19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker CHon. Archie’ Cameron’) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers^
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government in consultation with the Government of New South Wales has yet made a final choice of a chairman of .the Joint Coal Board? If so, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the name of the proposed appointee f If not, will he be good enough to make a statement on the matter later!
– As the honorable member knows, the matter to which he has referred calls for joint action by the Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales. It has been under close consideration, but finality has not yet been reached.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. In view of the great need for fencing materials, such as wire, steel posts, &c, for farm and pastoral requirements, not only to overtake the lag which existed when this Government came into office, hut alao to cover the huge losses sustained during the recent disastrous floods, and also in view of the need for housing hardware and building materials, such as galvanized iron, nails, &c., and as the production of all of those materials depends on the availability of coal, can the Minister advise the House of the total quantity of coal ordered from abroad for Australian needs? Have any supplies yet arrived? If not, when is it anticipated that supplies will reach Australia? What overall increase in the production of steel is estimated to result from the combined availability of Australian and imported coal when such imported coal is available ?
– Apart from the coal imported by the Government of Victoria on its own initiative in the last twelve or eighteen months, approximately 1,000,000 tons of coal ‘will be imported into Australia within the next twelve months at the instance of the Australian Government for the Governments of Victoria and South Australia. That will relieve New South Wales of the necessity of exporting to Victoria and South Australia a certain amount of its essential black coal. A good deal of the coal that will consequently remain in New
South Wales will, I have no doubt, fmd its way into the steelworks at Newcastle and Port Kembla.. I am unable to give the honorable gentleman an estimate of the additional amount of iron and steel that will result from the availability of that coal but I shall make an effort to obtain an estimate from the people concerned and shall advise the honorable member accordingly.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is correct, as reported, that the Australian Government has decided that it will not purchase or arrange, for the purchase of coal from Queensland? If that is so, and in view of the remarks made by the Minister for National Development that the Common wealth is importing 1,000,000 tons of subsidized coal in the first instance, which I understand will be produced by black labour in South Africa and India, does he not consider that it is preposterous for the Australian Government to subsidize the importation of coal from overseas, when the Queensland Government is contemplating the export of coal produced in that State?
– The _ question put h* the honorable member is almost identical with one that waa put yesterday by the honorable member for Kennedy. As I then indicated, there has been no refusal to secure Queensland coal. On the contrary, the Government is extremely interested, in it. My two interested colleagues have been, in fact, closely investigating - the possibilities of increased supplies of coal from Queensland. We have no desire unnecessarily to import coal, but we must have all the coal needed by Australian industry, and to the extent that it is not produced locally we must get it from other sources. It is quite inaccurate to suggest, if any newspaper has so suggested, that some ban has, in effect, been placed upon Queensland coal. The Government is intensely interested in Queensland coal and work by my two colleagues is continuing in relation to it.
– I again ask the Minister -for Supply a question upon tinplate to which I drew his attention last Tues day. On that occasion, the Minister said that he hoped to make a full statement on the subject at the conclusion of question time, but leave to make the statement was refused by the honorable member for East Sydney who has no interest whatever in this subject.
– Order I The honorable member must ask his question.
– Oan the Minister indicate whether it will be possible to alleviate the shortage of tinplate in Queensland, particularly in view of the fact that tinplate is urgently required for the canning of pineapples, which trade is a valuable dollar earner for Australia?
– The Tinplate Advisory Committee, in consultation with representatives of interested parties which the committee has co-opted for the purpose, has been examining the allocation of additional supplies to users who are short of tinplate, including users in Queensland. I have not the final figures at hand, but I believe that I can promise the honorable member that additional supplies will be made to enable users in Queensland to overcome their present difficulties. The allocation of supplies is only one aspect of the matter and I propose, if granted leave to do so, to make a statement on the subject of supplies generally at the conclusion of question time this morning.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister arising from press reports of a statement that was made by the Minister for Health at a conference of medical practitioners in Brisbane. The presumption that the Minister was correctly reported is particularly strong, because he took the precaution of furnishing a copy of the statement beforehand to all metropolitan newspapers. Was the Minister voicing the mind of the Government when he made that statement? If so, why did he not make the announcement in the first place in the Parliament? If the statement did not voice the mind of the Government, will the Prime Minister take steps to explain to the Parliament and tho people that when the Minister makes statements dealing with the proposed national health scheme - and this is only one of many that he has made - he is expressing his individual opinion and not necessarily that of the Government?
– I have not had an opportunity to peruse the report to which the honorable member has referred. The Minister for Health is engaged in a serins of consultations with bodies of persons affected by health proposals. As a Minister he is fully authorized and competent to engage in those discussions. When legislation has been prepared, I have no doubt that my colleague will be delighted, not only to introduce it into the House, but also to give every possible explanation to the House of its details and its significance.
– Will the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Defence inform me of the number of desertions, dL- charges, resignations, enlistments and appointments which have taken place in the permanent establishments of each of the three fighting services during the last twelve months? If the figures reveal an unsatisfactory ratio of wastage to intake, does the Minister consider that that condition is largely attributable to lack of accommodation for married personnel and to the unattractive rates of pay in the services in comparison with salaries and wages in comparable civil occupations ?
– Naturally, I have not the figures at hand for which thu honorable member lias asked. I understand that the rate of intake and discharges in the services is approximately the same so that the strength of existing establishments remains practically constant. The subject of the encouragement of enlistment in the services ha.= been fully discussed and if it is considered that the lack of suitable accommodation for married personnel is a. factor which discourages prospective recruits from joining the services. That matter is being thoroughly investigated. It is also a fact that the services cannot compete with comparable civil occu- pations in rates of pay and conditions of employment, lt is considered, however, that if suitable accommodation can be provided for married personnel the enlistment rate in the services will increase. If the figures for which the honorable member has asked are obtainable I shall furnish them to him.
– My question to the Minister for the Army refers to a recent statement in the press about the proposed appointment of a number of British Army personnel as instructors in the Australian Army. Will the Minister give an assurance that the rights of Australians who have enlisted voluntarily in our forces will not he overlooked, and that the opportunities for promotion and advancement generally in the service will not be limited by the inclusion of British Army personnel?
– Whilst I am ardently welcoming all the assistance that can be obtained to launch the national training organization, I am pleased to he able to give the honorable gentleman the assurance that the seniority and promotion rights of those personnel who are engaged to-day on our instructional staff will he preserved.
– On Tuesday last the right honorable member for Bradfield asked that the House be informed of the actual strengths of the land, sea and air forces of Australia, distinguishing the forces now in Japan from those in Australia, and the permanent forces from the militia forces. I promised to obtain that information and I am now able to furnish the details which are as follows : -
– Has the Minister for External Affairs yet received any information from the Secretary-General of tie United Nations, Mr. Trygve Lie, concerning the ten-point peace plan that Mr. Trygve Lie has released? As the United Nations is sponsoring this crusade for peace, which represents the earnest wish of all the democratic countries, will an opportunity be given for a discussion of the matter in the House or of having a statement upon the peace plain made in the House by the Minister himself ? _ Mr. SPENDER.- The only information that 1 have regarding the ten-point peace plan is what I read in the press yesterday. I have seen cables that deal with the visit of Mr. Trygve Lie to Moscow, but they do not indicate the emergence of any peace plan. If any information comes to me on the subject I shall be very glad to communicate it to the House immediately.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen reports in the Melbourne press to the effect that there has been general dissatisfaction in connexion with the marketing of fresh fish and 11at a great deal of wanton waste has occurred in connexion with that household commodity, particularly in Victoria? “Would the Minister give consideration to having a better method of marketing fish instituted and see also whether the general economic welfare of the fishing industry could not be considerably improved, in order that the public might receive a better deal than it has hitherto received, particularly in Victoria?
– My attention has been drawn to the press reports to which the honorable member has referred, and the honorable member himself has explained the position to me as he understands it. I was recently interviewed by an Australia-wide deputation from the Australian Professional Fishermen’s Federation which discussed the problems as fishermen see them and acquainted me with certain aspects of the matter that affect the con suming public. I suggested to the deputation that the association prepare a case and then have a discussion, which I would arrange, with the Commonwealth Director of Fisheries. I informed the deputation that, subsequent to that discussion, I would myself take up the matter with both the Commonwealth Director of Fisheries and the association. It appears to me that there is .some opportunity for establishing a more uniform approach to the problems of the fishing industry and of fish distribution in the States, and I have agreed that if the States so desire, and if it appears to be in the general interests both of the professional fishermen and the consuming public, I ‘shall have the matter brought before the Australian Agricultural Council, of which the State Ministers concerned are members, to see whether we can evolve a plan that will be to the mutual advantage of both the professional fishermen and the consuming public.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation.
– I rise to order. If I remember correctly, Mr. Speaker, after you assumed office you stated that questions should not be directed to Ministers as representing Ministers in another place. I ask whether that ruling is still in force?
-Is the honorable member for Banks addressing his question to a Minister representing a Minister in another place?
– I shall address my question to the Prime Minister instead.
-The Prime Minister cannot answer the honorable gentleman’s question because he has not the necessary information. The honorable gentleman should either put his question on the notice-paper or raise it in debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– I rise to order. I should like to have this matter completely cleared up. I consider that any member has the right to address a question to the Leader of the Government irrespective of whether the
Minister to whose department the question relates is in another place or in this House. I quite understand that there may he certain circumstances in which the Prime Minister might not care to answer, or might not be in a position to answer, a question; but I repeat that I regard it as a privilege which every honorable member should have to address a question to the Prime Minister no matter where the Minister directly concerned may he. I always accepted such questions when T was Prime Minister.
