16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W.M. Nairn) took the chair at 2.30p.m., and read prayers.
– Three months ago, I directed the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that a number of soldiers were serving sentences in Hobart gaol, and the right honorable gentleman promised that he would take action in the matter. Has he done so ?
– I have taken action, on the submission of the honorable member. I am not sure whether it is capable of being stated to the House at this stage, but I shall have the point determined.
CivilianSuits for Soldiers.
– Has the Minister for the Army issued the instruction that civilian suits shall be supplied to soldiers who have been discharged from the Army? If he has, why is the instruction not being carried out? If he has not, when does he propose to issue it?
– As the proposal affected the three services, it was referred to a services committee, on which the Treasury had a representative. This committee has been considering the matter, and I hope that a decision affecting all the services will be promulgated within the next few days.
Communist Element - National Security Regulations - ‘Prosecutions at Lithgow.
– I ask the Prime Minister the following questions in connexion with the continuance of strikes in the coal->mining industry: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
– Will the Prime Minister make investigations and later report to the House regarding the background and certain activities of the present leaders of the miners’ federation, who were undoubtedly delegated by the
Government to deal with strikes? The right honorable gentleman stated that he has no knowledge of the matter.
– That is not so. I presume that the honorable member refers to Messrs. Wells and Grant being, in effect, members of the Communist party.
– They have Communist views and affiliations, and the Prims Minister stated that he had no knowledge of it.
– I said that I had no knowledge other than that they are officers of the miners’ federation.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to state that the present trouble on the coal-fields is not associated in some way with the internal politics of the miners’ federation?
– I do not know what the honorable member means when he uses the word “ background “ and the phrase “ in some way “. The question may involve such an extensive examination as to be, in all probability, beyond any one’s capacity. The regulations were drafted by agreement at a conference which I had convened. The representatives of the miners’ federation and of the employers attended, and a code was formulated. My part in the formulation of the code was merely to act as chairman of the conference. The code was drawn up by those who have had the longest experience of the industry, and they were eager to overcome what has been not a recent but a historical problem in the coal-mining industry, not only in Australia but also throughout the world. The regulations made it clear that no strike commenced without the authority of the Coal-miners Federation, as a union, would be covered by them. The Government did implement that code; I have explained its origin. It was formulated by men with a much wider knowledge of the industry than the honorable member for Deakin or I possess and an agreement has been reached to provide Australia with coal. Whatever may be said about the men, honorable members should not overlook the fact that last year they provided for Australia more coal than has ever before been mined in our history.
– :That is no answer. They should have done that.
– I know that they should. If the honorable member for Deakin did not have a coal dispute every second day, he would be almost gravelled for matter in this Parliament.
– Did the Prime Minister state in May last that, stand or fall by the issue, the Government would invoke all its authority to compel the coal-miners to work? Were National Security Regulations issued, making it a punishable offence for miners to participate in any stoppage not authorized by the district executive of the miners federation? In view of the fact that 28 mines are idle to-day, has the Prime Minister taken any action towards compelling the men to return to work?
– The answer to the first and second parts of the honorable gentleman’s question is “ Yes “ ; and to the third part, that ‘legal proceedings are pending.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether, when 22 coal-miners were prosecuted at the Lithgow police court, officers of the Crown Law Department objected to their being represented, and that, when the magistrate upheld the objection, 21 out of the 22 walked out of the court? Does the right honorable gentleman .regard it as right that officers of his department should take exception to the miners being represented by a person who is not a member of the legal fraternity? Does the right honorable gentleman think that the Crown Law officers took the objection in order that the miners should be compelled -to pay high fees to a member of the legal fraternity? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that all the coal-miners in the western district of New South Wales are likely to stop work on Monday as the result of the attitude of those officers ?
– I know that the magistrate in the Lithgow police court refused to allow the men to be represented by a person who was not legally entitled to appear for them. He is Mr. Jamieson, the secretary of the union. He usually appears on behalf of miners who are being prosecuted in the police court. I. cannot believe that officers of the Crown Law Department objected to his appearing on behalf of those men.
– Counsel for the department objected.
– I shall inquire into the whole matter. Whatever mistake was made, or whatever lack of wisdom may have been shown in not allowing Mr. Jamieson to appear, I think that it would be quite wrong to allow that to lead to a general stoppage in the whole western rnining district.
– I agree.
– Mr. Jamieson has always been given the right to speak on behalf of the miners, in court proceedings, even though he is not technically qualified to appear. The facts will be ascertained.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral say whether it is true, as was stated yesterday in the Senate, that more tb an 200 workers had been prosecuted for absenteeism? Can he say whether any employers or executives were among those prosecuted? If there were not, is this to be taken as an indication that there is no absenteeism among members of that class?
– I understand that the statement made in the Senate referred to the coal-mining industry only. The actual number proceeded against and fined was 278. In addition, there were a few cases in which managers were proceeded against for breaches of custom or for breaches of coal-mining regulations.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that a good deal of the trouble occurring in the coal mining industry to-day is due to pinpricking tactics by the owners? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that some men who desired to lead the miners back went into the mine an hour before the others arrived? Is it a fact, that these men suffered a deduction of from oneeighth to one-sixteenth of their shift pay because the other men did not arrive on time? Does not the right honorable gentleman consider that criticism should be levelled at the mine-owners? If he is not prepared to criticize the mine-owners, will he inform me when it is intended to apply the Labour party’s policy for the nationalization of the coal-mining industry - a policy which has already been put into operation in Great Britain and New Zealand?
-I said yesterday that a certain amount of irritation appeared to be constant in this industry. I am not aware of the extent of it, and I do not know who are culpable. I do know, however, that influences are at work which are inexplicable on the ordinary basis of industrial grievances. There is mystery about the business which calls for some examination.
– Some of the mine-owners are Fascists.
– And some of the miners are traitors.
– They are not.
– The Government does not regard the nationalization of the coalmining industry as indispensable to the conduct of the war. What is required for the conduct of the war is coal. The Government is concerned to ensure that the conditions under which coal can be obtained are reasonable and just. That is all that is involved. I had hoped that the code would have enabled justice to be done to the workers. I believe that every facility is available for grievances to be examined and adjudicated upon impartially. I hold no brief for the coalowners. Throughout the years they have managed their business in their own interests. The basic fact at the moment is that we are at war.
– Apparently, some of the owners do not think so.
– That may be so. I have no desire, from my place in this House, to lecture people as to their duty in time of war. I am not a great puritan myself, but I hope that I have a sense of the fitness of things. While we are calling upon men to fight and die for us we who stay at home should be prepared to work.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– One side is fighting this war; it is the working class.
-Has the Prime Minister read the report published in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day, of evidence given by the executives of three large shipbuilding concerns in the United
States of America before the Senate Committee which is investigating the war programme, in which they declared that too much emphasis had been placed on absenteeism as a factor in slowing down production, and that, asked to disclose and pass on their secrets for obtaining record outputs, all declared that there were no secrets and no magic; success had followed close attention to the problems of the morale of the personnel ? Will the right honorable gentleman order an inquiry into the methods that are employed in those industries, in order to ascertain whether or not some of them may be followed in Australia in connexion withproduction, absenteeism, and industrial trouble generally, before extreme punitive measures are taken.
– I have not read the report referred to. It appears to me to be a very sensible contribution to the subject, and I shall have it considered. I have only to say that, where the Government has devised industrial machinery for the prevention of disputes, it should be put in operation. Where the Government has invoked the law as a means of preventing organized stoppages of work, those who have engaged in them have left to it no alternative.
Mr.CONELAN.- Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that a large firm doing essential war work has looked out 200 employees? Has the Minister any details regarding the incident, and what steps does he propose to take to ensure that the firm shall re-open its works ?
– I have received advice that operations at one establishment have been held up because of a dispute. I have also been advised that the men have been locked out. The dispute has been ordered into court, and will be heard to-morrow.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement reported to have been made by Judge O’Mara in the Arbitration Court this week that, on urgent ship repairs, only a few men were at work on Monday, but there had been a full complement of workers on Saturday and Sunday, when the work was being done at penalty rates? In view of the fact that this amounts to profiteering by the exaction of high week-end rates of pay so that workers may be absent during the week, will the Prime Minister consider the adoption of a staggered working week so that employees may take their rest on different days during the week ?
– I understand that there was a shortage of labour for this work on a given day, and that, through the exertions of the Minister for Labour and National Service, that shortage has been made good. It sounds bad that there should be a stoppage of work of this kind, and I desire to make it clear that I regard such stoppages as opposed- to the national interest. However, I owe it to the men concerned to say that the work which they have done on the repairing of ships has been, for speed and efficiency, as good as that done by any other body of men in the world. I cannot reveal the full facts here, though I am prepared to disclose them to any one with a right to know. I can say, however, that the work done on the repair of ships in Australia has represented a magnificent achievement, as has been acknowledged by those who are most concerned in the matter.
– What about staggering the working week ?
– I shall consider that.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that there is a serious shortage of milk, amounting to 15,000 gallons daily, in the City of Sydney, and that it is intended to introduce rationing next week? In view of the fact that milk is a basic food, particularly for children, will the Minister take steps to have more men released from the Army to work in the dairying industry so that the shortage of milk may be made up? Has he seen the statement of his Director-General, as published in this morning’s newspapers, that, since the Man Power Regulations have been in operation, there has been no shortage of labour in rural industries? Does that statement apply to the dairying industry?
– I have seen the newspaper reports regarding a shortage of milk in the City of Sydney, but I do not know to what degree it is due to a” shortage of labour or to seasonal conditions. However, I shall have inquiries made. Numerous requests are made for the release of men from the armed forces, and strangely enough, many of them come from those who have spoken and voted in favour of sending many mors men into the forces. I point out that men cannot be on the farms and in the Army at the same time. However, if the shortage of milk is due to man-power difficulties in the dairying industry, I shall do whatever I can to have the position remedied.
Leave for Workers at Tennant Creek - Appointment or DIRECTORGENERAL
– I hold in my hand several telegrams from men employed by the Allied Works Council at Tennant Creek, alleging that, in breach of an agreement, the council has deprived them of six weeks’ leave. Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior inquire into the matter, and, if possible, make a statement upon it to-day?
– I shall place the matter before the Minister for the Interior, and ask him to make immediate inquiries and inform the honorable gentleman of the results.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, and by way of preface I propose to read six telegrams which I have received.
– Not six.
– Other honorable members are allowed to read telegrams, so why not I?
– One telegram, but not six.
– Then I shall read the first telegram. It is as follows: -
Five hundred men disgusted with Allied Works Council’s breach of leave agreement instructed by men to protest strongly against their decision would appreciate your interest in this matter.
Here is the next one-
– The honorable member may give the substance of the remaining five telegrams.
– The signatories of the remaining five are: W. P. Smith, honorary secretary, Bond Camp, Tennant Creek; J. Booth, honorary secretary, Eunson Camp, Tennant Creek ; C. Ryan, honorary secretary, Harvey C.R.B. Camp, Tennant Creek; A. Fulton, honorary secretary, Evans Camp, Tennant Creek; and L. Thomas, honorary secretary, Puddon Camp, Tennant Creek. As I have been requested to “ bovrilize “ the contents of the remaining five telegrams, I may say that they all tell the same story of meetings of protest having been held at the camps because the men are disaffected owing to the decision of the Allied Works Council to withhold the leave which had been promised to them under an agreement. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether he will have an immediate inquiry made into the causes of this discontent, and if it be found that there is any reason for the feelings entertained by the men, will he take steps to prevent the spread of disaffection by seeing that the promise made to the men is honoured ?
– I do not believe that it has been broken.
– These men say that it has.
– We shall find out about that. The honorable member fathers complaints in this House about which he knows nothing. If he had brought this matter to me I would have settled it in. a quarter of an hour.
– If I have to accept either the word of the Prime Minister or the word of the men in this case, I accept the men’s version.
– I shall ask the Minister for the Interior to make inquiries.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the appointment of Mr. E. G. Theodore as Director-General of Allied Works has never been notified in the Commonwealth Gazette? If that is the case, does the right honorable gentleman consider that orders for which
Mr. Theodore has been responsible as DirectorGeneral of Allied Works are illegal?
– The Director-General of Allied Works was appointed by the Government. I signed the requisite authority. I am not aware of the existence of any doubts of the powers of that gentleman in relation to his office. Should there be any doubt, I shall have the matter investigated. I do not know whether a mistake has been made in that some document has not been published. I take this opportunity to say publicly what I think ought to be known. On a certain occasion, when reviewing the necessity for having large-scale works carried out in circumstances of unprecedented urgency, at a date close to the beginning of last year, I came to the conclusion that it was necessary to have in charge of such works a man of outstanding drive and capacity. I asked Mr. Theodore over the telephone one Sunday morning whether he would accept the office of DirectorGeneral of Allied Works. It took him only five minutes to make up his mind; he said that he would undertake the duty, and asked when he could see me. He said that he would be in Canberra on the following Tuesday, if that would suit me. When he arrived on Tuesday, we had a long talk, which covered all aspects of the work which he would have to do, and we completed our arrangements regarding the matter. Then he said: “Now we shall get ahead “ and walked to the door. I said : “ Just a moment. We must have some discussion about salary and allowances.” Mr. Theodore said that he desired no salary - that he would be glad to do this work for Australia. In regard to expenses, I finally put him on the same scale as applies to Ministers of State.
Builders’ Labourers - Bunnerong Power Station
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any information to give to the House concerning a report in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day that every Allied Works Council job in Sydney would be idle to-day if 5,000 builders’ labourers earned out union instructions to cease work? Has the Minister also any information concerning the decision of the members of the Municipal Employees Union at Bunnerong power station to refuse to work this morning if a leading hand continued in his position? If these men are on strike to-day, what action does the Minister propose to take to put an end to these hold-ups ?
– I did receive advice from the Builders Labourers’ Union that its members intended to cease work on various projects. I am not aware’ whether that threat has been carried out; but the industrial officer of the Department of Labour and National Service has been instructed to investigate the matter. I shall inform the honorable member of the result of that investigation as’ soon as it is available. I understand that certain workers have ceased work at the Bunnerong power house. I am awaiting a report which I urgently called for from Sydney regarding the position. I shall give it to the House as soon as it is available.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that an Australian winner of the Victoria Cross in the last war recently walked the streets of country towns begging for food? In view of the fact that that man found himself in financial difficulties, chiefly as the result of impaired health, will the Minister for the Army take action to ensure that such an indignity shall not be suffered by men who have rendered meritorious service in war by introducing a system of pensions for winners- of the Victoria Cross in the last war and in this war ?
– I am not aware of the matter to which the honorable member has referred. We all have the greatest sympathy for winners of the Victoria Cross- and all soldiers who distinguish themselves in warfare and suffer privations in later years. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Repatriation and the Treasurer.
– Jewellers in all States, except Queensland, who have in their possession the necessary gold and diamonds have been granted permission to manufacture engagement rings. Why has the Minister for War Organization of Industry discriminated against jewellers in Queensland?
– I shall have an investigation made, and as soon as possible supply the information the honoru bie member requires.
– Will the Minister for the Army obtain a report on the recent serious defalcations of Army pay in Sydney, setting out the amount involved and the circumstances?
– I have the information in my office. I shall make a statement to furnish the honorable gentleman with the information he desires.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. It has come to my notice that on the 4th February the Melbourne Age published an alleged report, of a speech made by me as follows: -
The history of this country waa that every Prime -Minister who had gone abroad had become, not a better Australian, but was prepared to compromise the interests of this nation in some way or other.
What I really said on that occasion was as follows: -
The honorable member for Richmond suggested that the Prime Minister should go to England. I am opposed to any Prime Minister leaving Australia during his term of office.
– There would have been no Casablanca conference if other countries bad adopted that policy.
– There may have been good reasons why the British Prime Minister and the American President should meet at Casablanca, but I am afraid that the history of this country proves that with few exceptions every Prime Minister who has left these shores has come back not a stronger Australian, but rather as one prepared to compromise, the interests of this nation in some way or other. T believe that Australian Prime Ministers should stay in Australia during their terms of office.
– That was put ;n. We said. “What about the right honorable member for Yarra (M.r. Scullin)?”
– The report of my speech was not corrected in any way. Only a low mind would believe that anything like that would be done. If the honorable member refers to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter he will learn that there was no alteration at all of the original proof of Hansard. I make this explanation, because that newspaper report may cause hurt to the feelings of the right honorable member for Yarra, whom I do not desire to criticize in the slightest way. He is one of the few Australian Prime Ministers who have gone abroad and have not come back tainted.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Commonwealth Public Service generally will be paid on the 2nd April next for the working period ending the 31st March? Is it true that the Government intends to apply the tax deductions provided for in the new income tax to the payments of salary made to public servants on the 2nd April? If so, will the Treasurer ensure that the spirit of the Income Tax Bill shall be respected and that tax instalments shall not be deducted from salaries paid on the 2nd April ? The new income tax will apply only from the 1st April and the salaries to be paid on the 2nd April will have no application to work performed in April.
– I shall examine the matter raised by the honorable member and furnish a reply as quickly as possible.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service instruct his departmental officers to investigate the supply of firewood for domestic and mining purposes at Kalgoorlie and in other mining districts? If the fears of the people be well founded, will he provide the necessary man-power so that the reserve stocks of firewood may be replenished without delay and thus avoid the trying conditions to which people were subjected at Kalgoorlie and elsewhere last winter?
– Following upon representations made previously by the honorable member, inquiries are being made into the position, and, as far as practicable, the necessary man-power will be provided for the purpose of relieving the very urgent situation.
– To-day I received from the road board in my home town a questionnaire entitled “ Commonwealth Post-war Housing Policy “. Will the responsible Minister inform me who has authorized this census? Is the work being undertaken on a Commonwealthwide basis, and have the local governing authorities in all States been called upon to provide at their own expense their limited man-power to take the census?
– I have no knowledge of the matter, but I shall examine it. I cannot imagine that the Commonwealth Department of Post-war Reconstruction is taking this action.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether the man-power authorities are calling up for military service youths in their second year at the Teachers Training College? If so, does he not consider that this action will detrimentally affect not only the youths who are now completing their education, but also the education of the children?. The shortage of school-teachers is acute in Vew South Wales, because many of them have already enlisted for military service.
– I shall obtain a report from the Director-General of Man Power, and then reply to the honorable member.
– I have no knowledge of the individual case to which the honorable member referred, but I shall ascertain the facts. As regards general policy, the man-power authorities, in making the fullest possible use of available manpower, have power of direction over not only farmers but also every other section of the community. Where the department considers that it is necessary to transfer labour from one section of primary industry to another in order to make the fullest use of man-power, that policy is pursued. It would be wrong to say that the department has no regard to the circumstances of any individual farmer. That matter would be taken into consideration in order to ensure that no property was left unattended; but it will be agreed that in carrying out the policy, the decision of the department, and not the decision of the individual, must prevail. No individual, whether a farmer or any one else, may decide where his services are of most use. That is a matter for the department. If the honorable member is able to cite other cases of hardship inflicted on individuals, I shall inquire into them because it is neither the intention nor the desire of the department to cause unnecessary hardship to any section of the community.
– I have received a. letter from the Batman Women’s Organizing Committee in relation to the making of adequate supplies of brandy available in small, quantities for medical use. Will the Minister for Supply and ‘Shipping give an assurance that adequate supplies in small quantities will be made available for this purpose?
– This subject is dealt with by the Department of Trade and Customs. I have no detailed information available at the moment, but I understand that the procedure adopted is such as to release brandy in lots not suitable for those who require small quantities. I realize that the subject needs immediate attention. I shall examine the formula of the department and, if I feel that it needs amending in order to ensure that brandy shall be made available in suitably small quantities, I shall take step3 to that end.
Impressment of Crane
– Following upon representations made to me concerning the impressment of a certain machine, the property of a contractor in Sydney, who was carrying out work of major importance for the Department of the Army, I ask the Minister for Munitions whether it is a fact that although an impressment notice in relation to this machine was dated the 24th February, the impressment officers arrived at the works of the firm concerned on the 23rd February, broke open the gates, and entered the yards, and then broke open the workshops, disconnected the electrical wires, and dismantled this implement in order to take it away to another part of the city? Has the Minister been informed that because of breakages which occurred, particularly of a pinion which shows a fresh clean break, work has been held up, and the war. effort has suffered accordingly?
– The impressment order in this instance was signed by Mr. Thorpe, the Director of Machine Tools, on the 18th February, and was executed on the 23rd or 24th February; so the honorable member is in error in relation to dates. His information is incorrect also in other respects. A 3-ton crane was impressed because of what was regarded as an urgent need of another undertaking with a very high order of priority. Certain circumstances associated with the impressment made me consider that it was desirable that the crane should be returned to its original owners. I have instructed experts to investigate the allegation that a pinion “was broken and I am awaiting their report. When I receive it I shall give to the honorable member some further information,
– In view of the approach of winter, I ask the Minister for Home Security whether, before the Parliament goes into recess, he will review the brownout regulations in detail in order to ascertain whether some modification cannot be effected in certain areas?
– The brown-out regulations have been reviewed on five occasions since they first became operative. Certain modifications ‘have been made quite recently. The brownout is a part of the general defence programme of the Commonwealth, and the Government accepts advice upon it from those charged with the responsibility of providing for the defence of the nation. I am quite prepared to have another. look at the matter ; but in view of the fact that only two or three weeks have elapsed since a review was made and a decision was come to, I do not consider that any good purpose would be served by a further review at the present time.
Debate resumed from the 17th February (vide page 820), on motion by Mr. Frost -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- When the members of our fighting forces had been returned from the previous war, the sick and wounded suffered many disappointments, irritations and injustices which I hope will not be repeated after the termination of the present conflict, because, during the last 28 or 29 years, we have had experience of the operation of repatriation legislation. I appreciate that no Parliament can pass legislation dealing with repatriation which will satisfy or meet with the approval of all. In the final analysis, the Repatriation Commission and its officers, the Appeal Tribunals, and the like, must be left to import into their administration the fullest sympathy with and consideration for the difficulties of the soldiers. If that be done, the wishes of this Parliament will be observed. Lacking a sympathetic approach, whatever effort this Parliament may make cannot meet with that degree of success which is so desirable if the treatment of our returned men is to be commensurate with the services they have rendered to the nation. It is the duty of the Repatriation Commission to assist in every way the members of our fighting forces and their dependants, in order that they may receive the pension to which they are justly entitled, without being subjected to irritation or friction. Its function is to give the maximum, not the minimum, assistance. I believe that that has been and is being done, and I hope that it will continue to be done. Having regard to the terrible conditions and extreme privations to which soldiers are subjected in modern warfare, COm.pletely upsetting and unsettling many of them, as well as undermining their nervous system, it is the duty of the commission to assist again and again until the recipient has readjusted himself to civil conditions and has been completely restored to normality. Adequate sustenance should be paid until the soldier has been properly repatriated. After the last war, many wild statements were made as to the sustenance having demoralized those who had returned from overseas. Yet, in spite of the many strikes and droughts which disorganized industry, and trade and commerce generally, the average amount paid to soldiers by way of sustenance was only £8 5s. a head, and the average period during which sustenance was paid was only three weeks. That the old “ digger “ was able to settle down so well, reflects the utmost credit on him.
The measure we are now considering was drafted according to the recommendations of a joint committee of this Parliament, composed of members on both sides of the House and of the Senate. I was a member of the committee. In its present form, it embraces only twothirds of those recommendations, approximately one-third of them having been rejected by the Government.
– That is not true.
– Some of the recommendations were rejected by the Government; no action was taken in respect of them. even though the bill has been subjected to the scrutiny of an interdepartmental committee, the Repatriation Commission, and, I am advised, the War Cabinet, a sub-committee of Cabinet, and the full Cabinet. When the Parliament reassembled recently, the Parliamentary ex-Servicemen’s Committee carried a resolution in support of the whole of the recommendations of the joint parliamentary committee. That resolution was quickly followed by the Government’s acceptance of the other recommendations. Without it, we would not now have had the whole of the recommendations before us. The findings of the joint parliamentary committee were unanimous. When it began it3 task, it realized immediately that four major problems required determination before it could undertake a detailed examination of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and regulations. I regard those four major problems as: First, the basis of eligibility; secondly, the rate of pensions generally ; thirdly, a special pension increase for widows and orphans; and, fourthly, a form of special assistance for tubercular soldiers. Examining eligibility, the committee learned immediately that there wore widely varying conditions of service. First, there were the members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force serving overseas; then, the members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force serving in Australia ; followed by the Militia serving in Australia and in theatres of war such as Darwin and New Guinea, the members of the Volunteer Defence Corps, the members of Garrison battalions, the Royal Australian Air Force - which is required to serve anywhere - and finally, the Navy, which also serves everywhere. Superimposed upon the problem of servicemen, was the question of what should be done in connexion with servicewomen - the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service, the Australian Women’s Army Service, the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force, the Voluntary Aid Detachment, the Royal Australian Navy Nursing Service, the Australian Army Nursing Service, and the Royal Australian Air Force
Nursing Service. Honorable members will realize the difficult nature of the problem when they consider the different functions which those various organizations have to perform, the areas in which they serve, and the ways in which they are enlisted or attested. The committee decided that the provision for men or women who served outside Australia should be the same as that in respect of the last war, namely, incapacity or death or” “ occurrence “ during the member’s service, from the date of enlistment to the date of the termination of service.
When Japan entered the war, the committee was impelled to regard the whole area of the Commonwealth as a potential theatre of war. It had to envisage, as far as it could, the complications likely to arise out of the operations of the three services. For those members who serve outside Australia, we recommended that incapacity or death resulting from an occurrence during the ‘ period of the member’s service should constitute a qualification. For those who serve within Australia, we believe that the basis of “ directly attributable “ is reasonable in that it assures to the member and his dependants full cover for any disability due to service, while not committing the Commonwealth to liability for compensation for disabilities which would have arisen irrespective of service. It does not, however, cover the member or his dependants in the case of incapacity or death arising from happenings which would not have occurred, or might not have occurred, had the member not enlisted, such as accidents while on leave, or even accidents on duty, the primary cause of which was a disability - for instance, heart failure - not itself due to the member’s service-
In the ca.se of members who serve during the present war within Australia only, or in any of the territories of Australia, the Commonwealth shall be liable for compensation in respect of incapacity or death attributable to a man’s employment as a member of the forces. It was recommended by the committee that the word “ directly “ should be omitted so as to make the compensation liability attributable to the member’s employment.
The phrase, “ attributable to his employment”, should be regarded as including incapacity or death -
We recommend that the new basis be applicable, not only to future cases, but also to any where the claimant has not been successful under the present basis, whether rejected by a board, the commission or entitlement appeal tribunal. If upon re-application, the claim is granted, arrears of pension not exceeding six months should be granted. The situation has been altered since we made those recommendations. The Militia is now required to serve in a specifically defined area of the South-West Pacific. I feel certain that, as a consequence of that decision, very few members of the Militia who are physically fit for service outside Australia will fail to come under the “ occurrence “ provision which applies to the Australian Imperial Force, and to other organizations serving beyond Australia.
The question of attributability caused much discussion and some conflict among soldiers’ organizations and individual soldiers, but the point has, I think, been covered by the committee’s recommendations. Another point in debate was the onusof proof. Under the law as it previously stood, the onus of proof rested upon the applicant, but now, in all applications for pensions, the onus rests on the Repatriation Commission to prove that the disability is not due to war service. That was the recommendation of the committee, and I am pleased to say that the Government has accepted it. Previously, the applicant had to establish at least a prima facie case. Dealing with this matter, the report of the committee, paragraph 49, states -
Section 45aw of the Act provides to the effect that where an appellant to the Entitlement Appeal Tribunal shall make out a prima facie case in support of a claim that the incapacity from which a member is suffering or has died was caused or aggravated by war service, the onus of proof that such incapacity was not, in fact, so caused or aggravated shall He with the Commission.
Paragraph 50 of the report contains the following passage: -
A similar provision applies in respect of death caused by accident after discharge, where it is claimed that war incapacity contributed to a material degree to the death.
In the following paragraph, the committee points out -
Sited where it is - section 45w -it applies only to cases of appeals to the Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. The Committee recommends that the principle should apply in respect of all claims and appeals which come before the Commission in the future and that such a provision be inserted in section 39a of the Act.
– But the onus of proof is still on the claimant.
– The claimant has only toaver that his incapacity is due to war service, and the onus is on the commission to prove otherwise.
– I am afraid that that is not so.
– The Government has accepted the recommendation of the committee in this respect, and if the honorable member can show that the recommendation is not properly embodied in the bill, I shall be. happy to co-operate with him in placing the matter beyond doubt. The committee also considered the proper rate of pension. Evidence was heard and, after full consideration, the committee recommended an all-round increase of 20 per cent. We believe that members of the best fighting force should receive the best pension, and we recommended accordingly. The Federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and the federal executive of the Blind Soldiers Association indicated that the difference between the basic year and 1942 was approximately 18 per cent. No organization of returned soldiers recommended any particular percentage.
