19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy upon whose authority was the selection made of defendants who are to be tried on charges of war crimes at the trials that are to take place at Manus Island? Is it correct to Bay that the court will be composed exclusively of military personnel? If so, what are the reasons for this discrimination between civilian and military defendants? Can the Minister give the date upon which the trials will commence?
– The trials to which the honorable member has referred will be trials of alleged war criminals and they will . be conducted by a court which will consist of military personnel who have had special experience in the conduct of military trials. . The court will be presided over by Mr. Justice Townley of the Supreme Court of Queensland, who during the war supervised legal proceedings - on behalf of the Army authorities. Each member of the court was engaged in special legal work in tho Army during the war. The trials are expected to commence on either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd June.
– Will the defendants be exclusively military personnel?
– Ail of the defendants were formerly members of the Japanese army or navy. The defendants will not include any civilians,
– Can the Treasurer inform the House of the cost incurred by the Australian Government in respect of the litigation that took place as the result of the legislation passed by the Chifley Government to nationalize banking? Is he able to indicate also the costa incurred by private parties to that litigation?
– All accounts have not . yet been paid, but the incomplete cost to date is £161,058. I shall obtain particulars of the amounts of private and governmental expenditure and furnish them to the honorable member.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Navy regarding the compensation paid to dependants of the men who lost their lives in the Tarakan disaster. Is it a fact that the Government has bluntly refused to extend to the widows and children of those men any of the benefits provided under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, such as pensions for the widows and children, medical and education benefits? Has the Government paid a lump sum of £1,000 to each of the widows, plus £50 for each dependent child, m full and final settlement of its obligations? Will no further responsibility of any kind be accepted by _ it, even for meeting the cost of education of the children? Does the Minister not consider that this is most unjust treatment of the dependants of these men who although they lost their lives in time of peace, died under active service conditions? Will the honorable gentleman urge the Government to reconsider the matter so that these widows and children may be granted the full benefits of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act?
– There has been much confusion of thought in regard to the compensation paid to the dependants of the men who lost their lives in the unfortunate- disaster on Tarakan. The dependants of ‘ personnel of the armed forces who lose their lives in the course of their duty in peace-time receive compensation in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Under that act the widow of a deceased member of the forces receives £1,000 as compensation and an additional sum of- £50 for each child under the age of sixteen years. Some people seem to be under the impression that such dependants should also receive pensions under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The widow of a member of the forces who dies on active service receives a weekly pension and, in addition, pensions for dependent children and certain education benefits; but the dependants of a member of the forces who dies in the course of his duty in time of peace are entitled to compensation under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. This law has been in existence for a considerable time and has been approved by the parties on both: sides of the House. No attempt has ‘been made to alter it by honorable members now sitting in Opposition. Statements have appeared in the metropolitan newspapers of New South Wales that the Government has been sympathetic in this matter and has been com-, mended for the action I took in this case. Newspapers that always- have been ready to assail anybody have expressed their appreciation in this instance. The Government’s treatment of the dependants of the men who lost their lives in the Tarakan disaster has been eminently just and fair.
– Is the Minister for the Navy satisfied with the paltry amount of compensation which has been paid to relatives of the victims of the Tarahan disaster ? Has he given full consideration to the plight of the children who are fatherless as a result of that tragedy? Is the honorable gentleman aware that the Australian Soldiers’ Eepatriation Act makes provision for the education of the children of deceased servicemen ? In fact, that particular section is one of the brighter aspects of that act. Does the Minister see any possibility of introducing legislation to amend the act with a view to making the children of the victims of the Tarahan disaster eligible for benefits under that legislation? I remind the honorable gentleman that the victims were servicemen, and although they met their death in peacetime, they were actually under active service conditions in respect of the threat to their lives. The Minister should give sympathetic consideration to this matter, and I thought that the terseness with which he answered the question by the honorable member for Fawkner indicated that he agreed with the views of the bureaucrats in the Department of the Navy that all had been done that should be done-
– Order !
– The observations which the honorable gentleman has made in his question, do not deserve a courteous reply. He displays that kind of attitude all too frequently. I have at all times shown the most practical consideration for the victims of the Tarahan disaster, and the suggestions to the’ contrary which are contained in the honorable gentleman’s question are distinctly unworthy. I remind him that there are two systems of compensation. The first is applicable to servicemen who meet with death or accident while they are on service, and the other applies to servicemen during peacetime. The victims of the unfortunate Tarahan disaster are covered by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, which provides for the payment of £1,000 to the widow, and £50 for each child under the age of sixteen year3. In addition, in most instances a substantial payment is made in respect of deferred pay.
– They had already earned that.
– That payment is made in the form of compensation. As these people were dependants of the unfortunate sailors who met their death in that tragic accident, their regular emoluments were carried on for at least one month.
– Does the Minister think that that is enough ?
– The payments that I have indicated are much more generous than those that were made available in similar circumstances by the Government of which the honorable member was a Minister. At present, substantial funds are available to all dependants of the deceased naval personnel in question. I have communicated with the Minister for Air with a view to formulating a scheme to provide compensation in similar circumstances on a basis that will be uniform for each of the three services. I repeat that at present none of the families to which I have referred is in need.
– What about the education of the children?
– That is provided for at present.
– I address a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. By way of explanation I point out that leading German cigarette and tobacco manufacturers have made inquiries about the possibility of the purchase of Australian tobacco leaf. “Will the Minister state whether there is any exportable surplus of locally produced tobacco ? The development of an export trade in tobacco would be of tremendous benefit to the tobacco industry of Queensland at Texas and in the north, by bringing about a larger measure of competitive buying, and the export of tobacco to Germany would result in the establishment of hard currency credits in favour of Australia.
Will the Minister give favorable consideration to the granting of licences for the export of tobacco and will he also indicate whether trade restrictions generally are to be continued?
– No exportable surplus of tobacco leaf is available at the present time. Australian production does not meet our requirements. Our deficiency is met almost entirely by the importation of leaf from North America, which involves dollar expenditure. It is the Government’s desire to increase very substantially the volume of production of Australian tobacco of a usable quality. It certainly is the Government’s objective to develop the tobacco-growing industry to a point where we should have not only enough tobacco for our own .requirements, having in mind the necessity for some blending to maintain a smoking flavour acceptable to smokers, but also a surplus for export. That, as the honorable member has said, would be an advantage to the tobaccogrowers as there would then be an additional competitive factor in the tobacco market. That would also be an advantage to the country. That is the objective towards which the Government will work in formulating policies directed towards stimulating the production of tobacco in this country.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that hundreds of small business people throughout New South Wales, many of whom are ex-members of the military forces, have been refused a tobacco quota by the Tobacco Distributing Committee of New South Wales, which fact has caused a considerable loss of business to the people concerned owing to the public generally taking their business to other trades people from whom they can purchase tobacco or cigarettes? In view of the facts that the distribution of tobacco is now the responsibility of the trade, and that the present discrimination that is employed by the committee in the distribution of tobacco should be discontinued, will the Government ascertain how many applications for a tobacco quota have been refused by the committee and also how many applications it has refused to acknowledge? If the Government ascertains that discrimination is being shown by the committee in favour of certain business people, and that it has refused to supply many storekeepers with tobacco, will it examine the possibility of re-introducing a system of tobacco rationing so that all business people will have an opportunity to obtain a quota of tobacco, thereby abolishing unfair competition among business men and ensuring a fair distribution of tobacco to the people?
– I shall treat the honorable member’s question as if it were on the notice-paper and shall discuss it with the responsible Minister.
– Will the Minister for National Development say whether the dollar shortage is having a retarding effect on development in Australia?
– The answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is very definitely and positively “ Yes “. In my opinion it will be little less than a tragedy if some means of overcoming the dollar shortage is not evolved in the interests of the speed at which Australian development is to continue.
– As the Minister for National Development has just stated that the present dollar shortage is delaying vitally important developmental works in Australia, will the Treasurer state whether that position has been brought about to any degree by increased dollar expenditure on the importation of petrol? Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the allocation of dollars that has been made for petrol imports for the quarter ending the 30th June, 1950, compared with the dollar allocation for the corresponding period last year? If those figures disclose that the present shortage of certain building materials is due to the lifting of petrol rationing, will the Treasurer indicate how he proposes to reconcile that condition of affairs with his preelection statement to the effect that additional supplies of petrol could be obtained from the sterling area?
– The abolition of petrol rationing has had nothing to do with the acute dollar position relative to other goods. The petrol budget is entirely distinct from the budget for other commodities.
– “Will the Treasurer make available the figures for which I have asked?
– I shall obtain them for the honorable member.
– In directing to the Minister for Supply a question regarding tinplate I state by way of explanation that I am aware that the Minister desired to make a statement on that subject yesterday, but was unable to do so as the House did not grant him the necessary leave. It is for that reason that I ask my question to-day. I have been informed that almost unlimited supplies of tinplate are obtainable in either Great Britain or Europe for delivery six weeks after an order has been placed. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of that information, but if it is accurate can the Minister inform the House whether there is anything to prevent a private importer from bringing such tinplate into the country? If a restriction exists will the Government consider lifting it in view of the present shortage of tinplate?
– If the honorable member has discovered that unlimited supplies of tinplate are available from sterling areas, then I shall make him a free and valuable presentation immediately, because he will save me and the Government a great deal of worry. I am afraid that the matter is not as simple of solution as the honorable member has suggested. Tinplate from sterling areas, particularly from Britain, is obtainable by arrangement with the British Board of Trade, which issues export licences. According to my information only a limited amount is at present available. As far as a statement to the House on tinplate is concerned, I inform the honorable gentleman that I intend to ask the permission of the House to make such a statement to-morrow, and I hope that as a result of a change of decision on the part of several honorable members such permission will be granted.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether, prior to making the decision to abolish the ban on the sale of cream, he obtained opinions from various sources on what loss of butter would be occasioned to the United Kingdom by this action. If so, from what sources were such opinions obtained ? Does the Minister know that the validity of butter rationing regulations was challenged during the previous Government’s term of office and that the High Court of Australia upheld the validity of the regulations? Did the Minister obtain information from the United Kingdom Government on the butter situation there having regard to the detrimental effect on butter production that would follow the lifting by the Australian Government of the ban on the sale of cream ?
– The Government did not lift the ban on the sale of cream without making full inquiries from all those sources which were regarded as being capable of supplying the best information. With that information in its possession, the Government made its own decision. It knew that the United Kingdom Government had been able to increase the ration of butter in the United Kingdom recently from 4 oz. a week to 5 oz. a week. There is also a ration of 4 oz. of margarine, so that the ration of butter plus margarine in the United Kingdom at present amounts to 9 oz. a week. The butter ration in Australia is 6 oz. a week.
– In view of the facts that the increased telephone rentals and the discontinuance of concession rates for evening telephone calls place an inequitable burden on country residents compared with city dwellers and that it is the Government’s policy to overcome existing disadvantages which result from isolation and generally to encourage people to remain in the country, will the Postmaster-General give urgent and favorable consideration to reducing telephone rentals and restoring concession rates for evening calls for country residents ?
– It is obvious that costs have risen steeply in the last ten year3 and that in order to provide a service which in some ways pays for itself charges must be comparative with costs. If, therefore, an efficient service is to be maintained on a paying basis I cannot see very much prospect of making the reduction for which the honorable member has asked.
– Great difficulty is being experienced in some country centres in having suitable arrangements made for the operation of manual telephone exchanges, especially where continuous service is desired. This difficulty has been overcome to a large extend in other places by the installation of rural automatic exchanges. Will the Postmaster-General inform me of the present position in regard to the availability of small automatic exchanges suitable for country districts? Will he also advise me of the prospects for the conversion of existing exchange installations from manual to automatic operation and the possibilities of the installation of new exchanges of the automatic type in country centres?
– I fully appreciate the difficulties which exist in country districts in the obtaining of continuous service, or even service of extended duration in very many instances. Where only ten or twenty subscribers exist in a small country exchange it usually closes down at 6 or 8 o’clock in the evening, and for the remainder of the night the residents are cut off from service. Those facts are fully appreciated by my department. Until the end of last year I think there were less than 200 rural automatic exchanges throughout the Commonwealth. I am not quite certain of the exact figures, but the number was about 200. Since I have been in office action has been taken to improve the position. In fact, such action had been taken during the latter part of the “term of my predecessor. Orders have been placed for about 650 rural automatic exchanges. These are being manufactured in Great Britain and also in Australia. Certain factories are being encouraged to produce such types of equipment. I am hopeful that very great advances will be made in the provision of rural automatic exchanges during the next year or two.
– Will the Treasurer consider making a statement on the availability of dollars and its incidence on the economy of Australia? Will he investigate dollar allocations in order to ascertain to what extent the purchase of essential imports for home-building such as oregon timber is provided for? My question is prompted by a question, “Will a man ever own his own home?” which appears in the Sun newspaper this day. To what extent is the motion picture organization drawing on the dollar pool ? Does the Minister agree that home ownership at reduced costs is more beneficial to- the national welfare than temporary Hollywood glamour and make-believe ?
– My answer to the last part of the honorable member’s question is, “ Yes “. As to the first part of the question I shall look into the matter and ascertain to what extent I can make a statement on it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. It concerns the growing shortage in Australia of airline pilots. At present it is customary to take a pilot off flying duties when he reaches the age of 45 years although he is experienced and highly qualified. This low retiring age discourages many young men from adopting flying as a career, and causes the loss of highly skilled personnel to the airlines. Will the Minister review the matter of the retiring age and, provided efficient medical standards are maintained, give consideration to retaining the services of pilots beyond the age of 45 years ?
– The Department of Civil Aviation provides that the age at which an airline pilot may make his first application for such a post shall not be more than 45 years. It is true that Trans-Australia Airlines insists upon a retirement at the age of 45 years. After that age a pilot continues duty with that organization for twelve months at a time, depending upon his medical condition. Australian National Airways
Proprietary Limited and, I think, Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, have no arbitrary retiring age, and pilots continue duty with those companies according to medical and other conditions. I shall look into the matter in the light of the honorable member’s question to ascertain what can be done about it.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by stating that last week, in answer to a question upon notice, the Minister for Fuel, Shipping arid Transport informed me that a subsidy of £1,700,000 was to be paid by the Australian Government on the importation of coal into Victoria and South Australia from India and South Africa. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will subsidize Queensland coal which is sold interstate. Such coal would be won by Australian workmen who work for Australian rates of pay under Australian working conditions. Will the Government subsidize that coal to the same extent as it is prepared to subsidize coal won by cheap labour under cheap labour conditions?
– The honorable member has raised a very large and farreaching matter. I do not know at what point he proposes that the subsidization of Australian coal should end, but I may tell him, as he is particularly concerned about Queensland coal, that the position in relation to that coal is at present under very close examination. In fact it was the subject-matter of discussions between the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport and myself only yesterday.
– In the absence of the Minister for Health, who still seems to be at grips with the British Medical Association over the proposed national health scheme, I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the recent statement by the medical superintendent of Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney, Dr. C. J”. M. Walters, that an approach to the National Health and Medical Research Council for funds to finance research into poliomyelitis had been turned down flat despite the fact that the poliomyelitis epidemic, which has been sweeping two States, appears to be on the up-grade instead of abating, as it seemed to be doing a few weeks ago. In view of the fact that a similar unsympathetic attitude is taken by other health authorities, such as those at the Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, where the Kenny clinic is being slowly strangled by the administration of that institution, and the failure of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health to meet in conference, in accordance with the intention announced by the Minister for Health some time ago, for the purpose of considering poliomyelitis and other important health problems, will the Prime Minister treat the matter as one of urgency and take it up with the appropriate Minister and the Treasurer, with a view to giving borne encouragement and financial assistance to the Prince Henry Institute of Epidemiology in its worthy efforts to discover the cause of the dread disease of poliomyelitis and a cure for it?
– I shall certainly bring the honorable member’s remarks to the notice of the Minister for Health at the first available opportunity.
– In view of the intense interest of this Parliament in the development of New Guinea, will the Minister for National Development supply the House with details of the joint venture that has been undertaken by the Government and the British Aluminium Company Limited, of London, for the purpose of investigating the possibilities of bauxite mining in New Guinea ? Will the right honorable gentleman also state whether the venture will cut across the Government’s aluminium project in Tasmania ?
– As was announced recently, an exploratory company in which the Australian Government will hold 51 per cent, and the British Aluminium Company Limited 49 per cent, of the shares is being established. It will have a total capital of £100,000, and the Government will have majority representation on the board of directors. The objects of the company are to determine the existence or otherwise of high-grade bauxite deposits in New Guinea and to study the potentialities of the territory for the generation of hydro-electric power for use in the manufacture of aluminium. If the undertaking is successful, it is possible that a very much larger enterprise for the production of aluminium will eventuate, although plans for such a project have not yet been laid. The undertaking has nothing to do with the government aluminium enterprise in Tasmania, which is intended solely to meet Australia’s immediate demand of approximately 10,000 tons a year. The eventual establishment of a large-scale scheme in New Guinea would be designed, of course, to relieve the British peoples of their present necessity of importing aluminium almost exclusively from dollar sources.
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing inform me whether it is a fact that several hundred personnel are serving at the Royal Air Force establishment at Pearce, in Western Australia, yet only half a dozen flats are available there for married personnel? Will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to having more flats constructed at Pearce which is situated some 30 miles from Perth, with the object of providing better conditions for members of the Royal Australian Air Force ?
– I am not familiar with the housing position at Pearce, but I shall inquire into it and inform the honorable member of the result.
– I point out to the Minister for National Development that no shire authorities are operating in the far west portion of New South Wales, and that the Commonwealth proposes to make additional money available for the construction of roads in the various States, through the medium of local governing bodies. Will the Minister inform me of the method, if any, that he proposes to adopt, to make additional money available for the construction of roads in the far west of New South Wales, where such work is carried out by the main roads authority in that State?
– Apart from the method set out in the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Agreement, the Government has not yet come to any final conclusion about additional ways of assisting the State governments, and, through them, the local-governing bodies in respect of developmental works, including roads. I have no doubt that when a decision is reached on that matter it will be announced in the House by either the Prime Minister or myself.
– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. Is there any reason why the Australian flag and the Union Jack should not be displayed in this chamber? If there is no such reason, will you make investigations with a view to having them displayed on either side of your chair, or on the wall behind it? Those flags would brighten the chamber, and perhaps they would remind honorable members during debates in this House of the principles for which they stand?
– That matter is for the House, and not for myself, to decide. If the House requires the Australian flag and the Union Jack to be displayed in this chamber, that will be done.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has made representations to the Indonesian Government with respect to the fatal shooting in Indonesia recently of an Australian air pilot, John Doderick? If so, has any reply yet been received from the Indonesian Government on the matter; and is the Government prepared to inform the House of its contents?
– In order that my answer to the honorable member’s question may be precise, I shall answer it to-morrow after I have had an opportunity to study the cablegrams which deal with the matter that he has raised.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether the Government has reduced the import duty on a number of commodities that are used in the building of homes? Is it a fact that whilst the Rolpanit mortar mixer will keep from 35 to 40 bricklayers fully engaged one man can mix only sufficient mortar to keep four bricklayers fully engaged? Is it a fact that the Rolpanit mortar mixer, which is British-made, costs £389 landed in Australia and that the customs duty on each mixer amounts to £176? If these are facts, will the Minister, in view of the urgent need for the provision of homes, consider the advisability of removing the import duty on laboursaving machines that can contribute to the solution of the housing problem?
– The Government has removed import duty entirely from a considerable number of building components, and that action has been advertised adequately from time to time. I, personally, do not know about the mortar mixer to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall discuss that matter with officers of my department and, if necessary, I shall consult with my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to having import duty on such machines removed.
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing say whether his department has explored all avenues for the building of prefabricated homes in Australia? Is it a fact that many Australian firms are anxious to engage in construction of this type of house? Has any contract for the supply of Australianbuilt prefabricated houses been accepted by the Government?
– I cannot believe that there is any manufacturer of prefabricated houses in Australia who has not communicated with mo at least once upon the subject that the honorable member has raised. The Department of Works and Housing is fully aware of the potentialities offered by prefabricated houses in home-building in Australia. In answer to the last part of the honorable member’s question, the department certainly has placed contracts for prefabricated houses made in this country. Offhand, I cannot give the names of the contractors or indicate the types of houses involved, but if the honorable member desires that information I shall obtain it for him later.
– I again addressa question to the Minister for Works and Housing upon a subject that I have brought to his notice on a number of previous occasions. I refer to the question of scientific examination of timber? proposed to be used in houses thatare to be imported into Australia. I have no doubt that the Minister knows that timbers in Australia are subject to destruction by a number of pests. As I fear the possibility of the introduction of a new pest, I wish to know whether the Minister has taken steps to obtain samples of the timbers proposed to be used in prefabricated houses that will be imported in order to see whether they carry any new pest, or whether they will be resistant to pests already existing in Australia, such as the white ant and borer?
– The honorable member addressed two questions to me last week on the subject to which he has just referred. The matter is important. I have discussed it with officers of the Department of Works and Housing and have received a detailed report from them concerning measures that they are putting in train to cope with the problem that the honorable member has mentioned.I shall be glad to let the honorable member have a copy of that report.
– In view of the harshness of the means test which has always operated with respect to the payment of pensions, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services whether, as a step towards relieving pensioners who are able to work and towards helping them to combat the rising cost of living, he will consider raising the permissible earnings of pensioners from 30s. a week to £2 10s. or £3 a week? Whilst such action would entail very little, if any, cost to the Government, it would be of great benefit to pensioners at a time like the present when so many casual jobs are available to them.
– The honorable member’s question involves a matter of policy, but I shall bring it to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, who. no doubt, if he thinks proper, will bring it before the Government.
– Has the notice of the Prime Minister been drawn to the views that Professor Copland has expressed publicly regarding the problems of inflation in this country? Does the right honorable gentleman agree that appreciation of the ?1 does not offer a solution to that problem. Is he prepared to set- up the necessary organizations to effect adjustments between prices, costs and incomes? Is he prepared to raise dollar loans sufficient to cover deficiencies in the Government’s dollar account and to make provision for future developmental expenditure? Does the right honorable gentleman agree with the following statement that was made by Professor Copland: -
The time to expand the welfare State is definitely in a depression - not in a period of boom.