– Until the House rules otherwise, I do not propose to allow question-time to be taken up by honorable members in addressing questions to Ministers who are not in this House. There are two methods of mentioning matters which concern Ministers in another place. Honorable members may put their questions on the notice-paper or they may speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House. At the end of every question-time there are a number of members who have failed to ask questions which they desired to ask and I do not consider that time should be occupied in asking questions which obviously cannot be answered. “Whoever the Prime Minister is, he cannot answer for a Minister in another place unless he has had prior notice of the question and has been able to obtain the answer. Simply to have a Minister say that he will have to consult a Minister in another place is, in my opinion, a waste of parliamentary time.
– I understand the position to be that this House takes no notice of what occurs in the other chamber and that the purpose of question time is to enable any honorable member to ask a question on any matter relating to tha affairs of government for which some Minister is responsible individually and for which all are responsible, collectively. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I submit that the Standing Orders contemplate that no part of public administration will be excluded from the attention of honorable members on this side of the House at question time. You have allowed questions of this nature to- be addressed to the Prime Minister and I ask that until the House rules to the contrary you adhere to that practice.
– It is desirable, in order that there should be no misunderstanding, that I should indicate that I take no objection to questions being directed to me. If I can answer a question I shall do so; if I cannot I shall endeavour to obtain an answer from the appropriate quarter. I should ° not like it to be thought that any objection is being taken so far as I am concerned.
– So far as I am concerned, my decision stands. If the House wishes to upset it, it can do so. It is the final authority.
– Approximately three or four weeks ago I asked a question regarding the granting of £10 to each age and invalid and widowed pensioner for the purpose of enabling them to purchase clothing 4o keep them warm during the forthcoming winter. The Prime Minister replied that Cabinet would consider the question. As I feel keenly about the plight of aged and invalid people, I ask the Prime Minister what decision tha Cabinet has made on that matter %
-So far as I am aware, the Cabinet has not arrived at a decision on this matter. I shall discuss the matter with the Treasurer. No doubt it has been referred to the Department of the Treasury for consideration.
-Has the Minister for Labour and Industry any information regarding the industrial trouble that was threatened by the Seamen’s Union to-dr /? Is the Minister of the opinion thai this is a Communist-controlled union ?
– The only information that I can. give to the House at this stage is that on Friday last the Seamen’s Union applied to a conciliation commissioner in Melbourne for permission to hold a stop-work meeting in order to discuss certain recommendations which arose out of the recent congress of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. The conciliation commissioner refused that application and the union thereupon intimated that the meeting would be held. I understand that the shipping interests, on the day prior to the holding of the meeting, advised the representatives of the seamen that, if such a meeting was held, contrary to law and the decision of the conciliation commissioner, they would take such disociplinary action as was available to them under the terms of an order of the Maritime Industry Commission to discipline the men by way of logging them and fining them two days’ pay which the, can claim under the award. Despite this intimation the meeting was held, and I understand that action along r.he lines indicated has already been taken, or is in contemplation. The position in the ports is not yet clear. I understand that in Brisbane the men attended as usual and work is proceeding normally. In Sydney the men stood to at 7 o’clock this morning, as is the normal practice, but they were then told that they had been logged. They asked whether they could have an opportunity of consulting the union, and at the time I got my information no reply had br>en received. A somewhat similar position, I understand, applies in Melbourne, and no doubt it will be of general application throughout the ports. All T can say at this stage is that the Government is watching these developments very closely, and if at any stage it feels that there is anything that it can usefully do, it will do it.
– Can the Minister for the Interior inform me whether there has been any deviation from the “War Service Land Settlement Agreement between the Australian Government and the State of New South “Wales since the High Court invalidated that section of the act which relates to acquisition on just terms. If so, is the New South “Wales Minister for Lands justified in asserting that there is lack of co-operation by the Commonwealth in fulfilling the terms of the agreement with New South “Wales?
– The representatives of the Commonwealth, New South “Wales.
Queensland and Victoria, conferred only yesterday on this matter, and I think that all outstanding difficulties were then ironed out. I do not anticipate any conflict in the future over the cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States in carrying out plans for the settlement of ex-servicemen.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Interior relating to the land settlement of ex-service personnel to which the honorable member for Lawson has referred. “Many honorable members, particularly honorable members from Queensland, are faced with problems concerning the acquisition of land under the original War Service Land Settlement Agreement on the basis of 1942 valuations. In some instances, land that has been frozen and has eventually been taken over at those low valuations, was owned by ex-servicemen. In view of the fact that many urgent cases arise in this respect, will the Minister make a statement to the House as soon as possible about the decisions that were reached at the conference which he held in Canberra yesterday with certain State Ministers when this aspect of the proposed new war service land settlement agreement was discussed?
– Yesterday, I conferred with the Queensland Minister for Lands and the Ministers of Lands from other States, as I mentioned earlier, on the subject to which the honorable member has referred. I am prepared to make a statement to the House dealing with the decisions of that conference. However, I point out that the State is the acquiring authority and that that aspect is not dealt with in the proposed new agreement. The Australian Government does not do anything in this matter beyond approving of the acquisition of land that a State may recommend to be acquired for the settlement of exservice personnel under the agreement, and, in such instances, the Australian Government provides the requisite finance.
– Yesterday a question was asked of the Prime Minister concerning the- unfortunate death by shooting of Mr. Doderick in Djakarta. and the Prime Minister promised that a reply would be given this morning. Immediately the shooting was reported, representations were made to the Indo- nesian Government by the Australian Embassy at Djakarta to obtain full particulars-
– Is this a ministerial statement ?
– It is a reply to a question and I hope that the House wants to hear it. A full official report on the circumstances of the shooting was requested, and at the same time . the Embassy commenced to make an informal investigation on its own behalf. That investigation is still continuing. On the 13th May, a first preliminary report was received from the Indonesian authorities, who promised to supply a full report later. Two days ago, advice was received from the Australian Embassy at Djakarta to the effect that the Indonesian Foreign Ministry had co-operated in trying to expedite the final report, which was expected within the succeeding two days. Pending receipt of that final report, it would be inappropriate to make any detailed statement upon the limited information that is available. However, as soon as the report is received, I promise to give the facts as they then appear to us to the House. I shall also indicate what steps the Government proposes to take to make representations- on behalf of the widow and generally to ensure that Australian lives shall he protected in that area.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation concerning payments made by the Government to municipal councils for the construction of aerodromes. Have any aerodromes outside the capital cities that are not required for defence purposes been built on behalf of the Government or by municipal councils upon a guarantee of reimbursement by this. Government upon their completion, or is it essential flint the traffic potential of each aerodrome must be proved before the Government will commit itself financially?
– Before World War II., the Australian Government financed the construction of some aerodromes such as the honorable member has mentioned, hut the demand for aerodromes by municipalities is now so great that it would be quite impossible, both physically and financially, for the Government to reinstitute that pOliCY. Therefore, the initiative in all cases must come from the local governing bodies concerned. They must have the aerodromes constructed, if they wish to do so, and then, if .sufficient airline traffic is available or assured, the Government will give favorable consideration to taking over the aerodromes and reimbursing the local authorities. As this is a matter of wide interest, I shall be glad to have a state- ment of the policy of the Department of Civil Aviation prepared, on a single sheet if possible, and made available to honorable members. There are about 360 licensed civil aerodromes in Australia at present. About half of them are owned and operated by the Government, and the remainder are owned by municipalities and private individuals.
– Is it a fact that the Premier of South Australia has arranged a meeting in the near future with the Prime Minister for the purpose of discussing facilities on the north-sm,th railway? In view of the unsatisfactory state of the permanent way and the lack of adequate rolling stock on the north-south railway, will the Prime Minister give favorable consideration to any representations that the Premier of South Australia may make for the overhaul of that line and of the rolling stock, and for the conversion of the track to the standard gauge, so as to allow that railway to play a more effective part in the development of the resources of South Australia and the Northern Territory?
– I think that I am right in saying that, next Monday, I am to have a consultation with the Premier of South Australia, and I believe that one of the matters which will be discussed is related to railway facilities. I shall naturally take into the closest consideration anything that the Premier may put before me on those matters.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior to reports to the effect that there is a vast discrepancy between the Commonwealth electoral roll and the State electoral roll in Queensland. In fact, the State electoral roll is reported to have approximately 60,000 more names on it than has the Commonwealth electoral roll. If the Minister is aware of that fact, can he explain to the House how such a circumstance arises? If he is unaware of it, can he have an investigation undertaken to ensure that, at least, the Commonwealth electoral roll is accurate?
– I am not aware that a position exists such as that described by the honorable member for Bowman, but I shall have inquiries made, and ascertain whether there is a discrepancy between the number of names on the Commonwealth electoral roll and the’ State electoral roll for Queensland. I shall make sure that the Commonweath roll is up to date and accurate.
– Since the control of unemployment and sickness benefits has been taken away from local Commonwealth employment officers and centralized, applicants for those social services who reside in my electorate, and, indeed, throughout the length and breadth of the metropolitan area of Sydney, must now go to the Showgrounds. Can the Minister for Labour and National Service give the House full details about the administrative changes that have been made in the Commonwealth Employment Service, and the procedure which is to be followed by applicants in submitting their claims for unemployment and sickness benefits, or in making inquiries from the department?
– Certain changes have been made in the Department of Labour and National Service in the interests of economy and efficiency. For example, the head office of the Commonwealth
Employment Service has been transferred to Melbourne, and, as I indicated recently to honorable members, in the effort to reduce the size and weight of the establishments upon the national economy, some retrenchments have been made, and others are to be made in future, in the personnel of the Commonwealth Employment Service. I do not believe that there will be any loss of efficiency as the result of those moves, but if any honorable member can show that in a particular area an adequate service is not being maintained, I shall ensure that the position will be remedied. I shall examine the instance that has been brought to my notice by the honorable member for Phillip, and give him such information as I can about the matter.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Air state whether the report is correct that large numbers of aircraft at Evans Head, New South Wales, have been scrapped ? If so, why were the aircraft scrapped, by whom was the order for their destruction issued, and1 what were the number and value of the aircraft destroyed?
