17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the
Acting Prime Minister read the statement published in last Sunday’s Sunday Sun, attributed to Mr. Bruce Pie, a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly, headed “ Anarchy Threat in Central Europe “ ; “ Russia hasFood Areas “, and reading -
Russia, having taken over the food-growing areas of Eastern Europe, is showing no willingness to share supplies with Britain or the United States, who control the densely populated, highly industrial areas of Germany.
This was stated to day by Queensland M.P.,
BrucePie, who is reporting to the Australian Government after a tour of the British occupation area in Germany.
Is the statement correct that Mr. Bruce Pie is reporting to the Australian Government? If so, who authorized him to make a tour of the British occupation area in Germany on behalf of the Australian Government? If he was not authorized by the Australian Government, .will the Deputy Prime Minister make immediately a full statement of the position i
– This report having been brought to my notice, I instituted inquiries, which disclosed that there was no evidence of the Commonwealth Government having made any request to Mr. Bruce Pie to conduct investigations in Europe and report to the Government. I have discussed the matter with several of my colleagues, whose departments obviously would be concerned in such investigations. They have no knowledge of such a request having been made to Mr. Bruce Pie. I shall have further inquiries made in regard to the other matters which the honorable member has raised, and advise him of the result.
Criticism of British Delegation
– In welcoming the Acting Prime Minister upon his return to Australia, I ask him whether a written
Or verbal protest has been made by representatives of Great Britain at the United Nations Conference on International Organization, in respect of a press interview at which the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) expressed views not in accordance with Empire international policy? Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to make a statement in this regard ?
– I have not received either a verbal or a written protest from representatives of the Government of the United Kingdom. As a matter of fact, the relationship between those representatives and the Australian delegation was most cordial throughout the conference, although at times a difference of opinion was manifested.
– That happens even in this House.
– I agree. Lord Cranbourne, interviewed by the press in Ottawa when on his way back to England, said that throughout the United Nations Conference on International Organization there was the closest co-operation between the British Commonwealth delegations. In several instances, as the result of discussions between Empire delegations, the United Kingdom delegation had modified its views. He suggested that there should be maximum collaboration between members of the British Commonwealth, and any attempt at centralized authority would be a mistake. Both Lord Halifax, as Leader of the United Kingdom delegation, and Lord Cranbourne have given unstinted praise to the efforts of the Australian delegation. It is unwise to raise questions of this kind, because relations were most cordial between the United Kingdom delegates and the dominion delegates. Frequent consultations occurred throughout the conference at the head-quarters of the- United Kingdom delegation. I assure the honorable gentleman that he cannot score off this question.
Leave - -PROMOTION of Troops in Rest Areas - Releases - ExServicemen’s Badge.
– Last week I. raised the question of leave for soldiers in New Guinea who are supposed to have leave every twelve months. I cited a soldier who has been in New Guinea for 23 months without leave. I have since received complaints from relatives of soldiers who have been 20 months and 22 months in New Guinea without leave. Will the Minister for the Army instruct commanding officers in the South-West Pacific Area to prepare a return of all soldiers who have served more than twelve months without leave, in order that special steps may be taken to ensure that, in the interests of their own health, soldiers shall have leave after twelve months’ service. Apparently the leave system has broken down in New Guinea.
– I shall have immediate inquiries made into the matter raised by the honorable member for Moreton.
I hope to be able to furnish an answer at a very early date.
– Has the Minister for the Army received any complaints from combat-fatigued troops, mainly noncommissioned officers, who have been sent to the mainland for vacational reasons, that they must serve under non-commissioned officers of equivalent rank who have never left their home State? Is the Minister aware that long-service non-commissioned officers who are sent to the mainland for a rest lose their chances of promotion in their own units and are passed over in their temporary units in favour of homefront non-commissioned officers ? Will he investigate these complaints, if he has not already done so?
– I shall give sympathetic consideration to the question asked by the honorable member, and I shall furnish an answer as soon as possible.
– During the last three months, man-power officers in the various States have been under the direction not to make any recommendation for the release of man-power pending the Government’s review of the position. The Government having declared its policy, I ask the Minister for the Army whether applications for release lodged during that period will be automatically considered, or whether fresh applications will have to be made ?
– I should think that, as on previous occasions, such cases will be reviewed automatically. However,I shall have inquiries made and advise the honorable member definitely.
-Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House whether a final decision has been reached as to the proportions of men who will be released from the Army under the scheme recently announced by the Government? Will those men be included who, since the last batch of releases, have been recommended for dischargeby the man-power authorities, but retained by the Army ? Can he hold out any hope of the early release ofmembers of the Eighth Division of the Australian Imperial Force, who are now held captive by the Japanese in South-East Asia? If he has, will he interest the Minister for Information in the matter ? Since the right honorable gentleman left Australia to attend the Uncio Conference in San
Francisco, the Minister for Information has been interested only in cursing the press.
– Order !
– I shall make inquiries into the proposed release of personnel from the Army, and endeavour to supply the information that the honorable gentleman requires. I am not in a position to make a definite statement regardingthe early release of Australian prisoners of war in Japanese hands, but we sincerely hope that, as the result of the activities of the allied forces in South-East Asia, the overwhelming majority of those men will be liberated at an early date.
– In my opinion, the badge which is issued to personnel on their discharge from the Army is of very poor quality and appearance, resembling a piece of tin plate, three-quarters of an inch long by one-quarter of an inch broad. Has the Acting Prime Minister seen this badge? If so, does he consider that it is of satisfactory quality and appearance? If his views on this matter agree with my own, will he give instructions immediately for the issue of a better quality badge ?
– I have seen some of the badges to which the honorable gentleman referred, but, in view of his description of them, I shall examine one more closely. We all are desirous of giving to discharged service personnel a badge of which they may feci proud.
– by leave - I inform the House that, owing to the illness of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and consequent on my return to Australia, I shall occupy the position of Acting Prime Minister, in addition to that of Minister for the Army. The arrangements already notified to the House - that the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Beasley) will act as Minister for Defence and as Attorney-General, and that the Minister for the Navy, Minister for Munitions and Minister for Aircraft Production (Mr. Makin) will act as Minister for External Affairs - will be continued. The Minister for Health and Social Services (Senator Fraser) will cease to act as a member of War Cabinet, and the Minister forPost-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will cease to act as a member of the Advisory War Council. I have called on the Prime Minister, and have received a report from his medical advisers. Mr. Curtin’s condition is not satisfactory, and I am sure honorable members share my hope that we shall soon have a reassuring report.
– by leave - On the 22nd May the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) asked a question regarding the maintenance of the Stuart Highway. I have been advised by the Minister for the Interior that it is not proposed to abandon the maintenance of this road. Adequate provision is being made and will continue to be made for the proper maintenance of this road.
– by leave - I inform the House of extracts from communiques issued by General Head-quarters, South-West Pacific Area, yesterday and to-day. The reference in yesterday’s communiqué was -
Australian ground forces have made a third major landing on the vast island of Borneo. Elements of the veteran 7th Australian Division have secured a firm beach-head at Balik Papan. The landing was preceded by intensive air and naval bombardment and preparationof beach approaches by the Royal Australian and Far Eastern Air forces and the United States Seventh Fleet, the Royal Australian and Royal Netherlands Navies. Assault waves swept ashore directly east of the town and rapidly advanced inland. Our losses have been very light.
It is fitting that the 7th Australian Division which, in July three yearsago, met and turned back the tide of invasion of Australia on the historic Kokoda Trail, should, this same mo n th secure what was once perhaps the most lucrative strategic target in our East Indies sector and virtually complete our tactical control of the entire South-West Pacific.
The reference -in to-day’s communiqué is -
The 7th Australian Division atBalik Papan secured3 miles of beach, east of the town, while assault groups drove inland to a depth of 2,500 yards against stiffening resistance. Heavy, medium and fighter bombers continued to give effective support.
– Will the Minister for Information inform me whether there is any reason why only the scarcest information about British military and naval activities in the SouthEast Asia Command is available to the Australian public through the columns of the Australian press, particularly as detailed information about them is provided for the Australian public by the Delhi short-wave radio every evening at 9.30 o’clock.
– I do not know whether’ the honorable member desires me to act as an apologist for the Australian press, because of its failure to publish information about the activities of the British Army in the South-East Asia Command and the Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean. If he suggests that the Department of Information is in any way responsible for this lack of information, I assure him that my department has nothing to do with publicizing the operations of the British Army and Navy. Its function is to tell Australia and the world the deeds of the Australian fighting forces. I shall endeavour to ascertain whether we can persuade the Australian newspapers to give more adequate information about the deeds of theBritish forces in South-East Asia, and I hope that that assurance will satisfy the honorable gentleman. If Australian newspapers fail in this matter, it is just another of their shortcomings.
remusteringsanddischargesretentionofIssued Articles : Deductions from Pay.
-I ask the Minister for Air whether, if surplus members of air crews in the Royal Australia Air Force are to be given the opportunity to remuster to ground staff, that will make for a surplus of ground crew? Are men who do not desire to remuster to ground staff to be discharged and then called into the Army ? If so, would it not be better first, to call for volunteers and then to transfer men into the Army? Will not some of those men be among the 54,000 to be released from the services?
– Large numbers of air crew personnel will be returning from Europe between now and the end of the year. Some have already returned. Recruiting for air crew personnel has ceased. Those with two years’ operational service overseas or more than one operational tour will be given the option of discharge if not required for special purposes. Others only partly trained will be given the opportunity to remuster to ground staff. If they accept, they will be retained in the Air Force. There is no substance in the honorable gentleman’s suggestion that this policy will result in a surplus of ground staff. We shall have to continue recruiting a limited number of ground staff in order to provide relief formen with long service in operational areas and to replace casualties. The matter is being examined to ascertain the best course to ensure that the men shall be equitably dealt with. I hope to make a statement about what the Air Force proposes with regard to releases generally.
– When members of the Royal Australian Air Force arebeing discharged at personnel depots, sums of money are deducted from their pay for various small articles, such as torches and pocket-knives, which had been issued to them four or five years ago, and which they are not able to return. Will the Minister for Air abolish this practice of compelling personnel to meet the cost of those articles, because it is a source of great irritation to them?
– The honorable member has managed to convey a good deal of information in comparatively few words. In reply to that portion of his remarks which was a question, I inform him that I shall have the matter examined.
Ration Packs - Overseas Markets
– Willthe Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture have investigations made, and advise the House regarding any steps that have been taken to obtain overseas markets for Australian canned and dried fruits? I ask this question because it is probable that service requirements of these products will rapidly diminish in the near future, and, in order to avoid disorganization within the industry, export markets will have to be found to replace those markets which existed before the war.
– Investigations will be made, and the honorable member will be advised regarding the steps which have been taken by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to find markets for canned and dried fruits.
– During the last canning season in Victoria, the Minister for Air was good enough to make available Royal Australian Air Force personnel for the purpose of relieving the acute shortage of man-power in the industry. The British War Office has now lodged an order for 2,700 ration packs for British forces to be delivered by midAugust. If the necessary labour for packing those urgently required rations cannot be obtained from civilian sources in the required time, will the Minister make sufficient Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force personnel available to enable this order to be fulfilled?
– As honorable members are aware, Royal Australian Air Force personnel have been made available from time to time to pick fruit and pack foodstuffs essential for the provisioning of the services. If the supply of ration packs for British forces is a matter of great urgency, I shall see whether the Royal Australian Air Force can help to relieve the labour situation.
Discussions with Great Britain - European Child Migrants.
-Press reports have indicated that, while he was abroad, the Acting Prime Minister had several discussions on the subject of migration with British authorities and others. Will the right honorable gentleman make a statement to the House to-day, or in the near future, indicating any decisions which may have been made regarding Government policy on the matter ?
– I hope to be able to make a statement on the subject within a few days. I had a number of discussions with the British Secretary of State for the Dominions on some of the questions that have been the subject of negotiation between the Commonwealth Government and the British Government. Finality has not been reached on all of these questions, but I hope to be able to make a considered statement soon.
– About eighteen months ago, I drew attention to the likelihood of our being able to obtain from Europe as child migrants a considerable number of orphaned children. When the Acting Prime Minister makes his statement on migration, will he include a reference to orphan migrants?
– I hope to be able to supply the information later.
Australia n Representation - Passports.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for External Affairs concerning a proposal to send two young men, named Weston and Williams, to England to represent Australian youth. I have received a letter from the Reverend F. W. Lombard, chaplain of the Young Christian Workers Movement in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, stating that he represents 200 chaplains and 10,000 youths, and that 36 youth organizations in Melbourne which have considered the proposal emphatically dissociate themselves from it. I ask the Minister whether any application has been made for permits for these alleged representatives of Australian youth to visit London and, if so, what action has been taken in the matter?
– Some weeks ago, when this question was brought to my notice, I ascertained that no such applications had been made at the office of the Department of External Affairs in Canberra. I also caused inquiries to be made to ascertain whether such an application had been lodged at any State branches of the de partment. As no report to that effect has reached me, 1 assume that no such application has been made.
– Doubtless, the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs is aware of the widespread interest in the representation of Australia at the forthcoming Youth Conference in London, because of the belief that the Australian representatives are Communist-inspired. The Minister stated that no approach had been made to the Department of External Affairs for passports for the Australian delegates. As the conference will be held in London in August, will the honorable gentleman inform me whether the delegates will be able to secure passports or passages from another department, such as the Department of Trade and Customs? If so, will the House be given an opportunity to discuss the matter before passports are granted to the representatives ?
– The Department of the Interior issues passports, and, consequently, this matter will not necessarily engage the attention of the Department of External Affairs. However, I shall endeavour to obtain the information for which the honorable member asked.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister call for an immediate report on the circumstances of the death of Ian Munchenberg from smallpox in a hospital at Algiers on the 18th April, 1944? The man was taken off a Norwegian ship which he had joined as a member of the crew at Port Adelaide on the 19th February, 1944, five days after his eighteenth birthday. His mother, who is a widow, has endeavoured to secure financial help from the Norwegian company, but to no avail. She has not received any of the pay which was due to the boy or any of his belongings. She has heard only indirectly that he was buried at Bona, Algeria. I urge the right honorable gentleman to do his best to obtain information promptly.
– I shall have an immediate inquiry made into the case and hope to be able to give the honorable member some information at an early date.
– Some months ago, I directed attention to the fact that quantities of tinned meat and vegetables intended for use by the Royal Australian Air Force and sent to them by the Army for use and not to be returned, were, in some places, being thrown out as pig feed, and I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping to inquire whether such surplus foodstuffs could not be exported to meet food shortages abroad. The honorable member for Flinders also asked a question on the subject. As I have not received a reply to my inquiry, I ask the Minister whether he can give me any information on the subject?
– I remember the honorable member asking the question. I regret that he has not received a reply. I regarded the subject as of considerable importance. I shall make an immediate investigation to ascertain why the information has not come to hand.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to make an early statement to the House about the possibility of lifting restrictions on the delivery of goods and the zoning system in cities.
– A review is being made in my department and in other departments of the whole of the controls now in operation. I hope shortly to be in a position to make a statement on the subject, including the particular aspect to which the honorable member has referred.
appointment of organizers in south Australia and Queensland.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether six organizers have been appointed by the Liberal party and Country League in South Australia to assist the Liberal party in that State in a membership drive? If so, was the approval of the man-power authorities sought and obtained for the engagement of this labour? If the Department of Labour and National Service is prepared to approve of the employment of organizers for poli tical purposes, what justification is there for the maintenance of priorities in respect of other more important national work, such as primary production and house building?
– I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Labour and National Service. Judging by reports that I have received, at least 160 instead of six organizers would need to be appointed to canvass the electors of Grey on behalf of the Liberal party in order to affect the honorable member’s chances of re-election.
– In the absence of the Minister for Labour and National Service, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he has seen an advertisement in the Brisbane Courier-Mail calling for applications for the position of organizer for the Queensland People’s party; which is now affiliated with the Liberal party? The applicants are to apply to the Labour and National Service Office, Creek-street, Brisbane. Is this not a contravention of the policy of the Department of Labour and National Service?Can the men not be more suitably employed on work of national importance connected with the war?
– I have not seen the advertisement, but the question is on all fours with one asked by the honorable member for Adelaide, and I shall discuss it with my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services what provision the Government proposes to make in the form of skilled assistants to enable claimants for sickness and unemployment benefits to complete the extraordinary questionnaire of 45 questions, which, apparently, is a condition precedent to the enjoyment of any of the benefits ? Is the Minister aware that, before a person can claim even one week’s sick pay, he must produce his birth certificate, his marriage certificate, and the birth certificates of all his children?
– I shall arrange to have a reply prepared, giving reasons for the questionnaire.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce make a statement regarding the supplies of sulphate of ammonia that are available in the Commonwealth ? Will he also direct the Commonwealth Fertilizer Controller to allocate to coastal citrus orchards, for distribution in the spring months of this year, an additional three bags of mixed fertilizer to the acre, this preferably to contain sulphate of ammonia instead of nitrate of soda as a source of nitrogen? Will he further stress the serious need of the citrus growers for supplies of sulphate of ammonia ?
– I shall have the whole matter examined in the Department of Commerce. It hasbeen found almost impossible to obtain in this country sufficient supplies of nitrogenous fertilizer such as sulphate of ammonia, and nitrate of soda has had to be substituted for it.
Double- weft Cloth - Beach Wear - Overcoats and Outerwear.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction state whether Australian manufacturers of double-weft cloth are able to obtain1s. 6d. a yard more from the sales of their cloth to New Zealand, compared with the price on the Australian market, thus causing a shortage of this cloth locally? If so, will the honorable gentleman investigate the position, with a view to action being taken that will enable Australian tailors to obtain a fair quota of double-weft cloth ?
– I shall endeavour to obtain from the Minister for Supply and Shipping the information which the honorable member seeks. I point out, however, that the higher price in New Zealand - if it is higher - can have no effect on local supplies, because, by direction of the Government, only a limited quantity of this cloth may be sold to the neighbouring dominion.
– In order that manufacturers may make arrangements for the coming season, can the Minister for War Organization of Industry say whether the ban on the manufacture of bathing costumes and other articles of beach wear is likely to be lifted at an early date?
– In conformity with the policy of my department, and of the Government generally, all controls are being reviewed. When this control was reviewed recently, it was decided that prohibition of the manufacture of the garments mentioned, except under permit, should be lifted immediately. This may appear to be the wrong season of the year to take such action. I point out, however, that these garments are generally manufactured during the winter months, so that they will be available during the ensuing summer.
