17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Receipt of White Feathers - Lancaster Bomber
– A London cable message in yesterday’s press stated that some members of the Royal Australian Air Force in Britain had received white feathers in letters from Australia accusing them of remaining in England in order to dodge the war. We are told that this has caused angry discussion in every mess in Britain. As the procedure is a repetition of the dastardly enemy tactics used against Australian Army heroes at Tobruk, and on other members of the Australian Army who were serving in the Middle East at the time, will the AttorneyGeneral, who has personal knowledge of the perilous nature of the duties that are performed by these gallant lads of the Royal Australian Air Force, provide, by regulation if necessary, a maximum penalty for such treacheryby would-be accomplices of the enemy? Will the right honorable gentleman also see that the censorship shall do its duty and render a service to Australian citizens by outwitting traitors in their endeavour to destroy the morale of these gallant Australian lads, instead of aiding and abetting them, as the practice would appear to be to-day?
– I entirely agree with the honorable member’s protest. My colleague the Minister for Air has made a statement on the subject. I shall confer with him in order to determine what may be done to put an end to such dastardly tactics.
– Can the Minister for Air say whether the Lancaster bomber which crashed at Evans Head some months ago is yet serviceable, and, if so, will he make arrangements for it to give displays in connexion with the Victory Loan?
– The Lancaster bomber is not yet ready for service. It will be ready very soon, and will be used in connexion with the war loan campaign as on a previous occasion.
Pay-as-you-earn Taxation - Opinion by Professor Bailey.
– by leave - I submit the following statement on behalf of the Treasurer: -
My attention has been drawn to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 24th March, under the heading “When Lawyers Differ”. The suggestion in the newspaper is that the opinion of Professor Bailey on the question of the tax lag has only just been obtained in order to counter a contrary opinion given by the Solicitor-General. I state quite definitely that the Solicitor-General has at no time given an opinion on the tax lag, and that he has not been asked at any time for such an opinion. As to whether or not the opinion of Professor Bailey is of recent origin, I need merely say that the opinion released for the benefit of the press generally clearly set out that it had been given in January last. The Solicitor-General was on leave at the time, and in his absence Professor Bailey, who is attached to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department in a consultative capacity, was asked for an opinion as to the effect of pay-as-you-earn provisions on uniform taxation. Professor Bailey, it may be recalled, was one of the advisers to the Commonwealth Government in the matter of the uniform taxation legislation. In his consideration of the matter that had been referred to him, Professor Bailey found it necessary to give his attention to the question of the deferred liability, or “lag”, in taxation. The opinion released to the press during the week was that which had been given by him nearly three months ago.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the only basis for the collections of income tax from the estates of deceased persons over the last 25 years or more is the existence of the tax lag and is based on legal information given in respect of other matters by Professor Bailey three months ago?
– The basis has been a section of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
– Has that section been interpreted?
– It says in very clear terms that the estate is liable in respect of the antecedent year of income.
– I present the fourth report of the Broadcasting Committee.
Ordered to be printed.
Treatment of Civilians by Provosts - Changes in Higher Command.
– Last week, I referred to the censorship of a speech that I had made in this House in connexion with the alleged manhandling of a civilian by Army provosts. In consequence of intervention by the Minister for Information, publication of a portion of the matter has since been permitted. However, the original article is still censored. Does not the Minister for Information regard this as a matter in which Army Public Relations Directorate should have functioned so as to create a spirit of goodwill between the public and the Army? Has the Army supplied an answer to the allegation? If so, does not the honorable gentleman consider that full ventilation of the matter should be allowed in the interests of public morale?
– I do not know whether or not Army Public Relations Directorate has been consulted in regard to the substance of the honorable gentleman’s complaint. At his suggestion, I shall consult with the Minister for the Army as to whether or not officers of the Department of Informati on may confer with Army Public Relations officers with a view to determining a policy to be pursued in connexion with complaints against Army administration, or provosts or individual members of the Army establishment.
– by leave - Consequent upon the appointment of Lieutenant-General Sir Iven Mackay, K.B.E., C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D., as High Commissioner for Australia in India, the appointment of Lieutenant-General Sir John Lavarack, K.B.E., C.B., C.M.G.,
Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead, K.C.B., K.B.E., C.M.G., D.S.O., E.D., to command the Second Australian Army and temporarily to command Headquarters, New Guinea Force, vice LieutenantGeneral Sir Iven Mackay.
Lieutenant-General V. A. H. Sturdee, C. B., C.B.E., D.S.O., to command the First Australian Army, vice LieutenantGeneral Sir John Lavarack.
Major-General F. H. Berryman, C.B.E., D. S.O., to command 2 Australian Corps, vice Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead, and to be promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant-General.
Major-General S. C. Savige, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., E.D., to command 1 Australian Corps, vice LieutenantGeneral Sir Edmund Herring, and to be promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant-General.
Strike at Coalcliff Colliery.
– Is the Attorney-
General able to furnish information concerning the strike at the nationally controlled Coalcliff Colliery?
– The Coalcliff Colliery resumed work this morning, after a stoppage lasting one day.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral take steps to ensure that the men responsible for the strike at Coalcliff shall suffer the full rigours of the law, that those who were called up for service with the Army and with the Allied Works Council shall not be released, and that the man-power authorities shall be given instructions to supply sufficient labour to the coal-mining industry so that it will in future be productive of less nonsense and more coal?
– As Coalcliff is a controlled mine, those who went on strike there are liable to suffer an automatic reduction of pay.
– The act provides for imposing a penalty of £2.
– It is a stoppage from the men’s pay, whatever it may be called. The system of releases recommended by the Coal Commissioner applies, not only to those men who were called up recently, but also to those who have served in the Army for a considerable time. There is a shortage of man-power, but the system of releases is not being extended to those who choose to remain in the Army. Releases are made under stringent supervision in order to obtain increased coal production. The fact is that, soon after the South Coast miners resumed, production declined because of the absence of a number of key men, despite the fact that every effort was made by the employees to maintain production. There has been a substantial increase of production lately, and the last three weeks have been the best we have had this year.
– What about man-power?
– It is well recognized that, for the winning of coal, one must have experienced men. In that respect I am not prepared to take the responsibility of acting other than in accordance with the advice of the Coal Commissioner.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen an editorial which appeared in the publication Iron and Coal Trades Review of the 7th January to the effect that in England coal production declined from 4,200,000 tons a week in 1942, when the mines were under private control, to 3,900,000 tons a week under State control? If so, will he inform the House whether, in view of the strike at the commonwealthcontrolled mine at Coalcliff, which proves that the Government cannot control the mines–
– The honorable member may not debate whether or not the Government can control coal mines. He must ask his question.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral give instructions that no further mines shall be nationalized in Australia ?
– The honorable member has referred to two aspects of coal production. I have not read the article published in a certain magazine of January last regarding the production of coal in Great Britain. I ask the honorable member not to draw any adverse inferences regarding Government control from the one-day stoppage which occurred at Coalcliff. Regarding coal production generally in New South Wales, I have obtained some figures which may prove enlightening: In the fortnight ended on the 5th February, the production was 397,145 tons; and in the following two fortnights, 376,485 tons and 365,830 tons respectively. But for the fortnightly period ended on the 18th March, that is, during part of the last three weeks, production, including that from Coalcliff, reached 403,000 tons. For the first half of the present fortnight, although there have been some set backs, production was estimated at between 210,000 tons and 215,000 tons.
Civil Constructional Corps - Wages of Chinese Labourers - Alleged Waste
– Has the Minister for the Army seen the reported statement of the Consul for China, in the press on the 25th instant, that Chinese labourers formerly employed at wolfram mining in Central Australia are now working for the Civil Constructional Corps at the award rates of from £5 10s. to £7 2s. 6d. a week? Do these men receive, in addition, the rations and quarters to which Civil Constructional Corps workers in camp are entitled under their award? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that Australian soldiers shall be paid rates at least equal to those given to these Chinese workers?
– I have not seen the paragraph to which the honorable member referred, but it would appear that these persons are employed by the Allied Works Council, over which the Department of the Army has no control, and that they are receiving award rates of wages such as are usually paid to employees in the Civil Constructional Corps.
– Has the Deputy Prime Minister seen a report in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald bearing the heading: “Wanton waste in Allied Works Council alleged “ ? Has the Acting Prime Minister noticed that, according to the report, Mr. Theodore, Director-General of Allied Works, declined to meet the workers of the Civil Constructional Corps when he was on a recent visit to Alice Springs, and that the business of the deputation was to place before the Director-General specific instances of waste at that’ place ? Will he direct the War Expenditure Committee to investigate these charges, and will he inquire from the Director-General his reasons for refusing to meet the deputation?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member refers. I have not noticed the other points raised by the honorable member; but I shall consider his representations regarding the alleged refusal of the DirectorGeneral to meet the deputation.
– Has the Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping seen a statement in last week’s Queensland press that organizations of graziers in that State expect a transport crisis which will adversely affect meat production, because there is little prospect of the rubber control authorities being able to meet the urgent minimum demands of thousands of primary producers for more tyres’ and tubes? Will the Minister order an investigation into the statement of the secretary of the United Graziers Association, Mr. P. Brown, that thousands of Queensland claims are months old, and that many graziers who applied for tyres and tubes in 1942 are still without them?
– I shall look into the matter. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked me a question on Thursday on the same subject, in the course of which it was stated that primary producers holding priority No. 4 licences could not hope to obtain new tyres. I have been advised that that is not correct. As far as truck tyres are concerned, there should not be any difficulty in meeting priority No. 4 requirements, but because there is a general shortage of car and utility sizes, there may be delay in filling priority No. 4 applications for tyres of that kind. This aspect of the matter is constantly under review, and as the crucial importance of primary production is appreciated by the department, the honorable member may rest assured that every effort will be made to adjust the position so that tyres and tubes for cars and utility vehicles will be made available to primary producers.
– Has the attention of the Deputy Prime Minister been directed to statements by Mr. J. C. Arrowsmith, secretary of the Civil Constructional Corps Workers’ Committee, in yesterday’s press that thousands of pounds worth of tyres had for months been lying in the open at Alice Springs exposed to sun and rain? Has he seen Mr. Arrowsmith’s further statement .that he had been anxious to put this and other evidence of wanton waste before the DirectorGeneral of Allied Works, Mr. Theodore, when he was in Alice Springs but Mr. Theodore had refused to receive a deputation? In view of these statements and the criticisms of the Auditor-General, will the Deputy Prime Minister bring before Cabinet the matter of holding a searching investigation of the activities and expenditure of the Allied Works Council ?
– It is evident that the Leader of the Australian Country party and the honorable member for Watson have been reading the same newspapers, because their questions relate to the same subject.
– They are not the same questions.
– I have not read the newspaper reports to which the right honorable gentleman referred. His question was long. If he will submit it to me later, I shall obtain the information and furnish a reply to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow,at 12 noon.
– Is the Deputy
Prime Minister yet in a position to make a statement to the House in respect of the vacancy which exists on the Advisory War Council?
Shortage of Copper and Copper Wire
– In view of the great inconvenience in country districts and the holding up of productive efforts because of the lack of electricity extensions due in turn to lack of copper wire, will the Acting Minister for Supply and Shipping have an investigation made to ascertain whether it is not practicable to release more copper wire? Will he, in fact, investigate the copper position generally, because it is believed that an abundance of copper could be made available?
– My colleague the Minister for Munitions controls copper wire, but I shall have inquiries made.
– I ask the Minister for Transport whether he will take decisive steps to remove the stupid ban on the transfer of chaff from Mount Gambier to the fire-stricken areas of Victoria?
– I have no knowledge of that matter, but I shall have inquiries made, and provide an answer to the honorable member.
Referendum - Information for Service Personnel
– I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Government has issued instructions to Captain C. E. Martin, Attorney-General of New South Wales, who is believed to be with the Army Education Service in a forward area, to deliver a series of lectures to the troops in support of the Government’s campaign for increased powers for this Parliament? If so, will he cancel the instructions and ensure that no action shall be taken to place a one-sided case before the men of the fighting services?
– CaptainC. E. Martin is not in the Army Education Service. He is in a far more important position in the forces in New Guinea. I am not aware of any such instructions having been issued to him, but I shall have inquiries made.
– The Minister for Civil
Aviation has a very important report of the Inter-departmental Committee on Civil Aviation. In answer to earlier questions, he has said that it has not yet received Cabinet consideration. As there is great interest in the report, will the Minister make a statement to the House before it rises?
– It will not be possible for me to make a statement on that matter before the House rises. The Cabinet sub-committee has met and will meet again. It will take a considerable time to complete its deliberations.
Participation of Australian Military Forces
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether a recent First Army order prohibits members of the Australian Military Forces engaging in Anzac Day activities. If so, will the Minister exempt the Warwick area from the order, because of the great stimulation of public interest caused by a parade of serving troops?
– I am not aware of the contents of the First Army order. I realize the great importance of Warwick and other such centres in the Darling Downs electorate. The honorable member may rest assured that I shall ensure that there shall be no discrimination against Warwick or soldiers in that area.
– Can the Deputy
Prime Minister say whether the Government proposes to give the undertaking asked for by the Graziers Federal Council of Australia in a letter to the Prime Minister on the 8th February that, if producers continue to provide large supplies of fat stock for killing, the Government will see that both the facilities and the man-power necessary for the killing of such stock will be made available? If hecannot answer me to-day, will he look into the matter and make a statement before the House rises ?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has this matter well in hand, and is doing everything possible to assist to the end mentioned by the honorable member.
– At the beginning of this parliamentary period, I asked the Prime Minister a number of questions about the use of information gleaned during censorship ostensibly for purposes of security. As the information to enable my question to be answered is readily available to the Government, why has not that list of questionsbeen answered, and when may I expect an answer?
– I shall confer with the Prime Minister on the matter and furnish the information at the earliest possible date.
– Will the Government endeavour to extend the term of the Imperial Wool Purchase Scheme until one year after the war as a whole has ended? As I understand it, the agreement will expire one year after completion of the war with Germany.
– The honorable member is labouring under a misapprehension, but if he will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall give him full information upon the subject.
– During the “grievance” day debate last Thursday the Prime Minister undertook to examine my request for the authorization of the voluntary surrender of meat,butter and sugar ration coupons in order to give Australian people an opportunity to make more food available to Great Britain in these difficult days. The Prime Minister promised to examine the proposal and to let me know whether he would establish an organization to attend to the surrender of those coupons.
– Frankly I do not know whether the honorable member asked a question,but he gave a good deal of information.
– I am grateful to the honorable member for Moreton for the information that he has given to me. I shall have the matter examined, and see whether I can return with compound interest, the contribution that he has made to the House.
– Will the Minister for Air arrange for a general overhaul of the Royal Australian Air Force system of postings in respect of ground staff personnel, with the specific object of obviating a large number of interstate postings of persons who could very properly be kept in their own State or near their own homes?
– The system of postings in the Royal Australian Air Force is based on the fact that those who enter the service volunteer to serve in any part of the world. Since I have been Minister, directions have been issued, and are being obeyed, that as far as possible, personnel shall not be transferred to States to which they do not belong. If they are not engaged on duties which require them to go to operational areas, as many as possible are retained in their own State. That system will be continued. I shall ascertain whether there is any necessity for further consideration of the matter.
Use of School Buildings
– In many schools throughout cities and country districts, rooms were set aside for accommodating air raids precautions material and as first-aid stations. As the threat of bombing has abated considerably, and in view of the crowded conditions in many schools, will the Minister for Home Security release those rooms for their proper purposes?
– The organization of first-aid posts and the like at different centres is a part of a general scheme for civilian safety. The degree to which precautions shall be relaxed is decided by the Defence Committee, which is the most appropriate authority. Whilst some relaxation of precautions has already been made, the committee is firmly of opinion that these posts must be retained and that the wardens’ organization must be kept at the highest degree of efficiency until victory is achieved. The use of schools is controlled by the Education Departments of the States. I shall forward the honorable member’s observations- to the Minister for National Emergency Services in New South Wales, Mr. Heffron.