M.r. Pollard. - The Victorian branch recommended an increase of more than 20 per cent.
– It did not stipulate any specific increase. All returned soldiers’ organizations were invited to give evidence before the committee, and those which could not appear were invited to submit evidence in writing. Many of them did so, but none recommended an increase of more than 20 per cent.
– When did the committee invite these submissions?
– During the course of the inquiry. I have not before me copies of all the letters issued on behalf of the committee, but we began the inquiry late in June, and signed the report on the 7th September. The invitations were issued to organizations during that period.
– The honorable member for Ballarat said that those letters were sent out in October.
– No; I said that they were sent out between June and September.
– That is exactly what I said. We began the inquiry in June, and the report was signed on the 7th September, and it was during that period that the requests were made. But that is not vital. Our investigation showed -
– The cost of living has risen tremendously since then.
– Not tremendously-
– It has increased since then.
– But no figures are available. We must work on figures. The Parliamentary Ex-servicemen’s Committee, after being addressed by several representatives of returned soldier organizations, by a very substantial majority endorsed the Joint Parliamentary Committee’s recommendation of a general increase of pensions by 20 per cent. The cost of living figures to the 31st December, 1942, the latest figures available, show an increase to 23 per cent., an increase of 2.3 per cent, since the committee signed its report in September last - six months ago. There is, unfortunately, a drift towards inflation, to put it mildly. This is being brought about by what the Government is doing, and by what it is leaving undone to ensure stability in our economic position. Accordingly, I suggest to the Government that the Returned Soldiers. Joint Parliamentary Committee be appointed a parliamentary standing committee to watch the effect of the war on pensions and repatriation, including employment and vocational training, to ensure that all abnormalities shall be brought under the notice of the Government, thus enabling it early to bring down amending legislation to adjust any changing position.
– -We will agree to do that.
– I am glad of that. That should ensure the amount of pension of soldiers having a uniform purchasing standard, and that there shall not be any lag if the cost of living should rise. The committee is now thoroughly conversant with the Repatriation Act and regulations.. Its report was fully accepted by the Government and returned soldiers’ organizations. An examination of the details of service payments in respect of a wife and three children and the present rates of war pension in respect of a widow and three children shows a shocking disadvantage to the widow and her children. The family income of the woman with three children whose husband is on war service is £5 ls. 6d. a week, whilst the family income for the widow and her children is only £3 7s. a week - a difference of £1 14s. 6d. That was one of the biggest anomalies found in the old act, and it was being borne by the section least able to bear it. The payments respectively are as follows: -
The committee noted that if the rate for the widow was increased to £2 10s. a week the total of the war pension would be £3 15s. a week. This is £1 6s. 6d. a week less than service payments, and the question was: what should be the increase of children’s rates of war pension in order to lessen the difference? If they were to be 12s. 6d. a week each, this would give a total of £4 7s. 6d. a week for the family, which the committee considered a more adequate amount than the one at present received by a widow with three children. The committee, therefore, recommended a flat rate of 32s. 6d. a week for each child of a deceased member. Education allowances are also payable in respect of such children as from, the age of thirteen years. These represent’ an increase of 25 per cent, for the widow and 663 per cent, for the orphan.
In moving the second reading of this bill the Minister for Repatriation said that the combined allowances for a widow and three children would be -
Medical benefits are also available to widows and children. I am still not satisfied that this pension for a widow and her children is adequate. It really amounts to a widow and her three children receiving £4 7s. 6d. a week r as against £5 ls. 6d. when her husband was alive and on service - a difference of 14s. I think this should be made up. It is difficult for a widow with children to improve her financial position. Had her husband not made the supreme sacrifice but returned home and entered civil life, he most certainly would have been able to improve the family income. The 10s. for child endowment mentioned in the Minister’s speech should also be added to the figure of £5 ls. 6d. family income while the soldier was on service making the total £5 lis. 6d. I appeal to the Minister to agree to increase by 34s. a week the income of a widow with three children.
– Does that mean an increase of 50 per cent?
– No. A soldier who returns from active service and resumes bis civil occupation will almost certainly earn more than £5 ls. 6d. a week. Where, unfortunately, a widow with three children has to carry on without the breadwinner, she has no chance of augmenting the family income. My request is most reasonable, and, if adopted, will materially improve the bill.
I shall now deal with pensions for tubercular soldiers. The Federated Tubercular Sailors and Soldiers “Association contended that where a soldier had had campaign service abroad and later developed tuberculosis, insufficient recognition was given to the incidence of such service in the eventual onset of the disease. The association claimed that a period of mental and physical stress and strain was the predisposing factor of causation of the development of the disease. Important medical testimony was submitted to the committee on behalf of the Federated Tubercular Sailors and Soldiers Association. The authorities are D. A. Stewart, M.A., LL.D., and E. L. Kos3, M.D., two prominent medical officers in Canada, and they dealt with 100 consecutive histories of men aged 35 years and over. Their opinion, which was published in the Medical Journal of Canada, stated, inter alia -
From’ first symptom or incident now recognizable to diagnosis the duration of the disease seemed as follows : -
The history and progress of tuberculosis up to the time of definite diagnosis cannot bc u matter of circumstantial evidence based on significant incidents and sequences that lead up to known, observable, measurable, provable disease.
After spending half a lifetime in reconstruction the tuberculosis life histories of thousands of ordinary people from significant incidents, chains of events, family and contact and personal histories, general physical make-up, known present progress toward better or worse, and from the almost geological strata of X-ray films, and having had corroboration in thousands of cases by after events, we have no difficulty in having such reconstruction accepted as essentially correct by experienced groups of physicians, and no objection raised to making these the bases for varying treatment and prognosis. But it is difficult to get such presumption accepted, or the way they are arrived at appreciated, by the assessors in tribunals, lay or medical, who have little or’ no experience of the ways of tuberculosis, except the slants and smatterings their work bus given them.
It was with the idea of showing how little there is that is “ factual “ or provable by court standards in 100 cases of advanced tuberculosis that this series was studied, and at the same time to show how broadly based and essentially correct presumptions of duration can be.
Accepting that medical opinion, the committee endeavoured to resolve a doubt which still remains as to whether certain cases which had been rejected should have been accepted, and to remove any uncertainty as to the position of claimants in future. The committee recommended that an applicant should be examined by a special medical board, sitting in each State, the personnel to include leading specialists in pulmonary tuberculosis. In addition, the committee recommended that if a claimant’s application were successful, he should be granted six months’ arrears of pension. Unfortunately, the Government did not at first accept that recommendation, though later it had a change of heart after the Parliamentary ex-Servicemen’s Committee Lad stressed the acceptance of this recommendation at a deputation to the Prime Minister. In the meantime, I committed myself to move in committee an amendment to the effect that all tubercular soldiers, who have served in a theatre of war, shall be granted a pension. I shall persevere with that amendment.
Never in previous wars have so many women taken such an active part as they are doing in the present struggle. In the war 1914-18 there was only the Women’s Nursing Service. But in this war, there are the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force, Australian Women’s Army Service, Royal Australian Navy Nursing Service, Australian Army Nursing Service and the Voluntary Aid Detachment. I pay tribute to their wonderful work; their efforts enable thousands of men to be released for more active duties. I should like the Minister to answer the following question: A married woman with three children joins the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force, and is wounded or meets with an accident. The tribunal awards her a 40 per cent, pension. Will the Minister inform me whether the three children will receive a 40 per cent, pension? Then again, her husband is a soldier who, on being wounded or invalided from New Guinea, is granted, a 50 per cent, pension. Do the three children receive a 50 per cent. pension, and does the mother receive a 50 per cent, pension on the basis of the pension awarded to the male member of the family? Further, the widowed mother of the wife and the widowed mother of the husband are wholly dependent for their support upon their children. Is each widowed mother entitled to a pension, and, if so, what will the rate be?
What is the position in relation to de facto wives? If this soldier who has been granted a 50 per cent. pension has made an allotment to his wife, and also has a de facto wife with a child, what will be the total amount of pension payable in respect of him and all his dependants ? In addition, what is the total pension paid to his wife? I direct attention to this point because in previous wars it can scarcely have happened that a man and his wife have both served in the forces.
– The honorable gentleman is asking a lot of questions. I propose to answer them all together.
– I now intend to deal with war neurosis. Increasing numbers of men are returning from overseas, or from advanced battle stations, suffering, perhaps in addition to obvious war disabilities, from war neurosis. Neurotic illness in soldiers is a cause of serious wastage of man-power in the field; it is damaging to future efficiency in civil life, and it frequently leads to prolonged post-war disability. Modern warfare imposes an exceedingly heavy strain on the nerves of those in the active theatres of war. The stress and strain of presentday war, especially the bombing which civilians and fighting men alike have to suffer, will set up, in certain individuals, defence reactions, fears, anxieties, and general mental instability which, when prolonged, or of frequent occurrence, may make life difficult or impossible. Treatment by psychological methods will do much to restore the patient to efficiency as a soldier or, when he is discharged, to normal civilian life as an efficient member of society.
The Government should engage Australia’s leading psychologists to help in treatment of cases of war neurosis. The co-operation of the medical officers concerned with the treatment of physical illness or injury is urgent. Psychologists could give real assistance in purely mental cases or in cases where mental symptoms are apparent. Acute neurosis can usually be cured quickly, and the treatment of it should be immediate. Psychologists say that the prevention and treatment of acute neurosis should be the responsibility of the regimental medical officers; but, undoubtedly, company and battalion officers may assist by looking out for men who have become jumpy or who suffer from insomnia, or show other signs of nervous strain. They should see that such men are made comfortable, housed as well as possible, and given the opportunity of frequent baths. The genuine grievances of such men should be redressed without delay. The Army is adding hundreds of thousands of pounds to our pensions bill, and is contributing to the illness of tens of thousands of men in our fighting forces, by its indifference to the. granting of regular leave and to the arranging of changes of environment for soldiers. Very many of the soldiers who are suffering from neurosis have been shown, on examination, to have been without leave for a very long period. I shall give a few typical examples that have come to my notice - neurosis.
Example 1. - Sergeant - Two years Darwin without leave; described as simply stale.
Example 2. - Sergeant - Torres Strait for 22 months in the Army; no leave; became listless during the day and would not concentrate; he says he broke down and cried; described as a case of fatigue; overwork and overstrain ina debilitating climate.
Example 3. - Corporal - Twenty-one months in ‘New Guinea; not affected by raids at the time but felt shaky afterwards; nervousness began after twelve months at New Guinea.
Example 4. - Private - Sixteen months at Thursday Island; no leave; very hard work and lung hours.
Example 5. - Gunner - At Moresby, Thursday Island and Horn Island; no leave, no letup; had a breakdown after a severe bombing.
The repatriation expenditure of the country has undoubtedly been greatly increased because leave has not been granted as regularly as practicable to soldiers at advanced battle stations. This lack of leave has seriously increased the incapacity of many soldiers. It will be of no use for the Minister for the Army to reply that regulations have been issued under which men are granted leave. What is necessary is that the honorable gentleman shall assure himself that his instructions are being observed, particularly in relation to men serving in New Guinea. Wherever practicable men in advanced areas, particularly New Guinea, should be granted leave every six months. “We need to devote a great deal more attention than hitherto to the treatment of men suffering from war neurosis. The urgency of this subject has not been properly realized. Undoubtedly the recovery of many men has been retarded because proper attention has not been given to the effects of war neurosis upon them. In this connexion I direct the attention of the Minister to the following passage which appears on page 17 of a newly issued report of a committee of the Society of Returned Medical Officers of Queensland entitled Helping the Incapacitated Soldier: -
Some ex-servicemen suffer from varying degrees and types of nervous disorders, from which they will not recover without adequate expert treatment.
It is necessary to stress the need for immediate specialised treatment for many exservicemen,. They need the best, and nothing but the best will suffice. Our medical and repatriation man-power must be combed in order to find the right men.
Such aspects may seem self-evident to many, hut we are still faced with the type of mind which thinks that four walls, a roof, and expensive fittings constitute a hospital, or that u cottage and a matron is a rest home. The truth is that buildings without adequate expert staff may be not merely useless but harmful, whereas magnificent work might be done by a surgeon in a bani or by a skilled repatriationist in a slit trench.
Severe neuroses need special care and attention. Treatment must go hand in hand with occupation, and such treatment involves much skill, time, and patience. These are only pOSsessed by men trained in the work. We would not think it fair to put a wardful of fractures under the care of a doctor with little orthopaedic training, but that is what is continually being done with our neurotics. These cases must be cared for on modern psychological lines by full-time medical officers with psychiatric experience. One of the main difficulties to be faced is the small proportion of doctors whose personalities seem to be suited for this work. Very careful selection should be made of the right types, and their training should bc put in hand at once.
Another important aspect of repatriation to which much more attention must l>e given is the settlement of returned men on the land and, particularly, the rapid replacement of demobilized farmers on properties which they worked before their enlistment. Every returned man with agricultural experience should be assisted to re-establish himself in his rural occupation as quickly as possible after his discharge. The present arrangements designed to achieve this end are hopelessly inadequate. In support of this statement I refer to the circumstances of a farmer who enlisted from the Darling Downs district. He arranged some years ago for his property to be worked by a sharefarmer. After he left Australia the sharefarmer left the property. I understand that he, too, joined up. The farmer found on his return to Australia that his stock had gone and his machinery and plant had been practically destroyed. He had no prospect of bringing the property back into production unless substantial financial aid was afforded him. After the share-farmer left the property, the relatives of the owner endeavoured to make other arrangements for the management of it, but they did not succeed. The owner applied to the Repatriation Department for a grant of £250 to restock his property, repair his fences, and recondition his plant and machinery. He was told that no funds were available for that purpose. The committee of returned soldier members of this Parliament who made recommendations to the Government on this bill did not report upon this subject because another committee was dealing with it. Two factors have to be kept in mind in relation to the settlement of returned men on the land. There should be a general policy under which large estates may be acquired and subdivided ; but there should also be a subsidiary policy under which special financial grants may be made immediately to enable farmers discharged from the forces to restore their properties, without delay, to full productive capacity. No general policy in this regard has yet been evolved. This makes it all the more necessary that funds shall be made available immediately to enable experienced agriculturalists to resume productive operations as soon as they are discharged.
– It is essential that good land shall be purchased.
– No doubt the special committee to which I have just referred will report on that subject. I hope that the tragic failures in respect of soldier land settlement which followed the last war will not be repeated on this occasion. We should ensure that the membership of the central committee and also of the local advisory committees which will deal with soldier land settlement will include soldiers who were settled on the land after the last war.
– Where is comparable legislative provision made with respect to members of the Mercantile Marine and their dependants?
– I understand that separate legislative provision along similar lines has been made for the Mercantile Marine, who are doing an extraordinarily good job.
I direct attention to the urgent need for the granting by the Government of preference in employment to returned soldiers. The joint parliamentary committee recommended that it be public policy that, wherever practicable, preference in the matter of employment must be given to members of the forces. I consider that ‘ that means preference without qualification. In support of the recommendation, I quote the following extract from the valuable evidence given to the committee by Lieutenant-Colonel R. D. Madgwick, M.Ec, Ph.D., Director of Education and Vocational Training in the Department of the Army : -
We have taken men out of their normal civil employments and have changed them fundamentally. We have removed the motive that would actuate them in their civil life. We have taken from them all striving to gain a livelihood. Shortly, we have changed them; they are different social beings. In the course of that process of change we have put them into an environment in which they cannot get a full appreciation of the changes that are occurring in the economic and social structure. . . They have new interests, which occupy the greater part of their time, and do not know what is taking place in the environment in which they formerly lived. At the same time, that environment itself is changing very rapidly. Australia is now going in for secondary industry. We are producing process workers, or men and women with a degree of skill rather greater than that of a process worker, in our munitions training schemes, dilutee schemes, &c. Those men who are skilled tradesmen or process -workers have two major advantages over men ir6 the Army. In the first place, they are maintaining and increasing their skill ; and in the second place they are working in a changing economy, and are understanding the changes by reason of their participation in them. The man in the Army is losing his skill and’ is not being given the training that is being given to the ordinary civilian population. Therefore, when he returns to civil life he will have lost a good deal of the skill that he formerly possessed and will certainly not have been trained for all of those new trades that developed during the war. That seems to me to be the great argument in favour of a full-dress vocational training scheme after the war, in which the eligibility of training as far as Army personnel are concerned will need to be extremely wide, otherwise, they will be penalized in two ways - by having been removed from their environment, causing change to themselves, and because those not in the Army will have had all the advantages of training that they needed in order to ensure an effective war effort. My attitude towards eligibility for training after the war is that all men in the Army, of whatever category they may be, both for their own sake and for the sake of Australia’s economy, must be given a degree of skill and training at least equal to that given during the war to civilians: otherwise no preference or anything else will be of the slightest value; because these men will be unskilled and untrained and will npt be able to take their places in the post-war economy. They will bo competing with men and women who arc skilled. Even if they are trained to at least the point reached by the civilian during the war, they will still be at a big disadvantage.
I accept the word of Lieutenant-Colonel Madgwick. Because of what he says, and because I believe that the members of our fighting forces will be at a distinct disadvantage compared with those who have remained in Australia, I urge the Government to apply at once the principle of preference in employment to returned soldiers. I strongly condemn delay. As we are in the fourth year of war, the policy should be readily adopted.
I stress the need for the consolidation of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. I do not know of any other act which is so topsy-turvy. I direct attention to section 45, which illustrates the hopelessness of attempting to trace particular provisions. Amendments already made provide for sub-sections 45a to 45z; then they continue from 45a a to 45a g, and further in 45a ga and from 45a / to 45a w. Many of the sections are subdivided numerically to the fifth number. These are further subdivided in small letters of the alphabet, after which figures are again used. This practice does not conduce to simplification. The act deals with the liberties of the people. It sets out the benefits of repatriation to which the soldier and his relatives are entitled. Not even my learned friend, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), would approve of such a tangled arrangement. It is hopeless for the soldiers to follow what is intended by this section. I hope thatthe Minister will lose no time in consolidating the act.
My final point is in connexion with repatriation. The joint parliamentary committee presented two reports, one of which dealt with pensions and the other with the rehabilitation of the soldier, including the provision of employment and vocational training. There is very little in this measure which deals with employment and vocational training. Evidently the Minister intends to cover those matters by meaus of regulations.
– That is so. The matter is now being investigated.
– I wish the Minister to consider certain points when he is drafting the regulations. The joint parliamentary committee recommended that the Government should have certain definite objectives in regard to the repatriation and vocational training of the soldier. The matter is to be referred for further examination to a committee presided over by Mr. Norman Mighell. I protest against the delay, and seek from the Minister the assurance that there will be no departure from the basic principles laid down by the joint parliamentary committee. I quote them briefly in order to refresh his memory -
The Committee considers that training should be availablenot only for the classes eligible in 1918, viz., those incapacitated by war service to the extent of being unable to follow their pre-war occupations, and those who enlisted at an early age, but also for the following classes: -
I wish the Minister particularly to pay attention to those phases and to see that there is no departure from what is recommended. The committee believed that there are special circumstances in this war, and that the young men who show adaptability should be given an opportunity to improve their positions in life; that they should not necessarily be restored to their former employment. Examples were cited to the committee of men who had held the most menial positions in life and, by dint of very good service, had risen to the position of commander of a battalion. I suggest that the commander of abattalion should not be regarded as having been repatriated merely because he has gone back to his former menial employment after discharge from the Army. He should be given every opportunity to establish himself in a position commensurate with the ability which he has shown while in the service. Those men who show that they have the ability to complete a course of training should be afforded facilities for doing so. Those whose pre-war occupations were not skilled, or who were skilled in certain occupations now less in demand, and who have shown aptitude for other occupations, should be afforded an opportunity to qualify for them.
The final and unanimous recommendation of the committee was that these courses of training should be available to all men who,at the time of their enlistment, were under 23 years of age. It was shown during the depression how serious was the effect upon young men when they missed the opportunity to acquireskill in some calling. Many were unable to secure apprenticeship. I also ask the Minister to give an assurance that when Mr. Mighell’s report is received, it will be submitted to this House for consideration. The committee also recommendedthat the expenses of successful applicants before atribunal should be defrayed by the commission. [Extension of time granted.] A soldier seeking a pension cannot go before a tribunal or a committee a second time unless he can produce fresh relevant evidence. If it be a medical problem, he can obtain fresh evidence only by consulting a medical officer, a. pathologist or some other specialist. If he goes to the expense of obtaining this evidence, he should be recouped by the commission if his application is successful.
– Why should that not be done in the case of any application that is not frivolous?
– I am trying to obtain some tangible benefit for these men. If I ask for too much I may not get anything. What I am now asking for was recommended by the parliamentary committee, and also by the Parliamentary ex-Servicemen’s Committee of this House. The request was placed before the Prime Minister and the Minister for Repatriation, and was rejected. I now ask them to reconsider it. It. is the only major recommendation of the committee which has not been accepted.
I take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the valuable work rendered to the committee by the Clerk of the House, Mr. Green, as secretary, and foy Mr. Hooks, of the Repatriation Department, as assistant secretary. I have served on a number of committees, and I understand the work which a secretary has to do, but the secretarial work connected with this committee was colossal. It was necessary to go through a volume of regulations as big as the family Bible, and also to examine the repatriation legislation of New Zealand and Canada. The officers worked the clock round day after day. I suggest that their services should be appropriately recognized by the Public Service Board. The members of the Repatriation Commission also rendered invaluable assistance. They were very sympathetic, and were anxious that we should present a model report, and that a model bill should be drawn up on the basis of that report.
.-This hill is concrete evidence that the Government has at heart the welfare of members of the forces who served in this war and in the last. Although the Government has been in office for a comparatively short time, it has prepared and brought down this measure which represents a marked step forward. Whilst it does not cover ali the ground that I should like it to, it certainly represents a great improvement on existing legislation. I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who suggested that a committee should be set up to consolidate repatriation legislation, which is such a hopeless hotch-potch that even the honorable member for Warringah (Mir. Spender), who is a King’s Counsel, could not possibly understand it. For instance, one section in the act goes through the alphabet three times, the final sub-section being labelled AAZ Section 23 of the 1940 act, which repeals previous legislation, defines a member of the f orces as one who served “in the present war”. Those words were taken out of the previous act, but their effect, if literally interpreted, would be to exclude from repatriation benefits all the old “ diggers “ of the last war. The repatriation laws should be made simple and easy to understand. At the present time, returned men do not know what their rights are under the law. Even when a decision is given by a tribunal, it does not state its reasons, so that applicants are often left fretting under a sense of injustice. The rights of old-age and invalid pensioners are clearly set out in a booklet published by the Pensions Department. A similar booklet should be published by the Repatriation Commission explaining the rights of returned soldiers under the Repatriation Act.
I also commend the work of the joint parliamentary committee which inquired into this subject, and presented recommendations upon which this bill is largely based. I join with the honorable member for Moreton in congratulating the officers attached to the committee upon the excellent work they performed, involving as it did a great amount of research. I regret that the deliberations of the committee were not open and that it did not take oral evidence.
– If it had it would have been still sitting.
– I do not know about that. I and other honorable members desired to substantiate in oral examination the material we submitted in writing to the committee. If the committee had taken evidence in public, honorable members who desired to give evidence could have done so, and, thereby, much of the time that will be taken up by this debate would have been saved. I am glad that the Government has decided, to make provision for the appointment of a standing committee to deal with various aspects of repatriation which may crop up from time to time. That committee ought to be able to make recommendations which would be of value to the Parliament in the same way as the Standing Committee on Broadcasting is doing good work in its sphere. As the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), in moving the second reading of this bill, said -
The subject presents many problems, and although, by means of this bill, the Government is endeavouring to resolve them, it is inevitable us the war progresses, or even if peace is declared to-morrow, that we will be faced with problems which are not foreseen in the present bill.
The late Mr. G. A. Street, who, as Minister for Repatriation, introduced the amendment which was made to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act in 1940, expressed the view that the problems of repatriation would be resolved largely by trial and error, and that only experience would reveal in what way the bill then under consideration would fall short of requirements. I think that the standing committee will minimize the process of trials and errors, whereas, if we allowed the present position to continue, possibly we should have to wait for years for legislation to cope with anomalies.
Many other matters associated with repatriation are not coveredby this bill, although some of them have been dealt with by the committee in its report. Some of them were referred to by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). One is vocational training. The honorable member referred to the following extract from the report of the committee : -
On the other hand there are good reasons on this occasion for extending training to a greater percentage of members. The reasons are well set out in evidence before the committee by Lieutenant-Colonel R. B. Madgwick, M.Ec, Ph.D., Director of Education and Vocational Training in the Department of the Army, as follows: - “ We have taken men out of their normal civil employments and have changed them fundamentally. We have removed the motive that would actuate them in their civil life . . . The man in the Army is losing his skill and is not being given the training that is being given to the ordinary civilian population. Therefore, when he returns to civil life he will have lost a good deal of the skill that he formerly possessed and will certainly not have been trained for all of those new trades that developed duringthe war.
The committee considers that training should be available not only for the classes eligible in 1918, viz., those incapacitated by war service to the extent of being unable to follow their pre-war occupations, and those who enlisted at on early age,but also for the following classes : - (a)Those who have commenced a course of instruction under a service scheme of education or training, with a view to improving their earning capacity, and have shown that they have the ability to complete the course.
Those whose occupations pre-war were not of a skilled character, or who were skilled in certain directions now less in demand, and who have shown aptitude for and are otherwise deserving of training for other occupations.
As regards those enlisted at an early age, the condition last time was that the member enlisted while under twenty years of age. The committee considers the condition should be enl isted at the age of 22 years or under “.
I wholeheartedly agree with that advice, and I hope that the proposed standing committee will make further recommendations in respect of this matter. The honorable member for Moreton also referred to the after-care of returned soldiers, and he mentioned the report of a committee of theSociety of Returned Medical Officers of Queensland, entitled, Helping the Incapacitated Soldiers, the main points of which were -
We believe -
That the present arrangements for dealing with incapacitated soldiers do not best promote their future welfare, because -
There is an insufficient realization of the part which psychology plays in disabilities and their treatment.
There is room for improvement in administration.
) Army medical personnel needs more instruction in the treatment of nervous disorders.
We donot train our people in the ideals of citizenship.
That men should be discharged from the Army as soon as it is evident that they will not again become efficient soldiers.
That in many cases the mere granting of a pension is shelving official responsibility, Far more attention should be given to rehabilitation.
The Repatriation Commission, with its years of experience, is the logical body to deal with the problem of the ex-serviceman.
Treatment, education, and, wherever possible, part or full-time work should proceed concurrently.
Nervousness for most ex-servicemen may be regarded as a normal state, from which they will soon recover in their civil occupation.
Some ex-servicemen suffer from varying degrees and types of nervous disorders, from which they will not recover without adequate expert treatment.
Decentralization is desirable.
Rebuilding social background is of vital importance for the success of any plans for repatriation of rehabilitation.
I, therefore, hope that the Government will give full consideration to the aftercare of returned soldiers and the application of more modern methods of dealing with them, particularly those suffering from neurosis.
– The Repatriation Department has recently issued a booklet describing the benefits given to returned soldiers.
– Yes, but the Minister for Repatriation will admit that medical science has brought to light since the last war more modern methods of handling neurosis. Psychological treatment is all right up to a point, but there are other ways of nursing neurotic ‘ soldiers back to health and a normal state of life. That is why I hope that the standing committee will inquire into the question of establishing hostels for returned soldiers. I think that, after the war, instead of ordering the destruction of the military camps that have been erected all over the country at a cost of millions of pounds, the Government should ensure that some of them shall be transferred from their present sites, if they are not suitable, to other suitable sites where they could be used under the control of the Repatriation Department as hostels at which returned men would be restored to health. Fresh air, sunshine and recreation may do wonders, whilst drugs may be totally ineffective in the treatment of returned men.
I also hope that the committee will recommend the establishment of a housing scheme for returned soldiers on more up-to-date lines than was the scheme operated by the War Service Homes Commission. That commission did good work in placing men in their own homes, but, in the light of experience, a much better scheme could be worked out, and brought into operation. It could be financed on better terms with a lower rate of interest than applied in the previous scheme, in order that returned soldiers may have a reasonable prospect of soon becoming absolute owners of their homes, instead of finding after fifteen or twenty years, as was the case after the last war, that, although large sums had been paid, most of the money had gone to meet interest and rates and that the principal remained about the same.
As I said during the debate on the second reading of the bill to establish a mortgage bank, I hope that money will be made available at low rates of interestto enable the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. But I do not think that men should be placed on the land without their first having had proper training on farms conducted for that purpose by the Repatriation Commission. Moreover, I declare that soldiers should not be placed as they were placed after the last war, on arid lands which will soon bring them to financial ruin. The soldiers should be given the best land in the country. I hope that the committee will direct its attention to all these matters. -
I hope that after this war there will not be a repetition of what occurred after the last war when men walked the streets looking for -jobs. Provision should be made for the payment to all returned soldiers of an adequate living allowance until such time as suitable employment has been found for them..
