical practitioners unable otherwise to avail themselves of these facilities.
I agree with many of these points. “Whatever scheme is set up by the Government should be democratic and there should be no bureaucratic control by a group of doctors who may not be sympathetic to the interests of the people. The control of such a scheme should be vested in people elected either directly by the people, or municipalities. Then, if those in control gave dissatisfaction, they could be appropriately dealt with.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot now deal in detail with a subject which has not yet come before the House.
– I again express the hope that the Government will bring forward its national health scheme as soon as possible, and not wait until the war is finished. Sufficient doctors who are willing to co-operate with the Government in a scheme of this kind can be obtained. The Government proposes to invest trust fund balances in war bonds. That is a sound policy, because the preservation of the country is our best guarantee that this scheme will be put into operation. I suggest, however, that a portion of the balances should be utilized immediately to provide for the proper care and education of delinquent children. Speaking at the annual conference of the Australian Teachers
Federation, the president, Mr. McGuinness, pointed out that child delinquency was increasing, because, as was the case in the last war, a greater number of children are roaming the streets, and their education is being neglected. Those children will naturally develop criminal tendencies. The Government would be well advised to tackle that problem immediately, preferably by providing vocational guidance for such children. Eather than establish State institutions, it should encourage organizations like Father Dunlea’s “Boys Town “ at Engadine. Nearly 1Q0 boys are now being cared for at Engadine, and it would be difficult to meet finer youths elsewhere. The achievements of “ Boys Town “ indicate what can be done by organizations of that kind. However, as the financial resources of such organizations are very limited, the Government would be well advised to subsidize them in order to encourage them in their work. I am pleased to note the keen interest which the Government is displaying in education generally. It has set up a University Committee, of which the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker), who was once an inspector of schools, is a member. We can expect much from that committee. The Government, however, should deal with the problem of education more thoroughly by subsidizing schools, and radically reforming the present educational system with a view to instructing our youth along the lines of humanism, teaching them to co-operate with one another, and giving them, sound cultural education, in place of the present system under which our children are educated to become, more or less, economic cannibals, fighting each other for jobs after they leave school. By such a reform we shall ensure that the peace to come will be lasting, because, if our citizens are educated along the proper lines, they will see that the present conflict is notrepeated.
.- I object to this proposal to create a trust fund. Such action will constitute a very dangerous precedent in respect of public finance. The Constitution provides that the whole of the revenue of the Government shall be paid into the Consolidated
Revenue Fund. Sections 81 and 82 of the Constitution read -
The framers of the Constitution intended that the revenues of the country should be placed in a common pool, and that the whole of the expenditure of the Government should be appropriated by Parliament. I object to the bill, because, first, it commits this Parliament to a blank cheque, and, secondly, it commits future parliaments to raise and appropriate moneys required for the purposes of the fund. .Should we enlarge on the practice of establishing trust funds for different purposes, we shall embarrass future governments, because by this method we shall to a great degree destroy budgetary control. I agree with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) that the bill will establish a very dangerous precedent, insofar as it will take from Parliament the right to decide how certain moneys shall be appropriated. I am at a loss to understand how we shall then be able to comply with the condition that the introduction of money bills shall be preceded by a message from His Excellency the Governor-General recommending that an appropriation be made. Under the bill it is proposed to establish a trust fund for a specific purpose. I again emphasize that the passage of this measure will commit not only this Parliament, but also future parliaments, to continue the trust fund. Stability and permanency are the main essentials of any trust fund; but this Parliament has no guarantee that future parliaments will continue the policy which the Government proposes to implement under this measure. That is my main objection to the bill. Other honorable members have pointed out that, whilst we are asked to set aside a certain sum of money in ‘order to create a trust fund, we have not been told specifically how the money is to be expended. I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that trust funds are largely under the control of the Treasurer of the day. The honorable member pointed out that the Treasurer may direct that any trust fund shall be closed. That does not ensure the continuity of any fund.
I oppose the bill because the precedent which it establishes will be dangerous, for Parliament to adopt. The Government should withdraw the bill, which can be regarded only as a “ delusion, a mockery, and a snare “. It is indefinite for three reasons: First, because we are not sure of the amount that will be placed to the credit of the trmt fund. Secondly, because we have no assurance that the Parliament will, in the future, be a party to the arrangement. Thirdly, because we do not know exactly at this stage what amounts will be paid from the fund. For Parliament to commit itself to the establishment of a trust fund which every year will receive sums of moneys the appropriation of which honorable members will not have an opportunity to discuss, will be to adopt a bad principle.
Parliament should place social services upon a contributory basis for the purpose of ensuring that the system will rest on a sound foundation in the future. This is necessary in order to give people a spirit of independence. Those who benefit from the fund will feel that they receive the payments, not as a charity, but as a right. Although the Government proposes to provide a large sum of money for social services, a portion of the amount will be set aside for expenditure at some future date. Must I remind the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that the nation requires every available penny for war purposes ? Some honorable members opposite have contended that this money will, in the meantime, be expended on the war effort; but I consider that it should remain in the Consolidated Revenue Fund and be appropriated in the usual manner. Parliament must realize that the burden of social services will be considerably increased in the future, because the income tax is now so severe that many people who have been anxious to save money in order that they shall not become a burden on the State in their old age, are unable to create that little reserve. I make no bones about my attitude to this bill. If we continually encourage people to lean upon the Government we shall destroy their spirit of independence, and develop a nation of weaklings, unable to withstand stronger nations which have not adopted this policy. I protest most emphatically against the creation of this fund, on the ground that it is bad public finance.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I regard the bill now before the House, to establish a national welfare fund, as the first instalment of the new order. Clause5 provides -
There shall hu paid out of the Consolidated Eevenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, for the purposes of the National Welfare Fund, in each financial year (commencing with the financial year commencing on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and forty-three) the sum of Thirty million pounds, or a sum equal to one-quarter of the amount received in that financial year as income tax from persons other than companies, whichever is the less.
Clause 6 is as follows: -
Moneys standing to the credit of the National Welfare Fund shall bc applied in making such payments as are directed by any law of the Commonwealth to bo made, in relation to health services, unemployment or sickness benefits, family allowances, or other welfare or social services.
During the debate this afternoon the bill has been condemned as too indefinite, because it speaks simply of a “ welfare fund “. I shall be more definite, and go into details. Maternity benefits, hospitals, medical treatment, pharmaceutical services, X-ray photography by public and private radiologists, nutrition, massage, physical development, State mental hospitals, unemployment insurance, hous-‘ ing and funeral benefits, in addition to child endowment, old-age and invalid pensions and widows and orphans’ pensions - all these are included in any comprehensive welfare scheme. The scheme about to be implemented is based largely upon that at present operating in New Zealand. Not only this Commonwealth, but. also Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada and other countries are thinking and speaking seriously of welfare schemes for social and economic post-war reconstruction. The peoples of those countries are agreed that, unless effective schemes of that nature be put into force, we shall have bloody revolution. The sum of £30,000,000 is being set aside-
– No, this bill does not set aside £30,000,000. Make no mistake about that.
– As I was saying when rudely interrupted by the honorable member, this bill makes provision for £30,000,000 to be spent upon national welfare.
– That is quite wrong.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has made his speech, and one speech should be quite enough for him.
– Then the honorable member should be correct in his statements. He is not often incorrect.
– l”t has long been recognized that the greater the reform the greater the opposition. If the amount of opposition offered to this bill to-day is a criterion of the value of the bill, its value must be great. Whilst praising the social service aimed at, honorable members opposite have invariably condemned the financial means whereby the benefits proposed are to be implemented. In other words, they praised one part and condemned the other. As a matter of fact, on this occasion they are afraid to condemn the proposal to improve our social services, but they damn it with faint praise. By making medical services available for everyone, we can prevent physical defects from occurring and developing amongst our young people. I stated previously in the House that of the 2,000,000 recruits examined in the United States of America when that country came into the war, 1,000,000, or 50 per cent., were found to be medically unfit. This was a most astounding result in one of the richest countries of the world. I am quite satisfied that if those people had been given proper medical attention earlier in life, many of the defects for which they were rejected would not have developed.
We read in the papers and hear uttered, the slogan, “Populate or perish”. We may get through the difficulty that we are in this time. I think we shall. I believe that everybody in the House this evening thinks that we shall eventually come out of this war all right. But there will be a next time, and unless we take precautions to have this country effectively populated and defended, that next time may be fatal to us all. Our young Australians know what the lack of economic security is. We passed through the depression of 1930, 1931 and 1932, when there was no work, and our young men could not be taught trades; when in this great, rich, undeveloped country there was no place for them, and nothing for them to do. We are afraid that the same thing will happen after this war. Unless precautions be taken, such a catastrophe may easily happen again. This bill is one of the precautionary means whereby we shall tide over the man-made depressions that come upon this land. I mentioned the need for population in this country. We must have economic security. A young man, when he is thinking of marrying, must know that he can make a home for his wife, that there will be work for him to do, and that he will have food for his wife and the children who will come to him in the fullness of time. Our Australians are good sports. When they are out on the roads, homeless hoboes, and outcasts in this great land, they will not ask the girl that they love more than they love themselves to share their miserable lot. They will not marry. They are simply too fine to ask any girl to share their miserable pittance. The bill that we have before us to-night is just a step to bring about that economic security by which a young man will know that he. has a home to which to take his bride, that there is work for him, and food for his home. The three great natural necessaries of life are food, clothing and shelter. Through this bill, weshall move in the direction of providing them for all. Unless we do something besides talking about the new order that is coming, unless we bring it in as we are attempting to do by this measure tonight, our White Australia policy will be sacrificed, and, what is more important, the white race in this island continent will perish. That is the prospect, not so much in this war, as in the next, and in the one after that. We no longer say or think that this will he the last war. We know that the existing false, unreal, and unsound economic position brings about wars. We must, above all things, have economic security. For the purpose of defending this country, we must have a sound immigration policy, a sound land policy, and a sane financial policy. I am pleased to contribute even in a humble way to the discussion of this bill, and to do my best to pass it into law, because it puts a true value upon human life. Other things, such as our wheat, wool, sugar, dairy products and minerals have wonderful value, but they have it only because of the human element. As Ruskin says, “ There is no wealth but human life”,
This bill is a recognition and appreciation of that truth. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said in an ironic way this afternoon : “£30,000,000! Why’ not make it £60,000,000?” I ask very seriously from this bench, why not, indeed, make it £60,000,000?
– Why not make it £100,000^000 while we ‘are at it?
– Why not? Money could not be spent more profitably than in this way. Remember that we are developing our people. A well-developed, well-nourished, well-trained, contented and happy people is the best defence we oan have for this country. Nothing else matter!) very much. In all seriousness, I say that we cannot, spend too much in order to achieve that ideal. I hope that the hill will pass. I am indeed pleased to have the opportunity by supporting it, to help to make Australia a better place to live in, a place to which our soldiers will gladly return, where nobody will be hungry, and where our young Australians will grow up with a great heritage.
.- I am opposed to the bill. I do not think that this is the time to introduce a fantastic measure of this kind. I regard it as political bribery. The Treasurer is at his wits’ end to raise the necessary money required to wage the war in order to keep this country free. There is already a lag of £200,000,000 or £300,000,000. The third Liberty Loan of £100,000,000 is about to bo floated, and the advertisements aro already appearing in the daily papers. One of them contains a poem by Sir Owen Seaman, after which appear these statements -
To some is given the privilege of fighting on the field of battle. Others, at home, must find the arms without which victory is impossible. You must help. . . . You must save all you can. Join your Street War Savings Group and use your savings to buy (jd. War Savings Stamps, £1 War Savings Certificates for 10s., £10 National Savings Bonds, or make an advance subscription to the Third Liberty Loan through any bank, savings bank or stockbroker. Nothing matters now but victory - save and lend.
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing, but we should deal fairly with the people. We do not know when the war will end, yet the people are being told that £30,000,000 is to be earmarked annually for social services. We may need every penny that we can raise for war purposes. The Treasurer is wondering whether he will be successful with the new loan. In fact, he is in fear and trembling about it-
– The honorable member is not helping the loan.
– I do not deal in camouflage; I do not want to bamboozlethe people. Surely this Parliament will be capable of determining, after the war,, how much it will spend on social services. We shall know then what our resourcesare, and be able to decide how we shall use them.
– There was not much money about for social services after the last war.
– I should like to see established a scheme of social welfare that would be national in every sense. If this Government goes ahead with thisscheme it will inevitably overlap State schemes, and so there will be a duplication, of taxes. Something has been said to-day about the New Zealand scheme. Do honorable members realize that when the present social service scheme, was adopted in New Zealand seventeen acts of Parliament relating to social benefits were repealed? I consider that Australia should have a nation-wide social service scheme, but we cannot do anything effective about it until after the war. The Treasurer has told us that we are in financial difficulties. Already there is inflation to an amount of about £200,000,000. In such circumstances it is political hypocrisy to argue that we can afford £30,000,000 annually for a new social service scheme. We should wait until after the war. The Government, really desires this’ money to finance the war, but it is trying to obtain it in a round about way. First of all the money is to be collected, then it is to be put into a trust fund, and then the Government proposes to borrow it from that fund. The thing is too ludicrous for consideration. The Government realizes, now, that it cannot avoid taxing people earning £4 or £5 a week, particularly as it is taxing certain other people as high as 18s. in the £1. The Government is not prepared to say to people earning relatively low wages, “ You must make your contribution to the revenue “. We ought to be honest with the taxpayers and say to them, “ Thi3 is your country ; your families live here. You must help us to meet the cost of the war “. When the J apanese have been thrust, back from our coast, and when the ship of State is once more on an even keel, we can consider this proposal. An honorable gentleman opposite said to-day that the war might last 100 years.. If it did, and we continued, to pay £30,000,000 a year into the National Welfare Fund, we should have an accumulation of £3,000,000,000. Of course that is too foolish to contemplate. The Government should be frank with the people and tell them that this money is needed for war purposes.