– On Thursday night, I raised the matter of the accumulation in Brisbane warehouses of supplies of clothing which cannot be distributed owing to the shortage of sufficient clothing ration coupons among retailers and the public. To-day I received a letter from which the following is an extract: -
Stocks men’s, women’s, boys’ and girls’ overcoats and outerwear are exceptionally high due to the high coupon rating - 40 for a man’s overcoat and 27 for a woman’s. With the prevailing cold weather, quite a lot of people are feeling the need for woollen clothing, but cannot buy them from the few coupons given to them.
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs discuss with the Rationing Commission the matter of reducing the number of ration coupons needed for those articles of clothing, in view of the facts set out in that letter?
– I shall discuss this matter with the Chairman of the Rationing Commission.
– In view of past wanton destruction of Australia’s valuable forests, and the necessity to import timbers for housing purposes to a vast and once heavily timbered country with a population of 7,000,000, will the Acting Prime Minister consider placing before the next Premiers’ Conference, on behalf of the Commonwealth, the matter of an Australian forestry programme, designed to make it obligatory that each farmer shall grow useful timber, in addition to government forestry schemes, and that no forest may be rung out or cut down until the timber in it has been proved useless and incapable of scientific improvement by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research?
– The question, which appears to be a very important one, will be considered by the Government when preparing the agenda for the next Premiers’ Conference.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether it is anticipated that his department will be reduced in strength in the immediate future ; or whether its functions are such that the number of administrative officers is likely to increase? What opportunity i being given to permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, particularly ex-servicemen, employed in other departments, to receive a higher classification in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction ? Will the Minister investigate his department, with a view to replacing those officers who are neither permanent public servants nor exservicemen, with members of the Public Service who are qualified and entitled to preferential consideration?
– It is perfectly true that the number of individuals employed by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction will increase considerably. It is obvious that in order to handle the problem of the re-establishment of members of the forces, the department will need a very much larger staff. During the war, this department, like every other Government department, has had to recruit temporary employees. They will be dispensed with as soon as it is possible to Te pi ace them with permanent public servants. The sooner I can replace the temporary employees with permanent employees the better, as far as I am concerned.
– Is it not a temporary department? Why have permanent employees ?
– Because it is a temporary department it does not mean that the employees should be temporary. Permanent employment will be subject to the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act, that is, insofar as that act provides preference in employment to members of the forces, they shall be granted preference in appointments to the department.
Use of ARMY Huts.
– In view of the refusal of the Victorian Government to avail itself of Army huts for housing purposes, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping consider making them available direct to individuals and municipalities so that they may be used to relieve the housing shortage in the outer suburban and rural areas?
– I was not aware that the Victorian Government had refused to make use of those huts. I have read about an experimental house constructed from a converted hut.
– The refusal was reported in the press to-day.
– If that is so, it is in keeping with the general attitude of the Victorian Government on these subjects. It looks as though we shall have to take independent action. The honorable member’s suggestion is a good one, and I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to consider it.
– In order to assist honorable members in preparing for the forthcoming budget debate, will the Treasurer say to approximately what extent the Commonwealth expenditure for the last financial year fell short of the budget estimate? Will he have a detailed analysis made of the expenditure, showing where it fell short of and in where it exceeded the budget estimates?
– On the budget, honorable members are given ample opportunity to consider such matters as the honorable gentleman has raised. At this stage, it would be very difficult for me to give a clear indication of the total expenditure for last financial year. I could make only a guess. I have already mentioned in this House the very heavy overseas commitments for which accounts have not yet come to hand. It is not usually possible to determine -until some time after the financial year ends what accounts in that category amount to. That is also true to a lesser degree of some accounts in Australia. However, I shall endeavour, without giving a detailed analysis, to make an approximate estimate at a reasonably early date of the expenditure for the financial year just ended.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had an opportunity to consider the request of the Poultry Farmers Association of New South Wales for the payment of a subsidy of 9d. a dozen for eggs, because of the disorganization that has occurred in the egg-producing industry, the increased cost of production, and lack of feed ? Will the honorable gentleman, when arriving at a decision, take into consideration the fact that the Government of the United Kingdom is paying to egg producers 3s. Id. a dozen, and is charging consumers 2s. a dozen? Is the Minister able to give to the House any information regarding the Government’s proposals to assist poultry-farmers?
– Conditions governing the production of eggs in the United Kingdom are entirely different from those in Australia. At the moment, I am not in a position to give to the House any information regarding proposals to assist poultry-farmers, but I shall have the honorable member’s question examined and supply him with an answer.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation able to inform me whether the sanatorium at Kenmore, for servicemen suffering from tuberculosis, was opened yesterday for the reception of patients? If it was not, what is the reason for the delay?
– The erection of the sanatorium has been completed, and the furniture and equipment have been installed. We hoped to admit patients last week, but because of staffing problems were precluded from doing so. We hope to overcome this difficulty shortly.
– by leave - I lay upon the table of the House the texts of the Charter of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
These texts, aud an instrument creating a preparatory commission to undertake the preliminary work required before the organization can commence to function, were signed in San Francisco on the 26th June, 1945, by the accredited representatives of the 50 United Nations there present, including Australia, on whose behalf my colleague the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and. I affixed our signatures. The Charter will come into force upon the deposit of ratifications by the five great powers and by a majority of the other signatory states.
As leader of the Australian delegation to the San Francisco Conference which has produced this momentous contribution to world organization for peace, security and prosperity, I hope and trust that Australia will be as forward in its ratification as it has been active in its preparation. To that end the Government will shortly introduce a bill for the ratification of the Charter and the statute by the Parliament of the Commonwealth. Pending its introduction, the Government desires to give honorable members the fullest opportunity to acquaint themselves with the content and meaning of these two documents.
A full and detailed report on our mission is being prepared for joint submission to Parliament by myself and the Minister for External Affairs. The statement which I am making to-day is intended only as an introduction to the subject. Therefore, I ask honorable members to withhold any hasty judgments they might otherwise be tempted to make until they have had an opportunity to closely study the full text of the Charter and the detailed account, contained in our joint report, of how and why the Charter assumed its present form.
I also appeal to honorable members, should any appeal be necessary, to approach this matter with a full sense of the high responsibilities which devolve upon them in considering whether the full weight of Australia’s shoulder is to be applied to the wheel of world peace and security in the future, as none can deny it has been applied in the dreadful struggle from which we hope soon to emerge. This Charter is concerned not with party politics, but with one of the highest and noblest purposes of mankind. lt has been conceived in the agony of war, and is being born as the mists of misery and despair are slowly lifting from the stricken peoples of the world. It has been framed by men and women from the four corners of the earth and, in its own clear words, makes no distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. In all humility, I think it also enables us to make no distractions based on the political philosophies which sometimes divide this House. That, at any rate, was the hope of our great and loved leader, John Curtin, when choosing the distinguished company of citizens who formed the Australian delegation to the Conference. Like his great colleague, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to whom the name of the United Nations Organization is the last tribute of a grateful world, John Curtin poured out his strength that the world might be delivered from oppression and secured against future aggression. I can conceive of no better way in which to revive that strength than to give this Charter our speedy and unanimous ratification.
Honorable members will be aware that the present Charter has been evolved from a draft placed before the Conference by the four sponsoring governments - the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union and China. This draft, known as the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals, was originally drawn up by these Governments at Dumbarton Oaks in the United States of America in 1944, and was subsequently modified, in respect of the Security Council voting formula, by the “Big Three” at the Yalta Conference. There was thus ample time for study of the proposals by all the United Nations before the full conference met in San Francisco. The opportunity was also afforded to representatives of the United’ Kingdom, India and the Dominions to meet informally in London prior to the conference for preliminary discussions of some of the general issues arising out of the proposals. The Minister for External Affairs and I accordingly proceeded direct to London to represent Australia in these discussions.
This preliminary conference was in no sense an attempt to reach agreed and final decisions as a basis for a united British front at San Francisco. Any such idea would not only have proved impossible to carry out in practice, but also would have been entirely foreign to the spirit of the San Francisco Conference, and incompatible with the full nationhood of the Dominions. In many respects, our London talks were not unlike the preliminary conference of North and South American nations at Mexico City held about the same time, some of the conclusions of which were formally incorporated in the Act of Chapultepec. Any suggestion that our Empire talks were intended to, or did, in fact, lead to, the formation of an Empire bloc, can be easily refuted by reference to the actual proceedings of the San Francisco Conference, where the representatives of the United Kingdom, India and the Dominions frequently found themselves on opposite sides of the table.
At the same time, these preliminary talks were of inestimable value in giving us all both a wider and deeper understanding of the meaning of the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals, and an opportunity to assess their possible effects on the unique political relationships which bind together the various parts of the Empire. In the course of the discussions, it was inevitable that we should find a great deal of common ground in our approach to such a fundamental issue as the framing of a charter for world security. It was also inevitable that we should find some problems on which all of us did not see eye to eye. It is one of the attributes of the British political genius, however, that we are able to live together as a happy political family without demanding that all should agree to follow identical paths.
One of the highlights of the London Conference was a review of the war situation given to us .by Mr. Winston Churchill, at No. 10 Downing-street. At that time, of course, Germany had not yet been defeated, and the date at which the war would end was still a matter for speculation. The way in which it would end, however, had by then passed out of i he realm of speculation into the realm of ascertainable facts, and it was Mr. Churchill’s object to give us those facts as a necessary background for the work we were to do in London and later in San Francisco. As our talks in London were “ off the record “, it is not appropriate for me to traverse the course the discussions followed. I may say, however, that Australia’s voice was prominent in the discussions, and that our views were listened to and heeded with nattering respect. We, for our part, came away with a much clearer appreciation of the issues to be faced, and a better understanding of the special interests of other units of the British Commonwealth.
Immediately on the conclusion of the London talks, the Australian delegates left for San Francisco, where the conference was opened on the 25th April. The first ten days were spent in Plenary Sessions, at which the leaders of each delegation spoke, some generally and some in detail, of their hopes for the conference and their countries’ views on desirable modifications in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals. Meanwhile, the steering committee of the conference, composed of the heads of delegations, took in hand the organization of the conference, and disposed of a number of important issues of general policy. An executive committee, on which Australia was represented along with thirteen other countries, was also formed to prepare material for, and make recommendations to, the steering committee.
At the conclusion of the opening statements in Plenary Sessions, the conference was divided into four main commissions and twelve technical committees, which proceeded to discuss the proposals of the sponsoring governments, as amended in the early stages of the conference in the light of suggestions received from other governments, and to prepare revised texts of the various sections of the Charter and the Statute. All participating countries were represented on the commissions and committees, where most of the detailed work of the conference was performed. The Australian delegates, together with the consultants and advisers, were assigned to these commissions and committees, the two ministerial delegates moving between committees and commissions as necessary. Delegation policy was concerted at regular weekly meetings of the delegates with the consultants and advisers.
The conference, after weeks of strenuous effort, closed with two plenary sessions, the first being devoted to the adoption and signature of the Charter, and the second to closing speeches by representatives of selected countries and the President of the United States of America. The Charter which finally emerged from the conference is now before the House. I think it is fair to say that it represents not only a substantial rewriting of the Dumbarton Oaks draft, but an important advance towards a more positive piece of machinery for promot-inc and enriching the peaceful life of the nations, as well as eliminating mere aggression in troubled times or regions.
Amongst the improvements in the Charter over .the original proposals is the addition of an inspiring preamble, and statement of purposes and principles, which clearly reflects the more positive emphasis of the whole document. Justice and the rules of international law are recognized as right criteria of action in pursuing security, and the territorial integrity, political independence, and sanctity of the domestic jurisdiction rights of members are underwritten by the Charter. Tests for membership have been tightened up, and the Economic and Social Council has been made a “ principal organ ‘ of the United Nations. Very clear provision has been made for the linking up of other international bodies in the economic and social sphere with the Organization. The scope of discussion and recommendation of the General Assembly has been considerably increased, and some safeguards introduced against the “ freezing “ of unsettled disputes in the Security Council. A criterion of membership of the Security
Council has been added, which is more favorable to “ middle “ or “ security “ powers like Australia, and provision has been made for the Security Council to furnish regular and special reports on its work to the General Assembly. The form of the agreements to be entered into by each member with the Organization in relation to its contribution of forces and facilities for the maintenance of security has been more exactly defined ; and it has been provided that, before a member is railed on to send security forces to carry out decisions of the Security Council, it shall have the right, on request, to participate in the decisions of the Council on the employment of its forces. The right of national and regional self-defence, pending action by the Security Council, is now fully safeguarded, and this Security Council is allowed to set up, after consultation with regional agencies, regional military sub-committees of its central Military Staff Committee.
In addition, the new International Court of Justice represents a bringing up to date and strengthening of the oldWorld Court. A whole new chapter has also been added on “ trusteeship “ of dependent territories and peoples, which marks an enormous advance in the world’s acceptance of international responsibility for the welfare of peoples not yet able to stand alone in the modern world.
The chapters dealing with international economic and social co-operation have been substantially rewritten and greatly expanded, and the purposes, powers and functions of the Economic and Social Council now befit a principal organ of the United Nations. Amongst the improvements made are a greatly improved statement of purposes, including the promotion of higher living standards and full employment in all countries; the widening of their scope to include health, educational and cultural problems; and the inclusion, at Australian insistence, of a specific pledge by all member States “to take joint and separate action in co-operation with the Organization “ for the achievement of these expanded and more closely defined purposes. The functions and powers of the Economic and Social Council have been considerably widened and much better defined, and provision has been made for the participation, without vote, in its deliberations of any State, not currently a member of the Council, on any matter of particular concern to it.
Whilst it was not possible to secure such a liberalization in the provisions for amendment of the Charter as we could have wished, the present provisions are an advance on those originally submitted. Amendments will now come into force when adopted by a vote of two-thirds of the members of the General Assembly and ratified by two-thirds of the members, including all the permanent members, of the Security Council. Further, a general conference to review the Charter may be held at a time fixed by a two-thirds vote of the Assembly and a vote of any seven members of the Security Council. If such a conference has not been held before the tenth annual session of the Assembly, the proposal must be placed on the agenda of that session, and the conference will be called if a majority of the Assembly and any seven members of the Security Council vote therefor.
Honorable members will no doubt be anxious to know at once how our own vital interests may be affected by the Charter. I can assure them that the Australian delegation was fully alive to this question, and, in consequence, I have no hesitation in recommending to honorable members a full acceptance of the obligations which all members of the new organization will have to assume. The Charter nowgives us the best promise of international peace and security that the United Nations have been able to evolve after weeks - indeed after months - of careful study, discussion and mutual adjustment of ideas. As such, we should accept it with gratitude and with hope, provided only that in no particular respect does it adversely affect any vital Australian interests. I am sure that such is not the case.
At one stage there was some possibility that our freedom to control our own domestic affairs in our own way might have been endangered in some degree by one provision of an amendment suggested by the four sponsoring powers. On our insistence, this provision was finally eliminated from the Charter, and there is now no danger of intervention or interference by the organization in matters, including the important matter of immigration policy, which are within the domestic jurisdiction of the member-States.
At another stage, there was also some danger that Australia might have been committed to furnishing armed assistance in quelling aggression overseas, with no opportunity afforded of representing Australia’s views to the Security Council, and participating in its decision on such an important issue. As I have already indicated, the ‘Charter now provides specifically that, before a member is called upon to provide armed forces in fulfilment of its obligations under the Charter the council must invite the member, if it so requests, to send a representative to participate in the council’s decisions on the matter. The principle of “no military action without representation “ has thus been written into the new charter.
The formula adopted in regard to “ regional arrangements “ also safeguards our position in respect of both our membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations and under the Australia-New Zealand Pact. It will be our hope that the world organization will be able to guarantee the maintenance of peace and security, and we shall do our part to assist it in that great endeavour. At the same time, we must keep our own powder dry. We are enabled to do this, within the scope of the world security organization, by the provision of the Charter which recognizes the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack is made against a memberState. That self-defence, individual or collective, may continue until such time as the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. The only other qualification is that the action taken mu.ot be immediately reported to the Security Council, which retains the main responsibility for suppressing aggression giving rise to the self-defence action.
TV Charter also provides that, in the election of the non-permanent members of the Security Council - that is, member.”! other than the Big Five - due regard mu.°t Hp specially paid to the contribution of members of the organization to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the organization, and also to equitable geographical distribution. These criteria very definitely favour Australia’s chances of election to the Security Council.
The new chapter inserted in the Charter on the subject of trusteeship also fully safeguards Australia’s position in respect of those territories which it holds under mandate from the League of Nations. Australia’s present rights in regard to these territories are in fact unaffected by the terms of the Charter, and will be governed by the terms of agreements to be entered into at a later date, after full consideration and debate. Any such agreements will, of course, require the approval of the Commonwealth Parliament before they become effective.
When, after ratification of the Charter by Parliament, Australia becomes a member of the United Nations, its immediate commitment in regard to the security functions of the Organization will be simply to complete with the Security Council an agreement which will specify precisely what armed forces, assistance and facilities we will undertake to make available to the Council in the common cause of preserving the peace of the world. The details to be incorporated in the draft agreement will be discussed with the Government’s service advisers and with the Security Council itself before submission to Parliament. It is specifically provided in the Charter that these agreements between members and the Security Council shall be subject to ratification by the signatory States in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.
It is pertinent to ask what prospect the new Organization has of guaranteeing world peace and security. That is a difficult question, for the achievement and preservation of world peace does not depend exclusively, or even mainly, on the existence of machinery such as that we have fashioned at San Francisco. The machinery is important, but it remains merely the means through which the will to peace may be expressed. Without the will to peace particularly on the part of the Great Powers, no machinery can be effective in preventing future wars and safeguarding the rights and interests of the smaller nations. Given that the will to peace is created and maintained, however, the particular form the machinery takes is of great importance, for it is through this machinery that the aspirations and efforts of the peace-loving nations are mobilized against war.
The endeavours of the Australian delegation were, in consequence, animated by two main ideas. The first was to ensure, so far as such things can be ensured, that conditions in future will favour the emergence of a world society in which the will to peace will be stronger than the will to war. The second was to ensure that the new machinery of world organization should be such as to make the day-to-day task of preserving world peace and security as easy as possible.