– Although I have not read the particular article to which the honorable member has referred, I have some familiarity in a general way with the views held by Professor Copland on that matter. The views of the professor together with those of many other expert advisers of the Government are under close examination by the Government itself. At this stage I do not propose to make announcements on matters that are at all times under consideration but I hope to be able to do so in due course.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether Mr. Thomas P. Hoey is still occupying the position of Director of Radio Australia? If not, when did he cease to occupy that position and what were the circumstances that led to the cessation of his duties? If Mr. Hoey no longer occupies that position, does the Government intend to make adequate compensation to him as an outstanding public servant? When does the Minister propose to make the statement that he promised to make to the Parliament on the future of Radio Australia ?
– The question that the honorable member has asked concerns the Postmaster-General or the Minister for flic Interior wlm now controls the Bureau of News and Information. I shall bring the matter to the attention of both of those gentlemen and no doubt a reply will be furnished in due course.
– Will the Treasurer state whether it is a fact, as has been forecast, that the means test will be completely abolished in relation to the recipients of medical, surgical and obstetrical benefits under the bill in relation to national health and medical services which is to be introduced in the near future? Will the right honorable gentleman apply the same principle in relation to the assessment of invalid and old-age pensions?
– The subject raised by the honorable member is a matter of Government policy which will be announced in due course.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by stating that, according to newspaper reports on the recent conference held in Sydney of representatives of nations adjacent to Australia or having interests in this area, Australia has agreed to participate in a plan to grant assistance to South Asian countries which will involve an expenditure of some millions of pounds. I understand that this is to be supplemented by further large sums. Having regard to the distress that exists in Australia among people on low incomes, particularly among pensioners, as a result of the Government’s failure to restore value to the ?1, will the right honorable gentleman indicate whether the Government proposes to expend at least a similar sum on the alleviation of local distress?
– The Government’s policy on that and on other matters will he announced at the appropriate time and in the proper way.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The necessity for an increase, because of the rapid increase in the cost of living, of all pensions paid by the Commonwealth.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– At the outset, I wish to make it clear that in bringing this matter forward I have no wish to embarrass the Government. There are in this community large sections of people who depend for their livelihood to an ever-increasing degree on the generosity of the government that graces the treasury bench. I refer to those who, in the main, depend on pensions granted to them under legislation passed by this Parliament and in particular to age and invalid pensioners, ex-servicemen, war widows and civilian widows. From time to time since the present Government assumed office Opposition members have asked whether, in view of the grave emergency resulting from the ever-increasing cost of living, the Government intends to increase the rate of pensions payable to those whose pensions form their sole source of income. The invariable reply has been that the matter is receiving the attention of the Government and that the Government will announce its policy in due course. It has been stated in the press that certain proposals will be introduced by the Government concurrently with the introduction of the budget. This Government has been in office since December last. Six months have gone by and the cost of living has been increasing steadily but nothing has been done to alleviate the position of the pensioners.
– What provision for the pensioners was made in the budgets of the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member ?
– From the time the Curtin Labour Government assumed office in 1941 until the Chifley Labour Government was defeated in December last, age and invalid and service pensions were regularly increased to meet the circumstances of the day. While Labour governments were in office the rate of age and invalid pensions was increased by 100 per cent. The Chifley Government in December last could have offered a bribe to the pensioners. The then Prime Minister could have indicated in his policy speech that if his Government were returned to office it would immediately increase the rate of all pensions paid by the Commonwealth. He did not do so. He made no promises; he merely said that if his Government were returned to office the whole matter of pensions would be reviewed in the light of the circumstances that then existed. The policy speeches of the leaders of the parties now in office clearly indicated that if they were returned to office early attention would be given to the necessity for an increase of age, invalid and other pensions paid by the Commonwealth. The policy speech that was delivered before the last general election on behalf of the parties now in office promised that those parties would, if elected, appoint two committees to inquire into all the difficulties of ex-servicemen and to examine the matter of ex-service pensions generally. One committee would be a Cabinet sub-committee and the other a committee of members of this Parliament. I do not know whether a Cabinet sub-committee has been appointed, but I do know that no committee of this Parliament has been appointed. It is interesting to recall that when the Social Services Consolidation Bill was before this House’ in 194S, members of the then Opposition who now occupy the treasury bench believed that even at that period pensions were most inadequate. I refer to statements made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) on the 12th October of that year during the debate on that measure. According to Hansard that honorable gentleman said on that occasion -
Age and invalid pensions’ will be increased by 0s. a week, the permissible earnings of pensioners will be raised from £1 to £1 10s. a week, and the permissible property qualification will be increased from £050 to £750. Honorable members on this side of the chamber arc completely in accord with those three proposals. The only criticism which I venture to offer is that the increases should have been made earlier.
That was in 1948, nearly two years ago. In the same debate and on the same day the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), who is now the VicePresident of the Executive Council, had this to say -
I pointed out in the debate on the Estimates that although our present pension . scheme is generally believed to be a very liberal one, the real value of pensions now is practically what it was in 1920. At that time the basic wage, under the Harvester Award, was £2 2s. a week and the pension was 15s. a week. In other words, the basic wage then was two and four-fifth times the amount of the pension. To-day, the average basic wage throughout the Commonwealth is £5 10s. a week, and the pension is £2 2s. 6d. a week. The basic wage is, therefore, a little less than two and four-fifth times the amount of the pension. Every one who knows anything of living conditions to-day realizes that persons whose incomes are derived solely from pension are having a very hard struggle to exist. Recently in this House I was prevented from reading an extract from a Melbourne newspaper showing how an old-age pensioner of 80 years of age worked out his budget. His rent is 7s. 6d. a week. His meale cost him at least 3s. a day, or 21s. a week. He has no electricity, and spends 7d. weekly on kerosene. Other weekly outgoings are 4s. Id. to purchase plug tobacco, ls. S-Jd. for honey, 0d. for funeral benefits, Id. contribution to the Pensioners Association and 3d. subscription to the Coolibah Club, to which he belongs in order that he may have some companionship. At the week-ends, when he can afford it, he buys tea, sugar and butter. Towels, razor blades and soap have to be provided for him. He rarely buys clothes, hut when he does he buys them at the shop of. the Brotherhood of St. Laurence, which makes very small charges, and then only in order to give the purchasers some kind of independence.
Later in her speech she said -
No honorable member objects to the increases that are now proposed. I imagine that every one would bc glad it the proposed increases were greater than they are. but I do not pretend to be able to tell the Treasurer what the amount should be or precisely what he should do.
I remind honorable members of a statement that was contained in a leading article published in the Melbourne Age on the 8th September, 1949, at a time when it was known that a federal election was looming. That statement read -
However composed, the enlarged new Parliament will at least find the country’s finances in sound shape. It will inherit no legacies of profligacy and none of the problems of inadequate resources to cope with commitments that beset some other countries. lt is obvious to everybody who takes an interest in the nation’s affairs that never in the history of this country have pensioners found it so difficult to exist as they do at present. One has only to examine the very grave increases that have occurred in the cost of the bare necessaries of life to realize how difficult the conditions of these people are. When we were in office we increased pensions so that the aged, the infirm, ex-servicemen, their wives and widows, would find it easier to live, but at the time that we took that action we were able to control the cost of living in Australia.
– It was not done successfully.
– The honorable gentleman may say that we did not do it successfully, but I can tell him that when a gallup poll was taken recently among the people of this country to discover whether they were now in favour of Commonwealth control of prices or whether they favoured the retention of such control by the States, a very high percentage of them indicated that they now realize that they made a mistake when they voted against the proposals contained in the prices referendum. To-day they are in favour of the Commonwealth again having control of prices and consequently, of the cost of living. While we were in office we were able to control the cost of living. This is an important point in- relation to pensions. We increased pensions having increases in the cost of living in mind. Since then it has become more difficult every day for pensioners to live a decent existence. I am not appealing to-day on behalf of some careless section of the community. I am appealing first of all on behalf of the aged and infirm and of those Australian pioneers who blazed the trail in this country and bore the brunt of the toil and the heat of the day. It is necessary for them now to accept pensions from the Commonwealth only because they played their part as great Australians and reared large families. While they were doing so it was not possible for them to accumulate the wealth that would have made them independent of this Government. Most of them had larger families than most people now have. They gave to this country men and women who later in life were prepared to lay down their lives for it. Many of those on whose behalf I appeal to-day are ex-servicemen who draw ex-service pensions or the pensions payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Many of them lost limbs during the war. We promised those people, who offered their lives for their country, that in return for their sacrifice we would care for them for the remainder of their days. Yet to-day we find that these same men are barely existing. [Extension of time granted.] Something should be done immediately for these people who are so seriously affected by the increased cost of living. They cannot afford to wait until the budget is introduced. The Government owes something to its exservicemen and war widows who have lost their all as the result of the last two wars. Ex-servicemen were promised that the country would not let them down, but the cost of living has spiralled to such an extent that their pensions to-day are totally inadequate to maintain them in any comfort. These ex-servicemen were physically fit when they left this country. They had been classified Al but they came back incapacitated. Surely the country should see that they do not live in beggary. The price for every item necesary to their existence has gone up. In some cases the increase has been 100 per cent., and in others up to 200 per cent. These people need help to-day, not to-morrow or the next day.
Honorable members of the Opposition do not raise this matter in order to gain political kudos. They do so in order that some temporary relief may be provided to age and invalid pensioners, ex-servicemen, war widows and civilian widows. These people should be given some temporary relief until the Government has considered the position fully. Even if it is the Government’s intention to increase pensions when the budget is presented later in the year it should give some temporary relief to these people immediately.
– I second the motion that has been moved by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr.
Chambers). I concur in his statement that this resolution has not been moved in any partisan spirit. It is common knowledge to honorable members of this Parliament and the people of Australia that at the last general election leaders of all parties gave an indication and, indeed, a promise that should they be returned to govern this country the wants of the invalid and age pensioners, widow pensioners, soldier pensioners and war widows would have due consideration. I understand that the parties which support the Government made a reasonably specific promise. The leader of the party to which I have the honour to belong, following his previous practice, announced to the electors of Australia that the whole circumstances of the invalid and age pensioners and ex-servicemen of this country would receive consideration should his Government be returned to office. That promise corresponded with the declaration which he made in 1946. I have no doubt that had the Labour party been returned to office a course of action very similar to that taken after the 1946 general election would have been followed and the conditions of the pensioners would have been substantially alleviated. I think it is right and just to say, in a non-partisan spirit, that the circumstances that now exist in Australia demand earlier attention by the Government than, perhaps, would have been given under other circumstances by any of the political parties because, after all, no economist and no student of the trend of prices anticipated for one moment that during the current financial year there would be such a rapid increase in the incomes of people in this country from overseas exports. In the ten months of the woolselling season that have expired, the income of Australia from wool alone exceeds the previous year’s income by £50,000,000. ‘ That is an enormous increase. What applies to wool applies likewise to other commodities. For the 3’ear 1948-49 alone Australian export revenue was in the vicinity of £546,000,000. Economists and students of economics estimated that there would be a substantial fall in that figure which is four times the revenue which Australia received during ‘the five years ended 1938-39. Under those circumstances, and because of the continued increase in incomes in this country the position of invalid and age pensioners, soldier pensioners, widows and war widows and other people dependent on social services is much more desperate than any one would have anticipated it would be six months or more ago.
Whilst I realize the enormous difficulties which confront a government which has been in office for only a few months, in considering a question of this nature, I believe that there is a need for immediate action in respect to the living conditions of age and. invalid pensioners. Twelve months ago fat lamb could be purchased for half the price that is being charged to-day. Prices have reached fantastic heights. I have heard women say that it costs at least from 6d. to 9d. to buy a decent lamb or mutton chop. Imagine the plight of age and invalid pensioners who have to exist on the modest allowance of 42s. 6d. a week when they are faced with the necessity of buying the daily meat ration. Visualize their position in respect to the price of butter and tea, notwithstanding the fact that this Government is continuing the previous Government’s policy of subsidization. The previous Government subsidized butter to the amount of 6d. per lb. This Government has added another 2£d., but even at the resultant figure that basic commodity is a heavy charge against modest incomes. All basic commodities have substantially increased in price due, not only to the increasing overseas prices, but also to the fact that the States find themselves unable adequately to control the cost of commodities. The Treasurer probably intends to do something for these people but he may not intend to do anything of a realistic character until he brings down his budget, probably in September. The all-important problem is what these people are going to do in the meantime if there is no check on the increasing cost of living and the increasing price of basic commodities. This problem confronts ex-service pensioners and soldiers’ widows alike. I regret that the Government Las not followed in this matter the practice laid down by previous administrations. In 1942, when we were in the midst of the war, the Curtin Government appointed a committee representative of all political parties of the Parliament to investigate the quantum of war pensions. After much taking of evidence and much examination of that evidence, the committee made a unanimous recommendation to Parliament. All party rancour was removed from the matter of ex-service and soldiers’ widows pensions. I was chairman of that committee. In relation to that report and the needs of these pensioners, although I have not heard any member of that committee express this view, I say that I believe the committee was influenced at that time by the possibility of enormous casualties and therefore recommended a more moderate amount than might have been recommended had it been realized by the committee that Australia was to survive the war with such light casualties.
– It is four years now since the war ended.
– The honorable gentleman who interjected fails to realize that the Administration did make some increases then upon the recommendations made by the committee. Much water has flowed under the bridge since then, and I think it is regrettable that this Government has not followed the example of its predecessors and appointed a non-party committee to report on the matter of these pensions. Of all the matters that should be removed from party rancour, this matter of pensions for those who fought and made sacrifices for their country should be considered the most important. The Government has appointed a sub-committee of the Cabinet, which has made a recommendation. I hope that it is a generous recommendation. That committee, which is a sub-committee of returned soldiers-
– Order ! The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
– I agree with one aspect of this motion. That is that the matter of pensions should, if possible, be considered on a non-party basis, having regard to the necessity of the commitment and the capacity of the nation to pay. Had the mover and seconder of this motion not been associated with the Government which formulated the budget that is presently current, and which will be current to the 30th June next, much greater weight could have been paid to their sincerity. It is also significant that the. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), who was Treasurer in the previous Government, and who formulated the current budget, has not taken part in this debate. It is obvious why he has not done so. He has not taken part because he realizes that the total pension commitment of the Government, by its very nature and cost, cannot be wisely considered in isolation from the general financial and budgetary position of the nation. It was for that reason that time after time and year after year, when any alleviating provision was made with regard to pensions, it was always submitted as part and parcel of a wellbalanced budget considered on the basis of all financial implications. The mover and seconder of the motion rested their case on the necessity, in view of the rapid rise in the cost of living, for an increase to be made in all pensions paid by the Government. Let us now direct the searchlight of investigation on this matter and consider past history in connexion with the basic principle of their request for an immediate increase of pension payments before the budget is submitted.
The main rise in living costs occurred before Labour left office on the 10th December last. The figures conclusively prove that by the December quarter of 1949 the “ 0 “ series index had risen 29 per cent, on the level of 1945-46. The rise took place at the following average rates on the 1945-46 basis- 1946-47 2.4 per cent., 1947-48 6.6 per cent., 1948-49 10.6 per cent. In the six months from July to December. 1949, the rise remained at an annual rate of 10.7 per cent. At the end of the war the cost of living had risen by 27 per cent., taking the three years ended June, L939, as a base equalling 100. That 27 per cent., is a basis of comparison with the pre-war figures. By the December quarter of 1949, when the previous Government was defeated, it had risen by 65.3 per cent. In the March quarter of 1950, which is the first clear quarter under this Government’s administration, the cost of living rose by only 2.9 per cent, taking as a base the three years to J une. 1949, equal to 100. On that the Opposition, which was the Government when the figures that I have mentioned were established, moved this motion and rested its case. In the December quarter of 1949 the cost of living rose far more steeply, in fact by 4.3 per cent, on the base previously mentioned. Did the then Government promise any pension rise in the policy speech delivered by its leader on behalf of his party? Did he make any promise in his budget, which was considered in September last year? It has been said by the mover and seconder of this motion that the Prime Minister promised an increase in pensions and sympathetic consideration of the claims of pensioners generally. There was not one single reference to a possible increase of pensions in the policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I rise to a point of order. I take objection to the statement made by the Treasurer-
-The honorable member cannot use that as a point of order.
– The statement was not true.
– It may not be true to say it in just that way, but that is the conclusion at which I arrived. Therefore, the honorable member does agree that the Prime Minister of the previous Government did not make any promises. Accordingly, it can be accepted as a fact that while the cost of living figures reveal the conditions that I have just outlined, the government of the day made no promise whatever with regard to an increase in pensions to offset the increase in the cost of living shown by the figures for the quarter before the last election. In the December quarter of 1949, the cost of living was 61 per cent, higher than it was before the war and 8.2 per cent, higher than the average for 1948-49. Nevertheless, the Treasurer of the day. who is now the Leader of the Opposition, did not promise any increase of pension rates or make any reference to the subject in his budget speech in September, 1949.
– That is untrue.
– It is not untrue. The facts are on record for all to see. No reference was made to any proposal for an increase of pension rates in concert with the rising cost of living. In fact, pensions have not been increased since October, 1948, when the budget provided for an additional 5 s. a week.
The Labour party has evidently drifted away from its moorings on this issue. The former Menzies-Fadden Government adopted the principle that pension rates should be varied according to the costofliving adjustments, and that principle was applied by Labour governments for the next three and a half years, during which there were nine separate increases. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) boasted that the Curtin Government had increased pensions onlY a few weeks after it assumed office. Why did it act so expeditiously? The simple truth is that it did so merely in the process of applying the formula that had been set down by the previous Government, which had decided that pensions should be related to the “ C “ series cost-of-living index. That formula provided for a pension increase of ls. a week at that time. As I have said, the Labour party followed that method of varying pensions for the next three and a half years, during which nine separate increases occurred. However, in 1944 the right honorable member’ for Barton, who was then Attorney-General, introduced legislation to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. In doing so he said -
The main purpose of this bill is to give legislative effect to the Government’s decision to abandon the principle of linking the rate of invalid and old-age pension with the costofliving figures, namely, the weighted average retail price index number for all items of household expenditure - “ C “series - for the six capital cities. … As a result of a further examination of the position, and having regard to the fact that considerable administrative work and many complications arise from the present system, the Government has decided to ask the Parliament to repeal the sections of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act which provide for the adjustment of the maximum rate of pension in accordance with the variations of the price index number.
Thus, the formula that had been established by the Menzies-Fadden Government was abolished. There can he no doubt that the Labour Government took that action because it expected the cost of living to rise rapidly. It stabilized the invalid and old-age pension rate at 27s. a week instead of allowing it to vary according to the variations of the “ C “ series index. The rate, which had remained stationary since August, 1943, continued unchanged until July, 1945. The cost of living rose by 3.1 per cent, in 1946-47, but the Labour Government did not increase the pension rate and made no provision for an increase in the budget for that year. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from those facts is that, in determining pension rates, the Labour party has never had any regard for the cost of living.
This Government will honour the promise that was made to the people at the general election, but, as this is a matter of policy, it will do so at the proper time and in the appropriate way. The parties that are represented on this side of the House need no urging to accept their responsibilities to the pensioners of Australia. We shall deal with them justly and fairly, having regard to all the circumstances, after we have made a thorough survey of the national finances preparatory to the presentation of the budget. Our proposals will be announced in my budget statement. I remind honorable members that a Labour party budget will be operative until the 30th June next. As members of the Opposition have admitted, the Leader of the Opposition did not make any promise to increase pension rates in concert with the rising cost of living. In the circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that, had the Labour party been returned to power, it would not have departed from its budget plans for 1949-50, and therefore would not have made any interim adjustment of the pension rate such as it now urges this Government to undertake. I am confident that the Leader of the Opposition, as the former Treasurer, will freely admit that any proposal for pension increases must be carefully considered in relation to all other financial responsibilities of the Government. I am sure that, had his party remained in power, the right honorable gentleman, would not have been prepared to increase pensions before the end of the current financial year. [Extension of time granted.’] This is exclusively a matter of policy and the
Government will not yield in any circumstances to the harassing tactics of the Opposition in relation to either pensions or child endowment. It is endeavouring to alleviate the financial strain upon the family unit by providing for the payment of endowment for the first child under the age of sixteen years in each home. That proposal is consistent with its announced policy and the mandate that it received from the people at the general election. It is a matter of extreme urgency.
– I rise to order, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. The Treasurer is discussing child endowment, which has nothing to do with the motion that is now before the House and which, in addition, is the subject of another motion on the notice-paper. I suggest that he is out of order in doing so.
– As I have just taken the place of Mr. Speaker in the Chair, I have not teen here long enough to know what the right honorable gentleman has been discussing.
– I know what humbug it is for the Opposition to submit such a motion as that which we are now debating. Every honorable member must know that all ex-servicemen’s organizations in Australia united to send numerous deputations to the Leader of the Opposition when he was Treasurer in order to draw his attention to the disparity between rates of service pensions and the cost of living. Yet, on each occasion, their representations were rejected by the former Treasurer, and the adjustments which are now sought by the mover and seconder of this motion were totally ignored. When the Liberal party and the Australian Country party were returned to office, we honoured our promise to the electors to appoint a sub-committee of ex-servicemen to review the pensions of ex-servicemen and their dependants. The decision of the Government on that matter will he announced at the proper time and in the appropriate way. In order to enable endowment of 5s. a week to be paid in respect of the first child of each family under the age of sixteen years as expeditiously as the Government desires, I move -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Me. Acting Deputy Speaker - Mr. A. M. McDonald.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker - Mr. A. M. McDonald.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 9th May (vide page 2251), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In introducing this bill the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) referred to the part that he had played when he previously held his present portfolio in 1941 and introduced the original Child Endowment Bill that placed the principle of child endowment on the statute-book. After spending the intervening years in exile he has returned for another period, perhaps brief, and has now presented a further instalment of that legislation. In doing so he has shown natural pride, which he is entitled to show, in the part that he has played in establishing child endowment in the Commonwealth arena.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech implied that child endowment was established by the previous Government in which he was a Minister because that Government was convinced that it was good to do so from a national standpoint. However, a good deal of the story has not yet been told to the Parliament concerning the reasons why the Menzies Government introduced child endowment in 1941. At that time, the Arbitration Court, as it is doing at present, was considering an application for an increase of the basic wage and it was common knowledge that the court was concerned about what action it should take in that matter. It was concerned about whether it should grant an overall increase or should wait to see whether the government of the day was prepared to do something about child endowment, because, if the Government was prepared to provide endowment, obviously its decision would be different from that which it would reach if child endowment were not introduced. In the court’s opinion, child endowment and the basic wage were closely inter-related. That fact is made clear in the judgments of each of the judges who composed the court at that time. It so happened that Chief Judge Beeby said in his judgment that the basic wage should provide for the needs of a man, wife and one child ; and he thought that the 1941 judgment, to which he was a party, made adequate provision for the needs of such a family unit. He made the following significant statement : -
Since the conclusion of the hearing of the basic wage case the Commonwealth Government has announced its intention to initiate a scheme of child endowment.