– A time-honoured practice in British Parliaments has been the appropriation of revenue for purposes known to the Parliaments. Another rule that goes with it is the redress of grievances before the grant of Supply to the Crown. If one measured this bill by those practices he would be justified in concluding that this is an attempt to redress grievances outside by breaking every rule inside the Parliament. We have passed the Income Tax Bill which has a direct relation to this measure, but we passed it only after strong opposition, which would have been successful if some honorable gentlemen opposite had voted in accordance with the speeches they made. Very little is prescribed in this bill. Our information about the measure is contained in a sketchy and meagre statement by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who is acquiring a reputation for making sketchy and foggy statements to the House.
– And also some reputation for brevity, which certain honorable members, including the honorable member for Barker7 have not acquired.
Mi-. ARCHIE CAMERON.- My speeches are usually brief; they are also relatively infrequent. I do not speak half so often as I believe I should speak.
The financial statement of the Treasurer, which foreshadowed the establishment of the national welfare fund, was very interesting to some of us. It also brought memories to us of which I shall say something. Not long ago a previous Government established a social welfare fund that was a small thing compared with the one now proposed. I consider that this proposal will be about as useful as a third wheel on a cart.
– But think of the Government which introduced the previous scheme !
– Well, let us think of the Government which has introduced this scheme! The previous Government endeavoured to keep down expenditure. This Government appears to consider that the chief duty of a government is to pile up the accounts, on the principle that “ the more you spend, the better the government”. The national welfare fund is to be drawn upon for increased maternity allowances, a liberalization of the present scope of the allowances, and the provision of funeral benefits to invalid and old-age pensioners. There is also a promise of certain things which give me no great degree of satisfaction. I am afraid that this bill is truly an instalment of the new order to which the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) referred a few minutes ago. I ‘am. certain that some honorable members of the Hou?e, af ter having lived under the new order, will find that they have a very tough, job on their hands to explain its benefits to the people after a year or two.
I am opposed to this bill and to everything in it. I consider it to be a fair assumption that I shall also oppose other bills in relation to the scheme which may follow it. No man can contemplate the state of the finances of this country, or the trend of the Government’s, financial policy with any satisfaction. Prices are rising, the value of money is falling, and many commodities are scarce.
– Does that give the honorable gentleman any satisfaction?
– The Minister for Home Security should keep to the black-out and not get into the light of the new order. In the new order, we are told, everything is to be perfectly, fair, open, and above board ; every one is to be immensely rich ; all the people are to have wonderful positions; and no one is to do any work. That is the “ be all “ and “ end all “ of the new order as we can understand it from the remarks of honorable gentlemen opposite.
– Strawberries and cream for every body!
– Yes ; any amount of cream, but not too many strawberries.
– This is more like a raspberry than a strawberry.
– It will be a raspberry to those who have to eat it. Something was said in the House the other day about raspberries. The remarks should have been kept for this bill.
Let us look at the proposals in relation to the maternity allowance. The- Government is proposing certain increases of these payments. It is said that by this means the birth-rate will be increased. But does any one imagine that that is likely to happen? The history of the payment of maternity allowances the world over shows that such payments have had no influence whatsoever on the birth-rate.
– How does the honorable member know that ?
– Statistics would reveal the fact to the honorable member, if he would examine them; but I should be surprised to learn that he ever pays any attention to statistics. The decline in the birthrate has far deeper reasons than can be influenced by the payment of a “ baby bonus “. I cannot believe that the Government considers that an increase of the maternity allowance will stimulate the birth-rate. The birth-rate is determined by whether people would rather have a good time and a poodle or two instead of a family. We must look at this subject fairly in the face. We only fool ourselves and the electors by suggesting that an increase of the birth-rate will follow an increase of the maternity allowance. Ever since the Fisher Government introduced the maternity allowance legislation in 1911 the birth-rate has shown a steady decline.
– The decline would have been greater had there been no maternity allowance.
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) is one of the most successful purveyors of political red herrings that I have ever known. He seldom plucks up enough courage to make a speech, but as an interjector he has almost a monopoly of the importation of red herrings for political purposes. The salient and incontrovertible fact about the maternity allowance is that it has not had the effect of increasing the birth-rate.
Next I come to the matter of funeral benefits. I have not heard a funeral payment described as a benefit before. A benefit to whom? In any case, judging by this bill, I have a strong suspicion that there will be no funeral benefit for the Government when its financial policy meets the crash that it must meet. It will no more get a decent burial than did Queen Jezebel. However, I shall leave the subject of funeral benefits at that.
This bill is directly and intimately related to the scale of income tax. It stands to reason that when income tax revenue is lowest - this will be the case particularly if we adopt the “ payasyougo “ scheme - the demand on the National Welfare Fund will be greatest. We shall have high social benefits and low taxable incomes coincidentally. So, in the wonderful new order that the Treasurer envisages, when the need of the people is greatest,’ revenue will be at its lowest ebb. That is something new, and I think that it will produce in the minds of honorable members opposite quite a few memories of 1929-31.
Several honorable members have already dealt with the trust fund, and I shall not delve deeply into that matter; but I consider that there is virtue in a trust fund only if that fund remains inviolate. Honorable members cannot conscientiously tell their electors that such and such a sum is being put into a trust fund for a specific purpose, however shadowy the purpose specified in this legislation may be, and then, at a later date, say that all the money has been spent on waging the war.
– What about the Fadden Government’s famous secret fund?
– I did not have any secret fund, and the one to which the honorable member is referring did not turn out to be so secret after all. Quite a lot of light was thrown on it; but, to my way of thinking, not quite enough. There is no justification for a measure of this description in the present circumstances. The Government claims that Australia is making an’ “ allout “ war effort, and has not an ounce of effort to spare; that we are loaded to our fullest capacity; that, having a population of only 7,000,000 people, we have a definitely limited man-power and income, so that everything must be sacrificed to the waging of the war; that the Japanese are still close to us; that they are still very powerful; and that they have huge forces which at any minute may be used to attack us. We are told all these things by the Department of Information every day in the press, and over the wireless. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is endeavouring, by all means of publicity at his disposal, to impress upon us the seriousness of the position; but, notwithstanding all that, notwithstanding the fact that manpower authorities are requiring women residents of certain electorates represented by honorable members opposite to go to work in the canning factories in Sydney, notwithstanding the fact that children are being called upon to save their sixpences to buy war savings stamps, the Government now comes to Parliament and seriously expects honorable members to believe that it is ‘possible to establish a national welfare fund to the tune of £30,000,000, while this country is struggling for its very existence. The proposition is preposterous. It does not deserve a second’s consideration or a shadow of support, and it should be rejected by the House at the second reading. Let us look at these proposals from the point of view of the working people, to whom the Government is appealing to-day. What has been said by speaker after speaker from the Government side of the House to-day virtually amounts to this : The people whom the Labour party is pleased to call the workers of Australia are interested only in winning this war to the degree that the Government is prepared to play Father Christmas to them. They are saying to the Government, in effect, “Unless you are prepared to bribe us we are not prepared to go out and fight “. I am confident that the working men and women of Australia will repudiate such a suggestion, and, furthermore, that they will repudiate the Government that has made it. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) said that our fighting men would have to come home to a new order in this country; but, if I am any judge of the men who are fighting for us to-day, a great majority of them hope to come home to the order that they left. They would be quite happy to do that, but the trouble is that the order which they left is being seriously and materially damaged by certain financial actions on the part of this Government. The facts will come out; the inevitable will happen, and our fighting men will come home to industrial conditions very different from what they left. For honorable members opposite to talk about building up costly social services under the stress of war, when every nerve and muscle of our financial system is strained to the utmost in order to provide the man-power and sinews of war, is ridiculous. I do not believe that the people of this country are so foolish and so gullible as to be blinded by promises of that kind. No doubt certain other measures will be introduced to implement this bill, and I should like to make my attitude quite clear : I am not very interested in what they contain. The Government has rejected the only satisfactory method by which any such scheme can be financed, namely, by means of compulsory contributions - a system which would put the person who receives the benefits above the position of one receiving charity from the Crown; a system which would put each contributor in the position of receiving something to which he was entitled by right - a right for which he has paid, and not one for which somebody else has paid. However, honorable members opposite rejected that principle in the time of the Lyons Government when the National Insurance Health and Pensions Bill was before Parliament. They are rejecting it again now, and apparently they are prepared to resort to the manipulation of income tax in order to get the money.
– We had no power to reject it; the honorable member’s Government ran away from it.
– I did not run away from it. Honorable members opposite did everything in their power to oppose the measure both before and after it was passed, and a close examination of happenings before and after its passage shows that the Government of the day had’ a record of which it could be proud. Only if it were on a contributory basis would I be prepared to agree to a scheme of this kind. Let us recognize the fact that only by labour and toil can such a scheme be built up. There is no great secret fund at the disposal of the Government from which it can produce as many millions as it needs for any fantastic scheme that its supporters may demand. There is a terrific awakening in store for the poor, deluded people of this country, who are being led to believe by press and wireless propaganda that when the Government establishes its new order every body will be extremely happy and opulent. When the war is over, this country will be confronted with the biggest reconstruction job in its history. There will be an immense problem of changing over from war to peace, particularly in our secondary industries.
Is that a time to which we can look forward in hope of the establishment of a new order and great social service schemes? It is not. When this war is over we shall be extended to the utmost to maintain what we have. We shall have in operation new industries which will have no place in the peacetime economy of our country as we knew it before the war, and which, in the light of what the Atlantic Charter will mean to international trade, will have no place in any peace-time economy that we can visualize at present. I do not profess to be able to see what will happen when the peace comes again ; I cannot even see the peace yet, and, unless we devote 100 per cent, of our time and energy to securing victory, we shall not have very much interest in. what peace holds. It would be far better for the Ministry and its supporters to go to the people of this country and tell them that they cannot have these things, than to suggest that, while we are destroying, wrecking, breaking, and altering, it is possible to introduce in this country the greatest scheme of social benefits that it has ever imagined. That is quite impossible, and it will only bring retribution on those who advocate it. Let us have the courage to go out and tell our countrymen what we can and must do. It is time that the Labour party took a day or two off to examine its records over the past eighteen months.
– It is being done in England.
– No. The Beveridge plan has already been knocked out. In England, which honorable members opposite are not always so anxious to quote as their criterion, conditions are very different from what they are in Australia. If, in May, 1940, and for a year afterwards, the people of England - had adopted the same attitude as is being adopted in this country now, there would be no Great Britain in existence to-day. The war cannot be conducted in the manner in which thi-s Government is trying to conduct it. There were eighteen coalmines out of operation yesterday.
– And 22 to-day.
– The foundation of war, and, in fact, of all industrial civilization is coal. Without coal we cannot wagewar.
– There is nothing about coal in the bill.
– Coal will be required in the new order which is envisaged by this measure. Even the department of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), who has just interjected, cannot carry on without coal. Even the AirForce requires it for transport purposes, because men cannot be flown everywhere.
Again I emphasize that it does not matter what activity we engage in, what social order we talk about, what scheme of national benefits we may care to work out, what fund we may establish, if we do not get back to the very important factor that industry cannot be run without coal we merely run away from realities. I am opposed to the policy on which the bill is founded. I shall not go out to my electors and say that I can have all sorts of airy promises to them fulfilled in respect of what I do not believe they should get, and in the stress of war ought not to expect.
.- This bill, to me, is the most extraordinary measure that has been presented to this Parliament since I have been a member of it, because it proposes to establish a trust fund before the purposes to be administered by the fund have actually been placed before the House. Under the trust funds established in connexion with invalid and old-age pensions and soldiers’ pensions, when £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 is voted the purpose of the appropriation is to carry out certain definite commitments which the Parliament has already approved. The purpose of this trust fund, on the contrary, is not to carry out any such commitments, but to give effect to the shadowy promises mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). This element of doubt, as to the exact purpose to which the money is to be devoted, is in keeping with the general scheme of the national welfare fund ; because, apparently, the fund is to be built up by means of paper credits, without a cash backing. The Treasurer has stated -
In its early stages the fund will build up some credit balances which will be used later when the welfare scheme reaches full operation . . . These balances will not be allowed to remain idle but will be invested, and will thus provide a useful source of temporaryfinance for war purposes, which will be replaced by long-term borrowings when the moneys are required later for welfare purposes.