As to the first, it is clear to all that many of the important causes of war have their origin in the economic and social sphere, and that no lasting system of peace can be evolved on a basis of want, economic insecurity, and social injustice. For that reason, the principles of the Atlantic Charter were widely acclaimed at the Conference, and a great and successful effort was made by the delegates to ensure that the world charter, in its social and economic sections, should be worthy of the high hopes and noble aspirations which animated that earlier charter of humanity. The Economic and Social Council will be endowed with very wide and effective powers to mould world economic and social development along lines which will contribute strongly to the creation and maintenance of world peace and prosperity. One of the most notable features of the new Charter, and one of the most notable contributions to it that was made by the Australian delegation, is the solemn pledge entered into by all signatories to take joint and separate action, in co-operation with the Organization, to achieve the purposes to which, on the economic, social and cultural side, the world organization is dedicated. This is no mere form of words, but a solemn undertaking by all members to devote their efforts in their own countries to the achievement of these purposes, and to concert joint measures with other countries to the same end. It is noteworthy that these pur poses include the raising of living standards and the promotion of full employment. Australia has for some years been the- chief contender that these were matters properly of international concern and matters in which each country should, by international agreement, recognize its duty not only to its own people, but also to its neighbours in the world community. At San Francisco, this principle was finally accepted and acclaimed, and it has now been written into the most momentous international document that the world has yet seen.
The second task to which I referred was the improvement of the proposed machinery for preserving world peace. In this, the conference was highly successful, notwithstanding the need to recognize the special power and special responsibilities of the Great Powers. A charter which ignored these realities would be like an imposing edifice built on a foundation of sand. For a time, it would present an impressive front to the world, but at the first substantial shock the cracks would begin to appear. It was no part of our purpose to build such an edifice, and I think it may be fairly claimed that our structure has been given the foundation, the strength, and the flexibility to weather the foreseeable storms of the future. In some of its aspects, the Australian delegation would have preferred to see further changes made than were, in fact, acceptable to the Great Powers, but we did not regard that as a sufficient reason for refusing to live in this new house of international amity, which has risen from the ashes of a war-torn world.
The new organization has some notable contrasts with the old League of Nations. It is not tied to the peace treaties, as was the old Covenant of the Treaty of Versailles, and there is every prospect that it will be accepted by all major peace-loving countries and most of the smaller ones. The President of the United States of America already has submitted the Charter to the American Senate. The powers of the Assembly in security matters are this time very restricted in comparison with those of the Security Council, and the powers of the latter are much greater than those of the League Council. “Within limits, the
Security Council will direct members what action to take against aggressors, whereas under the old League the members were left very much to act, or not to act, as they pleased. Moreover, the organization will have armed forces at its instant command, and a joint Military Staff Committee to direct their use. Notwithstanding our reluctance to accept without question the “ veto “ formula for voting in the Security Council, we should not forget that even this formula is a great advance on the rule applying in the League Council, where unanimity was required. In effect, that meant that every member of the League Council, great or small, could effectively exercise ;i veto on enforcement action.
Let us not imagine, however, that all our problems or those of our neighbours will be solved merely by taking up residence in our new international home. We have helped to place a roof over our heads, but we have yet to learn how to live happily together. Our differences must still be settled by give and take, not only on the upper floors among the middle and smaller inmates, but also among the big fellows down on the ground floor. In fact, it chiefly depends on the big fellows to show the rest of us how to live together. If some of us should become unruly, we have all agreed that the others should jointly cuff our ears, but none of us quite sees the practical possibility of preserving world peace by a- similar agreement to cuff the ears of one of the Great Powers. If that stage should ever be reached, there is likely to be such a commotion that the whole house will collapse upon us. That is the justification, and the only justification of the so-called “veto” power of the Big Five.
It is thus of paramount importance that the vast powers given to the Security Council as a whole, and to the Big Five in particular, should be matched by an equally vast assumption of responsibility to the peoples of the world. I hope and believe that this will prove to be the case. The basic pre-requisite of the whole system is unity among the Great Powers, and if this can be achieved we can forget their “veto”, for it will never bc necessary for one of them to invoke it.
The Charter is now before honorable members, for study and later for debate, and it is for them to decide whether its acceptance on behalf of this great Commonwealth is justified. My own views and those of my colleague and fellow delegate, the Minister for External Affairs, are set out in more detail in the joint report which 1 hope shortly to lay before honorable members, and which I hope they will study closely before the bill for ratification comes before the House. When that time arrives I shall vote, and I shall ask honorable members to vote, in favour of the full acceptance of the Charter by Australia.
In conclusion, I should like to express my deep sense of obligation to all members of the Australian delegation, who contributed so unsparingly to the construction of the Charter and the presentation of Australia’s views at the Conference. I must pay special tribute to the valuable assistance given in this task by my colleague and fellow delegate, the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs, whose unflagging energy and determination were allied with an unrivalled mastery of the many technical and legal issues . which frequently confronted the Conference.
From the beginning, the ministerial members of the delegation received the fullest possible measure of support from the assistants and consultants chosen by the Prime Minister to help in presenting Australia’s views. This assistance was given not only in their consultative capacity, individually, and in delegation meetings during the course of the Conference, but also in their capacity as Australian representatives and spokesmen at the very many meetings of committees where the real ground work of the Conference was performed. It is a great tribute to the devotion and patriotism of these men and women, drawn as they were from all political parties and branches of public life, that never once was there any disagreement on the general lines of policy to be followed, or any attempt to consider that policy on any party basis. The spirit which animated the whole of the delegation was one of devotion to Australia’s best interests, and it was accompanied by a camaraderie which, I think, all. of us will long treasure in our personal as well as our official memories.
I should like once again, therefore, to thank all my colleagues on the delegation for the very able, very pleasant, and very self-sacrificing way in which, irrespective of the political views they hold, they carried out their duties. I should also like to place on record my appreciation of the valuable aid and counsel given to all members of the delegation by the departmental officers, both from Australia and from the Washington Legation, to whose untiring and devoted efforts we all owe so much, and to whom Australia is greatly indebted, because they did not spare themselves in the way in which they applied themselves to their tasks from early morning until late at night for a period of about nine weeks.
As I have already said, a joint statement will be presented to the Parliament, signed by the Minister for External Affairs and myself. Later, a bill will be introduced for the ratification of the Charter. I hope that honorable members will avail themselves of the opportunity to study the Charter, copies of which have been placed on the table of the House, because no more important document has ever previously been presented to the elected representatives of a democratic Parliament. I lay on the table the following paper: -
United Nations Conference on International Organization - Text of Agreements signed at San Francisco, 26th June, 1945: -
1 ) Charter of the United Nations,
Statute of the International Court of Justice, and
Interim Arrangements (Agreement establishing the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations) - and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill 1945.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill 1945.
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1944-45.
Supply Bill (No. 1)1945-46.
ChildEndowment Bill 1945.
Re-establishment and Employment Bill 1945.
Debate resumed from the 25th May (vide page 2147), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill before the House is described as “ a bill for an act relating to life insurance and other matters”. The “ other matters “ occupy ten words of the bill, the rest of which is concerned with life insurance. It may very well be that, in the course of a fairly short speech, I shall have more to say about the ten words than about the rest of the bill.
A life insurance bill, providing a uniform law for Australia and legislating for the protection of policy-holders and the general security of the life insurance structure, is, I consider, a bill which the entire House can welcome. For the major provisions of this measure, I have nothing but approval and a good deal of admiration. There are, in Australia, more than 4,000,000 policies of life insurance. When we compare that total with the number of people in Australia, we shall see at once that there is hardly any activity concerned with savings which touches so many people so intimately. For many years, the Commonwealth has had full authority to pass laws with respect to life insurance. A bill was drafted some years ago and sent to the Senate, but for one reason and another, until this moment, such legislation has not been brought to the stage of inevitably being passed and coming into operation. Perhaps, in the result, that has been of advantage, because, in the meantime, in quite recent years, as the Minister for I nformation (Mr. Calwell) will recall, a royal commission sat in the State of Victoria and investigated the problem of life assurance; as the result of the very valuable report of that commission, legislation was enacted in that State in 1939 and 1940, and there also has been in other States legislation of a more up-to-date character than once existed. The effect of this bill will be in respect of all those matters to establish a uniform, up-to-date law, giving, Ibelieve, an abundance of protection to policy-holders and bringing about a very proper degree of security in relation to the business of life insurers. I have only to recall to the minds of honorable members the fact that the bill deals with the financial considerations affecting the capacity of companies to meet their obligations to depositors, with statutory funds, with actuarial investigations, and so on, to remind honorable members of the fact that the objectives to which I have just referred are very fully soughtafter, and, in my opinion, speaking in broad terms, are achieved by this bill. Another part of the bill deals with the position of the policy-holder who was confronted in previous years by the allegation that there had been a breach of warranty as the result of some misstatement in his proposal for insurance. The whole problem of how far a false answer in a proposal for insurance should entitle the insurer to avoid a contract later is one of very great difficulty. If, on the one hand, there were no such rights of avoidance, many insurance policies might be obtained on grounds which involved fraud or non-disclosure of really material facts. If, on the other hand, there were a universal rule that all statements in a proposal were to be deemed to possess such character as to make an error in them void the contract of insurance, a great many people might be deprived of the benefits of insurance through circumstances which, in no real sense, were their fault.
In mentioning that element, I do not wish to convey to honorable members that the great and reputable insurance companies resort to improper defences. I believe it can be said on both sides of this House that Australia has a most fortunate record in relation to life insurance companies, and, in particular, this country has been extremely fortunate in having developed to so high a degree mutual life companies. I do not need to name them. Every honorable member is familiar with them and is probably insured with one or another of the great mutual life companies. What this legislation does is not to afford protection against the great offices of high repute, but to avoid all danger of malpractice, and it does so in relation to erroneous statements and proposals by establishing broadly two things. .The first is that if the misstatement in the proposal relates to the age of the proponent, an adjustment is to be made of the terms and conditions of the policy in order to allow for the error of age. If, on the one hand, it is a misstatement amounting to fraud, that fraud will be available to the insurer in avoidance of the contract. If, on the other hand, it relates to a misstatement of a material fact, the misstatement does not in all circumstances void the contract. It does so if the misstatement is discovered in three years. I can see abundant reasons why there should be a time limit in a case where fraud is not established. With those general remarks I merely want to say that I welcome the production of this legislation. In relation to all those particular matters, I think the bill is one which will command the support of both sides of the House.
I confess, however, to being extraordinarily puzzled by the introduction into a measure of this kind, in a very peculiar form, of a provision for the setting up of a government insurance office. I do not want to go into n long debate of a doctrinaire kind about the merits or demerits of a government insurance office, but I am surprised that in a bill, 99 per cent, of which is occupied in bringing into rational order and common form life insurance legislation for Australia, the Government should think fit to introduce a few clauses under which, by regulation, and not by any further statutes at all, a government insurance office may be set up, not only for life insurance, but for any kind of insurance at all. In my experience of legislation, this seems to be almost the greatest oddity. I could understand that if the Government desired to set up a government life insurance office, provision to that end should be made in this bill ; but, in Part VI. of this bill, clauses appear under which power is taken by the Executive to set up a government insurance office to carry on - and I quote the precise words - life insurance business and such other kinds of insurance business rb are prescribed.
That means, of course, that, under this power, if the Government so desired, it could establish a government marine insurance office, a government fire insurance office, a government accident insurance office or anyother kind of insurance office. I want to elaborate my view of that very briefly. This bill, as I began by saying, contains a mass of provisions designed to safeguard the position of the policy-holder. In other words, the more effective the terms of this bill the less the need for a government insurance office. The more successfully you legislate to give to the people a form of safe life insurance through existing channels, the less occasion will there be for a new competitive organization established by the Government. It is said occasionally that a government has the right to go into business of some kind where the people will not have an effective service unless that be done. Here there is no suggestion of that. It is said occasionally that a government is justified in going into business where circumstances of monopoly exist. Nobody will say for one moment that in the life insurance business of Australia there is a monopoly of control. Indeed, there is very keen competition between very powerful insuring groups. Yet, notwithstanding those facts, here we have a provision which deserves some pointed comment. Clause 131 says -
The Governor-General may establish an insurance office to be known as the Commonwealth Government Insurance Office.
Clause 132 is merely a necessary technical provision, but I should read clause 133, because there is very little to touch it in my experience of legislation - 133. - (1.) The Commonwealth Government Insurance Office -
I interrupt myself to remind honorable members that “ prescribed “, in this context, means “ prescribed by regulation “ -
– That is taken from the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
– Yes. The Commonwealth Government insurance office is not merely to carry on life assurance business, but is tobe under a statutory duty to expand and develop that business. Then the clause goes on that the office -
in relation to its management and operations and the carrying on of its business -
Then there is a formality or two about the Audit Act, and so on. But the operative clause is clause 133. If my right honorable friend, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), being put under some pressure in the caucus, said to himself, “ Well, I will give them something which looks like a government insurance office “, I could understand this provision, because it would be characteristic of his whimsical approach to these matters; but, if he really intends to establish a government insurance office - and I do not know yet - he will agree with me that this is the most extraordinary way of doing it ever put before us. Here is a proposal - and I must take it as a serious proposal - to set up for the Commonwealth of Australia, to operate all over Australia, under the obligation to expand and develop its business in competition with private citizens an office which will proceed to write all or any classes of insurance business. If such a proposal, however neatly it fits into the Labour party’s policy, is to be put before the people of Australia, it is an affront to their intelligence and a failure to recognize what is due to them not to submit to them a detailed proposal which they could examine, the value of which they could estimate, and which they could understand. Instead of that, all that is said is that, if the Executive of the day decides to establish a life office, it may do so by regulation. That insurance office will have such powers as the Executive decides it shall have, such duties as the Executive decides it shall have and such privileges, rights and remedies as the Executive decides. The whole matter is taken out of the hands of the Parliament into the hands of the Executive, though the power, if exercised, would represent one of the most dramatic stuns in the direction, of socialism that the Commonwealth has experienced. I have said many times - and. I do not want to repeat it ad nauseam, though I propose to emphasize it from time to time - that one of tho characteristics of the present Administration is its utter contempt for I he authority of Parliament. Here we have a perfect example of it. I do not believe that in any other parliament in the world the Executive would be prepared to go in for an enterprise of this kind on the authority of a few words in an act transferring the power to it.
Let me say just a few words more, not on the form of this matter, but on its merits. No case has. been made to establish that the setting up of a government insurance office is necessary. I talk in particular about life insurance, because this is a life insurance bill. Here is a branch of life insurance in which the field is dominated by mutual life offices, which have no shareholders’ capital, which have no shareholders’ interests to consider, and which have no shareholders’ dividends to earn; offices the whole interest of which is wrapped up with the policy-holders; offices which, if they earn profits and those profits are distributable, distribute them by way of bonus additions to the amounts insured. There we have, I should have thought, the perfect illustration of a type of business in which no conflict can arise between what the society is doing and what the community as a whole wants. Yet the Government proposes to enter that field and to set up a Commonwealth life insurance office ! The retort might be made to me that my remarks could not be disputed if only the great mutual life offices were involved, but that one of the smaller life insurance companies might get into financial difficulties and leave its policy-holders lamenting. In that event, it would be argued, it would bc a very good thing that there should be a Commonwealth Government insurance office ready to absorb them in much the same way as the Commonwealth Bank is to be ready to absorb any trading bank that may happen to fail. As to that contention, I have had put into my hand a copy of a letter written by the secretary of the Life Offices Association to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on the 19th May last, in which reference was made to the power to take over any company which appears to be about to fail. The letter stated -
I take the liberty of informing you that the major offices themselves would be prepared to give you an undertaking to take over the business of any company deemed not i” be in a position to meet its liabilities.
That was a very far-reaching offer, made by responsible bodies, because when we talk about mutual life offices in this country, we, think of great organizations like the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the National Mutual Life Assurance of Australasia Limited, and others, which are well able financially to take over some smaller company that had failed. Their very names would be a complete guarantee to the policy-holders of the performance of all obligations.
The other remark which I want to make is this: Is it seriously thought that a Commonwealth office will be more effectively run than one of the great mutual life offices of Australia? Is it seriously put before us that a new government department will be able more effectively to deal with the needs of those seeking life insurance, and provide better life insurance benefits? The answer to that can be made, I venture to say, by an overwhelming majority of honorable members in this chamber in their private capacities. If a Commonwealth life office were established to-morrow and honorable members were of an age when they were contemplating further life insurance, they would still take out their policies, not in the Commonwealth life office, but in one of the great mutual life societies, with an ordered business, a developed financial structure, and a capacity in normal times for bonus additions to policies.
– Even if only for the “ flying start “.
– Precisely ; that is what I had in mind. My last observation on the clause is this: If ever I came across a back-handed way of putting the Government into the fire, marine and accident insurance business, it is thisone.. Here is a measure which is called the Life Insurance Bill, and devotes the overwhelming bulk of its space to life insurance matters. Yet, by a few words, in what I describe as a “ back-hand “ fashion, power is to be taken by the Executive to set up a fire office, a marine office,an accident office, a workers’ compensation office, or an office to deal with any type of insurance other than life insurance.
In a broad way, as I said at the beginning of my speech, this bill gives protection - andI believe effective protection - to policy-holders; and the policyholders are the people vitally concerned in life insurance. That protection is effective as a matter of statute. But I remind the Government that the real protection to policy-holders, apart from statutory and technical provisions, is to be found in the preservation of the value of the money in which the policy will be paid. It is a very good thing that we should remember from time to time - and I am sure that the Treasurer will agree with this, although I sometimes think that his policy disagrees with it - that the inflation of the currency, in other words, the devaluation of the £1, produced by had finance, is something which hits first and foremost the man whose right to money is a right to the payment of a fixed sum at some future date. In a period when there is inflation of the currency, weekly wages can be adjusted, and all sorts of current payments can, with some difficulty and a certain amount of lag, be adjusted to some fluctuation in the amount of money. But in the case of a life insurance policy which is to come due 10, 20 or 30 years hence, no such adjustment can be made. A man who, at this moment, insures his life for £1,000, payable in 1955, will collect only £1,000, even though the value of the £1 might by that time have fallen to 6s. or 7s. We cannot protect policy-holders completely by auditors’ examinations, by a system of deposits or statutory funds, or by any of the excellent provisions of this bill. The greatest protection that they will need is such a handling of Australia’s monetary and financial policy in the next few years that the currency will maintain a stable value and. therefore, insurance policies will continue to be worth what they purport to be worth.