It was common knowledge at that time that the court intended to make an award increasing the basic wage by 6s. That increase would have benefited every worker in industry, including every man with or without dependent children, every widower and every single man. The court, in its determination, did not award an increase of 6s. The Government, believing that it would be preferable to provide child endowment in respect of all children after the first child in each family, brought down appropriate legislation. In the subsequent judgment the court provided for the needs of a man, wife and one child. The other judges, Judge 0’Mara and Judge Piper, were not quite so explicit as Judge Beeby was about the adequacy of the basic wage to provide for the needs of a man, wife and one child. They made no reference in their judgments to the needs that the wage that was determined would suffice to meet; but the Minister, himself, when introducing the original bill was very definite that the needs of a man, wife and one child had been provided for under that wage and that, therefore, the Parliament should not consider any extension of child endowment to the first child in a family. The words that the Minister used when dealing with that point were -
The Government has given a great deal of consideration to the provision of an endowment in respect of a first child. … It hae decided that payment for the first child is not warranted.
Later, he said - .
The presence of one child in the household does not put it at a serious disadvantage compared with the living standards of its neighbours. Inclusion of first children in the benefit would raise the cost of the endowment by over 80 per cent.
For financial and other reasons the government for which the Minister was the spokesman in this matter decided that endowment for the first child should not be considered. In his second-reading speech on the measure now before us, the Minister drew attention to the fact that in 1941 the Labour party which was then in Opposition, as it is now, did not press for the payment of endowment for the first child. The reason for the Labour party’s attitude in that respect is plain. In 1941, the government proposed to pay endowment of 5s. a week in respect of the second child and subsequent children in a family. Chief Judge Beeby in his judgment propounded that the amount of 12s. 6d. a week was required to meet the needs of a child, and other investigations showed that approximately that sum was required to maintain a child in normal health. The Labour party at that time was not in favour of paying 5s. a week in respect of the first child because it believed that immediately the Parliament enacted such a provision an application would be made by the employers to the court for a variation of the basic wage on the ground that the needs of the first child had been provided for. The members of the Labour party held that suspicion very strongly, and on that account always opposed the payment of endowment for the first child even up to the date of the last general election.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, also said that the Liberal party was formed in 1945 - as if the Liberal party to-day is different in any way from the anti-Labour parties in 1941. In 1945, the Liberal party in its first policy statement on social security declared itself in favour of the payment of endowment for the first child, but when it made that declaration it intended that the amount that should be paid for the first child should be the same as that, paid in respect of all other children. I do . not think that the Minister will disagree with that, statement. If he were daring enough to do so, I should refer him to statements that have been made by four of his colleagues in the present Cabinet on various occasions since 1945 when they advocated the payment of endowment for the first child and stipulated that the same sum should be paid for the first child as was paid for other children in a family. Two of those Ministers are members of the Australian Country party and the other two are members of the more enlightened Liberal party of which the Minister is a member. The present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), when speaking on the Social Services Consolidation Bill in this chamber on the 12th October, 1948, said-
I am pleased that the bill proposes to increase child endowment from 7s. 6d. to 10s. a week. Nevertheless, I consider that we are not doing sufficient to encourage people to have larger families. When child endowment was introduced in 1941 it was paid to parents of two or more children without any means test being applied. i7o allowance was paid in respect of the first child because the basic wage provided for a man, wife and one child.
Later, in the same speech, the right honorable gentleman said -
In 1944, when the prices of food and clothing were much lower than at present, a royal commission which inquired into the matter found that the additional cost of maintaining the child during the first year of its life was approximately 15s. 3d. a week in respect of the first child; 9s. lid. a week in respect of the second child; lis. 6d. a week in respect of the third child; 12s. 7d. a week in respect of the fourth and fifth children, and 15s. 3d. a week in respect of the sixth and seventh children.
If these figures were presented in graph form, the result would resemble a fever chart. At every stage the right honorable gentleman argued that an amount between 15s. 3d. and 9s. lid., was needed to maintain a child. In this bill it is suggested that 5s. is sufficient to maintain the first child. In the same speech the right honorable gentleman argued that more money should be made available to families so that parents would be encouraged to have larger families and their children might be better fed and clothed. He said -
More money should be made available for an extension of child endowment benefits, which should ‘ be greater as the family increases. Provision should be made whereby mothers will receive as fair a deal as do other members of the community.
It almost seemed as though at that time he favoured a system of motherhood endowment. Yet, to-day, he supports what I and other Opposition members believe to be a retrograde provision, namely, to pay only 5s. a week in respect of the first child. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), who followed his erstwhile Leader of the Australian Country party in the same debate, had this to say -
Something more than the provision of this paltry child endowment is necessary. I say “ paltry “ because nobody can rear a child on 10s. a week. Honorable members must remember, also, that the figure has only just been increased from 7s. 6d. a week.
If it was true then that nobody could rear a child even on 10s. a week, how can the Postmaster-General now say that 5s. a week is sufficient to maintain a child? He continued -
Every shilling over 10s. a week that it costs to rear the child has to come out of the weekly income.
In other words, the endowment paid in respect of the second and subsequent children is not sufficient to enable a family on the basic wage to maintain its standard in relation to everybody else on the basic wage. The larger the family the more it sinks economically and socially in comparison with other families. If the provision in the award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is 12s. 6d. a week for the first child, obviously the payment of any less amount for subsequent children means a diminution of the standards of the whole of the family. Let us consider some of the large families that exist in Australia to-day, and how the parents of large families must be placed at a distinct social disadvantage compared with the parents of small families. In Australia there are 4,800 families with seven or more children ; 2,135 with eight or more ; 711 with nine or more; 281 with ten or more; 72 with 11 or more; 22 with twelve or more; eight with 13 and one with fourteen children.
– Those are Australian families?
– Yes. These figures have been taken from statistics showing the number of children who at the 30th June, 1949, were covered by child endowment, and were included in families of that size.
– All of them are under the age of sixteen years?
– Yes, as the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) reminds me, all of them are under the age of sixteen years. Other countries do not provide a flat rate of child endowment as we do, nor do they, as the State Child Welfare Departments did in respect of orphaned and destitute children in the days before responsibility for child endowment was taken over by the Commonwealth, pay 8s. a week for the first child, 7s. 6d. a week for the second child and 6s. a week for the third child. They reversed that process by progressively increasing the payments in respect of the second, third and fourth children, and so on. If honorable members examine the schemes that were introduced by the Nazi party in Germany for the purpose of stimulating the birth-rate in that country they will see that, unlike our own, they made it possible for the parents of large families to maintain their children at a reasonable standard of comfort.
– They were contributary insurance schemes.
– We, too, have contributary insurance in our social services scheme. The social services contribution is imposed on incomes on a graduated scale. Some regard it as unsatisfactory. Maybe we shall have another scheme which will provide for the payment of superannuation benefits to the whole community. That, too, will be a contributary scheme. Expenditure on child endowment is financed partly by social services contributions and partly from the proceeds of the pay-roll tax. That brings me back to a consideration of the determination made by Chief Judge Beeby in which he said that the basic wage should provide for the needs of a man, wife and one child. When he made that determination he probably had in mind that if he fixed a basic wage that would provide for the needs of a man, wife and three children it would cost the employers considerably more than would a wage computed on the basis of the needs of the smaller family. The employers of Australia believed that the pay-roll tax, which was introduced by the Menzies Government and which had the unanimous support of the Labour party, but was opposed by some of the Government’s own supporters, was less burdensome on industry than a scheme to pay a basic wage that would provide for the needs of a man, wife and three children, as was the reputed intention of the Harvester judgment of 1907. The employers of the day made the best bargain from their own point of view and supported the legislation introduced by the Menzies Government; but some supporters of that Government, including yourself, Mr. Speaker, crossed the floor of this House and- opposed the proposal of the Government on the ground that the scheme should be financed from general revenue because age and invalid pensions were also paid from general revenue. Eight rebel members of the Government party, including the present Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), forced the issue to a division.
I return to the subject of what Liberal party members had to say in the past about endowment of the first child. On the 6th August, 1946, when a motion for the printing of the Financial Statement by the then Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) was being debated in the Senate, Senator McLeay, the present Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, proposed an amendment to the motion in the following terms : -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ and that it be an instruction to the Government that the Child Endowment Act 1941-1945 be extended to provide for the payment of 7e. 6d. per week for the first child in order that all children under sixteen years of age may come within the benefits of the scheme “.
The amount then paid in respect of the second and subsequent children was 7s. 6d. a week. Senator McLeay by his amendment committed his party - he spoke not for the pre-Liberal party, but for the Liberal party as we know it to-day - to pay child endowment in respect of the first child at the same rate as was applicable to all subsequent children. Yet he is a party to the bill now before us which suggests that the first child should be endowed at 5s. a week. During his speech on that occasion Senator Finlay interjected and asked -
Why did not the Menzies Government, in 1941, introduce endowment in respect of the first child?
Senator McLeay is reported in Hansard to have replied -
Because the Arbitration Court said that the basic wage was sufficient.
That statement justifies the suspicions that we have held since 1941 that the endowment of the first child would be seized upon by employers as a reason for reducing the basic wage.
– And, perhaps, also seized upon by governments for that purpose.
– That is so. The present Government is represented at the basic wage case which is before the Arbitration Court. What instructions have been given to counsel representing the Government in that case? Are they appearing merely for the purpose of assisting the court if their advice is sought, or are they present at the hearing to give an opinion as to what the Government believes the basic wage should be, or the adequacy of the basic wage for a man, wife and three children, or a man, wife and one child?
– And to submit argument as to whether social services benefits should be taken into account in assessing the basic wage.
– That is also true. On several occasions Government spokesmen have said that the court may fix a basic wage on the basis of the needs of a man and his wife only. The Prime Minister referred to that matter in his policy speech. He said that if the court fixed the basic wage on that basis, and he were then Prime Minister, his Government would introduce legislation to provide child endowment at a flat rate of 10s. a week for all children under sixteen years of age. In a full-page advertisement which was published in that “ fair deal “ newspaper, the Melbourne Argus, on the 2nd December, 1949, under the heading “ This is the Liberals’ Policy “ - the apostrophe was placed after the letter- “ s “ and not before it - the following paragraph appeared : -
Existing social services to be maintained, the means test modified, and child endowment extended to the first child without affecting the basic wage.
If the members of the Liberal party thought that a Liberal government could do what they said they wanted to do, they can have no objection to the amendment that was made in this bill by the Senate. After all, the bill as it now stands is in line with the Liberal party’s policy, because it makes the specific provision that child endowment shall be established at 10s. a week without its having any effect on the basic wage. The Minister said in his statement to the House that we might even destroy the basic wage determination if we persisted in having this particular provision retained in the bill. He said not only that the provision could be upset on constitutional grounds, but also that continued appeals ‘ to courts or to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court itself might . even result in the basic wage determination being set aside, thus leading to further proceedings, and probably long delays, before a final decision could take effect. That statement does not impress us much, and I shall tell the Minister why. He knows very well that under the Acts Interpretation Act various parts of a bill are separable; that the High Court could lift that portion of the bill I am now discussing, should it become an act, out of the act, after having declared it to be unconstitutional, if it were disposed to do so, and leave the remainder of the act intact. It has taken such action in connexion with other legislation. It did so in the case of the 1947 banking legislation. Repeatedly portions of legislation have been declared ultra vires the Constitution whilst other portions have been allowed to remain in force. So we are not greatly concerned about the Minister’s argument. But there is the additional fact that, since the Minister last held the portfolio that he now holds, Australia has moved on. An amendment of the Constitution was made by referendum in 1946, which gave to this parliament the power to make laws in respect of child endowment. That particular head of power has never been tested. In our view this Parliament is competent to make laws in respect of child endowment and to lay down as a principle that payments in respect of child endowment shall not he taken into consideration by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court when it is fixing the basic wage.
The Minister has emphasized the fact that child endowment is not paid to the bread-winner of a family as a supplement to his wage, but is paid directly to the mother. That has been a good provision, and when the original legislation was before the House it was supported most enthusiastically. The fact that the payment is made to the mother, plus the fact that the Constitution has been amended strengthens our argument that this Parliament can, and should, lay down the principle that child endowment is not a matter that should concern any court when it is fixing wages or doing anything else. The Minister, who is a lawyer, says “ Well, I do not think that that argument is a good one”. But the argument has never been tested in the court, and who can say which argument of the two is right ? After all, lawyers are never unanimous about anything. In fact, it would not pay them to be unanimous. They have to be wrong at least half the time if they are to make a living. There must always be somebody in favour of a case and somebody against it. Even judges disagree, and of course if they disagree on other things they would probably disagree on this matter. We consider that the Minister’s argument in this particular instance is spurious even though in his speech he used the following words regarding the Opposition: -
It knows perfectly well that such a clause would almost certainly be declared unconstitutional. There is little doubt that if the amendment remained in the bill the finding of the Arbitration Court on the basic wage would be challenged on constitutional grounds.
We disagree entirely with him regarding his argument that the clause would almost certainly be declared unconstitutional. As far as his statement that the finding of the court would be challenged on constitutional grounds is concerned, well, it is nothing new to members of trade unions to have determinations by arbitration courts-, or State courts, challenged in the superior courts on frivolous or apparently real grounds that are without reason, by employers’ who wish to cause delay or to take advantage of legal loopholes. We are not deterred by the fact that the basic wage determination, whatever it may be this time or at any time in the future, might be challenged on constitutional grounds. The Minister very naturally and properly says-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) be granted an extension of time.
– I rise to order. According to my understanding of the relevant standing order, it provides that the Leader of the Opposition or the member deputed by him, speaking first, shall be permitted to speak for 45 minutes.
– I had no idea that the honorable gentleman was representing his leader.
– I am.
-In that case, the honorable gentleman may speak for a further period without an extension of time. I was unaware of the honorable gentleman’s elevation. There is no need for the motion.
– It is merely a temporary elevation. The Minister said that this measure would be welcomed by mothers. Of course it will be. Even the payment of 5s. endowment for the first child that the measure proposes will be acceptable to mothers. The cost of living is rising very steeply and the struggle for existence is very hard. Our argument, however, is that the amount to be provided is not enough, and that, on the evidence that I have already quoted from the utterances of the Minister’s own colleagues in other days when they were in Opposition, there ought to be no differentiation between children. There is an inference that this Government is doing something extraordinary for the mothers of Australia by providing this endowment. In rebuttal of that proposition I point out that the Labour party, during the terms of office of the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government, raised the total amount expended on social security, including child endowment, from £17,000,000 to £100,000,000 a year. No doubt if we had remained in office we would have increased it even further.
I shall make passing reference to some other aspects of the Minister’s speech. He stated that the benefits that accrued from child endowment had a marked effect upon the birthrate of the country. He also said - and I quote his own words -
In 1941 the crude birth-rate, that is, the number of births per thousand of the population, was 18.94. By 1948, after a steady progression in the intervening years, the number of births per thousand had increased to 23.08. The same period reveals a marked improvement in infantile mortality rates.
All that is true, but it is not the whole truth. I believe that whilst the payment of child endowment did have some effect-
– That is all explained.
– If all is explained, well and good. However, as I have raised the issue I should like to make the point that the improvement of the birth-rate is largely due to the provision of full employment. In 1939 the rate of unemployment was about 9 per cent. From 1941 onward it was difficult to find sufficient workers to meet all the industrial needs of the country, including the needs of war industries-
– The birth-rate increased between 1914 and 1918.
– That is so, but if the honorable gentleman cares to study a graph that I have on the birth-rate between 1922 and 1949 he will see that the biggest increase in our birth-rate, a phenomenal increase, took place between 1941 and 1947 and that it has dropped only a little since the latter year. It also shows that the lowest birth-rate in recent history was between 1931 and 1937, and that the trough of that birth-rate depression occurred in the years between 1932 and 1935. In 1922, for instance, there were about 138,000 births, and in 1923 about 133,000. In 1924 the rate was about the same as in 1923. In 1925 the figure was 136,000 and in 1926 it dropped to under 132,000. It then remained almost stationary until 1928 when it began to fall sharply. In 1942 we reached the same total birth-rate as we had in 1922. It rose to 182,000 in 1947, but to-day it has dropped to about 176,000. We have reason to be proud of the fact that our birth-rate has increased.
– I think that the 1949 rate was 180,000 although I believe the rate dropped in 1948.
– That is not the position as far as 1949 is concerned, according to the. graph that I have. It could not be expected, of course, that the birth-rate would remain as high as it was immediately after the war, because the marriage rate was highest in 1946, and we are now back to normal times. In the period with which I have dealt our population has been increasing whilst the financial burdens of families have also increased. Conditions are better to-day than they were in the 1931 to 3937 period, that awful period during which people were expected to live on sustenance given to them by the States. I have a copy of a booklet on the administration of unemployment relief in Victoria, published by the Honorable W. S. Kent Hughes in 1933. That gentleman is now the honorable member for Chisholm in this Parliament, but at that time he was. an honorary Minister in a State Government of which the present Prime Minister was AttorneyGeneral. At that time a man was expected to keep a child on 2s. 6d. a week. Under the Victorian act sustenance was 6s. a week for a single person; 9s. a week for a man and wife; lis. 6d. for a man, wife and one child ; 14s. for a man, wife and two children; 16s. 6d. for a man, wife and three children; and so on, with increases of 2s. 6d. a week for every child.
– There was more to it than that. The payment appears very small, but other advantages also were given.
– I do not think that there were any advantages for those who were unfortunate enough to be unemployed.
– Other assistance was given.
– I am directing attention to the fact that the payment in respect of a child, even under the unemployment relief provisions in the States, was at that time about 2s. 6d. a week. It was completely insufficient just as is the amount that is now being paid as endowment. I do not think that we shall ever be able to say that we are properly discharging our responsibilities to the mothers of Australia, while the cost of living is at its present level, unless we increase child endowment, including endowment for the first child, to at least 12s. 6d. a week and perhaps 15s. a week. I hope that in making such a statement I shall not influence anybody to argue before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that a smaller amount than would otherwise be the case should be taken into account in fixing the basic wage for workers in this country. What was done in the 1941 judgment was simply that the amount that was to be 1)aid out was reshuffled. A single man, or a widower without dependent children, or a married man similarly placed, received a very small increase, but a bigger amount was paid through the payroll tax on industry, to people with families.
The workers of Australia expect a considerable increase of the basic wage when the court makes its determination, but at the same time, now that we are in the welfare age, the people of Australia expect adequate child endowment payments in respect of their dependent children as well. This -Government does not want to pay 10s. a week in respect of the first child because it will mean that the extra child endowment will cost £30,000,000 a year. The present scheme envisages an additional payment of £15,000,000 .a year. I suspect that the Government wants to give some tax reductions in its budget to some of its wealthy friends and if it pays 10s. a week for the first child it will have £15,000,000 a year less with which to make those reductions. I do not think that the Government is putting the whole of the facts before the House when it argues, as the Minister did, in favour of the increase of 5 s. per week.
If the Government considers that the Parliament has no power to interfere in the fixing of the basic wage and that because of constitutional limitations it is enabled merely to establish a court and appoint judges, why does it not introduce an amending bill into this House or the other place and let the court decide whether the Parliament has the power to stipulate that the court shall not take child endowment into consideration when determining the basic wage ?
– Did the honorable gentleman consider that when the Government in which he was a Minister increased the rate from 5s. to 7s. 6d. and, subsequently, from 7s. 6d. to 10s. ?
– No. Our Government believed that the 1941 basic wage provided for the needs of a man, his wife and one child and the increases in endowment we paid were in respect of the second and subsequent children. The Labour Government considered that it could have increased endowment, if necessary, to £1 a week in respect of second and subsequent children without the court taking the matter into consideration. But the Government cannot guarantee that the court will not take this increase into consideration. The C017rt can take anything into consideration without saying whether it has done so or not.
– It might be more dangerous, then, to increase the amount to 10s.
– By using that line of argument, it might be said to be dangerous to make any payment in respect of the first child. The position is that the House has a bill before it. Honorable members must, therefore, either oppose the bill on the ground that the basic wage will be endangered by it or try to secure endowment for all children on the same level. They must do either the one thing or the other. The Government may say that consistency demands that honorable members of the Opposition should throw the whole measure out, but the Parliament has encouraged the mothers of Australia to believe that they are to receive a payment. Honorable members of the Opposition do not propose to disappoint them but are endeavouring to ensure that they shall receive a sum which is believed to be reasonable. On the facts put forward by the Minister it cannot be argued that 5s. a week is a satisfactory payment. There is not one honorable member in this House who will say that 5s. a week is enough to keep a dog.
– It was not intended wholly to keep a child.
– Surely it was intended to play a considerable part in keeping it. The Labour Report of 1947, issued by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, states that the report of the royal commission presided over by Mr, A. B. Piddington, KC, in 1919, laid down that there should be a basic wage of £5 16s. composed of a payment of £4 to the parents and child endowment of 12s. a week for each of three children. Unfortunately, the average Australian family has never consisted of a man, his wife and three children. That has been an illusion. [Extension of time granted.] The Piddington Royal Commission provided for 12s. a week for each of three children in each family and the Federal Government of the day which was the Hughes Government gave effect, in part, to the Piddington judgment in the Commonwealth Public Service. In 1920 it provided for child endowment to be paid to public servants but did not pay its officers at the rate of 12s. a week as had been recommended by the royal commission. It paid them only 5s. a week. There is an early instance of the payment of child endowment in the State of New South Wales. The first bill to give effect to the principle in that State was introduced in 1919. The Legislative Council, being composed of true blue tories, rejected the bill which provided for a basic wage for a man, and his wife, and an allowance of 5s. a week for each child including the first for persons not receiving more than £3 a week above the basic wage. It was not until the parliamentary session of 1926-27 that the Labour Government of New South Wales was able to provide child endowment in that State. Considerable progress has been made since 1919 but full justice has not yet been done to the mothers of Australia. This bill, although it does a modicum of justice, does not do enough. It should be allowed to stand as a Labour majority in the Senate has altered it. First, 10s. a week must be paid in respect of the first child, and secondly, the provision which the Labour Opposition in another place has inserted in the bill to prevent the Arbitration Court from taking this payment into consideration ought to remain as an intimation to the court that child endowment shall be paid in addition to the basic wage. This is a wise provision and the Government ought to take the- risk of having to provide an extra £15,000,000, because the mothers of Australia will expect this amount and I think that they should receive it.