– I have received a letter from a soldier who has had long service in this war. He fought in the El Alamein and Tobruk campaigns, and the fact that he enlisted very soon after the outbreak of war is indicated by his low number, QXS03. An extract from his letter reads -
We think it not fair that we cannot be issued with the Africa Star ribbon until we rejoin our unit seeing that we not only served at Alamein but in the whole Tobruk campaign.
Will the Minister for the Army remove this source of irritation, so that the Africa Star may be made available to every one entitled to wear it, irrespective of where he is now serving?
– I have the greatest sympathy for soldiers placed in the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member, and I shall endeavour to have the irritation removed.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to - That Standing Order 70 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended for the remainder of the week.
Debate resumed from the 15th March (vide page 1335), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930. An interval of fourteen years has elapsed since the Commonwealth Parliament last gave consideration to an amendment of the legislation which deals with the compensation of Commonwealth employees for injuries sustained or sickness incurred by them in the course of their employment. The original act was passed in 1912, and a comprehensive amendment of it had not been made prior to 1930, in which year the 1912 act was repealed and a much more far-reaching measure placed on the statute-book in its stead. On frequent occasions since that time the State Parliaments have liberalized the law relating to compensation for injury and sickness of State government employees and persons in private employment. In the circumstances, this measure calls for the close scrutiny of honorable members. Unfortunately, when the last comprehensive amendment of the law was introduced into this Parliament, the session was in its closing hours. The Opposition of that day, strangely enough, consisted of the same parties as constitute the Opposition to-day, although governments supported by these parties have been in office during most of the intervening years. The Opposition, in 1930, voiced a strong protest against the conditions under which the bill of that year had to be discussed. In fact, the measure wa3 debated by only two members of the Opposition and two members on the Government side of the House. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) emphatically protested, on that occasion, against the lack of reasonable opportunity to discuss the measure. The recollection of these facts will surely cause honorable members to insist that this bill be given adequate consideration.
The main principles of the bill are very important. If this measure becomes law, the Commonwealth Government will treat its employees more generously than do any State governments, for, although the State legislation has been amended from time to time, the conditions obtaining in the various States to-day are not so liberal as those provided in this bill. The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, pointed out that the bill proposed important variations of the present law. The chief of these are - greater benefits to dependants in case of death; greater benefits for family of injured employee; increase of the maximum aggregate total of weekly payments; compensation for injury sustained travelling to and from employment ; the widening of the scope covered by industrial diseases; and greater benefits for specified injuries. The maximum payment to dependants in case of death has been increased from £750 to £800, plus an additional payment of £25 for each dependent child under sixteen years of age. The present minimum payment is £400, or three years’ pay, whichever is the larger. The bill varies this provision by increasing three years’ pay to four years’ pay. The definition of dependant has been widened.
In broad terms, it may be said that the benefits being provided are much more generous than those at present in force, and that the field of employment to which the measure will apply has been extended. In future, all Commonwealth employees will be covered except those in the defence services and those known as “ outworkers “. I am informed that approximately 100,000 employees will come within the range of this legislation. It is of considerable importance, therefore, that we should have a clear appreciation of the variations in the conditions that will apply to Commonwealth employees as compared with those applicable to persons in the employment of the State governments or private employers. A consideration of the facts will show how wise it will be for employees to take steps to obtain Commonwealth Government employment - if they are blessed with the faculty of foreseeing illness or accident! It is undesirable, in my opinion, for employees who are working in close proximity to each other - some in a Commonwealth Government undertaking in one building, others nearby in a State government enterprise, and others still close at hand in private employment - to be subject to differing conditions in relation to compensation for sickness and injury. To illustrate the difference in the conditions that will prevail, I point out that deafness in one ear will carry, under Commonwealth legislation, a compensation of 25 per cent, of the maximum amount provided, which is £800. Therefore, a Commonwealth employee who lost his hearing in the course of his employment would receive £200. If such a disability overtook a man in the employment of the Victorian Government or a private employer in Victoria, he would receive only 10 per cent, of the maximum amount, which would be £75. That applies also to Queensland. In New South Wales, on the other hand, £200 would be payable.
– It would seem that the best thing to do would be for the State governments to increase their rates of compensation.
– Most State governments have reviewed their legislation on this subject in recent years. If the honorable member for Batman implies, by his. interjection, that uniformity is desirable in this matter, I share his view. It will be absurd if, in such a district as, say, Footscray, in Victoria, a Commonwealth employee were to receive a compensation of £200 for a certain injury, whilst a State government employee or a person in private employment nearby were to receive less than half that sum for the same injury. A person who loses one eye receives - in Victoria, £300, or 40 per cent, of the maximum amount; in New South Wales £375, or approximately 46 per cent, of the maximum amount; and under the Commonwealth £400, or 50 per cent, of the maximum amount. This could well be listed as a subject for discussion at a Premiers Conference, with a view to achieving uniformity throughout the ‘Commonwealth. In other important respects the proposals in this bill differ from State legislation, which also differs as between the States. Commonwealth legislation will approximate more closely to that of New South Wales than to that of any other State, but even so there will be important differences. For example, under legislation of the Commonwealth there is no limit on the income which may be earned by an applicant for the benefits that are provided. In New South Wales, an income in excess of £750 per annum would be a bar. In Victoria, the limit is £400, in Queensland £650, in South Australia £520, in Western Australia £500, and in Tasmania £365 in respect of occupational diseases and £8 a week in respect of injuries resulting from accident. These differences raise considerations to which this Parliament will have to direct its mind at some time. I use the word “benefit” with some diffidence, because I do not imagine for one moment that a man who has lost the sight of both eyes receives real benefit by being given the £800 in compensation. The point that I make is, that substantial benefits by way of compensation are provided in respect of those who happen to be employed persons, irrespective of the income earned in any one year. On the other hand, if a farmer, a self-employed person whose net income on a yearly average may not be higher than between £6 and £10, has the misfortune to lose an arm while manipulating the complicated machinery which is part and parcel of modern farm life, he may not receive any benefit; whereas a man whose income may be three or four times as high will be entitled to the benefits provided if he is in the category of an employee under this scheme.
– The Commonwealth cannot legislate at present in respect of industrial compensation of any kind except in relation to its own employees.
– Whilst on the one hand these substantial benefits are provided by way of compensation, irrespective of the amount of income earned, this Parliament has not yet seen fit to make any provision in respect of the injury of a self-employed person, or, perhaps, a housewife. I do not analyse, at the moment, the question of whether or not it has the necessary power to do so. I have no doubt that .quite commonly housewives in the performance of their domestic duties sustain injury, possibly quite serious injury, yet no provision exists for compensation in their case. That, however, is merely a general observation, upon which we may have to reflect in more detail as our social security programme becomes broadened in certain directions.
– The honorable gentleman has noted the position in respect of the cover for injury sustained while travelling to or from work. Has he also found a similar provision in any State act?
– Amendment along these lines has been made in some State legislation, but my recollection is that there is a proviso that the injury shall not have been the result of any default, misbehaviour, or negligence by the employee. The Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini), who is in charge of the bill in the absence of the Treasurer, might later supply further enlightenment on that point. . This proposal broadens very considerably the field of injury and accident, thus constituting an important extension of existing legislation. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) stated in his second-reading speech that provision was being made for the incorporation in the act of certain machinery amendments. Doubtless the Minister for Home Security will make some reference to those in committee.
I have no desire to prolong the debate, or to register opposition to the measure, but, with the consent of honorable members, I shall incorporate in Hansard a table which, in my view, is informative. It gives a comparison of the principal provisions in the various States with corresponding provisions under existing Commonwealth legislation, and under the amendments now proposed.
.- I congratulate the Government upon introducing amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, which, for a considerable time, has been in need of revision. It is interesting to note that the original act was passed in 1912. It was amended in a comprehensive manner in 1930, and it next comes before Parliament in 1944. On each of those occasions it has been the duty of a Labour government to try to ensure something like justice for Commonwealth employees.
– The1930 amending bill was prepared, not by the Labour Government, but by the previous Administration.
– It may have been prepared, but it was not passed during the life of the previous Administration. Lots of legislation is prepared that is never carried into effect. I prefer to judge by results, not by preparations. This bill proposes to confer a number of benefits on employees in addition to those already provided in the act. I agree with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that the bill provides benefits greater than those provided in most of the State acts. The honorable member made a comparison between the conditions of Commonwealth employees and employees in outside industry working almost side by side. He complained, apparently, that Commonwealth employees in certain instances are entitled to £200 compensation, whereas, under the Victorian Compensation Act, employees are entitled to only £75 for similar injuries.
– I suggested that the Victorian employees had grounds for complaint.
– The honorable member’s suggestion was that, because an employee under the Victorian compensation act received only £75, the Commonwealth employee should not receive £200. This seems to me to be just another reason for conferring on the Commonwealth. Parliament greater powers, so that it may pass a comprehensive compensation act to cover all employees, irrespective of the State in which they reside or the employer for whom they work. If such an act could be passed there would be a better chance of employees obtaining justice.
In some directions, this bill could with justice confer greater benefits than have been provided. I have in mind the weekly rate of compensation for an incapacitated employee. The bill provides that such a man shall receive compensation at the rate of two-thirds of his weekly earnings, with a maximum of £3 a week, plus £1 for his wife, and 8s. 6d. a week for each dependent child. Under the act as it now stands, the maximum weekly rate of compensation is £3 10s. a week. That rate was fixed in August, 1930. Since then, the basic wage of Commonwealth employees has increased by £28 a year, and margins for skill, responsibility, &c, have in many instances been increased by amounts varying from £5 to as much as £50. In callings where the risk of accident is rather high, the margin for skill has increased by £28 in some instances and by as much as £36 in others. I suggest that the increased earning capacity of the average employee should be taken into account in assessing compensation. If that were done, the Government might leave the two-thirds provision as it is, but raise the maximum compensation receivable to £3 10s., or even £4. This would enable the incapacitated employee to have something more than a mere existence.
The honorable member for Fawkner referred to the increases provided in the schedule for lump sum compensation. Certainly, the schedule has been greatly improved. Many more injuries have been covered, and the amounts have been increased. One anomaly, however, remains. When a lump sum is paid in compensation for an injury, the amount already received in weekly payments is deducted. That should not be. It often happens that, as the result of an accident, a man is incapacitated for months, during which time he draws weekly payments for compensation. Then his injury is assessed at a certain disability, and he is awarded a lump sum, but when he goes to collect it he may receive only half the amount fixed in the schedule. I have in mind the case of one man who had drawn £147 10s. in weekly payments. That would have been paid to him if his injury had not proved permanent. But he was left with a permanent injury to the left arm, which was assessed as a 47 per cent. disability, entitling him to £300 lump sum compensation. Actually, he drew only £152 10s. He lost his employment because there was nothing for him to do in the service in view of his injury, and he had to fend for himself.
The Government has placed before the House proposals which are reasonable and sound, though they do not give so much to the workers as I should like. We should not mould our legislation upon what has been passed by the State Parliaments. It is the duty of a National Parliament to set a standard for the States. The fact that the Victorian Parliament says that no employee receiving more than £400 a year shall obtain the benefits of the Workers Compensation Act, is not a reason why this Parliament, in these enlightened days of 1944, should follow its lead. Certainly, in that respect the Commonwealth Government has not set a salary limit over which its employees shall not receive compensation. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Parliament to set the standard for the States to follow.
– It should be the model employer.
– Yes. The main trouble has been that, instead of setting the standard, the Commonwealth Government has time after time trailed in the wake of State governments and outside employers, and employees have been compelled to fight for the little they have been given. It, however, is making, in this bill, a reasonable effort to give its employees something like a fair deal when incapacitated through injury. I hope that in committee the Government will give consideration to my two suggestions.
– I have no quarrel with the main principles of the bill; indeed I support them. I have always been a very great believer in liberal schemes of workers’ compensation. The first vote I ever gave in a parliament, the Parliament of Victoria, was to increase the amount of compensation payable under the Compensation
Act of that State. I have risen today to direct attention to one matter which I admit puzzles me a little. Clause5 of this bill proposes to introduce a new area of liability into the principal act. The problem of how far compensation may or may not be payable when a man sustains injury while travelling has always been difficult, and the bill seeks to dispose of that difficulty by thebroad method of including the travelling time of a worker within the period in respect of which his industry is responsible for him. In many cases that may be a good thing. I would not quarrel with it. Various workers’ compensation acts the world over have tended to enlarge the area in which there may be liability, and in more than one act there is provision for travelling time, but there is an innovation in the bill. I am indebted to the research of my colleague the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) for the reference to the act of New South Wales in which there is a provision imposing liability where the worker sustains injury during his travel to and from work, but in that act the words are these - . . where a worker has received injury without his own default or wilful act on any of the daily or other periodical journeys referred to in the sub-section. . . .
He loses the right to compensation if the injury he sustains in the period of travel arises from his own default or wilful act. Section 9 of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act of 1930 contains the phrase, “if personal injury by accident arising out of or in the course of his employment” - the classical phrase used in all such legislation - and there is a proviso that, if it is proved that the injury to the employee is attributable to his serious and wilful misconduct, he shall not be entitled to compensation. Serious or wilful misconduct is the thing which disentitles the employee to compensation.
– Does not that still apply?
– I am not sure whether that proviso applies to the proposed new section. It may be a mere matter of drafting to ensure that it shall. I am glad that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is in the chamber, because this is a technical matter. The amending clause is clause 5, which proposes to insert the provision about travelling to and from work, after section 9 of the principal act. It will become section 9a, but the proviso about serious and wilful misconduct is a proviso to section 9. It is by no means clear that it will automatically operate as a proviso to proposed section 9a.
– It is intended that that shall be so.
– Perhaps it could be cleared up.
– The chances are that it would not apply.
– Yes. I mention that matter so that the Attorney-General may be able to examine the clause to see whether he agrees with that prima facie criticism. The proviso to section 9 should definitely apply to proposed section 9a and I have no doubt that that is the intention of the Government. The second comment that I make is that the proviso excludes injury attributable to serious and wilful misconduct. That is a very much narrower exclusion than is the exclusion in the New South Wales act in relation to” accidents sustained during travelling contained in those words “without his own default or wilful act”. Let us consider the fairly common case of a man who is going to work on a motor cycle, and let us suppose that on the way to work he negligently drives his motor cycle and has an accident in which he sustains injury. Under the New South Wales act he would not be entitled to compensation because he would not have received the injury without his own default ; but, under the Commonwealth legislation, assuming that the proviso to section 9 is made to operate in respect of proposed section 9a, he would still be entitled to compensation, because negligence in driving a motor cycle would stop far short of disentitling him. It is well known to those familiar with compensation problems as they have been discussed from time to time that mere negligence does not amount to serious and wilful misconduct. Many a workman has sustained injury through his own carelessness and has still obtained compensation, because no one could say that care lessness,, as such, amounted to serious and wilful misconduct. Consequently, this clause may very well have the effect, as I think it will, of entitling to compensation a man who sustains injury on his way to work although that injury is directly produced by his own carelessness. I agree with the ‘honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) that the burden which industry has to sustain in respect of injuries to employees has to be fair, and, as far as possible, generous. I do not for one moment believe that the Commonwealth should lag behind the States or measure its pace according to the pace of perhaps the slowest of the States. I have a liberal approach to this matter, but I am not at all satisfied that the provision in the New South Wales legislation in regard to this matter is not more sensible than our own. For myself, I should like to see the provision about travelling limited by some such expression as that used in the New South Wales act.
– What is the provision in the New South Wales act regarding injury in working time?
– The words “in the course of employment “ are pretty well standard words throughout all these acts. “Injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment “ has become almost a universal phrase in these matters.
– What about negligence?
– When New South Wales added this liability, which is not a prima facie liability, about travelling time, because a man is not at work while he is travelling, it represented an extension, and the Parliament of New South Wales put upon that extension the limitation that the employee should not be entitled to compensation for an accident while travelling if that accident arose from his own default or wilful act. That appears to me to be a much more reasonable provision than the one in. the ‘bill.