– Without knowledge of the particular instance to which the honorable member has referred I am able to state that the position generally in respect of aircraft left over from the last war is that the Department of Air has adequate supplies of aircraft of all types that it is likely to need in the future should an emergency arise. Those aircraft are kept under cover and are properly protected against deterioration. However, a large number of aircraft surplus to possible requirements, from which all instruments of value have been taken, have been scrapped, and I have no doubt that the aircraft that have been destroyed, not only at Evans Head, but also at many other Air Force stations, were surplus to requirements. The scrapped aircraft are of no value whatsoever to either the Government or anybody else.
– Yesterday, I asked the Treasurer whether he would make grants available to assist kindergartens andhe tersely replied that the matter was a State responsibility. As that is the only reason that deters him from making such grants and as I am able to assure him that the Victorian Government does not accept the responsibility of providing and maintaining kindergartens, will the right honorable gentleman endeavour to do something very useful with the Government’s abundant surplus funds by assisting the splendid voluntary efforts that are being made by citizens in Victoria in providing and maintaining kindergartens ?
Mr.FADDEN. - Consideration will be given to the request that the honorable member has made in the order of its priority.
– I ask for leave to make a statement on the subject of tinplate.
– Is leave granted?
Opposition Members. - No.
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent two ministerial statements being made.
– It is not for the Chair to say whether a statement proposed to be made is in order. A motion that the Standing Orders be suspended is always in order.
Question put. The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority of the whole number of members of the House.
– Recently several honorable members and others have asked questions concerning tinplate supplies, and there has been a good deal of press publicity about the matter. All ofthis has been directed to the necessity for action by the Australian Government to avoid ashortage of tinnlate, in particular in the food processing industries, including those in Queensland. I -want to tell the House of some of the steps that the Government has taken and some that it will take, to maintain tinplate supplies.
– Speak up!
– There has been a threatened shortage of tinplate for some years. Prior to the war no shortage existed because adequate supplies were forthcoming from Great Britain, and there was no dollar problem. During the war supplies were maintained from the United States, pardy through lendlease.
– Speak up! We cannot hear the Minister.
– Since the war, the’ position has been different. I find that our predecessors in the Labour Government had been faced with periodic difficulties in obtaining sufficient supplies, and missions had been sent overseas.
Conversation being audible, 0 1* position Members. - We cannot hear the Minister.
– Order! If honorable members would maintain silence they would have no difficulty in hearing the Minuter.
– Do not look over here, Mr. Speaker.
– I am looking over there. One would think at times that it was a gathering of magpies.
– In addition, our predecessors tried to meet the shortage by rationing, and to a certain extent by what is known as “end-use” control imposed under National Security Regulations. After those regulations had ceased to operate, the Department of Supply, al the request of representatives of the industry, continued to administer a quota system similar to that which operated during the period of legal control. Enduse control cannot now be applied, and it was never very effective.
Tinplate is extensively used in Australia, especially in the canning of foodstuffs, and as Australia’s production in this field is growing, and the overseas and local demand for tinned products is increasing, it is inevitable that the demand for tinplate should also increase. Australia does not make any tinplate, and will not be doing so until about 1956. All we use is imported. Our main source of supply is the United Kingdom, but British production is less than the total demand, so that customers of the British tinplate manufacturers are rationed. Australia is rationed with the rest. Our only other present substantial source of supply is the United States. .At the moment there is enough tinplate offering from the United States to bridge the gap between the quantity allotted by the United Kingdom to Australia and the quantity which Australia needs, but, owing to our dollar difficulties, and the dollar ceiling to which we are working, it is not possible at present to permit the unrestricted importation of dollar tinplate. We have limited our importation of American tinplate to about 40,000 tons a year, and, having regard to our obligations to Great Britain, and to the dollar needs of other branches of Australian industry, we are adhering to that figure. This means that insofar as this limited tonnage from the United States, plus what we can obtain from sterling sources, falls short of our needs, we must either restrict consumption or obtain more tinplate from sterling sources.
The particular problem of the moment, which has given rise to the various questions that have been addressed to me, concerns the position of those food-growing industries which use tinplate. Those industries - the fruit, jam, meat, milk, tomato, and egg industries and so forth - are by far the largest users of tinplate. Their packs account for about 90 per cent, of the tinplate used in Australia and bring in a revenue of upwards of £fi0,000,000. There are two periods in the year when consumption rises sharply. The first commences about August when cannister-makers begin their fabrication in anticipation of packing which takes place at the end of the year, and the second, and perhaps more important period, commences about the end of the year when those packers who make their own cans begin the work of can-making simultaneously with the packing of the primary products then being harvested.
Several honorable members who represent Queenland constituencies have questioned me regarding the position in that
State. In Queensland consumption rises round about June, chiefly owing to the ripening of the pineapple crop. I want to amplify what I have said in answer to a question by the honorable member for Lilley by saying that the Queensland users have a special case. Though I have not formally approved of the tentative arrangements for overcoming the position there, I hope that we shall be able to meet the position by making a special allocation. Queensland canners have struck greater difficulties owing to the sinking of Marietta Dal, which resulted in the loss of approximately 200 tons of tinplate. The Government is well aware of the difficulty caused to Queensland canners by that loss and will make arrangements to meet it.
All the tinplate-using industries are naturally concerned lest the intake of tinplate, based on orders placed for available supplies from the United Kingdom, plus permitted importation from the United States, should be insufficient for estimated packing requirements during the next twelve months, and lest the rising consumption of tinplate should result in our stock-pile being reduced to a level below that which has to be maintained in order to prevent uninterrupted supplies. It is obviously difficult to estimate the consumption of tinplate in the food-packing industries as far ahead as twelve months or more, partly because the industry is expanding, and partly because of the many Commonwealthwide and unpredictable variables that affect all primary production. However, we have accepted the industry’s estimates of future consumption and have taken energetic action to protect users.
In the first place we found, when we took office, that there was a degree of dissatisfaction on the part of some users with the quotas that they were receiving under the existing voluntary plan of distribution, that was carried out by my department at the request of the industry itself. I have taken the view, and I hold it very strongly, that it is now the responsibility of the industry itself to suggest modifications to the plan of distribution heretofore in existence, so that alleged injustices may be examined and, if possible, remedied. At my request, a committee of the industry is now en gaged on that task, and some progress has been made. The committee’s last meeting was held yesterday and a decision was reached which will come before me officially to-day.
Secondly, we have been trying to obtain greater supplies from the United Kingdom. For some weeks we have vigorously urged on the United Kingdom the need for increased supplies to Australia. Wo have a good argument here, because a great deal of our tinned products is shipped to Great Britain in the form of foodstuffs. We have also tried, and we are still trying, to expedite deliveries of orders that are in arrears in Great Britain. Some result, although not all that we hoped for, has come from these negotiations, but we would, I think, be unduly optimistic to expect substantially increased supplies from England until 1952, when the completion of the new rolling mills in Wales is expected to help greatly in solving the sterling tinplate shortage. At present British mills are finding it impossible to fill all their orders, and Australia is already receiving more from England than is any other customer. It is fair that I should mention that circumstance to indicate that the British Government which, through its Board of Trade, issues the export licences for tinplate to Australia, has not been reluctant to help us where possible.
Thirdly, we have searched energetically for additional supplies of sterling tinplate from sources other than Great Britain in order to meet our rising demands. Japan appears at the moment to be the only other possible source of substantial supply, and we have, through our officers on the spot, been exploring the matter of obtaining increased supplies from that country. The tinplate industry in Japan has only recently been revived,’ and its production is at present very small, but there are expectations that it will rise steadily. We have opened up discussions on quantity, specification, price, quality, delivery date, and so forth, and a trial shipment has, at our request, been ordered by one of the Australian users. I have been urging the industry to explore on its own behalf the matter of Japanese tinplate, and I am now happy to say that a representative of Australian tinplate users is about to leave for Japan to see what can be done on the spot. The Government will place all its facilities at the disposal of that representative, and I hope that before long we shall have precise information on the contribution that Japanese sources can make to our supply position perhaps, to some extent, even for the canning period from January to June, 1951.
Fourthly, the Government has arranged for part of the orders on the American manufacturers, which would normally be released for mill rollings in the fourth quarter of 1950 and the first quarter of 1951, to be placed straight away, so that supplies may be forthcoming at an earlier date than would otherwise be the case. This does not involve additional dollar expenditure, because it merely shifts the incidence of the expenditure to an earlier date within the overall period, but it does help to protect primary producers by securing the position during the period of high demand early in the year. The Government is also taking other action in that connexion. In addition, we will continue to keep a close watch on the situation from month to month, and will take whatever further action is found to be necessary.
The problem is a result of the last war and is likely to be with us for some time. But even now it can be relieved and partly solved by consumers themselves if, in their mutual interest, they will exercise economy by using substitute materials where possible; by eliminating small-size cans; by refraining from canning non-perishable goods; and by other expedients. The more they help themselves, the more the Government will help them. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Tinplate - Ministerial statement and move -
That the paper be printed.