I do not desire to speak at any greater length. With the bulk of the bill I find myself in complete agreement. But 1 am firmly opposed to Part VI., in which power is taken to establish a Commonwealth government insurance office. I also desire, as I have said, and for the reasons which I have stated, to recall to the minds of honorable members the fact that the monetary factor is unaffected by this bill, but may be very gravely affected by other policies.
– Although this bill is essentially a measure for consideration in committee, I desire to make a few observations on the second reading. The subject of insurance has received the attention of governments for many years, and it is opportune for me to point out at this stage some of the history of life insurance legislation in Australia. By section 51 placitum xiv of the Constitution, the Commonwealth has power to pass legislation dealing with “ insurance other than State insurance ; also State insurance extending beyond the limits of the State concerned “. In 1908, the Deakin Government appointed a royal commission to inquire into and report upon assurance. After a most searching inquiry, it completed and presented its report in 1910. The report was divided into two parts. The first related to life assurance, and the second to fire insurance. To life assurance companies 111 detailed questions were submitted, and no fewer than 85 recommendations were made by the commission regarding life assurance alone. The first recommendation was -
That in the interest of the life offices and of the public, it is desirable that the independent legislative provisions of the several States relative to the transaction of life assurance business should be superseded by the enactment of a uniform federal law.
Such legislation is now before the House, although it contains more farreaching provisions than the royal commission recommended. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) explained, the bill contemplates the establishment of a Commonwealth Government Insurance Office which will not necessarily confine its business to life insurance. However, I shall deal with that aspect in due course. In the interval between 1910 and the present time, various life insurance bills have been drafted and introduced into this Parliament, but no comprehensive measure has been enacted. The present bill is obviously constructed from various sources. Its foundation is the findings of the royal commission, which, in my opinion, presented a particularly able report. It stated, inter alia, that assurance funds were essentially trust funds, that companies should be registered, and that substantial deposits should be made with the Commonwealth as a guarantee of good faith. A bill drafted for the Government of the United Kingdom, although it has not yet been enacted, contained many of the clauses of this bill, whilst the legislation of other dominions, notably that of South Africa, and the legislation of the various States, have also been examined, and suitable provisions with a local application have been extracted. The only material in this measure which differs substantially from a draft prepared for the Commonwealth Government in 1938, by the Actuarial Society, may be summed up as follows : - First, the provision dealing with judicial management and winding up, and, secondly, the part which allows the establishment of a Commonwealth Government insurance office. The first principle has been adopted from the legislation of South Africa, and its purpose is to provide greater security for policy-holders. Therefore, it is not my intention to criticize it. I am in complete agreement with that provision, but emphasize the very pertinent contention of the Leader of the Opposition, that the stability of the Australian £1 is the greatest possible security to policy-holders. The provisions relating to a government insurance office should not be included in the bill. Obviously, they give power for many controversial matters to be dealt with by regulation, whereas the Parliament should have the right to discuss carefully any proposals which involve a departure from the existing methods of life insurance organization, management and control. This is another instance of the practice so frequently employed by the Government of taking away from Parliament its power of control over matters of major importance. I protest emphatically on behalf of the Australian
Country party against this unwise and unsavoury method of legislation. The people’s representatives in this Parliament should be given every possible opportunity to discuss such important matters as may be dealt with by regulation under this bill. Delegation of authority to bureaucrats should not be tolerated for one minute longer than is necessary, and there is absolutely no need for a life insurance trading department to be subject to control by regulation. The practice of superseding the rights of Parliament is growing, like a dangerous cancer.
– Why did the right honorable member use the word “ unsavoury “ ?
– I used it in a political sense. The drafting of this bill is in strong contrast to that in the two measures relating to banking which recently passed this House. It is ironical that many safeguards which the Opposition fought unsuccessfully to have included in the banking bills should be incorporated in this measure. I refer especially to the numerous clauses which allow an appeal to the High Court, thus preserving the subject from the arbitrary abuse of power which might otherwise occur. Honorable members on this side of the chamber tried consistently, when the banking bills were before the House, to secure the right of appeal to the High Court as a general principle of the legislation, in order to guard against the misuse of authority vested in the Governor of the ‘Commonwealth Bank or the Treasurer. The principle has been accepted in the drafting of this bill. However, I direct attention to the absence from clause 19 of provision for a company to appeal to the High Court against a refusal by the Commissioner to grant registration. That omission is probably due to an oversight in drafting. The clause provides that the commissioner may refuse to register any new company, if the Treasurer agrees, without stating reasons for doing so. I ask the Treasurer to reconsider the clause with a view to providing for the right to appeal to the High Court. The clause is far too arbitrary in its present form. I recall that, when the banking legislation was before the House, honorable members on the Government side of the chamber showed signs of amusement when the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) suggested that the Treasurer should inform the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in writing of Government policy, when it differed from the bank’s policy. All sorts of arguments were used by them against the suggestion. Nevertheless, the same honorable gentlemen will probably vote unanimously for clause 54 of this bill, which provides that companies, including the government insurance office, shall supply forthwith in writing, upon demand by the Commissioner, any information relating to any matter in connexion with their insurance business. That is similar to the provision that we sought to have embodied in the banking legislation. Furthermore, clause 148 makes provision for a fine of £1,000, or imprisonment for not more than six months, as a’ penalty for failure to comply with such a demand by the Commissioner. If the Commissioner should also be in charge of the government insurance, office, he may, under clause 54, obtain information from rival companies which would be of great value to him in conducting the Government’s competitive business. This is unfair. Competition should be on an equitable basis.
– It is pulling the long bow to suggest that the Commissioner will also conduct the government insurance office.
– The possibility exists under clause 54, but I shall deal with it in detail in the committee stage. That clause does not refer to routine statistical information, the furnishing of which to the commissioner is provided for in clause 144. Therefore, any information which the commissioner may demand under clause 54, must refer to information other than routine statistics and must invOlve the disclosure of data which would be valuable to the Government insurance office and detrimental to the private company concerned. Clause 134 provides for the establishment, under section 62a of the Audit Act 1901-34, of such trust accounts as are necessary for the purpose of the Commonwealth Government insurance office. In con sidering this clause, I suggest that honorable members refer to section 4 of the National Welfare Fund Act 1943, which is as follows: - (1.) There shall be a Trust account which shall be known as the National Welfare Fund. (2.) The Trust, account established under the last preceding sub-section shall be a trust account for the purposes of Section 62a of the Audit Act 1901-1934.
It is well known what happened to the £27,899,572 which had been paid into the National Welfare Fund up to the 30th June, 1944. According to last year’s budget papers, no less than £25,500,000 of that amount was invested in treasurybills at li per cent. Section 62a of the Audit Act provides that such trust funds shall be invested in government securities, and treasury-bills have been accepted as being government securities. Therefore, any moneys coming into trust accounts under this bill may be invested likewise to the disadvantage of policy-holders. They should be invested in securities earning the current rate of interest applicable to Commonwealth loans. If policy-holders’ bonuses and funds are invested in the cheapest form of finance that the Commonwealth Government enjoys at the present time, namely, treasury-bills at li per cent., they will be treated most unfairly. This is a decided weakness in the bill and the clause should be amended in order to remove the temptation for the funds to be applied as I have indicated. The Government’s approach to this bill is refreshing after its treatment of the banking legislation. Whoever has handled this measure on behalf of the Government has taken a practical and common-sense view. Realizing that, that, if a government insurance office-is to be established, it should at least be placed on a fair competitive basis with other insurance offices, provision is made for the office to pay both Commonwealth and State taxes on its income. That is a fair provision, and it is a matter for regret that a similar provision was not included in the banking legislation in regard to the Commonwealth Bank, which will operate as a competitor of the trading banks. I reserve further observations and criticisms of the bill for the committee stage.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has given his benediction to this measure, except in respect of those clauses which seek to establish a government insurance office, and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has not criticized its general structure either. He has compared it with the recently passed banking bills, to the disadvantage of the latter. Generally, his endorsement of the principles of the bill was as wholehearted as that of the Leader of the Opposition. We shall have an opportunity in committee to consider whether the Government ought to establish an insurance office or not. As the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said in his second-reading speech, the legislation is, in effect, a consolidation of existing State and Commonwealth laws. The measures which have been enacted by State parliaments over the years have been studied by the Government’s advisers, who have extracted the best features of all of that legislation and embodied them in this measure. It is a pity that Australia has had to wait 45 years for a comprehensive measure on life insurance. With the exception of the Parliament of New South Wales, all the State parliaments have passed considerable legislation on this subject, because it was realized that a matter that was so important to the people should not be left to the whim of company managers. The basis of this bill is largely the Victorian legislation enacted in 1938, 1939 and 1940. Because of the agitation that had arisen throughout Victoria over the inadequate returns that persons were receiving even from some of the best life insurance companies for the premiums they paid over the years, the Dunstan Government in 1938 appointed a royal commission to investigate life insurance.
– Surrender value also r-ame into it.
– That is so. There was also a tendency by certain companies to avoid, on frivolous grounds, the obligation to meet claims. Sometimes errors occurred which were so trivial that the companies did not call the attention of policy-holders to them, yet these errors were made the grounds of avoidance of payment. Sometimes the errors were detected at an early stage, but at other times they did not become apparent, at any rate to the policy-holders, for many years. One of the best of the Australian companies is the Australian Mutual Provident Society, but even it did not escape criticism by the royal commission in respect of its whole life policies. I had the honour to be the secretary of the Victorian commission, and I recollect that during the course of its investigations a venerable clergyman of the Church of England who had reached the great age of 94 years complained that the Australian Mutual Provident Society was still demanding premiums from him on a whole-of-life policy. He was told by the company that he would be required to continue his payments until he reached 95 years of age. He lived to that great age, and there was in that fact, I thought, an element of poetic justice. Some of the smaller companies acted rather disgracefully towards certain of their policy-holders. The Victorian inquiry disclosed that some of the companies were not solvent. I was interested in the remarks of the Leader of the Oppotion on this aspect of the subject. The Treasurer also referred to the uncertainty about the ability of some companies to meet their obligations. When the Victorian commission was engaged in its inquiries eight or nine years ago it learned that one company, which is still operating in Australia, would have been able to pay, at that time, only 6s. 8d. in the fi. I do not think that it would be able to pay much more than that even now. There was a suggestion in 1940 or 1941 by the life insurance offices that they should absorb that particular company, but nothing has been done in that respect. It should ‘be put beyond any question that policy-holders will reap the rewards of their thrift when their policies reach maturity. It has happened on occasions that policyholders have had to approach the courts in both Victoria and New South Wales in order to obtain the returns from their policies to which they were entitled on maturity.
Provision is made in this bill that a government life in sum ncc office, if it be established, shall be empowered to absorb companies which are liable to collapse. I do not suggest that a government office should be established mainly for that purpose. If such an office is to be brought into being, it should be put1 on an equal footing with the existing companies. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition concerning government insurance offices interested me, because I remember some statements made by the late Mr. T. J. Ryan, a former Premier of Queensland, in a book that he published about 1918 under the title Socialism at Work. The volume contains valuable information on the subject of government insurance offices. When the Queensland Government established the Queensland Government Insurance Office it included in that legislation provisions by which the existing companies were obliged to reduce their premiums considerably. The State office then demonstrated that insurance business could be transacted profitably at the lower rates.
– The -reduction of rates related to fire insurance, not life insurance.
– I believe that fire, accident and .marine insurance were all involved. The Queensland office was so successful that it is to-day in the forefront of insurance enterprises. I was so impressed by its solidity that’ I took out a policy with it in 1923.
It is significant that although the Queensland office is entitled to transact all- classes of insurance, the commissioner has not engaged in industrial life insurance. That form of insurance, which is popular in Australia, gives the least satisfactory return to policy-holders. Some day a government will be obliged to prohibit the transaction of industrial life insurance, because it is notorious that the persons who adopt that form of insurance never receive a reasonable return.
– That is owing to the extraordinary expense of that’ form of business.
– Precisely. The Australian Mutual Provident Society, which has the best record, has not succeeded in reducing its costs in industrial life insurance below 25 per cent. One company had an expense rate of 60 per cent, which it has now reduced to 40 per cent. With such high rates of expense it is obvious that policy-holders cannot expect good, or even reasonable, returns. The high cost is due to the method by which the business is transacted. In ordinary life insurance the persons insured pay in their premiums by cheque or by lodgment at the office, but in industrial life insurance the payments are made week by week to collectors who call from house to house. Forfeitures in industrial life insurance are much more numerous that in ordinary life insurance. A weekly newspaper published in Sydney has drawn attention recently to the high percentage of forfeitures in Australian life insurance, but the great majority of these forfeitures relate to industrial life policies. Our rate of forfeiture in ordinary life policies i.« not greater than that of other countries.
The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, said that life insurance in Australia was transacted mainly by local mutual societies. It is true that the greatest volume of business is done by the mutual companies, but the fact is that only three of these, the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the Australasian Temperance and General Mutual Life Assurance Society, and the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited, do industrial business. There are, in Australia, some societies which describe themselves as mutual but which are not mutual. One of these is the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited.
– It is partly mutual.
– It shares a proportion of its profits with policy-holders.
– That is true, but it is not really mutual. Its articles of association provide that 20 per cent, of its profits shall be devoted annually to shareholders, and only 80 per cent, to policy-holders. In actual practice the shareholders receive only 10 per cent, of the- profits. The wholly mutual societies were most favorably reported upon by the Victorian commission. That commission, by the way, was unique in that the whole of its recommendation? were given legislative effect, some of them promptly, and others after some slight delay. The chairman of the commission was the gentleman who is now Mr. Justice Clyne, of the Supreme Court of the Austalian Capital Territory. The other members of the commission were the Government Actuary of Victoria, Mr. 0. Gawler, the Accountant of the Treasury of Victoria, Mr. T. Forristal, and a leading officer of the Chief Secretary’s Department of Victoria, Mr. A. J. James. The commission made an exhaustive investigation of the principles of industrial life insurance.
– Did it give any consideration to the position of companies whose assets were increasing in terms of money but whose disbursements to Australian policy-holders were diminishing in terms of money? There is no problem in that connexion with the purely mutual company.
– The Victorian law provides that no Australian company shall devote more than 20 per cent, of its profits annually to shareholders. In this bill the Government has related the profits of shareholders to the disbursements to policy-holders. It has done something better than the one-to-four basis of the Victorian act, and that will be. to the advantage of the great body of policy-holders. Speaking generally, the bill follows the lines of the Victorian legislation, but in some respects its provisions are an improvement on the State law. Consideration has also been given to the legislation of Great Britain, South Africa, New Zealand and other countries.
I wish to say a few words on the provisions that will permit the Commonwealth to establish an insurance office. In several States, an accident insurance office has been established under statutory authority,- for example, in Victoria. At least 30 years ago, a Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament of Victoria recommended that the act be amended to permit the State office to engage in all forms of insurance business. That move failed. But Queensland has had a general insurance office since about 1918; and in 1942 the Parliament of New South Wales passed an act for the establishment of a general life insurance office in that State. I believe that the State of New South Wales was enabled to engage in insurance at an early date, but the legislation was repealed.. However, the Legislative Council passed the measure that was sent to it in 1942. The majority of the members of that chamber’ were not then, and are not now, Labour supporters,’ yet they saw no> harm in the State engaging in the business of life insurance. New Zealand hashad a Government insurance office since about 1875. There was not a Labour party in that dominion when that officewas established, and socialism wasnot even heard of. It cannot be argued,, therefore, that there is anything inherently bad, or even politically “ unsavoury “ - using the term employed by the Leader of the Australian Country party - in the establishment of such an. office by the Commonwealth Government.
– What would be the position in relation to compulsory workers’ compensation in Queensland, where the State has a monopoly of thatbusiness ?
– Although I am not a lawyer, I should imagine that the Commonwealth power would override the State law, in the event of inconsistency.
– Does the Commonwealth propose to threaten the State?
– Not at all. The present proposal is merely to take the power, not to set up the office. The right is being established for a government responsible to this Parliament to set up an office at some time should it so desire.
– There will be great difficulty, because all the States have different laws in relation to workers’ compensation.
– All the States have different laws in relation to insurance generally. We are codifying the insurance law and making it general and uniform. It is generally agreed that that is desirable. The trouble has been that some States have given no protection to holders of life insurance policies in respect of surrender values, paid-up policies, or the principles upon which premiums are determined. Some of the States have given reasonable protection in respect of those and other matters. Upon the passage of this legislation, the whole of the conditions will be uniform throughout the Commonwealth. What happens in regard to life insurance will happen also in regard to accident, fire or any other form of insurance, should the Commonwealth at any time decide to introduce such legislation and to establish an office to engage in such business.
– Is there any present intention to do that?
– All that the Government has decided is that the power to do that shall be taken. Any pronouncement of policy will be made in due course. The Treasurer gave no indication in his second-reading speech that action would be taken immediately to establish such an office. Apparently, that is the only contentious part of the bill. Otherwise, the measure is generally acceptable to the Opposition parties.
– Power could be taken at any time, by the introduction of legislation to establish a government office.
– Power is now being taken to set up an office, and it will be possible to implement this authority by means of regulations. To that, the Leader of the Opposition offers strong objection. That part of the measure may be argued in committee.
– Will the Government consider an amendment?
– I commend the bill to the House, as the Treasurer did. Honorable members opposite may submit any amendments they may desire to have made.
– Will all of them be rejected inadvance?
– If , the Treasurer deems them to be reasonable, and likely to improve the bill, no doubt he will accept them; otherwise, he may feel it obligatory on him to reject them.
.- To the extent that this legislation will effect uniformity of insurance throughout Australia, replace State laws, incorporate existing Commonwealth acts, lead to the appointment of an insurance commissioner, and set up certain machinery, it commends itself to honorable members. But the Opposition will strongly contest the obnoxious provisions for the establishment of a government insurance office under Part VI. That, of course, is a part of the Government’s platform, and one need not dilate upon it. Any mention of socializing or nationalizing immediately shepherds the caucus sheep through the socialist gate. One can only hope that that proposal will not be implemented. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said that the Government is merely taking power. I submit that it is not necessary to take power until it has to be used ; therefore, the Government might have awaited specific legislation in that regard. The Minister also expressed the hope that Opposition members would submit any amendments they had. I have a proposal which should have the support of all honorable members. I criticize the way in which some life insurance offices regard the life policies of members of the services. Some life policies contain this ungenerous clause -
The liability of the company under the within policy shall be limited to the amount of premiums paid, with compound interest thereon, at the rate of 3½ per cent. per annum, to the date of death in either of the following events : -
If the assured shall be in actual mili tary service as a combatant, or a noncombatant, and shall as the direct or indirect result of such service die prior to the determination of such service, or within six calendar months after such determination; or
If the assured shall die in consequence of any happening in or to an aircraft in which he was other than a passenger. (In or outside of Australia.)