That is to say, revenues now accruing from taxes are to be used not in connexion with the national welfare programme, but for purposes of war. The money needed to carry out the national welfare programme will later be raised by means of long-term borrowings.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– The Treasurer has admitted that only a small part of the £40,000,000 which the extra tax will bring in is to be used for other than war purposes. The small amount of £2,500,000 is to be devoted to social welfare purposes, as a countervailing sop for the extra taxation imposed. What is now applied to war purposes will later be replaced by long-term borrowings. It is obvious that during the war there will be no possibility of raising money for other than war purposes; therefore, current social benefits will have to be paid for out of borrowings. Could anything be more fantastic? How can we expect national welfare plans to be of any value when they are not based on an income derived immediately by means of taxation? Not merely should the scheme be so based, but, in addition, action should be takensimultaneously to prevent depreciation of the value of that money. Only on the 15th December last, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who six or seven years ago introduced in that dominion a national security scheme, made the following very pertinent remarks in this connexion: -
Now social security implies something much more than a system of money benefits for people who have suffered unemployment or some other economic misfortune. It implies an order of society in which every citizen - wageearner, trader, professional man, or pensioner - is safeguarded against economic fluctuations.
It is my plain duty to tell you to-night that social security in this wider sense of the term is in danger. It is not in danger because it is opposed now by any large part of the community, for I think I can say that social security has now become a national policy. It is in danger because the impact of war has let loose forces which, if they are not firmly checked, will throw our economic system into disorder.
It should be unnecessary for me to tell you that if social security is not built on a stable currency it is built on sand. If the wageearner is not sure that his wages will buy approximately the same amount of goods a month or a year hence as they buy to-day there is no real social security.
Holding that belief, he brought into existence a stabilization scheme designed to keep the price level exactly where it was. I am certain that a year hence the fund that he was building up on behalf of the wage-earner, the salaried man, the farmer, the pensioner, and others, will have exactly the same value as it has to-day. Therefore, if this measure is worth anything it should be accompanied by a scheme that will stabilize our currency, prevent further inflation, and ensure that what we are offering to the people will enable them continually to obtain more of the amenities and comforts of life and generally be better off than they are. I am heartily in accord with the three aspirations named by the Treasurer. I have always regretted that, in 1931, the Labour party saw fit to alter the original scope of the maternity allowance. Prior to that alteration, it applied to the whole nation, and rightly so. From my medical experience, I can say that it was of very great assistance to every one who participated in it during the years of its application. I was glad when a government with which I was associated later increased the amount in respect of the second child and the third child. I am gratified that the Government proposes to abolish the means test, and to provide a small weekly payment for a given number of weeks prior to and. after birth. But without corrective action, a money contribution will lose its value in a very few months; and a year hence it will be necessary to do what has been done in connexion with wages, the invalid and old-age pension, and the maternity allowance - continually increase the amount so that it may have real value. If we are to have an expenditure of £2,500,000 on this grandiose scheme, surely the contribution should be in kind, not in money, the value of which will alter. Under the national milk scheme in Great Britain, expectant mothers and children in need may obtain a pint of milk a day without cost, and all other persons may obtain their requirements at a price of 2d. a pint. The total cost of the scheme, under which the women and children of Great Britain are able to procure cheaply approximately 2- pints a week more than is within the reach of our women and children, is only £16,000,000 or £17,000,000 a year for a population which is six or seven times that of Australia. A similar scheme in Australia would cost, roughly, £2,500,000, the amount now suggested for helping maternity cases and wives. That is a much better way to .assist the women, infants and children of this country, than is here proposed. I urge the Treasurer to consider both of my propositions. He should make certain of a check being applied to the inflationary tendency, so that there will be a stabilized price for foodstuffs, at which pensioners and wage-earners will be able to purchase sufficient to meet their needs. Let us see that whatever money is expended shall be used in such a way as to ensure that the people who need food will get it into their homes and their systems. I urge the Treasurer not merely to do that, but also to stabilize the whole of the. financial position, along lines that I have already mentioned in this House. If he did that, we would have something worth while. Under this bill, however, inflation will not be checked. Merely to build up a paper fund is to perpetrate “ a delusion, a mockery, and a snare “ which ought to be opposed. I hope that the bill will be altered so as to make it conform to right ideas.
.- -All over the civilized world, but particularly in the democracies, thoughtful men and women in every walk of life - statesmen, clergymen and others - .are thinking, talking and planning as to how a new social order may best be inaugurated. Why are they doing that ? The only answer is that they are convinced that the order which now exists, and which existed prior to the war, is wholly insufficient to meet what will be needed by the people after the war.
Because of that, and also because I consider that those persons are not bad judges of the feelings of the masses, 1 am glad that the- Government has introduced this measure as a starting point in the establishment of a new social order in Australia. This country is peculiarly capable of inaugurating such a scheme. I was not astonished at the characteristic speech of the honorable member for . Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I recollect that when the present Government brought down a measure to increase old-age pensions, he opposed it. Nor was I astonished at the speeches of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), and other honorable members, the keynote of all- of which was, in effect, the time is not opportune; this method is the wrong one; the bill departs from the hoary tradition of different parliaments in connexion with the establishment of a trust fund, in that the financial measure precedes the machinery measure to implement a particular social service. I am not concerned with precedents, nor do I care whether the taxing measure or the machinery measure is the first to be introduced. I am merely concerned with the fact that the Government has had the wisdom and foresight to make a commencement with a plan of national welfare. I trust that this modest commencement will usher in a most comprehensive social service, which will be the pride of Australia, and an example to the whole world, both during and after the war. The honorable member for Forrest has said that the time is not opportune. No time has ever been opportune for the party to which he belongs and that with which he associates to introduce social reform; if war were not the excuse, the time would be inopportune because of some other factor. The honorable gentleman also said that the measure savours of bribery. The same remark was made when the Government, in its wisdom, because of the parsimony of the preceding Government, proposed to increase the pay of the men who are fighting for Australia. That was described as political bribery, Nevertheless, it was acceptable to the soldiers, it was their due, and was within the capacity of this country. It is also within the financial capacity of this country to provide all of the benefits visualized under this measure and many others. To-day we have 750,000 men in the fighting forces. Their wives ana other dependants number hundreds of thousands; but the rest of the community is producing the whole of the resources required to feed, clothe, house and equip those men and their dependants. Despite the complaints of hardship said to be imposed on the rest of the community in order to meet those requirements, they are being produced. If, during a war, it is possible without great physical inconvenience for Australia to meet the requirements of threequarters of a million men in the fighting forces and their dependants-, surely it is logical to say that, after the war, the community, with the assistance of those 750,000 men should be in a position to provide the social services foreshadowed in this bill. It is said that the financial tangle will be so great and the inflationary tendencies so dangerous that this scheme should not be implemented at present. Like the honorable member for Barker, I realize that the monetary system must be related to the physical capacity of the country to provide the social service needed by our people.
– That is a very conservative doctrine.
– No doubt, but the right honorable gentleman will support that proposition. If it were found that the monetary machinery was inadequate to cope with the production of this country, this Parliament could bring the monetary system, into accord with the productive capacity.
I am not appalled by the prophecies of honorable members of the Opposition who have said that this measure should not be proceeded with at present because the State governments have adopted various social security schemes. After all, social service schemes of various kinds have been in operation for generations in the various States. In New South Wales, for instance, a widow’s pension scheme is in operation, but, unfortunately, the same provision has not been made for widows in Victoria. We have witnessed similar anomalies regarding various State social service schemes, but since the present Government has been in office it has endeavoured to bring about a degree of uniformity in this matter. It might well have been said that the Commonwealth scheme of pensions for widows should not have been put into operation, because a similar scheme had been adopted by the Government of New South Wales, and that to a meagre degree such a service had been provided in Victoria; but, by virtue of negotiation with the Governments of those States the Commonwealth Government succeeded in inducing them to vacate the field, with the result that a uniform scheme of widows’ pensions operates throughout Australia to-day. A similar position arose with regard to child endowment. A uniform scheme now operates throughout the Commonwealth, but it might well have been said that that proposal should not have been implemented because child endowment was already in operation in New South Wales. Therefore there is no logic in the argument advanced by one honorable member to-night that we should not proceed with the proposed national welfare scheme because of the services already provided by the States.
– Not until such time as power to do so is referred to the Commonwealth.
– The honorable gentleman is sufficiently experienced as a politician to know that, immediately this Parliament gave effect to a social security measure, it would not be difficult to bring about uniformity throughout the Commonwealth by negotiations between the ‘Commonwealth and State Ministries.
Behind all the opposition to this bill is the fact that the tax by which the necessary funds are to be raised is to be levied .in accordance with the taxpayer’s ability to pay. The severity of the tax will vary according to the amount of income received by the taxpayer. The. impost will be comparatively small on persons on the lower incomes, and its incidence will be exceptionally severe on persons in receipt of the higher incomes. We have been told that the scheme should be con tributory, and similar to that introduced by a government of other days, of which the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was a member. I refer to a measure introduced by the former member for Corio, Mr. Casey. Although it has been said that the present bill fails to place a practical scheme before the Parliament, the measure introduced by Mr. Casey presented a concrete scheme which was placed on the statutebook, but, because of its inequitable features, and the unjust method by which the funds required were to be raised, not even the government which fathered the scheme had the courage to implement it. Under that measure an employee in receipt of £5 a week was required to contribute as much as a man whose wages amounted to £10 a week. Employers, rentiers, professional men, farmers, and others were all exempted, from contribution alike. The proposed flat rate of contribution was unjust in its conception, but the bill now before us is at least based on equity. Every member of this House will be required under this scheme to pay about ten times as much as a person whose income amounts to only £2 or £3 a week.
It may be said by the honorable member for Barker, that, after all, men are rewarded in this world according to their ability, but I maintain that their incomes are determined by a number of factors. Sometimes men are rewarded adequately because of sheer merit, sometimes because of the receipt of an inheritance, and sometimes because of sheer good luck. Of course, some men are blessed by Providence with greater ability than is possessed by others. The right honorable member for Kooyong, for instance, with his undoubted great ability, is able to earn a far larger income than many other members of the community; but there is no reason why the rich should hot, as a gesture of thankfulness to Providence, pay a larger sum in taxes than is required of persons not so gifted. The taxation proposals of the Government are based on one of the most just systems ever conceived by a parliament in a democracy. I am not altogether pleased that for the first year or two the fund to bo built up under the authority of this measure may be used for war purposes. I should prefer a measure that provided for the raising of the money needed for social services, in the year in which those services were to be supplied, and that in the following year another measure should be brought down for the appropriation of the sum needed in that year.
– The honorable member may have an opportunity to support that principle to-night.
– I shall not support the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) whose sole desire is to defeat this bill in order that the Government which has pioneered the present taxation proposals for the provision of social services may be displaced by a ministry which would not be prepared to introduce an equally sound and fair scheme of social security and reconstruction. As the Commonwealth must provide means of subsistence for the sick, lame, invalid, elderly and unemployed persons in the community, this Parliament should impose taxes sufficient to finance that social service in the year in which it is provided. I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this bill, and I hope that the whole scheme visualized by it will soon be implemented to the benefit of the people of Australia.
.- I hope that it will not seriously incommode the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) if I say that with his views on the incidence of taxation I entirely agree, but I do not think that anybody, in this year of grace, will deny that it is a very sound principle of taxation that the rate of tax should go up steadily and, indeed, steeply as the income increases. In discussing the taxation proposals of the Government, no honorable member on the Opposition side of the House took any exception whatever to the fact that taxation on the higher incomes had reached record heights. That is a sound principle, and I personally will always be willing to support it, but it has nothing whatever to do with this bill. This is a new measure. My friends opposite have been so churned up over the taxation bill that has recently engaged our attention that they seem to fail to realize that it has been passed by this chamber.
– This measure is related to the last taxation bill.
– It is ; but it is what I should call a very poor relation. This is a trumpery bill. I say that because I have been warned by some of my colleagues that certain words outside the vocabulary of Parliament must not be applied to the measure. To listen to some of the speeches on this bill, one would imagine that it would usher in a new heaven and a new earth. I should have thought it necessary to speak at length on the measure, but for the fact that two members of the Opposition have expressed my views adequately. I listened this afternoon to a brilliant examination of this bill by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), and I have listened to-night to my friend, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who delivered what I hope he will allow me to describe as a characteristic blast of good sense. Now, what does this bill do? It does one thing only so far as I can see, and I am not unaccustomed to reading bills: it creates a trust account which shall be known as a national welfare fund.
– What does clause 6 say?
– lt says that “ money standing to the credit of the national welfare fund shall be applied in making such payments as are directed by any law of the Commonwealth to be made “ - this bill will not be such a law - “in relation to health services “ - unknown - “ unemployment or sickness benefits “ - unknown - “ family allowances “ - not described - “ or other welfare or social services “ - not yet thought of. In fact, the bill does nothing except establish a trust fund.
– Well, that is a beginning.
– Several of us in this House have had the melancholy privilege of holding the portfolio of Commonwealth Treasurer in our day, and we are not unfamiliar with the old argument about trust funds. I have never been a great believer in them for reasons which I need not discuss now; but I have always understood that; if there be a trust fund, it ought to embody, not only a fund, but ako some kind of trust. This is the most remarkable trust I have ever encountered. The honorable member for Warringah said this afternoon, with great point, that it was the first time that he had ever heard of a trustee having a trust fund for the purpose of lending money to himself. I admit that this is a novelty; of course, novelties should not discourage us, but when novelty is carried too far it becomes absurd.