– ^However, those words do exclude the worker if the negligence which causes his injury is of a very slight character. Suppose he was on the wrong side of the road when he was injured !
– Under the New South Wales act every claim of that kind before the commission amounted to a long trial of a negligence action.
– I do not know that a trial would be any shorter if the issue arose on the words “ wilful misconduct “. I have never noticed that the length or brevity of proceedings depended upon the precise form of words. The longest proceedings I have ever noticed took place on a case arising from the use of the simplest language.
– If we extend the scope of the act to include travelling to and from the place of employment it is rather hard to exclude a man for negligence of a minor character.
– That is the point.
– The point taken by the honorable member for Warringah is a perfectly good one. “ Default “ may be much too fine a word. It may deprive a man who has been guilty of some technical breach; but at the other extreme, “ serious and wilful misconduct “ seems to me to be such a strong expression that it would make it almost impossible to exclude from the scope of the bill any travelling accident.
– Is not the Leader of the Opposition discussing a point that could be better raised in committee?
– I raise this matter now, because I desire to take this opportunity to direct the attention of the Attorney-General to a point that may be worthy of investigation. I ask him to be good enough to heed what I say. It is of no “use raising these matters at the last moment in committee. I have directed attention to it in my second-reading speech so that the Attorney-General may have an opportunity to consider whether it deserves attention. After all, his decision, not mine, will stand on this matter.
.- This bill is designed to bring the compensation laws relating to Commonwealth employees into line with the trends of recent amendments of State laws dealing with compensation to workers in industry. After the outbreak of war, the industrial activity of Commonwealth departments was considerably enlarged, and the necessity to widen the provision governing compensation for injury caused by industrial processes became increasingly apparent. Furthermore, the benefits originally provided were measured in the light of the onset of the financial depression, and should now be placed on a more generous basis. That has been the trend of recent amendments of State laws, and this bill provides for the granting of increased benefits under several headings.
First, it provides for greater benefits to dependants in the event of the death of the breadwinner. In such circumstances, payments to dependants have been increased from £750 to £800, with an additional payment of £25 for each dependent child under sixteen years of age. The present minimum payment is £400 or three years’ pay, whichever be the greater. Under the bill, four years’ pay will be allowed, and the definition of “ dependant “ has been widened. The bill also provides for greater benefits for the family of an injured employee. At present the act provides for the payment of twothirds of the weekly wage of an injured employee, with a maximum of £3 10s. a week, but with an additional 7s. 6d. for each dependent child under fourteen years of age. It is now proposed that the maximum payment to the injured employee shall be £3 a week, with an allowance of £1 a week for the wife or housekeeper dependent upon the employee, and 8s. 6d. for each dependent child under sixteen years of age. The total weekly payment shall not exceed the employee’s remuneration at the time he was injured.
The weekly payment to an employee suffering total and permanent incapacity will continue indefinitely. If the injury is not total and permanent, the employee is now entitled to receive in total payments not more than £750. With the amplified weekly benefits now proposed to be granted, it is deemed desirable to increase this amount to £1,000, so that the maximum period during which weekly payments continue shall not be reduced. The bill provides also for compensation for injury sustained by Commonwealth employees travelling to and from their place of employment. This provision will be brought into line with legislation in certain States. In New South Wales the law was amended to make such provision. That is a step in the right direction. I appreciate the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who pointed out that under clause 9 the compensation would be payable unless the injury was caused by a serious and wilful act of the employee. I suggest that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) before he considers altering that provision-
– I have decided against altering it. The point taken by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is sound.
– My point does not go the whole way.
– The honorable member is familiar with the practice in New South Wales.
– That would not cover gross negligence.
– With due respect to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition, I consider that the New South Wales provision is too restrictive. If the injury resulted from the default of the worker in the course of his journey to or from his employment, compensation would not be payable under the New South Wales act. That is too restrictive. The honorable member for Warringah rightly pointed out that some manner of default on the part of the worker may not be a culpable act in the sense that it should deprive him of his compensation. For example, an employee, after working overtime, may be hurrying home to his evening meal. If, as the honorable member for Warringah stated, he commits a breach of the traffic regulations and sustains an injury, that breach should not be sufficient to deprive him of compensation. He may commit a breach of the law through a mental aberration resulting through heavy and continuous work. Therefore, I am glad to know that the AttorneyGeneral has decided, after consideration, not to alter the provision.
I ask the Government to take into consideration the exemption from income tax of weekly payments by way of compensation. Cases have been brought to my notice recently of claims by the taxation authorities for taxes based upon weekly compensation payments.
– I suppose the weekly payments are income?
– They are regarded as such by the taxation authorities, which I think is unfair. The compensation people receive under this measure is intended to recoup them for medical and hospital expenses, and, also, in a sense, for the suffering they are called upon to bear. The payments are not made merely for sustenance.
– Has the honorable member in mind payments in lump sums?
– I am dealing with weekly payments at the moment.
I also ask that steps be taken to provide that persons who are injured through the action of Crown employees shall be compensated. Recently a young lady, who had suffered severe injuries through having been run down by an Army lorry, sued the Commonwealth Government for compensation, but lost her case because it was held that, although the driver of the lorry was a soldier, he was driving the vehicle without authority. The young lady not only suffered serious injury, but she also incurred a loss of about £200, because she had to pay both her own and the Crown’s legal expenses. The case brought her to the verge of bankruptcy. If she had been injured by a vehicle driven by a private individual she would have been entitled to compensation under the third party insurance laws of New South Wales, for the accident occurred in that State, but, because the vehicle was driven illegally by a Commonwealth servant, she was unable to obtain any redress whatsoever. Another case brought to my notice concerned a civilian, who was knocked down by a vehicle owned by the Postmaster-General’s Department and driven by an employee of the Postmaster-General. Because negligence was not proved against either the driver of the vehicle or the Commonwealth no compensation was payable to the injured person. In this instance, too, if the injured person had been injured by a civilian, compensation would have been payable under the third party insurance scheme. On the other hand, if the civil servant had been injured, he would have been compensated under this act. I urge the Government to amend the law to meet cases of this description.
.- I welcome the introduction of this hill, because a great need has arisen, in the last three or four years, for an enlargement of both the schedule of industrial diseases and the schedule of specified injuries for which compensation is payable. Since the war the number of Commonwealth employees engaged in the production of munitions has increased from between 10,000 and 12,000 to, perhaps, 300,000 or 400,000. These people are engaged in industries which are extraordinarily dangerous because of the likelihood of explosions, or the effects of chemicals. The introduction of this bill is therefore overdue. I am specially interested in the subject, because I overhauled the then existing law of 1929. However, a serious political and parliamentary accident occurred about that time, which resulted in the removal from office of the Government of which I was a member. During the following year I assisted the present Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) to pilot through the House the bill that I had drafted. Seven or eight years later, I had the privilege of introducing a bill to liberalize the conditions relating to the compensation of seamen, and on that occasion I enjoyed the co-operation of the same honorable gentleman.
I am glad that dermatitis is being included in the schedule of industrial diseases, for, owing to the increased use of oil and grease and various corrosives, dermatitis has become much more prevalent. The greatly increased use of diesel and crude oils has led to a wide prevalence of skin diseases which are caused by the penetration of oils through clothing and their irritating effect on the skin. I also had included in the list of diseases to which the seamen’s compensation act applies, poisoning caused by benzol and, also poisoning by its homologues or their derivatives, preparations or compounds. These diseases, and also poisoning by hydrogen, sulphide or carbon bi-sulphide, poisoning by nitrous or other acid fumes, poisoning by cyanogen compounds, poisoning by carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, poisoning by other toxic gas and poisoning by chrome ulceration, are also properly being included in the schedule. It is highly necessary, too, that pneumoconiosis should be placed in the schedule, because the Commonwealth Government is now much more closely associated with the coal-mining industry than formerly. Telegraphists’ cramp is another addition which I welcome, because it affects individuals who are employed almost solely by the Commonwealth Government. The provision that in future compensation shall apply to medical, surgical and hospital treatment is commendable. Originally “ medical treatment “ was understood to cover all these aspects of medical service, but in the course of the years medical treatment has been sharply defined, and the need has arisen to enlarge the legal term to cover surgical and hospital treatment. At one stage a maximum sum of £50 or £100 was provided to cover hospital treatment. Because many of the diseases which arise, particularly from industrial causes, are chronic and may need a long course of hospitalization, the patient should be given ease of mind by reason of the knowledge that the whole of the cost of the treatment will be borne by the Government.
Paragraph e, of clause 2, proposes to add to the definition of “employee” the words “ any officer or employee of the Public Service of a Territory of the Commonwealth “. At first sight, this would appear to include such persons within the scope of those who benefit under the act; but a perusal of the act, and especially of the memorandum that has been circulated, proves that such persons are to be excluded’. Section 4, as the bill proposes to amend it, will read - : employee “ means any officer . . . but does not include -
Before agreeing to that provision, honorable members should be assured that no officers of the Territories of the Commonwealth are to be excluded from the operations of the act unless they are completely covered by other schemes. It would be anomalous were we to give very great additional advantages to those to whom the act applies, and exclude others who have always been regarded as coming within its scope. The matter should be placed” beyond doubt.
– The purpose of the addition is to exclude any employee of the territories of Papua, New Guinea or Norfolk Island, but to include any employee of the Commonwealth who is sent to any of those territories, because the employees of those territories are covered iti respect of injuries by the appropriate ordinance of the territory concerned.
– That explanation is satisfactory. I am glad that the attempt is being made more clearly to define “ dependant “ by the addition of the words “ and includes a person so dependent to whom the employee stands in loco parentis or a person so dependent who stands in loco parentis to the employer “. That is a distinct improvement on the existing legislation, under which the determination of dependency is left to mutual agreement or to arbitration.
I, too, support the point which has already been taken by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), namely, the assurance of those who happen to be injured as the result of an act performed by a Commonwealth public servant. Many hundreds of thousands of men are in the armed forces, there is a considerable number in the Civil Constructional Corps, and there are very many more in the postal service. The total number of employees of the Commonwealth by whom injury might be caused to a citizen must be approximately 1,000,000. [ have already brought to the notice of the Attorney-General and’ his department the case of a woman who, while travelling along a road, was injured and subsequently lost her right arm as the result of having been struck by a government lorry driven by a member of the Royal Australian Air Force. She has been keenly distressed for many months because of inability to reach agreement in regard to the compensation that is payable to her. It would appear that there is no formal way in which the matter may be concluded except by a lawsuit. For many months, she has suffered considerably from shock. There should be some provision whereby, when injury has been sustained and the liability of the Commonwealth cannot be questioned, the determination of the compensation payable could bo made quickly by reference to a schedule. I realize that it is not possible to deal with such a matter under this bill. I hope, however, that it will be investigated by the Attorney-General, in view of the large number of people who are now in the pay of the Commonwealth Government, many of them in charge of all sorts of vehicles and activities which could cause injury to members of the public. A simple means of reaching agreement would obviate many of the nervous complaints that now result from accidents.
– The subject raised by the right honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat (Sir Earle Page) and the’ honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) is outside the scope of this measure. The Government, however, realizes the importance of it. I prepared recently a minute on the topic of injuries caused by Commonwealth vehicles, irrespective of whether or not the driver was in the course of his employment at the time of the accident. I ask leave of the House to incorporate that minute in Hansard.
– Does it deal with the matter of looting, which arose in Darwin ?
– It deals with the general question of injury to property, also injuries caused by Commonwealth vehicles such as those used in the Postal Department and the armed and Allied services.
The Solicitor-General has forwarded to me for comment certain papers relating to three claims against the Commonwealth for compensation arising out of damage caused to property by Army personnel.
In the first case an Army motor driver in charge of an Army lorry, while engaged “on” a frolic of hia own “, crashed through the fence in front of an Australian citizen’s home.
In the other cases, a group of Australian soldiers, on duty near homes of two Australian citizens, broke into and took possession of those homes, during the prolonged absence of the owners and looted some of the contents thereof and damaged the rest.
I offer the following comments on the cases submitted.
On the 4th October last, the Prime Minister laid down the following rule: “I consider the Army cannot escape obligations to civilians when the Army personnel under authority uses Army vehicles and, in defiance of authority, engages in frolics inflicting damage to civil property “. This minute is sound as stating a general principle. I entirely agree with it. 1 also notice that, in the case of a married couple from Western Australia, a view was expressed in relation to looting by members of the armed forces which, while correct from a technical legal point of view, seems to be in entire conflict with the Prime Minister’s statement on principle. I also note that on the 12th June, 1943, Senator Collett made a strong comment upon the case where Army authorities frankly agreed that “ beyond doubt acts of gross vandalism were committed and almost certainly by Army personnel “. I am in general agreement with Senator Collett’s comment.
The three cases show that similar questions have arisen in various parts of the Commonwealth.
In four States of the Commonwealth, personal injury caused by a motor vehicle has to be made good through insurance whether the person driving the vehicle is doing so with the authority of the owner or not. In three States - New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia - the act binds the Crown. In June, 1043, the New South Wales Premier drew attention to this position.
These State acts show that the moral responsibility of an owner in relation to the use of his car is being rapidly overtaken by recognition of a corresponding legal responsibility which can be and is covered by insurance. In other words, responsibility is gradually becoming a recognized risk of the ownership of a chattel (a motor vehicle) which is 60 potent with harm to the citizen.
It makes no difference to the injured citizen whether personal injury or damage to his person or property is caused negligently or deliberately or whether the servants of the Crown causing injury or damage are acting strictly within or well without the scope of their usual authority.
Recently a case occurred in which the authorities recommended payment to an alien in the Middle East - quite possibly an unfriendly alien - for damage caused by the looting of the alien’s property by Australian soldiers. In my opinion the moral right of Australian citizens should not be less than that sometimes accorded by international comity to the citizens of other countries suffering loss through acts done by our soldiers in excess of authority. 1 do not think there has been sufficient recognition of the fact that, under the law of
England (see 49 and 50 Vic. Chapter 38), in the event of damage to property caused by the riotous conduct of persons in a local area, such damage has to be made good to the injured citizen at the expense of the inhabitants of the. area. The principle of this legislation seems to have been adopted by the State of Victoria in the Unlawful Assemblies Act of 1928, section 34.
With regard to the international responsibility of Australia in case of riots, mob violence and looting, my special study of this subject is contained in a paper read to the Australian Law Convention of 1935 (see 1935, Australian Law Journal,- Supplement, page 9).
The Prime Minister’s minute suggests a broad principle of practice rather than of technical law. But it is a sound principle and in its practical application one is assisted by some of the analogous cases in international law and also in municipal law.
I do not think that we should be deterred from doing justice by vague general warnings such as the red tape argument that if we recognize moral responsibility in any case we shall have to do so in all. Everything depends upon the circumstances of each case. In the case of looting, it is obvious that in some cases damage to Australian citizens has been caused, cither through a failure of some section of the Australian civil administration to preserve law and order or of some small section of the Australian military authorities to control their troops. Why in such cases should the injured citizen be totally -denied any measure of compensation?