One other matter to which I hope the standing committee will direct its attention is the payment of an adequate war gratuity to returned soldiers. After the last war, the Commonwealth Government granted a substantial war gratuity to returned soldiers, and the payment was most acceptable to them. I hope that, when this war concludes, the granting of a gratuity will not become a political football, with one party vieing with the other in an endeavour to secure the support of returned soldiers. The special parliamentary committee which reported upon the act consists of members of all parties, and the Prime Minister expressed the hope that repatriation would be kept out of the arena of party politics. I hope that the committee will recommend to the Government the payment of an adequate war gratuity to returned soldiers, based upon their period of service. If this matter be attended to promptly, the troops will know, while they are still fighting, that some measure of financial security is being provided for their benefit on their return. This money will enable some of them to pay a deposit on a house, or to purchase land. Many people working in war industries are receiving high wages compared with what is paid to the soldiers. Whilst I do not begrudge munitions workers and cooks employed by the Allied Works Council adequate remuneration for their labour, the fact remains that many people who are not in the fighting services are doing well out of the war. If a reasonable gratuity be granted, soldiers will be placed approximately on equality with those who have remained in industry. I trust that the committee will continue to carry out its good work under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard).
Although I shall not analyse the bill, I desire to indicate several important reforms that it introduces. I refer particularly to the granting of pension rights and other benefits to the women members of the services. They are playing a most important part in this war. Having examined their claims, the committee recommended that they shall be granted pension rights. Benefits will be extended to members of the home forces also. The committee devoted careful attention to the claims of returned soldiers from the last war who had developed tuberculosis, but had not been granted a pension. The committee made certain recommendations on their behalf, and the Government has adopted them. According to later medical opinion, it appears that many of these men have been done an injustice, but the bill will rectify it.
Allowances will be paid to the dependants of sufferers from venereal disease, and medical treatment will be provided for disabled servicemen. Those are valuable reforms. Free treatment should be ultimately afforded to all members of the fighting services and their dependants, irrespective of whether their disability was due to war service. Such a scheme, if introduced, would be a prelude to a national health scheme, which the Government is contemplating, and a forerunner, of the “ new order “ for which the soldiers are fighting. Gifts will be made to disabled servicemen to enable them to purchase furniture, whilst loans will be granted to ex-business men to enable them to rehabilitate themselves. These benefits will be most acceptable to men. who lost their businesses as the result of enlisting in the fighting services.
The bill will also correct various anomalies in the repatriation legislations, particularly with regard to what is known as “ the onus of proof “. The new provision will overcome much of the difficulty that has arisen in the past. The onus will now rest with the Repatriation Commission, medical authorities, the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, and the War Pensions Assessment Tribunal. Although existing legislation places the onus of proof upon the tribunal, the provision did not work, in practice, as Parliament intended that it should. The bill will clarify the position.
– What difference does the honorable member think that the bill will make?
– If the intention of Parliament be given effect, the bill will make a great difference. Provision will also be made for the promulgation of regulations governing the procedure of tribunals. I hope that the regulations will provide for the hearing of cases in open court, if the applicant so desires. I see no reason why that should not be done, because it would be an additional precaution against injustice. Justice thrives in the light of day, but is sometimes withered when proceedings are heard in camera.
The Government also proposes to establish, for the benefit of the fighting services, a legal aid bureau. Such an office now exists in Sydney for the purpose of giving legal advice to soldiers and their dependants on matters of law affecting their rights, and thousands of cases have been satisfactorily dealt with. It is only fair that this legal service should be extended to returned soldiers and their dependants when they desire to claim a pension.
The committee has made certain recommendations regarding the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, [n view of the vast amount of work which this body now carries out, the committee, in order to facilitate the hearing of appeals, recommended the establishment of a tribunal in each State. Although the Government has not seen fit to adopt that recommendation, I believe that regulations will be gazetted to provide that, from time to time, additional assessment tribunals may be appointed. The War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal should be made the final court of appeal. At present, its jurisdiction is limited. It is not empowered to dea! with matters when the commission has rejected claims on certain grounds. That is wrong. This tribunal should be the final court of appeal, even on matters of assessment.
The committee recommended that repatriation pensions shall be increased by 20 per cent., but did not set out the grounds for its recommendation. The Minister stated that since the original act was passed, the cost of living has increased by 12 per cent., but the returned soldiers’ Organizations in New South Wales claim that the cost of living has risen by 47 per cent., and that soldiers’ pay has increased by 42 per cent, since the last war. There is doubt about the degree to which the cost of living has increased.
– The Commonwealth Statistician should be the authority on the subject.
– There is undoubtedly a difference of opinion on this subject. The cost-of-living index figures show that the increase has been only 12 per cent., but a different basis of calculation shows an increase of as much as 40 per cent. Steps should be taken to clarify the position without delay. If the increase has been greater than is officially conceded, the rate of pension should be substantially increased. At the moment, we must accept the recommendation of the committee, but I hope that it will give further consideration to the subject. If it later recommends a greater increase, the Government should adopt its recommendation.
We need a new approach to the subject of pensions and allowances for members of the fighting services. Conditions which may have been satisfactory at the time of the last war are not satisfactory now. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) mentioned the case of an Australian Victoria Cross winner who was walking about a country town begging for food. Surely we could do better than that for our war heroes. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that repatriation payments have been greater proportionately in Australia than in either Great Britain or Canada. It may be that a greater proportion of our fighting men were disabled in the last war. We know that Australians are second to none as fighting men. They were regarded as shock troops during the last war, and they are so regarded in this war.
– That is probably the . explanation.
– Of the eleven Victoria Crosses awarded to Australians in this war, eight have been awarded posthumously. We have been informed also that in both wars 63 Victoria Crosses have been awarded to Australians, which is one-tenth of the total awarded, although Australians constitute only one-twentieth of the allied fighting personnel. That indicates, probably, a disproportionate disablement of our fighting men. I know from personal contacts that many decorated Australians, including Victoria Cross winners, were placed in an invidious position after the last war in consequence of their economic circumstances. I was surprised to learn recently from the Minister for the Army that our Victoria Cross winners receive an annuity of only £10. That provision has been in operation since the last war. The allowance should be increased. We should do more than we have done in the past for mcn who win decorations on the field of battle. I believe that the country could afford to be more generous. We have been told that our pensions bill totals £7,000,000 per annum. Even if the figure were increased to £20,000,000, or £30,000,000, the country could afford to meet it. We are paying £55,000,000 a year in interest to bondholders. If we can afford so much for the people who provide the money for war purposes, surely we should be able to find an equal amount for the men and women who engage in the actual war operations, and incur enormous risks.
I wish to say a few words about the administration of our repatriation legislation. The proposal of the Government to increase the number of commissioners from three to five is commendable, but, in view of the fact that so many women are now in the fighting services, I hope that provision will be made in the bill for the appointment of at least one woman member to the commission. There should be on that body a woman who has a wide experience of family responsibilities, can form a sound judgment of the adequacy of pensions to meet family obligations, and knows the special problems of our womenfolk. As our pensions will be increased, it is only proper that the commission should be enlarged. A “ more generous attitude should be adopted towards persons who are not entitled to full pensions. The grant of a pension of a few shillings a week is not of much help to persons who are partly incapacitated. I disagree with the present practice of accepting, in the first instance, the incapacity assessment of the Army Discharge Board. Although there is a medical officer from the Repatriation Department on .that body, I am quite satisfied that he has no adequate means of determining, by mere examination of the Army files, the degree of incapacity of applicants for pensions. We were informed some little time ago that Dr. Kesteven, who is required to examine -workers for a certain purpose, dealt with 300 cases in eight hours. Obviously, the examinations must have been completely inadequate. We should not tolerate anything of that kind in connexion with the examination of applicants for war pensions. An applicant for an invalid pension has to be certified as totally and permanently incapacitated before he can obtain the pension. Yet, according to the Minister, many such men have been accepted by Army doctors in the present war. The honorable gentleman has said that the complaints are undiscoverable. I cannot conceive how any medical man who knew his job could pass such men. Others who have been passed have suffered from epilepsy, and have even been inmates of mental hospitals. There are also old “ diggers “ of the last war, suffering from heart trouble. Those who are passed must be certified as Al for active service, not B class or C class. Yet men who have been accepted by the Army authorities as good enough to .fight for their country have been denied a pension when unfit for further service. This indicates that there is something radically wrong with the medical examination. Many of the medical experts have been working on an entirely wrong basis. I quote the following passage from a work by Dr. Alexis Carrel, a world-famed physician and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago : -
Our ignorance is profound. Most of the questions put to themselves by those who study human beings remain without answer. Immense regions of our inner world are still unknown. We know that we are a compound of tissues, organs, fluids and consciousness. But the relations between consciousness and cerebrum are still a mystery. We lack almost entirely a knowledge of the .physiology of nervous cells. To what extent does will-power modify the organism? In what manner can the organic and mental characteristics, which each individual inherits, be changed by the mode of life, the chemical substances contained in food, the climate and the physiological and moral disciplines.
We are very far from knowing what relations exist between skeletons, muscles, and mental and spiritual activities. We aTe ignorant of the factors that bring about nervous equilibrium and resistance to fatigue and to diseases. We do not know how moral sense, judgment and audacity could be augmented.
The sound body lives in silence. We do not boar, we do not feel, its working. The rhythms of our existence are expressed by certain esthesic impressions which, like the soft whirring of a 10-cylinder motor, fill the depths of our consciousness when we are in silence and meditation. The harmony of organic functions gives a feeling of peace When an organ begins to deteriorate, this peace may be disturbed. Pain is a signal of distress. Many people, although they are not ill, are not in the best of good health.
Dealing with disease, he said -
Disease consists of a functional and structional disorder. Its aspects are as numerous as our organic activities. There are diseases of the stomach, of the heart, and of the nervous system. But in illness the body preserves the same unity as in health. It is sick as a whole. No disturbance remains strictly confined to a single organ. Physicians have been led to consider each disease as a specialty by the old anatomical conception of the human being. Only those who know man both in his parts and in his entirety, simultaneously under his anatomical, physiological and mental aspects, are capable of understanding him when he is sick.
Many medical men divide the body into watertight compartments, analyse the various complaints of a returned soldier, and rule that certain complaints are due to war service and others are not. According to Dr. Carrel, all are interrelated; a person cannot be sick in one part of his body without the remainder of his system also being affected. I asked a medical friend, a returned soldier of the last war, to analyse a case brought up in this House some little time ago by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) - that of a pensioner in receipt of a pension of 12s. 6d. a week. He was suffering from neurasthenia, urticaria, injury to right leg, fractured nose, right femoral hernia and right inguinal hernia - which, according to the medical authorities, were pensionable - and from neuritis of the right arm, defective vision, glycosuria, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis and spondylitis - which were nonpensionable. My medical friend said - lt is difficult for me to turn these words into simple terms.
Diseases are described in Latin, which a layman cannot understand. He went on to say -
As you say the condition should be studied “ as a whole “. When one part of the body is sick, so is the rest.
I would suggest the following analysis as possible linking up of the whole: -
Lowering of ‘bodily resistance used to bring on bronchitis during the last war in France - practically all soldiers had it. made worse, of course, by war gases, climatic conditions, &c, this in turn would lead to fibrosis ( 1 ) , fibrous thickening of the lungs due to lowered resistance to bacterial diseases, and again in sequence to coughing, which would lead to increased pressure in the lung air sacs which loose their elasticity and become chronically extended and dilated (emphysema) (2). Again continuous coughing would increase the pressure in abdominal cavity and combined with physical strain would lead to formation of both types of hernia (3) (4). The existence of spondylitis (5) (rheumatism of the spine), neurasthenia (nervous exhaustion) (6), urticaria-skin eruption due to absorption of poisons possibly from the respiratory or lung condition (7), neuritis of the right arm (8), glycosura (sugar in the urine) (9), could lie explained by poisonous absorption from the lungs plus malnutrition and possibly an hereditary constitutional defect in the case of glycosuria, unless this latter had developed of later years and been due to poisonous absorption. His injuries (II) (12) of course are self-evident. Regarding it from our aforementioned standpoint, i.e., “ as a whole “, one would think the soldier was pensionable on all issues and also totally incapacitated. It is regrettable I have not more exact data in order to be more specific and concise.
That, I submit, indicates that there is something radically wrong with the medical examinations that are made, and the basis on which pensions are determined.
I hope that the committee will delve more deeply in order to ascertain the root cause; also, that the Government will consider the desirability of providing^ for an appeal to the Entitlement Tribunal on all issues. The Minister has no jurisdiction. Many honorable members have brought forward cases of apparent injustice, to which the Minister has replied that a decision in respect of them had been given by the Entitlement Tribunal or the Assessment Tribunal and that he had no power to deal further with the matter. No obstacle should be placed in the way of an applicant receiving complete justice. This could be achieved by the provision that there shall exist the right of appeal to the Entitlement Tribunal in all oases, including those in which it is claimed that the assessment has been wrongly based. I direct the attention of the committee to the anomalous decisions that have been given, and the paltry pensions that are still being granted, to the great discontent of the pensioners. I have had telegrams and letters from branches in my electorate of the returned soldiers’ organization, and from municipal councils, directing attention to this matter. The bill does not go far enough, in merely granting an all-round increase of 20 per cent. The position could be improved by an examination of the principles on which the pensions are granted and by taking steps to rectify anomalies.
– This bill, which is to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1940, is of the greatest importance. I congratulate the Minister (Mr. Frost’ on his introduction of it, and upon his speech, which covered in an admirably judicial manner the questions, many and important, which arise in connexion with the matter. As we are in the- fourth year of the war, and the Government has been in office for nearly a year and a half, we must assume that the bill expresses its mature policy. In preparing the bill the Government was not - as was the Government in the last warleft to sail uncharted seas. It had to guide it the principal act, which had been on the statute-book for over 23 years - a period sufficiently long to prove its worth or reveal its inherent defects. And, further, the Government had the benefit of the advice of a joint parliamentary committee of returned soldier members of this Parliament who, after thoroughly investigating the problem, and hearing evidence from the executive members of the various returned soldier organizations, and the official heads of the Repatriation Commission, made practical recommendations to the Minister, ail save one of which have been, accepted ; but they do not affect the major principles of the repatriation scheme established by the principal act.
We must, therefore, assume that this measure expresses the Government’s deliberate policy, and that the Minister and his colleagues are satisfied that its provisions guarantee to members of the fighting forces - and to their dependants that just and generous treatment which the valour and sacrifice of our fighting men so richly deserve. That, in these circumstances, this measure embodying the Government’s deliberate policy accepts, not only the underlying principles and genera] design of the principal act, but also, save for taking power to increase the number of commissioners from three to five, its administrative machinery also, is a striking tribute to the repatriation scheme inaugurated hy my Government. For 23 years the scheme has been in operation, having been amended from time to time by subsequent non-Labour governments - in some of which I had the honour to serve. I am the last to contend that it is perfect ; but it has worked, on the whole, so smoothly, so justly, and so generously, that the Labour Government has adopted it, and the Minister has said that it will bear comparison with that of any country in the world.
The bill, as I have said, amends the principal act, ‘ but before dealing with the amendments, and with the problem of repatriation generally, I desire to reply to some of the baseless charges levelled against the governments responsible for the repatriation of the soldiers after the 1914-18 war. I single out two of the most recent and least defensible. On the 23rd October, 1942, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is reported by the Melbourne 4.ge to have said -
The Government wants to prevent the repetition of the broken promises of 1918-19 when the soldiers and the people had ‘been let down by the Government .after victory had been won.
Speaking at the Caulfield Town Hall, on the 28th October, 1942, the AttorneyGeneral, according to the Melbourne Age, stressed - [Tie duty of Australia, not only to ensure that the forces were supported to the utmost in the war, but to see to it that they were not again forgotten after the peace.
I take the strongest possible exception to criticism which is very obviously political propaganda.
The bill itself, and the Minister’s speech on the second reading, are in themselves a. complete answer to these reckless and baseless charges; but I feel, as the man who led the people during the 1914-18 war, that a more specific reply is called for. The Attorney-General speaks of “ broken promises “, of “ forgotten men “, of “ having let the soldiers and people down after victory had ‘been gained “. Charges more utterly baseless could not be made. Let me repeat the promises ! made to the soldiers and to the people, and set against these what was, and is still, being done, to fulfil them in the spirit as well as in the letter, so that the House and the country may judge for themselves whether the charges made by the Attorney-General that the soldiers and the people were let down, the promises made broken, and the soldiers forgotten, are true or false.
My promises were clearly set out in my policy speech of 1911’, when I said -
We owe to those who have borne the brunt of battle more than the nation can ever adequately repay. . . . They went forth to do their duty to Australia. Australia must be equally ready to do its duty by them. We owe to ourselves as a nation that the accidents of war shall not entirely rob our soldiers of their efficiency as citizens, nor add one tittle to their burdens in individuals. . . . The widows and dependants of those who have fallen will be provided for. The unemployable will be generously pensioned, and the maimed will be settled in occupations for which they are fitted. The Commonwealth Government takes full responsibility for the welfare of returned soldiers.
Those were the promises I made. Let me now turn to what has been done by way of fulfilment of those promises. The work of caring for the soldiers had, of course, begun long before the war ended. But the problems of repatriation were not only vast, complex, and urgent, but also novel. In its efforts to deal with them, the Government was without guidance. The conditions created by the war were without precedent, not only in Australia, but throughout the world.
Notwithstanding this, a system of repatriation was evolved which was functioning efficiently at the close of hostilities, and less than nine months after the signing of the Treaty of Peace, my late colleague, Senator E. D. Millen, when introducing the principal act which established the commission, was able to give the Parliament an impressive account of its achievements, which, amplified by the first report of the commission, will enable the House and the country to judge whether it is true that promises had been broken, soldiers forgotten, and the people and soldiers let down after victory had been won.
Here is what had been done by June, 1921, to fulfil the promises I had made: 263,531 soldiers, including many wounded, had been brought back safely to Australia - this was a monumental job, necessitating the obtaining of great numbers of vessels at a time when shipping was very scarce, and involving the expenditure of many millions of pounds; 138,964 soldiers had been placed in civil employment - sustenance of £2 2s. for a single man, £3 7s. 6d. for a married man, wife and child, was being paid to the 1,682 still on the waiting list ; 222,537 soldiers and their dependants had been granted ordinary pensions ; 535 soldiers had been granted special pensions; £6,915,444 had been expended on pensions for the year ended the 30th June, 1921; £832,771 had been advanced to municipalities for wages of soldiers employed on public works; 12,697 soldiers had been trained under the Commonwealth vocational training scheme, and 1S,260 soldiers were undergoing training; £3,258,652 had been spent on this training, of which £2,363,810 was for sustenance to the trainees; £934,000 had been made available by way of loans and gifts to buy furniture to 30,000 soldiers and their dependants; £304,436 was given to assist soldiers into small businesses, £373,436 to help soldiers to buy tools of trade and plant, and 359,082 applications by soldiers and their dependants for all these and other types of assistance had been approved; £32,811 per annum had been paid to 1,028 soldiers and dependants for living allowances to supplement pensions; and £461,124 had been spent for passages to Australia for 6,547 wives and children of soldiers.
Under the education scheme 801 soldiers’ children had been enrolled, 3,453 homes had been bought for soldiers, and 1,294) mortgages on homes had been lifted; 152 homes had been built, 1,255 homes were being erected, 681 contracts had been let for homes, 3,703 tenders had been called for building homes, and land had been bought on which to erect 7,243 homes.
On medical treatment an amount of £1,007,935 had been expended, and 4,148 soldiers were receiving treatment in nine hospitals operated by the commission. The commission also operated convalescent hospitals, Anzac farms and Anzac hostels for totally and permanently incapacitated and “ arrested “ tubercular soldiers; 2,298 artificial limbs had been made in five factories controlled by the commission, and 5,664 repairs effected to artificial limbs.
Under the land settlement scheme £26,677,578 had been advanced by the Commonwealth to the States and 24,399 soldiers had been settled on the land by June, 19’21.
And lastly, £29,000,000 had been paid as a war gratuity to soldiers and dependants of deceased soldiers.
Here is a record that puts to shame the Attorney-General’s reckless charges; a record of promises amply fulfilled in the spirit as well as the letter, of a people not let down, but strongly upheld, of soldiers and their dependants not forgotten, but ever in our minds freshly remembered. For as we began, so subsequent non-Labour governments - in some of which I had the honour to serve - went on through the long years, caring for the soldier when he was sick, helping him when he fell upon evil days, amending the act as experience dictated, making it easier for the soldier to prove that hia incapacity was due to war service, widening the scope of the scheme by providing service pensions for retained men not suffering from any disability attributable to war service, and so not eligible for pensions, but whose vitality had been sapped by the cruel shocks and strains of war; freeing the tubercular soldier from the haunting fear that improvement of his condition would mean the reduction of the pension which was his only hope of keeping the dread disease at bay ; and, finally, extending the act to the men and dependants of this war. And so successive non-Labour governments, mindful of the welfare of the soldier in times of adversity and depression and ever recognizing the debt of gratitude the country owed to the men by whose valour and sacrifice it had been saved continued the work of repatriation.
And after 22 years the scheme of repatriation originated by the governments I had the honour to lead is functioning so efficiently, justly and well, that the Minister says it is “ as liberal as that in any other country of the world “, and in proof of this, he gave its record up to date : 220,339 soldiers and their dependants are to-day receiving war pensions 22 years after the principal act was passed, and 3,468 are receiving special pensions; from 1921 to 1942, £7,501,911 has been expended annually on pensions; 24,810 children have benefited under the education scheme; and 37,546 homes have been provided for soldiers and dependants. Notwithstanding deaths, the number of pensioners has throughout, the years remained constant. There were 223,072 in 1921, and 223,S07 in 1942. What more effective rebuttal of the AttorneyGeneral’s reckless charges that the soldier had been forgotten after the last war could there be than the words of the Minister who, “ to disprove the fallacy that, once hostilites cease and the shouting dies, the soldier is forgotten “, cited the amount of £273,359,265 - an average of £32,425,421 a year from 1921 to 1942- as having been expended in caring for, comforting and helping the soldier?
I do not understand how the AttorneyGeneral came to make such charges. If they had been levelled by another man. they might be explained by his lack of knowledge. In the case of the Attorney-General, that explanation cannot he advanced. I ask the House and the country to set against the promises which I made what has been done to fulfil them, and to set against the reckless charges directed against my Government ai.’d subsequent non-Labour governments of having forgotten the soldier, the record of what has been done for him in times of prosperity and adversity. He has ever been the care of the Government, whose promises have been, as I stated, amply fulfilled both in the spirit and the letter.
I come now to the amendments which the bill makes in the principal act. Most of these can be more conveniently considered in the committee stages of the bill, but with one or two I shall deal now. First, let me say a word or two about the “ onus of proof “. The claim that the onus of proof has been changed by the hill is disproved by the facts and by the Minister’s own statement. When the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals were established in 1929, they were directed not to be bound by ordinary rules of evidence in hearing appeals, but to act so as to give substantial justice, and always to give the soldier the benefit of the doubt. In 1934, the principal act was again amended to make if; clear that, after the soldier had made out “a prima facie case, the onus of proving the claim, namely, that incapacity was due to, or was aggravated by, war service, rested with the commission. In 1940, the principal act was further amended for the purpose of making it abundantly clear that the soldier had made out a prima facie case once he averred that his incapacity was due to, or aggravated by, war service. The Minister himself made it clear that the act at present provides that when a case comes before the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, the onus of proof that incapacity or death was not caused by war service rests with the commission. Actually, that provision has been in existence since 1934. By the amendment passed in 1940, an appellant is deemed to have made out a prima facie case when he avers that the incapacity or death has resulted from war service. The Minister put the case very fairly. He stated that the Government adopted this amendment in order to remove all possible misunderstanding on the point. To that end, the Government decided1 to insert this clause in the bill and I take no exception to it. I merely point out that the amendment does not, in fact, alter the position regarding the onus of proof. AH that the bill does, to quote the Minister’s own words, is “ to remove all possible misunderstanding “.
Section 45w 2 of the act provides -
Provided that if the appellant or a representative of the appellant shall make out a prima facie case in support of his claim that the incapacity from which he is suffering or from which he has died was caused or aggravated by war service, the onus of proof that such incapacity was not in fact so caused or aggravated shall lie with the commission.
In the amendment proposed by the Minister, I have not been able to find any reference to “ aggravated “. That the word should be included in the act is most desirable. It has its uses, and they are fairly obvious. It is easier for the appellant, to prove “aggravation” by averring that his incapacity was aggravated than to prove that his incapacity is attributable to, or was substantially affected by, war service.
The bill does not alter the existing principle regarding the basis of eligibility which the Minister declared is sound. The amendments have been rendered necessary by the entry of Japan into the war. An entirely new situation has been created, for example, by the passing of the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act, and the provisions of the act will be extended to women other than those covered by the principal act.
The Minister stated that the provision which increases pensions by 20 per cent, is probably the most important amendment. Undoubtedly, it is the only amendment which materially affects the position of the pensioner. The bill increases the rates of pension by 20 per cent. Pensioners on the maximum or special pensions will receive an increase of 8s. a week or ls. ltd. a day. I do not belittle that increase, but I say that it seems to be a drab fulfilment of the golden promises which fell so glibly from the lips of honorable members opposite some little time ago. Pensions are to be increased by 20 per cent., but I point out that of 74,307 war pensioners surviving at the end of June last, only 8,847 were receiving the maximum or special pension. Those of their number who still survive will receive an additional 8s. a week by reason of this increase, but the other 65,450; who are receiving less than the maximum, may receive only 2s. of 3s. a week; special pensions are in class by themselves.
What are we to say about the blinded pensioners who are on the special rate ? If a proposal were made to pay them £20 a week I should support it. But they constitute only a handful of the returned men. In making these remarks I am not criticizing the Minister. I am merely pointing out that there can be no grounds for saying that the expense incurred in the payment of special pensions is a charge that the community can ill afford to meet. In’ my opinion, nothing that we could do would be too good for these persons. If any individual in the community thinks otherwise, the way is open for him to qualify for the pension. All he has to do is to enlist in the fighting forces, be blinded or suffer double amputation, and apply for the pension. Even after 20 years I know men of the last war so cruelly shattered that they still lie helpless as they have lain all these years, every day of which has been a living death. For these men nothing we can do is too much. I am glad that the Minister has agreed to accept the proposal of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that pension rates shall be adjusted from time to time and that a special committee, constituted as my colleague suggested, will make recommendations on the subject. That proposal should meet with general acceptation.
I now pass to a subject that I conceive to be of the first importance. Approximately 209,400 soldiers who served in the last war are still living. Of these, approximately 74,000 are receiving pensions, many of which amount to only a few shillings a week. It is abundantly clear, therefore, that only a relatively small proportion of the men who return from the war will draw pensions. The great majority of the remainder will require employment. This brings me to a consideration of the principle of preference in employment to soldiers. My colleague has made some reference to it, but I desire to amplify Irs remarks. I remind honorable members that pensions, hospitalization, and the other like benefits, provided by the Repatriation Act, are reserved for those whom the shocks and strains of war have handicapped so cruelly that they cannot take their places among the industrial front-line troops. For the great majority, employment is the one great essential, lacking which repatriation leaves them on the industrial scrap-heap.
What does the Government propose to do to put the soldier who has been fighting so valorously for the Commonwealth, in at least as good a position as he would have been, in had he not left the security and opportunities of civil life to fight the enemy? The cessation of hostilities will create vast and complex problems of compelling urgency, that will tax the statesmanship, vision and administrative capacity of the Government in office. Time will not permit of my dealing with these now except in a general way. A few words must suffice to outline their range and character.
On the day this terrible war ends, the activities upon which for years a million and more of our people have been concentrated will abruptly cease. The demobilization of the greater part of our fighting forces will being. and members of the great industrial army now employed in our war industries will find their occupation gone. The country has been organized to meet our war needs. When hostilities cease our economy will have to be re-organized for peace. This cannot be done by the waving of a magician’s wand. It will involve prodigious efforts and must necessarily take much time. Men can be absorbed in industry only gradually. Unemployment on a scale far exceeding anything we have hitherto experienced may - nay, almost certainly will - prevail. No doubt all will be maintained by the employment sustenance scheme, but this, however generous it may be, will necessarily fall short of the full wage rate. In the transitional period, when there will he more workers than jobs to go around, is the soldier to he given preference, or is he to remain on sustenance or unemployment relief?