In the first place, the beneficiaries of this fund are unknown. I have a certain lingering recollection of a body of doctrine, with which the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) must be familiar, regarding the creation of trusts, and I have always thought that the first requisite of a trust was a beneficiary, either known or knowable; but there is no such beneficiary in connexion with this trust. Moreover, no terms are stipulated for the raising or expending of the money. We do not know what is to be done with the money when it is raised, or who is to benefit from its expenditure. All that is on the knees of the gods ; or, what is worse, on the knees of honorable members opposite. The fund itself is also unknown. The bills says that “ the sum of £30,000,000 shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purposes of the National Welfare Fund “, and that is a good idea, because, in these days of head-lines, £30,000,000 is likely to find its way into a head-line without the qualification, which is that the amount to be paid into the trust fund is not really £30,000,000, but onequarter of an unknown amount to be received in the future. I cannot discover in the bill evidence of any real intention to create a trust. All that is to happen is that a sum of money will find its way into a fund, and promptly find its way out again. In other words, this is a bill to create a ledger account in the treasury-books. It will be recorded, in fair writing - because they write well in the Treasury. - as the national welfare fund, but there will be no obligation on anybody to put money into the fund, and, if money is put in, nothing is stated as to the terms upon which it may be taken out when the new order is finally ushered in. All those matters are left entirely to the imagination. This is a mere bookkeeping bill. It embodies pious hopes for the future.
– It does more than that.
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) retains to a remarkable degree his boyish exuberance. Offer him a pious hope, and within five minutes his generous expectations have converted it into a pious certainty. However, this bill amounts to no more than a pious hope. All the Government has said - and I hope that the honorable member for Ballarat will tell this to the workers in his electorate - is this : “ If you will allow us to impose a tax on the workers we shall create a fund of a nebulous kind as a guarantee of good faith, and we hope that some day, somehow, we shall put money into the fund, and then every body, particularly the workers, will be better off “. I should like to know, Mr. Speaker, whether the expression, “ arrant political humbug” is parliamentary. If it is not, then I shall have to think of another expression to describe the bill. As a matter of fact, this bill puts the cart before the horse. It is all very well to talk of Parliament appropriating revenue. That is the proper thing for Parliament to do. No government has a right to raise or expend money for any purpose except by means of a parliamentary appropriation. It has been a vital principle of parliamentary government for the last 300 years that parliamentary appropriation shall precede the raising and expending of revenue. In this bill, as I have said, the cart is put before the horse. The bill says that there shall be paid into a trust fund a sum equal to one-quarter of the amount received, and that these moneys shall then be applied for the making of payments as directed by any law of the
Commonwealth. That being so, Parliament should make the law first. The Government should produce its social benefit proposals first, and then, Parliament having discussed and decided upon a scheme, should say how the money is to be raked.
– Then the right honorable member would ask where the money was to .come from ?
– I am coming to that. I started by saying that in this bill the Government had put the cart before the horse, and I shall go on to show what a very poor horse it is. The normal procedure, which would have preserved the authority of Parliament, has been reversed by the Government in this instance because, although the Government has made up its mind that it wants this money from the taxpayers, it has not yet made up its mind what compensation it has to offer. Therefore, it says, “ Let us set up a fund which will be associated with the most anxious hopes on our part for the future”. If the Government had brought down its proposals for social welfare, if the Treasurer, instead of engaging in this lighthearted poppy-cock, had said, “ Here is my proposition, this is what I propose to do in the way of health services, here is my employment insurance scheme, and here is my family allowance scheme “, then a responsible parliament would have been required to do two things: In the first place, it would have said, “ Is this a scheme which will really benefit the people and bring about social advancement?” It would then ask a further question - and this, I know, will have no appeal to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) ; it would ask, “ Can the community, while the country is at war, afford to do these things ? “
– Of course it can.
– The moment any one on this side of the House asks whether the country can afford something, the question evokes howls of derision from honorable members opposite, because they have become so accustomed to juggling with hundreds of millions of pounds, particularly with hundreds of millions of unfunded treasury-bills, that they have lost all sense of financial responsibility. They have a child-like belief that 7,000,000 people can afford anything in the world they want, just as. if the population’ were 70,000,000, ‘ or 700,000,000. All that is necessary to do, in their opinion, is to think of a good thing on which to expend money, and then, if not the Lord, then at least the Commonwealth Bank will provide. This afternoon, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) pointed out very pertinently that the Government would do no good to any Australian citizen, and least good of all to those on small incomes, by pretending to give them something in the way of a benefit, and .then depreciating the currency as a means of giving it to them. It is very misleading for a government to increase a man’s wages from £5 to £6, and then to reduce the value of the £6 to £4 10s. by inflation. In that way the Government would take 10s. from the man ; but, if he did not think very much, and was not over-critical, perhaps he would not object.
– Does that apply to the butter bounty?
– It applies to a good deal of what has been done during the last twelve months. When the honorable member for Barker said this evening that our first and most important business, as yet unaccomplished, was to win the war, his statement was treated by some honorable members opposite as if it represented the last stage of toryism. I remind them that we have not yet won the war. There is not a man in this House who can honestly say that he can see the end of the war. Our war expenditure has increased from £14,000,000 at the outbreak of the war to hundreds of millions of pounds. Our war effort has required, more and more, a concentration of financial and physical strength. It has entailed the imposition of restrictions of all kinds upon the activities of the civil population. All those things are necessary, but still the war has not been won. What sort of irony is it, when the fate of this, country is still in the balance, and when citizens are to be asked to make unimaginable financial sacrifices., for the Government to dangle this bunch of carrots in front of the workers? The Government says to them, in effect, “Everything will be all right; if you pay these taxes, some day you will receive out of this fund a new heaven and a new earth “
– The Government of Great Britain talks, differently from that.
– - The honorable member for Melbourne never fails to oblige. He never makes an interjection that is not helpful.
– That is more than 1 can say for the right honorable member.
– That is so. I do not think that any one could justly accuse me of having ever said anything that was likely to be helpful to the honorable member for Melbourne. But the honorable member says, “ What are they doing in England?” Well, I congratulate him on his having discovered
Opposition Members. - England !
-Yes. I congratulate him on his having found something to applaud in a gallant country that more than any other country in the world has been saving humanity in the ‘ course of this war. Of course, what the honorable member has in mind is that in England Sir William Beveridge presided over a committee which produced the scheme of social benefit that is now known as the Beveridge plan. I wonder if the honorable member has forgotten that there was from a large section of the Labour party in the House of Commons an insistent demand that that plan should be immediately put into effect, and that the answer of the Government, which includes as good Labour men as is the honorable member - Ernest Bevin, C. R. Attlee, Herbert Morrison and Sir Stafford Cripps, whose remarks have been quoted in this House by Government supporters - made an answer that was courageously expounded and defended in the House of Commons by Herbert Morrison himself. That answer was, “ This scheme contains things that we hope to do. It contains various matters which we are prepared to adopt iri principle, but I say to my colleagues in the Labour party and the people of England that our first and most urgent task to-day is to defeat the enemy, because, unless we do, there will be no sweet to-morrow for us “. That is the language of courageous good sense, and it is a measure of good sense that this country and a lot of honorable members of this Parliament badly need. This notion that you can take time off continuously from war and concentration on war to work out how much you can offer Brown and Jones for their support is utterly inconsistent with victory.
I do not in any sense offer to speak for this side of the -House, but I am not unfamiliar with its views; this side of politics has stood for many years for a very great principle, and that is that as far as possible social benefits in a democratic country should be based on the contributory principle. This idea that you are to divide the community into two sections, those who pay and those who take, is utterly destructive of democracy. Nothing could so undermine morale and the foundation of democracy as to put into .a man’s mind the -idea that he is either one of those who pay or one of those who get. The truth is that we shall have a perfect democracy when we all are prepared to pay, when we all are prepared to be contributors if we wish to be beneficiaries. I am sorry to hear a few hints of disagreement from the other side, but. I cannot help that; I did not for one moment expect that my views would be acceptable, because the political notion of plunder, once it takes hold of men, takes hold of them very firmly. The true principle of democracy is not plunder but contribution, not getting something, but. sharing in the cost.
– On a flab rate?
-Of course not. The man with a big share of the money shall make a bigger contribution than the man with, a little share. Once you establish the notion that we are to have newer and brighter benefits, not contributory, you not only postpone the day on which you will have contributory schemes, but you also may very well make those schemes impossible.
References have been made to-night to the ill-fated national insurance scheme. I very well remember that the experts who came out here from Great Britain to do the preliminary work of laying the foundations of that scheme, were obviously at once struck with the fact that our noncontributory pensions, our free pensions, were so high relatively, even at that time, that the difficulty of creating a contributory scheme on a basis that was feasible was immeasurably increased. All we have to do is establish two or three new types of non-contributory social benefits, to make chronic in the minds of the people the belief that they can take from the State and never be required to pay for what they take, and we can than say good-bye to any wise, properly constructed system of national insurance in Australia. Lest there should be any doubt, I clarify my position by saying that I believe that there are some great things which we just cannot take in Australia while we are. fighting for our lives and that I believe that there may be some things which we can take. For example, I advocate unemployment insurance.
– Of course!
– Yes, and does not the honorable member know why?
– To make those who work pay for those who do not?
– Yes. There is now no unemployment in Australia, and this is the very time when we may well train our minds to establish unemployment insurance in order that we may enable the people to have the wherewithal to withstand the icy blasts of the future. I am talking about unemployment insurance, not in the sense of a hand-out, but as something which a man will get as a right because he has made his payment towards it. Whatever financial arguments may be advanced, I for one believe that there is a great moral principle important to the State embodied in this attitude: “ I am working. I will pay something out of my wages in order that I may take my benefits when I need it, not as a mendicant, but as a self reliant man, with all the dignity of one who goes to an insurance company to collect something for which he has paid premiums “. So I come back to where 1 started. Here is a bill that is a poor trumpery thing. It does nothing except authorize one of the learned clerks of the Treasury to make an entry in a book. 1 have not the slightest doubt - and interjections from the Government side have confirmed my belief - that it was brought, down so that honorable gentlemen opposite who with great reluctance swallowed the new tax shall be able to say to the people, “ But look what you got for it “. As the people will not have copies of the bill with them, they may be tempted to think that they have got something, but any one who reads the bill will know that they have got nothing. Then the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) will be out of Parliament.
– I welcome the promises and implications in this measure, but I insist on the performance of all implied in it and, much more not included, as yet, in the measure. The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) threw his paltry sneers at the Labour party’s regard for the people of England. That sneer was typical of the right honorable gentleman and many of those associated with him. We on this side are concerned about the people of England, much more concerned than is the right honorable gentleman. He has had several trips to Britain at public expense, but it has not been noted that he has associated freely with those who produce the wealth of Britain. He, like another right honorable gentleman, who as Prime Minister of this country led the anti-Labour forces in this chamber, was the darling of the duchesses when abroad. He was the person whom the financial lords consulted because they thought that in him there was some one who would be a real representative of their interests in this country. We on this side are vitally concerned with what happens to the masses of the British people. The characteristic sneers of the right honorable gentleman fortunately are not typical of all the- honorable gentlemen opposite, although they are of his more tory companions. The right honorable member gave a pitiful exhibition here a few weeks ago when he rose in his place and told us that he had become tardily converted to a particular point of view of the Defence (Citizen Militia Forces) Bill 1943. He went away from this House one Friday night and, returning after the week-end, announced solemnly that he had spent the week-end in calm reflection and self-examination. Like Mahatma Gandhi, he communed with himself. After having thus communed he discovered that he had done wrong on the three occasions on which he advised honorable gentlemen opposite to vote in a certain direction on that bill. His self-examination did not do him very much good, but it is a pity that he will not continue this process of self-examination. He would then realize that he has reached the nadir of his political career and that he will not be able to stage a comeback with the tory speech which he delivered to-night. He is on the way out. He has been washed on to a back bench like so much political flotsam. If he survives the next general elections he will be extraordinarily lucky.
The right honorable gentleman came to the aid of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) in a sort of a last ditch fight on behalf of the tory reactionaries of this country against a scheme of social improvement which the Labour party has introduced. It is not a very wonderful scheme. It does not go as far as it ought to go and it does not include all that it ought to include, and, if it be passed, it will not bring Australia up to date in social welfare in comparison with European countries, the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand. There is merit in the proposals, but they could be greatly extended. New principles ought to be introduced. I shall deal with them at a later stage.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), citing New Zealand, said that there could be no real social security without financial stability. That is undoubtedly true, but there is nothing in the bill to suggest that the proposals are financially unstable. The right honorable gentleman himself was a member of a government which in 1925 promised the people of Australia a housing scheme. That was nearly eighteen years ago. Such a scheme has never been provided by any government of which the right honorable gentleman was either a member or a supporter. This Government has brought down a proposal which, while it does not envisage a housing scheme, is one that can be extended in the very near future to include such a scheme. The right honorable gentleman found reasons for objecting to this bill as did other opposition members who have spoken against the measure.
– Is not the honorable member aware that the previous Government instituted a housing scheme for munitions workers and provided finance at a low rate of interest?