That means that, if the holder of a policy meets death while piloting an aircraft, the policy becomes null and void. Several companies introduced that stipulation on the 23rd September, 1939. Many persons who, at thatdate, were not of an age to enlist, will have taken out policies since, and have been called up or volunteered. Some companies have agreed that New Guinea shall be included in the area, with respect to which the premiums shall be paid in full. Yet that does not apply to men who served in the Middle East, or to the whole of the members of the Royal Australian Air Force whoserved in Britain. Incidentally, Royal Australian Air Force personnel who served in Britain do not qualify for the 1939-43 Star, whereas any member of the forces who has served in New Guinea for six months will receive the Pacific Star. The insurance policies of those killed while serving in New Guinea are paid in full, yet cancellation as at the date of death is the practice of some companies in respect of policy-holders1 who served overseas. Will any one claim that that id just? I urge honorable members to view this matter in a non-party spirit. I intend to move later an amendment dealing with it. The attitude of the companies is ungenerous, not to say mean. They arc well-founded business organizations. Some of them are mutual, and return to the policyholders all the profits that they make. Those who are comparatively safe while insured might at least pay a little higher rate, so that the policies of others who are killed might be paid in full. I recollect that in 1914 I sought to be insured, but could not, take out a policy with any company because I was a member of the Air Force. Time has changed that, practice slightly. The adoption of the present practice shows that the dangers of aviation are quite misunderstood. There should be no greater penalty on the man who flies than on the man who serves in another combatant arm, particularly in Vew Guinea. Some honorable members have been written to by a Mr. Bacon regarding the services of members of his family, some of whom are in the Royal Australian Air Force. All honorable members may read the letter. Those who do, will concede the justice of the case stated. The amazing feature is that when Australia seemed in great danger New Guinea was included in the risk accepted by the insurance companies, and those policy-holders were covered, whereas the policies of others killed overseas were cancelled, the company repaying only the total amount of premiums paid, plus a small rate of interest. That is a penalty on patriotism; in other words, a premium on service at home. I say that, not sarcastically but factually.
– Private enterprise, which the honorable member lauds so much, is responsible for that.
– I hope that political considerations will not be introduced and that should a Commonwealth insurance office be established its policies will embody my proposal. It should be pro vided that no higher rate shall be loaded upon those who serve and that they shall receive the full measure of their insurance. I think all honorable members will agree with that. A young air crew member, whom I knew, the inheritor of his father’s business, which was being carried on under great difficulties for him by his mother, was killed on a flight over Germany. When his affairs were settled his mother received a microscopic payment from an insurance company, with a brief letter to say that because of a certain clause in his insurance policy she was not entitled to his life, insurance.
– He was probably quite unaware of that clause when he’ signed the agreement.
– Yes. I was unaware of it until I saw that letter. I knew that there was a specific penalty rate prescribed for people who piloted aircraft, but I did not know that any man who flew in one from Great Britain after a certain date came within its provisions. The mother claims that her son did not know of that clause. Doubtless, many others are in the same predicament. Had this airmen been killed in an air accident or in any other way in Australia, his insurance would have been paid in full. How hollow are the words “never in the field of human endeavour was so much owed by so many to so few “ when this can happen. I advised the mother to seek legal, advice and send a strongly worded note to the insurance company, but the solicitor advised that she had no case. It was not the company referred to in the circular to which reference has been made, but another company in Sydney. This bill provides the opportunity to the Government to safeguard policy-holders and their dependants against that sort of thing. Whether honorable members opposite like a government insurance office or I like private enterprise matters not. What I seek is the protection of policy-holders. I therefore ask that before this bill reaches the committee stage honorable members will think over my proposal, which may mean that many young men, who cannot speak here for themselves, shall receive justice.
More practical patriotism is wanted from the insurance companies, notwithstanding their actuarial difficulties.
.- This legislation will stabilize life insurance throughout Australia. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out, it will affect more than 4,000,000 policy-holders, which means that practically every home in this country is affected in some way or other by life insurance. In fact, it is an integral part of our economy, and it is therefore essential that it should be on a stable basis. The success of life insurance institutions is mainly based on confidence and sound management, which makes it essential that there be governmental supervision and control of their activities. Establishment costs of many insurance companies were very high. Lt is necessary for them to sell insurance to the people, and that involves heavy expense in commissions, but most of the life insurance companies of Australia are now on a fairly sound actuarial basis. ‘Governmental control is desirable because of the millions of pounds of savings of the workers and other sections of the community held by them. Although most life insurance companies are reputable, and are administered by men of integrity, abuses do occur, and it is to prevent such abuses that this legislation is before us. This bill also provides for the control of administrative costs, which, in many instances, arc still too high, in view of the length of time in which the organizations have been operating, and ought to be capable of reduction. If those costs are not reduced, the Commonwealth will have power under this legislation to ensure that in the interests of the policy-holders they shall be. This legislation will also have the effect of protecting existing concerns and will limit new flotations. There have been many cases of failure of insurance companies in whose hands sections of the community have been prevailed upon by canvassers to invest their savings. Such enterprises have proved to be merely mushroom growths. Not only those who have invested in the companies but also the policyholders have lost their money. The insurance field is fairly well covered by the existing organizations. There does not seem to be much Toom for the establishment of new companies, ai any rate under private control. The mutual societies are well established and well managed. However, some provision must be made to enable large industrial organizations, which may be interested in establishing their own insurance offices for their employees, to do so. The provision for the licensing of such organizations is therefore needed. This legislation will also protect policy-holders against forfeiture of premiums in the event of their being unable to fulfil their contracts. Millions of pounds have been lost to people who have invested their savings in life insurance and then been unable to continue to pay premiums, owing to loss of employment or sickness and the absence of provision in the policy for their recoupment of any portion of the amounts that they have paid. Provision is made in the bill that after a policy has been in operation for three years, a policy-holder shall, upon request, be given a paid-up policy. In that respect I have had brought to my notice by the secretary of a labour league in my electorate, a most unfortunate case. He wrote to mc recently in these terms -
This policy holder some years ago took out a life policy which was not fully explained to him, and he now finds that he has paid over the value of the policy and that as lie has many years of life ahead of him it would appear that owing to the small amount of bonuses under the policy, the more he pays in the years to come, the worse the position gets.
I have the original letter sent on the 21st. May last by the chief clerk of the insurance corporation concerned-
We are in receipt of your letter of the 21st inst., enclosing yearly premium amounting to £4 rs. Id., due in connexion with the above-numbered policy and our official receipt is attached hereto, and for which we thank you, In reply to your other inquiries, we desire to state that this is a whole of life contract providing for the payment of £100 in the event of your Death and up to the present juncture, Bonuses amounting to £2 5s. have been allocated under the contract and any subsequent bonuses allotted will be added to the Sum Assured payable in the event of your Death and the amount of £102 0s. lid. has been received by the corporation up to the present date. There is no condition attached to your policy whereby the premiums should cease on any specified period or the attainment of a specified age, as the Contract provides for the premiums be paid throughout life and we trust that this information meets with your requirements.
That mari may live to he 100 and have to pay £4 7s. Id. every year of his life. Yet all he will receive in bonuses will be approximately £2 a year. So, the more he pays in, the worse for his estate. He wrote a letter to the corporation on the 27th May -
Your letter of the 21st inst. received. I am not satisfied with having to continue yearly premiums without having the amount of same added to my policy. I may live long enough to pay double the amount and be the loser as far us bonuses are concerned.
In this case the bonus is less than half the yearly premium. One would think that after a long period of years the annual bonus would be more than the premium. Otherwise there would be no incentive to continue payment. The letter gots on -
They are not worth considering by past amounts allotted. If you have not something better to offer, worth consideration, will you inform me the amount of the surrender value? 1 will not ever be satisfied to pay more premiums and lose the money. I know 301 will most likely quote contract. That is not to be considered by me as these things are not explained, only the advantages. Hoping you see your way clear to giving me a fair deal.
The policy-holder has added a note to that copy -
No reply received to this and I don’t think I will get any.
Apparently the full facts of the contract were not known to the policy-holder. Obviously, it is unfair to expect him to go on paying for another 20 or 30 years and have his estate receive much less than he has actually paid in premiums. That company did not even reply stating whether or not there was some provision in the contract to enable him to call for a paid-up policy.
– Is it a well-known company?
– Yes. He should be entitled to demand a paid-up policy. In such a case the Government should step in to ensure that the insured shall have that right, if it is not already provided in the contract.
This bill also empowers the Executive to establish a Commonwealth Government insurance office. That is a logical step in the right direction. To my mind, it is the only way in which there can be an extension of life insurance business, because the cost and risks involved in the establishment of privately controlled life insurance offices make them precarious ventures. The logical development is along the lines of a governmental or semigovernmental organization. Success would be assured, because a government office would have the backing of the Commonwealth. Such an office ought to be able to ensure that premiums and bonuses shall be on a fair basis. One avenue of insurance in which existing organizations have not engaged to any great degree is in regard to superannuation of employees in private industry. The premium rates in such schemes at present are fairly high, and not much protection is given to workers who transfer from one employment to another. One organization which has its own superannuation scheme provides that employees shall qualify for superannuation after ten years’ service, but it is a peculiar fact that many employees, as they approach the completion of that period of service arc sacked for some reason or other.
Sitting suspended from 6-8 to 8 p.m.
– The opening up and extension of this field of insurance would not encroach upon the preserves of existing insurance societies, particularly the mutual life insurance societies, but would provide a measure of economic security, and protect the accrued rights of workers who paid premiums for a number of years and subsequently desired to transfer to some other employment. In addition, a government insurance office would create greater stability, and enable workers in industry to enjoy their retirement in reasonable comfort. This insurance might be effected by the workers taking out policies through a government institution, with contributions by employers from the profits of industry and with support from the Government. The money (payable to contributors would supplement the present invalid and old-age pension. This institution would encourage thrift, and create greater purchasing power and prosperity. Just as provision has been made for the Commonwealth Bank to absorb or manage financial institutions that might become unstable, so a government insurance office could control under similar conditions small unstable insurance companies. As the figures which I read earlier in relation to a particular policy indicated, that company has not yet found its feet. Not having been able to stabilize its position, it must charge relatively high premiums, and no provision has apparently been made to grant a fully paid policy at a certain period. Although I informed the honorable member for Balaclava that it is a well-known life insurance society, I should say in fairness that it is not one of the major companies. No doubt that is one of the reasons why it must charge a relatively high premium, and, in effect, has to establish itself at the expense of policy-holders. If that society tended to become unstable, a government insurance office could intervene and protect their rights.
Although this hill deals principally with the control of life insurance societies, provision is made for the government insurance office to engage in other classes of insurance. In New South Wales, the State Insurance Office was able, particularly in the field of fire insurance and workers’ compensation, to make a substantial reduction of premiums to policyholders. Even when the premium, rate for workers’ compensation was reduced by 50 per cent., the Government Insurance Office was able to make a profit of £1,000,000. With a change of government, the activities of the office were curtailed to some degree, but when its field of operations was restored at the direction of the McKell Government, private insurance companies reduced their premium rates. Figures supplied through the Workers Compensation Court disclosed that profits made by insurance companies in the field of workers’ compensation are still substantial ; and the Government of New South Wales has intimated that a further substantial reduction of premiums for workers’ compensation can be made by insurance companies in that State.
The spirit of competition generally will have a steadying influence, and tend to reduce administrative costs. In addition, competition will be provided with overseas insurance companies operating in Australia. Many of them have no stake in this country, and apart from the profit motive, are not interested in human values. A good illustration of that was provided by a case which came to my notice. One of my constituents, Mr. James Meredith, of Bankstown, was injured some years ago in a street accident. While he was riding on the pillion of a motor cycle, the machine was involved in a collision with a taxi cab. The rider of the motor cycle was killed, and Mr. Meredith was so badly injured that one of his legs had to be amputated. After he had been discharged from hospital, he began an action for damages against the proprietor of the taxi cab, who was insured with tho Standard Insurance Company of New Zealand, the head office of which is outside Australia. A Supreme Court jury awarded him £1,100 compensation for the loss of his leg. Aggrieved because the verdict had been given against it, the insurance company took the case to a court of appeal, and expended considerable sums of money in resisting the claim. At one period, three counsel appeared on its behalf in the case. On a. purely technical point, the company succeeded in securing a retrial, and the second jury awarded the plaintiff damages amounting to £750, and costs amounting to £250. This total of £1,000 was approximately the amount for which the owner of the taxi cab, a woman, was insured with the Standard Insurance Company of New Zealand. One would expect that, automatically after the verdict had been given by two Supreme Court juries, the plaintiff would have had no difficulty in obtaining the money. However, the insurance company took advantage of the fact that the only .party which it knew under the contract was the owner of the taxi cab, and it held that it was not answerable to the plaintiff in the action although it had fought the case and financed the defence. The nominal defendant was the owner of the taxi cab. At this stage, the legal costs incurred by the company in resisting the plaintiff’s claim amounted to £840 and the company, refusing to recognize the plaintiff, paid the balance of £160 to the owner of the taxi cab, who had suffered no injury whatever. The company obtained from her a receipt, and did not appear again in the matter. One would believe that out of common decency and humanity, the defendant would have paid the £160 to the injured man, but in a subsequent examination before the court, she admitted that she had spent and given away the whole of that amount. The Standard Insurance Company of New Zealand repudiated its obligations to the victim of the accident, thereby showing, that certain insurance ‘companies can be guilty of inhuman greed and rapacity. They have no stake in this country other than to make profits from the premiums of .policy-holders. The House will agree with the principle of this bill, but some of its provisions may call for consideration in committee. Doubtless, anomalies will arise from time to time after this legislation has come into force, but the bill will effect a long overdue reform.
.- All sections of the House have given their support to this measure, and I join with those who have expressed their approval of the Government’s exercising a general supervisory control over the life insurance .companies of the Commonwealth. The business of mutual life assurance has become a part of the community life of this young country. Proportionately, we can point to a higher percentage of persons insured than can most other countries. From that fact, we may derive considerable satisfaction, because mutual life insurance is a stabilizing influence on the life of a community. It means that the people, who have acted thriftily and participated through their savings in the growth of these co-operative organizations, have a real stake in the development of their country, in the stability of its currency, and in the soundness of its administration. Very wisely, various governments in recent years have encouraged the participation by their citizens in the business of mutual life insurance by making their premiums paid into an insurance fund a deductible item for taxation purposes. At this stage I have no detailed criticisms to offer of the measure, but I should like to bring three points to the notice of the Government, so that in due course they may be considered by the commissioner who will be appointed under this legislation.
The first point relates to the deduction permissible under income tax law. During the period of this war, the maximum permissible deduction of £100 per annum has not been varied, and, as I understand the new provision, there is no longer a deduction of the amount contributed as premium from the total amount of income earned, but there is a concession by way of rebate. During the period of this war, the purchasing value of the Australian £1 has depreciated, and I believe that that depreciation will continue in the future. Deposits totalling £240,000,000 have been lodged by the private trading banks with the Commonwealth Bank and have been “frozen”. That amount is being augmented daily by the deposits of persons who are adding to their savings in their current accounts in the trading banks.
– Order! Will the honorable member explain how he relates those remarks to the Life Insurance Bill? This expression of his views would be quite appropriate in a budget debate, but they do not appear to bear any relation to life insurance.
– The point I seek to establish is that depreciation of the currency is inevitable, because I foresee that an inflationary policy will be pursued by whatever government may be in power after the war. This Government is about to introduce the War Gratuity Bill, it already has a tremendous financial obligation in respect of deferred pay for servicemen, and it has laid plans for a large works programme in the years immediately after the war, involving expenditure which, according to Dr. Coombs, Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction, will ‘be three times as great as in the years prior to the war and greatly in excess of the amount available for expansion through private industry. Therefore, there is a danger that the value of insurance policies will he depreciated. These matters are relevant to the general problem of government control of life insurance companies, and I submit them for consideration by the commissioner to be appointed under this bill. Recently, the Parliament adopted, very unwisely in my opinion, a policy under which premiums paid by husbands on life insurance policies for i he benefit of their wives are regarded as a part of the husband’s estates. That is an unsound policy, having regard to t he stabilizing effect which insurance can have on a community, although it may be sound in strict terms of taxation policy. The effect will be to discourage husbands who have been making provision for their wives by paying premiums on life insurance policies, and this will be detrimental to the community. I should like the commissioner who will he appointed under this bill to review this policy. [ refer now to a point which has been dealt with already by the Leader of the Opposition, who pointed out that a depreciation of the currency as the result of government policy will weigh very heavily upon the persons who represent the units of the co-operative insurance organizations. This may appear to bear only on the individual, but I hope that the Government and its supporters will realize that any increase of the burden borne by individuals who are the principals of small industrial organizations will damage prospect? of increased employment and industrial expansion. In this young country, it is a common practice for the principals of small industrial organizations to take out probate insurance policies in order to cover the amount of tax which they believe will be levied on their estates upon their deaths. Most estates in Australia are either pastoral properties or industrial concerns. One consequence of the depreciation of the currency during the war has been that probate policies will prove to be insufficient to meet the claims which will he made on those companies as the result of the deaths of their principals. Therefore, the Government should be closely interested in. ensuring that the currency remains at approximately the same value as when these policies were first taken out.
Earnest consideration should also be given to the exclusion from estates of deceased persons, for taxation purposes, of amounts paid as premiums on insurance policies for the benefit of wives. I hope that the commissioner to be appointed under this bill will be required to consider not only the technical details involved in the control of our great mutual life insurance companies, but also the effect of government policy on the prospects of premium payers, with special attention to the matters which I have mentioned. I find it hard to believe that the Government would desire to discourage husbands who wish to make adequate provision for their wives and families by taking out insurance policies. Nevertheless, during the period of the war, it has incorporated in estate duty law, a provision which includes such insurance policies in the estates of deceased husbands. There has been, no variation of the amount set down as a maximum permissible deduction for taxation purposes in respect of life insurance premiums. The Government’s advisers have stated that the purchasing power of the £l note has depreciated by 22 per cent, since the outbreak of war, and many people consider that the depreciation has been considerably greater than that. Nevertheless, the Government has given no indication of its intention to increase the amount of life insurance premiums which is a permissible deduction for taxation purposes. Many persons who took out the maximum, amount of insurance which they could afford prior to the war, which was in excess of the allowable deduction for taxation purposes, now find the expense of premiums a difficult burden to bear because taxation is absorbing a large part of their incomes. I hope that the commissioner will consider my comments and advise the Government regarding such remedies as he considers to be desirable.