What is the Government’s policy on the principle of preference to soldiers which, since 1915, has been generally recognized in this country? ls its policy of preference to unionists to be applied in the post-war reconstruction period? Are the claims of the soldier to be ignored ? It is no answer to say that the soldier should be a unionist. No doubt he should be. But surely he has some claim for recognition as a soldier ! What is the Government’s policy on this allimportant question ?
I do not put this question to the Government without good reason, for in 1930, when Labour was in office, the policy of preference to soldiers which, for fifteen years had never been challenged, was in danger of being superseded. Let me quote from my speech in the debate on the proposal of the Scullin Government, reported in Hansard of the 7th May, 1930, volume 124, at page 1484-
The principle of preference to returned soldiei’3 was established in 1915 by a Labour government of which I was the head . . . and put into force after eighteen months of war, when the party had an overwhelming majority in both Houses . . .
The principle of preference to returned soldiers was deliberately provided for by a Labour government in a regulation having the force of law, and it superseded the regulation that provided for preference to unionists. It was never questioned, being supported wholeheartedly by every member of the Labour party. I ask my friends opposite to recall those days. If they consult Hansard they will find that not ‘one voice was raised against it. Preference was given to returned soldiers because they were fighting for Australia. The preference was absolute and unconditional. It was not the result of a bargain, enforced by a turbulent and arrogant soldiery upon the civilian populace; it was an unsought pledge given by the people, who wished to show their gratitude and admiration for the men who were fighting for thom. What man in his senses would have left the comforts, security, and prospects of civil life to rush into the inferno of war merely because he had been promised preference in regard to temporary employment in the Public Service of the Commonwealth? But the pledge was something. The returned soldier realized that, although wholly inadequate, it was offered by the people of Australia as an outward and visible sign of their gratitude to him. The preference was definite and unconditional. He was told that if he had the good fortune to come back in a condition to work, he would have preference over others who had stayed at home and entrenched themselves snugly in civil positions; he was promised this preference because he was a soldier . . .
This promise of preference was not loosely made to serve the needs of the moment; it was a solemn pledge, given on behalf of the people of this country in a great crisis by a Labour government, who . deliberately gave the soldier preference over the unionist, and it has been the law of the land for the last fifteen years. It was not questioned until the other day; and immediately, from one end of the country to the other, the response to the proposed change was, “ We will have none of it” . . .
That is what I said in 1930. The Government of the day withdrew its proposal to substitute preference to unionists, and preference to returned soldiers has remained. This preference in employment could, under the Constitution as it then existed and as it now exists, be enforced by the Government only in respect of temporary employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. But I remind honorable gentlemen on the other side that we are now asking for full powers for the Commonwealth over employment and unemployment. We hope, and I believe, that the States will refer those powers to the Commonwealth. We must get them somehow. I shall fight with my friends to that end, so that this Parliament may have the power to make laws to enforce the principle of preference to returned soldiers throughout industry generally. I urge the Government to declare that it stands firmly for the policy of preference in employment to returned soldiers, thus ensuring to the men who are fighting for this country that when they return they will not be consigned to the industrial scrap heap, but will find that “ a place in the sun “ has been reserved for them.
I leave the matter at that point; as I see it, repatriation, unless it means the placing in civil employment of the men who have been fighting for Australia, is a “ whited sepulchre “ ; it does nothing for the great body of the men who are fighting. There are 500,000 now under arms in one way or another in this country. I hope that the number of persons who will be entitled to a pension will be negligible. Whether the number be large or small, the men must have the pension. But if the price of a man’s coming back hale and fit to work is that there is to be no place for him, that he is to be shouldered aside by those who have remained behind, then I echo what the
Prime Minister said this afternoon - “While soldiers are fighting, and hundreds of them dying, the least that those who remain in security can do is to work “.
– Does the right honorable gentleman agree with that?
– My word, I do! That is the least we all can do. [Extension of time granted.] The least that we can do is to see that when these men come back there shall be work for them.
.- I do not propose to go into matters other than those which are germane to the bill. Were 1 to speak about a subject such as repatriation, properly so-called, or of preference to returned soldiers, each would provide ample scope for a separate speech. I, therefore, propose to address myself to the terms of the bill, which in substance is a war pensions bill.
Before I make some remarks in respect of the first matter to which I desire to direct my attention, namely, the rate of increase of pensions, in order that there may be no misunderstanding on the part of my friend, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), or any other honorable member of the joint parliamentary committee - whom I congratulate upon the work which they have done - I wish to state that, although in general terms it is a good report, it does not follow that I slavishly agree with everything that appears in their report. I am sure that they would not expect me to do so. To my mind, the report is not like the laws of the Medes and Persians; its wisdom is not so great as to make it immutable. That is revealed by the honorable member for Moreton ‘himself, who has agreed’, that, in respect of widows and children, the report of the committee and bill do not go far enough. I held views, and I propose to express them, as to why the bill does not go far enough in respect of pensions. I have read the report of the committee. The purport of it is, for reasons which are substantially undisclosed, that pensions should be increased 20 per cent, above the rates fixed in 1920. In my view, the proposed rates are totally inadequate to meet the requirements of soldiers and their dependants. At a later stage, I shall develop in detail my reasons for holding that view. It is all very well to speak of making a country fit for heroes to live in; the important thing is to show by your acts that you believe what you say. I cannot understand how the committee could have arrived at the conclusion that an increase of 20 per cent, on the rate of 1920 is sufficient to meet the requirements of soldiers and their dependants. I should have thought that the committee would have indicated in its recommendations the factors which it had taken into consideration in arriving at that determination. The only reason which I have heard so far is that given by the honorable member for Moreton, who said that the cost of living had, in substance, increased by approximately 20 per cent, during that period, and that the recommendation had been made upon that basis.
– The honorable gentleman is aware of the dependant’s allowance in respect of the children of soldiers who serve in this war, which was made by a government that he supported.
– Let us confine ourselves to what has been done by the present Administration. It is a favorite dodge of honorable members opposite, when they are driven to the conclusion that their bill or the proposal before the House has not gone far enough, to ask, “ What did you do ? “ I am not concerned with what any one else did, but I shall show that the views that I hold now about the proposed increase were held by me for a long time past, and when I was a Minister of the Crown. I say that an increase of only 20 per cent, cannot be justified. Let us examine the report of the committee in order to find out, if we can, upon what grounds the 20 per cent, increase was based. But first I read the terms of reference to the committee, from which it is evident that the committee was in no way limited or inhibited in its inquiry. The terms of reference were -
To inquire into and report upon the general question of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and the amendments, if any, which the committee recommends as desirable, in the light of the conditions caused by the present war. 3 1 will be seen, therefore, that the warrant of the committee was wide enough to cover all fields of inquiry, including rates of pensions for soldiers and their dependants. Paragraph 24 of the report states -
The committee found that there was reasonable ground for a general increase of the rates of war pension. An outstanding factor in this regard was the comparison of rates of pay to members of the forces and allowances to their dependants with the same items in respect of the 1914 war. In the case of death of a member the rate of war pension in most cases is considerably below the payments received by the dependants, particular^ widows and children, ‘by way of members’ allotment and dependants’ allowances, up to the time of commencement of pension.
In paragraph 28, the only other paragraph in. the report which bears on the matter, the following words occur: -
The committee considers that it would be reasonable to approve of a general increase of 20 per cent.
The only reason advanced by the committee for recommending an increase, is a comparison of the rates of pay to members of the forces in the 1914-18 war and the present war. However, from the speech of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) it is evident that the committee was really influenced by a consideration of the increased cost of living. If the committee had based its recommendation on a comparison of the rates of pay, it should have recommended an increase, not of 20 per cent., but one of more than 40 per cent., because the rates of pay in this war are 41 per cent, higher than in the last war. When considering a bill, the purpose of which is to do the right thing by soldiers and their dependants, the first thing should be to consider whether the existing pension rates were adequate at the time they were originally provided for. No one who has been made familiar with individual cases can possible believe that they were. Although pensions were not my direct concern when I was Minister for the Army, I came to know of a large number of cases in which great distress was caused through inadequate pensions. The fact is that the rates never were high enough. I should like to know from some members of the committee whether it considered the original rates were just ?
– The committee would be justified in asking that question of a former Commonwealth Treasurer.
– My opinions are on record regarding this point, and were expressed before our party went into opposition. I have particulars here of some cases which prove that pensions rates have never been high enough. A widow, whose husband was a petty officer on H.M.A.S. Parramatta, has two young children, one aged eleven and the other eight. Before her husband’s death, she had been drawing £5 10s. a week, plus 5s. child endowment. When news was received of her husband’s death, her income was reduced to a pension of £2 9s. 6d. a week.She has to pay £1 2s. 6d. a week rent for a house, and 5s. a week on a life assurance policy. In order to maintain herself and her children in the manner to which she has been accustomed, she had to go to work. She had to leave early in the morning for her place of employment, and place her children in the custody of other people. Many cases of that kind could be cited. I instance the case of the widow of a young Manly airman who had in civil life been earning about £10 a week. There were two children, one of whom was born after the father’s death. His prospects were high. His wife was a girl who had never needed to go to business. She received only £2 19s. 6d. a week - an unjustifiable reduction of the standard of living of the widow and the children of this gallant airman.
– Did the honorable member put that evidence before the special committee?
– Those two cases were not before me then. I expressed my views to certain members of the committee, but not in writing, and I do not think that many honorable members did put their views in writing.
– The committee said that it would not take evidence on individual cases.
– That is so.
– The committee invited every honorable member to submit evidence in writing.
– The honorable member for Ballarat should reply to what was said by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) that evidence of particular cases was refused by the committee. The honorable member is becoming upset, because he knows that the original rates of pension were inadequate and that an increase of 20 per cent. would not be sufficient to make up the deficiency. I have cited two real cases which could be multiplied over and over again. I now cite a hypothetical case of an ordinary private. I take a private as an illustration, but the inequities become more exaggerated the farther one goes up the scale. His wife receives 21s. a week for the first child and 14s. a week for the second child. Child endowment has to be added to that. Immediately he dies or is killed, the allowance becomes 12s. 6d. for each child, plus child endowment. The position is intolerable.
The basic wage for a woman in New South Wales is £2 13s. a week. A woman with two children receives while her soldier husband is alive 24s. 6d. a week compulsory allotment, plus 31s. 6d. dependant’s allowance, plus 21s. for the first child and 14s. for the second child, making a total of £4 16s. 6d. a week. Immediately her husband is killed, she drops to £2 10s. a week for herself and £1 5s. a week for her two children - £3 15s. as a widow as against £4 16s. 6d. when her husband was alive ! It is impossible for me to understand why the Government should assume that it costs less to maintain an orphan or a child whose father has been killed in battle than it does to maintain a child whose parents a re alive. I should say that the contrary is the case and that, when a child’s father dies, the necessity for money to be made available for its support is increased. The first duty of the committee in this matter was not to discover the increased cost of living, but to ascertain whether the amounts of pensions already set down were adequate for a soldier and his dependants. I say that they were not.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I have directed attention to the basis upon which the committee, or this chamber, should determine whether the proposed increases of pensions are adequate. In determining whether pensions should be increased, a number of matters should be taken into account. The questions which I shall now ask will, I hope, bring replies from the chairman of the committee, because I give him credit for having the interests of the soldiers at heart. I ask him to inform me what consideration was given, in determining the percentage allowance on the basic rates, to the question of whether the amounts allotted in 1920 were fair and reasonable. It is useless to contend that, as the cost of living has risen by 20 per cent, since 1920, the basic rates can be increased by only 20 per cent., because the first and fundamental necessity is to determine whether the base was correct. If _the base was not correct, this is the time to review it.
Some honorable members have reminded me that when I was the Commonwealth Treasurer I made no effort to review the base. Evidently they are ignorant of the functions of a Treasurer. The functions of a Treasurer are to arrange the finances of a country in accordance with departmental requirements. But I am not concerned with that criticism. It does not matter to me whether errors were made in the past.
– The honorable member should be concerned with errors made in the past.
– It does not matter to me what mistakes were made previously. The important fact is that the House is now considering a bill to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and it is our duty to give justice to soldier pensioners.
– The honorable member, when Treasurer, did not care twopence for the soldiers.
– That cheap interjection has no foundation in fact, whatever. This is the first occasion on which this Parliament has had an opportunity fully to discuss repatriation, and upon this bill the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) must express his views. It does not matter twopence to me what occurred in the past. Our obligation is in the present. I should like an answer to my question, if an answer is available, whether the committee considered whether the rates fixed in 1920 were fair and reasonable. If they were not just, did the committee consider the matter. If the committee did consider the matter, why did it not refer to the fact in its report? The only conclusion that I can reach is that members of the committee gave no consideration to the matter. In that event, they omitted to consider a most important factor.
I have cited hypothetical cases based upon the minimum rates, and I want answers to my question whether the Government regards this bill as giving justice to the soldiers, and their dependants. Since my comments have drawn from some honorable members the statement that there is something ad hoc in my attitude, I desire to indicate clearly to the House that although pensions did- not come within my administration when I was Minister for the Army, I became acquainted more fully than ever before, with the hardships imposed on many recipients of pensions under the existing legislation.
– What did the honorable member do about it?
– If the Minister will not be so impatient, I shall tell him. My views on the matter were expressed shortly before the Labour party engaged in its campaign of sniping, which resulted in the overthrow of the Fadden Government. That campaign continued for eight or ten weeks before the previous Administration was defeated upon what was described as the “Fadden Budget”, although the present Government has been obliged to adopt that budget almost in its entirety. For ten weeks the administration of the country was substan-. ti ally impeded, and certainly interfered with, by the conduct of present Ministers. At that time, I brought to the notice of the previous Government my views upon repatriation pensions. Therefore, it, cannot be said that this is merely an ad hoc view.
On the 23rd July, 1941, I reviewed the whole of the war pensions upon the same basis as that of which I now speak, and I stated that, in my opinion, the basis of allowances to soldiers and their dependants should be increased by at least 50 per cent. In determining the amount that should be allotted at the present time the first question is whether the rates fixed in 1920 were reasonable. I ask: Were they a generous contribution to the soldiers and their dependants in the light of our experience of the last twenty years? No honorable member in this chamber, who examines their application, will say that they were fair. If they were not fair, the whole premise upon which the recommendation of the committee was founded must collapse. The committee adopted the premise of the existing rates, and recommended an increase of 20 per cent. as an allowance for the higher cost of living. It must be perfectly obvious that if the premise be false, it is useless to base any increase upon that foundation. I should like members of the committee to say without equivocation
– We are not in the witness-box now.
– I am not crossexamining the honorable member. Sometimes I wish I were. I should like the committee to state unequivocably whether it regarded the rates fixed in 1920 as being just and generous to the soldiers and their dependants.
– Who fixed those rates?
– When the honorable member is driven against a wall he retorts, “ What did you do about it? “ It is the old, old story. What the public wants to know is the view of the House upon the fairness of the base fixed in 1920.
– Why did not the honorable member review the base when he was Treasurer ?
– The honorable member for Hunter has been a consistent advocate on behalf of invalid and oldage pensioners, and because of that I expect him to declare whether he considers that the pensions originally granted to soldiers, having regard to the experience gained in the last twenty years, were adequate. Once we obtain an answer to that question we can proceed.
My second question is : On what basis was this recommendation of 20 per cent. reached, if not upon the basis of the increased cost of living?
– Does the honorable member desire to base pensions on the cost of living? Does he wish to introduce a “means test”?
– No. I know more about the subject than that. I propose to tell the Minister for Repatriation some facts about the increased cost of living. Of course, the Minister will tell the people that the cost of living has increased by only 20 per cent. since the last war. Though he may repeat that statement until he is blue in the face and cite statistics in support of it, they will never believe him. But I shall assume that the increase is 20 per cent. What is the basis of the committee’s recommendation? I believe that the question was answered by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who stated this afternoon that the committee compared the cost of living in 1920 with to-day’s figure.
– The cost of living in December, 1942, was 5 per cent. lower than it was in 1920.
-That statement reminds me of a saying, “ Tell it to the marines “. If any one tells me that it costs me less to live now than it did twenty years ago, no matter what the Commonwealth Statistician may say, I shall not accept it. But my argument does not rest upon that premise.
– The honorable member is a better “ spender “ now.
– I should like to hear the views of the Minister for Air upon this proposal. The honorable member for Moreton declared that since 1920 the cost of living has increased by 20 per cent.
– I did not say that.
– I listened attentively to the remarks of the honorable member, and I thought that he mentioned the figure of 21 per cent.
– I referred to the difference between the cost of living in September, 1939, and September, 1942.
– Then the only reference to the increased cost of living related to the period 1939-1942. I imagined that the committee considered the increase of the cost of living since 1920.
– So it did.
– Then nothing appears in the report to indicate it. Perhaps I shall be told later the basis on whichthe increase was recommended. If it has been on a basis other than the increased cost of living, why was not. the fact mentioned in the committee’s report? I assume that the honorable gentlemen who prepared the report, after much deliberation, set out their conclusions and their rea- * sons for arriving at those conclusions. In this case, they have not attempted to state their reasons. I have their conclusions. The only reason that has been advanced in this report is that an “outstanding factor “ for a general increase of the rates of war pensions was a comparison of the rates of pay of members of the forces in 1914-18, and in the present war. That is the only reference in the report. I do not know who drafted the report, but I can only assume that it reflects the collective wisdom of the committee. If that be the outstanding factor, I ask : Do not. the rates of pay of the fighting forces in this war, compared with those of the last war, reflect an increase of 41 per cent.? If they do, how does the committee justify its recommendation of an increase of 20 per cent.? And if the outstanding factor was the increase of 41 per cent., why did not the committee recommend an increase of 40 per cent.? I doubt very much whether I shall be given an answer.
– The honorable member could have made suggestions to the committee.
– Do I understand that the merits of the committee’s arguments are to be determined by the submissions of two or three or more other members of the Parliament? Are we to meet the usual riposte, “What did you do?” I have put my position clearly to the House. I suppose we shall hear remarks such as, “ What did you do “ as long as we remain members of the Parliament, but such remarks do not answer arguments. I wish to know, specifically, whether the increase recommended was based on the increase of the cost of living.
I ask, also, whether, if the increase was not attached in some way to the cost of living figures, it was considered in relation to the diminishing purchas-ing power of money? That question should be answered. We all know that the purchasing power of money has diminished and is still diminishing seriously; yet we know that by this bill the pensions of soldiers, soldiers’ widows, and their dependants are to be pegged.
– The union advocates frequently inform Arbitration Courts that the purchasing power of money is diminishing.
– This Parliament is the Arbitration Court of the soldiers. I have no doubt that if honorable members opposite could be relieved of caucus bonds, they would speak differently, and vote differently, on this subject; nevertheless, they will be required, ultimately, to justify their vote on this bill before the electors. The purchasing power of money has diminished so much that £5 is worth only £4 to-day. Money is only worth what it will purchase anywhere at any time. I request a reply to the questions that I am asking.
I now call attention to the difference between the basic wage in 1920 and 1942. Has any consideration been given to that factor? I have drawn attention elsewhere to the weighted average in Sydney and other capitals in 1920 and now. I cannot relate that variation to the 20 per cent, increase of soldiers’, pensions provided in this bill.
– Why did not the honorable member’ communicate with the committee on the subject?
– If the committee had consisted of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and others like him, it would have been of no use to write to it. I ask, also, what allowance has been made for the advance of social conditions and standards, and the different outlook on social welfare in this country since 25 years ago?
– The difference is £30,000,000.
–I confess it makes no impression on me to be reminded of the national welfare proposals of the Government, but I ask the honorable gentleman who has interjected, whether the 20 per cent, increase was considered in relation to our improved social outlook. I cannot understand why honorable gentlemen seem to be prepared to agree to the pegging of soldiers’ pensions in this way in the light of what Parliament is prepared to do for other sections of the community.
– Perhaps the rate has been fixed in relation to the 5s. a day which the honorable gentleman approved as pay for soldiers when he was in office.
– It is untrue that I did so; but the honorable gentleman’s observation is not worth a reply. I wish to know, in the light of the submissions that I am making, what attitude other honorable members intend to adopt towards this bill. I ask again whether the 20 per cent, increase in pensions has any relation to the increase of the cost of living since 1920. If not, are honorable members satisfied that a proper approach is being made to this problem? In my view, pensions should be increased by 50 per cent. I held that opinion eighteen months ago. Only by such an increase shall we give the soldiers and their dependants a fair deal.
I am glad that the Government has agreed to increase to £2 10s. a week the pensions of the widows of soldiers who were receiving up to 18s. a day. It seems to me that the widows suffer more than other people in the determining of pension rates. For that reason I congratulate the Government upon the decision which the Minister for Repatriation announced on this subject a day or two ago, and I admit that it disposes, to a considerable degree, of my argument insofar as it relates to soldiers’ widows. But why are the widows of soldiers who received more than 18s. a day in pay to be granted such a relatively small increase compared with the widows of soldiers who received less than 18s. a day? We should bear in mind that our soldiers enlist from all ranks of life. They include labourers, skilled mechanics, journeymen, executives, and professional persons.
– Yes ; many lawyers have enlisted, and I am saddened when I think of the large number of my f riends of the legal profession who have lost their lives in this war. Under the new arrangement the wife of a soldier who was receiving 7s. a day, will receive, a pension of £2 10s. a week, whereas the wife of a soldier who was receiving £2 10s. a day will receive a pension of only £3 8s. a week. We all are well aware that it is the desire of most young men who enlist to obtain commissions, and we should encourage them to do so, but these young men realize that the widows of commissioned men will be left in a pitiable position in relation to pensions. I cannot see any justification for the small variation of the pensions of widows whose husbands received, say, 7s. a day and those whose husbands received £2 10s. a day.
It is also regrettable that in respect of soldiers suffering from disabilities distinctions are being made between the men who are being granted pensions of a few shillings a week and certain other pensioners. The dependants of the men who receive such pal try pensions have their pensions determined by that basic rate. For this reason also, I consider that pensions should be increased by 50 per cent, all round. At least this would mitigate the injustices that very many soldiers’ dependants are labouring under.
– If pensions were increased by 50 per cent., would the honorable member suggest that a means test should be applied? .
– I would not, for the reason that men who suffer disabilities through the war are, in my opinion, entitled to exactly the same treatment as men who suffer similar disabilities in civil life. If through a motor car accident, let us say, I were to lose an arm, or a leg, it might happen that my capacity to earn my living would not be greatly reduced, but that fact would not be taken into account in determining compensation. The same principle should apply in relation to war injuries. [Extension of time granted.]
I wish now to consider the position of soldiers’ children in regard to pensions. Under the original act a pension of £1 a fortnight was payable for the first child in the case of a widow, and 15s. a fortnight, in the case of each additional child, except that in the case of a child who had lost both parents, the pension was 20s. a fortnight under 10 years of age, 25s. a fortnight up to 14 years of age, and 30s. a fortnight up to 16 years of age. The same rates applied to the child-ran of a soldier who was totally incapacitated while a member of the forces. My view is that the minimum basic rate for children should be 15s. a week. The pension for soldiers’ children, while the soldier is still living, is 21s. a week for the first child, and 14s. a week for other children. In these circumstances, I cannot understand why the rate for any children should be only 12s. 6d. a week. Will it he suggested that it costs less to maintain the child if the father be dead than if he be living?
– Why did the honorable gentleman provide an allotment of only 10s. a week for each child?
– Here is the old question, “ What did you do ? “ Honorable gentlemen opposite ought to have a gramophone record made of it. Whenever ministerial supporters are met with a proposition which they find difficult, they say, “ What did you do ? “ I ask what they intend to do in respect of this bill. I know what they will do ; probably they will express certain views and then cast a vote that is contrary to them.
I pass to a short consideration of the provisions in relation to the onus of proof. I first refer to the recommendation of the joint parliamentary committee in paragraph 49 of its report, which reads -
Section 45w of the act provides to the effect that where an appellant to the Entitlement Appeal Tribunal shall make out a prima facie case in support of a claim that the incapacity from which a member is suffering or has died was caused or aggravated by war service, the onus of proof that such incapacity was not, in fact, so caused or aggravated shall lie with the Commission.
I had in mind that the purpose of the committee was that, a man having established a prima facie case, on the coinmission should rest the burden of establishing the contrary. I do not consider that that has been accomplished by the bill. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) drew attenton to the matter, in passing, earlier to-day. Clause 24 refers to section 45w of the principal act. That section has sub-secions 2, 3 and 4, which I must read in order to make my point clear. They are as follows : - (2.) Subject to this Act, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal shall not, in the hearing of appeals, be bound by any rules of evidence, but shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case and shall give to an appellant the benefit of the doubt;
I want honorable members to remember those words, and compare them with the provision in the bill. I wish to make certain that a soldier who establishes a prima facie case shall, in reality, force upon the commission the onus of proving beyond reasonable doubt that his case is unsound. The sub-section continues -
Provided that if the appellant or a representative of the appellant shall make out a prima facie case in support of his claim that the incapacity from which he is suffering and from which he has died was caused or aggravated by war service, the onus of proof that such incapacity was not, in fact, so caused or aggravated shall lie with the Commission.
I invite honorable members to compare that with the bill.
– That goes out.
– It says that “the onus of proof that such incapacity was not in fact so caused or aggravated shall lie with the commission “. We know what has taken place up to date in that regard. The sub-section continues -
Provided further that in the case of the death caused by an accident, of a member of the forces who is wholly or partially incapacitated as the result df war service, the burden of proving that such incapacity did not contribute to a material degree to the death ot the member shall lie upon the Commission.
I want those words to be noted. Every honorable member knows how often, because of the interpretation that is placed by the commission on that provision, men have had a raw deal. I do not consider that they had the deal which this legislature intended that they should have. Sub-section 3 provides -
The hearing of any appeal under this Part shall not be open to the public.
Sub-section 4 provides -
For the purposes of sub-section (2. ) of this section an appellant shall be deemed to have made out a prima facie case when he avers that the incapacity or death of the member of the Forces resulted from an occurrence happening during the period he was a member of the Forces,, or from his employment in connexion with naval or military preparations or operations or is directly attributable to his employment as a member of the Forces.
Under the existing legislation, all that a member of the forces needed to do was to aver that his incapacity had flowed from his service; thereupon, the burden was upon the commission to prove otherwise.
If that provision was satisfactory, what is the reason for the amendment? I should imagine that the purpose of the committee was to make certain that what the legislature then had in mind should be given effect. By this amendment of the act, sub-sections 2 to 4 are to be completely eliminated, and a new subsection in accordance with the recommendations of the committee is to be inserted. I shall draw attention to it, in order that honorable members may see whether or not it is likely to secure to the soldier the effect of the recommendation. Clause 18 proposes to substitute for section 39b of the principal act the following new section : - 39b. - (1.) The Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal, in hearing, determining or deciding a claim, application or appeal shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case-
That is a repetition of the previous provision - shall not be bound by technicalities or legal forms or rules of evidence and shall give to the claimant, applicant or appellant the benefit of any doubt-
That adds nothing. The following is new matter : -
All that that does is to particularize the general injunction to the tribunal, and in such a sense adds nothing. The proposed new section continues - (2.) It shall not be necessary for the claimant, applicant or appellant to furnish conclusive proof to support his claim, application or appeal-
It never has been, under the law as it stands. but the Commission, Board, Appeal Tribunal or Assessment Appeal Tribunal determining or deciding the claim, application or appeal shall be entitled to draw, and shall draw, from all the circumstances of the case, from the evidence furnished and from medical opinions, all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant, applicant, or appellant-
I do not know what that adds. If evidence means anything, if you rely upon it, you have to consider all the inferences which reasonably flow from it. If the benefit of the doubt is to be given to an applicant, and you believe his evidence, you are bound, quite apart from any statute, to draw all reasonable inferences from it. So we come to the last part of the clause, which reads - and in all cases whatsoever the onus of proof shall lie on the person or authority who contends that the claim, application or appeal should not be granted or allowed to the full extent claimed.
Perhaps some honorable member will tell me to what substantial extent that differs from what I have referred to in section 45w - “ the onus of proof that such incapacity was not, in fact, so caused or aggravated shall lie with the commission “. An examination will reveal that if any benefit has been conferred upon the soldier it is not that which the committee had in mind. If I may interpret the recommendation of the committee, it is, that once a prima facie case has been established, the onus should be upon the commission to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, to the exclusion of reasonable possibilities, that the case of the soldier is not sound ; and that only in such circumstances should his right to relief be refused. I propose to move, at the appropriate stage, an amendment which will make provision in that connexion. [Further extension of time granted.] I shall also move an amendment to provide, in accordance with the Canadian’ legislation, that no regard shall be had to any disability which existed before a man entered the forces. If, in point of fact, I am passed for service, then, when I seek a repatriation benefit I should not be met with the allegation, “You had this condition before you became a member of the forces “. I propose to move in committee provisions somewhat along the lines of the Canadian act: -
No deduction shall be made from the degree of actual disability of any member of the forces who has served in a theatre of actual war on account of any disability or disabling condition which existed in him at the -time at which he became a member of the forces; but no pension shall be paid for a disability or disabling condition’ which at such time was wilfully concealed, was obvious, was not of a nature to cause rejection from service, or was a congenital defect.