– I excluded, by implication, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) from the criticisms that I directed at the right honorable member for Kooyong and the honorable member for Barker, because it is to his credit that he piloted though this House legislation which provides £11,000,000 a year for a child endowment scheme, financed by a pay-roll tax. The honorable gentleman did not invade the wages of the workers for the purpose of paying for the scheme, and he conferred a very great benefit upon the people. I know that while he was Minister for Labour and National Service he introduced a housing scheme. But when I refer to a housing scheme, I mean a scheme not only for munitions workers and others whom the Government must accommodate, in order to get work done, but also for the whole of the people of Australia. Now that the honorable gentleman has stressed the subject of housing, I should like to refer to the first progress report of the Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board which conducted an investigation in Victoria in 1936-37. That report was a most damning condemnation of the capitalist system of society under which we live, and which the honorable member for Barker defended against innovations or improvements. Several speakers have referred to housing during this debate.
– Some speakers made passing reference to housing, but the bill does not deal with that subject.
– The bill proposes that a sum of £30,000,000 shall be expended out of the national welfare fund for the purpose of conferring certain benefits on the Australian people. Some of those benefits were mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and the introduction of others was indicated as being likely in the near future.
– If the honorable member is not satisfied with them, he can imagine anything that he likes.
– I am not satisfied with what is proposed, and I consider that more money should he paid out of the national welfare fund. A housing scheme is imperative. Even if a fund of £60,000,000 has to be established for the purpose of financing such a scheme, I want that fund to be established now. If we can find money for war, we can provide money for social services. If the sky is the limit, as a former Treasurer, Mr. Casey, stated at the outbreak of war in respect of finance for war purposes, then the sky i9 still the limit for me in providing social services. I shall not be satisfied to wait until the peace before these schemes are inaugurated to benefit the great masses of the people, the vast majority of the male members of whom are in our fighting forces and are rendering splendid service. The report of the Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board in Victoria stated that of 6,390 houses investigated by the committee in Melbourne, 32 per cent, were without bathrooms, 51 per cent, were without wash houses, and 87 per cent, were without kitchen sinks. Men like the right honorable member for Kooyong and the honorable member for Barker believe that people should continue to live under those conditions. I speak for the Labour party when I say that this system- of society must be altered. Sub-standard dwellings must be replaced as quickly as possible and slums must be abolished, in war-time as well as in peace-time. Honorable members opposite are primarily responsible for these conditions because they supported governments in peace-time which neglected to rectify these grave social evils.
– United Australia party Governments would not even feed the people properly.
– They denied them houses and food. Consequently many of them were insufficiently fed and 30 per cent, of the workers were living on the dole, which was less than one-half of the basic wage in 1933. Many of them were compelled to steal, or otherwise offend against the social laws of the country. To my mind, stealing food for the purpose of feeding a family is no crime if work is not available for the unfortunate individual who is primarily responsible for the maintenance of his family.
– I ask the honorable member to direct his remarks to the bill. At present, he is digressing from the subject.
– The right honorable member for Kooyong was allowed to wander all over the place, and the honorable member for Barker talked at length about coal. But when I desire to refer to youthful delinquency, which is a product of the slums, and suggest that the Government should institute a proper housing scheme in the interests of these children and of the nation, I am told that I am digressing from the subject.
– Order ! The honorable member ‘must obey the direction of the Chair.
– To conclude my argument upon that point of youthful delinquency, I remind honorable members that the incidence of youthful delinquency is 6.66 per 10,000 inhabitants of the inner areas of Melbourne, and 2.07 per 10,000 of the inhabitants of the outer areas. The right honorable member for Kooyong and others represent the “ tiled roofs-, and allotments with 50-ft. frontages “ - houses which have kitchen sinks, wash-houses, and bathrooms. I represent probably the poorest constituency in Australia. My constituents lack those amenities, but they are called upon in war-time to defend this country. I should like to know what they are fighting for. Are they fighting for their slums and for the rotten conditions under which they lived prior to their enlistment or their conscription, or are they fighting for comfortable homes for their wives and little children in the years to come ? The right honorable member for Kooyong stated that nothing can be done to improve social conditions until the war is won.
A fat old man like him-
-Order! The honorable member is not entitled to reflect upon another honorable member in that manner.
– I did not think that I said anything derogatory in calling the right honorable member for Kooyong fat and old. I shall say that the slightly ageing and somewhat corpulent right honorable gentleman has no hesitation in conscripting the workers, whom I represent, to fight for him and the wealth that he represents.
– A Labour government conscripted them.
– The right honorable member for Kooyong believes that they should defend the present order, but wishes to deny them social services until the, war is won, because the acceptance of the bill might lead to financial instability. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) interjected that a Labour government conscripted the workers for military service, but the provisions of the measure under which they were conscripted did not go so far as the right honorable member for Kooyong desired.
– You flatter the right honorable gentleman in giving him credit for introducing that legislation. The Labour Government which the honorable member supports introduced it.
– I gave the right honorable member for Kooyong credit for mental gymnastics, and a week-end somersault, and said that he had communed with himself. It is a pity that he had not communed more in the past; had he done so, it might not have happened that whenever he entered a party room he always earned under his cloak a stiletto intended for his leader, whoever ho might be.
– Order ! The honorable member for Melbourne must direct his remarks to the bill.
– This bill proposes the .introduction of certain social benefits for the great masses of the people. Many of the honorable members opposite who are opposed to it are those who, during the depression, stated that the Commonwealth Government could not provide increased social services, because the necessary finance could not be provided. Some of them voted to reduce invalid and old-age pensions from 17s. 6d. to 15s. a week.
– The Labour party made that reduction.
– The Scullin Government introduced legislation to reduce invalid and old-age pensions from £1 to 17s. 6d. a week for the purpose of establishing budgetary equilibrium. The Lyons Government, which succeeded the Scullin Government, reduced pensions from 17s. 6d. to 15s. a week, pauperized the pensioners, made their relatives responsible for them, and struck thousands of pensioners off the pensions roll. At the time that the Lyons Government did those things, and when budgets had been balanced, it remitted taxation to its wealthy friends amounting to £9,500,000 in five years. It is only natural that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who was one of those who voted for the reduction of invalid and old-age pensions from 17s. 6d. to 15s. a week ip those days, should now declare that “ this is the deluge”, and that the Parliament cannot afford to provide the social benefits contemplated in the bill. For honorable members opposite, the time has never been opportune to make progress. I am reminded of a story of the editor of Punch receiving a letter from a contributor pointing out that the standard of the paper was not so high as it had been. Publishing the letter, the editor added a footnote: “It never was”. Honorable members opposite can never recognize the time to pass legislation that will benefit the great masses of the people of Australia.
– What benefits does this bill confer, as distinct from the benefits which the honorable member wishes it to confer.
– My views on what the people are entitled to get, and what they do get, are easily summarized. No one ever gets justice for justice’s sate. Only -those who are strong enough to demand justice can get it, or who are strong enough to make it politically inconvenient, at any rate, for those who would refuse it. In the ‘nineties the workers of this country quickly discovered that in order to obtain economic and social justice they had to establish a political party of their own. That is why there is in Australia a Labour party strong and resolute enough to demand and to see. that the evils of the capitalist system, which is based upon production for profit, are removed so as to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth in the community, and that the worker shall receive social benefits out of the national income in addition to the wages that they draw for their services to the community. One would think, after listening to the remarks of various speakers, that Australia was in the vanguard as regards social legislation. That is far from being correct. Many things which are- proposed in this bill are already legislative realities in other lands. In fact, many of the things that ought to be in this bill have been in existence for many years in other countries. I have a copy of some evidence which was submitted to a select committee of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria about seven years ago by Mr. W. Caldwell, Australian member of the staff of the International Labour Office of the League of Nations. He gave evidence on mothers’ pensions. As this bill contemplates some improvement of the Maternity Allowances Act, and as we propose to restore the act to its original basis when introduced by the Fisher Government, despite the jeremiahs of the Opposition of the day led by the late Mr. Deakin, Sir Joseph Cook and Sir “William Irvine, I shall quote briefly what Mr. Caldwell said of legislation in existence in other countries. He stated that a woman who lost her husband through death, or insanity, or who was bereft of a breadwinner because the husband was the victim of invalidity,, or because the husband had deserted her’ was entitled to certain benefits. The following is a tabular summary of the provisions of national laws relating to risks covered as submitted by Mr. Caldwell :-
My criticisms of the measure are these: First, the workers themselves have to pay for this particular scheme, and I believe that the money for it ought -to come from those who are better able to pay than the workers are. If money canriot be got in that way, I would use the national credit, because I do not believe that the workers in these days, out of their small pittances, are able, with the cost of living at its present figure, to contribute anything. Yet, under the legislation which we passed recently, and by which we hope to finance this scheme, I find, from estimates which have been furnished to me, that the additional contributions imposed by the new rates of taxation on incomes within the range of £104 to £156 amount to £2,000,000; on those between £157 and £250, to £6,000,000; and on those between £251 and £400 to £13,500,000. In other words, of the £40,000,000 which it is proposed to raise under the legislation just passed - £30,000,000 of which it is proposed to pay into a national welfare fund - £21,500,000 is to come from those earning £400 a year and under. Honorable members opposite, of course, have been hugging the fond delusion that people with big incomes are paying most of the money. As a matter of fact, not only is £21,500,000 extra being raised from those earning £400 a year and under, by the legislation which we passed in this chamber last week, but another £13,000,000 is to be raised from those earning between £401 and £1,000 per annum, leaving only £5,500,000 to be contributed by people receiving over £1,000 per annum.
– What amount do the people receiving over £1,000 per annum contribute now?
– They may contribute a very considerable sum but they are to contribute very little under the new taxation proposals. My view as to how taxes ought to be raised to finance these schemes was put very clearly and briefly last week. I would have a ceiling income, and tax, down to £400 a year, every body receiving over that amount. We should then get something like equality of sacrifice, about which we have been hearing a great deal. We have passed an act conscripting human life and I have no objection to having a shot at the conscription of wealth. It would help to encourage the workers to do a bit more, if we could prove to them that Parliament had decided that men on big incomes were to be taxed down to £400 a year.
– Do not the highest taxes in existence, which we have, suggest in themselves the conscription of wealth?
– We may have the highest taxes, but other countries are less democratically governed than we are, and the fact that they do not tax as highly as we do is no argument against a ceiling income, levelling every body down to £400 a year while the war lasts. If the Japanese won the war, wealthy interests in Australia would not have any thing to spend or put away for investment after the war, and they might as well pay it to the Government to enable it to save the country, as try to save it themselves by investing it in government bonds.
– Or buying new motor cars with it.
– I do not think that there is any opportunity for people to buy valuable new motor cars in these times. There should not be any such opportunity whilst there is still so much distress, as I pointed out, in those areas which are part of my electoral division, namely Kensington, Carlton, Fitzroy, North Melbourne and West Melbourne.
I have received, from time to time, from certain societies, letters asking that something be done to improve the lot of widows. This bill does, I understand, propose to grant a pension to the wife of an invalid.
– The bill does not propose that.
– The necessary legislation for that purpose may not have been brought down yet, but it will be. I therefore wish to quote from two documents which I have received, one from the Legacy Club of Sydney and the other from the Australian Federation of Women Voters of South Australia. Both point out that the lot of a widow with a child, as compared with a soldier’s widow with a child, and, in the case of the second letter, the lot of two old-age pensioners, is very’ unfortunate indeed. A widow with a child receives as pension £1 6s. a week for herself, and 5s. for the child. ^ Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order! The honorable member must see that the appropriate time to deal with such a subject is when the bill relating to it is being debated.
– The bill may not be introduced during this period of the session, and I want to introduce what I have to say on the subject into my speech on this measure.
– Whan the bill is brought down will be the appropriate time for the honorable member to make the remarks to which he refers.
– If the bill is never brought down, when will be the appropriate time?
-If the bill is never brought down, it will be useless for the honorable member to make reference to it.
– I cannot see why 1 should be denied the right to plead for recognition of the claims of these unfortunate widows.
– This is not the proper occasion on which to do so. as the honorable member has already been reminded from the Chair.
– With all due deference, I think that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are taking too narrow a view.
– Order ! The honorable member is transgressing the Standing Orders in criticizing the ruling of the Chair.
– The transgression was unintentional. It appears to be very easy to transgress if the transgressor happens to be the honorable member for Melbourne.
– Order ! If the honorable member wishes to continue his speech on the bill, I ask him to do so.
– I thought that I was doing- so, but apparently I still misunderstand the forms of the House. However, I shall try to direct my remarks to other aspects of the bill. The Treasurer in his second-reading speech said that the welfare scheme includes health, sickness, unemployment and other associated services. I thought- that widows’ pensions were an associated service. As the Treasurer went on to say that parts of the scheme which it is proposed to introduce immediately include a new maternity benefit, liberalization of the present maternity allowance, and the provision of funeral benefits for invalid and old-age pensioners, I understood that on this bill I could say something on all sorts of subjects related to social service.