– This is possibly one of the most important pieces of legislation that will come before this chamber for a long time. The payment of endowment in respect of the first child is very much needed in order to make the lot of the mother easier. I think that most honorable members on the Government side of the House have failed to appreciate that before a decision is given in respect of a basic wage a ease must be submitted to the Arbitration Court. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), then Leader of the Opposition, announced, prior to the last general election, that child endowment would be paid for the first child if his party were returned to office, the Arbitration Court, which was hearing a claim by unions for an increased basic wage, adjourned the hearing until the election had been held so that it could inform itself of the intentions of the incoming Government in respect of child endowment.
– That is true. The statement was made before the court decided to adjourn the hearing of the case. It was a most indelicate thing to do.
– That is correct. That action indicated to the people responsible for fighting the trade unions’’ case before the Arbitration Court that there was something afoot and that the Arbitration Court was awaiting an opportunity to fix the basic wage at a figure less than that which would have been determined had that statement not been made by representatives of the Liberal party. Consequently, I think that this House must consider the relationship of child endowment to the basic wage before it deals with the two amendments that were inserted in this measure in another place. In considering that matter I do not think that honorable members can do better than examine th” report of the Royal Commission on Child Endowment or Family Allowances of the 15th December, 1928. At page 34 of the report, in section 4, there is a reference to the inter-relation of wage fixation and child endowment. This refers to the very matter that honorable members are called upon to consider at this stage. It says -
We are required to consider systems of child endowment in relation to wage fixation; we have felt compelled to consider systems of wage fixation in relation to child endowment. This has meant examination of industrial statutes of the Commonwealth and of the States. It also involved a study of Industrial Judgments. Some of these Judgments enunciate principles. Some describe methods; some set in high relief defects of practice, difficulties or interpretation, conflicts of jurisdiction.
The imprecision and nebulousness of parliamentary directions to industrial tribunals leave Industrial Judges moving continually through areas of cloud and low visibility. In (he statutes, much imperfectly implicit as to child endowment, little perfectly explicit. The general impression is one of vagueness. Even skilled interpreters are often in doubt; the indications are faint like the shadows in a skiagram. Rare the sharp outline, product of micro-metric focussing and crystal clarity of thought.
A review of Commonwealth and the State industrial legislation and practice, and of underlaying principles, is long overdue.
That was in 1928. The report continues -
Such examination should be carried out with the object of evolving a uniform system which is simpler, less expensive, and more clearly defined than the present medley of systems.
That can be appreciated, having regard to the different State provisions, but some measure of uniformity has been achieved. I continue the quotation -
This, of course, is on the assumption that the continuation of a system or systems of wage fixation is desirable, a question outside the terms of reference, and on which we, therefore, express no opinion. So far as we are aware, no authority has attempted to present a complete statement either of principles or methods.
I need not traverse any further the finding of that royal, commission, but I emphasize that neither at that stage nor since has there been any clarity in respect of the findings of the Arbitration Court on the matter that this House is now considering. In order to have before us a clear picture of the matter, it is necessary fully to consider the statement of the court relating to the basic wage inquiry of 1940 as it is reported in the Labour Report, 1944. That report has been widely quoted, and it has been misquoted to some extent. Because there is an inclination on the part of many people to believe that the Arbitration Court’s functions are not to determine what the family unit shall be in determining the basic wage, it is necessary to give close attention to this particular provision. I refer the House to that part of the report which reads -
The court has always conceded the “needs “ of an average family should be kept in mind in fixing a basic wage. But it has never as the result of its own inquiry specifically declared what is an average family or what is the cost of a regimen of food, clothing, shelter and miscellaneous items necessary to maintain it in frugal comfort, or that a basic wage should o-ive effect to any such finding. In the end economic possibilities have always been the determining factor . . . What should be sought is the independent ascertainment and prescription of the highest basic wage that can be sustained by the total of industry in all its primary, secondary and ancillary forms.
That was written after the 1940 hearing, when the court said that there was no clear means of measuring the general wage-paying capacity of the total industry of the country. The court said -
All that can be done is to approximate, and one of the methods of approximation is to find out the actual wage upon which well-situated labourers are at the time maintaining the average family unit.
That method arouses grave doubt in the minds of everybody as to whether the court itself has any fixed rule for the calculation of the wage that industry can afford to pay. Consequently, it throws into vivid relief the court’s own long-term approach to the matter. That is that it must have a measuring stick, and that measuring stick is the amount upon which the average family unit can exist. In that report this further statement appears -
I was impressed by the new evidence and argument as to the inadequacy of the earnings of the lower paid wage-earners with families. On our accepted standards of living, looking at it from the needs point of view only, I regard the present basic wage as adequate for a family unit of three persons, but think it offers only a meagre existence for a family unit of four.
That is a clear expression of the opinion of the court that under the 1940 judgment the basic wage was provided for a family unit of three. If that is coupled with the fact that the basic wage has been provided for a family unit of three up to the present time, and that the present basic wage case was adjourned when it was announced that child endowment would be provided for the first child, it will be appreciated that there is a need for two things to be done. First, if the Government is anxious to do something for the first child, then it should at least provide for it adequately. Secondly, if the Government is sincere in its statement that the basic wage should not be calculated by taking into account the amount granted for the first child, it should ensure that that amount will not be considered by the Arbitration Court in determining the new wage. I do not agree with the Minister when he says that it is not possible, and indeed is outside the scope of the Constitution, so to enact, as to direct that the court shall make its decision according to the provisions of this legislation.
If the Government can legislate to cut across the industrial arbitration laws of this country to the point where it can remove people from the union offices to which they have been elected under the rules of the Arbitration Court, then to legislate to cut across the decision of the Arbitration Court on this particular matter is well within its capacity. There is no doubt about the Government’s capacity in that direction, as I propose to show.
Perhaps I can mention what was said in another place. After all there must be some honesty of purpose in our approach to this matter, because nobody in this House will approach it without having a clear conscience that whatever is done will not reduce the living standards of the people of this country. When a Minister has been heard to say in another place, that the problems of child endowment are closely associated with the amount and the structure of the basic wage - -
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to quote from the Senate debates.
– With great respect, sir, I am not quoting from the debates because I have not seen them. I am quoting statements attributed to a Minister in another place. The statements that I intend to mention may have been incorrectly reported to me, but 1 have every reason to believe that they were made by a Minister in another place. According to my reports he said -
That wage is at present under complete re-examination by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration whose decision the Government cannot anticipate and has no desire whatever to influence.
I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service quite squarely whether he can conscientiously say that it is not the intention of the Government to influence the court, but that in fact this measure provides for something that is outside the scope prescribed by the Pull Court decision in 1940. This action of the Government must be reflected in any future decision of the court. If the Minister approaches it in any other way he will act contrary to the facts.
In another place the Minister in charge of the bill also said - . . if the foundation of the basic wage is altered and its amount calculated by reference to the needs of a married couple without children, then provision will be made for raising the endowment for the first or only child under sixteen years from 5s. to 10s. a week.
I put it to the Minister in this House that, whatever his views may be, there is a doubt in the mind of the Minister who presented the bill in another place as to whether the very thing that the Government is doing will not be taken into account by the Arbitration Court. It is wrong in principle to interfere with the basis upon which a standard has been set, without being conscious of where such interference will lead. I recollect that the present Minister for Labour and National Service was quite aware in 1941 that the first child was taken into account under the three-unit system of assessing the basic wage. His own statement on the 27th March, 1941, was-
On the Commonwealth Court’s own recent finding, the present basic wage is adequate for a man, wife and one child. Since most married people have at least one dependent child - under the census of 1933 this applied to 60 per cent, of the married males - the presence of one child in the household does not put it at a serious disadvantage compared with the living standards of its neighbours
Why should that be so in 1941, and the position be completely reversed to-day? Why do something at this stage which will give the person with one child an advantage over his neighbour? The Government knows full well that such a provision will be reflected in the basic wage. This matter is very serious, and its implications are so important that every honorable member of this House, whether he be an industrial leader or not, would be failing in his duty to the Australian people and to the businessmen, particularly the small businessmen, if he did not approach this matter with great care and wisdom. From an industrial point of view this is one of the most important matters with which this House has been called upon to deal during the life of this Parliament. Its ultimate effect on the standards of the community can be so great that any approach to the problem without a consideration of that effect will render a distinct disservice to the Australian worker in particular and to the people in general. Suppose for a moment that the first child is to he coveredby endowment. Whatever may be the basic wage standard, let us consider the implications of endowing the first child. Arising out of the report of a further royal commission on the basic wage which was presented on the 23rd November, 1920, a memorandum was addressed by Mr. A. B. Piddington to the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who at that time was Prime Minister of Australia and represented another electorate. The honorable member for Melbourne mentioned the memorandum briefly, but I shall quote from it at length because of its importance. It began -
I forward herewith a reply to your request to-day for a memorandum on the following matters: -
The true incidence of the cost of living.
How the findings of the commission as to the cost of living may be distributed between (1) man and wife, (2) each of three dependent children.
How the said finding of the commission can be made effective so as to secure for every employee the actual cost of living according to its true incidence, accepting the finding of £5 1 6s. as the actual cost of living for a man, wife and three children.
Referring to the third matter enumerated in the introduction, the memorandum stated -
The figures as to 450,000 non-existent wives may therefore be disregarded.
At that stage, the basic wage was £3 18s. a week. The commissioner’s finding was that, with a basic wage of £4 a week, the proper allowance for each dependent child would he 12s. a week. Applying the same principle to a basic wage of over £6, the appropriate allowance for each dependent child to-day would be approximately £1 a week. That memorandum, which was presented to the Parliament with the commission’s report in 1920, was accepted by the Prime Minister of the day as a statement of fact. The Arbitration Court may well be influenced by the Government’s proposal to pay child endowment for the first child in every family. In fact, it has already trimmed its sails, because it adjourned its hearing of the basic wage claim as soon as the present Prime Minister promised during the election campaign to extend the scope of child endowment. The proposal has caused those of us who have been associated with the presentation of cases in the Arbitration Court to wonder what effect it will have ultimately. [Extension of time granted.]
A State government in New South Wales attempted many years ago to do what this Government is now attempting to do. The circumstances are so much alike that history could be repeating itself. In 1919, when the Holman Government was in office in New South Wales, a wages tribunal was charged with the responsibility of making an annual review of the basic wage on the basis of a family unit of a man, wife and two children. It came to the knowledge of the Holman Government in that year that the tribunal proposed to increase the basic wage from £3 to £3 17s. a week. The course of action then decided upon by the Holman Government was remarkably like that which is being pursued by this Government, although I should not like to say that this Government has any knowledge of what the Arbitration Court intends to do in the current basic wage case. The following brief history of the Holman child endowment scheme of 1919 is taken from the report of the Royal Commission on Child Endowment or Family Allowances that was presented to this Parliament in 1929 : -
In 1(11 0, under the Premiership of the Hon. W. A. Holman, K.C., the Government introduced a scheme for child endowment. At that time, in New South Wales a living wage was fixed year by year, on the inquiry of a body called the Board of Trade, into any increase or decrease in the cost of living. In 1919, the current basic wage was £3 per week, and the Board was conducting an inquiry into the cost of living with a view to further determination of the wage. The Government learned that in all probability the Board would declare a basic wage of £3 17s. in lieu of £3. This would have meant a very heavy increase in wages expenditure by the Government, especially on railways and tramways, while private enterprises would, of course, have been affected in the same way. There was also a fear that the large sudden increase in wages would cause a serious amount of unemployment.
The party then in power in the State was committed to the principle of child endowment, and thought the time opportune for introducing a bill on the subject, which accordingly they did. It was proposed to alter the unit - man, wife and two children - used by the Board of Trade for the purpose of determining the basic wage, and to adopt the unit of man and wife only, the basic wage to be fixed in i elation to the cost of living of a married pair. This basic wage was to be supplemented by a payment of 7s. fid. per week in respect of each dependent child, and on the statistical ratio of children to employees at that time, it was estimated that a payment by employers of Ss. per week per employee would provide the necessary funds. The amounts so provided were to be paid into a pool from which distribution was to be made to each wage-earner according to the number of his children.
That was the Holman plan. I ask honorable members to notice the similarity between it and the plan of the present Australian Government. Instead of permitting the basic wage to be increased by 17s. a week, the Holman Government proposed to remove children from the family unit then used for the purpose of basic wage calculations and to provide for child endowment at the rate of 7s. 6d. a week, for which employers would pay 8s. a week in respect of each employee. The royal commission’s historical survey of the attempted change continues -
The Bill met with opposition both from employers and from Trade unions. The opposition of the employers was not removed by the argument that the passing of the Bill would, in fact, reduce the total amount of wages they would probably be called upon to pay. The increase under the endowment scheme (regarding the endowment payment as part of wages) would be from £3 to £3 8s., while, without endowment, it seemed likely that wages would be increased to £3 17s. The unions opposed the Bill chiefly because it was regarded as depriving the workers” of some part of the expected increase in wages.
Trade unionists have taken the same stand against this bill as their predecessors took against the Holman plan in 1919. The royal commission’s report continues -
The Bill passed the Legislative Assembly, and also the second-reading stage in the Legislative Council, but was defeated on the third reading. Subsequently, the Board of Trade declared the basic wage at the expected amount of £3 17s.
After reading that report, one might be pardoned for imagining that the Government is trying to copy the Holman Government’s plan in order to avoid the obvious necessity for an increase of the basic wage. If the Government is sincere-
– “Would the honorable member like the Government to withdraw the bill?
– No, I want it to do something else. If it is sincere, it will amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act in the manner that I shall suggest. That is a challenge. Royal commissions have declared more than once that the basis upon which the Arbitration Court should determine the basic wage ought to be clearly defined. Section 25 of the act provides that the court may alter the standard hours of work in an industry and the basic wage or the principles upon which it is computed. If the Government were sincere, it would have introduced coincidentally with thi9 bill a measure designed to amend that section so as to prescribe that the basic wage should be determined upon the basis of a family unit of three persons.
– Why not on behalf of a family unit of six persons?
– The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) displays his ignorance of the whole situation. He is not sufficiently familiar with the court’s findings to be aware that it has already prescribed that the base shall be a family unit of three persons.
– I thought that the honorable member was stating that a family unit of three was not enough.
– The court determines the basic wage on the basis of a family unit of a man, his wife and one child. It could not quibble if the Government introduced legislation to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act as I have suggested, in order to clarify the position permanently. If the Government were sincere, it would then grant endowment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child under the age of sixteen years for the purposes that the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) has described, namely, to provide a pram and clothes for that child. As a matter of fact, I was astounded by the honorable senator’s remark that the endowment of 5s. a week would assist “ to meet the initial expenses associated “with the advent of the new child, such as the -provision of a pram, the full layette and clothing “, which, by implication, would not be required for the subsequent children. The Governmentshould introduce legislation to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act in order to define the ambit of the family unit for the purposes of determining the basic wage. If the Government of New South “Wales could do that, the Commonwealth can do it. Such a provision would have the undivided support of the trade unions.
.- I support the “various amendments that were made by the Senate to this bill at the instigation of the Opposition in that chamber. The Labour party’s policy in this matter has been subjected to criticism, but our intentions are plain, and can be supported by argument and by intellectual discussion wherever men forgather. The reasons may be briefly stated. For years, we have claimed, on the indisputable evidence of members of the present Government, that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has taken into account the needs of a man, wife and one child for the purposes of determining the basic wage. In 1941, the Minister for Labour and National
Service (Mr. Holt) introduced the child endowment legislation in circumstances similar to those that are now prevailing. At that time, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was hearing a claim for an increase of the basic wage. The preliminaries had occupied a considerable period, and the hearing was actually in progress when the Minister announced the Government’s intention to introduce the Child Endowment Bill.
– The Arbitration Court had adjourned the hearing deliberately to bring the matter to the notice of the Government.
– I propose to mention that matter. On the 25th March, 1941, the honorable, now right honorable, member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) moved the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the necessity for improving the wage standards of employees, “with particular reference to the basic wage and allowances related thereto “. The honorable gentleman pointed out in his speech that, following nearly two years of agitation by the representatives of the workers for a review of the basic wage, the court had intimated that the full court bench would hear a case for a review of the basic wage. The preparation of evidence that would assist the court to come to a decision occupied nine months. The Chief Judge, after having concentrated upon the case for about three months, intimated to the parties that the court had decided to postpone its decision. The unions had waited for about eighteen months to have their claim dealt with, and then were told that they would have to wait another seven months for a decison. The right honorable member for Melbourne Ports demonstrated quite clearly that had the case been concluded without interruption through the provision of other social services, a higher basic wage “would have been paid.
The Minister .for Labour and National Service, who replied to that submission, pointed out that the court had known of the Government’s “intention to introduce child endowment.
– No, the court recommended it.
– I disagree with the Minister, and if he so desires, I can produce the argument in relation to that matter.
– I refer the honorable member to the court statement.
– I have in my hands a copy of the court statement and the report of the Minister’s remarks on that occasion. The honorable gentleman pointed out that the court was aware of the decision to introduce a child endowment scheme, because the Government had made its intentions clear. A lengthy debate took place on that motion for the adjournment of the House, and all the leading members of the Labour Opposition at that time, including the late Mr. John Curtin, participated in it. They pointed .to what they regarded as near collusion between the Government and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but the principal feature of that debate was-
– That the Labour party supported the Child Endowment Bill.
– I agree that tha Labour party supported that bill, but the principal Opposition speakers said at a later stage that if the opportunity presented itself, they would ensure that endowment would be paid as a net addition to the income of family units. It is true that they supported the Child Endowment Bill as well as the inequitable payroll tax that the Menzies Government introduced partly to defray the cost of child endowment. However, the point that I desire to make is that on the 25 th March, 1941, the Minister for Labour and National Service clearly admitted that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had, in the light of its knowledge of the Government’s intentions, adjourned the hearing on the basie wage claim in order that it might examine the position after the introduction of child endowment. The Minister indicated in his reply to the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports that the people might be asked to take a less amount in salary or wages as a part of the general sacrifice that was imposed by the war. The honorable gentleman said -
The Chief Judge said that the basic wage could be considered adequate for a man, his wife and one child, that it was a meagre allowance far a family of four, and that when the family was greater than four, hardships frequently occurred. After that statement was made the Government, which had previously announced its intention to introduce a system of family allowances, indicated that it was determined to put that system into operation at the earliest possible date.
That statement proves conclusively that, in 1941, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court adjourned the hearing of the basic wage claim after it had been told by the government of the day, either directly or indirectly - probably through press statements - that a child endowment scheme was to be introduced. The purpose of Their Honours in taking that action was to wait until the Government had introduced the scheme. Some time passed, the court resumed the hearing of the case, and, so far as I am able to ascertain, it declined to increase the basic wage.
A further development establishes that the arguments that have been advanced by Opposition members since that time are correct. The granting of endowment in respect of the first child under the age of 16 years will clearly have an effect upon the computation of the basic wage. I shall cite an instance to prove that statement. When child endowment was introduced the Arbitration Court of Western Australia was asked by the representative of the employers to reduce the basic wage on the ground that child endowment was a new addition to the income of workers. Incidentally, I may mention here that the judge who was President of the Arbitration Court of Western Australia at that time is now a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. However, the Western Australian court decided that the introduction of child endowment did not affect the basic wage at that time, but that if the endowment were extended so as to include the first child, it would then have to take into consideration the altered circumstances. The court did not state, and it could not state, that, under those conditions, it would reduce the basic wage, but it did say clearly that the payment of endowment in respect of the first child would cause it to examine the effect on the basic wage. I should have no objection to that, if this Government would freely admit that to be a consequence. The Minister for Labour and National Service, on one occasion, advocated the unitary system of wage payments in this country, and, I consider that there is a great deal to be said for it. However, my purpose is to make it clear that the Opposition has always opposed the payment of endowment in respect of the first child under the age of 16 years because all the evidence that is available discloses that such a payment would have an immediate effect on the basic wage. 1 believe that it would have that effect to-day, and that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would have to take such a payment into account in its consideration of the basic wage claim that is now before it. If endowment were granted in respect of the first child when the court was not hearing a claim for an increased basic wage, any employer of labour, or any employers’ association, would be able immediately to ask the court to vary the basic wage in order to take that payment into account. Because of those factors, the Labour movement has been opposed to the payment of endowment for the first child. That attitude may appear to be somewhat contradictory now. but -
– Has the honorable member forgotten 1946?
– No. The Labour party adopted precisely the same attitude in that year. I admit that Labour supporters were not unanimous in that opinion, but it was the view of the majority. We said in 1946 that we were opposed to the Menzies scheme for the payment of endowment for the first child, for the reasons that I have already stated. In fact, I told a meeting in the Perth Town Hall that I would not take a definite stand on that issue and I explained to my audience my views about the effect that such a payment would have on the basic wage. I said, “ If endowment is granted for the first child, you can regard it as certain that the basic wage will be affected. It might not be lowered, but the court might not increase the amount by as much as it would have increased it in the absence of endowment for the first child “. While I am dealing with this matter, I shall tell the House of another warning that I gave to my audience. I said, “ It is abundantly clear that, if endowment is paid for the first child, the taxpayers of Australia will lose a benefit that they now enjoy under the Income Tax Assessment Act. A taxpayer who maintains a child in respect of whom endowment is paid is granted a rebate of £50, whereas the amount of the. rebate in respect of a child for whom endowment is not paid is £100. It is clear that a government will not pay partial or full endowment without abolishing tax deductions, as the Menzies’ Government did in 194.1 when child endowment was introduced “. At that time the Minister for Labour and National Service said, in effect, “ From the date of the introduction of endowment, we propose to abolish all tax deductions that have been allowed for children with the exception of the deduction for the first child “. In other words, the deduction of £50 that was applicable to the first child in a family under the Income Tax Assessment Act was not to be varied, but the deduction in respect of all children for whom endowment was paid was to be abolished. I pointed out to the electors of Perth that the payment of endowment for the first child would clearly have an effect upon the basic wage, and, in addition, that it was definite that taxpayers would lose the benefit of rebates for children in respect of whom endowment was being received. But we now claim that the situation has been completely altered. The Government has introduced a bill that provides for the payment of endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child of a family under the age of sixteen years. If the views of the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and of members of the present Government can be accepted, the set up of the basic wage is already affected. Whether the rate of endowment be 5s., 10s., 15s. or £1 a week, the damage, if it may be so described, has been done.