An applicant shall not be denied a pension in respect of disability resulting from injury or disease or the aggravation thereof incurred during military service or in respect of the death of a member of the forces resulting from such injury or disease or the aggravation thereof solely on the ground that no substantial disability or disabling condition is considered to have existed at the time of discharge of such member of the forces. 1 propose to move for the establishment of the principles - (1) that when a man has been accepted, he is to be regarded for repatriation benefits as having” been whole of body; when he has passed the test which the military imposes, it shall not lie in the mouth of any repatriation tribunal to say, subsequently, “Although we passed you, you really were not as fit as we then thought you were”. (2) That when the discharge of a member of the forces is perfectly good, it shall not lie in the mouth of the authorities to say, “You did not have that condition before you were discharged; it has no relation to your war service “.
I thank the House for the length of time it has granted to me. I have dealt with two important matters of principle. The first is the percentage of increase of the pension; this must be determined. The second matter is the very important one introducing the principle of insurance, which the committee had in mind, that at no time when an application for a pension has been made by a man or his dependants shall it be alleged against him that he had a certain condition prior to his enlistment; that, having been given a clean sheet in order to enlist, he must thereafter be taken with all his faults : that whatever conditions subsequently exist must be related to something which occurred since that date, not to something which occurred prior to his enlistment.
– But the honorable member said that he wanted a measure similar to the Canadian act, did he not?
– I did not.
– “Well, the honorable member quoted from the Canadian act.
– Of course I did. I am at liberty to quote from anything that appeals to me, The Canadian act embodies amongst other provisions certain principles which I believe should be included in this bill, but that does not mean that I want the whole of the Canadian act. The compassionate allowance provided by that act might also well be copied here.
– I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this bill to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Our thanks and praise are due to the Special Parliamentary Committee on Repatriation, the members of which were: Hon. R. T. Pollard, .Senator Collett, Senator Lamp, Hon. Jos, Francis, Hon. A. McK. McDonald, and D. 0. Watkins, Esq. This committee presented a very fine report, and upon its recommendation the present bill is very largely based. Everything is comparative, and I cannot help comparing the scheme outlined in this bill with that promulgated and put into operation after the 1914-18 war - a war that was fought to make the world safe for democracy. The slogan then was, “ Nothing is good enough for the returned soldier “ ; and that was exactly what he got - nothing. As a matter of fact. he did get something - he was taken down. We all remember the schemes for soldier land settlement in different parts of Australia. In Queensland there were settlements at Beerburrum, Kiri, Cecil Plains, Amiens, Pozieres and Glen Aplin. At Glen Aplin, land for fruit-growing was sold to returned soldiers at prices varying from £70 to £80 an acre. The soldiers paid their money, fenced and cleared the land, and planted trees, only to find that the trees would not grow. After years of hard work, they were starved off their holdings. The soldiers, who returned to this country war-weary and broken, eventually found themselves outcasts and hoboes in the land for which they had fought so gallantly. There was nothing but destitution and starvation for them and for their wives and families. Well, we hope that that will not happen again, and we are taking steps now to ensure that it will not. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) reminded me very much of a squid, a kind of cuttle fish. When it is pursued, it emits an inky substance which discolours the water and hides it from its pursuer. When the honorable member was speaking, he kept looking back over his shoulder as if Nemesis, in the form of Lieutenant Cutler, V.C., was pursuing him, and he sought to hide himself behind a murky screen of words.
We find that in general, people getexactly what they are prepared to take, anil when they are no longer prepared to take what they are getting they will cease to get it. Unfortunately, after the last war, our soldiers came back warweary and broken, and they took the raw deal that was handed out to them. I think it was Dumas who said that everything comes to him who waits. I say that everything can be had by those who go and get it. During the depression, we were told that prosperity was just around the corner, and we accepted the assurance. After the present war, neither the returned soldiers noi- anyone else will be put off with talk of that kind.
No doubt we shall be asked where the money is to come from for this improved repatriation scheme. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), when introducing this bill, said that the 20 per cent, increase of pension rates would cost £1,620,000 immediately for a full year, but that it was obviously impossible to forecast the cost in succeeding years. The increase would be on a flat rate basis, irrespective of the rank or pay of the recipient while a member of the forces. Thus, the percentage increase would be the same for a private as for a general, but a greater increase would be made in the allowances to children of deceased soldiers. At the present time, the country is expending £1,000,000 a day on the war, and if necessary we shall expend many times that amount. If the country can find so much money for prosecuting the war, it should, be able to find money to do the right thing by the soldiers when the war is over. Therefore, I hope that the old. bogy, “ Where is the money to come from ? “ will not be raised again. As a matter of fact, we cannot afford not to find the money. The national welfare scheme is being introduced now in order to make this a better country for the returned soldiers to live in after the war. I have already suggested that returned soldiers should be kept on the country’s pay-roll until they can be absorbed into industry. Until they can be repatriated and rehabilitated, they should be nursed, if necessary, and educated and maintained. The Government is already preparing a scheme for educating returned men to take their places in civil life. I do not want to refer too much to what was said by the honorable member for Warringah. In the course of his speech he tore a passion to tatters; there was much sound and fury, signifying nothing. The more one . examines what he said, the less one finds in it.
.- I do not at this stage propose to ‘speak at length on the bill, because it is one that calls rather for consideration in committee. I wish to say, however, that the soldiers are entitled to the very best that the country can give them. If they succeed in preserving our freedom, no one could be more deserving of their country than they will be. I am very glad that the parliamentary committee appointed to inquire into this subject has come to a satisfactory conclusion regarding it. However, there seems to be some dissatisfaction even yet, and that is a pity. This should be a non-party measure, because it is in the mind and heart of every body to do his best for the returned men.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), when speaking to-night, mentioned the word “ gratuity “. I do not know whether it is in the mind of the Government, or of any member of the Opposition, that, returned men should be paid a gratuity as they were after the last. war. Honorable members will recall that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was then Prime Minister, arranged for the issue to returned men of gratuity certificates payable on a certain date. The then leader of the Opposition, Mr. Charlton, suggested that the gratuity should be paid in cash. I made a suggestion which, if it had been accepted, would have been better in the long run for the soldiers themselves and for Australia. I suggested that the gratuities, instead of being paid to the soldiers in cash, should be used to form a company with a capital of from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000 in which all our returned men would be shareholders to the extent of their services at the front. Returned men like Sir John Monash and Mr. S. M. Bruce were capable of managing such companies for the welfare of returned soldiers, who would then become proprietors in the country for which they had fought. Who, I ask, could be better fitted to become masters of industry in Australia than the returned soldiers? The right honorable member for North Sydney recognized the wisdom of my proposal, and agreed to amend the act to permit soldiers, by voluntary agreement, to use their gratuities as the capital of industrial enterprises, and the gratuity certificates were to be made legal tender for this purpose. The Geelong Returned Soldiers Woollen Mills were established under that provision, but that experience could have been repeated a thousand times, had my suggestion been adopted. I recall this matter now, not for the purpose of reminding honorable members of something I did 23 years ago, but in order to get in early with a similar suggestion should it be again proposed to pay war gratuities. I hope that this Government will not make any rash promises to benefit soldiers immediately they return from the war with cold cash with which they will not know what to do. If they had, say, £25,000,000 invested on their behalf in some Australian enterprises of which they would be the masters, and did not have to pay procuration fees, not only they, but also the whole country, would benefit immensely. How that would aid in repatriation ! Why, the men would repatriate themselves ! There would be no fear of strikes, for the men would be working for themselves. They would have gratuity in perpetuity. We should be stirred to consider what will really be the best for the men when they return victors from the battle-field. Let us give them a stake in the country in that form. I hope that the bill before the House will give full justice to the returned soldiers. I think that they would have been better served later on ifthe £30,000,000 which we hypothecated under the National Welfare Fund Bill for social services had been set aside for use as a gratuity on their return in the manner I have suggested.
– Before dealing with this bill, I intend to say something about the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Although that act has served the purpose for which it was introduced, it has not given justice or satisfaction to the returned soldiers in the spirit in which it was conceived. The foundations of the repatriation legislation, upon which successive governments have haphazardly built, were laid during the last war. The legislation is nowlike a jigsaw puzzle, and I agree with the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that the Government should give consideration to the desirability of consolidating it. If the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) will look at the original act and at all the amending acts, he will see that consolidation would be in the best interest of the soldiers particularly, and the country generally. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the Repatriation Commission. Many complaints have been made against it, but, although it has not satisfied all returned soldiers, working within the ambit of the act, it has done a remarkably good job of work in most difficult circumstances. No fault can be found with the administration. The fault lies in the kaleidoscopic character of the legislation.
I ask honorable members, particularly the Minister, to regard the payments made to returned soldiers not as pensions - that savours of charity - but as compensation for work done in the national interest. If they do so, a better atmosphere will be created, and they will address themselves to the measure in a better spirit. The honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) referred to the ever-continuing depreciation of the currency. That depreciation will continue if the Government continues to apply its present policy, and factors unknown at the moment may bring about further inflation. Therefore, in the interests of everybody, not only the soldiers, the repatriation payments - I refuse to call them pensionsshould rise in accordance with rises of the cost of living; but they should certainly not fall if the cost of living should ever fall. There is a minimum rate below which invalid and old-age pensions, which fluctuate with the cost of living figures, may not fall, and the same consideration should be given to repatriated soldiers as is given to the recipients of those pensions. If the repatriation payments are regarded as compensation for national service and not as pensions, the means test cannot be applied. There is no means test in the case of a person who becomes entitled to workers’ compensation, or in the case of a person who has obtained from the court an award of damages in respect of injuries sustained by him in an accident. Returned soldiers should receive no less consideration than is received by civilians.
I read with great interest the report of the special committee whose recommendations formed the framework of this bill. That committee did a very good job of work in dealing with a most contentious subject. But no committee is infallible. In my opinion, the Government should have thoroughly analysed that report before bringing down legislation to carry out the recommendations contained in it. It should satisfy the House that the recommendations on which it has worked are proper. My remarks in this respect are addressed, not to the committee, but to the Ministry. The committee had an obligation to the Ministry, but not to the country, whereas the Ministry has a direct obligation to the country, and its job is to repair any deficiencies that may exist in the report, and to draft a bill which will give complete satisfaction to the country. I do not think that this bill can give that satisfaction. In the first place, the basis for eligibility for compensation ought to bo widened as far as possible.
– Why did not the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member widen itf
– Any government can always ask its predecessor why it did not do this or that, but that does not get it done. The Labour party is now in office, and it is charged with the responsibility to do things. Throughout this bill there are clauses tucked here, there and everywhere which provide that compensation - or pensions, as the bill says - shall be payable only if war service has contributed in a material degree to the disability of the claimant. The word “ material “ immediately qualifies the meaning of the clauses in which it appears, and, in my opinion, it should be expunged. Every enlisted man is subjected to the most rigorous medical examination. He has to undergo X-ray examinations, blood tests - in fact the whole gamut of medical inspection at the hands of a score of all kinds of medical men. Therefore, when a man is taken into the forces, he is accepted as being 100 per cent, fit, and, if subsequently he suffers any ailment it should be accepted as being due to war service. The insurance principles of the Canadian repatriation legislation should be embodied in the Australian legislation. The Canadian legislation recognizes that once a soldier has been accepted he is in perfect health, and, therefore, the Dominion Government ensures him against any disability that he may suffer. That provision is subject only to the one qualification, that each man shall have given in good faith his whole medical history and not wilfully concealed any defects. The same provision could be well incorporated in this legislation. I direct the attention of hon orable members to the fact that in his second-reading speech the Minister for Repatriation said -
It may be that the desire in the minds of the persons so keenly advocating the acceptance of the so-called “ insurance “ principle is really to ensure that no soldier who has served overseas shall be refused a pension in respect of incapacity.
Later he said -
I am satisfied it is being given effect to and has been in operation ever since 1920.
I direct attention to the fact that there is a material qualification in the clause which relates to aggravation of a disability. The Minister could cover that if he expunged from all the clauses in which it appears the word “ materially “. If he did so, he would give effect to the insurance principle. On page 1 of the statement placed before honorable members there is a definition of the word “ attributable “. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has been asked to look into that definition. On his interpretation of it a great deal of this legislation will depend. The right honorable gentleman has had plenty of time in which to advise the House, through the Minister for Repatriation, of his interpretation of the word “ attributable “. I ask the Minister for Repatriation, before he closes the debate on the second reading, to obtain the required information from the AttorneyGeneral in order that honorable gentlemen may be enabled in committee to take whatever steps they consider necessary to alter the definition to accord with what they think it should be.
– If the word “ directly “ be deleted, a stricter interpretation will be placed on “ attributable “.
– Yes. The House should not be satisfied until the AttorneyGeneral defines it.
Another class of pensioner who should have the sympathy of the House is the sufferer from tuberculosis. This class falls into three divisions, and each one receives a different rate of compensation and is subject to different conditions. First, the totally and permanetly incapacitated sufferer receives a pension of £4 a week, which is reduced to £2 2s. a week when he enters a sanatorium for treatment. He is not permitted to earn any money; but if he agrees to accept a pension of £2 10s. a week he is allowed to accept employment. The second class consists of war pensioners, who receive £2 2s. a week whether or not they be inmates of a sanatorium, and they are permitted to earn money. Iri the third class is the. service pensioner, whose disability of tuberculosis is not regarded as being adequate to entitle him to a war pension. This man receives 26s. a week from the Repatriation Department and 12s. 6d. a week as an invalid pension, making a total of 38s. 6d. a week. He is not permitted to earn money.
When these men enlisted for military service, they were in perfect health, but they campaigned under such rigorous conditions that their resistance was lowered and they fell victims to the dread scourge of tuberculosis. The conditions under which many of our troops are now living in the jungles of New Guinea, may so reduce their resistance that in the future they may develop this terrible disease. Therefore, the fact that war service has contributed to a material degree is a most important factor in these oases.
If the onus of proof had always rested with the Repatriation Commission, many soldiers who fought in the last war would not be under the sod or occupying beds in sanatorium^ to-day. On the 26th February last, a census was taken of tubercular soldiers in the Lady Davidson Home in Sydney, and it revealed that 53 of the inmates were service pensioners and 13 were war pensioners. The war pensioner, upon entering a sanatorium, is restored to a certain standard of health and is enabled to resume civil life. His pension then allows him to purchase suitable foods and medicines to retard any weakening of health for a considerable period. But the unfortunate service pensioner, who receives 38s. 6d. a week, is obliged to live under conditions not conducive to the maintenance of health, and the records which I cited are significant. He is obliged to return for treatment within two or . three months. The explanation is that his pension does not allow him to purchase the requisite food and medicines for the purpose of building up his resistance against this scourge. The country should be ashamed of itself for not accepting such men as a definite war disability. They are entitled to better treatment from a grateful country.
To show the insidious nature of this disease, which may lie dormant for as long as 20 years, I quote from a report by Drs. Stewart and Ross, of Canada-
We have no difficulty in having such reconstructions accepted as essentially correct by experienced groups of physicians, ami no objection raised to making these the bases for varying treatment and prognosis. But it is difficult to get such presumption accepted, or the way they are arrived at appreciated by the assessors in tribunals, lay or medical, who have little or no experience of the ways of tuberculosis, except the slants and smatterings their work has given them.
That is reminiscent of the findings of the War Pensions Assessment Tribunal. I direct attention to the words “ lay or medical”. They have had “no experience of the ways of tuberculosis except the slants and smatterings their work hari given them “. The extract continues: -
Yet the learned presiding officer of the court was. pleased to characterize such an opinion in writing as “ mere guess and speculation and consider the case settled adversely for the man unless “ factual “ evidence could bebrought.
How often have we heard the tribunal? demand factual evidence? The extract continues -
It will be seen that the conflict of opinion which has always existed in regard to- pulmonary tuberculosis still operates, to cause discontent amongst unsuccessful claimants.
I ask the Minister to accept the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Moreton, the purpose of which is to ensure that all tubercular soldiers shall be a charge upon the State. The acceptance of the “ Insurance clause “ taken from the Canadian act will relieve the Minister of any further worry in this regard.
The most contentious provision of the bill is that applying to rates. It has aroused grave concern among returned soldiers’ organizations in New South Wales. This is one instance in which State sub-branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia are completely out of step with the federal executive. The Government has accepted the recommendation of the parliamentary committee for an increase of pensions by 20 per cent. Whilst I do not criticize the committee, the attitude of the Government is open to question. When the report was submitted, the basic wage in New South Wales was £4 15s. a week. Since then, the basic wage has increased by 3s. a week. Since the outbreak of war, the cost of living in New South Wales has risen by more than 20 per cent.
– How much more?
– I do not know; nor does the honorable member. I have tried to ascertain the facts, but they are shrouded in mystery. The House should be given the information more often than it is, in order to enable honorable members to ascertain whether pensions should be adjusted. When the Minister in his second-reading speech justified the increase of 20 per cent., has words could be applied with equal force to the contention of the honorable member for Warringah that pensions should be increased by 50 per cent. The Minister, dealing with children of deceased soldiers, stated : -
For the first child, 25 per cent. (i.e., from 10s. to 12s.6d. per week) and for the second and subsequent children66 per cent. (i.e., from 7s. 6d. to 12s. 6d. a week).
I ask the House to note the honorable gentleman’s reasons for substantiating the increase of 66 per cent., because they can be used with equal justification to substantiate an increase of 50 per cent. in soldier pensions. He said -
The proposed increase is substantially the same as that which was recommended by the parliamentary committee, and the Government is of opinion that it is justified, having regard to the increase in the cost of living since the commencement of the war, the general increase in wages, the present rate of pay of members of the forces, and the amendments which have been made in the rates of invalid and old-age pensions.
– Read on a little further.
– The extract continues -
However, although cost of living has been mentioned as one of the reasons for the increase, it is not intended to reduce the rates should the cost of living or wages rates fall.
In spite of that, the Minister says that the 66 increase is due to other conditions. He refused to adopt the same reasoning in respect of an increase of soldier pensions above 20 per cent. The Minister’s attitude is incomprehensible. He should attempt to explain the position to the House.
– I can easily do that.
– The Minister’s reasons could just as well apply to a 50 per cent. increase.
– The honorable member knows that the rate was far too low.
– The Minister will have his opportunity to reply later. On page 4 of its report the special parliamentary committee said -
The committee found that there was reasonable ground for a general increase of the rates of war pension. An outstanding factor in this regard was the comparison of rates of pay to members of the forces and allowances to their dependants with the same item in respect of the 1914 war.
I have no fault to find with that. If the Government will only do that, and realize that there is substance in that observation, it will not be satisfied with a 20 per cent. increase. On the one hand, the Minister justifies 66 per cent., and on the other hand the committee says that the pay of members of the forces increased by 41.66 per cent. The Minister attempts to justify a 20 per cent. increase.
– The honorable member is taking only one item into consideration.
– There is no logic in what has been done. It appears to have been a blind stab in the dark. In his speech the Minister said -
The. increase in the cost of living from 1930 to 1942 amounted to 20.7 per cent., whilst the increase in the basic wage over the same period was also approximately 20 per cent.
It is most unfair to take the basic wage as a measuring rod to determine what the increase of the soldier’s pension ought to be. Certain margins for skill, for unpleasant or dangerous work, or work in the country are superimposed on the basic wage. I do not agree that a soldier is worth only the basic wage. In my opinion, the right way to assess his payment is to take the nominal average weighted wage, as that will give the true figure. Taking the figures for all industrial groups in 1919, the weighted average nominal wage payable to adult workers was £3 14s. lid. In March, 1942, it was £5 3s. 8d. The average for the capital, cities increased by 7s., which means that the average Commonwealth wage was approximately £5 lis. as against £3 14s. lid. In other words, it means that when the Repatriation Act was passed the increase was about 47 per cent. Yet the Minister justifies 66f per cent, on the arguments which I now put forward. I have shown the difference between the increase of the wage of a soldier and the increase of the nominal average weighted wage for the Commonwealth. There is no justification for giving to soldiers a paltry 20 per cent, increase.
Let me now pursue this matter further. Some time ago Judge O’Mara made some observations in regard to the pay of soldiers. The committee also made some observations, as did the Minister. In fixing a wage for Civil Constructional Corps workers, Judge O’Mara made a most unfair comparison when he referred to the pay of soldiers. I have here a memorandum issued to all supervising officers and contractors carrying out work for the Allied Works Council. It is signed by W. Steward Howard, and is most significant in the light of Judge O’Mara’s award. One clause in the memorandum states -
It will signify nothing if in New South Wales we have, for example, 25,000 members of the Civil Construction Corps, if, after a reasonable period has been allowed for the men to be accustomed to their new conditions, the actual working efficiency of those 25,000 men is only equal to that of 5,000 workers who might have been engaged under normal circumstances.
It will be seen that the obtaining of 5,000 units of efficiency from 25,000 men would have been considered satisfactory. It was for such men that the award was made, yet that award was referred to by Judge
O’Mara when referring to the pay of soldiers. I have here a list of 46 workers from one firm in Sydney who are paid amounts ranging from £15 17s. to £25 a week, the average payment being £20 7s. a week. Those are the rates paid in the industrial sphere at a time when soldiers are fighting for 8s. 6d. a day. Recently the Government introduced a measure to authorize the setting aside of £30,000,000 a year for a national welfare fund. That is done for an industrial army which now is being paid at the rate of £20 7s. a. week; yet the Government is prepared to pay to the “ digger who fights in mud, is constantly exposed to danger, is not paid overtime, and may eventually lose his life in the service of his country, a mere 8s. 6d. a day, and a miserly repatriation pension which the Government proposes to increase by only 20 per cent. In a democracy every unit ought to pull its weight. In my opinion, the fighting army and the industrial army should be placed on comparable bases. I do not believe in giving to the fighting man a miserable pittance and a miserly repatriation scheme, whilst the industrial army gets fabulous wages and the promise of £30,000,000 a year to create a national welfare fund. No margin is allowed to the soldier for working in mud, or under other unpleasant conditions, or in dangerous places. He is not paid anything for the overtime that he works. It is thi duty of the Government to put the pay and conditions of the fighting services on a proper basis.
I wish now to refer to the position of the widows and children of soldiers, because they are the ones who will suffer most should the rates not be increased sufficiently. I shall mention a number of cases which have come to my notice. The first concerns a widow with three children, whose husband when alive was paid £5 ls. 6d. a week. Now that he is dead his widow is 14s. a week worse off than before. I say nothing of what it means to lose her husband and partner in life. Had her husband been killed in civil industry, his widow would have been paid £800 workers’ compensation in a lump sum, plus £50 for two children, £1 10s. a week widow’s pension and, in addition, £1 a week for herself and 10s a week for each child under the New South Wales Pensions Act. Another case is that of a man who is receiving a 100 per cent, pension. He has a wife and two children and under the existing act would receive £8 15s. a week. Under this legislation he will receive £9 13s. a week. Should he die, his widow, under the existing act, would receive £3 4s. 6d. a week, and under this legislation £4 a week. Under the existing act her pension would have been reduced by £5 10s. 6d. a week; under the new provisions the reduction will be £5 13s. a week. It will be seen that the reduction of her pensions is greater under this legislation than under the existing act. A third case is that of a man who, while alive, received a 25 per cent, pension. This man has two children, and under the existing act would draw £5 18s. 9d. a week. Under these proposals he will be paid £6 5s. 6d. a week. But should he die, his widow would receive under the existing act £3 4s. 6d. a week, and under these proposals £4 a week. That is to say, under the existing act the reduction of the pension would be £2 14s. 3d. a week, compared with £2 5s. 6d. a week under these proposals. Can the Minister justify such a state of affairs? Is it right that a woman who loses her husband should also suffer a reduction of her pension? If so, she is called upon to make a double sacrifice. No woman can keep two or three children on the miserly pittance payable to her, and so she must go out to work. In that event her children, who have already lost their father, will be deprived of the love and care of their mother. In those circumstances, how can they hope to have a decent start in life?
– What did the honorable member do for them when he was a member of a former Government?
– As regards the onus of proof, I agree with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) that there are some factors which require explanation. The Minister should consult with the Parliamentary Draftsman with a view to making the position clearer. Will the provision in respect of onus of proof apply in the cases of soldiers of the last war, including all service pensioners, and other soldiers whose appli cations in the past have been rejected? Will they be given the opportunity to appeal again, and will the onus of proof in their oases be placed on the department? Apparently, that is not to !be. Why should the “ digger “ of the last war be penalized in any way whatever? Will all soldiers whose applications in the past have been rejected now be given the right to appeal ? If such provision be not made, the provision in the bill with respect to onus of proof is just an empty gesture. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) dealt with the provision concerning the benefit of the doubt. However, the same right should be given to the soldier as is given to the commission to challenge evidence and examine witnesses ; but he will not be able to exercise that right unless all confidential papers and documents in the hands of the commission are made available to him. [Extension of time granted.] Unless that be done the placing of the onus of proof on the department is, I repeat, merely an empty gesture. I urge the Minister to remedy that defect in the measure.
Dealing with compassionate grants, the Minister in his second-reading speech said -
Provision for compassionate grants exists in the Canadian Act, hut I am satisfied that there is no real need for a similar one in Australia. Apart from the undesirability of departing from the recognized principle of paying pensions in respect of those conditions which are related to, or aggravated by, war service, it is contended that social legislation such as the widows’ pension scheme and invalid pension scheme in Australia removes the necessity for the introduction of the principle asked for.
It is news to me to learn that any compensation paid to the soldier shall be paid as charity. No soldier wants charity from this or any other Government. Invalid and old-age pensions are regarded as charity; otherwise service pensions would be classified with those benefits. However, service pensions were provided apart from invalid and old-age pensions simply because the soldier refused to accept charity. Any benefit made available to him because of his war service must be granted in recognition of his war service. Therefore, the statement of the Minister that claims for compassionate grants are adequately covered by our invalid and old-age pension legislation travesties the position of the returned soldier. No soldier wants charity. Any assistance which he is obliged to seek should be granted to him .as :a right for which he kas fought .and bled. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Gollins) instanced the case of a winner of the Victoria Gross who was forced ito hunt for work. I know of many nien who have won the Distinguished Service Order, the Distinguished Conduct Medal or the Military Medal who have had a similar experience. In spite of their deeds of heroism, they have hardly been able to obtain sufficient to keep themselves above the level of beggary. Compassionate grants should be made in cases of that kind. The Minister should be given discretion to make such grants to those who have served their country well, and have earned great distinction on the field of battle.
The committee recommended that a successful applicant should be reimbursed expenses incurred by him in connexion with his .application; but the Government has not accepted that recommendation. It takes the view that it has discharged its full obligations in bearing the cost of services of the medical panel and specialists who are placed at the disposal of applicants. However, a “ digger “ whose application is rejected on the report of the medical panel may obtain further evidence from outside specialists upon which the commission may ultimately grant his application. Today, he is obliged to bear the expense of obtaining that extra evidence. The Government should accept the recommendation made by the committee on that point. Its interests will be fully safeguarded because it will incur no liability except in cases ‘where the applicant’s claims are ultimately granted by the commission. Under existing conditions, however, a soldier who incurs expenses in obtaining additional evidence upon which the commission ultimately grants him a. pension is considerably out of pocket. He is entitled to expect the Government to pay a reasonable share of such expenses.
The principle of preference of employment to returned soldiers demands urgent consideration by this Parliament. That principle should be embodied in legisla tion. Honorable members opposite have some knowledge of compulsory unionism and of preference to unionists. No doubt they feel somewhat disturbed that those principles must ultimately come into conflict with the principle of preference of employment to returned soldiers. The Government has already given evidence that it views with favour the principles of compulsory unionism, and preference of employment to unionists ; but I remind it that in the near future as many as 700,000 of returned soldiers in Australia will seek justice for themselves by insisting on recognition of the principle of preference in employment to them. Is it not fitting that a man who has fought to preserve the privileges and comforts which people at home enjoy to-day, including wages as high as £15 and £20 a week, and social service benefits to be provided at the cost of £30,000,000 a year, should be given preference of employment over those who have enjoyed those peace-time conditions? We must face up to this problem.. If the principle of preference of employment to returned soldiers is not given legislative effect before the war ends, the Government in office at the conclusion of hostilities will find itself in a sorry predicament; and in the absence of such provision the country will not experience conditions as settled as they would be if timely justice were done to returned soldiers in this respect.