.- The general principles of the bill receive our approval, but there are some features which merit a little constructive criticism. I am glad to see that provision is made for elections of directors of mutual life insurance companies to be carried out on lines directed by the Government. I agree that these companies Lave done valuable work in many ways, but their directorates have become a close preserve for certain individuals, whom I need not name.
– Like the Australian Country party.
– No, not like the Australian Country party. It is noticeable that, although a very large number of the policy-holders in mutual life insurance companies live in country districts, the only persons who have an opportunity to secure election to the directorates of such concerns as the Australian Mutual Provident Society Limited, the National Mutual Life Insurance Society, or other mutual companies, belong to an exclusive coterie of city-dwellers. I cannot call to mind any country resident, or anybody closely connected with rural industries, who has ever broken into this highly select group which has control of the vast insurance organizations.
– Does the honorable member think that their ballots are “crook”?
– I do not say that there is anything wrong with the ballots, but the whole system of election of directors of mutual life insurance companies - I do not refer to shareholding companies - is loaded in favour of men who live in the cities. Therefore, I welcome the provision in this bill for ballots to be conducted on lines which enable the election of men representing interests other than those to which I have referred. At present, only a favoured few have any chance of election to these directorates, which control millions of pounds of policy-holders’ money. There are two reasons for this. The first is that city residents always have an advantage over country residents. The second, and much more important, reason is that, so far as I am aware, the voters’ lists are available only to those within the favoured group. In other words, the directors are able to circularize policy-holders, and advertise themselves and their views because they have access to information in the hands of the companies, which no other persons are able to obtain. I therefore suggest that a complete list of voters, showing the number of votes to which each is entitled, should be made available to all candidates on nomination day.
– Is not such information already available?
– I am not sure of the legal position, but I know that persons who aspire to seats on the directorates of these companies have found very great difficulty in obtaining the names of the persons elegible to vote. Such information, it would appear, is reserved for those who are already in office, or who are approved by the board of directors. It is only in accord with democratic practice that lists of voters should be available to all candidates to enable them to present their case. I hope that the Government will give consideration to this suggestion.
– I question whether that is not already provided for in the rules of the companies.
– Rules may be altered from time to time, but as we have the opportunity to make a desirable legislative provision we should make it.
– We shall give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s proposal.
– It is something of a triumph to obtain a promise of consideration even from a- private member opposite! In making these remarks I have no particular company in mind. I consider that all candidates for election to the directorate of any mutual insurance company should have access to the list of voters. I know that the Minister in charge of the bill has had a wide experience of the operations of insurance companies, .for he was the secretary of the Victorian royal commission which made an investigation of the operations of these companies. I hope that he will give careful consideration to my proposal. I believe that most honorable members will agree with what I have said.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) often dissents from the views which we express.
I direct attention now to clauses 131 to 137, which provide for the establishment of a Commonwealth insurance office. I shall not, at the moment, express an opinion as to what should be done in this regard, but I consider that the fifteen lines of clause 133 are a totally inadequate basis for the establishment of a Commonwealth insurance office, and I suggest that the Government should agree to delete Part VI. from the bill. If it is desired later to establish an office for the transaction of life, fire, accident or other classes of insurance business, a comprehensive bill should be introduced. A clause of -fifteen lines in a bill which occupies 70 pages of printed matter is a quite inadequate legislative -basis for such an enterprise. I am not entirely opposed to the Commonwealth Government engaging in the insurance business. When I was a Minister of the Crown, I had a part in the establishment of government marine insurance. At that time, the Government found it necessary to carry certain marine risks which had arisen in consequence of the war. The Government did not undertake to pay premiums, but it accepted some liability in respect of losses. There is justification, at times, for a government engaging in activities of this character. I reiterate, however, that a clause of ‘fifteen lines is not an adequate basis for the establishment of a .government insurance office. What would happen, for example, if the Government were to accept workmen’s compensation business? .1 am an employer of labour in both New South Wales and Queensland, as I live in a border district. The workmen’s compensation laws of those two States differ greatly, as do also the premiums that are payable. The liabilities under the New South Wales law are much heavier than those under Queensland law. The New South Wales act obliges employers to accept responsibilities in relation to hospitalization and doctor’s fees for which they are not liable under the Queensland law. In these circumstances it will ‘be realized that the premiums payable in Queensland are much lighter than those payable in New South Wales. !’f the Commonwealth Government were to accept business in relation to workmen’s compensation it would involve itself in very great difficulty. Therefore 1 urge that caution be exercised in this regard. -It might be relatively simple for the Commonwealth Government to accept life and fire insurance business. I have said sufficient to show the need for parliamentary consideration of all the details of the proposal for the establishment of a Commonwealth Government insurance office. If Parliament were to agree to the establishment of the office on the basis of clauses 132 and 133 the business would be almost entirely controlled by regulation and for that reason it would be objectionable to the general community- E therefore urge that those provisions be deleted.
– I welcome the introduction of this bill to control insurance ‘business in the Commonwealth. I strongly disagree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that Part VI. should be deleted, for I regard it as being highly important. Some State governments have established insurance offices, and I can see no reason why the Commonwealth Government should not also enter the field. I cannot find in the bill any reference to an aspect of life insurance which exercises my mind. The majority of the insurance companies do not try to help the beneficiaries .of a deceased policy-holder. In New South Wales - and I believe the practice to be general - testamentary dispositions of under £500 in the case of adults and of under £1,000 in the case of widows and minor children, are not subject to estate duty. I have frequently found in my electorate that the insurance policy of a deceased person has been for not more than £100; some have been as -low as £50. When a deceased person has left no real estate; it is not necessary to take out probate. Yet an insurance company will not pay even such a small amount, unless the beneficiary takes out probate. This benefits most the legal fraternity.; and if a solicitor considers that the value of an -estate is too small to make it worth his while to accept the business, the matter is handled by the Public Trustee, whose charge, too, is out of .all proportion to the amount bequeathed. In committee, I shall move an amendment, to compel insurance companies to pay the value of policies that are not dutiable, upon the production of the will sworn to by the attesting witnesses. If an assured person should die intestate, a declaration by other beneficiaries that the whole amount should be paid to the widow or the person whom they by majority select should be sufficient. Any son or daughter over the age of 21 years would willingly sign a statutory declaration of his or her preparedness to allow the whole amount of an insurance policy to pass to the mother. Where a person dies intestate and there are minor children, the widow has to provide guarantors that their interests will be safeguarded until they have reached the age of 21 .years, and are legally entitled to pass over their interest to her. It is most inconvenient for a widow, particularly when there is only a small insurance policy, to be forced by an insurance company to take out letters of administration. The Commonwealth Savings Bank operates a somewhat similar provision, but it relates only to sums of £200 or more, and the signatures of the other members of the family are accepted. One would think that insurance companies are financially interested in firms of solicitors, and wish to obtain their pound of flesh out of a “ lousy “ insurance policy.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must use proper language.
– The word “lousy” is in the English dictionary.
– Many other words that are in the dictionary may not be used in this House.
– More casualties occur in the coal-mining industry in my electorate, than in any other industry. Many miners take out insurance policies on account of the high accident risk that is associated with their occupation. I am constantly endeavouring to help to avoid the. payment of fees to solicitors for small services which would be unnecessary were the bill amended along the line3 I have indicated.
I see no reason why the great Co-operative Consumers’ Society should not have the right to engage in the business of insurance. That society is constituted differently from many other traders. It trades, not for profit, but for the mutual benefit of its share holders. Under the income tax law, it receives a concession, so long as 90 per cent, of its total trade is conducted with its shareholders. I agree that at times it sells its goods at the prices charged by other retailers; but that occurs only when it is unable to determine the actual cost price of the commodity at the date of sale. When its balance-sheet is produced at six-monthly intervals, refunds of overcharges are made, on the basis of purchases. Co-operative societies are gigantic concerns, particularly in Britain; they were also in Continental countries prior to the war. They act on the principle of “ Each for all, and all for each “, trading for the mutual benefit of their shareholders and not in any sense for profit. I am pleased to note that such a society is not to be prevented from engaging in the business of insurance.
– Every reasonable member of the community will welcome this measure. Australia, whilst not backward in regard to insurance, has been far outstripped in proportion to population by many of the older countries of the world. For the working man - or, for that matter, any other section of the community - there is no better investment than an insurance policy. A man risks his money when he bets on a race-course or invests on the Stock Exchange, but there is no risk with an insurance policy. It is the means of conferring considerable benefit on the dependants of a man after his death. The row has been hoed, and the people have been educated in regard to the benefits of insurance, by the private insurance companies of Australia, many of which are mutual societies. If young married people could be educated to the wisdom of insuring their children, probably much more good would be done than by State socialization of insurance, as will be possible under this bill. A life insurance policy is so valuable to the home that we should encourage all our people to insure. I agree that improvement may be effected to the system. Yet. the world knows no greater improvement than that for which our mutual societies have been responsible. No insurance companies give greater benefits, and none have more confidence reposed in them by the people of any country.
Nothing is fairer than the bonuses paid on Australian insurance policies. The bonuses paid by the mutual societies within the last few days are remarkable for a period of war. What I have said about the mutual societies applies also to the companies, which, in order to compete with the mutual societies, have to offer equally attractive policies to the public. In Queensland, the law provides that insurance companies shall deposit with the State Treasury sufficient money to prove their bona fides and to ensure that claims of policy-holders shall be met. Australian life insurance business is of the highest quality. No one has higher claims than those of the policyholders, not even the shareholders. I am sure that all life insurance offices, mutual or otherwise, welcome this legislation, because it ensures the safety of their policy-holders, who have the first and last claim on them. To those wise enough to insure their lives can we most safely entrust the maintenance of the value of the Australian currency; if a government recklessly depreciated the value of the Australian £1, they would be the first to suffer, because the purchasing power of what they or their dependants would receive in respect of their policies would be less than they had contracted for and expected. So they will do all within their power to ensure that no government shall indulge in inflation. An honorable member has referred to the anomaly that the possession of an insurance policy disqualifies people from the benefit of the old-age pension. That is a matter which should concern every honorable member. I remember that when you, Mr. Speaker, were a member of the little group that occupied this corner - at first there were .five members and later seven - you’ were probably the worst of the lot.
– Order !
– I say that as a compliment. You emphasized the need for a “ fair go “ for people in all walks of life. No one more than you should support the appeal that the law be so amended as to enable people with the foresight to insure their lives to qualify for the old-age pension. No provision is contained in this measure to enable them to do so. I hope that this advocacy will bear fruit in either this legislation or an amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I commend the Government foi” the provision for the appointment of an actuary to advise the insurance commissioner. Any one with any knowledge of insurance business knows that the actuary must play a leading part. Under this bill he will play an even more important part than in the past. In Queensland we have a State Insurance Office. The Queensland act provides that any one obtaining an advance from any . governmental institution must insure with that office. For instance, a dairy-farmer obtaining an advance through the Department of Agriculture for the purchase of a dairy herd must insure that herd with the State Insurance Office. The office holds a monopoly in the field of workers’ compensation insurance. Competition in that field is forbidden. iSo a success has been made of the venture. The Minister for Information has told us that the Commonwealth Government intends to enter the workers’ compensation insurance field. When asked about competition with the Queensland insurance office he interjected ‘ that the Commonwealth law would be paramount. I do not know whether the entry of the Commonwealth Government into the field would precipitate litigation with the Queensland Government, but, at least, there would be two competing government authorities. As a Queenslander, I say that there is no need for the Commonwealth to enter that field, because the State instrumentality is already functioning effectively and profitably. The Constitution prevents the exemption of any one State, and if Part VI. were not to apply to Queensland, it could not apply to any State.
I am not enamoured of the clauses providing for the Commonwealth Government to enter the insurance field, because I cannot see any need for such an undertaking. In the life insurance field, both mutual societies and companies ‘provide a service than which nothing could be fairer and, in the industrial insurance field, the Queensland Government Insurance Office already provides all the service needed in that State. All the other States have the power that Queensland already exercises to conduct insurance business, and there is no need for the Commonwealth to exercise that power to the detriment of an existing State instrumentality. The honorable member for Fawkner referred to probate insurance policies. He complained that a probate insurance policy could be drawn on for probate purposes but that ordinary policies could not be. The premiums on probate policies are paid for that very purpose and the law provides for withdrawal of the sums insured for in order to meet probate, but it does not provide for the withdrawal of the sums insured for in ordinary policies for that purpose, because that would reduce the estate on which probate was payable. I have no substantial objection to this bill, other than my general objection to the Commonwealth Government engaging in the business of insurance. One provision which should appeal to some honorable members is contained in clause 101, which deals with the non-forfeiture of industrial policies in certain circumstances of non-payment of premiums. Naturally, any legislation providing that failure to pay insurance premiums shall not constitute default willbe popular with some sections’ of the community. The Government must adopt a practical business view in dealing with these matters. In conclusion, I emphasize that the Commonwealth Government should not enter this field. If government action is necessary, the States are already taking adequate measures.
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 Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue he made for the purposes of a bill for an act rela ting to life insurance and other matters.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - “ life policy “ means a policy insuring payment of money on death (not being death by accident only or specified sickness only) or on the happening of any contingency dependent on the termination or continuance of human life (either with or without provision for a benefit under a continuous disability insurance contract), and includes an instrument evidencing a contract which is subject to payment of premiums for a term dependent on the termination or continuance of human life and an instrument securing the grunt of an annuity for a term dependent upon human life;
Amendment (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to-
That in the definition of “ life policy “, the word “ only “ be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 8 agreed to.
.- I move-
That, in sub-clause (2.), the words “subject to any directions of the Treasurer “ be left out.
The purpose of the amendment is to bring this bill into conformity with the Income Tax Act, the Sales Tax Assessment Act and other acts under ‘ the administration of a commissioner. The Commissioner of Taxation has full control of the administration of the Income Tax Act, and that means complete charge of the staff, and everything relating to it. A similar provision is contained in the Sales Tax Assessment Act, which provides that the Commissioner of Taxation shall have charge of the general administration of the act. I fail to see any reason for departing from that principle in the establishment of a life insurance department. The commissioner should have full authority, particularly administrative authority, without being subject to the direction of the Treasurer of the day.
.- The Government cannot accept this amendment. In its opinion, the analogy which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) drew between the office of insurance commissioner, and the Commissioner of Taxation, is not a true one. The Commissioner of Taxation has duties which are in no way comparable with the duties attaching to the office of the insurance commissioner. The Government considers that the insurance commissioner should be subject to the general direction of the Treasurer. But I emphasize that the directions of the Treasurer would relate to the general administration of the act, and not to any specific act of administration by the commissioner.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to18 agreed to.
The Commissioner may, on receipt of an application for registration from a company (not being a company carrying on life insurance business in Australia immediately prior to the commencement of this Act) -
subject to this Act, register the company; or
with the approval of the Treasurer, refuse to register the company.
. -I move-
That the following proviso be added: - “ Provided that where an application under th is section is refused, an appeal against such refusal may be made to the court.”
The “ court “ is defined in clause 4 as the High. Court. As several other clauses provide for an appeal to the High Court, I fail to see why provision for an appeal should not be made in this instance. The Government should accept this amendment, if only in the interests of consistency; otherwise, the expansion of life insurance business in Australia may be subject to the arbitrary whim of the Treasurer of the day.
. - The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment at this stage, but I promise the right honorable gentleman, that before the bill is dealt with in the Senate, the amendment will be considered, and, if necessary, will be inserted in the measure when that chamber is discussing it.
Clause agreed to..
Clauses 20 to 37 agreed to.
Clause 38- (2.) Subject to the payment and application of such sums as may be allocated as profits in pursuance of section fifty of this Act, the assets of a statutory fund shall not, so long as the company carries on the class or classes of life insurance business in respect of which the fund was established, be available to meet any liabilities of the company other than -
. -I move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), the word “ profits” be left out with a view to insert in lieu there of the word “ surplus “.
The explanation of the amendment is that the word “ profits “ is used in another clause, and its presence in subclause 2 would tend to create confusion. This clause sets out generally the amounts which must be carried to, and the amounts which must be carried from, a statutory fund. The principle which has been adopted is that primarily, the fund is for the security of, and, must be applied for the purposes of, policy-holder?. However, provision is made that any profits of the fund may be applied in any proper manner in conformity with the constitution of the company which would, in the case of a proprietary company, include the payment of dividends to shareholders.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 39 to 46 agreed to.
Clause 47 - (1.) A person appointedas an auditor of a company shall not be capable of performing the functions of an auditor under thisDivision unless the Commissioner has approved of his performing those functions. (2.) The Commissioner may at any time revoke any approval given in respect of any person under this section, and thereupon that person shall not he capable of performing the functions of an auditor under this Division. (3.) In the event of any approval under this Division being revoked in the case of a person who holds an appointment as an auditor of a company, the directors of the company may, subject to this section, appoint some other person to perform in respect of the company the functions of an auditor under this Division until such time as an auditor is appointed in accordance with the articles of association or other rules of the company.
– With the perseverance of Robert Emmett, when he was fighting for Home Rule, I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (4.) An appeal against the refusal or revocation of approval under this section shall lie to the Court.”.
This amendment is reasonable, and I urge the Minister (Mr. Calwell) to accept it. It is consistent with the other provisions of the bill that an appeal should be allowed against a refusal or revocation.
– The Government is not able to accept the amendment at this stage, but, again, I promise that the matter will be carefully examined.
– This may affect a very large portion of the livelihood of an individual.
– Precisely, and when I say that the Government will consider the amendment, I assure the right honorable gentleman that the matter will not be treated lightly. If the position is as the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has represented it, the Government will give to the amendment sympathetic consideration.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 48 to 53 agreed to.
Clause 54 -
The Commissioner may demand in writing from any company information relating to any matter in connexion with its business, and the company shall forthwith comply in writing with that demand.
– I move -
That the word “forthwith” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ within a reasonable time “.