I am glad that the Treasurer has announced that an investigation will be made into unemployment and sickness schemes, but I hope. that when the Government introduces an unemployment insurance scheme it will not be of’ such a nature as to appeal to the right hon orable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), who desires that the workers shall be required to contribute funds, while they are in employment, to provide benefits while they are unemployed. The right honorable gentleman desires to protect the wealthier sections of the community against having to provide funds for unemployment insurance. I do not think that the Treasurer will help him in that respect. The national health and pensions insurance scheme sponsored by the former honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey), and mentioned to-night by four or five speakers, required the workers to pay for the benefits which they would receive, including unemployment insurance, invalid and old-age pensions, and other social services. I am opposed to contributory schemes of that character and, to the degree to which the schemes which this Government intends to provide may be contributory, I am opposed to> them. I consider that a more comprehensive measure- should be introduced, but I am afraid that unless something be done, now, the opportunity to provide a satisfactory scheme may be lost. Yet I am fearful, too, that at some future date an antiLabour government may advance the proposals of this Government as a justification for the enactment of a permanent contributory scheme at a timewhen the financial resources of the- nation are no* required far meeting the costs of war.. I consider that the workers areentitled to- social service benefits without, contribution; but, because this scheme though not providing payments forworn en whose husbands are in lunaticasylums or in gaol, helps some unfortunate women whose claims were overlooked’ by the present Opposition when it wasin power, I shall support the bill.
The honorable member for Barker leftus in no doubt about where he stood. Someof his colleagues support- his view. Certain other honorable gentlemen opposite would like to- do something of this nature, but they are afraid of offending the moneylords who contribute towards their election expenses. A few other Opposition members, among whom I include thehonorable member for Fawkner realize - that the present system of society- is unsound and that it will not last long unless some radical changes are effected in it.
In an excellent work entitled The Making of a Criminal, hy F. Oswald Barnett, M.Com., which I commend to honorable gentlemen, the writer points out that 30,000 houses in Sydney are substandard. These must he demolished before it can be said that a serious blot on Sydney has been removed. In regard to Melbourne, the writer says -
There ave over 1,200 dwellings within five miles of the General Post Office, Melbourne, that arc built in slum pockets and rightsofways. There are over 0,000 dwellings in the same area not fit for human habitation, and 3,000 of these are of such derelict type that they never could be made fit.
Towards the end of his work, Mr. Barnett stated certain conclusions, one of which was that the causes of certain crimes were mainly economic and were one of the results of poverty. He added -
This conclusion is strengthened by the fact that the recent Housing and Slum Abolition Board, after an external inspection of all the houses within 5 ‘miles of the General Post Office, and a subsequent intensive survey of over 7,000 houses within the inner areas (inhabited by 25,000 men, women and children), report that, where the information was available, the average income of the whole family was £3 ls. !)d. per week. In over 2.;’i00 houses that were totally unfit for human habitation, the total family income fell to an average of £2 10s. per week. In the lowest stratum the family income averaged £2 ls. per week.
Et is obvious from those statements that big changes must be made in the social order if the present system of society is to survive in the post-war world. Many people have suffered grievously in the existing order, through no fault of their own, and every effort should be made to ensure that in the future they will be afforded an equal opportunity with others to acquire a reasona’ble competence. They should be put in such a position as will enable them to live decent lives in comfortable homes. The inequalities that exist between the wealthier and poorer suburbs must be banished. Because legislation of this description will do something to that end, I favour it. I still hope, however, that some more comprehensive social welfare measures will be submitted to this Parliament before it is dissolved. General elections are to be held about November of this year or
January of next year. It is hard to say just when the elections will be held, because no honorable members look forward to them. The Opposition in this House will not fight the Government on any issue, and the Senate cannot be brought face to face with an issue which it will regard as vital.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s remarks have nothing to do with the measure before the House.
– They have this to do with it, Mr. Speaker, that the approach of an election should cause the Government to introduce some more comprehensive social service legislation without delay. I hope that Parliament will be kept in session fairly constantly until election time, so that certain subjects of outstanding importance which have been ignored by anti-Labour governments during the last twenty years may lie brought to the notice of honorable members and satisfactory legislation passed in connexion with them. Most European countries, and certain States in America, have passed social service measures superior to the social service legislation of Australia. We have clone nothing to be proud of in this regard in the last 30 years, or, in fact, since the bank smashes of the ‘nineties. Ever since that time the dead hand of conservatism has been laid on our . State parliaments. It has also affected the legislation of this Parliament during the 40 years it has been in existence. For this reason, the Treasurer is to be commended for having introduced this measure of social reform even though it does not go nearly far enough and places the main burden of finance upon the workers, even though it merits the criticism of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) relative to the trust fund. I hope that the Government will heed the honorable gentleman’s criticism and take steps to protect the trust, fund so that impecunious Treasurers in anti-Labour governments, if any should be placed on the treasury bench in the coming years will not be able to raid the fund. I have no fears that Labour Treasurers will do anything of the kind, but I fear what might be done by a Treasurer from the ranks of the Philistines. It may happen that in a time of financial stress an anti-Labour Treasurer may draw upon this trust fund and place the money on interminable loan of some kind or another, and so the workers may be deprived of the benefits which they have been told they will one day receive.
.- Not the least extraordinary feature of this incredible measure is the lack of eagerness of Government supporters to speak in its favour. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) reminded us that this is an election year. It might have been expected, therefore, that when the Treasurer of the first Labour Government to occupy the treasury bench in this Parliament for a great many years introduced a bill to found a scheme of national welfare, honorable gentlemen opposite would have shown the utmost eagerness to support it, as indicating the genesis of the great new order for which we all are looking so hopefully. One would have thought that, in these circumstances, we should have seen Labour speakers competing for an opportunity to show either by praise or criticism how impressed they were with the significance and importance of this measure; but we do not see that. There are only about eight or ten Labour supporters in the chamber at present, and I can only suggest that the same lack of reality is pervading the Government benches as suggests itself to members of the Opposition. It is impossible to take this fantastic measure seriously, and I think that even honorable members supporting the Government realize just how lacking it is in substance. I find myself a little embarrassed at this stage of the debate in adhering to Mr. Speaker’s ruling that repetition must be avoided, because the list of synonyms with which this measure may be described adequately seems to have been exhausted completely by speakers who have preceded me. I found it interesting to make a list of some of the descriptions applied to this measure by honorable members as the debate progressed. I think that these words are worthy of repetition inasmuch as they show the universal belief of this side of the House that this scheme is a humbug. It has been described as a “ fraud “, a “phoney” scheme, a “humbug”, a “hoax”, “trumpery”, a “sham”, “ legerdemain “, “ bribery “, a “ confidence trick “, a “ nebulous “ scheme, a “ bogus “ scheme, “ ghost-like “ “ camouflage”, “chicanery”, and “subterfuge”. Only in time of war, when our financial economy is completely topsyturvy, could a measure such as this, appropriating £30,000,000 for unspecified services to be rendered at an unspecified time to people who as yet are unclassified, be introduced by any government with a sense of duty to the country. The only explanation that I can offer is that this Government which, in the last twelve months has found it possible and desirable to obtain £250,000,000 by way of treasury-bills, will not balk for one moment at laying on the table of this chamber a proposal to spend £30,000,000 without stating clearly how that money is to be spent. No one could take such a proposal seriously. Every body knows the real reason behind its introduction. I am not aware whether this particular expression has been used yet, but I regard the bill as a piece of window-dressing to gull the unsuspecting and deluded people in the lower income groups to which, for the first time, income tax is to be extended - and extended by the very individuals who put the previous government out of office because it sought to do that very thing in order to raise money for war purposes. No one has attempted to deny that this money is for war purposes. There has not been any suggestion by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that the bulk of this money is not to be expended during this war.
– Does the honorable member suggest seriously that the Government of which he was a member was put out of office because of the budget that it introduced?
– I am merely going by results. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) knows that his leader and certain other of his colleagues attacked and eventually defeated the Fadden Government upon the budget that it presented, their justification for so doing being that that budget offended in certain major respects against principles dearly held by members of the Labour movement. A salient feature of that budget was the fact that it proposed to lower the income tax exemption to £156, and as honorable members were reminded to-day by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) the present Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) then expressed the view that to reduce the exemption to such a low figure would involve this country in something like domestic and social tragedy. Now, however, honorable members opposite have supported a bill which will reduce the exemption to £104 and, of course, some justification had to be found for their change of attitude. The justification is to be found in this measure. I am sure that no honorable member is opposed to granting a measure of social welfare to the people of Australia, and opposition to this measure does not indicate such a view. We on this side of the House can claim -with some justification to have adopted a progressive and constructive approach to the problem of social welfare. It is not so long since a government which the present Opposition supported made money available for the technical training of youths who had missed their chance during the depression years. Then, after a great deal of investigation, we introduced a national health and pensions insurance measure. It is all very well for honorable members to attack that scheme now and claim that it was unfair because only certain sections of the community would have contributed to the fund, but I remind them that not only was the scheme almost identical with schemes operating in Great Britain and in many European countries, but also, so far as benefits were concerned, it probably would have been the most liberal scheme Operating in any part of the world.
– What became of it?
– It is still on the statutebook. I recall that, in contrast to this measure, the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill was debated in great detail and for many weeks. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) was one of the most vigorous and active opponents of the measure. More recently, a government supported by honorable members on this side of the chamber sponsored a scheme of national fitness and I am glad to see the present Government is carrying on the good work by making additional funds available. I have had close contact with the work, of the National Fitness Council and I have no doubt as to the value of it in educating members of the community in the elementary principles of hygiene and fitness in various directions, in educating play leaders, in conducting camps of different sorts, and in organizing an auxiliary labour force to pick grapes and other fruits, to chop wood, and to perform other services; the Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) can supplement the list at an opportune time. He will probably agree that the scheme in its present state represents only a beginning, yet is a progressive and constructive approach to the problem of social welfare. I wish that many members of this Parliament would think before confining social “welfare to a handout of cash. That, to my mind, whilst a useful form of social welfare, is the least valuable and satisfactory of the many forms that are available to us. The health, education, training and housing of the community are of very much greater concern and value, yet they receive all too little attention in this place; whereas financial assistance, which may confer a political advantage on those who provide it, receives far more attention than its value, to the community warrants.
The next item to which I direct attention is the child endowment scheme. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was good enough to refer appreciatively to the introduction of that scheme. The establishment of the Division of Industrial Welfare in the Department of Labour and National Service provided further opportunities for constructive social welfare schemes. The housing scheme that we were able to introduce, particularly in areas in which munitions factories have been established, was certainly only a small beginning; much smaller in range, largely owing to man-power difficulties and shortages of materials, than any of us would like to have made. Through the division of industrial welfare, however, the department is able to make a constructive approach, and to maintain reasonable welfare standards for workers in industry throughout the Commonwealth.
I have mentioned, these matters because they show that there has not been that obstructive or reactionary attitude on the part of honorable members on this side of the House, as a political organization, that some honorable members opposite would have the country believe that there lias been.
As we are asked to consider a new order in the terms of this bill, I make this final comment: we are told that, under this scheme, a certain amount is to be set aside for the very worthy purposes that are indicated generally in the bill.
– Is not the only indication of purposes to be found in the title of the bill?
– There is a reference in clause 6 to the types of services upon which the money in the fund may be expended. The kind of- new order and social welfare which most people would value, and which they are in very grave danger of losing, is a community in which there is full scope for individual enterprise and initiative, the maintenance of personal liberty to the highest degree, and reward by means of personal gain for the work which they and their dependants perform. The degree to which any government or community provides conditions under which those factors can operate properly, is the measure of the social welfare of the community in a very real sense. The strong criticism which one can level against the present Government is that, whatever it may promise in the form of fancy benefits, it has destroyed those factors mentioned by me which make for a contented mind,- and a full, rich life on the part of every member of the community; it has destroyed the incentive to individual enterprise and personal initiative by the introduction of a host of regulations, which are being added to daily; and it has clamped down on those personal freedoms which all of us value so highly. Any government which does such things, irrespective of what social benefits it may promise, is destructive of social welfare in the true sense of the term.
The honorable member for Melbourne has expressed the fear that a Treasurer drawn from the ranks of honorable mem bers who sit on this side of the House might “ raid the trust fund “. He hoped, that the measure would be tightened up on that account. Whatever trust fund may be established will be raided daily, in terms of real purchasing power, by the present Treasurer and those who support him in the financial policy that is nowbeing practised. Whether’ £5,000,000 be actually taken from the £30,000,000 which resides in the trust fund, or the currency be so debased that £30,000,000 has . a purchasing power of only £25,000,000, the trust fund is raided to that amount. If there is one government against which the charge can be levelled that it has raided the people’s savings and our standard of living, it is the Government which now puts f orward this panacea of all our ills, the National Welfare Fund Bill.
– I add my voice to the other voices that have been raised, much more effectively, to-day, in expression of my disagreement with, and my desire to vote against this bill. As the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) has said, this is a .bill which lays it down that an indefinite amount is to be collected for an uncertain purpose. The purposes should, of course, have been made clear. But there is a vagueness even as to the time when those purposes will be decided. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), in his second -read ing speech, said that the immediate purposes were ti new maternity benefit, a liberalization of the maternity allowance, and the provision of funeral benefits for invalid and old-age pensioners. He also said that investigations were proceeding in regard to unemployment - of which, as we all know, and as has been stated .to-night, there is practically none at present - in respect of which, it was hoped, a measure would be brought down in six months’ time; and in regard to sickness benefit, which it was considered the Government would be in a position to deal with in nine months’ time. These two very indefinite objects, so long to be postponed, are, we understand, to he expedited by tremendous efforts on the part of the staff, who are to work out what amounts of unemployment and sickness benefit are desirable. Those are very indefinite objects.