.- It was most significant that during the course of his speech the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) referred to the fact that shortage of dollars was responsible, in the main, for the shortage that he states exists in respect of tinplate and for the difficulties that tinplate users are experiencing in connexion with that problem. The Opposition is very interested to know whether the shortage of tinplate in this country has been aggravated by the fact that the Government de-rationed petrol and has expended additional dollars on providing petrol for pleasure motoring in preference to providing tinplate for our essential canning industries. We find that restrictions are to be placed on the production of small cans for the fruit-canning industry. The fruitcanning and meat-canning industries are to be denied the necessary tinplate that is essential for them to carry on their production. The whole question raised by these facts is of great national importance. Honorable members on the other side of the House who represent constituencies in which fruit-canning is carried on may well be asked by their electors why they have tolerated the importation of petrol from dollar areas at the expense of the importation of the tinplate that is so vital to those industries.
The curtailment of the importation of tinplate represents only one item of dollar curtailment. It has been closely hidden from honorable members on this side of the House. Tinplate is probably merely the first of a long line of very essential commodities, freely available from dollar areas, the importation of which is now being curtailed because the Government is spending more dollars on petrol. We shall be very interested to hear the views of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) on this important aspect of the dollar position.
– Does not the honorable gentleman know that the former Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) curtailed the importation of tinplate?
– I know that during the term of office of the Chifley Government tinplate was in plentiful supply. I also know that a man was sent abroad and was able to obtain adequate supplies of tinplate at a time when it was very much needed. We believe that no matter what the position regarding tinplate now is, or what it might have been in the past, the Government, if it really knew what responsible government meant, should have put first things first and should have imported more tinplate in preference to providing the means for more pleasure motoring. It cannot be denied that restrictions are now being placed upon the canning industry simply because the Treasurer has allowed petrol to be imported in preference to the requirements of that industry. Let the Government answer that assertion. The Minister went to great pains and held up the business of the House in order to give a lengthy and detailed statement that might have been better made on the motion for the adjournment. The real significance of his statement is that the fruit-canning, meat-canning and other industries that use tinplate are now denied that necessary commodity by reason of the fact that the Government thought more of providing petrol for pleasure motorists than of providing tinplate for essential industries.
I shall not speak at length on this matter but I should like to hear what the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) has to say on it. He represents some very important fruitgrowing areas in which the fruitcanning industry has been established. I should like to hear what he thinks about the expenditure of dollars on less important items than tinplate. What has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to say about the matter? I do not know a great deal about Victoria but I know that the Minister represents a great fruit-growing area. During the term of office of the Chifley Government we heard many complaints to the effect that that Government was not doing all it should have done for the fruitgrowing industry. It is essential that this matter should be cleared up and so I direct to Government members representing the fruit-growing industry, which is allied so closely with the tinplate industry, the important question why the Government spent dollars on nonessential commodities in an effort to appease the electors by a popular move, instead of providing essential tinplate for industries that require it? Perhaps the Minister for Supply or the Treasurer may answer that question. I also ask the Government whether this is the first indication of the way in which it intends to help the primary producers. Is this the first of a long line of dollar items the purchase of which the Government intends to curtail in order to carry out its promise to abolish petrol rationing? I am pleased that the Minister moved that the paper be printed because it has given honorable members the opportunity to bring to the light of day the fact that the Government is making petrol available instead of providing for the needs of essential industries.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Davidson) adjourned.
– I desire to make a statement on certain allegations concerning telephone line tappings and; other matters connected with the Postal Department in Sydney. The purpose of the statement is to give effect to my promise to advise honorable members” regarding the result of the inquiries into certain serious allegations -which were made recently concerning some postal officers in New South Wales. I remind honorable members that practically every employee of the extensive organization which constitutes the Australian Postal Department is in a position of trust. The telephone lineman in the course of his maintenance duty is required to tap telephone lines. Similarly, the technician in the telephone exchange, in the discharge of his functions, is required to cut across working telephone services. The phonogram attendant, the telegraphist and the junior postal officer all see the contents of telegrams. The telephonist on the switchboard is required to supervise connexions, both local and long distance, as a part of her duties. Every one of those officers is sworn to secrecy and the law provides serious penalties for any breach of trust.
Some days prior to the allegations of racketeering in the General Post Office, Sydney, being made, the department received, through police channels, the information that a small number of officers was linked in regular practices associated with the dissemination of racing information. The matter was immediately placed in the hands of the Criminal Investigation Branch and of postal investigation officers. A few days later a private news sheet which is printed in Sydney and, subsequently, the metropolitan daily press, published allegations which had as their basis the following statements : -
The information in the publications supplemented that received from the police. The task of the investigating officers was a difficult and complicated one and has by no means been completed. Therefore, the results which I shall detail should be regarded as being designed simply to bring the House up to date with the inquiries so far as they have proceeded.
The investigations have disclosed the existence of a suspicious figure who is not an employee of the Postal Department but who had contact in some way or other with at least one or two postal employees whose names have been mentioned as being those of persons involved in these irregularities.
– Only one or two?
– There may have been more but there are very few. I have learned that this man has four telephones connected to his private house, but when it was desired to interview him it was found that he had closed his house and had vanished. From the inquiries I have made regarding the telephones I have learned that there is evidence that they were obtained by the submission to the department of misleading information, supported in some instances by statutory declarations, and mainly by the removal to his home of existing services leased by other persons. That is to say, he contacted a person in a nearby street who had a telephone and arranged for that person to have that telephone removed to his own residence and in that way the four telephones were eventually installed there. The circumstances associated with these connexions are sufficiently doubtful to compel me to exercise the power that the department possesses of ordering the disconnexion of the services. They will be allotted to other waiting subscribers whose claims are legitimate. There are a number of people in these areas who are waiting for telephones, including young returned servicemen, expectant mothers and others with high priorities. I am not yet in a position to say whether it will be possible to lodge any charge against this individual, but if sufficient evidence can be obtained I shall not hesitate to take the appropriate action.
The inquiries have also disclosed the existence of two other persons who are not postal employees, but who appear to be linked in a suspicious manner with the person to whom I have already referred and with certain postal employees whose names have been given to the department. There are certain irregularities associated with the information which these people placed before the department when their services were connected, and I propose to disconnect these services and to re-allot them to more deserving cases. Most of the services that I have mentioned have been in operation for periods of from two to five years.
Coming now to the allegations regarding the tapping of telephone lines and disclosure of information by postal employees, the department has received the names of five employees who are engaged on duties at the General Post Office and at certain automatic telephone exchanges. There are certain suspicious circumstances connected with at least one of these individuals, but as the investigations have not yet been completed I am not in a position to advise the House concerning them nor would it be wise to say whether or not charges of a criminal nature or disciplinary action under the Public Service Act will be taken against any one or more of these men. I assure the House, however, that adequate action will be taken to ensure that officers who have betrayed their trust shall be dealt, with in an appropriate manner.
Honorable members will naturally ask, as I did, how it is that when so many deserving cases are awaiting telephones, several services can be connected for purposes which are apparently open to question. In the first place I should like to explain to honorable members that, although there is still a serious shortage of outdoor plant and exchange equipment in many areas, including Sydney, it is possible to provide services without inordinate delay in some parts of the city proper and also in some suburban localities. A special system has been introduced for the purpose of ensuring that telephone applications shall be dealt with in their proper order of priority and that services shall not be installed in an irregular manner. I am satisfied from my personal examination of the system in Sydney, which has ite counterpart in other capital cities, that the system is the most effective that can be devised to meet the abnormal conditions that exist. I personally went through the Sydney General Post Office telephone branch last Monday in company with the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs. I made a thorough investigation, as far as I was able to do so, of the system of checking the priorities of applicants. Approximately 30 persons are employed in the General Post Office, Sydney, whose duty it is to ensure that the applications for telephones shall be correctly made and that no undue favouritism shall occur. The system that I saw, to my mind, removes the possibility of small bribes, such as are sometimes heard of, being given in order to secure telephones. I invite any honorable members who may be interested to make arrangements with me that will enable them to inspect the telephone branch of the General Post Office in Sydney. Melbourne, or any other capital city in order to see just how the system operates.
– The great difficulty is the need for the installation of new exchanges.
– Yes. On the subject of the priority system, I should like to make it clear that, in those areas where all applications for telephone services cannot be met promptly, persons requesting facilities are allotted priorities according ‘to the nature of their professional or business activities or to any special circumstances such as illness or physical disability. In many instances the applicant must furnish a statutory declaration verifying the claim made for preference. It is not practicable to check the correctness of all statutory declarations, but if it is found that the particulars supplied by the applicant are not in accordance with the facts, then the circumstances are closely reviewed and, where justified, the telephone service is withdrawn. I am having additional safeguards provided to check on these statutory declarations. During the course of the investigations a case was discovered in which a person, not a member of the postal staff, had connected to the telephone service in his home apparatus not authorized by the department. This man is being prosecuted. An employee at a metropolitan automatic exchange is also being prosecuted on a charge based on the information that he had disclosed to a telephone subscriber the text of a conversation which that subscriber had had with a business firm.
– Can the Minister explain whether that will be a departmental or a criminal prosecution?
– It is of a criminal nature. Whilst the allegations that have been made are regarded with the utmost seriousness by myself and the department, I should like to say in fairness to the great body of public servants who loyally carry out their duties and obligations, that the investigations have not disclosed any widespread irregularities on the part of departmental officers, although the fact that even a few trusted employees might have been false to their trust is sufficiently grave for the strongest action to be taken on whatever evidence can be secured. I know that the great bulk of the employees of the Postal Department are just as anxious as I am sure honorable members are, that any tendency of the nature referred to shall he ruthlessly weeded out. I shall see that efforts shall not be relaxed until all avenues likely to lead to the detection of offenders have been fully explored.
– Are all the irregularities in one State only?