I think the three cases under review are-0 great importance. No absolute rule can or should be laid down. But the Commonwealth was a pioneer in compensating its citizens for the tortious acts of its servants, although such liability of the Government woe always denied in England and the United States. I do not see why the Commonwealth should lug behind others in adopting towards its own citizens that degree of responsibility which is dictated by the circumstances of each case. The Commonwealth should not act shabbily. We spend many millions in providing social services for our citizens. There the primary obligation is not legal, but purely social or moral in character. The expense involved in adopting a rational, humane and reasonable policy towards Australian citizens who arc injured through war activities would be relatively small.- It would be more than balanced by the removal of that sense of gross injustice sometimes caused by reliance on too rigid a legalism. (Signed) H. V. Evatt,
– Proposed new section 9a, which clause 5 proposes to insert, deals with injury sustained by an employee while travelling to or from work. The view taken by the Government is that the sphere of employment of a Commonwealth employee should extend from the time when he leaves his home for his work to the time when he returns to his home. For that purpose, there is to be a hypothetical extension of the course of his employment, which is to be from home to home. The Government considers it is right that that should be done. The method by which it is proposed to be done is by treating the accident as if it were - I quote the exact words - “ an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment “. That is a direction to look back to the provision dealing with accidents arising out of the supplyment. As honorable members will see, section 9a attracts all the disabling provisions of existing section 9, one of which is that, in the event of serious and wilful misconduct, no compensation is, as a rule, payable. The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition was to use the old New South Wales provision that, an employee sustaining injury while travelling to or from work becomes disentitled to compensation if his injury results from his wilful act or default. That, of course, would include any negligence on his part contributing to the accident. We prefer to say that he shall be excluded only on the same principle applied as if he were at work. If he is guilty of serious and wilful misconduct he will not recover compensation except in the instances mentioned in proposed section 9. Suppose he was- injured in au accident while riding a motor cycle. It is not proposed that he should be excluded simply on the ground of negligence, but if he exceeded the existing speed limit of 30 miles an hour that, no doubt, might be regarded rs wilful misconduct. His negligence might be so gross, and his conduct so wanton, and so regardless of the safety of himself and others, as to come within the definition of “ serious and wilful misconduct “. However, it is not proposed that his claim for compensation should be defeated merely because he has been guilty of some default. It is proper that there should be further inquiry into the nature of his negligence. Otherwise, he might be excluded from compensation simply for driving on the wrong side of the road, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has pointed out. The
Government believes that the provision in the bill is an improvement, because it extends the scope of the act to include the journey from the factory to the worker’s home at night, and from his home to the factory in the morning.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Injury while travelling to or from work).
.- I agree that the provisions of proposed section 9a are related to the last words of the first paragraph -
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 13 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 23rd March (vide page 1908), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Judged by ordinary legislative standards this bill might’ be regarded as one of minor importance, but it gains in significance by reason of certain events which preceded it. I refer to the fact that it is actually a measure validating an action of the Government under the National Security Regulations. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), in his second-reading speech, said that the main purpose of the bill was to suspend the operation of a certain section of the principal act under which pensions payable to widows would move up or down according to movements of the basic wage. I need hardly remind honorable members that this section has already been temporarily suspended by the use - or may I say the misuse - of the Government’s national emergency powers. When this country first became involved in war, Parliament, following the usual practice, quite rightly delegated to the
Executive many powers which, normally reposed in Parliament alone. It was never intended, however, that those powers should be exercised by the Executive except where an emergency demanded the taking of prompt action in circumstances in which it was not possible to refer the matter to Parliament itself. In this instance, due, I have no doubt, to political pressure from its supporters’ and others, the Government used the national emergency powers in order ro achieve, temporarily, a result which it now proposes to achieve permanently. I am sure that the Attorney-General himself is not happy about this questionable practice because, when introducing mother measure designed to achieve a similar purpose, he filled five pages out of six of his second-reading speech in apologizing for the action of the Government.
It is not out of place to remind honorable members that the provision which it is now proposed to repeal was inserted in the act at the special request of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). lt is true that that provision was inserted in the statute in 1933 and deleted in 1937. It was restored in 1940 at the special request of the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). We welcomed that proposal, for it seemed that it was going to lift invalid and oldage pensions and widows’ pensions out of i he realm of party politics. But, as it seems that, in actual practice, the section can operate only in one direction and not in the other, the Opposition has no objection to its permanent withdrawal.
The bill also proposes to repeal section 41, which reads as follows: -
I have no particular objection to the repeal of that section, but I do point out the rather anomalous effect of its repeal, and I suggest that the Government, if it has not the time now, should take the opportunity to have it examined when the bill reaches the Senate. When this repeal becomes effective, as I have no doubt it will, seeing that the Government has the numbers in this House, we shall have the anomalous position that the pension of a widow entering a mental hospital and, likewise, the pension of dependants will terminate immediately. If she enters a State benevolent home her pension will be reduced from 27s. 6d. to 9s. 6d. But, if she enters one of His Majesty’s prisons, there need be no diminution of pension or her dependants’ allowances. Surely, the position should be reversed and the pensioner so unfortunate as to qualify for admission to a mental hospital should be. given first consideration, not last. Apart altogether from ethical considerations, and there are some ethical considerations, it is a fact that a prisoner is, at least, provided with food, clothing and shelter, whereas the Master in Lunacy takes great care when a person enters a mental hospital to ensure that some contribution shall be made from the family exchequer to meet the cost of that person’s food, clothing and shelter while an inmate.
I believe that I speak for the Opposition when I say that we have no objection to the proposed action to preserve to the pensioners the 6d. a week which would otherwise have been deducted from their pensions. On the contrary, I am more concerned about the security necessary to maintain the whole 27s. of the pension. There can be no real security so long as the financing of this social service and other social services is in the nature of a. treasury dole. We need not delve -deeply into history to find illustrations of treasuries finding themselves unable to fulfil their obligations and being compelled to withdraw in whole or in part some of the obligations imposed by statute. For instance, we have the illustration of the serious reduction of the invalid and old-age pension made in this very Parliament in 1931. In New South Wales, the Treasury found it necessary to withhold the statutory contributions to the Public Service Superannuation Fund of that State. There is considerable controversy about that matter at the moment. Likewise, the Treasury of New South Wales found that it was unable to meet in full the subventions that were granted by the Government of New South Wales many years ago for the payment of dues of aged members of friendly societies, and serious reductions were made. Those illustrations prove the reality of my apprehensions. My fears are not a bit allayed by reference to certain aspects of our national finance and contemplation of existing treasury responsibilities. I find, and my authorities are the records of this House, that in this year of grace the obligation of the Commonwealth Treasury in respect of the invalid and old-age pension is about £23,250,000; child endowment, £11,500,000; maternity benefits, about £2,000,000; and widows’ pensions, £3,500,000. Unemployment benefit is now on the stocks and it is not unreasonable to include it in my calculations. Even on a basis of 5 per cent. of unemployment - and that is very much below the historical record - the cost of unemployment benefit will be £10,000,000. The estimated cost of the sickness benefit legislation, now before the House, is £8,000,000. Service pensions for “ burnt-out “ soldiers cost about £750,000. Pensions in respect of the old war, to say nothing whatever about this war, willcost about £8,000,000.
– Does the honorable member object to that?
– No, not at all. I do not suggest that that is a social service, but it is an outgoing from the Treasury in respect of which there is no incoming. I am merely pointing out the commitments. Those figures total £67,000,000. In other words, when this legislation has been passed, in only a few hours if I am anything of a prophet, the Commonwealth Treasury will be faced with the immediate commitment of £67,000,000. And that is not the full story. We have a repatriation commitment in respect of this war, and who can estimate what the figure will be with the very greatly increased numbers of men and women who will be entitled to the repatriation benefits associated with their service?
– If the honorable member is speaking in support of this measure he is making a brilliant speech.
– I support the maintenance of the 27s. a week pension, and it is because of that I am pointing out the insecurity of this method of financing social legislation. Assuming that the new repatriation obligation will be the same as the old - and that is a modest computation - we must add another £8,000,000. There is another £5,000,000 - again a conservative estimate - for the hospitalization scheme recommended by the Social Security Committee. The Treasury will be obligated to find for social services of the kind I have enumerated a total of £80,000,000 per annum. The country which has an income adequate to meet that and all other obligations need not tremble at having to find £75,000,000 for this purpose.But what is the position? For the ten years before Munich, which is the proper basis for us to take, because after Munich we expended money heavily in preparing for war, Consolidated Revenue averaged £76,000,000 per annum.
– Is it not better to compare the total social services with the total national income?
– That is right.
– I disagree. The obligation is being placed on the Treasury to meet these demands. Surely, the correct procedure is to compare the standard or normal income of the Treasury with the obligations that are being placed upon it.
– It looks as if taxes will never be reduced.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.These figures indicate clearly that there can be no security so long as the financing of our social service schemes depends upon a competent and willing Treasury. I look forward to the day when the widows of Australia will be able to depend for their maintenance on a much more secure scheme.
.- This bill proposes to give legislative effect to the action of the Government some months ago in restoring widows’ pensions to their former level after they had been automatically reduced by an adjustment of the cost of living. Most people find it difficult to understand how that reduction was possible. At the time, people protested, and propaganda against the reduction appeared in the press. For some strange reason, the Government itself was held blameworthy, although the law provided that the reduction should automatically take effect. But the Government acted promptly by passing a national security regulation, which immediately abolished the reduction. Peculiarly enough, some of the persons who had criticized the Government for being niggardly and cruel in its attitude towards pensioners, then abused it for using the National Security Act to correct the injustice. That shows how insincere some people are when they criticize the Government. I commend the Cabinet for its prompt action. I understand that it obtained advice from the Crown Law authorities that its action was legal. But whether or not the decision was legal, it was the proper one to adopt. The’ bill will now place the matter beyond doubt.
The matter that gave me cause for concern was the possibility of pensions being reduced after the war. When the opportunity occurs, the Government should grant increased benefits to all pensioners, and provide for them an adequate living allowance. Although a sum of £30,000,000 is being credited to the National Welfare Fund each year, I understand that only £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 will be expended from that source during the current financial year. That will leave an ample margin to enable the Government to grant increased benefits to pensioners.
Widows should be given economic security. Many of them are mothers with children, and it is degrading and demoralizing for them to be expected to exist on small allowances. The war makes heavy demands upon the public purse, but when that expenditure slackens the Government should improve the condition of widows and dependent children. One of the first steps should be to revise the “permissible income” regulations. At present, a pensioner is permitted to earn up to 12s. 6d. a week before her pension is affected. That amount was fixed 30 years ago when conditions were entirely different from what they are now, and when 12s. 6d. a week had a considerably greater purchasing power than it has now. When the Government appealed to all sections of the community to help the war effort, many widows began to serve in various capaci ties, and I contend that their pension should not be reduced on that account. They should not be penalized for their patriotism. A sympathetic revision of the “permissible income” regulations would confer an immediate benefit on widows. If the Government does not desire to make the necessary provision in this bill, the passing of a national security regulation could achieve the desired end, because the war effort is obviously involved. Probably at the end of this week, the Parliament will go into recess for several months. The Minister representing the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) is sympathetic to the needs of widows, and I hope that he will prevail upon his colleagues to revise the “ permissible income “ regulations.
Pensions are affected in another way. If a pensioner accumulates a certain amount of capital, his pension is reduced. Some pensioners desire to purchase their own homes. If they occupy their own dwellings, their pensions are not affected. Some of them have the necessary purchase money at present, but finding it impossible to invest it in a home, they arc obliged to rent premises. Their savings are being frittered away.
– Order! The honorable member is digressing from the bill.
– If a pensioner invests the money in war bonds instead of using it to purchase a home, he is assisting the war effort, but his pension is affected. The Minister for Social Services should have discretion in masters of this nature to rule that a pension shall not be reduced when the recipient has invested money in war bonds. I am pleased to support -the bill.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) declared that this bill validates certain action taken by the Government under the National Security Act to restore pensions after they had been automatically reduced by a fall in the cost of living.
– This is not a validating bill.
– Surely, that is the purpose of the bill.
– No validation is necessary.
– It seems extraordinary that the Government, hy using the National Security Act, and, without seeking the authority of Parliament, can come to a decision that has such a considerable effect upon the finances of the country. The honorable member for Parramatta dealt with this point so I shall not enlarge upon it..
I urge the Government, however, to give attention to two other aspects of this subject. Every honorable member must realize that the amount of pension payable to a widow is meagre, the maximum rate being only £1 7s. a week. In addition, 5s. a week is payable in respect of each dependent child. A widow is also permitted to earn up to 12s. 6d. a week. So a widow with one child, earning the maximum permissible amount, has an income of only £2 4s. 6d. a week. No one will believe that a widow in such circumstances finds life, in any way easy. By the time she has provided a roof for herself and her child, and also nourishment and clothing, she can have very little left. I realize that an increase of the basic rate of pension would involve a large expenditure, because the present basic rate is identical with the basic rate for old-age and invalid pensioners and an increase in respect of one class would necessarily involve an increase in respect of the others. The Government is finding it difficult to provide money for war purposes, so a general increase of the pension rate is hardly feasible. I urge, however, that the amount of permissible income should be increased. In New Zealand, widows are permitted te earn £1 10s. a week, or £78 a year. The basic rate of pension is also higher in the sister dominion. The Commonwealth Government would not be involved in any greater expenditure if it increased the amount that widows may earn, and in the interests of the widows and their dependent children, I urge the Government to do so.
The bill provides that the Commissioner shall have a discretion in regard to the portion of a pension that shall be payable for the benefit of children whose widowed mothers are undergoing terms of imprisonment. This causes me to urge the Government to liberalize the conditions applicable to children whose widowed mothers are in benevolent asylums or mental homes. A widow in a benevolent home is allowed to receive up to £34 14s. per annum in pension. It is anomalous, therefore, that a widow in a mental asylum is not entitled to any payment whatsoever. Moreover, the Master in Lunacy may call upon, the members of her family to contribute to her upkeep if they are in a financial position to do so. I urge that in such cases the unfortunate children of such widows should be given greater consideration. Their mothers are in the mental asylums through no fault of their own, and I ask that the Commissioner be given a discretion to make payments in aid of the children. If a discretionary Dower is justified in the circumstances set out in the bill, it is surely justified in the circumstances I have outlined. I hope the Government will sympathetically consider these submissions.
.- I support the bill, the purpose of which is to prevent the reduction of the rate of the pension. In view of remarks that have been made in this House recently concerning the necessity to encourage larger families in this country, we should take every practicable step to remove the fears which hinder people from having larger families. In my first speech in this chamber I stressed the importance of an increase of the birth-rate, and said that two factors which militated greatly against large families were the fear of unemployment and the fear that should the breadwinner of the family die, his dependants may be left unprovided for. In my opinion, these fears very seriously affect the size of families, and we should do anything that we can do to reduce the sense of insecurity under which the mass of the people labour in this regard. It should not be necessary for a widow with dependent children to go out to work, but as we are not yet providing such widows with incomes adequate for their needs and the needs of their children, we should at least increase the amount of income which widows with dependent children may earn. Only by assuring people that they will be able to live in reasonable comfort and on adequate standards, and at the same time provide for the education of their children, shall we be entitled to expect larger families. I support this bill because it will be of some slight assistance to widows, but I urge the Government to take the earliest opportunity to provide increased pensions for widows, and to increase the amount of income they may earn in order to support themselves and their children.
.- In one respect this bill is somewhat exceptional, for it seeks to put into proper legislative form something that has already been done under National Security Regulations. I regret that what is being done now has not been done much more frequently in respect of other matters. One cannot help feeling that, had the Government run the gauntlet of criticism in this Parliament, with the delays and deliberation which necessarily are incidental to the passage of a bill through its first, second and third readings, as well as its consideration in committee, certain proposals that are now law and command the obedience of the ordinary citizen outside this House would never have survived the criticism which unquestionably would, have been levelled against them, and consequently would not have become law. Nevertheless, I entirely commend the Government for the proposals which it has embodied in this measure. I commend it the more for having done by regulation what, in a manner of speaking, is now being ratified. I recall that on one occasion I had to defend the Government before an assembly of people in consequence of the (reduction of the invalid and old-age pension and, incidentally, the widows’ pension - because these are sister measures. The ground of my defence was that, if fluctuation of benefits in ‘accordance with variations of the cost of living are defensible, then the Government cannot be challenged as being guilty of an indefensible act when the burden .changes, any more than when the benefit changes; that is to say, it is no more responsible for the reduction of the pension by reason of the authoritative determination that the cost of living has been reduced, than it is when the cost of living increases and the pension accordingly rises. As a matter of fact, although adjustment of the cost of living provision was .the work, not of a Labour government, but of another government, there is something which may be urged in its favour if the pension is itself adequate and reasonable.