That is the first point. The whole hill is surrounded with a certain degree of difficulty. The Treasurer has given notice of an amendment which will increase the difficulty. The right honorable member for Kooyong apparently had not had notice of it when he spoke. I shall place it on record, so that he who reads Hansard may see what he can make of it. It is material to the consideration of the second reading, because it radically alters the bill as introduced. Clause 5 provides -
There shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated ^accordingly, for ‘the purposes of the National Welfare Fund, in each financial year commencing with the financial year commencing on the first day of -July, One thousand nine hundred and forty-three, the sum of Thirty million pounds, or a sum equal to one-quarter of the amount received in that financial year as income- tax from persons other than companies, whichever is the less.
That may seem crystal clear to most honorable members, but it will not appear :So clear when they read the proposed amendment circulated by the Treasurer to add the following sub-clause: - (2.) For the purposes of this section, the amount received as income tax from persons, other than companies, in any financial year during which the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942 is in operation, shall be deemed to be the total amount so received less Twenty-one million pounds.
When I saw the proposed amendment 1 had to read it a second or third time before I could see what was aimed at. Making every .allowance for the heavy labours imposed on the Crown Law Department during sessions, its drafting in this instance seems to me to have made obscurity still more obscure. My experience of the Crown Law Department in South Australia is that it seems to express the law in words so clear that he who runs may read. What exactly does this foreshadowed amendment imply? You, Mr. Speaker, as a trained lawyer, may have no difficulty in comprehending its meaning. I referred it to another honorable member who has thought over it for some time, but I have had no answer from him yet. I take the Estimates for 1942-43 as being presumably the closest we could get. The estimate of income tax for this year is £S5,000,000 from individuals and a little over £48,500,000 from companies. If we take the income tax of individuals, as proposed in the clause, and deduct £21,000,000 as contemplated in the foreshadowed amendment, the sum left is £64,000,000. One-fourth of that is £16,000,000, and, that being less than £30,000,000, the £16,000,000 would be the sum to be appropriated for the purposes of the National Welfare Fund. Then I was assailed by a sudden doubt. Should we take the whole of the income tax? That is, should we add together the £85,000,000 and the £48,500,000, which total £133,500,000, and deduct the £21,000,000, which would leave £112,500,000? One-fourth of that is £28,00.0,000. Again that would be less than £30,000,000. But why talk about £30,000,000 when, on the present figures, and in view of the foreshadowed amendment, there is no prospect of that sum being voted? This proposal must create a false impression in the minds of many members of the public. If my first reading of the clause be right, the sum which will probably be placed on this year’s estimate ,is roughly £16,000,000; hut I am not certain. I suggest to the Treasurer, who I am sure desires to make the matter clear, that this clause should be redrafted, so that the man in the street, and the ordinary farmer, will be able to tell what it means.
Under this measure the country would be committed to a very large expenditure in perpetuity. That is no doubt one of the objects of the bill, but do honorable members realize that the amount likely to be voted in perpetuity under the measure will be much larger than that now paid for invalid and old-age pensions? When I came into Parliament twenty odd years ago. the sum voted for invalid and ok.age pensions was £5,500,000, but the estimate for this year is’ about £22,500,000. That estimate may not be reached, but the expenditure will probably be about £21,000,000. Yet at a time like this the Government proposes to double the expenditure on social services in order to get the credit for having been generous to an uncertain and undiscoverable number of people. I prefer the contributory system. Many years ago, I considered the whole .subject of pensions in my own way, and came to the conclusion that a contributory national insurance scheme was best for all concerned. I voted for the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill when it was before the Senate. It is true that I tried to have amendments inserted in it, because I considered that the scheme applied to too large a section of the community. I thought that the qualifying income of £365 a year was too high, and that this country could not provide the funds that would be needed. I was greatly refreshed to notice that, about a year afterwards, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) proposed the exact sum that I had recommended in the Senate the previous year. I believe that he did not know that, nor can I claim that it was an instance of two great minds working alike. The whole matter was extremely well put by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron”). The financial position of this country must be regarded by anybody who has studied finance as extraordinarily difficult and dangerous. Inflation is increasing rapidly. I do not say that it is increasing by leaps and bounds, but even to say that would perhaps not be an exaggeration. This is the biggest war we have ever been engaged in or are ever likely to be engaged in, and our first consideration ought to be the members of the fighting services and their dependants. “We should not be looking about for other individuals on whom we could confer benefits. As for the new order, I agree largely with what the honorable member for Barker has said. The minds of all individuals probably tend to range between two extremes in these matters. There is a school which says that we are fighting, not for a new order, but to preserve what is good in the old order, whilst there is another school which declares that the old order has proved to be bad, and that we must destroy it, and put something better in its place. ‘Construction can be accomplished only by slow and sure means. Those who destroy without having anything certain to put in the place of that which is destroyed are likely to create chaos. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), who always speaks well and in an interesting manner on subjects such as that under consideration, referred to the misery and poverty of the poor in this country.
– I never said any such thing.
– The honorable member spoke of the lamentable condition of the poor in Australia. That was certainly my ‘impression, and he speaks so clearly that it is unlikely that I misheard him. In any case, if he did not say it, many others on that side of the House have done so. The truth is that all classes in this country enjoy extraordinarily favorable conditions, and even the very poor have far more to lose than have, the poor of any other country. The honorable member is very’ foolish if he does not realize that, by clutching at the shadow, he is in danger of losing the substance. That is the danger which is inherent in the Government’s inflationary policy, which involves constant and unnecessary increases of social benefits at a time when all our resources should be applied to the winning of the war. I remember writing an article some years after the event about the Nationalist party - and I daresay it was not a very brilliant article - in which I said that one of the mistakes of the Bruce-Page Government, a mistake which helped to bring about its downfall, was that it tried to do too much. It was fully conscious of the need for defending the country, and also of the fact that it was desirable that there should be adequate social services. It tried to do something that was impossible in a large country, relatively undeveloped, with a small population of whom a very small proportion were taxpayers in an adequate sense. The result was that our defences went to the wall. Votes were ‘put before security. I say to the Government now that it is putting votes before the defence of the country, and I shall vote against this bill.
– I agree with the general tenor of the speeches which have been made by honorable members on this side of the House, and the ground has been so well covered by other speakers that I do not propose to go over it again. I should like, however, to obtain information from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on one point. I understood that it was proposed to collect next year by the new income tax about £132,000,000 from individuals and companies on behalf of the Commonwealth and the States. The Treasurer has circulated an amendment, the effect of which is to reduce the total by £21,000,000. Thus, the original estimate of £132,000,000 is to be reduced to £111,000,000. Are we to understand that it is proposed, for the purposes of the trust fund, to take one-quarter of £111,000,000, which would be £27,750,000, or will the amount of £30,000,000- which is Toughly what is to be paid over to the States - be first deducted, thus reducing Commonwealth income tax collections from individuals to £81,000,000, of which one-quarter would be £20,250,000?
.’ - in reply - I wish to make it clear that the Government believes that if some measures for the promotion of economic security are not passed by this Parliament before the end of the war, all sorts of excuses will be found when the war ends for not passing them. “We have to admit that the feelings of the public towards those who are defending the nation are warmer during the period of the war, when their lives and property are in danger, than they are likely to be when peace comes, and when most people are engaged almost wholly in serving their own material interests. The Government believes that it is possible to go on too long promising a new order after the war, while doing nothing about it. When the national health and pensions insurance scheme was introduced by a previous government, I was not a member of this Parliament. It is true that that scheme was a thing of shreds and patches, but it did represent an attempt to do something necessary, and it was capable of improvement. Although it was opposed by my party, I accepted it as the best that could be obtained at the time, and I offered, without remuneration, to go among the unions and other organizations to explain the measure to them. I believe that it is the duty of the whole community to ensure that none of its members are left in want and misery and degradation such as was suffered by so many in the last depression. I have no hesitation in saying on behalf of the Government that there is nothing illusory about this proposal. It is true that it is not possible at this time to bring before Parliament the various measures relating to national welfare which the Government has in mind, and which it will bring down as soon as possible. However, I am not prepared, nor is the Government, to go before the people at an election, or at any other time, and make promises without having afforded some concrete evidence that it is intended to do something to honour those promises.
The right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and others spoke of the value of a contributory system of social welfare. The truth is that even in Britain the beneficiaries under the scheme of social insurance do not contribute more than one-quarter of what the scheme costs. The other three-quarters come from employers’ contributions and Consolidated- Revenue. Under the national health and pensions insurance scheme introduced by a previous government, not more than onethird of the cost was to be provided by the contributors. Therefore, no scheme of this kind is, in a business sense, entirely self-supporting. Under the Beveridge scheme, not much more than 25 per cent, of the cost is to be contributed by insured persons. Only under the New Zealand scheme do the beneficiaries make a substantial contribution to the cost. Seventy or eighty per cent, of the money raised in New Zealand_for the purpose of providing social benefits comes from direct contributions from the prospective beneficiaries. So, when the right honorable member for Kooyong implies his belief in a contributory scheme, to the funds of which there would be no contribution from Consolidated Revenue, I point out that there was no such provision in the National Health and Pensions Insurance A.ct in the placing of which on the statutebook he took such a leading part.
– Under that scheme contributions were to be made from Consolidated Revenue.
– Of course, they were; but the right honorable member for Kooyong talked about mendicants drawing alms from the public purse when the plain fact of the matter is that all social services all over the world are paid for, at least in part, from Consolidated Revenue.
– Under the National Health and Pensions Insurant Act contributions were to be equally divided between employer, employee and the Government.
– Yes, in Britain about 25 per cent, of the national insurance funds come from direct contributions by the public and the Beveridge scheme provides for the maintenance of that percentage, but in New Zealand, as I said, the people directly contribute 70 or 80 per cent, of the funds. Honorable members opposite must not deceive themselves into thinking that the sincerity of their loose talk today will not be tested at a later date. We will bring down legislation conferring some measure of economic security on the people. Then honorable gentlemen opposite who have professed an interest in the welfare of the people shall have to answer for their words to-day by their votes. I do not, say for one moment that a national health scheme, of the dimensions that the Government should like, could be put into operation in this country either now or within twelve months of the end of the war. I said that in moving the second reading of this bill. But I do believe that, within the next twelve months, we shall be able to put at least SO per cent, of our ideas into practice. Honorable members opposite will then have put to them a question demanding an unequivocal answer. They shall have to say whether they believe that the people should be assured of economic security or whether after the war we should revert to the conditions which operated in 1930-31, when hundreds of thousands of citizens, who themselves and whose sons and daughters have been called upon to offer their lives in the service of the country, lived on the verge of starvation. I am not, and the Government is not prepared to say to men who have been commanded to off either lives in the defence of their land that) when the war is over, that they are of less importance than a pit pony. When a mine is closed the owner, if he wants to keep his pit ponies fit for when the mine is reopened, has to keep them fed; but under the conditions which now operate in this country, all a mine-owner has to do wilh his employees, when he closes his mine, is to turn them on to the street to fetid for themselves. Thousands of miners were forced, in the depression, to fend for themselves without any prospect of work that would return enough to maintain themselves and their families. All that this great democracy could offer them, in the State from which I come, was 5s. 9d. a week!
– What party was in power ?
– I neither know nor care. All I care about is the fact that this Commonwealth Parliament controls the financial affairs of this country. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was responsible for the setting up of the Australian Loan Council in which the Commonwealth Government has the commanding voice on the question of raising of loan moneys for the Australian governments. I remind honorable members opposite that their friends, the private bankers and the commercial leaders, are the people who, employing the word “ inflation “ in 1930-31, forced upon the governments of this country the deflationary measures that drove thousands upon thousands of Australian citizens into the degradation and near starvation of the dole. This Government says “ Never again ! “ This party will not wait until the “ sweet by and by “ to bring social measures before this Parliament. As fast as it is physically possible to complete all necessary negotiations and to draft legislation our policy of social security for the people shall be put into effect. Never again will we allow our people to be subject to the caprice of those whom the winds of circumstances have blown into the control of trade and commerce.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) had something, to say about the establishment of the national welfare fund and the chances of that fund being mis-applied. All I have to say in answer to that is when the Commonwealth Parliament decides that certain moneys shall be placed in a trust fund it pledges itself to ensure that’ that decision shall be carried out. I do not deny for one moment that it is possible for Parliament at any time to alter the laws of its own making or that a pledge made by legislation can be broken by other legislation. No Parliament can bind its successors. The honorable member for Warringah asserted that moneys placed in the national welfare fund would be used, not for the provision of social benefits, but for the prosecution of the war. Moneys standing to the credit of the fund and which are temporarily idle will be used for war purposes; that does not mean that those moneys will disappear for ever from the national welfare fund. People who suggest that are devoid of intelligence or are attempting to mislead the public.
– Or both.
– Yes. The plain fact is that all moneys in government trust funds are invested in government securities. The funds of the War Damage Commission are so invested. If the war ended to-morrow and the claims for war damage had to be met, the funds invested in Government securities would be used to meet those claims. The honorable member for Warringah referred to Section G2b of the Audit Act which reads -
Moneys standing to the credit of the Trust Fund may be invested by the Treasurer -
«n deposit in any bank.
Parliament, not I, was responsible for the insertion of that provision which entitles the Treasurer to invest moneys standing to the credit of a trust fund in Government securities or in banks.
– Why will it be necessary to borrow to replace money taken from the national welfare fund ?