– The irregularities being investigated noware confined to Sydney. If there are other irregularities in other States, and I receive information about them, then I shall deal with them. As honorable members are doubtless aware, the law in certain States makes it illegal for certain information associated with racing to be disseminated before the close of the day’s racing. Despite this I find that telegrams, in fairly substantial numbers, are accepted from senders giving information which, on the surface, contravenes the State law. That has been going on, as honorable members know, for many years. There is some relationship between the dissemination of this information and the irregularities which have been dealt with in my remarks. I am having the matter explored in order to see whether more effective co-operation is possible between the department and the State authorities. In my investigation of this matter I have been satisfied that only one or two employees, or a very small handful, have been involved out of the tens of thousands of very loyal employees in the service of the country.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Sydney Telephone Services - Allegations of Irregular Practices - Ministerial Statement and move -
That the payer be printed.
– It is very gratifying to learn from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) that the sensational charges made in a statement appearing in a weekly news sheet that there was widespread corruption in the postal service have not been substantiated. The Minister stated that five employees in New South Wales are alleged to have tapped telephone lines, and that there are suspicious circumstances in regard to one of them. Another employee is to be prosecuted in the courts for having disclosed information. These are serious matters, but more serious is the statement that some officers, but very few - in fact, there may be only one or two - are involved with what the Minister has been pleased to describe as a “sinister figure” who had four telephones which have now been very properly cancelled. This sinister figure is believed to have been corrupting a few postal officers in a way that has not been disclosed to this House. Two other outsiders are involved. It is very satisfactory to know that all the charges made by this news sheet have boiled down to the offences of a few unfortunate individuals who, perhaps because of the frailty of human nature, have abused their trust. I am particularly pleased that the great body of postal employees has been exonerated, and that the Minister has seen fit to pay tribute to his officers. The officers of the Postal Department have served him, as they have served every other Postmaster-General, with very great loyalty and enthusiasm. It will be very pleasing to the public to learn that in the final analysis only a few people are involved.
– Who are they?
– I ask the right honorable member for notice of that question. I do not know. The Minister will no doubt inform the House in due course. He says that some persons are to he prosecuted and others are to be dealt with departmentally. I should like to know from what source the person who wrote for this news sheet got his information, and what officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service, the New South Wales Police Department or the Postmaster-General’s Department are in touch with him; because that is a matter of some concern.
– The suggestion is that it is an undercover person who is not associated with anybody.
– That person must have known that police officers of the Commonwealth and the State were investigating the matter. I am also pleased that the Minister has laid the bogy of interference by Communists with the postal services in order to get information for a newspaper which they are supposed to publish in New South Wales. I believe that the Communist, party did publish a racing news sheet called the Newsletter, but I understand that it sold it about six months ago when disposing of its assets. I also understand that the man who owns the Newsletter to-day is not and never has been a Communist. This old Communist charge is like King Charles’s head. It has been dragged into debates in this chamber on all sorts of occasions, appropriate and inappropriate. It is well that the people should know that they can sleep easily at night secure in the knowledge that they will not awaken to find that the telephone services are -being misused by Communists for the distribution of racing information or any other purpose.
– There is no association between this matter and the Communists.
– I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I refer briefly to a radio broadcast that was made on die night of the 25th April, in relation to the late Captain Albert Jacka, V.C., M.C. and Bar. The broadcast, I understand, was prepared by one, Frank Browne, and it has caused scute distress amongst the relatives of Bert Jacka and very intense indignation on the part of men of the 14th Battalion and the 4th Brigade Association who were actively associated with him. I had the privilege of serving under the leadership of Captain Jacka during World War I. I have examined the script of the broadcast. It bristles with glaring inaccuracies and misrepresentations. Bert Jacka and his brother Bill are depicted in this dramatization as wood-choppers. This is an extract from the script -
Jacka.- “Not a bad day’s work to-day Bill, 1 reckon we’ve cut two or three quid’s worth of wood; we’ll sell it in Wedderburn to-morrow.
Bill: Yeah, I suppose it’s alright. But yer get tired of working as hard as we do for a hare living;.
Jacka.- I get tired of it myself, but Bill we’ve got no education, you know that, it looks us if we’ll be toiling al] our lives like this, unless we make mi effort to get somewhere.
Bill: You mean to go to school ?
Jacka: Yes, I know that at our age, school sounds silly. It’s alright if you’ve ever been there, but we haven’t. Why. I can just about read and write, and do enough arithmetic to count, up bow many logs at two bob a log earns a quid, and I’ll be twenty-one this year.
Bill : Garn, you’ve got all the learning” you need, you can read the paper real good.”
Both of those men reached tha State school merit certificate standard, a standard that had not been surpassed by about 90 per cent, of the members of the first Australian Imperial Force3, including myself. The portrayal of the two men as illiterate yokels cannot be spoken of in too disparaging terms. In fact. Bill Jacka, who is still alive, has told me that, at the period to which the script referred, he was working at Mildura while Bert Jacka was employed by the Forestry Commission of Victoria. They were not chopping wood then. They were engaged i*» separate avocations.
– There is nothing wrong with chopping wood.
– I agree, but 1 object to the portrayal of those men in an entirely false manner. Bert Jacka, was aptly described as the greatest fighting soldier of the Australian Imperial Force, and the least that we can do for a man who served this country so truly and so well is to ensure that any false conceptions that were established in the minds of people who heard the broadcast shall be removed. That is why I have asked for the indulgence of the House in order to direct attention to the broadcast. I have here a letter that was written to me by one of Captain Jacka’s brothers after the broadcast had been made. He wrote -
The nature and tone of the early part of the broadcast were extremely repugnant and belittled Bert’s memory and me in the minds of perhaps thousands of people. It desecrates the hallowed resting place of one whose name and deeds will always hold a high .place in the annals of this country. The latter part was odious and in shockingly bad taste, and must constitute an all time “ low “ in defaming a dead soldier and patriot.
The following passage was spoken at the conclusion of the broadcast: -
Through 1930 and 1931 Jacka trudged from door to door trying to sell soap, and by night worked late trying to help the unemployed of his municipality and his old comrades.
That statement is entirely false. Captain Jacka was a city commercial traveller employed by the Anglo Soap Company. He visited stores and distributing houses in his own motor car trying to sell the products of the company, and the statement that he was reduced to peddling soap from door to door was far from the truth. Those of us who knew him best and loved him most will always remember him as an incomparable soldier, a tried and trusted leader, and a loyal and faithful friend. I believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should do the utmost that lies within its power to remove from the minds of listeners the false impression that they must have gained from the references that were made in the broadcast to one of the greatest fighting soldiers that Australia has ever produced.
- by leave - I should like the Minister who is responsible for the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to ascertain bow an individual of the type of Frank Browne obtained the right to prepare scripts for broadcasts on such matters.I understand that the Frank Browne who prepared the script is the gentleman who publishes the unofficial news sheet to which the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) has already referred in his statement concerning leakages of information through the telephone service. If I have identified the gentleman correctly, he is responsible for the printing of a news sheet that circulates, fortunately, only in a very limited field in Sydney. My opinion, and the opinion of all other decent-minded people in Sydney, is that the journal is neither more nor less than a blackmailing sheet. It is used for the purposes of blackmailing decent citizens. Knowing what kind of man Frank Browne is, I ask the responsible Minister to have an investigation made in order to ascertain who was responsible for engaging a man who is nothing more than a blackmailer to prepare scripts for the Australian Broading Commission.
Mr.SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) 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 failure of the Government to carry out its election promise to put value hack in the pound by checking the ever-increasing cost of living and by halting the inflationary spiral which threatens the nationaleconomy.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– The showmanship and exhibitionism that have been displayed by the Government during the last few weeks have had more than one purpose, one of which has been to disguise the inflation that is at present gnawing at the very vitals of our economy, destroying the living standards of the people, and threatening to plunge this country into an economic depression if it is not checked. Above all things, that exhibitionism is designed by the would-be knights in shining armour on the other side of the House to disguise, as far as possible, the fact that they were responsible for destroying the control of prices by the Commonwealth in 1948. They are also making blatant attempts to conceal their complete failure to honour the promises that they made during the recent general election campaign to put value back in the £1. Even members of the Government will not be prepared to repudiate my statement that they made those promises. Full-page advertisements at the top of which was a delisrhtful photograph of the right honorable gentleman who is now Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), were published in newspapers throughout the countryside bearing blazing captions in type more than an inch in height, “ This is our policy - Reduced living costs and increased living standards. Put the shillings back into the £1’s. Vote Liberal”. Another advertisement contained these words, “ We stand for full employment and full wages. Putthe shillings back in the £1. Protect your wages; protect your savings, protect your insurances; and protect your pensions “.
Apparently, the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) felt some twinges of jealousy because he considered that the Prime Minister was receiving too much publicity, and he forthwith rushed into print in the Melbourne Herald, in type even larger than was used in the Prime Minister’s advertisements, announcing that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, if returned to office, would put the value back into the £1.
– In due course.
– Order ! The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) requires no assistance.
– I shall now read a passage from an address that was broadcast by the Prime Minister from Canberra at 7.50 p.m., on the 20th December last, ten days after the general election. The right honorable gentleman, by virtue of the promises that he had made to the people during the general election campaign, had been returned to the treasury bench. In that broadcast he said, among other things -
Wc hope to attack our tasks boldly.
I leave it to the people to judge whether the Government has boldly attacked its task of putting value back in the £1. The next- sentence is even more interesting
The greatest of them, as I am sure you will agree, will be to arrest the present alarming rise in costs and prices, and so put value back into the money that you earn and spend.
What has the Government done to achieve that objective, and what policy does it intend to implement in order to honour its election promises? According to its own friends, the Government, during the six months it has been in office, has not halted the inflationary spiral. Its financial policy has actually resulted in accelerating that spiral. Members of the Government will hardly repudiate a review by the National Bank of Australasia Limited on this subject. I shall read an extract from its Monthly Summary of Australian Conditions, dated the 11th’ May last-
Until 1949 the experience of steadily rising prices was not peculiar to this country; it was practically world-wide. But the present continuous lift in Australian prices is now in contrast with the slight declines in North America and the more moderate rises in Britain and many Elropean countries.