.- I hope that following the impassioned speech made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), honorable members will return to a more reasonable state of mind, and consider the bill without endeavouring, like the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and the honorable member for Wentworth, to make political capital out of this problem. We should endeavour to deal with the matter reasonably. I had the honour to be chairman of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Repatriation, which was appointed by theGovernment to review the Repatriation Act, and recommend amendments to improve that legislation in the light of conditions arising during the present war. Associated with me on that committeewere five distinguished returned soldiers. who are members of the Parliament. They were representative of all parties in the Parliament. All of them bore on their bodies the sears of service in the last war. Therefore, any honorable member who endeavours to convey the impression that that committee was not sympathetic with the claims of returned soldiers, and did not approach these matters from a practical point of view, is guilty of sheer humbug and hypocrisy. I regret that I am impelled to make that remark. The committee included two former Ministers for Repatriation in the persons of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and Senator Collett, both of whom were of great assistance. The secretary of the committee was the clerk of this House, Captain P. C. Green, M.C., who is a distinguished soldier of the last war. I- pay a tribute to the valuable assistance which he was able to give to us as the result of his vast practical and military knowledge. Early in our investigations we considered it necessary to lay down a certain course of procedure. We considered that it would be utterly impracticable to hear evidence from every organization, and every returned soldier, who had a grievance with regard to the existing legislation, or with respect to decisions of the commission. Therefore, we decided to hear in person submissions by representatives of all federal organizations of returned soldiers. These included the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which has been largely responsible for the moulding of our existing repatriation machinery and has rendered great service, on behalf of returned soldiers generally. That organization has invariably worked ardently in co-operation with successive governments in the interests of returned soldiers. The committee also heard evidence from representatives of the Limbless Soldiers’ Association, the Tubercular Soldiers’ Organization, and the Totally Blind Soldiers’ Organization, and ail federal organizations of returned soldiers which desired to place their views before the committee. The committee decided that it would take written submissions only from State organizations of returned soldiers; and such organizations duly made their submissions to the committee. It also decided to take written submissions from all returned soldiers of this war and the last war, who might have complaints to ventilate or suggestions to make. In addition, we communicated with all members of this Parliament, requesting them’ to submit their views to the committee. I am sorry to say that we received no submission from the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who has been so emphatic in his criticism of the Government’s proposals to-night. Neither did we receive any submission in writing from the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). However, I pay a tribute to those honorable members who were sufficiently interested to send along practical suggestions for the improvement of our repatriation legislation. They included the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), who submitted half a. dozen very useful suggestions, some of which the committee adopted, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), Senator Brand and several other honorable gentlemen whose suggestions were most helpful to the committee.
– What about the honorable member for Parkes?
– The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) may also have submitted useful suggestion to the committee-. I did not intend to overlook him. Having adopted that course, we were in a position to settle down to the job as mon with a practical appreciation of the repatriation problem. I am glad to be able to say that the view of the committee was that, first, last and always, it mustendeavour to be practical and to exercise common sense; because, after all, the worst possible service that could be done to the returned soldiers would be to create the illusion that they were to be the recipients of benefits which in reality could not be assured by any government. I believe that, in such circumstances, our submissions, which in the main have been accepted by the Government, are reasonable. It has been said that we might have done this and that. We might have shot at the moon, and hit nothing. Nothing that mankind could do would adequately reward the returned soldier for his participation in a war. There is nothing material that would adequately compensate a widow for the loss of her husband, or children who have been left orphans as the result of the participation of their fathers in a war. That feeling, I believe, is common to both sides of the House. As the committee was appointed with the deliberate intention of avoiding the introduction of party feeling, it is regrettable that we should have witnessed such a display by several honorable members from New South Wales, who have endeavoured to capitalize the position for what, to my mind, are purely party political purposes. They stand condemned by their own records. As a matter of fact, both the honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for Wentworth were recently members of governments. Within the last three years they have had the opportunity to remove whatever anomalies existed in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. As members of the Cabinet, they could have brought pressure to bear on their colleagues. They had the opportunity to introduce a measure increasing substantially the rate of pension. Did they do so? They did not. I appreciate their difficulty. But I resent their display, which implies that they are the only men who sympathize with those- who suffer in all wars. They have played a diabolical game of party politics. I do not blame the returned soldiers’ organizations. After all, they are entitled to use their power to obtain justice in accordance with their views. The New South Wales branch of the league organized a monster meeting in the Sydney Town Hall, and formulated certain demands, including one for an increase of the repatriation pension by at least 50 per cent. Certain honorable members from New South Wales have fallen into line with that demand, and ardently support it, doubtless with an eye on the next elections. It would be very easy for me, as a returned soldier, for the Government, and for many honorable members - including members of the joint parliamentary committee - to support a -50 per cent, increase of pensions.
But we have to be practical. We cannot be unconscious of the fact that no government with any sense of justice can afford to ignore the necessity to relate the amount of pension payable to a soldier to the social service that is given to a civilian. One must take into consideration the fact that an individual who is disabled in the industrial field may have his earning capacity reduced to nil, yet is entitled to only 25s. 6d. a week by way of compensation; whereas the returned soldier, with his earning capacity reduced to nil, is entitled to a pension of approximately £9 ls. a fortnight. One can only say that, although the disparity is great, there is justification for it; but it cannot be unduly widened without doing a distinct injustice to the rest of the community. The problem was brought vividly before me six months ago. A widow in my constituency had applied to the commission for a pension on account of the death of her husband, but her claim had been rejected. She wrote to me in pathetic terms, saying, “ I see playing within a charmed circle of daisies the children of other returned soldiers who have had the disability of their fathers accepted as due to war service, and I see my child playing outside that charmed circle “. Both sets of children are human beings, both have human needs ; hut, because the death of one father was not accepted as due to war service, those children played outside the charmed circle, while others played within it. These considerations have always strengthened my efforts to raise the rate of old-age pensions, to obtain additional social services, and to increase the payment to widows by way of child endowment. There must be some relationship between the payments to the returned soldier and those to the civilian sufferer. We cannot widen the breach and still say that we live in a Christian community.
Much heat has been engendered tonight, on the ground that the increase of the pension by 20 per cent, is not sufficient. It has been said that the increase of the cost of living since the last war has been greater than 20 per cent. Not one honorable gentleman who has spoken in that strain has been honest enough to say that never since pensions have been provided for soldiers has the amount been directly related to the cost of living. The reason is obvious. There are from the last war, and there will be from this war, many thousands of men who will suffer dreadful physical disabilities, unseen in many instances - lung wounds, internal injuries. They are walking about, apparently fit, earning - as they always earned - the maximum amount they are capable of earning, just as though they had never been injured. In such circumstances, the pension has no direct relationship to the cost of living. This has always been recognized as a compensation for a physical disability from which the soldier may suffer, hut which, as I have said, may in no way lessen his capacity to earn a living. This has been endorsed by the returned soldier organizations, and I hope there will never be a departure from the principle. True, the disability may shorten his life; he may live ten years less than he otherwise would. But many such pensions have no relationship to the cost of living.
– Eighty per cent, of the present pensions fall within that category.
– My honorable friend has accurately stated the position. If you were to say to the returned soldier who is on a 50 per cent, rate, “ You shall not be allowed to earn more than half the basic wage “, or to one who is on a rate of 100 per cent., “ You shall not be allowed to earn anything “, there would be a revolution among the returned men. In such circumstances, it is mean, it is contemptible, for honorable members opposite - I refer not to all of them, but to two in particular; some of them have a sense of decency - to endeavour to relate the pension to the cost of living. The honorable member for Warringah endeavoured to crossexamine the committee. He said, “ How did it assess the increase at 20 per cent.? What has been the increase of the cost of living ? On what basis did the committee arrive at its conclusions ? “ The committee considered a lot of facts; it pondered on the problem, reasoned it out, and eventually arrived at the conclusion that, in view of all the circumstances that are operating to-day, and apart from any consideration of the basic wage, an increase of 20 per cent, would be a reasonable one to ask the Government to grant. We might easily have made ourselves good fellows by recommending a greater increase; it might have meant a thousand votes to me in Ballarat. I could have sent clrculars to returned soldiers’ organizations pointing out what I had advocated, but we agreed that a 20 per cent, increase was a reasonable thing to recommend, and I am glad to say that every member of the committee, irrespective of his party affiliations, supported that proposal.
The honorable member for Warringah held forth about the position of widows and children. He was a member of a government, not very long deceased, which fixed the allotment for the three children of a soldier at 38s. 6d. a week on his enlistment. The recommendation of the committee is that the three children of a deceased soldier shall receive 37s. 6d. a week, only ls. less than the last Government was prepared to pay to the children of a living soldier. The honorable member was not honest enough to add that very substantial educational benefits are also to be made available to children of deceased soldiers. Any honorable member who has a child attending a secondary school will understand that the benefits prescribed in the bill will mean a great deal to widows with children to educate.
– But surely the honorable member does not suggest that, even under this bill, widows are treated properly.
– We considered the matter very carefully, and the committee recognized that every effort should be made to deal fairly with widows and children of deceased soldiers. We recommended that widows’ pensions should be increased by 8s. a week, that the allowance for the first child should be increased by 25 per cent., and that of the third child increased from 8s. 6d. a week to 12s. 6d. a week, which represents more than a 20 per cent, increase.
– But still it is not enough.
– I do not propose to argue that point, but the honorable member must admit that it represents a substantial improvement, especially when the educational benefits are taken into consideration.
A good deal has been said about the treatment of sufferers from tuberculosis. We all admit that this is a dreadful scourge, but the .fact is that the committee recommended benefits for tuberculosis sufferers of the last war which it was not prepared to recommend for sufferers from any other complaint. The committee recognized how difficult it is to decide, beyond any doubt, when the disease arose in the soldier. Therefore, it recommended that a returned soldier, whose application for a pension had been rejected, should he re-exa,mined by a panel of specialists, and his case reheard by the repatriation authorities.
– Surely not by the entitlement tribunal that previously rejected his application?
– Not by the same medical panel. I hope that if this provision in the bill is agreed to, and applicant is given the right to appear before another medical panel, it will be arranged that the panel does not consist of the doctors who previously turned him down. Qf course, after he has been dealt with by the panel, his case must come ‘before the Repatriation Commission. It has been argued that the Government should accept responsibility for all ex-soldiers of this war and the last suffering from tuberculosis. I remind honorable members that it is more than twenty years since the last war ended, and no government so far, not even those in which the honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for Wentworth were Ministers, has been prepared to accept that responsibility. The committee examined this point closely, and was not prepared to go farther than to recommend that applicants should be given another chance before a new medical panel. After all, it cannot reasonably be argued that because tuberculosis is detected in a man after he has served in a base camp for a few months, perhaps without ever having heard a rifle shot, he should be entitled to be treated differently from the civilian sufferer. Medical officers are not infallible, and they may well fail to detect the presence of the disease at the original examination.
Mir. Rankin. - That is an extreme case. What about the man who has served, say, two years with the forces?
– Nevertheless, the case which I cited would be included if the suggestion of the honorable member for Wentworth were accepted.
– It would be a good thing for the community if all tuberculosis sufferers were treated as the honorable member for Wentworth suggested.
– That is true. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was Minister for Social Services for some years, but he, like the honorable member for Wentworth, talked much and did nothing. I cannot see how we can differentiate ‘between the soldier, whose tubercular condition is not due to war service, and the civilian sufferer from tuberculosis. The civilian sufferer is entitled to nothing more than an invalid pension, but the discharged soldier sufferer, whose condition is held not to be due to war service, is entitled to a service pension, as well as to an invalid -pension.
– And he receives treatment, also.
– That is so. The proposal of the Government to place upon the Repatriation Commission the onus of proof when an ex-soldier applies for a pension represents an important step forward. The battle for this benefit has been long and hard-fought. I am inclined to agree with the honorable member for Warringah that the clause covering this point is not so well drafted as it might be, and I hope that it will be amended in committee so as to make it perfectly clear where the onus of proof rests. However, I point out, that when an amending Repatriation Bill was before Parliament some years ago, and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) moved an amendment for the purpose of placing the onus of proof on the commission, the honorable member for Wentworth voted against it.
– I did nothing of the kind. That is a very unfair statement.
– I remember the incident well, and am prepared to prove what I say.
– Will the honorable member deny that it was our Government which brought in that amendment in regard to the onus of proof?
– The government in which the honorable member was a Minister introduced an amending Repatriation’ Bill. The. honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) moved an amendment to put the onus of proof upon the Repatriation Commission, and the honorable member for Wentworth, who ‘has been making such a row to-night, voted against it. The record of the votes awd proceedings of the House for the 30th and 31s’t May, 1940, is as follows: -
Nae clause -
Mr. Makin moved’, That the following new clause bc inserted in- the bill: - “ 10A. Section forty-five w of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the first proviso to sub-section (2), and inserting in its stead the following proviso.: -
Provided that if the’ appellant or a representative of the appellant makes out a prima facie case that tile. incapacity from which a member of the Forces is suffering or from which that member has died’ was caused or aggravated1 by some occurrence which happened to him after the commencement of his war service, the onus of proof that such incapacity was not, iti fact, caused or aggravated by war service shall lie upon the Commission.’ “
Question - That the clause proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put.
The Committee divided (The Chairman, Mr. Prowse, in the Chair) -
The division list shows among the “ Noes “ the following names : “ Mr. Harrison, Mr. Hughes, Mr. Spender “. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has also been very rowdy to-night.
The bill makes some great improvements of the conditions that are to be available to returned soldiers from this and the last war. The basis of eligibility is a decided improvement, the 20 per cent, increase in the rate of pension is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances, and the educational and vocational provisions are what they ought to be, and can, I believe, be accepted. The medical benefits to soldiers suffering from any cause whatever for a period of twelve months are desirable. It has been said that the administrative machinery is not satisfactory, but after all this machinery is the result of twenty years of experience, and of the combined efforts of this Parliament, the Repatriation Commission and the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. I pay a special tribute to that body, to whose efforts is greatly due the fact that to-day we have machinery devised for dealing with pensions and repatriation which probably has not its equal in the world. There- are, no doubt, mistakes in administration- from time to time. No matter what the machinery was, some mistakes would be made, but in the first instance- we find the soldier given the facility of - appeal to a State Repatriation Board1, to have his case analysed, and himself examined. If his case is rejected, he has the right of appeal to the commission itself, which is a Commonwealth-wide body. If it is accepted, the amount of pension is assessed, perhaps up to 50 per cent. If he is not satisfied with that, an appeal tribunal is available to which he can- appeal against his assessment. If bis case is rejected altogether, there is provided for him, in effect, a sort of high court, aH the members of which are returned soldiers, and to which he is entitled to go - a tribunal on which there is a member of his own organization. That machinery is good, and practically foolproof, and: I hope that it will continue for many years to come to give justice to the returned- soldiers.
During this debate something was said about differential rates of pension for different ranks. In effect, it was hinted that if a man enlisted when receiving £10 or £15 a week in civilian life, the rate of pension provided for his wife and dependants was inadequate, and bore no relationship to his civil earnings. That is a fact, but the principle has been accepted by this Parliament for twenty years and should not be departed from, for reasons which I shall state. Men go to war in their youth; they may when they go be earning exceedingly small incomes, and, but for war, they would have been potential earners of large incomes. There is no satisfactory method of assessing what their earnings would have been after the war. It is, therefore, most difficult to differentiate in those circumstances.
Mention has been made to-night of the need for preference to returned soldiers. The committee did take into consideration the question of employment, and, in doing so, was very impressed by the evidence of Professor Madgwick, but, after discussing the subject very thoroughly, the furthest the committee could go was to say that whenever practicable preference in employment should be provided. In effect, the committee balked at making a recommendation for outright preference. We know that in the last war it was provided that preference of employment should be granted to the returned soldier, other things being equal. We know also that the qualification, “ other things being equal “, was a trap and a delusion. When it suited employers to use the qualification, they promptly dumped the returned soldier. That position will operate, whatever legislation to prevent it is passed, after this war, as it operated after the last, except that it will operate to a greater extent, because more men are in the forces, and there is the additional difficulty of dealing with hundreds of thousands of men whom the legislature has prevented from enlisting.Is it to be said that men denied the opportunity to enlist are to be dealt with differently from those who have been at liberty to enlist and fight in the war? I commend the bill to the House. It may not be perfect, but it, is a good measure. I hope that it will pass, and give substantial benefits and satisfaction to the returned soldiers of A ustralia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ryan) adjourned.
Bill returned from theSenate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 6 -
Section twenty-three of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the proviso to paragraph (s) and inserting in its stead the following proviso: - “Provided that sub-paragraph (ii) or (iii) of this paragraph shall not apply to exempt the pay and allowances earned by a member of the Defence Force who is not appointed as a member of a body, contingent or detachment of that Force out of Australia.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 1 - Leave out “ is amended”; insert “is amended - (a) “ -
Senate’s amendment No. 2 - At the end of the clause add - “; and (b) by omitting paragraph (t) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph : -
in the case of a member of the Defence Force -
payments made by way of dependants’ allowances; and
deferred pay, including interest thereon, payable in respect of his service as a member of that Force; and”’.
Clause 8 -
Section twenty-six of the principal act is amended by omitting paragraph (c) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - “ (c) the amount of any annuity, excluding, in the case of an annuity which has been purchased, that part ofthe annuity which represents so much of the purchase price as has not been allowed or is not allowable as a deduction or in respect of which a rebate of income tax has not been allowed or is not allowable in assessments for income tax under this act or any previous law of the Commonwealth : “.
Senate’s amendment No. 3. - Leave out “ is amended”; insert “is amended - (a) “
Senate’s amendment No. 4. - At the end of the clause - “ ; and (6) by adding at the end of the proviso to paragraph (d) the words ‘, or in respect of deferred pay, including interest thereon, paid to a person who is or has been a. member ofthe Defence Force in respect of his service as a member of that Force; ‘ “.
Clause 15 -
Section one hundred and sixty of the principal act is amended -
by inserting after paragraph (a) of sub-section (2.) the following paragraph: - “ (aa) in respect of a daughter of the taxpayer where the taxpayer is a widower or widow and the daughter is wholly engaged in keeping house for the taxpayer and is wholly maintained by the taxpayer an amount of One hundred pounds.
Provided that if the daughter is wholly engaged in keeping house for the taxpayer during part only of the year of income and is wholly maintained by the taxpayer during that part of the year, the amount shall be such part of what the amount otherwise would be as, in the opinion of the Commissioner, is reasonable in the circumstances:
Senate’s amendment No. 5. - Leave out of the first proviso to paragraph (aa) the words “ what the amount otherwise would be “ ; insert “ One hundred pounds “.
Senate’s amendment No. 6. - After paragraph (aa) insert the following paragraph: - “ (ab) in respect of a person keeping house for a taxpayer where the taxpayer is a widower or widow and that person is a resident and is wholly engaged in keeping house for the taxpayer and has the care of any of the taxpayer’s children who are under sixteen years of age - an amount of One hundred pounds :
Provided that if that person is wholly engaged in keeping house for the taxpayer and in the careof those children during part only of the year of income the amount shall be such part of One hundred pounds as, in the opinion of the Commissioner, is reasonable in the circumstances:
Provided further that not more than one rebate of tax shall be allowed in respect of this paragraph and that rebate shall not exceed Forty-five pounds;”
Senate’s amendment No. 7. - Leave out of paragraph (e) of proposed new sub-section (4.) “(b) and (ba)”; insert “(ab), (b), (ba) and (c) “.
Section two hundred and twenty-oneh of the principal act is amended -
by omitting sub-section (2.) and inserting in its stead the following subsections : -
Senate’s amendment No. 8. - Leave out proposed sub-section (2.) ; insert the following new sub-section : - “ (2) If there is no tax payable by the employee, or if the amount represented by the face value of the stamps so produced is greater than the tax payable by the employee, the Commissioner shall, if so requested by the employee, pay to him -
where there is no tax payable by the employee - an amount equal to the face value of the stamps so produced; or
in any case in which paragraph (a) of this sub-section does not apply, where -
the stamps are produced on or before the thirty-first day of March of the latest year of tax for which the employee has received a notice of assessment - the amount by which the face value of the stamps exceeds the tax payable by the employee for that year of tax and any preceding year; or
ii ) the stamps are produced after the thirty-first day of March of that year of tax - the amount by which the face value of the tax stamps held by the employee on that date, or the amount deducted from his salary or wages to that date and dealt with in pursuance of section two hundred and twenty-onek of this Act in respect of which he has not previously received credit, exceeds the tax payable by him for that year of tax and any preceding year:
Provided that where the amount of the excess is less than one pound the Commissioner shall pay that amount to the employee.”
After Part VII. of the Principal Act the following part is inserted: - “Part VIIa. - Registration of Tax Agents. “251k. - (1.) Registration as a tax agent shall remain in force until cancelled in accordance with this Act. “ (2.) A board may cancel the registration of any tax agent upon being satisfied that -
any return which has been prepared by or on behalf of the tax agent is false in any material particular;
Senate’s amendment No. 9. - After “ particular “ insert “ , unless the tax agent establishes to the satisfaction of the board that he had no knowledge of the falsity or that the falsity was due to his inadvertence “.
Clause 28- (1.)The amendment effected by section six of this Act shall apply to all assessments for the financial year beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fortyone, and all subsequent years. (2.) The amendments effected by sections seven, eight, nine, twelve, thirteen and sixteen of this Act shall apply to all assessments for the financial year beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and forty-two, and all subsequent years.
Senate’s amendment No. 10. - After “effected by”, first occurring, insert “paragraph (a) of”.
Senate’s amendment No. 11. - After “effected by”, second occurring, insert “paragraph (b) of section six and by “.
.- I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
The first four amendments relate to the exemption from income tax of deferred pay accruing to members of the Defence Forces. The amendments provide for the exemption of not merely the deferred pay plus interest thereon, but also the 5 per cent, on the accumulated amounts of deferred pay plus interest when paid at the time of discharge. The sections under which the deferred pay of soldiers is taxed have been in the Income Tax Assessment Act since the introduction of the Commonwealth income tax. Those sections refer to lump-sum payments. If a member of the armed services paid tax on the same basis as civilians; they would be taxed £21,000,000 .a year. The concessions granted to servicemen reduce the amount of tax paid by them to about £3,000,000 a year. These amendments the Government has already intimated to the Senate it is willing to accept.
The fifth amendment is a mere drafting amendment. It relates to the exemption granted in respect of the daughterhousekeeper. The bill, as originally drafted for the House of Representatives, provided for a . diminishing amount according to the amount of the taxable income of the taxpayer. The allowance disappeared at £500 of taxable income. The amendment accepted by the Government in the House of Representatives provided that, in lieu of the varying amount, the exemption should be based upon a fixed allowance of £100. The amendment now made in the Senate is consequential upon the acceptance of £100 and inserts a definite amount in lieu of the varying amount, i.e.. “ what the amount would otherwise be ‘”’.
The sixth amendment, inserted by the Senate, provides for a deduction of £100 in respect of a person keeping house for a widower or widow and having the care of children under sixteen years of age. The Government refused to accept this amendment in the Senate, but the amendment was carried on a division. If this amendment be accepted, the amount of tax involved is estimated at approximately £100,000. The reasons given for the rejection of the amendment were that such a concession may lead to other requests for concessions of a similar nature, but the Government will take that risk.
The seventh amendment is purely a consequential drafting amendment necessitated by the previous amendments.
The eighth amendment provides for the refund of instalment moneys accumulated by a taxpayer up to the 31st March each year. It was moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McLeay) and carried on division, but the Minister in charge of the bill in that chamber intimated that the Government would not accept the amendment. The effect of the amendment will be to make refunds in all cases where the taxpayer requests such refund. The amendment does provide for the retention of the excessive instalment deductions and the payment of interest thereon if the taxpayer does not specifically request the actual refund. The acceptance of the amendment undermines the proposal of the Government to retain as much as possible of the instalment deductions in order to build up a credit to meet the liability for the taxpayer’s assessment in the subsequent year when the rate of income is likely to fall. It does not, however, entirely destroy the Government’s proposal in this connexion, because it still does leave accumulating for the benefit of the subsequent year’s tax all instalment deductions which are made on and after the 1st April each year. Virtually, the amendment provides for a definite instalment year from the 1st April to the 31st March with an adjustment of the taxpayers’ account as at that date annually. The most that the Government will effectively gain for the increased benefit of revenue will be the instalments which will now be made from the pay sheets for the period the 1st April to the 31st July, since under the present arrangement instalments do not usually commence until the 1st August, It is to be admitted that the clear-cut provision of the instalment year the 1st April to the 31st March does benefit taxpayers generally by making provision for instalment deductions over a full 52 weeks of the year.
The Government has decided to accept that amendment, but, in announcing that, I am compelled to repeat what I said when the bill was in committee in this chamber, namely, that the Government considered it highly desirable in the interests, not only of the taxpayer, hut also the whole community, that all overpayments of tax should be retained and oi edited to the taxpayers concerned against future assessments. However, the Senate has seen fit to make considerable alterations.
– It is unfortunate that the Government did not accept a similar amendment when it was moved in this eli am bor..
– I do not propose to enter into a general debate on this matter. When the bill was formerly before us,I stated the reasons why the Government proposed that all overpayments should be retained. The Senate has disagreed with that proposal and, in doing so, it has destroyed much of the good results that would have accrued from the Government’s proposal. I d0 not intend to repeat what. I said on a former occasion. Having moved the acceptance of the Senate’s amendment I leave the matter in the hands of the committee.
The ninth amendment was moved by the Minister in charge of the hill in the Senate in lieu of one of a similar nature moved by Senator Spicer. It has relation to the power of a Taxation Board to cancel the registration of a tax agent if lit- is guilty of submitting false returns. This amendment merely provides that the tax agent will not he liable to deregistration if he can prove that he had no knowledge of the falsity or if the falsity was due to his inadvertence.
The tenth and eleventh amendments are purely drafting amendments necessitated by the amendments relating to deferred pay and housekeepers.
.-The Government has made an extraordinary change of front. This matter was thoroughly thrashed out ‘ in this chamber when the bill was previously before us, and, on a division, the Government defeated an amendment somewhat similar to that which was made by the Senate in respect of refunds of tax which the Government has now accepted. The Government has run for cover. The amendment achieves only a part of the desire of the Opposition, in the matter, in that the amendment makes refunds of tax optional, because they must be applied for by a taxpayer. That provision will enormously increase the man-power difficulties of the Taxation Department and also largely detract from the effectiveness of the refund system, because a great many taxpayers will not know whether they are entitled’ to a refund. However, as the Government has gone part of the way to meet us by accepting the amendment made by the Senate, the Opposition can do no less than concur.
.- I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) whether the assessment notices when sent out will convey an. intimation to the taxpayer that he has overpaid the amount of tax required of him when he has overpaid it, and that it is optional for him to apply for the return of any excess payment ?
– I understand that the Senate has inserted in the bill the amendment which I unsuccessfully attempted to have inserted in this chamber, to provide that the exemption in respect of the housekeeper of a widow or widower should apply to any family relative not being a daughter. I am glad that the Government has accepted such an amendment.
.- Even though the Government has been obliged to change its view, it is a matter for congratulation, so far as the Opposition is concerned, that the bill has been altered in at least one important respect. I refer” to the alteration, combined with the amendment introduced by the Government when the measure was in this chamber, of the stepping of the instalment rates. The amendment which the Government now proposes to accept with regard to refunds will tend considerably to reduce the anomalies which must have arisen under the bill as originally introduced. It will now be possible for a taxpayer who cannot relate his instalments exactly to his annual liability for tax to obtain a refund at the end of the year. I hope that the Government and the Commissioner of Taxation will make widely known the fact that a taxpayer is entitled to a refund. Otherwise there will be many taxpayers whose credit at the end of the year will have been accumulated by the Government merely because the taxpayers were uninformed. That will happen with regard to taxpayers, not only in remote parts of the country, but also in the cities where many taxpayers have little opportunity to inform themselves with regard to the income tax laws. Had the Government accepted some of the other constructive suggestions offered to it when the bill was in this chamber, we might have had a measure worthy of the occasion. As to amendment No. 9, the Government now further improves the position at the suggestion of the Senate, because it will be possible for an agent to show that he had no knowledge of a falsity committed by somebody else, but I still maintain that the principle of law which I understand was accepted in most legislative measures until a year or two ago was that the onus of proof was always on the person who made the charge and not- on the person charged. That, I maintain, should he the position in this case, and the hill is further improved by this amendment.
.- Now that the whole matter has been reopened, I suggest to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that he should entirely abandon the proposal to hold on to any excess payments, whether application be made for a refund or not. The reasons given for this provision have been entirely abandoned by the Government’s acceptance of the Senate’s amendments. Two salient points were raised by the Treasurer. One was that the sums that would be retained by the Government as a result of over-payments would assist in paying in some subsequent year either the whole or a portion of the amount of tax for which a taxpayer was assessed. The outstanding fact was that the only persons whose money would be retained would be wage and salary earners, and not business people. In rebuttal of that the Treasurer claimed that, as far as the wages of workers were concerned, the balance to be retained would be very small. Possibly many years would elapse after the war before the average worker would have a sufficient sum accumulated at the Treasury to pay a year’s tax. The second point raised by the Treasurer was that the conservation of- man-power would be effected, because of the fact that a staff would not he employed in order to make repayments. The amendment made by the Senate will, in my opinion, involve a greater use of man-power than would the original proposal with respect to excess payments. The only staff required for the repayment of excess tax would be that which took the taxpayer’s stamps, compared the amount paid with the tax assessed, and paid him the balance. Under the Senate’s amendment an additional correspondence staff would be required to deal with the letters of the taxpayers who desired a refund. That would involve additional work. The Government should abandon the scheme to retain the excess payments of wage and salary earners, irrespective of whether they claim refunds or not.