I consider that the condition created by the word “ forthwith “ is far too drastic, especially having regard to the penalties provided in clause 148 for noncompliance.
– If it will meet with the wishes of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), I shall move for the exclusion of all words after “ business “.
– Thatwill satisfy me, because a “ reasonable time “ will thenbe implied.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That the words “ and the company shall forthwith comply in writing with that demand “ be left out.
.- I move-
That the following proviso be added: - “ Provided that such information shall not be demanded by or disclosed to an officer of the Commonwealth Government Insurance Office established under the provisions of Part VI. of this Act”.
The reason for my amendment must be obvious. It is designed to prevent the use by the Commonwealth Government insurance office of any information obtained under this clause from its business rivals. I draw attention to the routine information which will be supplied to the commissioner under clause 144, which will not be affected by my amendment. The commissioner might easily be required to administer the Government’s competitive life insurance office, and this would be unfair to other companies. I am sure that the Government does not wish to place itself in a position in which information obtained in one capacity may be used to obtain an unfair advantage in another capacity.
– The purpose which the right honorable gentleman desires to achieve is provided for effectively in clause 57.
-I do not think so.
– It says- (1.) Aperson shall not either directly or indirectly, except in theperformance of any duty under this Act, make a record of, or divulge or communicate to any person, any information acquired by him under this Division.
– The commissioner need not disclose the information. The mere fact of being conscious of it may affect his decisions in administering the government insurance office.
– The clause further provides that a person performing any duty under this division shall be sworn to maintain secrecy, subject to a penalty of £100 or imprisonment for six months. Surely that meets the wishes of the right honorable gentleman?
– He could possess the information, and it could influence his decisions.
Mr.CALWELL. -I appreciate the difficulty mentioned by the right honorable gentleman, but, if the commissioner used any information in his possession fraudulently or improperly, action could be taken against him.
– I am trying to guard against a position in which the commissioner under this bill could also be the officer administering the insurance office, and, being in possession of information under this clause, could unwittingly use it to the disadvantage of the office’s competi tors.
-I did not expect that the right honorable gentleman would pursue that particular line of argument. It did not occur to me that there could be such conflict. I promise him to examine the clause in order to see how non-government offices can be protected.
– The real fear which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has in mind was mentioned by him in his second-reading speech, and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) made an interjection on the subject. So long as the commissioner under this bill is not the officer in charge of the government insurance office, the problem cannot arise, because the clause mentioned by the Minister would meet the case. In order to overcome the difficulty, I suggest that provision be made at some suitable place that the commissioner referred to in the bill shall not be the officer in charge of the Commonwealth Government insurance office. I imagine that the Minister will have no difficulty in agreeing to that, because I myself can hardly imagine that a com missioner appointed as the independent controller of life insurance generally would be asked to be the manager of a competing institution. The whole matter can be put beyond any doubt by inserting a simple provision as I have suggested.
.- I admire the change of front of the Government in giving reasonable consideration to suggestions made by members of the Opposition. It is a change from what took place recently. I agree with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). I am uncertain, however, whether the Minister, in agreeing to eliminate the last line of clause 54, has not rendered the clause completely useless. Clause 54, as amended, will read -
The Commissioner may demand in writing from any company information relating to any matter in connexion with its business.
That will not be satisfactory unless there is provision somewhere else in the bill to compel a company to comply with such a demand.
– Clause 55 (1) (d) should meet the case.
– Yes. On reading that paragraph, it appears to meet my requirements.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 55 to85 agreed to.
Clause86 (Insurable interest).
.- I should like to obtain from the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) some expression of the Government’s attitude on the items of policy which I mentioned in my second-reading speech. Paragraph c of sub-clause 1 refers to the interest of a wife in the insurance of her husband’s life. For many years it was the practice to encourage husbands to take out insurance policies in respect of their own lives for the benefit of their wives. Payment of such policies upon the death of a husband was made immediately, and the sum was not treated as being a part of the husband’s estate. Several years ago, however, Parliament amended the law so that the proceeds of such a policy were treated as a part of a husband’s estate and taxed accordingly for probate purposes. Although this may have been justifiable on taxation grounds, it was not justifiable in the national interest. In the first place, the community benefits from the fact that husbands are prepared to give security to their wives and families in this way. Widows and children are not left destitute by the death of the- breadwinner. In the second place, the fact that a husband is- encouraged to invest his savings for his wife and children has a stabilizing influence upon the community as a whole. The husband has, in a sense, a vested interest in the stability of the currency, and, therefore, is not likely to support radical policies or subversive opposition to the democratically elected government of the day. The changed policy came into operation before the greatly increased rates of income tax were levied 5y the Government. Therefore, this matter should be reviewed.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I recommend that the dum payable to a wife in respect of an insurance policy upon the death of her husband should not be treated as a part of his- estate.
– He could have thrown away the same amount of money on horse racing without it being taxed, yet’ the Government taxes this contribution to his wife’s security.
– Exactly. It is an unsound policy in the national interest. I protested when the amendment was introduced into this Parliament, and I do not want the committee to disregard its implications. I now -refer to paragraph e of sub-clause 1, which relates to a corporation which is deemed to have an insurable interest in an officer or employee. It is a common practice, particularly for small companies which are dependent largely upon the enterprise and ability of one or more executive officers, to take out insurance policies on the lives of such persons. I referred in my secondreading speech to the- depreciation in the purchasing power of the £1 that has occurred’ during the last four years. Many industrial organizations which considered that they had amply covered themselves in respect of any Tosses in which they might be involved through the death of one of. their key executives may find- that because of this depreciation that they will not be adequately covered. Another factor that must be considered is that during the war estate duties have been increased on two occasions, once while the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was Treasurer and once since the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has been in office. For this reason also the provision that industrial organizations have made by way of life insurance may prove to be- inadequate for the purpose. At present estate duties are higher in Australia, taking into account both Commonwealth and State imposts, than in Great Britain. On this account also the situation should be carefully reviewed. Industrial organizations or landed property will be involved in this matter. Unless the Government gives careful attention to the points that I am making: the prospects, of our industrial organizations and great pastoral industries may be seriously affected. A careful examination of our war-time taxation procedureis necessary in order to make sure that’ measures which may have been properly taken to meet war conditions do nol impose too heavy a- burden on industry in the post-war years.
– The burden of the honorable member’s argument has been that our taxation’ policy should be reviewed. That cannot be done under this bill, but I shall refer the honorable gentleman’s remarks to the Treasurer. This clause sets out various cases in which an insurable interest is deemed to exist. It is, for the most part, merely a statement of cases that have been decided by the courts. For example, it has been decided that a husband has an unlimited insurable interest in the life of his wifeand vice versa. A new provision is, however, that a parent shall have an insurable interest in the life of his childProvided that the statutory limits of the amounts payable at death under the age of ten years are observed, it seemsdesirable that this should apply, so that parents may be encouraged to effect policies on their children, usually with the object of handing the policy over to-‘ the- child: when he attains his majority-
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 87 to 92 agreed to.
Clause 93 (Insurance by married women.).
.- I reiterate that we should do our best to encourage people to take out insurance policies. If a policy be taken out by a husband for himself and his wife separately, I consider that it is not wise to limit the amount of deduction that should be permitted in regard to income tax. I referred to this subject also in my second-reading speech. I ask the Minister to invite the attention of the officials of the Taxation Department to the points that I then made. I also ask the Government to study my remarks when the budget is under consideration and it is formulating its policy in respect of taxation. At the beginning of the war a deduction of up to £100 was permitted in respect of insurance premiums. Since that time there has admittedly been a depreciation of the currency which was probably inevitable under war conditions. [ suggest, therefore, that the Government should consider increasing the maximum amount of deduction in respect of life insurance premiums to £150 or even £200.
– There is an additional disability because in these days only a concessional rebate is allowed whereas before the war a straight-out deduction was permitted. This alteration has operated adversely to the taxpayer.
– I thank the Leader of the Australian Country party for his interjection. I made that point in my second-reading speech. It will be obvious that that variation acts adversely in respect of incomes in the higher brackets. Without doubt it is desirable from the point of view of government finance that people should be encouraged to exercise thrift by taking out insurance policies. Industrial organizations and pastoral companies should also be encouraged to make adequate provision to meet the adverse circumstances that must inevitably arise in their organizations on the death of a key executive. During the war it is desirable that as much money as possible should be made available to the Government, but conditions that suit the circumstances of war are often quite unsuitable to the circumstances of peace. I can understand the Commissioner of Taxation pressing upon the Government his view in regard to the desirability of a change over from straight out deductions to concessional rebates, but the time has come, I suggest, for a review of this procedure. I urge the Government to take these various points into close consideration.
.- This clause provides - (1.) A married woman may effect a policy upon her own life or upon the life of her husband, for her separate use, and the policy and all benefits of the policy shall enure accordingly. (2.) The protection of the last preceding section shall extend to any such policy bona fide effected by a married woman.
I believe that a ruling has been given by the Commissioner of Taxation that estate duties shall be chargeable in respect of insurance taken out by a married woman, but the position is obscure and should be clarified. I realize that the matter affects the Estate Duties Act, but that is no reason why the Government should not ensure that injustice is not being done under this clause.
– The honorable member forFawkner (Mr. Holt) has discussed the pros and cons of deductions from income and concessional rebates. The rebate system was adopted as a matter of Government policy and no doubt when Government policy is being reviewed, it also will receive attention. I shall refer to the taxation authorities the points that have been raised.No doubt the Treasurer will consider the remarks of. the honorable gentleman on the general subject of taxation.
– Will the Minister also ask for consideration of an increase of the maximum amount on which concessional rebate is allowable in respect of insurance payments? The point is important in regard to family arrangements.
-I am conversant with the argument that the honorable gentleman has used, but I do not desire to discuss it without the opportunity of careful consideration of what is involved. My remarks in such circumstances might be used in evidence against me. The point raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has relation to the Estate Duties Act. If there should be need for an amendment of this clause to clarify the position appropriate steps will be taken before the bill is finally passed.
– I understand that in regard to estate duties, account is taken of the insurance premiums paid in the seven years prior to the death of a taxpayer. I suggest that some consideration be given to the fixing of an upper limit in this matter, so that people will b£ encouraged to take out insurance policies. Otherwise a person who exercises thrift may be at a disadvantage, compared with a person who spends his money on beer or racing.
– There is merit in the suggestion of the honorable members for Richmond and Warringah. The honorable member for Richmond considers that there might be conflict between this legislation and the Estate Duty Act.
– I am asking that this shall be given precedence.
– I have been asked which would prevail in such an event. The honorable member for Warringah has argued that thrift should not be penalized while expenditure upon luxury living escapes from the burden of taxation. The point is worthy of consideration. I assure the committee that the whole matter will be examined.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 94 (Family insurance policies).
.- In this clause the Government apparently has adopted in principle the point that I sought to establish on a previous clause, because it has taken the view that even if a husband has paid premiums in respect of his wife and children, the proceeds of the policy are not to be taken as a part of his estate for the benefit of his creditors in the event of his becoming bankrupt. Under the Estate Duty Act, the proceeds of such an insurance policy are regarded as a portion of the estate for probate purposes. The practice of many husbands has been to take out policies on their own lives for the benefit of their wives and children. One of the inducements offered by some insurance companies has been that the proceeds of the policy would become available to the widow and children immediately death occurred, and they would not be caused the worry of taking out probate but could use the money for their maintenance. As I understand the Estate Duty Act, it adopted the principle that if the husband had paid the premiums the Taxation Department would be entitled to claim that the proceeds of the policy were a part of the estate. The comment that I now make - and it is made only for the purpose of supporting arguments I have already advanced - is that in this clause the Government has adopted the attitude that the proceeds of the policy are not to be available to the creditors in a bankrupt estate. The argument that I deduce from that is that it is equally logical that the Government should not press the point that the proceeds of a policy should be available to it for taxation purposes.
– The purpose of the clause is to deal with the deliberate creation of a trust for the benefit of the wife and children. I am sure that the committee will approve of that.
– T do.
– The previous argument concerned the case of a wife whose husband had paid the insurance premiums, and on her death the estate reverted to him, or vice versa. In such circumstances, a trust is not created.In this case, a trust is created, and protection is given to it subject to the provisions of the Bankruptcy Act. The clause re-enacts a form of trust policy which originated in the Married Women’s Property Act of Great Britain, and has been re-enacted in the various Australian States. It is provided that if the property is expressed to be for the benefit of the wife or children, or both, a trust to that effect is set up, and the policy shall not be available to pay any of the debts of the life insured. Provision is made for the appointment of trustees, and if no appointment be made, the life insured or his personal representative is deemed to be the trustee. As the rights of the beneficiaries may differ slightly under this provision from what they would have been under the State acts, it is provided by clause 8 that nothing in this act shall affect prejudicially the rights of any person entitled to the benefit of any policy issued prior to the commencement of this act. Policies issued after the commencement of this act will, of course, be subject to this provision alone. So far as the present argument strengthens that previously advanced by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), so much the better for his case generally when it is being reviewed.
.- Certain protection is now given under the Bankruptcy Act to the proceeds of an insurance policy upon the bankruptcy of the person on whose life the insurance has been effected. I believe that the sum of about £2,000 is taken to be entirely free from the creditor’s recourse. That was the position some time ago. Ihave known of the greatest hardship having been imposed upon many people because, by benefiting to an amount of£2,000, they cannot receive the old-age pension, yet the return from that amount would not be much more than, if indeed as much as, the old-age pension. A man keeps his insurance policy alive for many years for the purpose of providing some security for his wife and family. If he is made bankrupt during his life-time, or bis estate is bankrupt upon his death, his dependants are in a very poor position. The time has come to give very grave consideration to a substantial increase of the protection to be given to life insurance policies. In my view, the amount should be increased to at least £5,000 when a policy has been in existence for a number of years. Other action could be taken to deal with policies that have had only a short life, and have been taken out obviously for the purpose of defeating creditors.I have known of many policies that have been kept alive throughout a man’s lifetime. Having encountered bad luck towards the end of his years, and having only estate not exceeding£2,000, he has left his widow and family in a tragic position. I invite the Government to consider the matter before the bill goes to the Senate. Judging by the attitude of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), I am confident that that consideration will be given.
– I promise to give consideration to the matter.
.-I should like the Minister to say whether the definition of “ children “ includes illegitimate children. In the Acts Interpretation Act, it does not.
Mr.Calwell. -I am advised that illegitimate children are not included.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 95 agreed to.
Clause96 - (2.) In calculating the amount of the paidup policy, allowance shall be made for any debt due to the company under or secured by the policy.
. -I move -
That sub-clause (2.) be left out.
The position in relation to debts is to be clarified in a new clause to follow clause 101 along the lines of the Victorian act.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 97 to 100 agreed to.
Clause 101- (a.) In calculating the amount of the paidup policy, allowance shall be made for any debt owing to the company under or secured by the policy.
. -I move -
That sub-clause (5.) be left out.
This is consequential on the amendment to clause 96.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to. iClauses 102 to 116 agreed to.
Clause 117 (Registration of policies).
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (7.) For the purposes of this and the last preceding section, a register of policies kept by a company shall be deemed to be in or at a registry if it is kept, in respect of that registry, at the head office of the company in Australia.”
The purpose of the amendment is to remove the obligation on companies to keep a register in each State in which they do business. The amendment is. submitted at the request of one of the larger insurance companies, which states that it would be greatly handicapped if it had to keep a separate register in each State.
-Is it proposedto have a Commonwealth registry at which a register of all policies in force shall be kept? If a registeris to be kept at the central office, all records may be lost in the event of a fire occurring there, and policy-holders may not be able to produce their policies.
– It is not intended to establish a Commonwealth registry. The practiceof most companies is to keep a register at the head office. That may mean that there is some risk of the register being destroyed, but the keeping of a separate record in each State would involve considerable expense. There is no suggestion that the Commonwealth Government should undertake the responsibility of maintaining a duplicate copy of each register.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 118 to 121 agreed to.
In the case of an industrial policy issued after the commencement of this Act, the company issuing the policy shall print, in a conspicuous place in the premium receipt book, a notice stating that proof of age may be required prior to payment of the sum insured.
.- I ask the committee to negative the clause. It is proposed to re-insert the provision in the appropriate place in clause 127.
Clauses 123 to 126 agreed to.
Clause 127- (4.) Every premium receipt book issued by a company shall contain in respect of each policy to which it relates -
) an entry made by the company of the following matters: -
Amendments (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That, in sub-clause (4.), paragraph (a), the word “ and second occurring, be left out.
That the following paragraph be added to sub-clause (4.) : - “ ; and (c) a notice stating that proof of age may be required prior to payment of the sum insured.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 128 to 130 agreed to.
Clauses 131 to 137 (Part VI.- Commonwealth Government insurance office) - by leave - considered together.
.- I ask the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) to give the committee some explanation of the significance of Part VI. of which this clause is one of the key clauses, as it provides for the establishment of a Commonwealth Government insurance office. Whilst one can readily recognize in it a step towards the fulfilment of the Government’s socialization programme, I think the Government is under an obligation to the committee to indicate the reasons why in its view the incorporation of these clauses in the bill is necessary. What has the Government in mind in respect of the establishment of this office? Does it propose to take this step within the next year or the next decade, or is it merely a flag to curry some favour with the more extreme supporters of the Government’s programme?
Mr.BARNARD - Imputing motives again !
-I am not merely imputing motives. Here we have an important part of this legislation. Surely the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) who claims to be a democrat-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order! I ask the honorable member to deal with the clause, not the honorable member for Bass.
– Surely the committee is not expected to swallow an important part such as this without some masticatory process, assisted by an explanation by the Minister (Mr. Calwell). It is a most extraordinary development that the Government should introduce an innovation in policy at a time when we have successfully established, with the confidence and support of all sections of the Australian people, great co-operative life insurance companies. Superimposed on them we have this threat or promise, whichever term we may happen to like, of a Commonwealth Government insurance office. What factors have made the establishment of such an office necessary in the eyes of the Government? Is it proposed to establish such an office at an early date and, if so, when? What class of persons will be eligible for participation in the Commonwealth Government’s scheme?
– It is not intended to establish a Commonwealth Government insurance office at an early date. Provision has been made for the establishment of such an office because we have already decided that the Government may take over and manage certain companies for the purpose of protecting the interests of the persons insured. “We either do that or compel the other companies to accept the very bad risks of some doubtful companies.
– Couldit be an office to run a contributory invalid and old-age pensions system ?