A further passage reads as follows : -
The domestic markets are high and strong.
Perhaps the Prime Minuter will take notice of this -
They give no indication that the price spiral is weakening or that any early drop is likely to occur in prices or in the cost of living.
That position prevails only six months after the Government assumed office, having pledged itself to put value back in the £1, and to give the people more shillings in the £1, in order to prevent further increases of the cost of living, and to protect savings and pensions. The Monthly Summary of Australian Conditions contains another interesting statement -
In recent months-
They are the months during which this Government has been in office - the rate of increase in costs has become o pronounced that its impact is now being distinctly felt despite -the concurrent rise in export income.
Even the Government will not be prepared to deny, in the light of those statements by one of its own supporters, that it has not checked the inflationary spiral, and has not done anything, as yet, to prevent increases of costs. Evidently, it has no policy in relation to those mattei’3. My remarks must necessarily be brief, because doubtless the Government will attempt to stop this debate at the earliest possible moment, but I should like to cite a considerable number of figures to support my submissions. I recognize that Australian housewives do not require a mass of statistics to convince them that the cost of living is increasing rapidly. The housewife who goes to the shops every day to purchase food and clothing for her family does not need the evidence of the “ C “ series index before she will admit that the prices of the necessaries of life have increased at an alarming rate since this Government assumed office. She does not need to be told how miserably and shamelessly this Government has failed to honour its election promise to put value back in the £1, because she receives a practical demonstration of it every day when she is making her purchases. Members of the present Government are responsible for the heaviest burden in her shopping basket, yet they give exhibitions of showmanship in an attempt to distract attention from their failure to put value back in the fi. Whilst asking the people to look under their beds every night to see whether Communists are lurking there, the Government has its hands in the pockets and the pay envelopes of Australian wage and salary earners; and it is actually taking shillings out of their £1’s, instead of honouring its election promise to put shillings back into their £l’s.
I shall now cite some figures that were cited by the Treasurer yesterday afternoon when he replied to the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House to discuss the failure of the Government to increase pensions. I assume that the Prime Minister will accept those statistics as authentic. The Treasurer said that in 1946-47, the average increase of the cost of living was 2.4 per cent., and that in 1947-4S, it was 6.6 per cent. The referendum on prices control was held in May, 1948, and the Liberal party and the Australian Country party succeeded in convincing the people that they should abandon prices control. The cry of the anti-Labour parties at that time was, “ Leave prices control to the States. They will protect your savings. They will keep prices down”. Those assurances were similar to tho promises that were made by the present Prime Minister during the recent general election campaign. The anti-Labour parties persuaded the people to destroy the system of prices control under the administration of the Commonwealth, with the result that the average increase of the cost of living in 1948-49 was 10.6 per cent. For the first quarter of 1950 - the first three months during which this Government was in office - the average increase was 2.9 per cent., and if that rate is maintained throughout the whole of this year, as no doubt it will be, the average increase for the twelve months will be 11.6 per cent. As the result of the work by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party in defeating the referendum on prices control, and since they have occupied the treasury bench, the average increase of the cost of living has been substantial.
I shall now examine increases of prices in Victoria, where an anti-Labour government has been in office for three years. It made no bones about the fact that it was in favour of de-controlling prices, and allowing them to go wherever they might. The price of barracoota, which was ls. 4d. per lb. before decontrol, is now 2s. per lb., an increase of approximately 50 per cent. The price of lamb, in the same circumstances, has increased from ls. per lb. to ls. 7d. per lb., an increase of 58 per cent. Before the Liberal Government in Victoria decontrolled prices, whiting cost 3s. 9d. per lb., whereas to-day it costs 7s. 6d. per lb., or an increase of 100 per cent.; bacon which cost 2s. 2£d. per lb. before the Liberal party decided to put value back into the Victorian £1 now costs 3s. 4d. per lb., or an increase of 53 per cent. The overall prices of other foodstuffs and clothing have increased to a corresponding degree. But, during the same period, the basic wage has been increased by only £1 a week, or an increase of 17 per cent.
This Government has failed conspicuously to do anything to check the rising cost of living. It has not given any definite indication of how it intends to check the inflationary spiral which, in the opinion of Professor Copland, must, if it is not checked, plunge the country into a depression. That is the greatest problem that confronts the nation to-day. If the inflationary spiral is not checked, Communists, whether they work underground or above ground, will be given every opportunity to continue their foul work. Rising costs threaten to wreck our whole economy. By failing to deal with this problem the Government is preparing a seed-bed for the propagation of communism. The national economy must be stabilized. That is the most urgent problem that confronts us to-day. But. having been mainly responsible for the abolition of prices control, the parties that compose the present Government not only have sat back complacently while prices have continued to skyrocket, but also have removed capital issues control. Every honorable member is aware of the expansion of luxury industries, such as the manufacture of vacuum cleaners and refrigerators, that has taken place since capital issues control was lifted. I shall quote authorities whose opinion the Government should be prepared to accept, because they are affiliated with the Government. Dealing with that action, which has been one of the causes of rising prices, Professor Copland said -
The employment of many of our resources in unessential industries is the main cause of the present shortage of capital goods in Australia - of houses and of the capital equipment needed for the production of hundreds of things still in short supply.
Sir Frederic Eggleston, who once graced the party to which the Prime Minister belongs and, apparently, is still a member of that party, commented in the following words upon the Government’s action in lifting capital issues control : -
Another positive influence for inflation is the almost hysterical promotion of new developmental projects and industrial expansion. Surely the planner can realize that manpower is a limiting factor.
An instance of negative policy by which our capacity to control inflation is impaired is the termination of the capital issues control board which was never more necessary than at present.
I shall give one instance of what has happened as the result of the lifting of capital issues control. I have in my hand a statement dealing with the balancesheet of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited for the year ended the 30th June last. That company is one of the greatest monopolies in this country. Its fingers reach into every section of Australian production. The statement discloses that since capital issues control was lifted, that company made an issue of 1,000,000 ordinary £1 shares at par to its own shareholders, and those shares are now quoted on the stock exchange at £2 16s. 9d. By issuing those additional shares at par the company made a gift of approximately £1,750,000 to its shareholders. In addition, it made a bonus issue of 789,577 ordinary £1 shares free to ordinary shareholders, who thus received a gift to the value of approximately £2,750,000 as the result of those two issues. The company must now earn sufficient profits to maintain dividends on its watered capital. That is an instance of how the Government’s action in lifting capital issues con trol has benefited monopolies which support it. To-day, capital is flowing into unessential industries which are now competing for the limited man-power available in this country. Companies are being over-capitalized or, as supporters of the Gorernment would prefer to put it, their assets are being revalued.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Clark) put -
That the honorable member for Yarra(Mr. Keon) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. Menzies having been called,
A Motion not seconded may not be further discussed and no entry thereof shall be made in the Votes and Proceedings.
I submit that that standing order supersedes Standing Order 48, which refers to a particular aspect only of a motion of the kind now before the Chair.
– I propose to say very briefly what I have to say in answer to the speech delivered by the mover of the motion, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). The purpose of the motion was twofold. First, it sought to direct attention to what the honorable member called showmanship, but what is in reality the plight in which the Opposition finds itself on major legislation now before the Parliament. Its second purpose was to endeavour to initiate a discussion of most important matters, based on imperfect information, so that illconsidered views might be expressed. Nobody in this House can be satisfied about the rise in prices and the fall in the value of money. The honorable member need not think that he has a monopoly of concern about these matters. We all are concerned about them. Unfortunately, the honorable member seems to think that the problem is of so simple a character that it can be disposed of by two simple steps, because the only matters to which he referred in the course of his speech were prices control and control of capital issues. Listening to the extraordinarily superficial views of’ the honorable member I gathered that cessation of these two controls had brought about the rise in the cost of living. If time permitted I could make a long statement about the real economic causes of inflation, because they are many, varied and complex.
– We shall give the right honorable gentleman the necessary time.
– You will give me time! The boot is on the other foot.
– The right honorable gentleman said that he would make the statement if time permitted him to do so.
– I do not propose to be drawn into that matter beyond saying that the causes of inflation are extraordinarily complex economic matters, which, as it happens, have engaged 25 times as much of my time as has been given to it by any Opposition member during the last five months. These problems deserve proper study and they are receiving it. We are studying them now in the light of all the information available to a government. In our own time, and not in the time of anybody else-
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! I ask honorable members on my left to accord to the Prime Minister a reasonably fair hearing. The continuous barrage of interjections must cease.
– In our own time we shall put before the Parliament such proposals as we have devised and such concrete steps as may be taken by the Government. They will not represent all the measures that must be taken because I reiterate that we cannot arrest the rise in the cost of living unless we not only take such actions as are within the capacity of the Government to take but also enjoy a high degree of co-operation on the part of people outside it.
– When is the right honorable gentleman going to take the first step ?
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) does not want the cost of living; to be reduced. He is the fomenter of every movement to dislocate production in Australia and for him to come here and pretend that he is vexed by the high cost of living is sheer nonsense. Let us consider the two bare propositions on which the honorable member for Yarra based his case. First, the honorable member said, in effect, “ You people who are now in Government introduced prices control”. If the referendum on rents and prices control had been won by my friends opposite, and if they had also won the last general election, it would be very interesting to know what they would now be doing in relation to prices control. Is any Opposition member so simple-minded as to believe that we could keep the prices of commodities pegged when wages and the cost of imports are unpegged?