– Is that why Labour party supporters in the Senate increased the proposed rate of endowment from 5s. to 10s. a week?
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has stated very clearly the reasons why supporters of the Labour party in the Senate took that course. I admit that the views of judges differ on various matters, and that several judges sit on the bench during the hearing of a claim for an. increased basic wage. I believe that when the family unit of a man, his wifeand one child is left untouched, Their Honours fix the basic wage accordingly, and that the Government may provide for other children any amount up to what is assumed to be the need that arises from maintaining those additional children. If. the cost of maintaining the second child and the third child were 10s.. each a week, and if the Government paid endowment of fi a week in respect of each of them, I assume that the court would take that payment into account in assessing the basic wage. But until the endowment for the second child and the third child is more than the actual cost of maintaining them, we may assume, from the opinions that have been expressed by the judges of the. Commonwealth Arbitration Court, that they do not take those payments into account when determining the basic wage. The point that the Opposition desires to make is that the Government, by its own deliberate action, proposes to pay endowment of 5s. a week, in respect of the first child under the age of sixteen years. I agree that the Government has claimed that that payment will, not affect the basic wage. Indeed, that opinion was advertised in almost every newspaper throughout Australia.. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was- quoted, as having said, “ The Government put child endowment on the statute-book.. “When we return to office, we shall extend child endowment to the first child “.
Silting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had pointed out that so far as we are able to interpret the mind of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the provision of endowment for the first child in a family will undoubtedly affect the basis on which the basic wage is at present computed. That would mean that the basic wage existing at a particular time will be decreased, or should endow ment for the first child be provided at a time when the basic wage is under review - and it is under review at present - the court will award a lesser increase than it would award if endowment were not provided for the first child. I do not thinkthat that argument can be controverted. The judgments of the court clearly confirm it. I had also pointed out that the State Arbitration Court in Western Australia had expressed the view that if child endowment were extended to the first child it would have to take that fact into consideration when computing the basicwage for that .State. I then proceeded1 to quote from an advertisement that was published by the Liberal party during the last general election campaign. That’ advertisement promised in the name of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that if the anti-Labour parties were elected child endowment would be provided for the first child. It stated -
When we are returned to office, child endowment will be extended to the first child. This will express in practical terms the Liberal Party’s regard for the family.
I have clearly demonstrated that the provision of endowment for the first child under this measure will affect the basic on which the court will determine the basie wage at the conclusion of the application it is- now hearing for an increase of the wage. Several other consequences will flow from the enactment of this legislation. First, it will affect the concessional, deduction now allowed for income tax purposes in respect of the first child in a family. When the Menzies Government introduced child endowment in 1941 it deprived taxpayers of concessional deductions that had previously been allowed in respect of each child who was endowed under that measure. In case any doubt exists on that point, I draw the attention of honorable members to the following statement that was made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) when he was speaking on social services in this chamber in May, 1947 -
Those honorable members who were in. the Parliament at the time will realize that, when the child endowment legislation was introduced, we repealed the provision allowing a tax rebate for the second child and subsequent children because the idea was that provision would be made for them under the child endowment scheme.
Thus, to-day, varying income tax concessions are allowed in respect of children who are endowed and in respect of the first child who is not endowed. It has been said that our income tax legislation is unnecessarily complicated. Unless the first child is’ endowed at the same .rate .as the- second and subsequent children in a family are endowed the position will be still further complicated, whereas that differential treatment can be removed by endowing all children in a family, including the first child, at a uniform rate. The Government has not yet intimated that the provision of endowment for the first child under this measure will affect the concessional deductions now allowed under the Income Tax Assessment Act in respect of the first child who is not now endowed. However, it would apepar that the Government intends later to reduce that concession.
– On what basis does the honorable member believe that?
– On the basis of equity and common sense. If the Government does not adjust the income tax concession now allowed in respect of the first child in a family after that child is endowed we shall have a situation .in which a taxpayer will be allowed rebate of tax on £100 of income in respect of the first child for whom endowment of £13 a year will be paid, whilst in respect of the second and subsequent dependent children, each of whom is endowed at the rate of £26 a year, the taxpayer will receive a concessional rebate of tax on £50 of income. Why should a taxpayer with only one child be entitled to receive a rebate of tax payable on £100 of income plus endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for that child whilst taxpayers with a number of children will receive as rebate only the tax payable on £50 of income in respect of the first child ? At the same time, the taxpayer with only one child will receive £13 10s. endowment for which he is not eligible at present. The Government would leave itself open to severe criticism if it accepted that situation
– Th© reduction of the rebate of tax in respect of an only child in a family would deprive a taxpayer in that class of some of the benefit proposed to be made available under this bill.
– Yes ; but if the Government does not do that it will give an inequitable benefit to taxpayers who have only one child compared with taxpayers who have a number of children. In addition to simplifying the administration of the income tax legislation, other benefits will flow from the provision of child endowment for the first child at the same rate of endowment provided for other children in a family. The Minister said that the Opposition in the Senate had amended the bill solely in order to embarrass the Government. No such thought has entered into the mind of the Opposition. The basis of the Opposition’s approach to this matter is that if endowment of 10s. a week is not provided for the first child when, at the same time, endowment for the first child, regardless of the rate, will affect the computation of the basic wage, employees with families will not benefit in any way whatever. We say that as the provision of endowment for the first child will affect the computation of the basic wage, the Government has no alternative but to provide endowment for the first child at the rate that is payable for other children in a family. The Opposition has been consistent in that attitude, which it has justified entirely. If .the Government is prepared to allow the provision of endowment for the first child to affect the computation of the basic wage adversely from the point of view of employees, it should give the full rate to the first child, and thus clear the way for the court to fix the basic wage independently of child endowment. Alternatively, the Government should carry out the promise that the anti-Labour parties made at the last general election that if returned to office they would provide endowment for the first child at the rate of 5s. a week, and would ensure that the provision of that benefit shall not affect the computation of the basic wage. How can the Government do that? Government supporters say that the measure as amended by the Senate cannot be accepted. The Government could inform the court through its” direct representative that it desires the court, when fixing the basic wage, to disregard the provision of endowment for the first child. Unless the Government follows that course, the promise made by the anti-Labour parties at the last general election can be honoured only fortuitously, depending on what is the mind of the court. I cannot comprehend why the Parliament cannot direct the court, which is its own creation, that it should regard social services .benefits as a net addition to the income of employees. However, if the Government fails to take steps to influence the mind of the court in the direction that I have indicated, the anti-Labour parties cannot give effect to the solemn promise that they made at the last general election that they would not allow the provision of endowment for the first child to affect the computation of the basic wage.
In addition, it will be to the advantage of the Government from the administrative viewpoint to endow all children in a family at a uniform rate. If the rate of endowment provided for the first child differs from that provided for other children in a family, administrative difficulties will be correspondingly increased. That will involve the appointment of more public servants, whereas the Government is pledged to reduce the strength of the service. “With respect to the total expenditure that will be involved in the provision of endowment at the rate of 10s. a week for the first child, the Opposition assumes that the Government intends later to introduce measures under which it will remit income tax to taxpayers in the higher ranges of incomes as well as company tax, sales tax and other taxes. It would be more equitable for the Government to make available to the mothers of families endowment at the rate of 10s. for the first child than to forgo an amount equal to the expenditure thus involved in the form of remissions, or reductions, of taxes to taxpayers in the higher ranges of incomes or to prosperous companies. It would be of greater advantage to our economy as a whole to expend £20,000,000 in the provision of endowment for the first child than to make remissions of tax to that amount to wealthy taxpayers. That is a practical proposition, whereby the Government can curb inflation, because the remissions of taxes would only swell the amount of money available in the community. On the other hand, it is generally recognized that mothers are better managers than fathers in the expenditure of money to meet the needs of a family. On the basis of equity and with the object of combatting inflation it would be more sensible to make available to families the expenditure that would be involved in the provision of endowment at the rate of 10s. a week for the first child than to remit at least half that sum in taxes to those who are best off and would either hoard up such money or expend it in competition for goods that are in short supply.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) pointed out that during the debate on the financial statement in the Senate on the 6th August, 1946, the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who was then Leader of the non-Labour Oppposition in that chamber, moved an amendment which was supported in division by all members of the non-Labour parties at that time to provide endowment for the first child at the rate of 7s. 6d. a week. On that occasion the Minister said -
I was asked by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), by way of interjection, how my proposal could be financed. It ie reported that there is £50,000,000 of income tax uncollected … If we have reached the stage in our history when a Labour Government declares that it cannot raise £19,000.000 to provide child endowment for 1,000,000 children, I am amazed at its ineptitude.
Thus, the attitude that supporters of the present Government adopted when they were the Opposition in the Senate justifies the stand that the present Opposition now takes in respect of this measure. However, we have also established our case on the other grounds that I have mentioned. Any one who has had anything to do with purchasing the requirements of children will realize how little can he purchased for os. to-day. That is another reason why the Government should endow the first child at the rate of 10s. a week.
– Why did not the Labour party do so when it was in office.
– I have already referred to the statements made by the Minister for Labour and National Service as well as to views expressed in judgments of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the State Arbitration Court in Western Australia that any extension of child endowment to the first child will affect the computation of the basic wage. That is the reason why the Opposition amended the bill in the Senate to increase the rate of endowment to 10s. a week. That view is strongly held by many people. The whole basis of our argument is destroyed by the amendments now forecast by the Government. Indeed, the whole basis of the computation of the basic wage by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will be destroyed by them for it must take into account the endowment of the first child. From the point of view of the family the only sensible and just course for the Government to follow would be to pay the full rate of endowment in respect of the first child. It should accept the bill as amended by the Senate as providing the only means by which it can give effect to its pre-election pledge on this matter. Only if it does so can it give effect to the view expressed by so many members of this Parliament that social services benefits granted by a government should not be offset by a corresponding lowering of the basic wage.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- When I offered myself for selection as a candidate for election to this Parliament I realized that I lacked some degree of sophistication, but since I have been here I have realized that I am very simple minded. I believed that a fundamental feature of our political system was that political parties should place their policies before the people every three years, that the people should choose the policy that appealed to them most, that they should thereupon elect the party or parties advocating that policy as the Government and that the Government then reflected the wishes of the people by doing what they had in effect asked it to do. Time and time again Opposition members have made frontal attacks on Government proposals that have received the wholehearted support of the people of Australia. They dare not come out into the open and say “ We will not subscribe to this proposal “, but by under cover attacks they attempt to overthrow the Government’s endeavours to give expression to the wishes of the people. That is a part of the pattern of Labour propaganda. Opposition members deliberately attempt to kindle the spark of class hatred in the community and to fan it into flame. Every proposal submitted by the Government is given a sinister interpretation. An attempt is made to show that the Government is opposed to the interests of the workers and that it will undermine the social structure of Australia and that in the process the workers will suffer most. Opposition members are bitterly opposed to this socalled awful Government which was elected by the people as the champion of their rights. Opposition members say “We cannot trust this Government. There is some sinister motive behind every action it takes. When the gun goes off it will destroy the social conditions of the people “. The intention of the Government parties to endow the first child in the family was clearly stated during the general election campaign. No attempt was made to camouflage it. In accordance with that promise the Government has introduced the measure now before us.
This proposal is the result of the great awakening of the conscience of the people during the last 50 or 70 years that has brought them to an awareness of the responsibility owed by the more fortunate members of the community to their less fortunate brothers and sisters. Since the beginning of this century governments in all countries have devoted their attention to social problems. Gradually a pensions system has been developed in this country which is based on sound principles. The people have realized the responsibility of the community in general to the aged, the widows and the children. Through their elected representatives in the Parliament they have brought some measure of relief to those who are the unfortunate victims of circumstances beyond their control. Measures for the payment of workers compensation have been introduced and as the result of the gradual awakening of the public conscience, the present Government, and to a certain degree its predecessor, have endeavoured to honour their obligation to alleviate those social conditions that cause distress and discomfort in the community. It was in such an atmosphere of awareness of national obligations that a. measure to provide for the payment of child endowment was first introduced. Then, for the first time an Australian government realized the duty that it owed not only to families left without a breadwinner,, those who were unable to work and to fatherless children, but also to whole families. The government of the day realized that every family constituted a basic unit and that these basic units welded together made up the glorious Commonwealth of Australia. It realized that mothers must, be helped to solve their problems- and. that their children must be assisted.
Child endowment has brought very good results. It was my privilege for some years to be engaged as a full-time social worker. During that period I was able to judge for myself the tremendous beneficial effect of child endowment on the family unit. No one will deny that as the result of the provision of child endowment the health of the children of this country has benefited immensely. Mothers are now able to afford more and better food for their children. Those among the poorer sections of the community have been able to purchase a greater supply of the basic foods which are so necessary for the growth of strong and healthy children. It i3 no coincidence that side by side with the introduction of child endowment there was an increased awareness among the mothers of Australia of the subject of dietetics and a corresponding raising, of the health standards of their children. Mothers were able to afford to give their children a better education. It is. astonishing that the expenditure of a comparatively small amount of money on the child endowment scheme should have resulted in. such great improvements in the health and education of the average Australian child.
Much still remains to be done. We have social problems among, not only the children, but also the unfortunates of this: country. Child endowment has relieved mothers of a great many of their burdens. I know from my own experience many instances of. the great relief
Ur. Pearce. that mothers have obtained from the payment of this benefit. At present approximately 450,000 families in Australia are not being assisted by child endowment. In the main they consist of one-child families. Young couples with only one child receive no benefit at all. The leaders of the political parties now in office, having at heart the welfare of the 450,000 families debarred from the benefits of child endowment, said to the people during the genera] election campaign, “If you elect us to office we shall continue the evolutionary process of social security legislation in Australia by making a provision of 5s. a week in respect of the first child in each family in the community”. The purpose of the bill now before us is to give effect to that promise.
To-day Opposition members gulped as the lumps rose in their throats when they spoke of the poor mothers of Australia. To listen to them one would think that they were the champions of the families and the children of Australia, and that they alone understood the burdens that, the workers, and the mothers of the working class families in particular, have to shoulder. Let us examine their record when they were in government. What did they do during their eight years of office to lighten the burden on the womenfolk of this country? Although they had the opportunity to do so they made no attempt to endow the first child by the payment of 2s. 6d., 5s., 10s., 15s., or fi a week. Honorable members opposite who have spoken on this bill have shed crocodile tears over this matter. All sorts of nonsense is talked by Opposition members as part and parcel of the political game of side-tracking issues and of fomenting discontent among the people. I remind them that one of the greatest factors that contributed to the defeat of the Labour Government was the vote of the women of Australia who were heartily sick and tired of the Labour Government, of shortages, high taxes, high prices, and the fact that they were treated as beasts of burden. They rebelled and overwhelmingly voted against the Labour Government. Honorable members will find, as I found when I was travelling around my electorate during the last general election campaign, that the women, bore almost the whole off the burden. Time after time they have expressed to me and to many other people in public life the terrific burden under which they were trying to rear their families during the term, of office of the previous Government.
What is the present measure designed to do? Is there something sinister or treacherous in it? There is not! The plain fact stands out in stark reality that in accordance wth the wishes expressed at the last election by the majority of the people of Australia the bill is simply designed to give to 450,000 families an additional 5s. a week upon which to live. The Government desires to enable endowment to be paid in respect of 1,110,000 children in Australia. The Government realizes its responsibility in this matter, and, in fact, this is not the only measure that it has introduced to raise the social conditions of the people. The Government realizes that the family is the basic unit of our nation and that we must have healthy families. It realizes that the mothers of Australia are of prime importance not only to the peace of Australia but also to our continued prosperity and health as a nation. If mothers have contentment and health, and know that their government is working on their behalf, understands their problems and is doing all it possibly can, as quickly as it can, with the resources at its command, to help them, then they will know that we can make Australia a place worth living in. I said at the outset of my remarks that I am simple-minded about such matters as this. I entered this Parliament with a simple mind about them, and I hope that I will go out of it simple’-minded about them. There is” only one thing that the Australian people have on their conscience, and that is the need for better conditions for the mothers of Australia. That is why the Government has brought down this legislation. Why is the Opposition not honest about the issue? If it does not like the bill why does it not say so ? If it does not think that we should give 5s. payment in respect of the first child let it say so, but whatever it says it should not continue to utter silly nonsense that is spreading discontent in the community find to brand all the measures that we bring forward as. treacherous, and as likely to* undermine the security of the country. We are fully aware that we are answerable not only to this House but also to the people of Australia. Each one of us in. this- Parliament is also answerable to his own conscience, and on our consciences is the responsibility, as representatives of the people of Australia, to see that the children of this country grow up in peace, contentment and security. That is the reason for this measure;
, - I have no suspicion in my mind about this legislation. I welcome the legislation as I have always welcomed such legislation. I regard the legislation that instituted child endowment as one of the greatest pieces of social service legislation that we have had in Australia, and I am strongly in favour of paying 10s: a week endowment in respect of the first child of each family. I consider that it would be an anomaly to have any differentiation in respect of the payments for different children in a family. I have neither suspicion nor fear about what the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will do in connexion with the determination of the basic wage as the result of the passage- of this legislation. I differ in that respect from some of my colleagues. There are many reasons why that court could not do the things that the trade union movement has quite honestly believed that it might do. I do not believe that the court will allow the provision of endowment for the first child to influence it in its determination of the basic wage. I do not believe that it could take child endowment into consideration when fixing the basic wage, and perhaps that is the reason why it will not do it. However, I give the judges of the court greater credit than that, because I believe that their sense of justice would prevent them from taking endowment into consideration when fixing wages.
I consider that it is impossible for the court to make any differentiation in the rates of pay of different workers based on the number of children that individual workers have. Wages are paid to workers for the work that they perform. The basic wage is only a foundation wage. The minimum wage that was fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins in the first place, and adjusted from time to time by other judges, was a legal minimum below which no employer could pay an employee without breaking the law. The fact of fixing the basic wage does not mean that an employer cannot pay more than that wage to an employee. Every employer in Australia now pays more than the basic wage to adult employees. The basic wage is the foundation upon which all wages are fixed. When the court fixes it, it takes the cost of living into consideration and adjustments are then made all along the line, in all the classifications of each trade and according to whether men are skilled or unskilled workers. There are hardly any people in Australia now earning merely the basic wage, but we must have some foundation upon which the court can fix wages generally.
I consider that this is one of the finest pieces of social security legislation that has been introduced in this Parliament. I know that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is very proud of the fact that he introduced the first measure that provided child endowment. I had the pleasure of following him and increasing the payment on two occasions, and I had hoped that I would be in his place to-night introducing a measure to increase the payment of child endowment to 10s.
– I supported the honorable member in each of the legislative moves that he made in connexion with this matter.
– I know that there has been no difference of opinion regarding legislation to provide child endowment. It has never been a party question. Both sides have agreed that child endowment has been necessary to make it possible to give some real improvement in the standard of living of families and to enable children to have better education, to remain longer at school, to go to high school and perhaps to win scholarships to universities. Those are the matters that were argued when this question of child endowment was first raised many years ago. I remember that an anti-Labour Government, I think it was the Bruce-Page Government, corresponded with me when I was general secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall
Council, and asked me to nominate a person to represent the workers on the first commission to inquire into child endowment. Judge Piddington was chairman of the commission, and we appointed John Curtin to represent the workers. The only report made by the commission was a minority report made by Mr. Curtin and Mrs Muscio, who was later a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The majority of the commission made no report. As far as they were concerned the inquiry was a “no decision” bout. They did not feel that they could recommend anything. The recommendation that was made by the minority of one Labour representative and one non-Labour representative - a rather conservative lady - was that child endowment should be paid and that it should be in addition to the workers’ wages or salaries. That principle has been followed and as a result it has never been suggested by any government that child endowment should be considered by the court when wages were being fixed.
Unfortunately, when the parties which constitute the present Government parties decided before the last general election on their policy regarding the introduction of endowment for the first child, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court happened to be sitting, and to be dealing with the basic wage case. That fact was very unfortunate because it created a feeling of suspicion in the community when the Government stated that if the court took the payment of 5s. endowment for the first child into consideration when fixing the basic wage, then the Government would raise the payment to 10s. I am sorry that that statement was made at that time. I am not suggesting that there was any sinister motive in the fact that it was made then. I am unlike the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) in that respect. I consider that that honorable member has exaggerated that aspect of the matter more than is necessary. However, there existed in the community generally a fear that that statement, made at that time when the judges of the court were considering the basic wage aud getting near the end of their consideration, would have a bad result. The suggestion that the Government parties made was, “We intend to increase child endowment by paying os. a week in respect of the first child. If the court, in its consideration of the basic wage takes that payment into consideration we shall then raise the payment to 10s.” The court took notice of that statement and some of the judges resented it. Several of them made remarks that could only mean that they were somewhat offended, and considered the statement rather indelicate at that time. However, no matter how much consideration the court gives the payment of child endowment when it is fixing the basic wage I am certain that the sense of justice of the judges Will make them do the right thing always. I say that because I know all the judges of the court.