– It should make refunds compulsory.
– We shall look foolish in the eyes of the public and of our own supporters if we do not adhere to the original scheme or abandon the proposal altogether. If there was one point worth considering it was the effect on the man-power position, because, as I have already said, that in addition to the staff already engaged, it would be necessary to employ a correspondence staff to deal with applications for refunds. I suggest to the Treasurer that when the bill is returned to the Senate, the Leader of the Government in that chamber should be asked to move for the abandonment of the provision.
.- .The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has dealt with most of the matters that I intended to raise. I am gratified that the Government does not now intend to proceed with that vital departure from, every recognized principle of taxation which was implicit in its original plans. No government, to my knowledge, has ever proposed to take authority to retain excess collections of tax. There can be no justification for any government attempting to specify a scale of payments of tax, and then to clothe itself with authority to retain overpayments made without the consent of the taxpayer. But when this plan was applied to a selected body of taxpayers, who pay their taxes by weekly or fortnightly instalments deducted from their incomes, as distinct from businesses which pay their taxes in a lump sum, the proposal becomes even more indefensible and incomprehensible.
Upon examination, we find that the impact of thi* proposal would faH upon that section of wage earners- with family responsibilities, which cause them to incur expenditure that is an allowable deduction for income tax purposes. Emanating- from a Labour government, this proposal would have resulted in the arbitrary abstraction from the wageearning, taxpaying group of overpayments of tax, and the excess would have, been retained by the Treasury without the authority of the taxpayer. All the appeals that the Opposition made in this chamber for a reconsideration of the proposal fell on deaf ears. Honorable members opposite declared that the proposals involved an issue from which the Government could, not retreat. Now, as the result of pressure from the Senate^ the Government has declared it3 willingness to withdraw from its original stand, and excess payments will be retained only when- taxpayers elect to- permit the Government to retain the money. It is not likely that a great majority of the wage.earning taxpayers will become acquainted within the prescribed time with their right to notify the Taxation Department tha! they elect to claim a refund.
– When will they receive their assessments?
– I do not know. There are many machinery difficulties in this matter.. As the result of the adoption of this new provision, the staff of the Taxation Department will have to be substantially increased, although the Prime Minister has declared that the man-power position is acute. In fact, the position iv so serious that the Department of Labour and National Service is combing not only non-essential industries but also essential industries, the staffs of which were hitherto granted protection from call -up for military service. The country is on the verge of the compulsory call-up of women for military and non-military service. But the Government insists obstinately on the retention of a provision which will yield little revenue, but which will make substantial demands upon manpower. Only a feeling of stubbornness causes the Government to persist with that policy. Consolidated Revenue will benefit by only a few pounds. The proper rr.fi] course for the Government to adopt is to abandon its intention to retain overpayments of tax.
– I am in the paradoxical position of being bound by a caucus decision to support the principles as enunciated in the bill as originally presented to this chamber, and of being now invited by the Government to vote in the- opposite direction. If I were to follow the caucus decision, I should vote against the Government. But if I were to- help to defeat the Government on this issue I should be accused of deserting the Ministry. Even though the Senate’s amendments make- the bill more to my taste, I consider that the suggestion of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is correct, namely, that the Government should tell the Leader of the Senate- tomove amendments to-morrow so that we shall get not a. piebald scheme such as that which is now presented for our acceptance, but something which will at least conserve man-power. If that be done-, every body who is.’ entitled to a refund will then receive it, not on request, but a;s a right.
– The honorable member voted against such an amendment when the Opposition submitted it,
– Honorable members opposite sometimes have gleams of intelligence, but the amendments that they submit in this chamber have often been thought of first by members of the Labour caucus. What I suggested, and what the Senate has done, accords with the view held by many people in the Labour movement as being the right way in which to deal with the problem. To-night, the Government should have given notice of its intention to tr.ke these matters into- consideration to-morrow. That would have given honorable members an opportunity . to examine the amendments and offer suggestions when the House met to-morrow. More important still, the Government would have been able to consult the caucus fi “id at least secured its approval to alter ihe attitude which it first forced on caucus members. A Labour government is a creation of a Labour caucus, and its first responsibility is to. that body. Its second responsibility is to this Parliament. Therefore, the position of the members of the party who desire to give the Government loyal and faithful support, as I always do, is rather embarrassing. Had we been consulted in caucus, we might have, improved the Senate’s suggestions. As it is, we are placed not only in a paradoxical position, but also in an anomalous position, because the country will now believe that the Government and its supporters in the House of Representatives have meekly submitted to dictation by an anti-Labour majority in the Senate. That is something which could have been avoided, had the matter not been rushed. In the first instance I did not like the proposal, because to- me it was a form of compuls.ory loans to which I am opposed. The Opposition is also in a paradoxical position, because although it favours compulsory loans it rushes in to try to restore its prestige by supporting the Senate in its desire to abolish a form of compulsory loan. I hope that the Opposition, having indicated that it believes that taxpayers are entitled to refunds of amounts paid in excess of the amounts shown in their assessments, will forever drop all propaganda in favour of compulsory loans. The system of compulsory loans is just as unpopular with the people as was the original suggestion that amounts paid by taxpayers in excess of their assessment should be held in perpetuity by the Government, at an interest rate of 2 per cent. I believe that 2 per cent, was mentioned in the Fadden budget as the rate of interest payable on compulsory loans. That is additional circumstantial evidence which helps to convict the Opposition of insincerity and inconsistency. Obviously, honorable members opposite wish to “cash in” electorally. The Government has now decided to do what I believe should have been done in the beginning. I should much prefer to see what is being done carried out in the way suggested by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), so that when the bill is eventually passed, we could truthfully say that no increased use of manpower has been occasioned by the piebald methods suggested by the Senate.
.- The announcement by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) of his intention to accept these amendments shows what little regard he has for the dignity of this House. When the Opposition in this chamber placed the situation before the Treasurer, he, with every sign of strength, refused to accept any suggestion.
– With the Treasurer it is not a matter of argument, but of numbers.
– From the discussion that has taken place here, it is evident that there was some dissension in the Labour caucus over this subject. When the bill came before this chamber it was discussed thoroughly; not one point was overlooked. But the Treasurer, with a great show of strength, said that the Government would not accept any amendment. Eventually, the bill passed through this chamber and went on to the Senate, where it was amended. It has now come back to us, and, without consulting caucus, the Treasurer says that he will accept the amendments made by the Senate. Two days ago we saw what was alleged to be a strong Government advancing; now we see it in retreat. The people should realize that had members of the Labour party voted according to their individual judgment, the proposals of the Government would not have been passed hy this chamber. However, caucus said, “ This is the way you go, boys,” and they voted as caucus directed,
– The honorable member, should not forget his overnight change of view in regard to the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill.
– I have come to the conclusion that when honorable members opposite are “ touched on the raw “ they will always cry like children. As I have said, strong arguments were advanced in this chamber showing why the proposals of the Opposition should be accepted, but they were rejected. Yet when similar proposals are carried in the other branch of the legislature and the bill comes back to us in an amended form, the Treasurer accepts those amendments. The Opposition in this chamber did not fail in its duty; it showed how unjust was the imposition on the workers under the
Government’s proposals. If the Government did not believe in the principle underlying the Senate’s amendments, why accept those amendments now; if it did. believe in that principle, why did it not accept the proposals made by Opposition members in this chamber? “What has happened in this instance will reveal to the public what little reliance can be placed on what they may think is a strong Government. The Government would not accept a proposal emanating from the Opposition in this chamber, but it now agrees that refunds shall be made to taxpayers who apply for them. That throws an unjust burden on taxpayers, who should be entitled to repayment of excess money paid by them whether or not they apply for it. It also throws an added strain on the reservoir of manpower. By accepting the Senate’s amendment, the Government commits itself in principle in a sense to the “ payasyougo” plan advocated by the Opposition.
.- I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will not take any notice of the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). The honorable member is a little overwrought to-night; he is thinking of other matters. When I was speaking on the bill before, I expressed the hope that the Treasurer would reconsider this aspect of it ; and I intimated my personal dissatisfaction with this particular provision. I congratulate the Treasurer upon having decided to agree to the view that I then put forward. My only regret is that he did not come to that decision earlier.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked whether, when the assessment was issued, the taxpayer would know whether he had overpaid his tax. The position is that when the assessment is issued, the department does not know whether a taxpayer has overpaid his tax or not. It merely sends out the assessment; and the taxpayer may have overpaid his tax.
– Can the department give a taxpayer notice of his rights in the matter ?
– Yes. Apparently the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) did not listen carefully to me when I explained what the Government regarded as the merits of the measure. What I said was that, in view of the fact that an average allowance would be made in respect of concessional deductions, a taxpayer whose income was steady would probably accumulate very little or no credits at all. Many now going on to a higher income - and I referred particularly to tens of thousands of married women who are coming into industry and will earn taxable incomes for the first time - will, on going out of industry, have accumulated a tax liability which they will be required to meet when they are not earning an income. Possibly their tax would have to he met by their husbands. For that reason, it was proposed to enable those people to build up credits against that liability. I do not think that any honorable member will deny that such a scheme would prove of advantage to those people.
– Therefore, the Government will defeat that objective by accepting this amendment, which gives to taxpayers the option to apply for refunds of overpayments of tax.
– I told the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) previously that any proposal along these lines will, to a large degree, destroy one of the main principles of the measure. However, it does not affect the measure to the same degree as the amendment which he proposed. It has been suggested that acceptance of this amendment will involve considerable additional man-power. That i» not the case. To-day, a taxpayer who desires to obtain a refund of overpayment of tax must apply to the department. If the honorable member for Dalley kept his eyes open whenever he is in the vicinity of the Taxation Department’s offices in Sydney, he would notice many people making applications for such refunds. A taxpayer who resides in the country, who wishes to apply for a refund of overpayment of tax, must send in his tax instalment stamps to prove that he has overpaid his tax. ‘Consequently, no substantial increase of man-power will be required to give effect to this amendment. To-day, every taxpayer who wishes to obtain a refund of overpayment of tax must apply to the department for it.
.- Now that the Government has decided to. agree to the Senate’s amendment and to grant to taxpayers the option of applying for refunds of overpayments of tax, the House should give careful consideration to the’ implications arising from that decision. Certainly, confusion will be caused, and many anomalies will arise, because some people will now obtain refunds of overpayments of tax, whilst others will not. I do not agree with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that this proposal will not involve substantially more man-power. The Treasurer stated that at present it is the practice for taxpayers to apply for refunds; but the fact remains that many taxpayers are not in a position to do so. Consequently, much additional correspondence will be involved.
– Under these proposals, hundreds of thousands of new taxpayers will come into the income tax field.
– That is an entirely different matter, because new taxpayers are always coming into the income tax field.
– The Government would bc well advised to give serious consideration to the position which will arise as the result of this amendment. It should completely withdraw the provision dealing with the retention by the Commissioner of overpayments of tax. I repeat that much confusion will be caused. Many taxpayers will be treated most unfairly, and substantial additional manpower will he required to administer this provision.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with requests.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests) :
Clause 2 -
This Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by Proclamation, not being earlier than the date upon which the National Welfare Fund Act 194.1 comes into operation.
Semite’s request No. 1 - Leave out all the words after “ Proclamation “.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie- Treasurer [11.20]. - I move -
That the requested amendment lie not made.
The Income Tax Bill provides that it shall not be proclaimed until the National Welfare Fund Act comes into operation. The National Welfare Fund is an integral part of the whole of the taxing proposals put forward by the Government. Those proposals provide mainly for a National Welfare Fund, and if that purpose were defeated the intention of the Government would be nullified and the proceeds of the tax could still be applied to other purposes. In my secondreading speech, I made it perfectly clear that the money could be temporarily used for other purposes, such as investments under the provisions of the Audit Act in government securities or in such other ways as the act permits. The intention of the Government is definitely to raise a certain sum, which is to be set aside for the purpose of financing a national welfare scheme for the people of this country. The ‘Government is not prepared to make any requested amendment which would defeat that purpose. Clause 2 of the Income Tax Bill was inserted for the definite purpose of making it clear to the people of this country that the proceeds from the proposed tax were to be placed in the National Welfare Fund, and were to be used for the purposes of the national, welfare plan. The Government regards as vital to that intention the words which the Senate has requested this committee to leave out. Acceptance of its request would involve the complete destruction of the guarantee given by the Government that the tax to be collected under the new taxing proposals is to be directed towards the provision of a National Welfare Fund, so that the people of this country will have the assurance, not merely a promise, that there will later be an appropriation of moneys for the purpose of meeting the expenditure upon the different social services when legislation giving effect to them has been passed by this Parliament.
.. - It is obvious from the ‘Government’s nonacceptance of the request of the Senate, that the whole scheme 13 specious. Listening to’ the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and studying the Government’s proposals in connexion with the matter, one would believe that the country does not require the sum of £40,000,000 for the purpose of waging the war. Nobody appreciates to a greater degree than does the Treasurer, the necessity to tap every source of revenue in order to finance the war by the least dangerous method, namely, direct taxation. For too long has the Government run away from its responsibility to get down to the lower ranges of income. Stark necessity has forced it to measure up to that responsibility, and to tap the previously untapped source which constitutes 72 per cent, of the taxable capacity of Australia, in order to wage the war. So as to appease those who for too long have been catered for in this manner, the Government says to those on the lower ranges “ We are taxing you, not for purposes of war, but in order that we may make you a contributor to the welfare of Australia. We give to you a sugar-coated pill which is described as a national welfare scheme”. This money will be used for purposes of the war. The scheme is only to build up a fund which will be used in the dim and distant future. Nothing is gained by burking the position. The Government, in order to appease taxpayers on the lower ranges of income, whom it finds it has to tax so that they may make a proper contribution to the war effort, tries to gull -them into the belief that they are being taxed for purposes of future social services, proposals which have not been placed before the House and are not likely to be implemented for years to come.
I direct attention to the constitutional position. Section 55 of the Constitution provides -
Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.
What rightful objection has the Government to the request of the Senate, which is sound because, having regard to section 55 of the Constitution, two matters cannot be dealt with conjunctively in a taxation measure? The Government should have another look at the matter. I am sure that it appreciates to the full that the basic purpose of the taxing measure now before the committee is to raise £40,000,000 in order to wage the war; to bridge the gap in the financial structure. The straightforward method should be adopted of obtaining this £40,000,000 from the lower ranges of income without tying the proposal to any specious scheme of future social services; that is the condition which this branch of the legislature has endeavoured to impose, and the Senate has requested us to delete.
1 3 1.27] . - The Opposition says that the whole of the money raised under this measure should be devoted to the purpose of waging the war. It claims that waging the war is the paramount consideration. The Government agrees that the waging of the war is the paramount consideration ; but it also says that, in order to wage the war effectually, there has to be a degree of national cohesion, and a determination on. the part of the people to pledge themselves to the cause because the cause, when won, will have been worth the winning. We have known that in the last 25 years there has grown up among great masses of people an element of doubt as to whether or not the interests of all the people hold first place in the thoughts of governments and the actions of Parliaments. I have no doubt whatever that a good deal of the discontent and, it may even be, the disaffection found in the democracies have their roots in the disbelief of many people in the bona fides of governments which ask them to give their all for purposes of war, yet at the same time, do not covenant in any way to make the world, when victory has been secured, a better place than it was before the dreadful agony was entered upon. In Great Britain at this hour there is considerable disputation concerning what is known as the Beveridge Report. What is the Beveridge Report? It is the outline of a greatly improved plan of social services for the people of the United Kingdom.
– But i». Britain they are not creating a fund fo-‘ it at this moment.
– It is a ground of discontent that no practical steps have yet been taken. It is my firm conviction that the Government of the United Kingdom will proceed very soon to take those practical steps. Sir William Beveridge was asked to prepare his report because the Government desired to have on hand a well-shaped plan which it fully intended to implement. We know that, not long before the outbreak of this war, there were 250,000 persons unemployed in Australia. Is it likely that the ordinary man in the street can be forgetful of that fact, or that when the war does end victoriously, he being a person of common sense, will not fail to understand that many problems of great difficulty will confront the government of the day in providing work for those who were withdrawn from all kinds of civil avocations, to serve either in the fighting forces or in industries engaged in the production of war equipment? If this Government, or any other government that might be responsible for the country’s war effort, should fail to give a practical demonstration that it is preparing to meet that time of difficulty, we cannot expect to have now a complete mobilization of the national strength for the prosecution of the war. There will be a weakness in the national structure.
– But this request does not affect that.
– It does. The right honorable member raises a legal point. The Government has had the point examined, and has been advised that the requirements of the Constitution are being complied with. We are not including another matter in the tax bill; we are merely fixing the date upon which the tax shall commence.
– The Government is fixing a condition upon which the tax shall apply.
– -That is not so. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has just handed me the opinion upon which the Government is acting. The memorandum is signed by the Solicitor-General, and reads as follows : -
In my view the words which the Senate has requested the House to omit from clause 2 of the bill do not amount to “ tacking “ within the meaning of section 55 of the Constitution.
That section states that laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.
The provision which is objected to by the Senate is a provision imposing a limitation upon the power of the Governor-General in Council to proclaim the commencement of the act. It is a provision definitely related* to the commencement of the tax law, and. is not “ other matter “ within the meaning of section 55.
The object of the provision in the Constitution is to prevent the inclusion within a measure of other provisions to which the Senate might object. In the present case the provision merely prevents a measure from operating at all until some date when it is certain that another bill will have become law. Until that time arrives the law imposing taxation cannot come into operation. It cannot come into operation because it is not required as a law until the other bill has become law.
– If the National Welfare Fund Bill never became law, would this tax never be imposed ?
Yr. CURTIN.- We would not impose this scale of tax, nor a tax of this type. There might also be variations of the schedule.
– If that be so, it may reasonably be said that there is to be a contributory scheme of social services.
– I say most definitely that it is the intention of the Government to allocate to the National Welfare Fund a certain sum of money, but the full amount of that allocation will not be available unless this bil] becomes law. Honorable members may object on the ground of policy, but there is no constitutional objection.
– I say that the Government is, in effect, proposing a contributory scheme of social welfare.
– Well, the right honorable member has always been in favour of a contributory scheme.
– I am merely trying to get the Prime Minister to admit that this scheme is contributory.
– And now the right honorable member seems to be very annoyed at getting what he wants.
– I am not opposing it. It was the Labour party which always opposed the contributory system.
– This is a form of contribution levied, not on the nature of the benefits which citizens will receive, but on the capacity of citizens as a whole to provide them. This is a fundamental distinction, and is in accordance with recommendations of the Social Security
Committee. The Government has no doubt whatever that, integral to the full war effort, must be the satisfaction of what is considered to be the true interest of the people of Australia as a whole, and that not merely while the war is being fought. It is necessary that some practical steps should be taken to provide at least the framework of a structure of social services which, when the war is over, may be expanded in such a way as to enable the scheme to function fully. However, long before the war is over a- substantial part of the edifice should be completed and functioning. The Government intends to give effect to as many of the recommendations of the committee as possible, having regard to all the circumstances imposed on us by the war. In proportion as the burden of the war may lessen, it is proposed gradually to enlarge the social service provisions which Parliament could have made long ago.
Do honorable members opposite really believe that what is described as the New Order is a subject for derision? If not, they must admit that it constitutes an obligation on the Parliament to take some definite steps now to convince the people that our leaders were genuine when they declared that parliaments in the years to come would concern themselves actively to promote the best interest of the people, socially and nationally.
– But the Treasurer told us that the cost of the new social services would be met out of tin? proceeds of long-term borrowing.
– I am dealing now with principles. With the question of whether or not the social service scheme is to be contributory in the sense understood by honorable members opposite I am not concerned, and I do not believe that the Senate is concerned with that point, either. We have been charged with refusing to accept suggestions immediately they are put forward. It is the duty of Ministers to consider every proposal advanced. It is not new for governments to introduce in the Senate amendments to bills already passed through the House of Representatives, although previously they resisted those amendments. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr.
Spender) was himself once a Commonwealth Treasurer, and 1 say to him that it was his duty to have found money for the provision of social services so that this nation might have been better equipped, physically and economically to fight the war. However, he acted on the principle that the minimum of taxation should be imposed, and that if some desirable things had to be left undone because taxes were not sufficiently high, that was just too bad. When I look back over the history of the last 40 years in this and in other countries, and note the periodicity of intense unemployment, and its mischievous effect on the welfare of the nation, I am constrained to say that a government which, at this juncture fails to prepare’ machinery to deal with unemployment when the war ends, will fail not only in its duty to whatever government may then be in power, but will also prove itself incapable even of effectively conducting the war effort. Those who neglect the people’s paramount interests after the war cannot be trusted to conduct the war for freedom.
– What about the Government’s scheme to deal with unemployment? We have not been told about that yet.
– The honorable member will be told about it in duc course. Does he want us to bring down all the bills at once? We must cut our coat according to our cloth. In proportion as there is money available, the plans of the Government will be placed before Parliament’. Until provision is made to tax the people to what is considered the limit of their capacity to pay, we cannot shape legislation of a practical nature to place before Parliament. It is of the essence of the cause for which we are struggling that the freedom of this country shall not only be a freedom from an alien aggressor seeking to take our land from us, but shall also compass those other freedoms which President Roosevelt has so well stated. We must ensure freedom from want to the utmost of our ability. Freedom and comfort must go hand in hand in a country which no longer has all the black spots of poverty, unemployment, sickness and misery upon it, because that has been the history of this country. The honorable member for J:00 tilby (Dr. Price) who interjects may smile, but be will I’ve to learn that we cannot build a successful democracy on the basis of wide- ; ,<read unemploymen and starvation am on rst large masse-j of our people. I make it very clear that this Government is fighting with all its capacity to defend the country against all its enemies. Those from outside must be resisted by physical force, but there are also the enemies that emerge from within the community.. Most of them come as the result simply of our inefficiency, and many because of sheer thoughtlessness on our part. They are the consequence of sins of omission rather than commission. We cannot blame any particular individual as being the cause of poverty, but we can implement a complete scheme to get rid of it. The words which the Senate asks us to omit from the bill are integral to the Government’s tax plan. The two not only stand together, but they will fall together.
– Whenever the Government is on a sticky wicket it sends the Prime Minister in to bat.
– He is a very good batsman, too.
– He scores behind the wicket, but he never makes any forcing strokes in front of it. He said a great deal, but, apart from quoting the Solicitor-General, nothing that he said had any relation to the issue before the committee. The only issue is whether there shall be excised from clause 2 the words “ not being earlier than the date upon which the National Welfare Fund Act 1943 comes into operation”. To meet that request made by the Senate, the Prime Minister made what I may term, with great respect to him, a very able but very stock speech. Whenever the Government is in difficulties, whether in respect of strikes, rationing, taxes, or any other matter on which it is attacked, Ministers always trot out the poverty and want which they allege stare this country in the face. It has been their stock-in-trade for years past, and we have heard it time and time again. The issue in this case is not whether a National Welfare Fund shall be created. If the Prime Minister had been in the chamber during the debate, he would have heard us make it quite clear that we are not opposed to improved social services. We want to see a scheme, but all that we were told was that the National Welfare Fund Bill set aside £30,000,000 for some indefinite purpose, which was not delineated in any specific way by the Treasurer or anybody else. I say with all respect to the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General that the Constitution is contravened if the coming into force of one measure is made conditional upon the proclamation of another measure which has not yet been passed or brought into force. It could be a perfectly valid exercise of power if there were already on the statute-book such a measure but there is no such thing as a National Welfare Fund Act yet in existence, and it does not f ollow that any such act will ever be passed. I wonder how the Solicitor-General in those circumstances can say that the provision objected to by the Senate is not an infringement of the Constitution. When all is said and done, what is it that has come before the Senate? Simply a bill to amend the rates of income tax. We are told by the Prime Minister that £30,000,000 of the money to be raised by means of that measure is for the purpose of creating a National Welfare Fund, and not really for the purposes of the war, although it may be used for war purposes for the time being. It is, however, he tells us, really to be raised for the purpose of improving the national welfare. At the same time, he denies the principle of contributory insurance. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) pointed out, the Government cannot have it both ways. Either the rates of tax in the bill are to raise money for the general purposes of the war, or else the money is being taken from a section of the community to finance a specific welfare fund. If that is not contributory insurance, I have yet to learn what it means. The bill takes from one section of the community a certain sum of money to finance a scheme to give benefits to them. What is that if it is not a contributory insurance scheme ? The Senate is asked to pass this bill without having before it for debate the National Welfare Fund Bill. In this chamber we did debate the latter before we passed this measure, but the Senate was asked to pass this bill, imposing heavy taxation on the community, with a condition that it should not come into operation until a date to be determined by the proclamation of another measure, which the Senate had not yet seen.
– It i3 at the second-reading stage in the Senate, which, therefore, must have seen it.
– It has not yet become law. The Senate has not yet debated it, yet it is asked to exclude it from its consideration and pass this bill subject to the condition which I have just described. I cannot understand how the Attorney-General can tell the committee that he agrees with the SolicitorGeneral’s view.
– He has not said so yet.
– I do not see how he can say so, seeing that the Senate had before it only a bill to impose rates of tax, conditioned by the coming into force of another bill which it has yet to consider. Quite obviously, the situation has no justification. Even if there were no limitation under the Constitution, why does the Government cling to the plea that it is imposing taxes on the lower ranges of income for social welfare purposes, whereas, in fact, it is doing so for war purposes?
– That imputation is worthy of the honorable gentleman.
– Whether the honorable member likes it or not, it is true. Even if the words, “not being earlier than the date upon which the National Welfare- Fund Act 1943 comes into operation “ were omitted from the clause, the Government would not bc at any disadvantage. The tax would still beievied and paid into the Consolidated Revenue. A National Welfare Fund Bill could be passed, and the necessary moneys appropriated for the fund from Consolidated Revenue. The Government will not do that, because it wants to bo able to go before the people and say, “ We imposed this tax upon you, not for the purposes of war, because we are putting it into a Nation Welfare Fund. What it will not tell the people, however, is that it will later take it out of that fund and apply it to wai- purposes, but some day in the sweet by and by ‘ it will borrow money from them in order to repay the trust fund “. It is quite clear that this tax is being imposed under a guise.
– I could not quite follow the reasons why the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) says that the provision in clause 2 of the bill is unconstitutional.
– J! say so because the levying of the tax is conditioned by another subject-matter.
– -What is the condition?
– That the tax shall not operate until some other legislation, not yet considered, has been enacted.
– That provision simply fixes the date on which the tax shall operate.
– It limits the operation of the tax.
– I agree in substance with what the Solicitor-General and Mr. Castieau have said. It seems sound and logical. If the honorable member thought that there was substance in his contention, he would have suggested it when the hill was previously before, honorable members. Hie did not do so. Nor was any such suggestion made on either side of the chamber by any honorable member with legal training. I do ‘ not think that there is any real doubt as to the legality of the clause. I am not dealing with the honorable gentleman’s second point, namely, the merits of the plan. I am confining myself to the question of law. That question is whether the clause deals with a matter other than the imposition of taxes. It; clearly does not. It merely fixes the date on which the taxes shall come into operation. The clause could fix the time of the passing of any series of bills as the time at which the acts should come into operation. In this case, it has fixed a time after the passing of the National Welfare Fund Bill. I do not intend to enter upon a legal argument. I share the views expressed by the Solicitor-General and Mr. ‘Castieau. The other matter has been debated so fully that I do not think I am justified in saying anything further to the committee.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said the objection taken by the Opposition was on the ground that it desired to see all proceeds of the tax applied for war purposes. That is not a correct interpretation of the mind of the Opposition on this matter. Its attitude is that, no portion of Consolidated Revenue should be reserved from the possibility of its being employed by the Government for the prosecution of the war. When the nation is imperilled, it is utterly wrong to preclude the Government from using all the resources available to it for the waging of war. The Opposition says further that the declaration of the subsequently disclosed intention of the Government make the whole set-up unreal. The Government proposes to tax the incomes of people whom the Labour members described when in Opposition as being incapable of paying tax for war purposes. It proposes to pay the proceeds of the new tax into what it calls a National Welfare Trust Fund. Forthwith it will draw most of the money out of that fund and employ it for the purposes of the war. That is a “smart Aleck” trick to circumvent the declarations Labour members made when they were in Opposition. The Prime Minister now tells us in effect that we cannot rely on inherent patriotism or on promises of social services for the wholehearted co-operation of the people in the Avar effort, but that the people must first see money put into a glass case. That is a most outrageous mis-estimate of the patriotism of the people. What any Government of this country should strive to attain is the whole-hearted unity of the people and their support of the war effort, but this Government tells a section of the people that they should not contribute to the defence of their own country and that the only thing they should contribute to is the improvement of their social conditions. Such an attitude cannot be too strongly condemned. The magnificent war effort of Great Britain has been achieved by the whole-hearted unity of the people of that country, and the similar remark is applicable to the people of Russia, but at the very time when our freedom is at stake the Government declares that a section of the people should nol: be obliged to pay one penny towards the cost of defence preparations. That is an indefensible attitude.