– And while profits are unpegged ?
– Of all of the items that affect prices, profit is the most insignificantly small.
– The right honorable gentleman did not say that before the general election.
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has not had much political experience, but if he takes the trouble to make even a nodding acquaintance with economic factors he will discover that among the factors that affect prices profits represent the most insignificant item.
– And one that could be adjusted with least harm to the community.
– Is that so? I did not know that. All I know is that if the various economic factors that beaT on the price level are out of control only a rather backward schoolboy would say, “ This is the price at which a certain commodity should be sold”. Honorable, members opposite are living in a world of delusion in which they suppose that although an article costs 40s. to manufacture, by mere act of Parliament we could compel the manufacturer to sell it for 30s. That sort of thing does not happen in a real world. Opposition members have said that rising prices have resulted from their failure to get the people to accept their proposals in the rents and prices referendum. I tell them - and they can ask the Common wealth Statistician to check the accuracy of my statement if they so desire - that the price level in Australia, even on the “ C “ series index, whatever its intricacies may be, rose by 17 per cent, between September, 1945, and September, 1948, when prices control was abandoned by the Commonwealth and subsidies were withdrawn.
– A smaller rise than that experienced in any other country.
– I am not arguing about that. What I am arguing is that with all the controls that existed during that period the price level rose by 17 per cent. At the beginning of 1948, six months before the holding of the referendum on rents and prices, the price level in Australia was rising at the rate of 2i per cent, a quarter or 10 per cent, per annum. If we go back over the whole of 1948 we shall find that the price level increased by 6 per cent, or 7 per cent., as was stated by my colleague the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). From the beginning of 1948 the price level was rising under the Labour Government and under commonwealth prices control at the rate of 10 per cent, per annum. The honorable member for Yarra now says “ Is it not terrible? The price level is rising now at the rate of 11 per cent, per annum. Of course it would never have done that if the people had carried the prices referendum “. The answer to that is that before the people ever heard of the rents and prices referendum, and when Opposition members were occupying the treasury bench, this process was on the move, and at substantially the same rate as we have witnessed since.
The second proposition on which the honorable member based his case was that this Government had abolished capital issues control. Of all the absurdities I have listened to, that statement is the most absurd. His colleagues who were in the last Government know very well that long before capital issues control was finally abandoned by the present Administration it had become, for all practical purposes, a dead letter. Anybody who was prepared to fight the validity of capital issues control in the High Court made his application and usually got away with it. The simple truth was that at the beginning of this year capital issues control could not have survived the first challenge made in the High Court. Everybody who is familiar with this problem knows how true that statement is. It may be said by Opposition members, “ Oh, yes ; but if we had been in office, we should have taken steps to obtain power to deal with capital issues control”. I remind them that in the celebrated referendum in which they asked for control over rents and prices they did not ask for powers over capital issues, although at that time nobody knew better than did the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) that capital issues control was on the way out. The two propositions on which the honorable member for Yarra has constructed his case turn out to be so rotten that they cannot sustain any case. Therefore we must get back to the serious job of directing our minds to the real things that bear on inflation, and, as every thoughtful student knows, they are many and varied. For instance, the immigration programme has a bearing on inflation. If we all agree with that programme–
– We do not.
– As the result of that programme there is a great demand for certain capital facilities which are already in short supply. The developmental programme of this country is, in the short run, inflationary. It results in enormously increased demand for materials that are in limited supply. The enormous increase in export incomes also has an inflationary effect. Increases in social services and reductions of working hours, whenever they occur, also have an inflationary effect. Let me say just this. Many of those matters to which I have referred are in themselves very good things, but everything in this country which increases the volume of purchasing power without correspondingly increasing the supply of goods is inflationary and therefore it is our job, soberly, responsibly and studiously to devote our minds, as we are doing, to those countervailing matters that ought to be put into a pattern in order to arrest this inflationary movement. I should be very grateful indeed to be relieved of all other decisions and to concentrate solely on the job to which I have been devoting the largest portion of my time, the very job that is involved in the subject-matter to which I have referred.
Motion (by Mr. Beale) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 24th May (vide page 3129), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Last night, when I obtained leave to continue my speech to-day, I was pointing out that honorable members of all parties might be said to be agreed that child endowment represents part of a sound social services programme. There, at least, honorable members are on common ground. Of course, in days gone by, honorable members who formed the parties opposite did nothing whatever in relation to child endowment. They did not act until they were forced to do so by a progressive Labour Opposition and by the example set by State governments. Whilst all honorable members are now on common ground it has only been by a long process of education that the supporters of the present Government have been brought to realize that child endowment should be incorporated in any socialservices scheme.
So far as the matter now before the House is concerned, two questionsarise. Honorable members of the Opposition agree that child endowment is a sound principle but they have two differences of opinion with honorable members opposite concerning the bill. They ask, “ Will the basic wage be affected if endowment is provided for the first child ? “ They also ask, “ Is the amount which it is proposed to pay for the first child adequate?”. It has always been the contention of honorable members of the Opposition that the payment of endowment in respect of the first child would affect the fixing of the basic wage. It is extremely significant that when the Liberal party announced its intention to pay endowment in respect of the first child, prior to the general election, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court which was hearing the basic-wage case immediately suspended its sitting until the election had been decided. It is significant that the court, at that stage, evidently intended to give consideration to this aspect of the case that they were hearing.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who, to his credit, introduced a child-endowment measure in 1941, evidently had some idea of the effect which the granting of endowment might have on the deliberations of the court. He thought that the basic wage would be affected should endowment be provided for the first child. Honorable members of the Opposition think that it should be placed beyond all doubt that child endowment payments are not to be taken into account by the court. Therefore, Opposition members in another place inserted provisions in the bill directing the court and other wage-fixing authorities to disregard child endowment in determining the basic wage or any other wage or salary. The acceptance of that amendment by the Government will serve to allay the suspicions of honorable members on this side of the House. There should be nothing objectionable in that amendment to the Government if it believes that the court will not take these payments into consideraton.
The amount of endowment for the first child is an important consideration. Over the years, child endowment has progressively risen and to-day it is approximately 100 per cent, above the amount granted in 1941 by the Government that introduced child endowment. I think that all honorable members will agree, particularly in view of the Government’s failure to implement its legislative programme to put value back into the £1, that there is a great demand to-day, not for an endowment of 5s. or 10s., but for an amount substantially in excess of those figures for the first child and a demand also to increase endowment for subsequent children. Endowment should be very substantially increased compared with the amount provided for in the original act. The amendment which the Labour Opposition in the Senate inserted in this bill therefore provides for the payment of 10s. in respect of the first child. It may be asked why honorable members of the Opposition support this provision in view of the fact that the previous Government did not make such a payment. Honorable members of the Opposition might well ask in reply, “ How did this Government arrive at the amount of os?”. Was it just intended as a sop to the electors or did the Government have some sound basis for making an amount payable in respect of the first child only half the amount that is payable for other children? The first child is just as valuable as the others and just as difficult to keep. Honorable members on this side of the House are extremely interested to know why the discrimination is made. Honorable members opposite say that the granting of endowment for the first child will not affect the basic wage. If they believe that why did they not provide 10s. a week for the first child ? No mat’er how biased they may be or what their station in life is all honorable members agree that there is an increasing spiral in the cost of living which is reaching unprecedented heights. The provision of only 5s. for the first child fails to take into consideration those increases in the cost of living. Five shillings a week will not mean much to the average family. It will give little assistance to those people who are endeavouring to raise children. It will not be any incentive to the family man if he is only to receive 5s. for the first child. The amount granted should be at least proportionate to present living costs. The amount should be fixed at 10s. and when the next budget is introduced, or possibly before then, the Government because of further increases in the cost of living, may have to consider again increasing the amount of child endowment paid in respect of other children in the family. In the scheme which it has put forward, the Government proposes to make payments on a basis which would have been applicable nine years ago. It is only offering the same endowment as was offered to the people in 3941 when costs were much lower than they are to-day. Therefore, some reasonable explanation will have to be given by the Government of how it arrived at this figure of 5s. Did it just guess the amount or did it calculate it from statistics ? Did it find out how the amount would benefit a family? Did it find out how much of the ordinary commodities required to keep a child could be bought for 5s. a week? Did it take into consideration the greatly increased value of what might be termed the “ Fadden flimsy “ - the present £1? Did it take into consideration the fact that, in the near future, increased costs may be expected, particularly by the family man ?
I do not overlook completely the cost involved in a scheme of this nature, but the Government should ensure that it can pay an adequate rate of child endowment before it allows substantial reductions in company taxes. Believe it or not, the Treasurer has already announced that in his next budget a very substantial decrease in taxation amounting to approximately £20,000,000 will be allowed to companies. There is no justification whatever for paying only 5s. a week endowment for the first child, seeing that the Government is proposing taxation remissions to large companies. The profits being made in industry to-day are such that large companies and taxable people can well afford to pay certain taxes in order that encouragement may be given to the family man by providing adequate social services.
I hope that the Minister will be able to explain why the amendments which have been inserted by the Opposition in another place are not acceptable. I refer particularly to the amendment which concerns the basic wage. I hope he will also explain how the sum of 5s. has been computed and why the Government will not accept the amended rate of 10s. I hope that he will tell honorable members why the Government discriminates between the first child and other children. These are points which honorable members of the Opposition would like to have elucidated.
I commend the bill in principle. I hope that the Minister, even at this stage, will accept the amendments made by the Opposition in another place. In view of the failure of the Government to put value back into the £1 I hope that the Minister will explain, for the information of the people of Australia and particularly those who will benefit from this legislation, why such a paltry amount as 5s. has been offered. I ask that these points be considered and that the Government accept the amendments which the Opposition in another place has inserted in the bill.