Iii connexion with the present bill, there is much in the contention of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan’ that the measure of relief given to the widow with dependants is inadequate and somewhat niggardly. I agree with that. Indeed, so far as I am permitted to refer to the subject by way of illustration, I should say that that applies also to pensions generally; that is to say,, we cannot argue that the pensions which are within the jurisdiction of this Parliament are adequate to the needs of the recipients. Apparently, however, they are the best that we can provide at the present time, concurrently with our enthusiastic conduct of a total war. But that does not make them adequate. I hope that the time is not far distant when the hope expressed by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) and other honorable members will be realized - that more adequate pensions will be paid to those deserving members of our society who need them most. After all, in any order of society in which our lot may be cast, there will always be some who will necessarily be dependent for their support upon the organization of society; there will always be the sick and the invalid; fewer in numbers, we hope, as the new order prevails. There will always be the poor. ‘There is scriptural warrant for the belief that the poor will always be with us. Certainly the widow and dependent children will always be an integral part of society, just as the sick and the invalid will always be with us in greater ox less degree. The care of these, in my view, will always be a first charge on organized society. If the pension were adequate - I consider that, at the moment, it is not, although I am bound to admit that it is better than it has ever been under any other government - I should say that cost-of-living adjustments were quite justifiable and-, arguably, correct. In those circumstances, we would have to put up with the reduction when the cost of living fell just as we would cheerfully accept the increase when it rose. I am sure that this hill deserves and will obtain a speedy passage through the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue bc made for the purposes of a hill for an act to amend the Widows’ Pensions Act 1942-1043.
Resolution reported; report - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 23rd February (vide page 448), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– It would be wrong to delay the House by repeating the arguments which I used when discussing an earlier measure. The circumstances associated with the introduction of this bill are almost identical with those associated with the other measure. This bill also proposes to validate - even if the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) disputes the correctness of that term - the action of the Executive, under the National Security Regulations, in suspending the operation of that provision which increased or reduced pensions in accordance with the rise’ or fall of the cost of living. As I said before, I have no serious objection to the effect of the step which was taken by the Government, though I again record my discontent with the use of emergency powers for non-emergency reasons.
It is proposed to repeal section 51 of the act, which provides that when a person is convicted in any court of drunkenness, or of any offence punishable by imprisonment for not less than one month, then, in addition to any other punishment imposed, the Commissioner for Pensions may cause the pensioner to forfeit one month’s pension. Another clause is substituted for it. No reference was made to this provision by the Minister in his second-reading speech, and it raises some doubt whether this clause, which takes away from the Commissioner power to act in the case of drunkenness, was deliberate. I expect to be reminded that in another clause the Commissioner has the right to withhold a part or the whole of the pension from an unworthy person, and that that provision gives him adequate discretion.
I have no objection to allowing a pension to be paid to some person on behalf of an invalid pensioner at the discretion of the Deputy Director of Social Services, but again I draw attention to an anomaly in the case of inmates of a mental hospital. The act now provides that upon a pensioner entering a mental hospital his pension shall cease, and shall not be restored until he is discharged. Several reasons have been advanced why this provision cannot be repealed. It has been said that ever since the act was passed, in 1908 it has contained this provision. That is true, but that is no reason why the anomaly should be perpetuated. It has been said that the State governments have always been responsible for maintaining inmates of mental hospitals, and that the responsibility should not be lifted from them, but the same might be said about widows’ pensions. The State governments used to be responsible for the maintenance of indigent widows. It might also be said of the Commonwealth child endowment scheme, and of the provision passed by this Parliament a few months ago rendering the Commonwealth liable for the payment of the funeral expenses of indigent old-age pensioners. It may be said that the provision cannot be repealed because the Minister for Social Services, in 1939, refused a similar request by the Premier of New South Wales.
This excuse has a somewhat personal implication, because I was Minister for Social Services on that occasion, and I believe that it is historically true that, when the request was made by the Premier of New South Wales, 1 approved the recommendation that we were not prepared to reopen the . old invalid and old-age legislation in order to deal with that particular phase. It was also said that to grant to inmates of mental hospitals the pension on the same basis as that on which it was granted to inmates of other hospitals would cost about £1,250,000. That is not a reason against my proposal. Finally, another argument raised is that the inmate of a mental hospital is not mentally competent to handle the whole or any part of a pension. In answer to that, I direct attention to the fact rhat it is proposed in this very bill that, when a pensioner becomes an inmate of a prison, and, therefore, practically incompetent to handle a pension, the pension, or a part of the pension shall, at the direction of the Director-General of Social Services, be paid, not to him, but to some person nominated on behalf of his dependants. I see no reason why that principle should not apply to inmates of mental hospitals. I urge, as I have urged many times since 1939, that this blot on our pensions law be removed and that the person unfortunate enough to enter a mental hospital be placed on exactly the same plane as a person unfortunate enough to enter an ordinary hospital.
.- I congratulate the Government on the introduction of this measure, because I was responsible in the last Parliament for drawing the attention to the anomalies which this bill proposes to remove.
– The honorable member was largely responsible for this legislation.
– I feel that that is so. Only recently I had occasion to approach the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in New South Wales about two cancellations of pensions. The pension of one lady who was charged with having taken some articles was cancelled. She is more than 60 years of age and had never been in trouble before in her life.
The magistrate took such a lenient view of her offence that he only placed her on bond, but the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions took such a harsh view that he cancelled her pension and thereby imposed a fine of £1 7s. a week. A man who got drunk at Christmas time had his pension cancelled. Whilst the amendment of section 51 is satisfactory, I think that section 52 should be deleted or added to. The addition that I would suggest, if the Government be not agreeable to the deletion of the section, is that the pensioner concerned should have the right of appeal to the Minister against any decision made under the section by the deputy commissioner. The section reads -
The Deputy Commissioner shall, if he thinks fit, cancel, reduce, or suspend the pension accordingly.
That gives wide powers to the deputy commissioner to cancel a person’s pension, even though a conviction has not been entered against the person. That power should either be removed or it should be subject to appeal to the Minister.
I also direct the attention of the Government to the treatment of inmates of mental hospitals. Instead of denying pensions to the inmates of mental hospitals I think that at least 5s. or 10s. a week should be placed in a trust fund to be drawn on by the pensioner in the event of his recovering and being discharged from the mental hospital. That is the minimum consideration that those people should receive. What I think is more fitting, is that the dependants of those persons should be placed on the same footing as that on which this bill proposes to place the dependants of persons who are imprisoned. Those dependants are required to expend money to provide their mentally afflicted relatives with amenities that are not provided in the mental hospitals.
– And also to pay for their accommodation.
– Yes. There is another section of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions act under which if it is found that aged people who make application for the pension are living apart, that fact is taken into consideration.
– To debate that would be quite out of order.
– I shall have an opportunity to do so when the budget is introduced. I hope that the Minister for Social Services will examine section 52 with a view to either its deletion or its improvement by providing the right of appeal to the Minister against decisions of the deputy commissioner.
.-Before I deal with the actual provisions of the bill, there are some remarks of a general character which I intend to make regarding the old-age pension. We are accustomed to considering from time to time in this House amending bills in respect of pensioners, but it is a long time since there has been any general debate on pensions. Honorable members no doubt have either read or glanced at the Beveridge Report recently published in England. I refer them to the opening paragraphs dealing with old-age _ pensioners. Sir William Beveridge said -
The problem of the nature and extent of the provision to be made for old age is the most important and in some ways the most difficult of all the problems of social security.
Sitting suspended from, 6 to 8 p.m.
– With age comes the inability to earn. Age exceeds in importance all other causes of such inability. In the year immediately preceding the outbreak of war there were in Australia 232,000 old-age pensioners, 44,200 unemployed, and 88,000 invalid pensioners. Since then, other classes of pensioner have been included in our pensions scheme, including widows, but they constitute a comparatively small number. The fact remains that of our population dependent on pensions, old-age pensioners outnumbered , by far all other persons benefiting from Commonwealth pensions schemes.
The cost of pensions compared with the cost of other forms of social security must inevitably increase in proportion to the population. Although the trends of population are well known to honorable members I should like briefly to refer to them. A3 time passes, more and more people will become eligible for old-age pensions. ‘ I refer to the position in the United Kingdom where the trends are almost exactly the same as they are in Australia. In the United Kingdom in 1901, the working population between the ages of 15 and 65 years constituted 61 per cent, of the total population, and 6.2 per cent, of men and women were over the ages of 65 years and 60 years, respectively. Thirty years later, the working population formed 66.2 per cent, of the total population, but persons eligible for old-age pensions had increased to 9.6 per cent, of the population. In 1941, the working population had not altered greatly, being 67.5 per cent, of the total population, but persons over 65 years of age had increased to 12 per cent, of the population. According to estimates the working population will remain the same in 1961, at 65 per cent, of the total population, but the old-age group will rise to 17.1 per cent. Expressed in another form, ten people had the burden of maintaining one pensioner in 1901 ; seven persons maintained one pensioner in 1931; five and a half persons maintained one pensioner in 1941 ; and four persons will support one pensioner in 1961. Similar figures apply to this country.
– Does the honorable member consider that people live too long?
– Without mentioning any names, I think that politically a great many do. In Australia in 1931, the old-age group formed 6.1 per cent, of our population. Five years later it had risen to 7 per cent. Three years ago the figure was 8.5 per cent. The burden of maintaining one old-age pensioner in 1926 fell on nine people, whereas in 194.1 it fell on 7.5 people. As time passes fewer and fewer of our people will have to support an increasing number of old-age pensioners.
– Will the honorable member connect all that he has said to date with the contents of the bill?
– The bill deals with oldage pensions, and I have been speaking of old-age pensions.
– Only certain parts of the bill deal with old-age pensions.
– The problem of the old-age pension has two implications. First, provision for old age must be satisfactory, otherwise pensioners will undoubtedly suffer. All honorable members will agree on that point, and believe that the scale of pension, which is fairly low, should be raised. Secondly, the cost of old-age pensions is extremely heavy. Every shilling added to the old-age pension increases the Commonwealth liability by £700,000 a year. Therefore, any substantial increase of the rate of pensions will add a great burden to our finances.
– The war is costing us hundreds of millions of pounds.
– The war is only temporary; our old-age pensioners, I am afraid, will always be with us. The facts that I have outlined emphasize that old-age pensions should be placed upon a basis far sounder and stronger than the present one. To-day we are financing old-age pensions from a very precarious source, namely, proceeds of the taxation of incomes. As our incomes fall, so taxation receipts will barely prove sufficient to carry this increasing liability. The “ means test “ restricts the number of old-age pensioners. If an aged person has means exceeding the statutory exemption, he is ineligible for benefits. In principle and in’ practice the “ means test” is wrong. It necessitates a farreaching investigation of one’s private affairs, and most people strongly resent that inquiry. Secondly, it gives rise to anomalies that should be abolished. I look forward to the time when the oldage pensions will be placed on a sound basis, namely, a contribution which every one will make from the time he begins work until he becomes eligible for a pension.
– Do not people make that contribution all their lives by way of taxation ?
– No, not in the right sense. Unless a contributory scheme is introduced, old-age pensions will never be placed upon a proper basis. Year after year Parliament amends the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but does not touch the principle upon which the legislation is based. We have not achieved the desirable objective of placing the whole scheme on a sound financial basis.
The present method of financing the scheme is inimical to thrift. A person should be allowed to save money during his working life, and still enjoy a pension. Under present conditions, if he possesses more than a certain sum of money, he is not eligible to receive this benefit. Therefore, throughout his working life he is discouraged from practising thrift. That is an anomaly of the present system. The rate of pension can never be properly settled until every one contributes such sums as will enable the country to support the payment of an increased ‘benefit, without which no oldage pensioners can live under reasonable conditions.
Those are the general remarks that I desire to make on this bill. I should now like to refer to two anomalies which are not contained in the bill, but which should be dealt with by amendments. The first is the property qualification.
– The honorable member is entitled to discuss only such matter as is contained in the bill, and not what ought to be in the measure.
– Surely, I am permitted to offer a suggestion, even if the bill does not deal with that particular matter.
– The honorable gentleman would be out of order if he did so.
– Some persons, who, from the standpoint of age, are eligible for the old-age pension are not entitled to receive it. The bill dealing with unemployment and sickness benefits departs from the ordinary principle that was hitherto followed. Eligibility will rest not upon the basis of property but upon the basis of income. I cite an instance, to illustrate my contention. A man aged 79 and his wife aged 72 are not considered eligible for the old-age pension because the value of their property is said to exceed the statutory amount. They are said to own £1,500 worth of property, although it is not worth anything like that amount to-day.
Situated in the Mallee district of Victoria, it is let for £85 a year, out of which rates and taxes have tobe paid. The net income that they obtain from the place is negligible. They are not able to live on it. Some years ago they left the property, went to Melbourne and bought a cottage for £400. Their resources do not allow them to occupy the cottage and they let it for 17s. 6d. a week. Their total income is substantially less than the combined pension that they would receive if they did not possess that property in the Mallee.
-Why do they not sell it?
– They have been advised to sell it, but they cannot do so. The value is 30s. an acre, and no one will buy it. This unfortunate couple is in the position of owning property which is apparently worth something, but which, in fact, is not worth anything. They cannot get an old-age pension. I suggest that the property qualification be changed to an income qualification. If the Government is unable to accept that suggestion I ask it to consider, as an alternative, the incorporation of a clause of the dragnet type such as is in operation in New Zealand, under which the Pensions Commissioner of that Dominion can deal with special cases that are not covered by the existing law. That regulation reads -
1 ) The Commission may in its discretion grant a special benefit under this Part of this Act on account of hardship to any person who satisfies the following conditions, namely : -
– Does the honorable gentleman desire the law to be liberalized ?
– I do.
– Order ! The honorable member may advocate that course on an appropriate occasion; this occasion is not appropriate.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I wish now to bring to the notice of honorable members a provision in the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill, which is on the noticepaper, to the effect that the benefits provided may be obtained by persons who have resided in the country for one year-
– Order ! The honorable member may not discuss that bill at this stage.
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has referred to a discretionary provision in the bill relative to the pensions of imprisoned persons. I ask that a similar discretion be granted in respect of pensioners who have to enter benevolent homes, or who are sent to mental asylums for treatment. I can see no reason why pensioners who enter such institutions should not receive at least as much consideration as imprisoned pensioners are to get. I urge the Government to consider these suggestions sympathetically.