– The funds of the War Damage Commission are invested in government securities. Claims in respect of war damage will have to be met’ when the war ends. The securities in which the funds of the War Damage Commission are invested will be sold and the proceeds used for the purposes for which the moneys of the commission were raised. It is perfectly clear that if money already invested with the Government is used for other purposes, the Government will have to replace it subsequently by borrowing on long-term securities, or on treasurybills. At any rate, the Government will have to repay it.
– What becomes of the securities?
– They can be sold,
– Who buys them?
– They are bought by the public, by the National Debt Sinking Fund Commission or by the Commonwealth Bank itself, which holds a substantial proportion of the Government securities.
– And interest is paid into the fund.
– That is true. I cannot be held responsible for the Audit Act, but I assume that Parliament considered it most carefully before it became law. The act provides that the money in a trust fund may be invested in Commonwealth securities - until such time as it is required for the purposes of the trust fund. When it is needed, the securities are sold and the proceeds are utilized, as would be in the case of the fund of the War Damage Commission. Moneys belonging to the national insurance fund in Britain have been invested in Government securities, which will be sold when the money is required for the purpose of the fund.
– As this fund is being perpetually replenished at the rate of £30,000,000 a year, what is the necessity of permanent borrowing?
– Permanent borrowing has nothing to do with the fund.
– There is a disparity between the Treasurer’s financial statement and his second-reading speech. When moving the second reading of the bill the Treasurer stated that the money will be replaced by permanent borrowings, when the moneys are required later for welfare purposes.
– I stated that-
In the earlier stages, the fund will build up credit balances, which will be used later when the welfare scheme reaches full operation. These balances will not be allowed to remain idle, but will be invested and will provide a useful source of temporary finance for war purposes, which will be replaced by permanent borrowings when the moneys are required later for welfare purposes. Interest from the investment of any moneys standing to the credit of the National Welfare Fund will be credited to the fund.
The position is perfectly clear.
– Is there any difference between this trust fund and the fund into which money is paid for the purpose of invalid and old-age pensions?
– No, except that a very careful estimate is made of the likely expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions.
– But the principle is the same.
– Yes, the principle is exactly the same. The Audit Act makes the position perfectly clear.
– Except that Parliament approves the payments under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, whereas this bill contemplates the establishment of a special trust fund.
– The bill provides that if the moneys being paid into the fund are not immediately required, the Government may invest them in- Commonwealth securities, in accordance with the provisions of the Audit Act. When the fund requires those moneys the Government will have to replace them. The sum of £30,000,000 will be utilized for special purposes, but always subject to the decision of this Parliament. The money will be temporarily available for war expenditure. When the fund requires it, the money will be repaid. None of the money can be used for any of the purposes contemplated in this bill without the consent of this Parliament.
I desire to inform the honorable mem-‘ ber for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who asked me to explain how the £30,000,000 will be raised, that the estimated collections from the uniform income tax payable by individuals for the financial year 1943-44 is £139,000,000.
– That estimate varies from the Treasurer’s earlier statement, in which he mentioned the sum of £132,000,000.
– That is so, but the incomes of the community are increasing and it is now estimated that taxation will yield an additional £7,000,000. The average collections on behalf of the States, as determined under the uniform income tax proposals, based on 1939-40 and 1940-41, are £21,000,000.
– Is that limited to collections of tax on the incomes of individuals?
– The additional £12,000,000 will be derived from companies tax?
– Yes. After the provision of £21,000,000 for the States, the estimated collections for Commonwealth purposes is £118,000,000. Twenty-five per cent, of £118,000,000 is £29,500,000. These figures have been prepared by experts, whose job it is to give an accurate estimate of the position, so I shall say no more in reference to that matter.
– Unless the present severe rate of income tax he maintained, the trust fund will not receive £30,000,000 a year?
– It may be true that fluctuations, upwards or downwards, of the rate may affect the payments into the fund, but Parliament will have to decide those issues as the occasion arises.
Honorable members have referred to the proposed benefits. Unemployment benefits based on a payment of £1 5s. for the husband, £1 for the wife and 5s. for each child would cost £2,000,000 per annum for every 1 per cent, of unemployment. Sickness benefits based upon the position in New Zealand would cost between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000 per annum. Regarding medicines, it was estimated when the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill was under consideration that in this respect an annual cost of 4s. a head of the population would be involved, but increases since the outbreak of war have led to a readjustment of the estimates, and the cost is calculated at £1,800,000 per annum. Honorable members should not imagine that the Government has not made a complete survey of the cost of social services under certain conditions, and later an opportunity will be provided for honorable members to determine what rates shall be paid for certain benefits. I shall not enlarge on them now. I do not think that this Parliament or its members, irrespective of party, should tell the people that they are not prepared to do anything about a measure to deal with economic principles, whatever differences’ there may be about types or rates, but propose to leave all that until after the war. It is perfectly .clear that schemes of this character cannot be organized in six months, or perhaps even in twelve months. If it is all left until immediately after the war, .and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is correct in the public statement which he recently made, that after the war there is bound to be some unemployment, are members of the Opposition, or those on this side, prepared to leave to a haphazard scheme, or to some sort of local relief, the problem of saving from starvation, even one, two or three per cent, of the citizens- of Australia? Will they make no attempt to provide for them now?
– What about war pensions ?
– Even under the repatriation scheme some soldiers discharged from the Army may find themselves not entitled to a pension of any kind at all. That happened after’ the last war to tens of thousands.
– They should not be discharged until they are all provided for. r-«»’J
– I shall be glad to deal with that subject at a more convenient opportunity. I tell honorable members of the Opposition quite frankly that they will create grave mistrust in the minds of the people if they talk about putting off provision for these urgent post-war problems. They have said that the benefits which we propose cannot be provided for some time, but surely they will not postpone all action until it becomes difficult to do anything.
– Will the Treasurer explain the extraordinary increase of £29,000,000 in his estimate of income taxation receipts? In his financial statement he estimated the revenue from that source for this year as £110,000,000, and to-night he gave it as £139,000,000.
– The honorable member for Gippsland made the figure £132,000,000.
– I took the figures which the Treasurer gave in an earlier speech.
– I am taking the estimate which the Taxation Department gave me as applying to normal circumstances, and am not attempting to deceive the House in any way.
– The estimate is £29,000,000 more than it was a fortnight ago.
– I shall not attempt to analyse the figures at this stage. The honorable member is probably looking at them in a different way from that of the Taxation Department.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. W. M. Nairn.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
There shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, for the purposes of the National Welfare Fund, in each financial year (commencing with the financial year commencing on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and forty-three) the sum of Thirty million pounds, or a sum equal to one-quarter of the amount received in that financial year as income tax from persons other than companies, whichever is the less.
.- I move-
That all the words after “ forty-three ) “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “such sums as are necessary to meet the cost of social services approved by the Parliament “.
The object of this amendment is perfectly clear. The principal complaint of the Opposition against this measure is that it is quite unnecessary and against the practice of this legislature to establish a fund well in advance of the legislative proposals on which the money is to be expended. This is not the time for providing for the rainy day. As I pointed out in my second-reading speech, this is the rainy day. The purpose of the amendment is to limit the amount of the appropriation to the liability of the Treasury under legislation which has been passed. We should not appropriate money to meet expenditure that may be incurred in the sweet by-and-by. The amendment would not limit the power of the Parliament to pass legislation covering any of the categories mentioned during the debate, but it would prevent the unnecessary allocation of funds in advance of their requirement.
, - The Government cannot accept the amendment. I wish to make it quite clear, however, -that I do not consider that the amount proposed to be set aside will be sufficient to meet the full annual cost of a comprehensive social security scheme. That will probably cost very much in excess of £30,000,000 a year.
– I ask the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) whether he considers that clause 5 comes within the scope of section 56 of the Constitution. It is a question, in my mind, whether such a large sum of money may be appropriated in this fashion, having regard to the provisions of the ‘Constitution, seeing thai no specific application of funds is provided for. The appropriation is, in fact, in very general umbrella’ terms.
– The point raised by the honorable member has been considered and the clause is regarded as satisfying the requirement of the Constitution.
– I should like to argue the point at some time, but I shall not do so now.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Sir Frederick Stewart’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the following sub-clause be added to the clause: - “ (2.) For the purposes of this section, the amount received as income tax from persons, other than companies, in any financial year during which the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942 is in operation, shall be deemed to be the total amount so received less Twenty-one million pounds.”
– I ask either the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) or the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to explain the meaning of the amendment. The clause, as printed, provides for the raising of a certain amount of money by devious means. The amendment provides for the raising of a different amount of money by different, but still devious, means. How will these provisions be interpreted? “Will the authorities be guided , by the provisions of the first part of the clause, or by those of the amendment, if it be agreed to, on the ground that it represents the final view of the Parliament?
– The intention is clear. The Government’s legal advisers say that the amendment is necessary in order to make clear the intention that payments into the fund shall amount to £30,000,000 per annum, or one-quarter of the income tax collected from individuals for Commonwealth purposes. The sum of £21,000,000 mentioned in the amendment is the average of State collections of income tax from individuals in the years 1939-40 and 1940-41. The compensation to the States under the uniform tax plan is based on the total income tax collections from both individuals and companies in those two years. After allowing for the increased yield due to higher incomes - which, under the uniform tax plan, accrues to the ‘Commonwealth - and for the proposed increase of £40,000,000 now before the Parliament, it is very roughly estimated that collections on behalf of the Commonwealth in 1943-44 will total about £118,000,000. Accordingly, approximately £29,500,000 will be paid into the fund.
. -Will not the allocations to the States be varied annually according to the circumstances? What will be the position if a State government introduces a tax that it has not imposed in the past? Some time ago, when the Government of New South Wales proposed to introduce a State land tax, I asked in this House what would be the position in relation to the Commonwealth allocation in respect of that State, and I understood the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to reply that it would be reviewed.
– I did not propose to raise any dissent to the amendment, because I understood that its object was merely to correct an omission from the former statements of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). The honorable gentleman intimated in his financial statement that the collections of personal income tax for Commonwealth purposes would total £110,000,000. Apparently, he did not include the collections which the Commonwealth is now making on behalf of theStates. He has now added that amount to his previous estimate, and has therefore been compelled to make this deduction of £21,000,000.
– He has simply deducted from the aggregate sum the £21,000,000 collected for and payable to the States. The remainder is to be divided by four.
– I understand that £21,000,000 of the £33,000,000 to which the States are entitled under the uniform tax legislation - which, for the information of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly), is to continue to operate on the present basis, until twelve months after the termination of the war - represents the return from personal income tax, the remaining £12,000,000 representing the return from company tax. As the amendment simply corrects an omission, I cannot see any reason for opposing it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 verbally amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Customs Act - Proclamation (dated 3rd March, 1943) prohibiting the Exportation (except under certain conditions) of Drugs and Chemicals, viz.: - Citronella; Eucalyptol; Phellandrene ; Piperitone; Terpineol.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Melbourne, Victoria.
National Security Act - National Security (Land Transport) Regulations - Orders - Victoria (Nos.9. 10).
National Security (Man Power) Regulations’ - Order - Regulation of engagement of employees - Exemptions.
National Security (Vegetable Seeds) Regulations - Notice - Returns of vegetable seeds.
National Security (War Damage to Property) Regulations - Orders - Public authorities (4).
House adjourned at 11.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Mr.Curtin. - On the 3rd March, 1943, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked a question, without notice, relating to a brochure entitled Fifty Facts about Britain’s War Effort.
I have ascertained that this booklet was first produced in America in August, 1942, and reprinted in November, 1942, simultaneously with a similar booklet entitled Fifty Facts about India. Most of the material included in it has already been published in Australia in cables from press correspondents, and special review articles contributed from Britain over a period. In addition, most of the material is out of date, and it would require very careful checking in Britain to ensure that a reprint in Australia would contain up-to-date information. The Department of Information has cabled its London representative to ascertain whether a more recent edition of the booklet has been produced and to secure and despatch to the department a parcel of the latest edition available. As soon as it is possible to do so, consideration will be given to the suggestion of the right honorable member regarding the distribution of the brochure in Australia.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Will he infor-m the House, as fully as possible, of details of the fodder conservation schemes decided upon some time ago for New South Wales and Queensland!
– The Commonwealth Government will provide an amount of £160,000 towards the cost of fodder conservation schemes in New South “Wales and Queensland - £100,000 for New South “Wales and £60,000 for Queensland. The State Governments in New South “Wales and Queensland will also find respectively £50,000 and £30,000 for this purpose, making a total of £240,000 available for fodder conservation schemes in these two States. This money will be applied to the conservation of fodder principally on farms. The Commonwealth contribution will be in the nature of advances made available through State instrumentalities and in accordance with principles established by the Fodder Conservation Board and approved by me.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. No responsibility allowance is payable in the Commonwealth Public Service, in the Royal Australian Navy or in the Royal Australian Air Force. Command money is paid to commanding officers of Eis Majesty’s Australian ships and has been in force for many years. Payment of responsibility allowance is made to certain higher graded Army officers within the ranks of major-general, lieutenant-general and general whilst holding defined appointments carrying special responsibility.
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The following replies have been furnished by the Minister for Information: - 1 and 2. These questions are wrongly directed as there are no records in my department to provide any of the information sought.
y. - On the 5th March, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Maturity date -
y. - On the 5th March, 1943, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430309_reps_16_174/>.