There is another reason why the court could not make differential rates for single workers and married workers with children who are doing the same work. The figures given by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) were not quite right. Two million two hundred and fifty thousand people are concerned with the increase or decrease of the basic wage. Not only persons earning the basic wage are concerned, because the basic wage increase extends over the whole field of wages. It is taken into consideration by State tribunals and the Public Service Arbitrator. One million one hundred thousand people, in round figures, will be affected by the increase of child endowment if this measure is passed, and I presume that it will be passed. That means that 1,150,000 workers will not receive anything as the result of the increase of child endowment. How could the court take into consideration the payment of child endowment to 1,110,000 workers and make some subtraction from the basic wage which would cause a reduction in the wages of 1,150,000 other persons who obtain no benefit from child endowment? Supposing the court take3 the payment of child endowment for the first child into consideration, and instead of increasing the basic wage by, say, 10s. increased it by 5s. only. I shall interpolate here that the minimum likely increase in the basic wage would be 10s. although it will probably be more than that, because one of the professors of economy at a university was called in several times by the judges and said that a 10s. increase could be safely made without any dangerous inflation resulting. Suppose that, as some honorable members believe, the court awarded an increase of 5s. less than it otherwise would have awarded had there been no payment of child endowment for the first child, what would that mean? It would mean that the 5s. paid in respect of the first child to each family would be nullified because the parents would lose 5s. of the wages that they would otherwise have received. Not only would the receipt of 5s. child endowment by 1,110,000 families be nullified in that way, but 1,150,000 other families who do not receive any child endowment would be cheated of 5s. It would therefore be unjust for the judges to take the payment of child endowment into consideration.
Some years ago the then Government invited representative organizations of employers and employees to sit at Canberra or anywhere else and discuss a new formula for determining the basic wage, and if they desired, to take into consideration a number of factors that people on both sides agreed should be included in determining the basic wage and calculating the cost of living. It was said that the basic wage should be adjusted every decade or half decade. It should not remain static like feed for bullocks or horses. It should be adjusted from time to time to meet the changing tastes of the people. Surely everybody agrees with that. One hears people from all walks of life saying that the time has arrived when somebody should look at the basis on which the basic wage is computed because it does not take into consideration a lot of things which, at one time were regarded as luxuries, but are now necessaries. The basic wage is computed at present in the same way as it has been for many years. The court does not consider what people receive by way of child endowment because that would be an injustice to more than half the workers who do not receive such payments. In his judgment following the basic wage inquiry of 1940, Mr. Justice Piper said -
But in January, 1931, the court, faced with the then economic position of Australia and the world, -reduced wages, including the basic wage, by 10 per cent, and in doing so made it clear that the guiding principle upon which the basic wage was fixed was the capacity of industry to pay.
There could be no discrimination in the fixing of wages. Everybody must receive the same rate of pay for the same type and volume of work. Later on, in 1934, Chief Judge Dethridge and Judge DrakeBrockman, in their joint judgment, expressed the opinion that for the purpose of assessing the basic wage the. adoption of a family unit was not necessary and that what should be ascertained was the highest basic wage that would be consistent with the capacity of secondary and primary industries to pay. Ever since that time, that has been the policy of the court. There is no other way in which it can approach this problem. It cannot discriminate between single and married men or between men with jio children and men with a large number of children. “Wages are fixed according to the kind of work done and what the employer thinks of it. An employer will not ask a prospective employee how many children he has. He will pay him according to his ability. The court could not, I repeat, take into consideration the number of children in a family without doing a great injustice to the largest half of the wage and salary earners of Australia who would be cheated if it took into consideration the 5s. or 10s. paid to the lesser number of people who receive child endowment. There are more people with no children or with children over the age of sixteen years than there are people with children under the age of sixteen years.
– Why did the court adjourn the hearing in the present basic wage easel
– Why did the Australian Council of Trades Unions pass a resolution that the Prime Minister should be asked to endow the first child ? Everybody wants child endowment. The reason why endowment has not been paid in respect of a first child during the years that the system has been in operation is that judges considered, at first, that they must take into consideration a unit of five and later that they must consider a unit of three. This is a much more difficult problem than people think it is. I am satisfied that the position is as I have stated it. The figures which I have given are correct. They indicate that 2.250,000 persons receive advantages from the adjustment of the basic wage.
There are only 1,100,000 who will receive any advantage under the proposed, scheme. There are 1,150,000 workers who will not receive any advantage and whose wages would fall if the basic wage were reduced and those 1,150,000 workers would be cheated.
– Will not they be cheated if 10s. a week is paid for the first child?
– No. If the Government fixes the payment at 10s., 5s., 6s., or 7s., this problem will remain with the court just the same. If the Government considers that the country can give a little more encouragement to people to rear larger families, help them educate their children better and enable some real improvement in the standard of living instead of depending upon this fluctuating entity called the basic wage it should make a payment of 10s. in respect of the first child. There is no logical reason why that payment should be 5s. If the Government intends to make a payment in respect of the first child why should it be fixed at 5s. ? More capital cost is required in respect of the first child than in respect of subsequent children. In many families, all the equipment that has been used for the first child is passed on for the second and third. Possibly some people who are well-to-do and can afford the best may buy new equipment f or each child, but in most families the equipment used for th first child is handed down for the rest as are the text-books used in State schools. Doctors will confirm my statement that every one is more nervous about the first child and that more care is taken to see that the mother and child have every attention. The parents strain their incomes to meet the expenses. From every aspect, the first child is the most expensive and there is no logical reason why only 5s. should be paid in respect of the first child and 10s. in respect of subsequent children.
I strongly advocate the payment of 10s. according to the monetary decisions made in the Senate and I hope that the Government will agree to pay this amount. I think that the economy of the country can meet the required expenditure and I think that if the Government examines the position again it will find that it can increase the amount to 10s.
Another £15,000,000 will not make any difference to it.
– Why did not the previous Government make any payment in respect of the first child during the last ten years?
– I wish that the honorable member had examined the relevant figures in respect of the last ten years because they would have shown him the fine record of the Chifley Government. If I had the opportunity to increase this amount. I should do so. I am glad that the Minister who is now at the table (Mr. Holt) is dealing with the matter, and I hope that he will give consideration to my suggestions. There is no logic in making the payment 5s. instead of 10s. The court has its functions set out for it. It has to fix hours, annual leave, a minimum wage for women and a basic wage for men and certain other conditions. It cannot do some things that people think it can and it will not take any notice of this measure if it contains provisions on which it is not entitled to act. I strongly urge that logic, justice, and humanity demand that the amount .should be fixed at 10s. for the first child.
.- I have listened this evening to some fine speeches which have been made by honorable members of the Opposition. It is the inherited capacity of the Liberal party, and, over the past several years, it has been the capacity of the three great political parties in this House, to produce Oppositions of great calibre. There are honorable gentlemen on the Opposition benches who are able to compromise with their consciences and make some remarkable speeches. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), have delivered “very fine Opposition speeches this evening. They have displayed a truly remarkable capacity to divert the attention of the House to an absurd, confused issue in order to reduce the whole value of this bill to a negligible quantity. Their speeches have been a great tribute, in a way, to their political acumen. The right honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), who is a most seasoned campaigner, has a remarkable capacity for reducing matters to a nice point and making his criticism all the more devastating because it is disarming.
This bill deals with a national issue. I feel that if it were possible to make the endowment for the first child £5 instead of 5s., it would receive the endorsement and support of every honorable member. The progress of social services legislation is of vita] national importance. That is something that should be stressed in relation to this bill. During the last 40 or 50 years both Opposition and Government parties have made great contributions towards the formation of the national conscience of this country. I feel that I cannot let this opportunity pass without commenting on the reason for such legislation. The growth of our ideologies, standards and institutions has been caused by our mode of life during the last 150 years. The rise of great trade union movement and the growth of arbitration systems have resulted from the fact that 150 years ago, by a sudden movement, industry “started to progress very rapidly, and for a time the humanitarian ideals of mankind were left behind. I have spoken on many occasions about .this aspect to a particular .segment of out community, which is widely described as the employers. In making this reference it is justifiable to say that the growth of the political system has gradually awakened .in the parties that represent the nation, and therefore in the nation, a social conscience and a sense of responsibility to mankind. The House can be proud of this bill, as it can be proud of all social services legislation that has been passed since federation. Therefore, I feel that I am justified in describing the attitude of the Opposition as rather specious and definitely political. If the situation were reversed and the Opposition were introducing the bill as a Government, and if we were in Opposition as we were in 1949, then no doubt we should raise the same type of argument as it put before the House to-day.
This measure represents a substantial advance in social services legislation. It is an honest and sincere attempt, following on a full mandate from the people, to fulfill the promises made to the nation before the 10th December. Therefore, the Government is fully justified in asking the House to accept this bill. At the present time in Australia, and greatly to the country’s credit, 650,000 families are receiving endowment. When this bill is passed another 450,000 families will be endowed. The attitude of the Government in ensuring that the endowment moneys are to be paid to the mothers is of great importance, because that fact again reveals the awakening of the sense of social awareness in governments. Acting under that awareness the Government must ensure that the benefit is really directed to that section of the family from which it will be best applied. ‘It is perfectly true that in our community there are many families in which a sudden increase in wages does not necessarily mean an equivalent advancement in the welfare of the family. That is because the father may be injudicious or indiscreet in the distribution of the largesse that he receives. Past governments as well as this Government have shown awareness of their responsibilities in making sure that endowment is used by the mother of the family. I believe that most honorable members will endorse that attitude. Another aspect, stressed by Ministers in this House and in another place, is the desirability of paying endowment into bank accounts and building up over a period of three months or over some years a lump sum for the benefit of the children.
With reference to the basic wage and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the House must accept the facts as they stand. This House is responsible for child endowment legislation and all other legislation that may be put before it. It has no control over, or influence upon, the court. In the political history of this country elections have been fought on issues described as arbitration issues. On arbitration issues governments have fallen. Any interference by the Government with the court would eventually cause the Government’s downfall. The native wit and ingenuity of the Australian people, which to my mind makes them great, would make them say. “ This is something we must deny the Government the right to interfere with”. It is my opinion that no Government can impair the arbitration laws of the country and survive for very long. Because of my natural deference to the judiciary I am of the opinion that they will in no way relate to their consideration, if they think it immoral to do so, legislation of this description which is being advanced for the benefit of the nation, in general, and of the family, as the basic unit of the nation, in particular. Many remarks made in this House, to my mind, border on contempt of court. I do not accept as a reasonable thing that members of this House should say that the Parliament would alter the arbitration system in order to obtain political benefit. I think that conception alone is politically, if not actually, immoral. The Government has a mandate for the introduction of this bill. The subject-matter of the bill was raised in 1946 and again in the policy speeches of the Liberal and Australian Country party leaders in 1949. There can be no reasonable doubt on that point. The value of the bill must be appreciated by a large percentage of the people quite apart from the mercenary appreciation of an extra 5s. There must be a general recognition that this bill represents a step forward in the development of the national conscience.
I do not desire to comment on the economic issues involved, because I am confident that if the Government had been able to make a larger sum available it would have done so. The economic issues are enormous and to embark upon a discussion of them would be unwise, because one could go from issue to issue and eventually arrive at the conclusion that the whole economic system of the country should be considered before any reasonable decision could be made about any one particular item. Child endowment is to be paid from the National Welfare Fund to which is paid the proceeds of pay-roll tax and social services contribution. Endowment is not therefore included in wages as a cost of production. As a basic economic issue that is important, because one of the great considerations of such social services benefits must be the degree to which they increase the inflationary processes on the general market. That aspect is of less importance than the aspect of general progression in enlightened government represented by the measure. Whilst I admit the Opposition’s right to draw red herrings across the trail and to mutter darkly about the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the basic wage, I consider that in the circumstances no one is likely to pay a great deal of attention to its attitude. I have great pleasure in commending the bill to the House.
.- Like other honorable members who have addressed the House on this bill, I first of all express my complete accord with the principle of child endowment and social services generally. I submit that if there is any one matter upon which there could be unanimity between political parties, it is the broad principles of social services, child endowment and other legislation having a relation to human rights. So far as this House is concerned, every honorable member is in complete accord with the principles of this bill. However, certain things should be pointed out. The trade union movement has always advocated child endowment for all children, but it has always stressed that although such endowment should operate for all children it should not in any circumstances have any bearing whatsoever upon the basic wage. Because it has had some bearing on the basic wage in the past, and because of what is happening at the present time, the trade union movement has very legitimate fears that the passing of this measure, except in the amended form in which it has come to us from the Senate, might be disastrous to the trade union movement. This measure, coming before the House during the hearing of the basic wage case, after being advocated during- the recent election when the basic wage case was being heard by the Full Arbitration Court, has been brought into the realm of controversy. Certain things must be said in regard to the bill before honorable members can properly realize the dangers feared by the trade union members in respect of its application. I want to make it clear that child endowment, which was not new in 1941 but had its general application in that year, has been associated throughout its history with the basic wage.
One honorable member stated to-day that in 1920 the then Prime Minister appointed a body known as the Royal Commission on the Basic Wage. That commission was given the authority and instruction to make investigations to ascertain the lowest amount necessary for the proper maintenance and support, in accordance with Australian standards of comfort, of a family consisting of a husband, wife and three dependent children. After twelve months’ investigation throughout Australia, the commission reported that the lowest amount that could provide an Australian standard of comfort for a husband, wife, and three dependent children under the age of sixteen years was £5 16s. a week. That finding gave rise to a number of actions, which established a new principle in relation to social services in Australia. The chairman of the commission was the late Mr. A Piddington. After the commission had made its finding, he submitted a memorandum to the then Prime Minister to the effect that it would be impossible for the economy of Australia at that time to support a basic wage of £5 16s. and suggesting that the difficulty that had been caused by the decreased purchasing power of the workers might be overcome by the introduction of some form of child endowment. Subsequently, Mr. Piddington wrote a book entitled The Next Step, in which he outlined the theory and principles of child endowment and suggested that endowment should be financed by the only form of taxation then left to the Government, which was the taxation of wages and the payment of the tax into a special fund. It was at that stage that child endowment first commenced to operate in Australia. Although the Prime Minister did not, and, indeed, under the Constitution could not, apply that suggestion to wage fixation for the workers generally, he introduced legislation that established child endowment as a part of the payment received by public servants of the Commonwealth. Thus, in 1921 the basic wage for public servants was fixed at about £4 a week, and each public servant who had a child under the age of sixteen years received in addition a weekly payment of 5s. child endowment. The subject of child endowment immediately became the centre of political controversy and a great social question which most of the political parties of the time debated. The principle of endowment was firmly embraced by the trade union movement, and the records of the 1921 congress of the Australasian Council of Trade Uuions indicate the unanimous adoption of a motion requesting the initiation in Australia of childhood endowment and motherhood endowment as part of the social policy of the nation. The Royal Commission on the Basic Wage was appointed as the result of dissatisfaction with the wages that were then paid, and its decision led to the adoption of child endowment as a form of payment of income to public servants. That was the first application of child endowment as a part of the basic wage in Australia. The situation then remained static for a long time.
The next development occurred, in 1941, when the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who holds the same portfolio in this Government, introduced a bill to provide for the payment of child endowment. Strangely enough,, the issue was again related to the basic wage. In. 1940, the trade union movement of Australia had applied to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for an increase of the basic wage. I was one of the three advocates who were appointed to represent the trade unions. We submitted our case to the late Chief Judge Beeby, the late Judge 0’Mara,. and Judge Piper, and our arguments covered the whole of the economic and financial resources of Australia. National production and the necessity for raising standards of living in accordance with the increasing _ prosperity of the nation were discussed in the utmost detail. The hearing of the case commenced in August, 1940, and terminated in November, 1940. Then there was a lag of two and a half months before the decision of the court was announced. During that period, two noteworthy events indicated that the subject of child endowment was” in the minds of both, the court and the government of the day. In the first place, Chief Judge Beeby issued the following statement during the interval : -
In my opinion the amount of the basic wage then* determined was sufficient for the needs of a family unit of three - a man and his wife and one child - and in my opinion the wage was inadequate for a family of a. man, a wife, and more than one child.
The learned judge was referring to the basic wage that was then the subject of consideration and review. At the same time, the Chief Judge stated that, in his opinion, unless child endowment was introduced, it would be necessary for the basic wage to be increased by 6s. a week. That statement was very freely made. It was well known in the trade union movement that a great deal of negotiation had been taking place concerning theaction that should be taken in order to overcome the difficulty caused by the reduced purchasing power of the basic wage. In the second place, the government of the day announced its intention to introduce child endowment. That announcement was received with general satisfaction, because everybody believed in the- principle of child endowment. But, peculiarly enough, it was made before the court had issued its judgment. In that judgment, the three learned judges rejected the application by the unions for an. increase of the basic wage. They made certain statements that indicated fairly clearly that the court considered that, with the introduction of child endowment, an alteration of the basic wage was not necessary.. Their statements also clearly implied that if. child endowment were paid in respect of the first child under the age of. sixteen years in each family, it might be necessary for the court to review the basic wage in the light of that circumstance.”
I refer honorable members to page 10 of the court’s judgment under the leading. “Child Endowment”. The Chief Judge stated: -
I believe that, notwithstanding its increase in aggregate wages, a re-apportionment of national income sufficient to increase the wages of men and women with more than one dependent child would be of advantage to the Commonwealth. The relief afforded to those who need it would more than set off the inflationary tendency of provision for a comprehensive scheme of child endowment.
Since the conclusion of the hearing the Commonwealth Government has announced its intention to initiate such a scheme. If and when this is’ done future fixations of the basic wage will be greatly simplified, hut the announcement of the Government’s intentions does not of itself justify- any departure from past methods.
I have quoted only s brief extract, not Because- I want to remove” it from its context, but because I want to avoid wearisome repetition of arguments that hare been traversed by other honorable members. The passage that I have quoted merely states a stark fact. As I have pointed out, the Chief Judge had previously stated that the basic wage, at the best, would not support more than a husband, wife and one child and that, as only the second and additional children were to be subsidized by child endowment, the basic wage case would not be affected by the endowment issue. I refer honorable members to another passage on page 18 of the judgment, which indicates what Judge Piper was thinking. He stated -
If this Court were to enunciate that the basic wage was based entirely on the needs of a specific family unit, say two children, the Court, if and when the scheme (the child endowment scheme) is put into operation, will, it appears to me, have to take the amount of endowment into some account in. fixing a needs wage.
The learned judge took care to make it clear that the need would arise only if the basic wage were supposed to support a family unit of a husband, wife and two or more dependent children. Passing reference to the subject was made by the late Judge O’Mara, after referring to child endowment, in these terms -
On the question of needs I wish to make it clear that I am not to be taken as having reached the conclusion one way or the other that the total basic wage is adequate to provide a suitable standard of living for a married man with a wife and two or more dependent children.
Thus the three judges made it very clear in their judgments, both by implication and. by the forthright statement of Chief Judge Beeby, that the basic wage was sufficient, at the best, to support a husband, wife and one child and that, as the first child was not to be the subject of endowment payments, the question of taking endowment into consideration at that stage in the basic wage review did not arise.
In pursuing this line of discussion, I am obliged to refer to the two schools of thought in relation to the fixation of the basic wage. One school contends that the basic wage is fixed in accordance with the needs of some definite family unit, such as a husband, wife and one child. The other school contends that the basic wage is fixed according to the capacity of industry to pay. I mention those two schools of thought because it is a noteworthy fact that legislation in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia charges the State industrial courts with the responsibility of determining a wage that will provide, in two cases, for a husband, wife and two children, and in the other case for a husband, wife and three children. However, it is an undoubted fact that since 1930, when the 10 per cent, cut came into operation, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has pursued a policy of fixing the basic wage according to the capacity of industry to pay.
– Yes. The court has stated that, whilst it has not had in mind a definite family unit whose needs must be supplied, the basic wage at least is sufficient to support a husband, wife and one child.
– Then the court does consider needs?
– Yes, but only insofar as it tries to indicate in its judgments what the wage will provide in needs. It has stated that, at the best, the basic wage will not support more than a husband, wife and one child, but the whole question of needs was swept aside in the 10 per cent, cut case of 1930 and 1931. The only question that the court asked itself during that period of economic depression was, “What is the highest amount that industry can pay under the existing conditions ? “ It had no relation to needs, as the Minister will admit. The court reduced wages arbitrarily by 10 per cent, in order to combat that economic blizzard.. Therefore, it can be said that there are authorities that are bound by law to fix a basic wage that will support a definite family unit. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, of course, uses its discretion in that: matter, and, in its discretion, has decided in the main to fix the wage on the capacity of industry to pay. Having determined that wage, it says, “ This amount can support so many people “. At that stage, the whole matter of child endowment, and its relation to the basic wage, becomes of grave concern to a large number of people in Australia. The trade union movement is greatly concerned about what the effect of child endowment will be. The extension of child endowment to the first child raises the very real issue of whether the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which is inquiring into the basic wage at this moment, will consider that endowment is to be regarded as something that is received from production, although it is paid through an instrument other than the employer, and as a consequence, should be taken into account in fixing the basic wage. When child endowment was introduced in 1941, the cost wa9 placed directly on industry by means of the payroll tax, and the receipts therefrom were paid through the Commonwealth to the mother of the child. Therefore, although industry did not have to pay a higher basic wage at that time, an increased charge was placed upon it in the form of the payroll tax. However, this bill does not increase that tax. It is not suggested that the increased expenditure that will be incurred by the payment of endowment in respect of the first child will be met by means of a tax upon the employer. The money is to be drawn from a general welfare fund. A part of the cost will be met by the existing payroll tax, which will not be increased, and the balance will come from the social services contribution.
If this bill, as . introduced in the Senate, becomes law, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration will be able to do one of four things. First, it may say, “ This payment of child endowment can be used to relieve the employer in respect of certain wages “, and it could conceivably reduce wages. I agree with the opinion that has been expressed by the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports- (Mr. Holloway) that it is unlikely that the court will reduce wages, but I cannot agree with his view that the court is unlikely to take child endowment into consideration in determining finally what the basic wage shall be.
The second thing that the court can do is to leave wages unchanged, as it did in its decision in 1941, and simply content itself with saying, “ The need of the workers for extra income is fully met hy the payment of endowment for the first child”. The third course that the court can take is to increase the basic wage slightly, but not to the extent that it might have increased it had endowment not been granted’ for the first child. The fourth thing that the court can do - and this is what the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports believes that it may do - is to ignore the child endowment completely when it fixes the basic wage.
Having placed those views before the House, I shall indicate briefly my own opinion. I believe that it is probable that the court will give some consideration to the effect of the payment of child endowment. Earlier in my speech I stated that the Government of the day in 1921 had introduced a system of child endowment in the Commonwealth Public Service. Because of those payments, the first Public Service Arbitrator, the late Mr. Attlee Hunt, fixed the basic wage for Commonwealth public servants at £12 per annum less than the amount that was paid under the awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. In that instance child endowment meant a difference of £12 a year in the wages of the public servants, compared with those of employees in private industry.