– Well, the Commonwealth Parliament can do anything under the section of the Constitution that permits the establishment of a government insurance office, and, perhaps, we shall emulate the example of New Zealand and have a contributory superannuation scheme. It is the intention of. the Government - and I am anticipating clause 133 when I say this - to submit legislation in regard to other forms of insurance as well as life insurance. It may be necessary to have uniform insurance laws in regard to fire insurance.
– Order ! I ask the Minister to come back to the clause.
– Or some other forms of insurance. It may be necessary to establish a government insurance office to carry out the provisions of this legislation relating to the taking over of companies found to be incapable of carrying on their own business, or to be improperly transacting their own business. There is no immediate intention to establish such an office, but I see nothing wrong in the principle of the Government establishing an office to deal with all forms of insurance in view of the fact that State governments have established such offices over the years. In my second-reading speech, I cited the fact that the Government of New Zealand has had a government insurance office in operation since 1875. So no new principle is established. I deny the soft impeachment that this is a part of the Government’s socialization policy. Socialization is not involved in this proposition. If this or some other government established an insurance office, we should be no nearer to the socialization of insurance than we have advanced towards the socialization of banking by the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank.
– I rise to address myself, not to whether it is advisable or not to establish a Commonwealth Government insurance office, but to the fact that the Parliament is again asked to surrender its legislative powers to an outside authority. I do not wish to repeat all I have said about this on more than one occasion, but this is a typical example of how we are allowing outside bodies to determine matters which should be determined inside this Parliament. This clause, which must be read in conjunction with clause 133, provide? that-
The Governor-General- which means the Executive - may establish an insurance office to be known us the Commonweal th Government Insurance Office.
Thatmeans that the Executive, without reference to the Parliament, may establish a Commonwealth Government insurance office. Clause 133 provides - (1.) The Commonwealth Government Insurance Office -
in relation to its management and operation and the carrying on of its business -
I have almost abandoned hope that we shall adhere to the democratic procedure under which important matter’s are brought before the Parliament for determination. If the functions of theCommonwealth Bank are sufficiently important to discuss in this chamber for three or four weeks, surely the establishment of a Commonwealth Government insurance office and its functions, powers, rights, privileges and all matters associated with it are also sufficiently important to be debated by the Parliament on a specific bill, and should not be covered by executive acts in the form of executive orders. I propose to move for the deletion of the whole of Part VI. so that should the time come when the Government wants to establish an insurance office it shall have to bring legislation before the Parliament for that purpose, in order that the people may know what functions are intended for the office, and precisely how it is to be operated. Under this bill, there will be ample authority reposed in the Government to ensure the protection of policy-holders. In those circumstances, in order to justify the provisions contained in this part, the Government must advance a proper reason, not merely a plea that some other government has set up a government insurance office. That may be - although I do not see it at the moment - a very good reason to submit in support of such legislation when introduced, but there can be no reason for the inclusion of these clauses in this bill. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said thatthe Government at the moment did not propose to establish an insurance office. If that be so, why does it take power in general terms to establish, by executive action, such an office regardless of the merits or demerits of the proposition? Therefore, I should like to test the committee upon the important principle involved. I strongly oppose giving in general terms power to do things. As a member of the Parliament I wish to know exactly what the Government proposes to do, and when it proposes to do it. For that reason I forecast an amendment to omit clauses 131 to 137 inclusive.
– I shall support the amendment forecast by the honorable member for
Warringah (Mr. Spender). I do so quite apart from the merits, or demerits, of the proposal to establish a Commonwealth Government insurance office. As I pointed out in my second-reading speech, we should not insert in a measure of this kind provisions for the establishment, operation, management and control of such an office. When the time is ripe for its establishment, a specific measure should be introduced for that purpose, leaving not the slightest doubt whatever concerning the details of the scheme. I find it difficult to understand why clauses 131 to 137 have been framed in the terms in which they appear. Clause 131 provides -
The Governor-General may establish an insurance office to be known as the Common wealth Government Insurance Office.
Clause 132 provides - (1.) The Commonwealth Government Insurance Office shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal, and may hold land, and may sue and be sued, in a corporate name.. . . .
Clause 133 provides - (1.) The Commonwealth Government Insurance Office -
I point out that this is a life insurance bill, and no other kind of insurance business is provided for under the measure itself. Clause 133 also provides -
The Commonwealth Government insurance office -
As the honorable member for Warringah has pointed out, the whole of the control and set-up of the office is to be taken out of the hands of the elected representatives of the people and placed in the hands of the Executive, which shall prescribe all details by regulation. It is provided that the Governor-General may establish an insurance office to be known as the Commonwealth Government insurance office, and regulations may be made in connexion with the operation and business of the office. Those powers as to establishment, conditions of business, control privileges, rights and remedies are to be prescribed by regulation; yet the four following clauses provide certain definite conditions. Clause 134 provides - (1.) There shall be established under section sixty-two a of the Audit Act 1001-1934 such Trust Accounts as are necessary for the purposes of the Commonwealth Government Insurance Office. (2.) There may be paid to the credit of any such Trust Account such moneys are are prescribed.
And the following three clauses read - 135. Every policy of insurance issued by the Commonwealth Government Insurance Office shall,by virtue of this section, be guaranteed by the Commonwealth. 136. The income of the Commonwealth Government Insurance Office shall be subject to taxation under the law of the Commonwealth or the law of any State or Territory in like manner as if it were the income of a company. 137. The provisions of this Act except those relating to the registration of companies, the judicial management of companies and the winding-up of companies and except such other provisions as are prescribed, shall apply with such alterations as are necessary to and in relation to the Commonwealth Government Insurance Office in like manner as if it were a company.
I havenot previously seen such a hotch-potch in any bill in my parliamentary experience. The actual establishment of the department is in the hands of the Governor-General, which means the Executive, but the scope and circumstances of its development and operation are to be prescribed by regulation. Then certain clauses prescribe how the trust fund shall be utilized and invested, and that it shall be subject to tax. For those and other reasons I support the amendment forecast by the honorable member for Warringah. I again draw attention to clause 134 which provides that the moneys in the trust accounts of the department shall be invested in accordance with section 62 of the Audit Act. If it were possible to move an amendment to that clause I should do so; but as the real weakness in respect to the investment of moneys is embodied in section 62a of the Audit
Act, it is not possible to do so. I have taken the opportunity to study this matter thoroughly, and I shall refer to it in detail later. I repeat that the provisions of Part VI. should not be inserted in a bill’ of this character.
– If this provision is followed with respect to the Government’s air-line proposals that will be a short bill, will it not?
– Yes. The establishment of a Commonwealth Government insurance office should be the subject of a separate measure in order to enable Parliament to consider the proposal on its merits.
– The Standing Orders provide that a bill must be considered in committee clause by clause, and that on each clause the question shall be put “ that the clause stand as printed “. The honorable member for Warringah has intimated that he proposes to move that clauses 131 to 137 inclusive be left out. I point out that each clause must be considered separately.
– I should like to know whether the Government will agree to Part VI. being dealt with as a whole.
– I move -
That clauses 131 to 137 inclusive be left out.
– The position now is that all of the clauses comprising Part VI. are to be taken as a whole. The honorable member will have the right to vote against them should he desire to do so.
– We are now taking Part VI. as a whole for the purpose of enabling me to put my amendment. Do I understand that the Chair rules that my amendment is not in order?
– A direct negative is not an amendment. The committee has agreed to take these clauses together, and the honorable member may vote against them.
– The attitude of the Chair is perfectly correct. If the honorable member for Warringah desires to omit any clauses, the proper procedure for the committee is to consider the clauses comprising Part VI. severally, and, if necessary, vote against each of them. At present, this part must be put by the Chair as a whole and the committee must rote upon it.
– In reply to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), I gave the reason why the Government has made provision in this bill for the establishment of a government insurance office.I have discussed the powers which the Government may take under clause 133 in conducting a life insurance business, and such other kinds of business as may be prescribed. I assure the committee that no action will he taken by regulation to give effect to this clause. In other words, before any action is taken to put the clause into effect, separate legislation will be introduced.
. -Clause 133 reads, in part - (1.) The Commonwealth Government Insurance Office -
in relation to its management and operations and the carrying on of its business -
I move -
That, in clause 133, sub-clause (1.), paragraph (a), the word “prescribed” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “approved by resolution of both Houses of the Parliament “.
This amendment is in accordance with the assurance which the Minister (Mr. Calwell) has just given to the committee.
– As I have indicated the procedure that will be adopted, there is no necessity for the amendment.
.- I welcome the assurance that the Minister (Mr. Calwell) has given, and do not question his bona fides as an individual. But this provision is incorporated in legislation which will probably extend beyond his lifetime. Honorable members cannot tell how a government twenty years hence will exorcise its powers under this clause, and, therefore, I ask the Minister to accept the amendment. It gives effect to what he desires and whilst we may be willing to accept his assurance insofar as it binds himself and his colleagues in the present Government, many honorable members on this side of the chamber - and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) will not think that I am offensive when I recall it - know from experience that the life of a Government may be long or short. In war-time, it is short rather than long. Having regard to the friendly atmosphere which has prevailed throughout the consideration of this measure, I ask the Minister to accept the amendment, or to indicate that he will have it made when the bill is before the Senate.
– I congratulate the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell)upon the manner in which he has handled this bill. His attitude towards the suggestions offered by Opposition speakers has been reasonable, and he has given to the Opposition something which it has not had in the discussion of certain other legislation, namely, an intelligent consideration of amendments which are designed to be helpful and constructive. The Minister has indicated that the Government does not intend to proceed with the establish-: ment of a Commonwealth Government insurance office without further parliamentary enactment. In that case, the whole of Part VI. of this measure becomes practically meaningless, because it will have to be recast and made the subject of a new bill requiring considerable deliberation. Therefore,I earnestly suggest to the Minister that even if he cannot accept the amendment, consideration should be given to the withdrawal of the whole of Part VI., so that when the Government considers the time appropriate, it may then present a complete bill dealing with the establishment of a Commonwealth Government insurance office, if it believes such action should be taken.
– The assurance thathas been given by the Minister for Information. (Mr. Calwell) is most generous, but legislation cannot be contemplated in terms of assurances. Decisions must be placed upon the statute-book. As the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) said, governments have a knack of coming and going with considerable rapidity, as I found out. The assurance of the Minister that no action will be taken under clauses 131 to 137, except by parliamentary enactment, is a very sound reason why the Government should accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). There is no real place in this measure for the clauses contained in Part VI., which prescribes that action to establish a Commonwealth Government insurance office may be taken by executive action. I emphasize that the attitude of the Opposition in this regard does not mean that it rejects the Minister’s personal assurance. We have no intention whatever of reflecting upon the Minister, who, I am sure, is acting in good faith; but the law of this country cannot be allowed to depend upon assurances. The law can be interpreted only in the terms of the language in which it is expressed. It is not a matter of what a Minister may have intended, or what assurances he may have given. To put the matter beyond doubt and safeguard the prestige of Parliament as the proper assembly to consider matters such as this, the amendment should be accepted.
– I say again that there is no necessity for this amendment, and I ask the committee not to accept it. I have given an assurance that this Government will bring down legislation to establish the Commonwealth Government insurance office, and to define any business which that office may undertake. That legislation will be introduced at the earliest possible date, compatible with other responsibilities which the Government has to discharge.
– If it is required at all.
– I wish to make it plain that I accept without any reservations whatever the assurance given by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) ; but that is not the point. Within the next eighteen months, two years, or five years, another government may be in power and will be charged with the administration of this legislation. Consequently, I propose to put this matter to the test. Irrespective of any assurance, I am wholly opposed to authority which should remain with the Parliament being vested in extra-parliamentary bodies.
Question put -
That the word proposed to be left out (Mr. Spender’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. W. J. F.
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 13.1 to 137 agreed to.
The following papers were pre sented
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
South Guildford, Western Australia.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Taking possession of land, &c. (10).
Use of land (3).
National Security (Man Power) Regulations Orders-Protected undertakings (39).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, Nos. 97, 99.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1945 - No. 4 - Health.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Controller of Woollens has never issued any specific orders prohibiting the manufacture of double-weft cloth. However, when in 1942 the available production of woollen textiles to cover civilian needs was only about 40 per cent. of the total requirements, the Controller of Woollens met and discussed the problem with the mills, both collectively and individually. At such time, the Controller reached agreement with the industry to eliminate all types of construction that hindered production. On the 19th July, 1944, the Controller of Woollens authorized the mills to manufacture better-class cloths (not necessarily single or two-fold wefts, but better overall types) to the maximum extent of sixteen and two-thirds of their total production. On the 12th March, 1945, the Controller advised the mills that the quantity of better-type textile produced could be increased to 25 per cent.
British Motor Vehicles.
y. - On the 29th June the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked a question concerning the release to the public of certain British motor vehicles. In answering on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs I promised to obtain further information.
It is true that motor vehicles imported from Great Britain are in Australia awaiting distribution, but it is not true that the delay in releasing them is due to the Department of Trade and Customs or the Prices Branch. It is due entirely to the lengthy negotiations which have taken place between the Commonwealth Government and the British Government regarding the prices at which these vehicles were invoiced to Australia. The prices originally listed for the vehicles were substantially higher than current prices, and it was thought desirable by the Government to enter into further discussions with the British Government to ascertain whether some adjustment of prices could be made. It is not the practice under the price stabilization plan to pay subsidies on capital goods. Accordingly, subsidies will not be payable on these or other motor vehicles, but prices will be determined in accordance with the landed cost, plus a reasonable margin to the distributor. This determination was made some time ago by the Prices Commissioner, but the resultant price was so high that further discussions were thought to be necessary These discussions are not yet complete, but it is hoped that they will shortly be finalized. The trade is naturally impatient to obtain the motor vehicles, but the Government has a responsibility to see that the interests of all parties concerned in the transaction are protected and that prices of one set of motor vehicles would not be completely out of alinement with prevailing prices.
e. - On the 14th June, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What is the number of persona, exclusive of those serving with the forces, employed on investigation staffs, within the Commonwealth administration and attached to each of the following sections: - (i) Prices Control; (ii) Rationing; (iii) Landlord and Tenant Regula tions; (iv) Import and Export Supervision; (v) Liquid Fuel, &c, Control; (vi) Posts and Telegraphs; (vii) Broadcasting; (viii) Censorship; (ix) Taxation; (x) Peace Officers:
Commonwealth Security Service (exclusive of Peace Officers) ; and (xii) Commonwealth Investigation Branch?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
e. - On the 29th June the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked a question regarding the publication by the British Government of a. White Paper on migration. For some time, negotiations have been carried on between the United Kingdom Government and the Commonwealth Government for the conclusion of two agreements, the first covering free passages to Australia of British ex-service men and women and their dependants or the dependants of such personnel electing to be demobilized in Australia, and the second covering assisted’ passages to civilians in the United Kingdom not eligible under the free passage scheme. Draft agreements have been prepared and approved in principle by the two governments, but there are certain important points in respect of these agreements which still have to be settled.
When all details are finally agreed to full particulars of the agreements will be furnished to Parliament. The question of simultaneous release of the White Paper which was to he issued by the United Kingdom Government did not arise because that document was prepared by the United Kingdom Government as a general expression of its views and those of all the dominions and Southern Rhodesia in regard to migration. The full text of the White Paper is not yet available, but as a result of consultation with the Commonwealth Government it was agreed to include a paragraph in the following terms as regards Australia: -
As a result of correspondence and recent discussion between officials in London, agreement in principle has been reached with the Governments of the Commonwealth of Australia regarding the drafting of agreements between the United Kingdom and Australias Governments to cover a free passage scheme for ex-service personnel from this country and an assisted passage scheme for civilian migrants. Details are still under discussion between the two governments and there are certain important points still outstanding awaiting settlement. As soon as agreements are finally concluded, a full announcement will be made. Meanwhile it is important to make it clear that at the present time the pressure on shipping is such that any substantial movement of migrants will be impracticable for some time to come.
TRADE with India: Usb or Shipping.
– On the 22nd June, speaking on the motion for the adjournment, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) stated that ships were arriving from India in ballast, and asked why these ships should not bring cargoes from India, such as jute bags, tea, cotton goods or carpets.
I assume that, in asking why ships coming to Australia should not bring in certain cargoes from India, the honorable member was aware that very heavy quantities of the items he mentioned are being imported from India at the present time. To date this year, some 41,000 tons of jute goode, 8,000 tons of tea, 8,500 tons of cotton goods and a small quantity of carpets have been shipped to Australia from India. In addition to these items, of course, many thousands of tons of other goods essential to our war effort have been shipped from India this year. Jute goods shipped represent the. full quantity available to Australia for the first six months of this year, but shipments of tea, cotton goods, and carpets are somewhat below what we might have hoped for. Deficiencies in loadings of tea, cotton goods and carpets have not come about as a result of any reluctance on the part of the Government to permit importation of greater quantities of these goods, however, or from a lack of space on ships coming from India to Australia. They are the result of the heavy demands being made on port facilities and inland transportation in India for operational purposes. Having in mind the quantity of war materials being handled through the ports and the inland transportation system of India, I am satisfied’ that Australia is receiving the maximum quantity of goods that can be shipped from that country. The honorable member may be assured that the matter is under continuous observation, and every effort has been made and will continue to be made to press for shipment of goods considered essential to the Australian war economy.
t asked the Minister for the
Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Importation of Books from America.
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The following answer has been supplied by the Minister for Trade and Customs: -
Both the grain and sorghum and feeding barley are being made available under lendlease. The question of prices therefore does not arise.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: -
1944-45 (to 31st March, 1945), £1,204,728. These figures exclude subsidies paid on importations of tea which are paid under the terms of a special decision of the Government.
y asked the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, upon notice -
Will he supply the following information in respect of permits for buildings in Tasmania: -
– Whilst a record is kept in my department of the total number of applications granted and refused in each State, the details as set out in his question are not recorded, and to supply the information asked for would involve an examination of each file relating to over 3,500 applications. This would involve a tremendous amount of work and the assigning of an officer exclusively to this duty over a lengthy period. The staff of the building division of the Hobart office of my department is fully occupied attending to the applications being received daily, and it would not be possible to spare an officer at the present time to make a search of the whole of the files for the period mentioned in the question. However, I have had prepared for the honorable member’s information a statement showing the number of appli cations granted and the number refused for various classes of buildings. This statement is as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 July 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450703_reps_17_183/>.