.- The purpose of this bill is to give legislative effect to the stabilization of invalid and old-age pensions at the rate of £1 7s. a week, which was in force prior to the recent so-called fall in the cost of living. The bill confirms action taken by the Government under national security regulations. No question of validation arises, because no action of the Government in this regard requires validation. Owing to the influence and activity of honorable members of the Labour party during the last three or four years an amount of 7s. a week has been added to the pensions rate. Prior to the 1940 general elections the pension rate was £1 a week. Although the Labour party did not obtain a majority at those elections it obtained a sufficient accession of strength to influence the Menzies Government to increase the pension by 2s. 6d. a week, but that was the largest amount we could extract from that Government. Soon after the Curtin Government assumed office effect was given to the pre-election promise of the Labour party that the pension would be raised to £1 5s. a week and provision was made to adjust the rate in accordance with cost-of-living variations. Subsequently the pension was increased to £1 7s. a week, at which figure it stood until the cost-of-living reduction to which I have referred. I do not contend that fi 7a. a week is an adequate pension. It is, in fact, the bare minimum which will allow pensioners to eke out an existence. Pensioners’ organizations are advocating an increase of the pension to £2 a week, which would be little enough. We all realize that the Government is faced with a difficult problem in financing the war, but nevertheless I hope that it will give sympathetic consideration to the request, which are being made to it to increase the pension rate. Such an increase is implicit in our national welfare scheme and also in the Atlantic Charter. One of the four freedoms for which we are fighting is freedom from want. Under present conditions, pensioners are not free from that fear. I hope, therefore, that the Government will do something to reduce the fears of many pensioners in our midst. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) suggested that the rate of pensions could be increased if the contributory principle could be applied to our pensions system. T disagree with that method. I suggest as an immediate means of increasing the income of pensioners that the maximum amount of permissible income, which at present is 12s. 6d. a week, should be increased. Many pensioners are able to earn more than they are earning, and they would prefer to wear out rather than rust out. No one would be injured if they were allowed to earn more than the amount at present prescribed. I suggest, also, for early consideration, that steps be taken to apply a universal superannuation scheme to the workers in private industry. This procedure has been adopted in New Zealand, where private employers are required to set aside a certain proportion of their profits to ensure economic security to their employees on their retirement. Under such a scheme the workers receive a pension as a right and not as a charity. At one stage the Government was inclined to adopt a proposal for the limitation of war-time profits. I suggest that it consider carefully the desirability of taking steps, without further delay, to oblige private employers to set aside a proportion of their profits in order to establish superannuation funds for their employees. The Government provides for the superannuation of its servants, and I see no reason why private employers should not be required to do so. A comprehensive measure for the provision of social security on a much bigger scale than anything attempted so far should be introduced without delay. Travelling facilities should be provided for invalid and old-age pensioners.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I hope that during the recess the Government will consider in detail ways and means of assisting the workers to obtain a greater degree of economic security. At present, wageearners see ahead of them very little else than poverty, anxiety, economic insecurity, ill health and poor housing. The Government should take immediate steps to enable the people of this country to grow old gracefully. In their declining years the people of the Australian community should be in a position to enjoy more of the blessings that the Almighty has conferred’ upon us than have hitherto been available to them., so that they could give their latter years to such public service as is commensurate with their strength and experience. I am sure that if our older people were in a sufficiently stable financial position they would be able to do a great deal to help the younger generation to avoid the pitfalls they themselves have encountered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 13 agreed to.
New clause 8a -
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the bill : - “ 8a. Section forty-five of the Principal Act is repealed.”
That section reads as follows : -
If a pensioner has become or becomes an inmate of an asylum for the insane or a hospital, his pension shall, without further or other authority than this Act, be deemed to be suspended, but when the pensioner is discharged from the hospital for the insane, payment of his pension shall be resumed, and he shall be entitled to payment in reSpect of the period during which his pension was m suspended, of a sum representing not more than four weeks’ instalments of the pension, if the suspension so long continued.
In other words, if the mental incapacity continued for 54 weeks and the pensioner was then released he would be entitled’ to only four weeks of pension. I am asking that he be treated not less favorably than pensioners committed to prison. A discretion has now been given to the commissioner or a deputy commissioner to pay the whole or any portion of a suspended pension to the wife or child of the imprisoned pensioner, or to some other person approved by the Commissioner for the benefit of dependants of the pensioner. The purpose of the provision is, of course, that the dependants of imprisoned pensioners shall not be required, to suffer because a pensioner has been sent to prison. Surely if the benevolence of this chamber is sufficiently great to cause it to contemplate such a case, it ought to be of such an order as to embrace a case of the kind that I am now advocating. Several reasons have been given for the rejection of the proposal. I beg the tolerance of the House while I recapitulate them. It was urged, and may be urged again, that there has never been any provision for the payment of pensions to inmates of mental hospitals. That is hardly a tenable reason for maintaining their exclusion. It has also been stated that the granting of this concession would involve an additional expenditure of £1,250,000. That is substantially true. According to official records, there are approximately 24,000 inmates of mental hospitals in all States, and it is estimated that approximately two-thirds of them would be able to qualify under the income and property provisions for an invalid or an old-age pension. That may be. But if cost be a reasonable excuse for declining to make further amendments to the pensions law, the pension might never have been increased from the original rate of 10s., and the cost to the Treasury would not then have been increased from the very few millions of the early years of the operation of the system from 1908. It is claimed that the State governments have always been responsible for the care of mentally deficient persons, and, therefore, that condition should remain.
Sir Frederick Stewart
Equally, the State governments were responsible for child endowment, widows’ pensions, and payment of the -cost of the funerals of indigent old-age pensioners. But quite recently and rightly - I supported the proposals - this Parliament assumed responsibility in each of those realms; therefore, that argument should not deter us from proceeding a step further in this direction. It has been said, and I have not the slightest doubt that it will be repeated, that a request for the re-opening of the invalid and old-age pensions legislation, in order that the exclusion of mentally afflicted persons might be removed, made by the Premier of New South Wales in 1939, was refused by the then Minister for Social Services. It will be pointed out with a great deal of gusto that that Minister was the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart).
– That is purely historical.
– I know that it is,, and I am “ beating the right honorable gentleman to it”. But there is quite a difference between reopening a statute for the correction of a minor detail, and seriously contemplating that detail when the bill is on the table. In any event, I am the last to claim that in the years during which I administered the Department of Social Services I was impeccable as to sins of omission or commission. I shall gladly make amends to-night for any dereliction of duty on that account. Another argument is that mentally afflicted persons are not competent to handle money; therefore, this concession of a pension to them is not practicable. How untenable that is, is demonstrated by the statute itself. Already the principal act contains provision for payment to nominated delegates of aborigines, infirm persons, and even reckless and unworthy persons who cannot be trusted to handle their own pensions. Under an amendment that was passed not many minutes ago, the pension is to be payable to the nominated delegate of a pensioner who has been sent to prison. With these examples before us how can we accept the plea that the payment of pensions to mentally afflicted persons cannot be contemplated because they might not be capable of handling their own money? As I have already reminded the committee the full pension may, at the discretion of the Director-General of Social Services, be paid to a nominated delegate of a pensioner who has been sent to gaol, not only under this legislation but also under other legislation that was passed earlier to-day.
– Not to the prisoner.
– I am proposing that the pension shall be paid not to the mentally afflicted person, but to somebody on his behalf. That is identical with the case of a civil prisoner. A mentally afflicted person is more entitled to consideration and sympathy than is one who has so offended against the law as to be sent to prison. But quite apart from ethical considerations, a consideration on this issue is that guests of His Majesty in a prison are at least provided with board and lodging. We know that the Master-in Lunacy is insistent that the family of a mental patient shall disgorge a portion of its financial resources in order to pay for his board and lodging. Why we should discriminate against the inmate of a mental hospital and in favour ‘of an inmate of a prison is beyond my comprehension. I urge the Attorney-General, even now, to accept the amendment.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment. In saying that, I am not desirous of closing the door against full consideration of the matter which the honorable member has raised. The bill deals with specified anomalies which, it is considered, require immediate attention. The time is not appropriate to deal with every anomaly in the invalid and old-age pensions system. With regard to the specific matter which the honorable gentleman has raised, I handed to him, before the dinner adjournment, this note -
Section 45 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act-
That is the section which the honorable gentleman wishes to repeal - provides for the suspension of pension when a pensioner is admitted to a hospital for the insane, and no further payment is made until his discharge, when he may be paid not more than four weeks’ pension in respect of the period during which he was an inmate.
Representations have Been made at various times by State governments and other persons with a view to the payment of pensions in respect of pensioners admitted to mental hospitals, but these requests have been refused, the chief reason being that the maintenance and care of mentally afflicted persons in State institutions is the responsibility of the State Government. Another reason for declining to pay pensions to such inmates i.c that most of these people would not be fit to handle money and the pension would, therefore, have to be paid to the authorities of the institution on their behalf, with the result that the. pensioners themselves would not necessarily derive any personal benefit from the payments, which would merely provide a certain amount of financial relief to the States in respect of these inmates.
The Premier of New South Wales made representations in this regard in 1039, when the then Minister (Sir Frederick Stewart) approved of a recommendation that the request be not granted.
It is estimated that there are approximately 2,400 invalid and old-age pensioners and expensioners in State mental hospitals. If pensions were paid to such persons at normal rates, as in the case of pensioners admitted to ordinary hospitals, the liability would be £108,000 per annum. If, however, a maintenance payment only at the rate of lis. Cd. a week were made in respect of such persons, the cost would be £109,000 per annum.
The Commonwealth Year-Booh for 1941 indicates that there are approximately 27,000 persons in mental hospitals throughout Australia. Not all of these persons would be eligible for pensions, but it is safe to say that two-thirds of the number - 18,000 - would qualify. The cost of paying full pensions to these persons would be £1,250,000 per annum.
I do net wish, on behalf of the Government, to prejudice the further consideration of this question. I express no opinion upon it. I should have thought that the ‘better way of dealing with it would be by action designed to ensure the best possible management of mental hospitals, or the granting of a subsidy to them. However, that may not be the view finally accepted. To ask me, in the absence of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who is ill, to consent to an additional payment of £1,250,000 on this account is not right. I hope that the honorable gentleman will not press the amendment at this stage. It will still be open to him, if he so wishes, to raise the matter again later. I assure him that it will receive the attention of the Government when the whole system of invalid and old-age pensions is being reviewed in the light of the suggestions of honorable members of all parties.
.- I am sorry that the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment. I cannot understand why additional benefits are to be given to the dependants of prisoners, and not to these other persons, who are more worthy of them in every way. If the extra cost be the consideration which weighs with the Government, why are additional benefits to be given to prisoners?
– I suppose that the cost in their case would not amount to £20,000 a year.
– If the Government wishes to be just and reasonable, why does it not consent to the pension being given to the inmates of benevolent homes, the number of whom is not very large? Why, above all, give it to the dependants of prisoners? I hope that the Government will rectify what appears to be a very grave injustice.
– The case has been grossly exaggerated, probably unconsciously, and has not been based on the facts. In order to draw comparisons, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) mentioned a number of persons ; he said that all sorts of concessions were given to drunkards and to every other class except the inmates of mental institutions. That is not a fact. A person who is an habitual drunkard does not receive the money; the payment is suspended until he enters an institution, when payment is made to the institution, and he receives a portion of it. The question is not one of payment to a person who is insane, or who is in gaol. The whole system involves looking after dependants. If a man is declared insane, and enters a mental home, his wife, for the purposes of the Widows’ Pensions Act, is immediately declared a widow. She receives the widow’s pension and the first child of the marriage, who is unendowed, receives 5s. a week. The remaining children receive the child endowment. The wife is treated, in fact, as if she were a widow. If a man goes to a mental hospital, the whole or a part of his pension may be paid to hie wife and children. As I have said, the man who goes to gaol does not receive a pension, but his wife and children, if they are in necessitous circumstances, may receive the whole or a part of his pension. One honorable member referred to the possible hardship endured by an old couple on the land- That matter has been thoroughly gone into, and there is no obstacle in the way of the couple drawing a full pension. The alleged inconsistencies to which honorable members have referred have been grossly exaggerated.
– Why are pensions denied to persons in benevolent homes?
– Pensions are not denied to such persons. The last time we amended the act we removed a blot which the previous Government had left behind. Pensions are now paid to persons in benevolent homes. Thousands of persons who had entered such homes before the amendment of the act were, for a long time, denied the right to draw pensions, so that at the same table there were some drawing pensions and other? who were entirely dependent upon the charity of the institution. That has now been remedied, and they all draw a pension. A part of the pension is devoted to the maintenance of the inmate, and a part is paid to him as pocket money. Inmates now receive more pocket money than they ever did before.
.- The amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) proposes to go farther than does the bill. The situation which he proposes to remedy will probably be dealt with by legislation that will be brought down later. We are making progress, and, in the meantime, I think, the bill might be accepted as it is. It is not perfect, but ir goes a long way in the direction of giving justice to a section of the community not previously catered for.
– It seems clear that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) are at variance regarding the principle embodied in the bill. When the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was speaking about pensioners who went to gaol, the Attorney-General said that the amount involved was only about £20,000, but that it would cost about £1,250,000 to extend the benefit to inmates of mental hospitals. Then the Minister for Labour and National Service said that the wives of men in mental hospitals were paid a widow’s pension. That is true, but what happens in respect of dependants other than wives and children? They are not provided for at all. Moreover, when a woman becomes an inmate of a mental hospital, no pension is payable to her husband in respect of her.
– She is not supposed to keep her husband.
– The Minister knows that, for the purpose of pensions legislation, the income of one spouse is regarded as the income of both. If the amendment of the honorable member for Parramatta be accepted, it will make provision for persons not otherwise provided for. The amount involved does not matter; it is the principle that is important.
– I remind honorable members that, according to this bill, inmates of mental hospitals will receive no pensions. It is true that, under the Widows’ Pensions Act, the wife of a man in a mental hospital will be treated as if she were a widow, and will be able to draw a widow’s pension. A male inmate, however, can receive no pension, and a female inmate, who was drawing a pension before entering the institution will immediately lose her pension, and will not be able to draw it again until she is released. Moreover, it would be a waste of time for any inmate of such an institution to apply for a pension. A pensioner who goes to gaol may have his pension paid to a delegate on behalf of his wife, and, in addition, the wife and first child may also receive a pension. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said that if a pensioner goes into a mental hospital, his wife receives a widow’s pension. That is true, and I am glad it is so; but it is also true that if the pensioner goes to gaol, instead of to a mental hospital, his wife and child not only retain their own pensions, but they can also receive the whole or a part of the husband’s pension. Why there should be this differentiation in treatment I do not know. A physically afflicted person may go into an ordinary hospital without prejudicing his right to draw a pension, or the right of his dependants to draw allowances, but when a mentally afflicted person goes into a mental hospital his pension immediately ceases. That is the anomaly which my amendment seeks to correct. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) said that we should accept an assurance that the matter would be looked into. A few months ago I made the same plea as I am making now, and it was suggested that if we deferred our representations something would be done. I now maintain that the time has arrived for such action.
– As one who has taken a great interest in old-age and invalid pensions, I know that much hardship is inflicted on the relatives of pensioners, who, because they become inmates of mental hospitals, lose their pensions. However, the pensioner who enters an old men’s home has his pension paid. The Master in Lunacy becomes the custodian of any assets the pensioner may have. If the relatives of that former pensioner cannot pay the cost of his upkeep, the Master in Lunacy is entitled to levy upon his assets, and on his death, when his widow is unable to meet the payments, her home can be sold up to pay that liability. I consider that the Minister in charge of the bill should give due consideration to that aspect. I have often wondered why there is discrimination in favour of people in homes for the aged and patients in ordinary hospitals as against pensioners admitted to mental institutions.
– And now there is legislation discriminating in favour of people in prisons. The legislation was passed to-night.
– Try to be accurate.
– I do not want to talk about that aspect. Grave hardship is inflicted on people whose invalided relatives, whether they be sons or daughters, husbands or wives who are put in mental hospital because their pensions cease immediately. It may be argued that the State responsible for their upkeep,but t he State need not be responsible, because the Master in Lunacy has the power to levy upon whatever assets they may have, and, as I said earlier, those assets may consist only .of a home, which can be sold up. We have not discussed these matters and I may be talking out of school, but I have sufficient humanity to realize that what the honorable member for Parramatta said just now is right. T did not hear his speech when he moved his amendment.
– Does the honorable member know why the honorable member for Parramatta did not when he was Minister amend the act in the direction he now proposes?
– I quite appreciate that what is forgotten when honorable members are on this side of the chamber is frequently remembered when they are on the other side. It is a matter of swinging a punch at the Government. I have done the same thing myself. Certainly I have. [ realize that these matters provide opportunities for attack. Regardless of that, any one with humane instincts would appreciate that there is merit in the argument, no matter from which side of the chamber it comes. I am not satisfied that we cannot accept this amendment. I believe that we should, in view of the facts I have stated. Is the present position fair? If I were an invalid pensioner, instead of being a member of Parliament and instead of being a member of the miners’ federation, through which I make contributions to the Kurri Kurri hospital entitling me to free hospital treatment, as do all coal-miners, and I went into an ordinary hospital, I would continue to receive my pension; but if I went into a mental hospital owing to forces over which neither I nor my family have any control, and died there, not only would my pension be cancelled, while I was an inmate, but my assets, even though they might consist only of my widow’s home, could be sold up by the Master in Lunacy in order to recoup the State the cost of my maintenance. I say deliberately that there is merit in the amendment and I should like the Minister in charge of the bill to accept it.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) was not present when this amendment was discussed. The extra expenditure involved would amount to £1,250,000.