– Irrespective of the number of children?
– Yes. Under the scheme that was introduced by the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), public servants received endowment at the rate of os. a week in respect of every child under the age of sixteen years. When the general endowment scheme was introduced by the Minister for Labour and National Service in 1941, Commonwealth public servants voluntarily changed from the system that had operated for twenty years, with the result that their basic wage was increased by £12 per annum. They accepted the national scheme of child endowment, as it now exists, and forwent endowment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child under the age of sixteen years. I simply cite that as an illustration of the effect of child endowment on the basic wage.
The next matter that I raise is the importance of basic wage statements that have been made by the Full Arbitration
Court, which I have read to the House; but I also remind honorable members that during the hearing of the present case that has been conducted since the 22nd May, 1949, members of the court itself have thrown out to the advocates at the barrister’s table, on more than one occasion, the idea of the desirability of recasting the basic wage. They have suggested, as worthy of consideration, among other things, the fixation of a basic wage based on husband and wife only, or on the needs of either a single man or a single woman; and that, possibly, the proper distribution of the national income might then be made by means of motherhood endowment, wife endowment, and child endowment. Those matters have been discussed in the court, and I shall make available to any honorable members who are interested in the matter extracts from the transcript of the evidence for the purpose of showing that, at the time the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made his announcement during the general election campaign, the matter of recasting the whole method of fixing the basic wage was actually a live controversial thought before the court.
Another indication of how seriously the court regards this subject was mentioned by the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports. Immediately the present Prime Minister made his statement of policy on child endowment, the court, because it believed that that statement was associated in some way or other with the work on which it was engaged, and could be construed either as a direction to it, or as an interference with its functions, adjourned the hearing until after the date of the general election in order to determine the position.
The final matter that I desire to point out to honorable members in order to indicate the seriousness of the position from the standpoint of the trade unions relates to the claims that have been submitted by the representatives of governments and of employers to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, in which they most strongly urge that the basic wage should not be increased for a number of reasons, including child endowment.
– What governments are involved in that matter?
– I shall mention them before I conclude my speech. The claim is made that because of the provision of child endowment the basic wage should not be increased. The first submission that I shall readis by the Metal Trades Employers Association and others. Clause 3 (d) of their claim reads -
If the basic wage is, or is to be fixed in relation to socially necessary requirements, account should be taken of the amounts available to parents by way of child endowment. [Extension of time granted.]
I express my appreciation to the House for having granted me an extension of time, and I shall endeavour to cram my remaining remarks into the shortest possible time. Mr. E. R. St. C. Chamberlain, Acting Crown Solicitor for the State of South Australia, submitted a very long statement, in the course of which he said -
The Government of South Australia and the Railways Commissioner will advance the following contentions: - (1.) That the general level of the basic wage ought to be determined by having regard to the capacity of the Australian economy as a whole to provide and sustain the wage. (2.) That whilst the Australian economy is now capable of providing and sustaining a higher award for basic wage employment than in 1937, such increased capacity has been fully absorbed by reduction of standard hours, the interim increase of about 7 per cent, in the basic wage in 1946, and the provision of child endowment and other social services.
So the Acting Crown Solicitor for South Australia places the child endowment issue in the forefront of matters that are related to the assessment of the basic wage. A submission on behalf of the Attorney-General for the State of Victoria reads, in part -
The Attorney-General will further submit (a) that insofar as the court may decide to compute the basic wage upon any consideration relating to family units and their living costs, it should take into account all additions and concessions available to such family units whether by way of social services benefits or otherwise.
Again, the issue of child endowment is raised. An affidavit and submission in almost identical terms was lodged on behalf of the Attorney-General for the State of Western Australia.
I have little more to say. All that I have desired to do is to point out that whether we like it or not, the whole matter of child endowment has become a vital factor in the fixation of the basic wage. 1 have dealt with what has transpired in the past, with what has been stated in the court itself, and with the fact that even the present Prime Minister, in his policy speech, foresaw the possibilities, otherwise he would not have said that if the court altered the base on which the basic wage is determined, he would increase the payment of child endowment. Those matters indicate the existence of a real peril from the standpoint of the trade union movement. If the operation of child endowment is allowed to affect the computation of the basic wage, I stress the point that was put forward so strongly by the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports that large numbers of people outside the family unit will suffer both from the viewpoint of purchasing power and because they will receive a lesser increase of the basic wage than might have ‘been granted had the court not taken endowment into consideration. The people who will suffer for those reasons will be all- single women and single men employed in industry, and married men whose families have grown up, as well as apprentices, and boys and girls under the age of 21 years. If the basic wage is not increased their purchasing power will not be raised. Consequently, the provision which the Minister proposes to delete under the amendment he has forecast, should be retained as ‘a protection for the worker. I believe that every honorable member agrees that when the Parliament provides child endowment, the benefit should he made available without its having any effect at all upon the wages of employees. They should not suffer any decrease of their wages because the Parliament has decided upon a more equitable method of distributing the proceeds of industry.
Finally, I agree with the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) as well as other honorable members that child endowment rests upon very high principles, indeed. This will be of tremendous value to the nation as a whole, particularly to the family unit and the child. It applies the principle of respect for human rights in the interests of the most defenceless units in the community, namely, the children not only of our time, but also of the future. Therefore, when the Government is making endowment available it should provide for a payment that will at least give to mothers some advantage in the form of purchasing power for the benefit of their children. The Government should provide endowment at the rate of 10s. and not be content to make merely a token payment of 5s., the purchasing power of which to-day is not great. If it does that it will provide assistance that will be of real value to the family.
– The right honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) are leading authorities in this country on the fixation of the basic wage, and in their speeches this evening they have placed before the Parliament valuable information on that subject. They have shown clearly why the ordinary worker is so much concerned about this legislation. During the recent general election campaign, I did not hesitate to say that if endowment at the rate of 5s. were provided for the first child it would not be of real benefit to parents with only one child whilst, at the same time, it would actually be to the disadvantage of married couples who have no children. The honorable member for Bendigo has shown quite clearly that in 1941, when child endowment was first introduced, the basic wage was computed on the basis of the needs of a man, wife and one child only. The judgments of Chief Judge Beeby and his brother judges confirm that view. The exclusion of the first child from that benefit also confirmed it. Now, we are about to begin another chapter in the history of the working class movement in this country. Some 25 years ago when I addressed meetings of unionists on the subject of the basic wage in relation to the inquiry that was then being conducted by the Piddington royal commission, I contended that the whole basis of fixing the wage was wrong. I pointed out that as it was then- fixed upon the basis” of the needs of a man, a wife and three children, a man with a wife and six children was placed at a disadvantage. As the needs of three of the latter children were not taken into account’, their father was correspondingly worse off whenever the basic wage was increased.
L have always advocated the principle of child endowment. In addition, however, I have always contended since the introduction of child endowment - which I. advocated should be payable in respect of all children - that the Arbitration court must continue to determine a wage that would be sufficient to provide a proper standard of living for a family. I. believe that if the Government insists upon deleting the provision that the the court shall be instructed not to take endowment into consideration when fixing the basic wage, there will, be a danger that the court will do so. We have been told that the court fixes the basic wage on the basis of the capacity of industry to pay. If that statement is correct; why does the court hear evidence regarding the cost of women’s clothing? At every basic wage hearing, it seeks evidence from female witnesses concerning the cost of stockings, overcoats and other articles of female clothing. Should the Government agree to provide endowment of 10s. a week for the first child, as the Opposition advocates, the benefit will have an effect upon the computation of the basic wage unless the court is directed not to allow that factor to have an influence when it i& computing the wage.
– Would not the provision of an endowment of 10s. a week have a double effect in that direction?
– No. The right, honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out that if the provision of this benefit is permitted to affect the computation of the basic wage over 1,250,000 workers who have no children will not receive any benefit at all, whilst over 1,000,000 with children will not receive any net benefit because the basic wage will then have been correspondingly reduced.
– The position would thus be balanced.
– No ; because in the final result even those families that would receive this benefit would be deprived of it through the reduction of the basic wage to a corresponding degree, whilst employees with no children would be correspondingly worse off. Therefore, the Opposition urges the Government to direct the court not to take this benefit into consideration when it is computing the basic wage. After all, the court must have some formula by which to compute the wage; and the basis should be the amount that is required to provide a reasonable standard of living for the workers. One supporter of the Government spoke about his work among the people and the benefit of child endowment to the community. He said that members of the Opposition should say straight out whether they really desire that this benefit shall be made available. For many years, I have represented in Parliament districts in which there has been a preponderance of families the parents of which received the lowest wages payable, and I have been able to assess the benefit of child endowment to the community as a whole. It has been proved to be a wonderful benefit, because it has enabled many parents to improve the living conditions of their children. However, if the Government makes this benefit available to a man with children and at the same time recoups the expenditure involved, through a corresponding reduction of the basic wage, the measure will be practically worthless.
The Government estimates that the provision of endowment at the rate of 5s. for the first child will involve a total annual expenditure of £15,000,000, and Government supporters have asked how it would be possible to finance an expenditure of double that amount under the Opposition’s proposal that the benefit shall be 10s. a week. When the Menzies Government introduced child endowment it imposed the pay-roll tax. It then said, in effect, to the employers, “You will not have to pay for more than one child; therefore, we shall impose a payroll tax upon you “. Official statistics disclose that collections of pay-roll tax during the last financial year totalled £19,803,000. Industry paid that amount to Consolidated Revenue in order to avert an increase of the basic wage. However, during the same period, payments in respect of child endowment amounted to £24,823,000, or, approximately, £5,000,000 more than the total collections of pay-roll tax. How will the Government finance the provision of endowment for the first child under this measure? As the honorable member for Bendigo has pointed out, it does not intend to take more from industry in order to finance this benefit. Obviously, the Government intends to finance it from the National Welfare Fund. In that event, an additional burden will be placed upon the worker who pays social services contribution. That is how the Government will finance the provision of this benefit. However, I agree that we should do everything to encourage family life and to increase the birth-rate. The provision of this benefit will mean an increase of the direct tax that is imposed upon the worker, although I do not believe that the Government will increase the pay-roll tax for that purpose.
– The pay-roll tax was only a war-time measure.
– I do not know whether or not it was a war-time measure, but I do know that industry was relieved to that degree. It would be impracticable for the Government to say to the employer, “ This man has one child ; you must pay him £6 a week. This man has two children; you must pay him £6 10s. a week. This man has four children ; you must pay him £8 a week If such an arbitrary system of wage fixation were adopted there would be the keenest competition between employers to obtain the services of unmarried men or of those with the smallest families, and, as a result, workers with large families would get short shrift. In such circumstances it would be impossible for many businesses to survive.
– There is now not much enthusiasm among the people for large families.
– I believe- and the records will bear out the accuracy of my belief - that in recent years, because the larger incomes received by average families have made possible the purchase of a greater share of the necessaries of life and the enjoyment of better amenities, the birth-rate has increased in this country. An increase of the child endowment benefit should not be granted in the hope that it. will be offset in some other way. Government amendments of the bill which have been circulated before we have had a chance to discuss its second reading, show clearly that the Government does not intend to instruct the Commonwealth Arbitration Court not to take into consideration the endowment for the first child when it is fixing the basic wage. The newspapers of this country have contended that the inclusion in the bill of a clause giving such a direction to the court would be unconstitutional. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) pointed out this afternoon, it would be competent for the court to ignore a direction of that kind if it believed it to be unconstitutional. This Government has decided to restrict the endowment of the first child to 5s. a week and is adamant in its refusal to indicate to the court that it is the intention of the Parliament that the payment of that amount shall not be taken into consideration in its computation of the basic wage.
– That intention has already been made perfectly clear to the court.
– If I were a judge of the Arbitration Court and one of the parties to the basic wage case informed rae that this legislation contained a provision that the court should not take into consideration the endowment paid in respect of the first child, but that it had been subsequently deleted by the Parliament, I should form the opinion that the Parliament had intended that the payment should be taken into consideration in the assessment of the basic wage. I observe that honorable members opposite shake their heads. They are loyal to their leader and to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who introduced this bill into the House. When we were the government we were constantly chided by honorable members opposite for accepting without question the decision of the Labour caucus. Whilst it is true that the decisions of caucus were adhered to, all Labour members had an opportunity to influence them. Honorable members opposite may not be compelled to do what their party leaders tell them to do, but in this instance, as in others, they probably had no opportunity to discuss the provisions of the measure before it was introduced in the Parliament. Only recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) introduced a bill about which there will undoubtedly be a referendum-
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss the bill now before the House.
– I had merely intended to say that the provisions of the measure to which. I have referred were unknown to most of the members of the Government parties until after it had been introduced in the Parliament. We are justified in assuming that similar circumstances accompanied the formulation of the bill now before us. Honorable members opposite are undoubtedly keenly desirous of helping the people. I give them credit for that. I do not doubt that they sincerely want to give the mothers of this country an additional 5s. a week. I agree that at the general election in December many mothers voted for Liberal and Australian Country party candidates solely because of their promise to endow the first child. Honorable members opposite should ensure that the mothers shall enjoy the benefits of that endowment by giving a clear direction to the Arbitration Court not to take into consideration the payment of the endowment in computing the basic wage. If they refuse to do so, they have merely spoken with tongue in cheek on this matter. We have come to the stage in our history when we must decide upon what basis the basic wage shall be fixed. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) read extracts from the transcript of the basic wage case showing that different schools of thought existed on this matter, even among the workers. Some workers believe that the basic wage should cover the needs of a single worker and that a basic wage should apply to men and women alike. In other words, they believe that the basic wage should be so fixed that it will meet the needs of an individual worker and that a worker’s family should be provided for by the payment of child endowment. Another school of thought favours the fixation of the basic wage on the basis of the needs of a man and his wife alone. During the general election campaign the present Prime Minister said to the people, “ If we are returned to office, we shall pay child endowment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child. If the Arbitration Court takes it into consideration in fixing the basic wage, we shall increase the payment to 10s. a week”.
– - What was wrong with that?
– There was nothing wrong with it, but I point out that if the. court took into consideration the first 5s. it would also take into consideration the second 5s.
– If that argument be sound, why does the Opposition seek tn increase the payment in respect of the first child to 10s. a week?
– We have asked for a payment of 10s. a week and a direction to the court that it shall not take the payment into consideration in assessing the basic wage.
– During the general election campaign the Labour party said nothing about endowing the first child.
– It is true that we did not advocate the payment of child endowment in respect of the first child. We contended that if such a provision were made the Arbitration Court would take the payment into consideration in assessing the basic wage. The Prime Minister’s statement that I have quoted bears out the truth of our contention. He must have known when he made the statement that if the endowment of the first child were increased to 10s. the additional 5s. would also be taken into consideration by the court in fixing the basic wage.
– The increase to 10s. would be made after the basic wage had been fixed.
– The basic wage was originally fixed on the basis of the needs of a man, his wife and three children. When it was found that the wage fixed was not sufficient to meet the needs of such a family child endowment was introduced and made payable in respect of all children under sixteen years of age except the first child. This Government proposes to endow the first .child at a time when the Arbitration Court is considering the fixation of a new basic wage. Every honorable member knows of the inordinate length of time that has been occupied in the hearing of the basic wage ease. I do not contend that the delay has been deliberate, but I do contend that if the case is still unfinished when this bill becomes law the court will undoubtedly take into consideration the payment in respect of the first child unless it is given a definite direction not to do so.
– What interest would it serve in so doing?
– Does the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) believe that the court is not well aware of the number of children affected by this proposal and what it costs to provide those children with food and clothing? The court makes its findings in accordance with accepted principles, lt would be silly for the manufacturer of, say, a. harvester, when fixing the selling price of the implement, not to take into consideration the cost of the steel used in its manufacture, but to base the price on the ability of a prospective buyer to pay for it. Why, if that practice had been adopted twenty years ago when I was a farmer, I should have obtained a harvester for nothing. The judges of the court are well equipped to weigh all the factors that are relevant to the assessment of a basic wage on the basis of accepted principles. The honorable member for Bendigo has referred to the 10 per cent, reduction of wages approved by the Arbitration Court during the financial emergency in 1931, and also to the subsequent grant of a prosperity loading by the court in 1937. Why did the judges of the court award that prosperity loading? They awarded it because they knew what was going on outside. They knew that the workers were not receiving enough in wages. There is no doubt that when the judges arcs determining the basic wage, after this measure has become law, they will take into consideration the fact that wage-earners are receiving a payment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child. The Government hopes that this measure will be in operation next month. After it has become law the court in its consideration will take cognizance, for instance, of the quotation that was made to-night by the honorable member for Bendigo from a statement by the Acting Crown Solicitor for South Australia to the effect that the court should take child endowment into consideration. The only factor that would prevent the court from taking child endowment into consideration when it was determining the basic wage would be a decision by this Parliament. We as a Parliament should direct the affairs of this country.
– We could not do it.
– The honorable member says “ We could not do it “. I believe that honorable members opposite will not give even a wink or a nod to the judges or make any suggestion to them. They will say, “ We cannot do it “ and they will leave matters as they have been in the past. I am not blaming the employers, but I state a plain fact when I say that the judges, in fixing the basic wage, take into consideration everything that they believe they should consider in order to reach a decision. One of their considerations will be the fact that child endowment is being paid to a large proportion of the workers. The behaviour of honorable members opposite sometimes amuses me. They rose in their places when they were in Opposition and told the Labour Government of the day that the amount received by pensioners was only a certain percentage of the basic wage. They forget that the basic wage at that time was fixed on the basis of the needs of a family unit of a man, wife and three children. Now they intend that the unit shall be that of a man and his wife, and that children shall not he taken into consideration. They want to have it both ways. It is said of some people that what they miss on the swings they try to get on the roundabouts. The Labour party is earnest in this matter when it says that an increase of 5s. in child endowment will leave a worker with children no better off than he was before and that a man without children will be 5s. worse off. An honorable member is directing my attention to the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), who expressed an opinion that differs from mine. That right honorable member is entitled to his own opinion. “We cannot get away from the facts of the case, and no matter what somebody else says I shall state what I believe to be the truth. I firmly believe that the court will take child endowment into consideration when it is fixing the basic wage unless we direct it not to do so. If we do so direct it, the court might say that we have no power to tell it what to do, but it might decide that as the Parliament believed that child endowment should not be taken into consideration it would not take it into consideration.
.- I think that the time has come for some plain speaking, some honest Australian talk, on this matter. In the first place, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the policy speech that he made before the last general election, mentioned that the sum of 5s. would be paid as endowment in respect of the first child of each family. He also said that if, as had been suggested, the court took that payment into consideration when determining the basic wage, he would increase the payment to 10s. a week. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) wanted to know what was wrong with that. I shall tell him what was wrong with it. lt was a very sinister suggestion, in as much as the Prime Minister had discovered that the Labour party was wise to the implications of what he intended to do and of how he was going to carry out in conjunction with the Australian Country party, a robbery of the great Australian worker, which was to take the form of a measure passed through this Parliament. He played upon the sentiments of the Australian mother. His statement, “We will pay you 5s. for the first child “, sounded well. Most honorable members on the Government benches played upon the sentiments of the people in order to gain sufficient votes to return them to this Parliament. The Labour party, not having the money that was poured into the coffers of the parties that now sit opposite so that they could issue their propaganda on this particular matter, had to stand on soap-boxes at street corners and try to explain to the people the facts of the great illusion. The Government’s proposals are, in fact, neither more nor less than a great illusion. This measure could not have been framed better had it been framed by Chung Xing Soo. The statement that the Government parties would give 5s. to the mother of each family looks very well on paper. The mother is delighted because she at least is to get a little extra with which to feed her young. But this measure will boomerang upon the Government when the mother discovers that father gets 10s. or 15s. a week less in his wages. I make no apology for making that statement. I ‘ say that up to 15s. a week will be deducted from the father’s wage3 to counteract the 5s. that is given to the mother. The Government parties will then say, “We carried out our promises to the people. We legislated as we promised to do, and despite the obstacles cast before us by the Labour party we carried our policy into effect “. They will make that statement with their tongues in their cheeks, knowing full well that they are taking part in one of the greatest swindles that has ever been perpetrated upon the Australian people. The present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) made a statement in 1941 which I shall read to honorable members opposite. He was at that time a member of an anti-Labour government. Speaking in this House on the 27th March, 1941, he said-
In the court’s most recent judgment, the view was expressed by the Chief Judge that, considered on the basis of needs only, the present basic wage is adequate for a family unit of three, but offers but a meagre existence for a family of four. When a family unit gets beyond four, hardship is often experienced.
– That was before a Labour government had eight years of office.
– The parrot on the biscuit tin again. The Labour party was in office for eight years after the Minister for Labour and National Service had held that portfolio in that anti-Labour government, and despite a devastating war during its period of office it managed to increase all social services by almost 100 per cent.
– And the cost of living, too.
– I say that it managed to increase those social services despite a devastating war and that fact may enlighten the honorable member who has just interjected. Now Mr. Holt-
– Order ! The honorable member must refer to the Minister by his title.
– Now the Minister for
Labour and National Service tells the Parliament that the court will not take the increase of child endowment into consideration when it is fixing the basic wage. “What rot! The honorable gentleman knows that it is rot, inasmuch as the court has fixed the basic wage on the basis of the needs of a family unit of three, and when each family unit receives child endowment in respect of the first child the first thing that the court will do will be to say, There is no further need to fix the wage on the basis of a family unit of three now that the first child is being endowed by the Government “. The result will be that the basic wage will be decreased accordingly, and I say that at a conservative estimate the decrease will be at least 10s. a week and possibly 15s. a week. That statement will show honorable members opposite how much the working people of Australia will lose if this measure becomes law.
– If that does not happen will the honorable member support this Government at the next general election?
– If ever my conscience could prevail upon me to join the Liberal party I would consider that my mentality was nil. There are about 1,000,000 first children in Australia in respect of whom 5 s. a week endowment will be paid. That payment will cost the taxpayers about £13,500,000 a year. There are approximately 2,000,000 workers in Australia who will be affected by a decrease of the basic wage. A decrease of 10s. a week in the basic wage would mean a loss to the workers of £52,000,000 a year. If rumour is correct the employers, the Chambers of Manufactures, the Chambers of Commerce and all the squattocracy who are notorious for robbing the poor jackeroos, will gain accordingly. That total of £52,000,000 will be taken out of the workers’ wages and will be handed over to the wealthy interests of this country as a reward for their assistance in electing the parties now in office, and as a return of the money they poured into the funds of the Consultative Council and the Institute of Public Affairs for that purpose.