Friday, 12 March 1948.
– Let us go to the country.
– The Opposition is willing to face the electors at any time on the principles for which it stands, and they are in essence the marshalling of the whole of the resources of this country for war. The policy of this Government is inspired by class consciousness, which is enunciated by every Minister and is supported by every honorable member opposite. The Government and its supporters have divided the people. They have said that some should fight in the defence of the country and others should not. They have said that some should be trained, whilst others should not. They have declared that only companies that employ trade unionists shall be entitled to contracts for defence supplies. Every utterance of honorable members opposite is a preaching of class consciousness and is preventing the achievement of national unity. The culminating point of this doctrine is found in the measure now under discussion. To say to half of the people that they should make no contribution to the conduct of the war is a disgraceful provision.
– Two points appear to have been raised. One is the question of the Senate’s privileges and the other is the contention that what the Senate has done is a device to free itself from, any obligation to pass the National Welfare Fund Bill. If what we are afraid of is that if this amendment is accepted the Senate will not pass that bill, we could easily overcome that difficulty by adjourning the discussion of the Senate’s requests, and waiting to see what it does with the National Welfare Fund Bill. Then we could be quite satisfied whether the Senate is or is not justified in its contention, that its privileges have been invaded. It appears to me that it could be argued that this bill is contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution. The effect of the provision objected to is that the Senate may not pass the Income Tax Bill. Section 53 provides that the Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, but the Constitution contains a supplement to that, because section 55 states -
Laws imposing taxation shall deal ‘only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.
The Senate may be right in saying that this bill deals with a matter other than taxation, because the bill provides that the Income Tax Bill shall not become law unless the National “Welfare Fund Bill also is agreed to. We ought to assume that the Senate is taking its objection in good faith, and we ought to be prepared to give consideration to it. If, on the other hand, the Senate is taking that objection merely to release itself from the subsequent, consideration of the National Welfare Fund Bill, we should oppose the Senate’s requests. We might adjourn the discussion of this matter until we find that the Senate proposes to pass the National Welfare Fund Bill. If it does, there is no need for the words to which exception has been taken by the Senate, because the two bills will become law together. The words that are objected to are that the Income Tax Bill shall not, come into operation until the National Welfare Fund Bill is passed.
– The Government wants that as an election dodger.
– The only value of the clause is to ensure that the National Welfare Fund Bill shall be passed in some form or other before the additional income tax is collected. We should give the Senate an opportunity to demonstrate whether it is asserting its privileges, or trying to defeat the National Welfare Fund Bill. We can ascertain that by adjourning the discussion of this request until we are satisfied that the Senate has dealt with the bill, or does not intend to deal with it.
– Honorable members should try to see the bill in its proper perspective. I refer to the financial rather than to the constitutional aspect. The appeal of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to the committee was founded upon the benefits which, he said, would be conferred upon Australia and its citizens after the war. There can be no greater proof of the Government’s insincerity towards this bill than the speech of the right honorable gentleman, because this money is not in any way connected with the Government’s post-war plans, assuming that the Government has any such plans. This bill is directly related to the present financial position of the country, and I ask the committee to consider it in relation to the Prime Minister’s statement that the tax bill and the welfare bill stand or fall together.’ In other words, if the National Welfare , Fund Bill be defeated, the whole income tax scheme will go to the wall. The money required for the conduct of the war will not be collected, and the nation will suffer.
– That is an outrageous threat.
– I shall cite a few facts to support my view that this bill is not in any way related to the matters of which the Prime Minister spoke. During the past few weeks honorable members have been told that the deficit will be nearly £400,000,000, and from the best information we can get, at least £200,000,000 of that money will be financed from national credit. Evidence all around us indicates that the nation is already suffering from the ill effects of financial maladministration, and the Government at this belated hour proposes to impose a tax upon certain ranges of income which have not been adequately taxed to date. But that tax is politically inexpedient. It would be better for the Government if it could leave the present scale of tax to operate. The Government could then say to those in receipt of the lower incomes : “ We have not found it necessary to ask you to contribute to the costs of the war “. But the point has been reached where the Government can no longer say that. Faced with a financial position unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth, the Government must impose taxes upon a wider range of incomes than has hitherto been done. Accordingly, it introduced a bill which imposed taxes and that, I imagine, represents, for the time being, the limit to which the Government can go. But the Government has not been frank about it. It has not said, “ We want this money. We acknowledge that we have been wrong during the last eighteen months in neglecting to impose this tax”. The Government decided to establish a national welfare fund, and some day after the war taxpayers will receive certain benefits from it.
– The trouble is that the honorable member has been told too much.
– One does not require any financial acumen to understand that this money will be spent for the purposes of the war immediately it is received. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) told us that after the war, there will .be long-term borrowings for the purpose of restoring the money to the trust account. For the Prime Minister to declare that the money will be required to provide work for 250,000 unemployed after the war is ridiculous. The money is not required for that purpose. If money can be borrowed after the war for post-war reconstruction, why does the Government seek to impose this present tax ? The answer is that the Government wants this money for the conduct of the war, but is trying to delude taxpayers into thinking that they are not providing the money for that purpose.
The Government should be frank and honest about the whole position. If we are to regard this money as the foundation of a national insurance scheme and the Prime Minister assures us that 250,000 persons will be unemployed after the war, all that the Government is doing is to prepare another, super-dole scheme for the post-war era. If the Government is really in earnest about post-war reconstruction, it should disclose its plans to honorable members and indicate the major developmental schemes that it proposes to launch. But we do not wish to hear of a wretched scheme to give the unemployed £1 or £2 after the war, always provided the money can be borrowed to replace the present raisings. I believe that the Government is preparing to throw overboard these taxing proposals. I had a similar suspicion, and I voiced it in this chamber, in regard to the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Bill. I said that if the Opposition successfully amended the measure, the Government would seize the opportunity to throw it overboard, because it was tired of the criticism and abuse that had been poured upon its head by its own supporters from the time that the bill was first mooted last November. The Income Tax Bill is in a similar position. This is the worst taxation measure that has ever been introduced into the Parliament of the Commonwealth. It is full of errors and inconsistencies. It is a wretched bill, is unfair, and is based upon unsound principles. Those inconsistencies are now being revealed to the public. For the first time, supporters of the Government arc beginning to understand the bill. Earlier in this discussion, two of them almost disclosed caucus secrets. They travelled a long distance, and said that the Government should consult the caucus before, submitting proposals to the Parliament. They made a great concession to this Parliament by almost enlightening honorable members regarding what occurred in the caucus. At all events, they told us that the Government did not refer these requests to the caucus when they were received from the Senate. The mistakes, inconsistencies and unfairness of the taxing scheme have now been laid bare to the wage-earning class. One of the anomalies has now been half rectified, but others that are just as bad have not been amended. The Government and its supporters are aware of the shortcomings of the bill. If the Senate’s request be insisted upon, the Government will be glad of the opportunity to abandon the bill, and the war effort will be financed by central bank credit until the Government eventually “ busts “. Let us see this matter in proper perspective. The Government, even at this late stage, should see the wisdom of accepting the Senate’s request. If the amendment be accepted, we shall have a rates bill which will be consistent. 1 have never previously heard of taxation measures being dependent on the acceptance of a welfare scheme. I shall not deal with the legal and constitutional aspects of the Government’s proposals, as other honorable members are more qualified to do so, but I do say that, as a taxation scheme, the plan would be sound if the words which the Senate’s amendment asks to lie deleted were left out of the clause. If the Government is sincere, it will agree to the amendment suggested by the Senate. It will then have a taxation scheme which, notwithstanding its anomalies, will be a proper scheme for the raising of money by taxation. If, in addition, the Government wishes to inaugurate a scheme of social services, it should introduce its measures and have them discussed on their merits. It is wrong to confuse taxation proposals with a scheme to establish a national welfare fund. The sincerity of the Government is being challenged. If it really wants its financial proposals to be dealt with on their merits, it has the opportunity to do so. In the raising of the money which the Government says is necessary, the Opposition is giving all the assistance possible. In addition, the Opposition has tried to remove anomalies from the bill, i f the Government really wishes authority to proceed with its taxation proposals for the raising of money to prosecute the war, all that is needed is that the amendment he accepted.
.I have been interested in the remarks of honorable members opposite, particularly those who, like the honorable member for r ndi (Mr. McEwen), worked themselves into a fury in attacking the Government’s poli itv and accusing the Ministry of insincerity. Throughout the debate, the Opposition has advocated that the whole of the nation’s resources should be marshalled for the winning of the war. I agree that men, materials and’ money must bc marshalled for that purpose; but, side by side with that, we must plan for the peace that, is to follow the war. I agree with leading thinkers throughout the world that the winning of the war is not all that is necessary. The winning of the peace after the war is just as important. Tt may be said that the Government has adopted an unusual procedure in connexion with its proposals, but the justification for that procedure is a. matter of opinion. It can at least be said that the Government has given clear evidence of its sincerity. If preparation for the postwar period is important, as I believe it is, we must begin those preparations now, so that when the war is over we shall have in readiness plans to deal with the mem bers of the fighting services and others engaged on war work who will be thrown on the labour market. Unless we make preparations in advance for that time, there may be a revolution in this country. I am convinced that the men and women who are fighting the cause of democracy to-day will not he prepared to accept the conditions which preceded the declaration of war and the marshalling of our resources for a maximum war effort. Honorable members opposite may disagree with the methods adopted by the Government in preparing for the post-war period, but, they cannot doubt its sincerity. The honorable member for Indi had a good deal to say about what is being done in Russia, but he did not have a good word to say for Russia before that nation entered the war on the side of the Allies. The honorable member said that we on this side are concerned more with the protection of the wage-earners and 100 per cent, unionists than with the prosecution of the war. I emphasize that all other British countries are planning postwar reconstruction, and the improvement of the social conditions of their people. I have in my hand the report of the committee which was responsible for what is known as the Beveridge plan. The comprehensive investigation made by that committee, and the intense interest which its report has aroused in the House of Commons, and among the people of Great Britain generally, refutes the contention of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that the Mother Country is devoting the whole of its attention ti the prosecution, of the war. Whether the recommendations of that committee can claim our support is beside the point. In the United States of America, also, plans for post-war reconstruction arc now being prepared. Action is being taken in that country to ensure that the Four Freedoms set out in the Atlantic Charter shall be implemented. Coming nearer howe, the Joint Committee on Social Security has made several very important recommendations which the Government has accepted. Those recommendations have been made unanimously by the committee, which is representative of all political parties in this Parliament. They include a proposal for the imposition of a graduated tax on incomes on the basis of ability to pay, for the purpose of financing benefits to be provided under the National Welfare Scheme. That committee does not take the view that such proposals should be implemented in the dim and distant future. It has strongly recommended that they be given effect as soon as possible. It has also recommended the establishment of a housing authority to plan the construction of homes’ for workers in this country at the conclusion of the war.
– The honorable member’s time has expired, but, if no other honorable member wishes to speak, he may take his second period now.
– I agree with the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that this House should not accede to the Senate’s amendment. We must make up our minds to prepare immediately the blue prints for post-war reconstruction. The Government’s national welfare scheme has been proposed as a part of that reconstruction. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Treasurer have stated that a portion of the revenue to be raised by the imposition of these taxes will be devoted to that purpose, and a portion to the prosecution of the war. First we must win the war ; and, secondly, we must now plan to improve our social services. Democracy will not survive in this country unless we do so. We cannot postpone consideration of the problem of post-war reconstruction. Governments supported by parties of the political colour of honorable members opposite have invariably sought to postpone reforms of this kind. On this occasion, it is contended that the whole of the Government’s present revenue should bc devoted to the prosecution of the war. It could be argued, perhaps, with a degree of justification, that the Government is not making the best approach to the problem of post-war reconstruction; but no honorable member can advance one reason why it should not tackle that problem now.
-*-This is a very important debate. I ask that progress be reported, in order that the matter may be adequately considered.
– I understand that the Senate will not proceed with other business until this matter has been decided; otherwise, I should not have brought it on to-night. The Prime Minister desires that the discussion shall be continued.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) put -
That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The request by the Senate, which is now before the committee, raises one of the most important issues between the two Houses that has arisen for many years, and the Prime Minister himself has declared that the Government will regard the matter as vital. For both of those reasons I take leave to say that it is a scandalous thing that this Parliament is called upon to decide the matter in the small hours of the morning. The consideration of another bill was interrupted in order that we might devote ourselves to this matter. I do not propose to discuss the financial aspect. It has already been admirably stated by several honorable members, but I do want .to say something on the subject of the issue between the two Houses. In my view, the action of the Senate was obviously taken in good faith - I do not think that that point is questioned - and its attitude is also completely sound. This Parliament is constituted of two chambers, and when their constitutions were being framed, the draftsmen directed their minds to what was to happen to the Senate in relation to what we call money bills. If the matter had been allowed to rest on the practice followed in the Parliament of Great Britain, the protection of the Upper House would have been an old and well-established rule against “ tacking “. In the Commonwealth Constitution it was provided in express terms in sections 53 and 55 that certain privileges should belong to the Lower House, and that certain rights in relation to those matters should belong to the Upper House. This question of tacking a non-financial measure on to a financial measure, or a non-appropriation measure on to an appropriation, or something which was not a tax measure on to a tax bill, is almost as old as Parliament itself. As far back as the time of William III., I think, it was firmly established that, if there was to be a rule that the Upper House could not amend a taxing measure, then the Lower House could not tack on to a taxing measure something which had no relation to taxation. In Australia, this issue was dealt with in broad and appropriate terms. Section 53 of the Constitution contains this provision - ‘
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary animal services of the Government.
Applying that section to the present case, it means that the Senate may not amend the proposed law. The draftsmen of the Constitution, who were familiar with the history of Parliament, and who realized the great importance of preserving the Constitution, believed that if they were to take away from the Senate the right to amend a taxing law, they must also provide protection for the Senate, and this protection was given in section 55, which contains these words : -
Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of .taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.
That expresses in concrete form the whole principle of the opposition to “ tacking “. In my opinion, this is a matter of great significance in the history of the relations of the two Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. Section 55 imposes a limitation on the powers of the House of Representatives, because section 53 has given it an exclusive privilege. The one provision balances the other. Clause 2 of the bill is worth reading. It is as follows : -
This act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation -
The Senate accepts that. The clause goes on - not being earlier than the date upon which the National Welfare Fund Act 1943- an act, be it noted, which does not yet exist - comes into operation.
By the courtesy of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), I have been handed a copy of the opinion given by the SolicitorGeneral. As every body knows, I have great respect for his opinion. I have had a long association with him, and I myself have been one of - the law officers of the Crown. The gist of his view and that of Mr. Castieau is apparently that all that clause 2 does is to fix a date, and that the fixing of a date on which a bill is to commence to operate is not a law in relation to some matter other than the general substance of the bill. That seems to be an argument that will not hold a great deal of water. What does clause 2 mean if we omit the words which the Senate asks us to omit? It simply becomes : “ This act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation “. The whole matter is then in the hands of the .Government. If the Government desires to .fix a date which is later than the passing .of some other bill into .an act, it may do so. What then isthe force of the .1 after words? Are they designed to protect the Government against itself - to .prevent it from fixing by proclamation a date which will be earlier than the date at which some- other bill is passed? It is absurd to imagine that any government should, when, taking power to fix a date by proclamation, in the next breath say : “ We cannot trust ourselves not to fix it too early, and therefore we are going to prevent ourselves from fixing it at an earlier date than the date at which some other act comes into existence “. It is a little difficult to believe that the added words can in these circumstances relate merely to the time. Nobody reading the clause with the slightest amount of “ horse sense “ would doubt that its whole purpose is not to give power to proclaim a date, but to make it clear that this measure will not operate unless another act is tied to it. If that is not tacking, what is tacking? f shall not presume, on a matter- which has to be discussed in a hasty fashion, to offer any concluded view - not that that view would be of much value - as to whether this actually is a breach of the Constitution, but I am sure that it is a gross breach of the spirit of the Constitution. A very eminent man who once lived in Australia wrote a book which has become a .classic authority on the Government of England. I refer to Dr. Hearn. In it, when talking about the classic conflict between the House of Commons and the House of Lords on this matter, and about the position in which the House of Lords would find itself if tacking were permitted to continue, he used the following words, which are pregnant with significance for this debate: -
In such circumstances the Lords . . ure. placed under the hard necessity of refusing to make the needful provision for the public service, or of accepting a measure to which Uley honestly object.
Later he says - “Tacking” is unparliamentary, and tends to thu destruction of the Constitution.
We lie re must put ourselves in the position of the members of the Senate. They have not only the right but also the clear duty to defend those provisions of the Constitution which .affect the supremacy, existence, and functions of their chamber. In this case they have said, and I can find no reason to believe that they have not said it in terms of very good sense : “ What you ar-e asking us to do is ,to commit ourselves to .a clause in .a taxing measure .which, once we have accepted it, commits us equally., if we desire to have the taxing measure, to .the passing of the next bill that is to come along “. The Jawhas been variously described as an ass, and as the embodiment of everything that is excellent. But one thing about the law which I should like to mention to all honorable members is that it and the courts of law are not so foolish as to be deceived by mere matters of form. They have always exercised their right to go through questions of form to questions of substance, and the question of substance here, from the point of view of an honorable senator, is : “ Once I accept clause 2, am I then bound to accept the National Welfare Fund Bill when it conies along, or accept the responsibility for the result, which will be that the taxing bill, which I thought I had passed, will never come into operation at all?” In substance, what is that? I say in all seriousness to the Government that this is a first-class problem as between the two Houses of this Parliament, and deserves a great deal more thought on the part of the Government than is apparent from either the circumstances or the time.
.- I wish to supplement briefly what has been so fairly and ably stated by the honorable member for Kooyong.
– The” honorable member knows that this clause was in the bill which was debated here.
– The Attorney-General reminds me of something he said earlier, that we on this side had the opportunity to raise this objection to the clause when the bill was before us. That is perfectly true. We had occasion, while the bill was before the House, to express our orotest in vigorous terms against the way in which a vital and important measure of that kind, introducing a novel principle ( taxation to bear upon all sections of the community, was being brought down and forced through Parliament in the early hours of the morning.
– We were considering the Income Tax Bill at about ten minutes past five.
– Yes, it was definitely in the early hours of the morning. I notice, on looking at Hansard that I myself was guilty of making three different speeches on it, between 1 a.m. and 5.20 a.m. I remind the Attorney-General that it is not to be wondered at that this House whose privileges are not involved in this matter to the same degree, was not so minutely and analytically observant of a provision of this kind as was the Senate, which believes that its privileges must be protected. I shall quote for the information of the committee the words used by the late Chief Justice Griffith in 1916, in the leading case of National Trustees Executors and Agency Company of Australia Limited v. The Federal Commissioner of Taxation, 22 C.L.R., 367-
The scope and purposes of section 55 are well known. It is one of the group of sections introduced to prevent the Senate, whose powers with respect to taxation are limited, from being coerced by the process known as “ tacking “.
The point has been taken that technically this does not amount to tacking, but I remind the committee of something that the Prime Minister said at the close of his speech a little while ago. I took a note of it because I thought it was important. He said, “ the National Welfare Fund Bill is integral to the tax plan, it stands with the tax plan, and it will fall with the tax plan “. Therefore, whatever the technical argument on the matter may be, if we look at the Government’s proposal it is clear that, in substance, this is an attempt to tie up one scheme, which is the National Welfare Fund Bill, with the other, which is the tax plan. Without wishing to cover in detail the financial aspect with which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), have dealt so effectively, I remind the committee that here we have the motive and the plan of the Government revealed stark, but not unashamed, so completely open to criticism that he who runs may read. We have shown that this is either a proposal to raise war finance by taxing the lower range of incomes, or a scheme whereby those lower incomes shall contribute directly to the national welfare fund. The Government has not been prepared to face either of those issues. It will not admit that this is a contributory scheme under which those in the lower income range will contribute to their own welfare; and on the other hand, it has not made the honest admission that it has found it necessary to maintain financial stability fr>- taxing incomes in the lower range, and so making persons in that category assist in paying for the war effort. The manner in which the Government is fighting so strenuously to maintain this provision in the bill which has been referred back to us by the Senate, shows all too clearly that the attempt, which we alleged earlier, to delude those who have been asked for the first time to contribute from the low incomes that they earn, is only too real.
– I am interested in the possibilities of the motion moved by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) from an election point of view. There are great possibilities in it. In view of the fact that the Government has said that it will stand or fall by its scheme, I take it that the intention is to make the issue a vital 07ie with the Senate, so that if the Senate persists in its views and presses its request, we shall have an election. I hope that the bill will not be dropped, as the Opposition wishes and hopes. There is no anxiety on the part of the Opposition to pass the social service scheme which the Government has introduced. As a matter of fact, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) said that when Australia was in the midst of war was no time in which to make improvements in social legislation. The right honorable gentleman was forgetful of the fact that his own Government only two years ago, ako in the midst of war, enacted the child endowment scheme. If it was good for his Government to bring child endowment into being, it is equally good for this Government to proceed with other measures to supplement earlier social legislation. If there is to be an election I hope that the Government will enhance the chances of the Labour party by omitting from other legislation complementary to this measure those sections which tax incomes between £104 and £156 a year. There is great resentment amongst people who earn incomes in that range which should not have to bear tax, against the fact that they have to pay direct taxes as well as indirect. If we could have that measure amended, as we have had other measures amended, at the suggestion of the Senate, we should have a better chance of winning the suffrages of the people. I realize the impossibility of the Senate, as it is now constituted, making such a suggestion as I have made. . We had a large number of unemployed until the war broke out.
– Order! There is no mention of unemployment in the Senate’s amendment.
– Unemployment was discussed by the Prime Minister and other honorable members. I desire to supplement what the Prime Minister said by a passing referenceto the fact that, before the war, there was widespread unemployment in Australia. There may be large unemployment after the war, unless something be done by way of legislation, to prevent that awful social scourge. But for the war, we should still have a large number of our people unemployed. It is a contradictory set of circumstances that, unless the country is at war, its people are never fully employed, and that we are so incapable of managing our economy, under the system of society in which we live, that we must always have a reservoir of unemployed. Otherwise, society does not exist; the plan of society is not satisfactory to those who own the means of production, distribution and exchange. We must have a new social order before the cessation of hostilities.
If there is a deadlock between the two Houses, the people should decide - vox populi, vox dei was the dictum of the Romans! There is so much common sense in the Australian electorate that, if the people have to choose between the party which wants to give the country some greater measure of social security than it has had before, and the party which does not want more social security until after the war is over, the choice will be quite easy. I submit to the Treasurer that we must prepare the ground effectively before we can have a general election, and that, in order to do that we should excise from legislation, which we have already passed, any reference to taxing incomes between £104 and £156 a year. I certainly hope that, whatever does happen in the next few days, the Government will not drop these bills and attempt to carry on after being rebuffed by the Senate. The position of the Government would be absolutely impossible. The Senate, once having insisted on having its way in regard to this measure, would make the life of this Government as intolerable as it made the life of the Scullin Government, not only intolerable, but also almost impossible.
Question put -
That the requested amendment be not made.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Requested amendment not made.
Clause 6 -
I n addition to any income tax payable under the preceding provisions of this act, there shall be payable upon the taxable income in excess of Five thousand pounds derived by a company a super-tax at the rate of twelve pence for every pound of that excess :
Provided that this section shall not apply -
to so much of that part of the taxable income of a life assurance company which has been derived from its life assurance business as bears the same proportion to such part of the taxable income as the amount of the profits divided for the same year of income among the life assurance POliCY holders of the company bears to the total profits of the company’s life assurance business for the same year of income.
Senate’s request No. 2. - Leave out paragraph (c), insert the following paragraph: - “’ (c) to the mutual income, as defined in sub-section (1a) of section one hundred and sixty c of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1930-1943, of a life assurance company.”.
Seventh Schedule -
Hates or Tax Payable by a Company. («.) Subject to the last preceding Schedule, for every pound of the taxable income of a company the rate of tax shall be -
in the case of a life assurance company, other than a mutual life assurance company -
in respect of so much of that part of the taxable income which has been derived from its life assurance business as bears the same proportion to such part of the taxable income as the amount of the profits divided for the same year of income among the life assurance policy holders of the company bears to the total profits of the company’s life assurance business for the same year of income - sixty pence; and
Senate’s request No. 3. - Leave out clause (1.) of sub-paragraph (iii) of paragraph (n.). insert the following clause: - “ (1.) in respect of the mutual income of the company as defined in subsection (1a.) of section one hundred and sixty o of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1943 - sixty pence ; and “.
– I move -
That the requested amendments Nos. 2 and 3 bc made.
Under the uniform income tax plan, which was adopted last year, special provisions relating to life assurance companies were incorporated in the legislation. The object of these special provisions was to ensure that the burden of uniform income tax on the life assurance companies would remain substantially the same as that imposed by the Commonwealth and the several States prior to the inauguration of the plan. As a part of the arrangement, purely mutual life assurance companies were taxed at a rate of os. in the £1 compared with 6s. payable by other companies. Similarly, partly mutual life assurance companies were taxed on their mutual income at 5s. and on their non-mutual income at 6s. in the fi. In respect of partly mutual companies, a formula was devised to determine the respective amounts of mutual and non-mutual income. The mutual income was the amount ascertained by apportioning the taxable income of the company on the basis of profits divided amongst the life assurance policy-holders and profits distributed to the shareholders.
Through inadvertence, clause 6 did not continue the principle adopted last year. The basis of apportionment of taxable income in clause 6 is profits divided amongst policy-holders compared with total profits of the company. The Government recognizes that, under war-time conditions, this basis operates inequitably against the companies, as they are obliged to retain a very substantial proportion of their profits to meet contingencies that may be expected inevitably to arise. It is realized by the Government that under present conditions the only fair method of determining the mutual income of partly mutual life assurance companies is to compare the profits divided amongst policy-holders with the profits distributed to shareholders. The principle that applied for normal income tax is also adopted for super-tax purposes. A purely mutual life assurance company is free from super-tax. A partly mutual company is also free from that tax on its mutual income.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Requested amendments made.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Bill, amended accordingly, returned to the Senate.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, No. 32.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for
Commonwealth purposes -
Bankstown, New South Wales.
Gawler, South Australia.
Oaklands, Hew South Wales.
Redfern, New South Wales.
Woolloomooloo, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders - Taking possession of land, &c. (76).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1943, Nos. 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52.
House adjourned at 1.20 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister fort he Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Help for Russia.
s. - On the 24th February, 1943, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked a question, without notice, regarding the extent of the assistance rendered by the United Nations to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I desire to inform the honorable member that, while detailed lists of the material supplied to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics cannot be made available, the following figures give some conception of the general nature of the aid rendered by the Allies.
As announced by the British Minister for Production recently, from the beginning of October, 1941, to the end of December, 1942, the United Kingdom despatched 2,974 tanks and 2,480. aircraft, based on the agreement which had been made with the Soviet Union. Aircraft sent outside the agreement brought the figure to more than 3,000. Up to the same date, the United States of America had shipped to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics under lend-lease more than 3,200 tanks, almost 2,600 planes and 81, 000 trucks, “ jeeps “ and other military motor vehicles. In addition, Britain sent more than 70,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition for the Red Army alone aud more than 50,000 tons of rubber. By September, 1942, the United States of America and the United Kingdom had sent 831,000 dead-weight tons of machine tools, metals, ammunition and small arms. To the end of last year Canada had sent over 100,000,000 dollars’ worth of war supplies to the Soviet Union, more than half of which was tanks. The- Allies have also sent large quantities of surgical instruments, drugs hospital equipment of all kinds, miscellaneous foodstuffs and clothing. So far as Australian assistance to Russia is concerned, there are several funds in existence in the Commonwealth which have for their object the sending of assistance in some form or other to Russia. As a result of the activities of these bodies, considerable quantities of sheepskins, medical supplies, &c., have* been forwarded to the Soviet arid the Commonwealth Government last year supplemented these efforts by a gift df £10,000 worth df sheepskins and also quantities of ether.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 March 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1943/19430311_reps_16_174/>.