– That is only speculation.
– Just a minute. The honorable gentleman knows it. When the suggestion- was made to him by the State of New South Wales several years ago, he rejected it. I can easily understand the State wanting it, because the main benefit would go to the State and bc in a sense an endowment of State institutions. The honorable member for Hunter must remember that the Government does not reject this amendment as a matter of principle. We brought down a bill to deal with specific anomalies and I ask the committee to consider these anomalies and not to try on this bill to overhaul completely the invalid and old-age pensions system. There has been criticism of the system, but as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who knows the act thoroughly, has pointed out, the wife of a pensioner admitted to a mental hospital is entitled to draw a widow’s pension. The provision in respect of a person imprisoned is not for his benefit; it merely gives to the commissioner a discretion which does not exist at present to pay the pension in full or in part for the benefit of his wife and children. The matter has been fully discussed. I appreciate the humanitarian instinct which animates the honorable member for Hunter. I only suggest that the time is not now. Let us do it on a more suitable occasion.
Opposition Members. - Divide.
– You call for a division?
– We do.
– It is a very insincere thing to do.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Sir Frederick Stewart’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Riordan.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the negative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st March (vide page 1663), on motionby Mr. Chifley -
That thebill be now read a second time.
.- When moving the second reading of the bill the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) explained that experience in the administration of the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act since its inception eighteen months ago has revealed certain weaknesses that the Government desires to correct. Apparently the principal weakness relates to the liability for tax in respect of charges paid by patrons of dances. The Treasurer explained that where a patron of a dance pays one fixed amount which entitles him to both entertainment and refreshment, and the refreshment is subordinate to the entertainment, the law gives clear authority for collection of tax upon the total payment made by the patron, even though a substantial part of the payment might be attributable to refreshments. This being so, it was intended that the tax should also fall upon separate charges for refreshment supplied at such entertainments, otherwise the tax would be clearly inequitable in its incidence. A recent decision in the Supreme Court of Queensland, however, indicates that this intention was not effectuated by the law. This bill is designed to clarify the position, and facilitate the collection of the tax. The measure does not apply to restaurants and cafés, but only to entertainments where refreshments are served ancillary to dances and the like.
The second part of the bill is designed to give clear authority for the imposition of a tax on amusement parks and similar forms of entertainment. The High Court authorized the collection of entertainments tax at amusement parks in 1925 and the biggest entrepreneur of entertainment of this form, Luna Park, has paid the tax even though the authority to collect it was of doubtful validity. Luna Park has been heavily mulct in taxes. The bill is intended to clarify the position. Whereas previously, tax was payable only on tickets of1s. and upwards, the Government now seeks to collect tax on 3d. tickets. Although the Treasurer will contend that an amusement tax is one of the fairest forms of taxation, I am not enthusiastic about this proposal, following our experience of the Government’s attitude towards pay-as-you-earn. That legislation contained an iniquitous feature which should never have been tolerated. The Government claims now that this amendment of the entertainments tax will yield from £100,000 to £150,000. Whatever the Opposition does it will be overcome by weight of numbers. A few minutes ago, the Government used its majority to defeat a humanitarian proposal that many honorable members opposite would have liked to support.
– Order ! The honorable member must not digress.
– It was not a humanitarian amendment.
– I emphasize that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) declares it was not humanitarian to give pensions to dependants of mentally afflicted persons.
– It is a political amendment.
– Order! Will the honorable member address his remarks to the bill?
– The entrepreneurs who will be taxed will pass on the tax to the general public. No doubt the Government realizes that. But it may have overlooked the law of diminishing returns. If taxation is made so heavy, the time will come when returns from it will fall short of estimates. The Government must carefully watch that, and amend the law if it discovers that it has made a mistake. I hope that the Commissioner of Taxation will exercise his discretionary power by declaring that children’s tickets shall not be subject to tax. If that be done, revenue will not be seriously affected. I hope that the bill does not contain a retrospective provision, although I notice a reference to retrospectivity, evidently relating to the refund of overpayments by persons subject to this tax.
I urge the Government to exclude from the operation of this bill animal sanctuaries which can be included in the generic title of amusement parks. They should definitely be declared educational. Some of them, like Koala Park in New South Wales and the Colin McKenzie animal sanctuary at Healesville, Victoria, charge an admission fee to provide for their upkeep, but they should not be subject to this bill. If they are, the Parliament will be unnecessarily taxing something that should be supported by the nation. Honorable members will be pleased to see that charitable, patriotic, and educational entertainments will be exempt. The status quo will be preserved in those cases. The Opposition, whilst agreeing that loopholes should be closed, is not enthusiastic about the bill, and will examine it carefully to see whether the Treasurer’s forecasts are realized.
– I hope that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has impressed the Government with the necessity for exempting animal sanctuaries from the operation of this bill. The act already provides that animal sanctuaries controlled by a State Government or research societies shall not be subject to the tax,- but, unfortunately, that exemption is not sufficiently wide to cover sanctuaries that the honorable member for Balaclava and I have in mind. Many honorable members are aware of the activities of Koala Park at Pennant Hills, New South Wales. Although that sanctuary is not controlled by the State Government or by some scientific or research society, the proprietor, Mr. Burnett, is a scientist and possibly one of the greatest authorities in Australia on the life and habits of the koala. Whilst he is conducting Koala Park as a commercial proposition, it does not come within the category of some of the business activities about which we heard so much last week when we discussed the taxing of trusts and combines. Mr. Burnett has had great difficulty in maintaining Koala Park, and I should have the greatest regret if this bill added to his problems.
– The bill will not apply to Koala Park.
– I am happy to accept that assurance. I ask for nothing more.
– If the honorable member had read clause 3, he would have found the information that he sought.
.- As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) pointed out, this measure is designed to facilitate the collection of revenues from two principal classes of entertainment. The first is that kind where refreshments are served in association with entertainment, such as we find at dance-halls, skating-rinks and some restaurants where entertainment and refreshment are associated. The other class of entertainment is such as is presented at amusement parks, with which we are familiar, notably Luna Park in Melbourne and in Sydney.
– They are already paying tax.
– Some are and some are not.
– If the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) will study the bill, he will find that they aru being called upon to pay considerably more than they are paying at the present time.
– They do not pay it. It is the patron who pays.
– That interjection shows that the honorable member does not know very much about this subject. Although these amusement parks are not legally required to pay the tax, they are doing so at present. One of the purposes of this bill is to make it legally necessary for them to pay the tax. I shall explain to the honorable member, if he has the patience to listen to me, just how that happened. There was a curious statement in the opening passage of the Treasurer’s second-reading speech, in which he claimed that this measure was necessary in order to give adequate protection to Commonwealth revenue. I imagined that this Parliament was looking for legislation to give adequate protection to the taxpayer. Commonwealth revenues have never been in a more bloated condition than they are to-day. I concede that the objectives which have to be financed from Commonwealth revenues are comparably great; but at a time when the taxpayer is being “ bled white “ and in some instances is paying more tax on income than the amount of income he receives in one year, it seems a little harsh, in a measure such as this, to speak of the necessity for giving adequate protection to the revenues.
It is claimed also that it would be entirely inequitable to allow the existing position to continue. This is the first time that I hate heard it seriously suggested that the taxation of entertainments is a matter of equity. So far as governments are concerned, it is obviously a matter of expediency. What equity is there in taxing a man whose form of entertainment is going to a motion picture show, when we do not tax a man whose form of entertainment is the reading of books or the playing of billiards? I am not challenging the policy of the Government in raising revenue by way of a tax on public entertainment. It is a very convenient way of raising revenue; and it raises revenue from what is apparently the surplus spending power of the general public. For that reason, we support it as a useful measure in war-time for getting additional revenue. But it is a little odd to speak of it as a matter of equity. A child who tenders 6d. for admission to a motion picture theatre does not pay tax. Yet if the same child wants to have two rides on the merry-go-round at 3d. a ride, he will have to pay 2d. tax. Where is the equity in that proposition?
I ask the Treasurer to consider the practical difficulties that are likely to arise in relation to dance-halls. The honorable gentleman said, in his secondreading speech, that the Government did not desire to tax entertainments where the charge for admission was modest and the charge for refreshment on a small scale. He said that where the combined charge did not exceed 3s. no tax would be imposed. The Commissioner is likely to be put into a very difficult position over this matter. Will he be required to decide that at certain dance halls, where the admission is, say, 2s. 6d. exclusive of refreshments, the patrons, on the average, Will limit themselves to one sixpenny drink each night? Will he assume that even if the admission charge be only 2s. 6d. a gentleman will take his partner to the buffet and buy two sixpenny soft drinks, thus expending more than 3s., and bringing the expenditure within the tax range? In such a case a man might say to himself, “Well, I will let my partner pay her own 6d. for her drink, because if I pay, the two drinks will cost ls. 4d., for each of them will carry a tax of 2d.”. I do not believe that the members of this Parliament desire to discourage normal gallantries at such entertainments. What I. have said is indicative of certain practical difficulties that may arise in the administration of this measure.
The effect of these provisions on entertainments of the Luna Park type also deserves consideration. We all know what happens at such entertainments. A- man may take his nieces or his nephews or other friends to such an entertainment and spend quite a sum of money in treating them to rides on “ the big dipper “ or visits to side-shows. It seems to me that this measure has been drafted without proper regard to the advantages of the present system of taxing such expenditure. Some years ago an agreement was reached between the Luna Park organizations and the taxation authorities under which it was assumed that one patron in five paid for visits to more than one side-show, and tax was collected on that basis. The system has worked quite smoothly. If the Government desires to legalize that arrangement it can do so without imposing an additional tax. At present the management is collecting Id. in tax on each 6d. ticket; but under the provisions of this bill it will collect 2d. on each 6d. ticket. That may have the effect of reducing patronage at these entertainments and consequently of reducing the revenue of the Government from taxation. Probably 95 per cent, of the shareholders of such, companies are at present paying the maximum rate of tax of 183. 6d. in the £1. Any diminution of profits from these entertainments i3 not likely to affect those shareholders very greatly, but it may substantially reduce the tax revenue. A patron may decide, for example, that whilst he would spend 2s. 4d. on visits to four side-shows at 7d. each, he will visit only three sideshows if the price be 8d. each. It has been the experience of people associated with the management of these intertainment parks that an increase of charges of each side-show results in a induction of turnover. The management of Sydney Luna Park decided, originally, to charge 9d. for each side-show and it found that patronage was not strong; subsequently it reduced the charge to 6d. and a remarkable improvement occurred at once in attendance and turnover. I am told that a ride on “ the big clipper “ occupies only 40 seconds, and that only 2-£ minutes is spent in some of the other side-shows. At 9d. a time this is expensive entertainment. The management proved conclusively that a lower price for the side-shows was definitely more profitable. The more profitable these entertainments are for the management the more profitable, obviously, they are for the taxation authorities. I believe that the managements of these entertainment parks are quite sincere in their opinion that a higher tax on the admission tickets to side-shows will result in a definite reduction of revenue to the Government. The Treasurer may be prepared to take that risk, but he is proposing to take it at a most inopportune time. During the last year or two these entertainment parks have attracted abnormal attendances, partly because of the greater volume of spending power in the hands of the Australian people, and partly because of the presence in our capital cities, particularly Melbourne and Sydney, of large numbers of Australian and Allied service personnel. I do not believe that I shall commit a breach of national security regulations in saying that the patronage o’f these entertainment parks by Allied servicemen is diminishing. That is certainly evident in Melbourne, and it is becoming’ increasingly noticeable in Sydney. Attendance at these parks is affected, also, by seasonal conditions. Normally, the season in Melbourne ends about the middle of May. It may, perhaps, end sooner this year owing to the early Easter. The Sydney season may last a fortnight longer. Towards the end of the season, attendances diminish partly because the novelty of the entertainment is not so great, and partly because seasonal conditions are not so conducive to outdoor pleasure. If the Government obliges the management of these entertainments to increase the charges at this period of the year, it will undoubtedly cause a reduction of support, and that will mean . a reduction of taxation receipts. It would be far better, I suggest, to defer any such action. Let the present season end under existing conditions, and if it is thought desirable, apply the new charges when the new season opens.
– The main purpose of this measure is to deal with night clubs; the entertainment parks are only a minor consideration.
– I am convinced that if this measure is brought into force at once, a reduction of taxation revenue will occur, and that is something that the Treasurer wishes to avoid.
Apart altogether from the points that I have been making, I urge that nothing be done that will impose additional tax on the tickets issued to children who attend Luna Parks and other similar entertainments. If a penny tax is placed on every 3d., it will undoubtedly affect the entertainment of children.
– It is taking candy from children.
– I can see no reason why a tax should be imposed on the spendings of children at these entertainments, seeing that no tax is to be imposed on 6d. tickets for admission to picture shows. Honorable members know very well what happens with children. They may be given1s. or 2s. to spend at Luna Park and they desire to buy as many rides as possible on the merry-go-round and other side-shows. The total amount of revenue received annually from the sale of children’s tickets at these establishments would be less than £1,000. The proposal to charge a tax of1d. on a ticket costing 3d. is difficult to understand. I ask the Government to consider the matter further.
I also ask that serious consideration be given to my prediction that the imposition of this additional taxation may very well involve the Government in a reduction rather than an increase of revenue. Because of the movement of servicemen, attendances have declined within recent weeks. The Government would have a clearer picture of its revenue prospects from this class of entertainment were it to allow the present season to pass without a break in the continuity of the existing charges. In the light of its revenue requirements, it could then examine the load which this traffic might reasonably be asked to bear, and the tax could be imposed when the new season commenced later in the year. My view is shared by those who conduct entertainments of this type. Speaking from experience, they say quite definitely that an additional charge at this juncture would have the effect of reducing the revenue.
– Even though I do not expect to obtain redress, there is one point that I shall raise. Some time ago, I had occasion to appeal to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in respect of the entertainments tax that was levied on a series of entertainments given by the Blind, Deaf and Dumb Institute of South Australia. As my friend from Fawkner (Mr. Holt) said a few moments ago, the revenue of the Commonwealth has never been more bloated than it is at present. That is an excellent description. The Blind, Deaf and Dumb Institute of South Australia, which has its counterpart in every other State, has only two methods by which it may live. One is by means of the work which the inmates do - that is not sufficient to maintain it - and the other is by appeals to the public for charity on behalf of those who suffer fromone of the worst of all afflictions, namely, blindness, followed in close order by those suffering from deafness and dumbness. That the people go to entertainments given by this institution chiefly for the purpose of being entertained, cannot be argued. I admit that some of the entertainments are very good. But the principal motive is to support a very worthy cause. I affirm, not in any party spirit, that because of the revenue which is flowing to the Commonwealth from other sources to-day, activities of this description should be placed beyond the pale of tax impositions by the Commissioner of Taxation. That would be better than the present practice for the Commonwealth, and very much better for the inmates of these institutions. The pass has not been reached at which it is necessary to levy a tax in this direction. The Government would not have to look far before it would be able to devise means of either increasing taxation on certain amusements, or inventing a new entertainments tax. There must be in the Taxation Department somebody with the inventive genius of an Edison who could suggest means whereby the deficiency could be repaired. The amount is very small from the viewpoint of the Treasury, but considerable from the viewpoint of the inmates of these institutions. I trust that, in due course, a more charitable and christian view of these matters will penetrate the official skin of the Taxation Department.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has been taken to task for his statement about the protection of the revenue. Unfortunately, particularly as taxation has risen, that has become necessary in many directions, because of means that have been adopted to evade taxation.