– Order! I think that the honorable gentleman had better tell us something about the bill now.
– My remarks are connected with the bill. They are intended to show that the mother of a family who receives 5s. a week endowment for the first child will find her husband coming home at the end of the week with 10s. less in his pay envelope. Single girls will also suffer a decrease of 10s., and so will childless couples and single men. The decrease will spread throughout our economy. That amount of £52,000,000 will be taken out of circulation and its removal will produce an impact upon small businessmen throughout the country. That money will go to the wealthy. If rumour is correct the payroll tax will be lifted as a further sop to the wealthy interests of this country. The Liberal and Australian Country parties are notorious for their efforts to break down the standard of living of the people. This is one of the worst measures that has ever been foisted upon the people and when they realize its ill effects it will boomerang upon the “ one Parliament” honorable members opposite. Despite statements to the contrary the Labour party has been responsible for all the social services that have been enacted. The oneparliament members opposite laugh. They have never heard of the New South Wales Labour Government which first enacted child endowment. In 1941 the Liberal party placed a child endowment proposal before this House and it was supported by the Labour party in its entirety, but many members of the Liberal party opposed the measure. Payment was first made at the rate of 5s. and I point out, for the enlightenment of honorable members opposite, that that amount has been increased in eight short years of Labour rule by 100 per cent. I warn the people of this great country of the significance of this hill. I consider that the proposed payment should be increased to 10s. a week in view of the statement made bv a lady named Miss W. Wilson, Government dietician, that children should have, every day, one pint of milk, the price of which has gone up by a penny a pint; at least one helping of meat of from one to four ounces; one egg; two pieces of fruit - one orange or tomato and one other piece - and two helpings of vegetables in addition to potatoes. At the present prices of these commodities it would cost a mother 22s. a week a child to follow the advice of this dietician. Honorable members opposite should take that into consideration in the interests of the people of this community. They should not pay so much regard to wealthy interests but should give consideration to the younger generation which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) mentioned. The first duty of the community should be to ensure the welfare of its children. If proper consideration is given to the welfare of the children Australia will grow into a greater nation that it now is. It seems to me that the bills that have been introduced by the present Government have had the purpose of making the wealthy wealthier and the poor poorer. The standard of living of the people has been attacked. Honorable members opposite have continually devised schemes by means of which they aim to rob the working people and take from them what they have gained in the last ten years. They have to’ answer to the crack of the whip, otherwise they will not be selected to contest the next general election. They are hand-picked-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman had better deal with the bill because, if he continues to wander from it, other honorable members ako will have the right to do so.
– I should like to quote the words of a member of the Opposition party in another place. Senator Annabelle Rankin said - lt is sheer hypocrisy-
-Order! If the honorable gentleman is quoting from the record of what happened in the other
House during this session he is completely out of order.
– A report in a newspaper
– Order! I shall not listen to reports that have been published in a newspaper. The proceedings of the other House during this session have nothing to do with this House whether they have been reported over the air, in a newspaper, or by word of mouth.
– Over the air-
– Order! I repeat that those proceedings have nothing to do with this House.
– I feel frustrated in my efforts. An extract from Hansard reports Senator Annabelle Rankin-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman cannot quote from Hansard of this session.
– I have heard extracts from Hansard quoted all day long and I have not heard you say anything about it, Mr. Speaker.
– I have not heard them quoted.
– I have heard Ministers quote from Hansard.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not argue the matter. Only two Ministers have spoken to this bill, and I have heard all that they said.
– The statement has been made that it is sheer hyprocrisy and party politics at their worst for honorable members of the Labour party in the House of Representatives to talk about increasing child endowment from 5s. to 10s. for the first child. That was said by a member of one of the Government parties, Senator Annabelle Rankin.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat. I have warned him repeatedly that he must not refer to what has taken place in the Senate on this bill. I am not going to be defied.
Honorable members interjecting,
– If honorable gentlemen want to enter into an argument, I shall be quite happy.
.- The proposal which the Government embodied in the bill that it introduced in the Senate was that endowment of 5s. a week should be paid to the- first child. The Labour party members of the Opposition in the Senate amended it to provide that the endowment should be 10s. a week and that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should be directed that it was the intention of this Parliament that the endowment payable in respect of the first child should not be taken into consideration when fixing the basic wage. I ask for order, Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is entitled to a fair hearing. There is too much conversation.
– The point that I was making was that the court has taken into consideration the proposal that was put forward by the Government parties at the general election to pay endowment for the first child. In view of that proposal the court ceased its hearing of the application that was then before it. That indicated that it intended to adjust its findings to the policy laid down by the Government about to be elected. Now that an anti-Labour Government has been elected it proposes to pay child endowment at the rate of 5s. in respect of the first child and that amount will be taken into consideration in the fixing of the basic wage.
I consider that the amendment which was placed in the bill by the Opposition in another place to the effect that the payment of endowment for the first child shall not affect the fixing of the basic wa,ge will have some influence on the court when it delivers its findings. I was a member of this Parliament when child endowment was introduced and the then Leader of the Labour party, Mr. Curtin, pointed out that the court which was then hearing the claim of the unions for a higher basic wage was prepared to grant a substantial increase. The Government of the day introduced legislation to implement child endowment so that the court could fix a lower basic wage, and the court fixed a lower basic wage because of the legislation that was passed to provide for endowment for the second and third children. 1 believe that the basic wage then covered a man, his wife and his child. That point was emphasized by Mr. Curtin on the 25th March, 1941. At page 157 of Mansard he is reported as having said -
Parliament is now no longer able to regard family allowances as purely social in purpose or foundation, because the court itself has as good as said to this Parliament, “ We would have increased the basic wage but for our belief that the legislature can overcome the injustice aspects of our findings by itself imposing a levy on the employers as against the levy which an increase of the basic wage would impose on them, and distributing the proceeds, not to all employees, but only to those whose families exceed a given number of children “. That is, in effect, what the court has done. I am unable to say whether the Government, as a Government, had any appreciation of what the court intended to do.
The present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), by way of interjection, said -
The judge announced it.
In reply, Mr. Curtin said -
By that announcement, which was made with what I shall describe as an uncanny sense of the fitness of coincidence, the court was moved to avoid a pay-roll increase over the whole field of employees. It left it to the Government to find, either by that device, or by some other means, a fund which would yield to those employees with certain family obligations at least some part of what would be required to overcome what the court itself implied amounted to injustice.
I believe that in paying an endowment for the first child, the Government will reduce the amount of taxation rebate in respect of the first child and families will thereby lose much more than they will gain. When endowment was provided for the second and subsequent children provision was made in the income tax legislation to reduce the allowance for those children. In support of that statement I quote the present Minister for Labour and National Service. In Hansard, volume 192, he is quoted as having said, on the 29th of May, 1947-
Those honorable members who were in the Parliament at the time will realize that, when the child endowment legislation was introduced, we repealed the provision allowing a tax rebate for the second child and subsequent children because the idea was that provision would be made for them under the child endowment scheme.
A tax rebate on £100 is at present allowed for the first child and substantially less amounts for the second and following children in the family. I believe that the Government would again adopt that procedure, and as it reduced the allowance for children in the family when endowment was first introduced, so it should again do the same thing. I think that the amount of endowment should be uniform for all children of the family. I do not think that any member of this House will say that 10s. is adequate to keep a child, but if 10s. is paid in respect of the second and following children in the family, then the same amount should be paid for all children in the family. That view is held by members of the Labour party, and in the past it was held by members of the present Government parties. For instance, Sir Earle Page-
– Order ! The correct reference is the right honorable member for Cowper.
– I was about to say that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is reported at page 1433 of Hansard of the 12th October. 1948, when the Labour Government increased the endowment payment, as having said -
I am pleased that the hill proposes to increase child endowment from 7s. Gd. to 10s. a week. Nevertheless, I consider that we are not doing sufficient to encourage people to have larger families. When child endowment was introduced in 1941 it was paid to parents of two or more children without any means test being applied. No allowance was paid in respect of the first child because the basic wage provided for a man. wife and one child.
That is an admission by Sir Earle Page–
– Order! The right honorable member for Cowper.
– I think that I am entitled to refer to his personal title as well as his parliamentary title.
– Order ! I have instructed the honorable member twice about this matter, and from his experience he should know that he must not refer to a member of this House except by his ministerial designation or the name of his electorate.
– I am sorry. I shall refer to him as the honorable member for Cowper.
-The right honorable member for Cowper.
– The right honorable member for Cowper said, as reported at page 1436 of Hansard of the 12th October, 1948, that -
More money should be made available for an extension of child endowment benefits, which should be greater as the family increases. Provision should be made whereby mothers will receive as fair a deal as do other members of the community.
The right honorable member for Cowper made those references to child endowment, and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) also has made certain references to this matter. References by the latter honorable member are reported at page .1459 of Hansard of the. 12th October, 1948, as follows :-
Something more than the .provision of this paltry child endowment is necessary. I say “ paltry “ because nobody can rear a child on 10s. a week. Honorable members must remember, also, that the figure has only just been increased from 7s. ad. a week.
The Minister has pointed out that even 10s. is not adequate for the rearing of a child. I consider that the Government, in this measure, should make the payments at least uniform for all children. At the present time, because of the increased cost of living, which the Government has done nothing to control, there should be a general overall increase of endowment. Certainly the first child should not be placed at a disadvantage compared with other members of the family.
Many reasons exist why child endowment should be paid, particularly for the first child. One of the ways in which the basic wage earner can be assisted i9 by the payment of various social services, especially by the payment of substantial endowment for all members of the family. It is reasonable to believe that the basic wage cannot help the family man as much as can a general increase of endowment and the provision of uniform payments for all children. An increase of the basic wage will have the effect of increasing the cost of living. The provision of social services for the less fortunate in the community, from the national income, will raise the standard of living more than it has been raised by anything that has been done in the past. The most unfortunate people in the community are the mothers. They receive no wage for their work on behalf of the family, and I think it behoves this House to do all that it can to alleviate their lot by paying them substantial endowment. Because of insufficient family income, due to the lower purchasing power of the £1 and the consequent diminishing purchasing power of the basic wage, many mothers are taking up employment in industry. Because of that some of them have had to neglect their children’s welfare. The provision of endowment for the first child, and an increase of endowment for all children would do 1:luck to enable those mothers to remain at home and give proper care and attention to their children. In that way this House would be doing a great service to the mothers and children of Australia. Because of inadequate financial resources all parents are not able adequately to provide for their children’s education and other necessaries of life. Moreover, adequate child endowment is the only practical means of providing equal pay for the sexes. There has been much discussion about equal pay for the sexes. The payment of a straightout basic wage should be provided for, and endowment should be paid for each of the children. That would meet the requirements of a matter of this kind.
The additional endowment would not only help to provide more adequate food and clothing for the family, but also would assist many workers to finance the purchase of their own homes. Further it would provide many labour-saving devices for the housewives. The lot of the housewife is unhappy, because, although the conditions in industry and consequently the conditions of the father of the family have been improved, the lot of the housewife has been lightened very little. It can only be bettered by the provision of labour-saving devices in the home, to which end increased endowment could be applied. The Labour party considers that, as the Government intends to pay endowment for the first child, provision should be made for a uniform payment of 10s. a week for all children in the family. Honorable members on this side would even support a proposal to make the endowment 12s. 6d. or more. Such an action would be entirely justified because of the lowered value of the wages in the community. The provision directing the court not to decrease the basic wage because of endow- ment paid by the Government, should be supported.. Any payment made by the Government is additional to, and quite apart from, the basic wage. The basic wage might represent the minimum standard of living for workers in the community, but endowment and other social services should be given separately for the children in order to bring about a higher standard of living generally. Such a higher standard of living can best be provided under our present social organization by provision of social services and family allowances for all members of the family. For that reason I strongly support this measure as it was amended by the Opposition in the Senate.
.-.! agree with the statement made in the opening part of the Minister’s speech upon the introduction of this measure, in which he stated that the provision of child endowment is a social service, upon the principle of which all parties are more or less in general agreement. It is only the basis upon which it is to be paid, the amount and certain other matters relating to this measure, which are in dispute. The Opposition has always enunciated support of child endowment. . A. Labour administration first introduced, in 1927, child endowment into this country. That legislation was followed in 1941 by action by a nonLabour government. Since that date, whenever the Labour party has been in office it has taken the necessary action to substantially increase . endowment. It also has doubled the endowment payable for the second child under a provision introduced by the gentleman who is a Minister at the present time. Having shown the sincerity of its attitude towards child endowment, it inserted in the bill certain amendments which should have the endorsement of the Government. I have never agreed with tho principle that there should be any discrimination between the amounts paid for the various children in the family. It is beyond doubt that there is too much discrimination between such children under our legislation, and too much discussion of what sums should be allowed for them as taxation rebates, endowment and so on.
The Opposition, having accepted the principle that child endowment is a necessary part of our social structure, believes that there is no reason why the Government should discriminate and put back the calendar nine years by paying the paltry amount of 5s. for the first child. Because of the tremendous increase of the cost of living, the skyrocketing costs of school necessaries, clothing and food, which this Government has done nothing to prevent, we regard it as an insult to the Australian people to offer them a paltry pittance of 5s. in what is stated to be the fulfilment of an election promise. I hear a lot of noise from my left. I want to hear no more from the hill-billy farmers in that corner.
– They complain all the time about social services, such as child endowment. Over the years, they, as well as the Minister at the table and others, have viciously protested about such legislation. All through the years the party in this country which has given the least in the way of social services is that represented by those honorable members who interrupted me a moment ago. They want £1 a bushel for their wheat and £70 a bale for their wool, hut offer a sop of only 5s. a week to the people! I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Anthony) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– We have heard a great deal of talk this evening about putting value back into the £1 and about the skyrocketing of the prices of food, clothing and other commodities. This occasion is opportune, especially in view of the imminence of a general election in New South Wales, to consider prices in that State. Before proceeding to do so, I refer to a statement that was made by the Premier, Mr. McGirr, in his 1947 policy speech. He then declared -
We are determined that the wage-earner shall receive more real money and have greater purchasing power than ever before so that he and the whole community will enjoy a higher standard of living.
Statistics show that prices in New South Wales have increased alarmingly during the three years since that promise was made to the electors. The figures for Sydney and the five principal towns of the State show that costs have risen by 331/3 per cent, for food, 42 per cent, for clothing, and 21 per cent, for miscellaneous items, such as fares, electricity, gas, newspapers, union dues, entertainments and tobacco. For all items the rise was 27 per cent. The Commonwealth, under a Labour administration, exercised prices control until September, 1948. During the period from June, 1947, until that date, food prices rose by 17 per cent., clothing prices by 18 per cent, and miscellaneous items by 8 per cent. Between September, 1948, and March, 1950, the rises were - food prices by 14 per cent., clothing prices by 21 per cent, and miscellaneous charges by 12 per cent. For the periods under review, the average increases for all items were 12 per cent, before the Commonwealth relinquished control and 13 per cent, afterwards. It cannot be said that Federal control made a very appreciable difference in holding down prices.
The Premier of New South Wales made the confident declaration that I have quoted on the 17th April, 1947, in the knowledge that the Commonwealth would shortly vacate the field of prices control. He asserted that his Government had decided to legislate for the control of prices and to establish a competent and impartial tribunal with power to fix just prices that would be equitable to both producers and consumers.
The Labour Government in the Commonwealth sphere did relinquish control of prices, but not so readily as Mr. McGirr expected. The people virtually had to prise its fingers loose. Only a few weeks after Mr. McGirr had made his promise to the electors, government road transport services in New South Wales were obliged to increase their charges as the result of the dreadful state of their finances, which disclosed appalling deficits. Tram fares increased from 2d. to 3d. for the first section, a rise of 50 per cent. Fares over longer journeys increased by1d. Ferry fares rose by 3s. a month, and railways finances were in such jeopardy that fares and freights had to be increased -tremendously. On the 13th August, 1947, about four months after the Premier had made his solemn declaration, a flat 20 per cent, increase of railway fares was brought into operation, and, in the electorate of Parkes, as much as ls. extra had to be charged for second-class single fares. Freights, which have an important bearing on the prices of food and other commodities, were increased by from 15 per cent, to 40 per cent. Charges for the carriage of farm animals rose by 33 per cent., the charge for coal increased from 10s. lid. to 15s. 3d. a ton, and the rate for agricultural products increased from 12s. 7d. to 17s. 7d. a ton. Honorable members may offer the defence that rising costs made such increases necessary, but anybody from Sydney who holds that view would be astonished by the vast difference between the conditions in that city and those in Melbourne. The single section tram fare in Melbourne is only 2d., whereas the charge in Sydney is 3d. during daylight hours and id. after 8 p.m. If the Sydney increases are said to have been caused by the general increase of costs in the community, why have not tram fares in Melbourne been increased similarly and why are the transport services in that city still in a healthy financial condition?
The roads of New South Wales are in a shockingly dangerous state. The country roads fund of the Department of Main Roads is said to be completely bankrupt, and the normal programmes submitted by shire councils have been pruned by more than 50 per cent. This state of affairs has developed in spite of the fact that owners of transport vehicles are obliged to pay almost crippling taxes. For instance, a heavy vehicle travelling from Albury to Sydney is taxed an amount of about £60. Such iniquitous charges force up the prices of commodities, especially as the railways services are unable to cope with the flow of goods. The control of these charges is not a matter for the Commonwealth. This Government cannot- intervene and finance the transport systems of any one State without incurring immediately the obligation to do likewise for all other
States. The situation in New South Wales is the result of disgracefully bad management, and the high charges that are enforced are passed on to the consuming public. The 50 per cent, increase of the freight charge for coal, for instance, is reflected in charges for electricity and fuel. The increased rate for agricultural products, of course, has influenced the costs of fruit and vegetables.
– The same thing has happened in Victoria.
– I have spoken of the great difference between tram fares in Sydney and in Melbourne, and I am given to understand that the finances of transport services in Victoria generally are . in a healthy condition. In fact, I believe that some of those instrumentalities contribute to the upkeep of such establishments as infectious diseases hospitals and fire brigades. Yet the corresponding organizations in New South Wales, under the McGirr Administration, are completely broke! Statements by members of the Opposition in this House about putting value back into the £1 appear ridiculous when they are examined m the light of the maladministration, inefficiency and general chaos that prevail under the Labour regime in New South Wales.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– People who live in the electorate of East Sydney are paying 3d. or 4d. for a short tram ride for which people in Melbourne pay only 2d. I remind the honorable member that train fares in Sydney rose by 20 per cent, only a few weeks after the Premier of New South Wales had promised the people that they would have more real money, greater purchasing power and a higher standard of living than ever before. In fact, the Government of New South Wales has only made the difficulties of the wage-earner and the housewife more burdensome than ever.
– What is the Prime Minister doing about putting value back into the £1 ?
– The Prime Minister cannot go into New South Wales and interfere with State transport services. The Government of that State bears a serious responsibility for its weakness and neglect.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Anthony) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 32
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 32
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presen ted : -
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act -
First Report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board, for period ended 30th June, 1949.
Lands Acquisition Act - Laud acquired for Defence purposes - Devonport, Tasmania.
Overseas Telecommunications Act - Third Annual Report of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) for year 1948-49, together with financial accounts.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Thirtyninth Annual Report, for year 1948-49. .
House adjourned at 11.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I would point out that, as the matter is one for the National University authorities, the honorable member might care to direct his inquiry to the Vice-Chancellor who, I feel sure, will be glad to furnish any available information.
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. As the matter is one for the authorities of the Australian National University, the honorable member might care to direct his inquiries to the “Vice- Chancellor who, I feel sure, will be glad to supply the answers to the honorable member’s questions.
s. - On the 16th May, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked me the following questions : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 17th May, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) asked me a question concerning among other things, the number of coal-miners who were employed in mines in New South Wales as at the end of March last year and the number employed as at the end of March this year. The answer to that part of the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The number of mineworkers employed in coal mines in New South Wales: [a) as at the 26th March, 1949, was 18,046; (6) as at the 25th March, 1950, was 18,332; net increase during period, 286.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The . Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
t asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information : - 1. (a) There are 104 modified Fell retorts at Glen Davis. Because the company did not mine sufficient shale, only 46 per cent, of these retorts were operated during the three years ended December, 1950. During this period the cost of carbonizing, including the disposal of residue and recovery of the oil product, averaged 20s. 2d. a ton of shale’ treated. Given adequate supplies of shale, this cost would have been considerably reduced. (6) During the three years ended December, 1950, a quantity of 18,884,000 gallons of crude oil was produced, representing 82.5 -per cent, of the total oil content of the shale carbonized, as determined by laboratory method, (c) Samples taken daily from the material passing to the retorts are pulverized and assayed using the Grey-King method as modified by the company for use on oil shales. The company knows of no better method for the assaying of oil shales.
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Will he take immediate steps to cause a reduction in the freight charges and passenger fares on the railway connecting Queanbeyan and Canberra as such charges are a direct contributing factor to the high cost of living in the Australian Capital Territory, or, alternatively, will he consider handing back to the New South Wales railway authorities the full operational activities of this line?
– The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information : -
The freight rates on goods and .passenger fares between Queanbeyan and Canberra are not excessive as is evidenced by a review of the charges made by the Commonwealth Bailways, and in view of the heavy operational costs, reduction is not justified. Freight rates a ton are as follows; - Class 2, 4s.; Class 1, 3s. fid.; Class A-B-C, 3s.; manure, coal, miscellaneous, 2s. Od. On the basis of these rates the freight per pound or per article on typical items in common use, is as follows: -
Passenger fares are as follows: - ls. Id. first single, lOd. second single, ls. od. first return, ls. Id. second return. The railway between Queanbeyan and Canberra is the property of the Commonwealth. It is operated as efficiently and economically as would be the case if it were operated by the New South Wales railway system, and there would be no advantage therefore in handing to the New : South Wales railway authorities the full operational activities of the line.
Federated Clerks Union.
s. - On the 28th March the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) asked me the following questions : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 May 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500524_reps_19_207/>.