The Government is prepared to examine further the proposal to tax tickets for small amounts which are sold at children’s entertainments, such as merrygorounds. Obviously, there are difficulties associated with the fixing of an age limit. At places such as Luna Park, however, a good deal of entertainment can be obtained by persons expending the small amount of 6d. or 9d. on different items, and in the aggregate as much as 15s. These persons are at a distinct advantage compared with the patron of a picture theatre, who is compelled to pay tax on the price of admission, and the Government considers that they can quite properly be brought within the scope of the entertainments tax.
– The proprietors of such entertainments are paying tax at the present time.
– Some of them are. I am not placing the proprietors of Luna Park in the category of those who ought to be taxed, because already they are paying tax under an agreement. They have “ played the game “ well. But a few people who will not “ play the game “ impose hardship on those who do, because all have to be covered by legislation.
The matter of dance halls can be discussed more advantageously in committee. A tax is not to be imposed on refreshments if the total average amount charged is 3s. or less. The Deputy Commissioner of Taxation will examine the returns of entertainments which are run for profit. If these returns show that, on the average, the charge for refreshments raises the total to more than 3s., tax will be charged on the whole amount; otherwise, the tax will be on the entertainment and not on the refreshments.
Reference has been made to the retrospective effect of the provision in proposed new section 18a. The effect of this is to provide that refund of tax overpaid shall not be allowed to the proprietor of an entertainment who has passed the tax on to some other person. It would be unreasonable to allow a refund in such cases. There is no apparent reason why the conditions relating to refunds should not be made retrospective to the date of the commencement of the act. As I stated by way of interjection, Koala Park is already subject to entertainments tax, and is not affected in any way by the present proposals. That park is conducted for profit, and the proprietor of it does not, therefore, come within the scope of any exemption. At Taronga Park, however, the entertainment provided is partly educative and is controlled by an institution which is not conducted for profit. This and similar entertainments will therefore be exempt from the entertainments tax. As regards entertainments in aid of the Blind, Deaf and Dumb Institute of South Australia, mentioned by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), exemption is allowed under the existing law, if the expenses of an entertainment do not exceed 50 per cent. of the receipts. This applies to all entertainments for public benevolent purposes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses l to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Meals and refreshments with entertainments ) .
.- This clause deals with the charge that is made for refreshment at a dance hall. In order that the Minister (Mr. Lazzarini) may make a fuller explanation, I raise again the point that I raised earlier, in connexion with a dance hall at which a charge of 2s. 6d. is made for admission, and apparently an estimate has to be made of the average amount spent by patrons upon light refreshments. How is it proposed that this tax shall be calculated? Is it to be assumed that, on an average, each patron will have one or two drinks in the course of the night? In this kind of dance hall it is customary to have a buffet service, where patrons may buy soft drinks or coffee. Is the person in charge of the buffet to collect tax on each drink served because, on an average, the amount spent by each person amounts to more than 3s.?
.- No tax will be levied in respect of refreshments until a notice is served on the proprietor that his takings have averaged more than 3s. for each patron.
– That is, on any particular night?
.- 1 understand that the taxation authorities considered a minimum of 3s. for a luncheon and 5s. for a dinner. Whether thos© limits are to be applied at the discretion of the Commissioner, I do not know. Perhaps the Minister can give us some information on this point.
– As the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has said, if the average return exceeds 3s., tax is payable on the whole of the proceeds of the entertainment. Where a patron of a dance pays one fixed amount which entitles him to both entertainment and refreshment, and the refreshment is subordinate to the entertainment, section 16 of the existing act gives clear authority for the collection of tax upon the total payment made by the patron, even though a substantial part of the payment might be attributable to refreshments. It was intended, also, that the tax should fall upon separate charges for refreshment at such entertainments, otherwise the tax would be inequitable in its incidence.
A recent judicial decision, however, indicates that the original intention to tax such charges was not effectuated. Proposed new section 16 is designed to remedy this defect. It provides that where the Commissioner is of opinion that the provision of meals or other refreshment at an entertainment is subordinately related to the entertainment, the whole of the charges paid for entertainment and meals or refreshments shall he subject to tax.
In cases where one inclusive payment covers the entertainment and the meal or refreshment, or where each patron is required to pay for a meal or other refreshment, the provision of the meal or other refreshment is deemed a part of the entertainment, and the whole amount paid, whether in one composite payment or in two or more separate payments, is subject to tax at the ordinary rates at present in force.
In other cases, however, where there is a fixed price of admission and refreshments are obtainable for separate charges at the will of the patron, it is obviously impossible for the proprietor of the entertainment to keep a record of all the amounts paid by each patron, so as to determine the amount of tax payable by him. The tax is not imposed at a fiat rate under the existing law, but increases as the charges increase. Therefore, under the present scheme of the tax, it is necessary to know how much is paid by each patron of an entertainment in order to ascertain the amount of tax payable. As this is not possible in the class of case referred to, it is proposed that the individual charges for refreshments shall be taxed separately at the special rates specified in the rates bill which has been introduced into Parliament in association with this bill.
Where the refreshments are supplied at the entertainment by a person other than the proprietor of the entertainment, the supplier of the refreshments is deemed to be the proprietor of an entertainment and will be responsible for payment of tax on his charges.
The liability for tax on the’ charges for meals or other refreshments will depend upon the Commissioner serving notice on the proprietor of the entertainment that, in his opinion, the provision of the meal or other refreshment is subordinately related to the entertainment. This will occur in respect of refreshments served at dances, card parties and skating-rinks, but not in respect of refreshments served at. picture theatres, race meetings, football matches and carnivals, as the obtaining of refreshments at such entertainments i.e regarded as separate from, and not an integral part of, the entertainment. It is intended that the notices in question shall be served by the Commissioner on t he proprietors prior to the holding of the entertainments.
Paragraph b of sub-section 1 of proposed new section 16 relates to cases where the serving of a meal or other refreshment is not subordinate to the entertainment. In such cases the Commissioner is given power to apportion the total charge paid by the patron between the entertainment and the meal or other refreshment, so that tax shall be paid on the portion properly attributable to the entertainment.
.-This clause also contains the provision which provides for the payment of tax when, in the opinion of the Commissioner, more than1s. has been spent on a number of different side-shows. I again emphasize the point that, in the opinion of people who claim to be in a position to know, this may result in a reduction of revenue from adults. I presume that it is not intended to levy the tax on tickets bought by children except where, in the opinion of the Commissioner, more than 1 s. has been spent. Here, again, I see some difficulty in working out what number of children, on an average, will spend 1s. or more; but presuming the number to be ascertained, how is the tax to be collected by the management? I understand that it is the intention of the Government that the tax shall be passed on by the management; otherwise the revenue would suffer because the profits of the proprietor would be reduced. Proposed section 16a (1.) b reads -
This section may be applied, in accordance with the next succeeding sub-section, where any proprietor conducts -
a group of amusements where, in the opinion of the Commissioner, it is customary for a substantial number of the patrons of a group of amusements of that kind to pay, at any one visit to the place where the group of amusements is conducted, amounts totalling not less than one shilling for more admissions than one to one of the amusements or to more than one of the amusements.
Obviously, some formula would have to be worked out regarding the proportion of persons who would be deemed to spend more than1s. In the case of children, is it intended to collect a penny on every 3d. ticket sold? Every child will not spend1s., so what is to happen to the amount collected over and above that deemed by the taxation authorities to be payable in respect of a certain number of children? The management cannot sell one ticket at 3d. and another at 4d., and it will not know which child will spend more than1s. It will have to impose a fixed charge for children’s tickets.
.-I understood that the purpose of the clause was to impose a tax of1d. on every 3d. spent, but the Minister gave an assurance across the table that an endeavour will be made to exempt tickets sold to children. The Commissioner has wide powers, and I am prepared to accept the assurance of the Minister that everything possible will be done to safeguard the position.
.- The matter raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) will be examined. The person conducting the entertainment will be served with a notice that the entertainment is of the kind that is subject to the tax. His returns will be examined. If a substantial number of the people who attend the entertainment spend more than1s. a head, the tax will be levied on all tickets issued. That is the position as it stands but we will have another look at that.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 17 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st March (vide page 1665), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill sets out the rates of the entertainments tax and, as we discussed the rates on the Entertainments Tax Assessment Bill, I do not think that anything more need be said.
.- The Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr.
Lazzarini) omitted to reply to my suggestion that there are good reasons why t his legislationshould not be enforced in the current season, which has only a few weeks to run.
– To what current season does the honorable gentleman refer?
– The Luna Park season.
– The company has been paying the tax all the time.
– But this legislation doubles the tax. The legislation may have the effect of decreasing the revenue on which the tax may be levied, because if it is imposed towards the end of the season it may create ill-will among patrons and keep them away. It will be in the interests of all parties, including the Government, if the legislation does not operate until the new season. I ask the Government to give some thought to that aspect.
. - I am sorry that I overlooked that matter. I shall ask the Treasurer to examine the honorable gentleman’s proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message from the Governor-General reported transmitting Additional Estimates of Expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1944, and recommending appropriation accordingly.
Ordered to lie on the table and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) proposed -
That the following additional sum be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1943-44 for the services hereunder specified, viz. - part I. - Departments and Services - Other than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 50.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1944 - No.8 - Victorian Public Service Association; Public Service Association of South Australia; andTasmanian Public Service Association.
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security ( Supplementary ) Regulations - Order - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes - Katoomba, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations -
Control of trailer manufacture (No. 3).
Prohibited places (3).
Taking possession of land, &c. (49).
Use of land (3).
Order by State Premier - New South
Wales (No. 45).
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (84).
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders - Protected undertakings (36) .
National Security (Prices) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 1414-1470.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No 51.
House adjourned at 10.22 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The publication was authorized by the Commander-in-Chief, Allied Land Forces, with ministerial approval.
n asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What allowances in the nature of salary are paid to each of the officers referred to in the reply of the 21st March to the question asked by the honorable member for Darling Downs(vide page 1690)?
– The Controller-General of Food receives an allowance of £500 per annum as member of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board. The salaries of other officers shown in the reply of the 21st March include all allowances in the nature of salaries except costofliving allowance of £40 per annum which is paid to all officers except those on fixed salaries, namely: Administrative Assistant to Controller-General of Food, Assistant Controller-General of Food,
Director of Public Relations, Deputy Director of Food Manufacture, and Chief Technologist.
Apples and Pears.
h asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What assistance has the Government rendered to the South Australian apple and pear industry ?
-Since the outbreak of the war, the Commonwealth Government has rendered substantial assistance to the South Australian apple and pear industry. During the 1940, 1941 and 1942 seasons, the apple and pear crops in that State, in common with the rest of the Commonwealth, were acquiredby the Commonwealth in the interests of the industry and to ensure orderly marketing under emergency conditions. In these three seasons, payments by the Apple and Pear Marketing Board in South Australia by way of advances to growers and marketing costs on acquired fruit aggregated approximately £750,000. Since 1943, acquisition has not applied in South Australia, but every effort has been made to extend the processing programme in that State to ensure increased production of dried apples and solid pack pie apples. Growers’ co-operative organizations have been assisted with machinery and plant and arrangements made by the Apple and Pear Marketing Board to take over the processed commodities at prices which enable all processors to pay a reasonable price to the growers for the fresh fruit. There is no limit placed on the output of either dried or solid pack apples and the processing arrangements represent the main stabilizing feature in the marketing of the South Australian crop. It is anticipated that up to 200,000 bushels of apples will be absorbed for processing purposes this season.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What were the salaries and/or travelling allowances paid during the financial year 1942-43 to the following officers: -
Director -General of Allied Works,
Assistant Director-General of Allied Works,
Director of Mechanical Equipment.
Director of Personnel,
Director of Finance,
Deputy Director-General of Allied Works (Head Office), (h)Director of Architecture,
Director of Engineering,
Director of Administration,
Deputy Director-General of Allied
Works (New South Wales),
Works Director (New South Wales),
Deputy Director-General of Allied Works (Queensland),
Works Director (Queensland),
Works Director (Victoria),
Works Director (South Australia),
Works Director (Western Australia),
Works Director (Australian Capital Territory ) ,
Works Director (Northern Territory),
Works Registrar (Tasmania)?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What allowances in the nature of salary are paid to each of the officers named in the previous question?
-No special allowance is payable in addition to salary to any of the officers referred to.
Uniforms for Cadet Corps.
e. - On the 10th March, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr.
Holt) referred to the provision of uniforms for senior cadets and I promised to have inquiries made.
I now desire to inform the honorable member that, at present, cadets or their schools pay for the uniforms and the schools receive an allowance of 15s. per annum for each efficient member towards the cost of uniforms. The types of uniforms vary with each school. Arrangements are in existence whereby cadet detachments can purchase reconditioned part-worn garments - hats, clothing and boots - at 50 per cent. of the price vocabulary items. Representations have been made by the Headmasters’ Association on. this subject and the matter is still under consideration. The clothing industry is fully engaged in the production of clothing for the services and other urgently required clothing, and no capacity exists at present to enable uniforms to be made for senior cadets.
n. - On the 1st March, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked me a question, without notice, relative to the economy exercised in the publication of parliamentary papers, departmental documents and the like.
The honorable member is now notified that a review was recently made of all Commonwealth publications, as a result of which greater economies in the use of both type and quantity of paper have been effected over this field generally. Regarding the two publications specifically mentioned by the honorable member, the position is that these documents are being specially examined, and any desirable economies will be introducedin future issues.
On the 1st March, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) asked me a question, without notice, relative to the printing of books in Australia, and I promised to have the matter examined in. collaboration with the Minister for Tradeand Customs.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has advised me that it would be permissible to use local or imported papers for the reprinting of either English or Australian books, dependent on the publisher’s ability to obtain adequate supplies through the normal trade channels. Whilst the Minister for Trade and Customs has authorized the issue of permits to publishers to use specified quantities of papers in the publication of books, those permits do not themselves convey any priority rights in regard to acquisition of paper. Apart from imposing limitations upon the quantity of paper that may be used and an insistence upon its most economical use in this connexion, the Department of Trade and Customs does not place further restrictions on publishers, and it would be competent for a publisher to produce any type of book within the limits of the individual quota held. So far as the Department of Trade and Customs is concerned, no special arrangements have been made to publish the Australian novels mentioned by the honorable member, and it will be necessary for the publishers, as in the case of other types of books, to procure paper through ordinary channels.
Although the Department of Trade and Customs does not attempt to restrict the type of books for which a publisher may use his stocks of paper, and although that department’s permits for the use of paper for book publication do not carry any priority rights, the Government has made arrangements through the Book Sponsorship Committee, which is attached to my department, to ensure that priority in the supply of paper will ,be given for the publication of books which are sponsored by that committee. Thus, a publisher wishing to reprint any of the Australian classics which are now out of print would be entitled to seek sponsorship from the Book Sponsorship Committee. The committee would give sympathetic consideration to any such applications on their merits, having in mind the acute shortage of paper, and the primary importance of putting technical and educational works and other text-books, which are known to be urgently required and are considered of national importance, into publication.
n. - On the 21st March, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked the following question: -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, without notice, whether he will furnish the following information regarding the operation of rationing, in respect of the checks imposed upon retailers and wholesalers-
Are retailers licensed, and do they have to furnish coupons to the wholesalers when replenishing supplies?
Are wholesalers licensed and do they have to furnish coupons to the manufacturers when replenishing supplies?
Is it a fact that millions of coupons received from retailers for .goods supplied are at present in the possession of wholesalers and that wholesalers are obtaining supplies from manufacturers without having to furnish the equivalent coupons?
If such is the case will the Minister take immediate steps to make .more satisfactory arrangements, as under present conditions it would permit a wholesaler to secure, without coupons, whatever goods a manufacturer was able to supply, thus creating conditions conducive to black marketing operations? When making such inquiries will the Minister make particular inquiries into the activities of certain chain store organizations?
In my interim reply, I intimated that the information would be obtained. The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers to the honorable, member’s questions : -
n. - On the 17th March, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked the following questions, upon notice -
In my interim reply I stated that the information was being obtained. The Minister for Trade and Customs has now furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440328_reps_17_178/>.