.- It is plain that honorable members of the Opposition do not care to realize the relationship which exists between the basic wage and child endowment and between this legislature and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. This legislature is not empowered to give any instruction to the court on this matter. I was surprised yesterday to hear the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), for whom I have a great respect, suggest that an instruction on those lines should be given to the court. All honorable members of this House should know that that cannot be done. This Government was given a mandate by the people of Australia to pay 5s. a week endowment for the first child. It was not given a mandate to pay 10s. or any sum other than 5s. In his policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) promised 5s. to the people. We must remember that we are the representatives of the people. We are not entieled to go off at a tangent or to be persuaded by the Opposition that a sum beyond that approved by the people should be paid. We must also bear in mind the enormous cost of the extra payment. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to say, “You are very mean to pay only 5s., why don’t you pay 10s.” The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), and other honorable members who spoke yesterday, maintained that the Government should increase endowment for all children. That is all very fine, but this House must pay some regard to the financial position of the country and to the cost of endowment under this measure to the taxpayers. I remind the House that the cost of endowing the first child at 5s. a week will be £15,000,000 for the financial year 1950-51. That means that the total cost of child endowment for that year, including the amounts to which we are already committed, will be £46,000,000. That sum will be paid out of the National Welfare Fund. It is not correct to say that by increasing child endowment we are making the rich richer and the poor poorer as was suggested by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). The honorable member for Grayndler and the honorable member for
Darling (Mr. Clark) criticized the Government very severely. They said, in effect, “If you pay only 5s. you will not help the families at all. Even if you pay them 10s. you will not help them much, because a child cannot be kept on 10s. a week “. It i3 not suggested that by paying 5s. a week the Government will provide for the full support of children, but by paying the 5s. a week it will make a substantial improvement in the family budget of several hundreds of thousands of families in this country.
We must keep our feet on the ground and not be carried away by the airy flights of fancy of honorable members opposite. The rates of child endowment have increased during recent years, and it is to the credit of the Labour party that when in office it made those increases. The original rate in 1941, when child endowment was introduced by the Menzies Government, was 5s. Four years later the Labour Government increased the amount to 7s. 6d. and three years after that, in 1948, to 10s. a week. The important point is that although the amounts were increased the inflationary spiral, of which honorable members opposite are so fond of talking but which exists to-day because no positive action to correct it was taken by the Chifley Government, nullified the value of such increases. It is all very fine to say that the Labour party has done a wonderful job with child endowment. If the facts are analysed on sane lines it will be realized that the benefits were not so great as honorable members opposite desire us to believe them to be. Several increases were made in child endowment during the eight years of office of the Labour Government, but there was not one single reduction of the basic wage on that account. In fact the basic wage rose during that time. One or two honorable members opposite have said that payment of this endowment will affect the basic wage. If a payment of 5s. will affect the basic wage adversely, then by the application of simple logic honorable members opposite must concede that the payment of 10s. which they advocate will affect it still more adversely. They cannot have it both ways. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) referred to the 1929 Royal Commission on Child Endowment under the chairmanship of Mr. A. B. Piddington, KG. The method of assessment of the basic wage in those days was quite different from the method adopted to-day. In order to argue this matter logically we must consider the difference between the methods of assessment. The argument put forward by the honorable member for Bendigo, that the basic wage is likely to be affected by the introduction of endowment for the first child, is negatived by the adoption of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court since 1934 of a different basis of assessment from that formerly used. As the honorable member for Bendigo pointed out in his excellent speech yesterday, the method of assessment used prior to 1934 was based on a five-unit family - a man, wife and three children. Since 1934 that has not been the method by which, the court has calculated the basic wage. I shall quote two leading Labour authorities on that point. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), during the debate in this House on the 25th March, 1941, is reported at page 159 of volume 166 of Hansard to have said -
In 1931 . . . the court under the presidency of the late Chief Judge Dethridge departed entirely from the fixation of the basic wage by reference to the needs of the basic wage worker and his family. The court said, “ There is only one way of looking at it and that is: What is the national income ? What can industry afford ? “ What was done in 1931 was repeated in 1934, 1935, 1938 and now in 1941. To-day the Judges disclaim any reference to the needs of the family of the basic wage worker. They say that they are irrelevant.
They are the actual words of the right honorable gentleman who i9 the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The late John Curtin strongly supported child endowment. I refer the House to his words as reported at page 418 of volume 166 of Hansard -
There is no relevant relationship between the wages fixed by arbitral authorities in Australia and a system of family allowances.
Therefore, during the last sixteen years it has been made clear in a number of judgments of the court that the basic wage has not been calculated during that period as it formerly was on a five unit basis. It has been calculated primarily on the basis of what industry can afford to pay, and on the national productivity. The latest illustration of that point is to be found in the munitions case of 1944, during the course, of which the court made it clear that that is the system upon which the basic wage is now calculated. Child endowment, therefore, could only affect the basic wage if the court reverted to the original method of calculation that existed prior to 1934. It was for that reason that the present Prime Minister worded his policy speech as he did in respect of the payment of child endowment for the first child. He said, “If the basic wage, whether increased in amount or not, remains on the same foundation as at present, we will give some extra relief to families by providing an amount of 5s. a week “. I draw attention to the words “ remains on the same foundation as at present “. The Prime Minister supports my point that for a number of years the court has calculated the basic wage, not on the old method but on the basis of what industry can afford to pay and upon the national productivity. I shall not weary the House by quoting lengthy judgments but I desire to quote two short extracts from judgments delivered in 1934 and 1937. In a judgment delivered in 1934 the court said -
The adoption of a family unit is not necessary. What shall be sought is an 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.
In 1937, the court said -
The court cannot differentiate between wage earners according to their dependants.
This principle was again confirmed in 1941 by a judgment in which the court suggested, to its credit, that to remove the disparity between the income of the wa°;e earner with dependants and that of the wage earner without dependants the legislature might consider bridging the gap by some form of child endowment. Following that suggestion the Menzies Government in 3941 had the privilege of introducing a scheme of child endowment from which the country has benefited during all the years since that time. Chief Judge Beeby said in the 1941 judgment -
The court has again and again pointed out that the present method of wage fixationoperates unjustly to the worker who has toprovide for dependent children.
There is a good deal of confusion of thought in regard to the relationship between child endowment and the basicwage. I hope that what I have said on themethod of calculation, strengthened by Quotations from the judgments given by the court over the last sixteen years, wilt help to dispel some of that confusion. It should he emphasized that the payment of 5s. will not be subject to the means test,, will be free of income tax and will bepaid to families in addition to any other Commonwealth benefits that they may receive. There may be a belief abroad that some Commonwealth benefits such as those paid to invalids, widows, and invalid’ pensioners, will be cut down by reason of this payment. That is not the case. Such payments will not in any way be affected.. Nor will the payments to widows or reconstruction trainees or payments under the War Service Land Settlement scheme beaffected. This Government hopes that thelegislation will be put on the statute-book and brought into effect by the 20th June, so that another 450,000 Australian families will benefit under this social’ service. At the present time there are- 610,000 families receiving child endowment. Soon, over 1.000,000 families will benefit by the payment of endowment. I am proud to be associated with this measure. The Government is well aware of the need to extend help to families, particularly families of a number of children, because it realizes that the family unit is the basis of our national structure. This measure will play its part in helping to build up a happy, contented and home loving country.
.- There is something very pleasant about the sound of the word “ endow “. It means in the first place “to enrich” and like all other forms of benefit it Pets out to make a permanent provision for support. Child endowment helps to redistribute the national wealthand also represents a gift from the nation to the newly born. A man pays the greatest possible compliment to a woman when he proposes marriage, and later he makes the solemn declaration, “ With all my worldly goods I thee endow “. That declaration during the wedding ceremony is a token of his loyalty and an acknowledgment of his responsibilities towards his bride. The nation pays a compliment to its newly born citizens by making a gift for their support. This gift distributes some of the wealth of the nation to the people who most need it and also serves as an acknowledgement of affection and responsibility.
Child endowment is a form of socialization. There is something rather amusing, as well as illogical, about the Government’s decision to extend it to the first child in each family. During the general election campaign last year, the present Government parties did everything in their power to obtain from the people a mandate to abolish all forms of socialization that had been introduced by the Labour party. However, it offered at the same time to extend socialization by granting endowment for the first child of every family. I wonder whether the mandate given by the people was intended to authorize the abolition of socialization in all forms, as the Government now claims, or the extension of socialization in the form of child endowment.
– This will give the people more freedom.
– Yes, as did most of the socialization measures of the Labour Government. The expression, “ child endowment “, has a pleasant sound, a fact which impels me to comment, in passing, that it is a pity that other kinds of social services payments are not provided with equally suitable titles. I have always considered that the description of age, invalid and service benefits as pensions makes such payments less attractive than child endowment. The term was a happy choice from a psychological point of view. Unfortunately, the nation took a long time to realize that its obligation to children was as important as its obligation to adults. That obligation has an economic foundation because, although Australia is potentially rich the applied intelligence and energy of trained men and women are needed to develop its resources. Even the burden of taxes, ‘which many people consider to be unnecessarily onerous to-day, could be reduced considerably if there were more children in the community. I believe that taxes could be cut by 50 per cent., or even more, if the child population were double what it is. Above all, an increased birth-rate would provide a guarantee for the future expansion and stability of industry. It would enable us to reverse the unfortunate situation that arose during World War II., when the apprenticeship system had to be virtually discarded because of the diversion of industrial workers to special war-time activities. We can assure the nation of an adequate supply of trained workers for industry only if the child population is considerably increased. Many industries are so short of apprentices already that they will be forced eventually to evolve some system of dilution of labour, which will lead inevitably to serious industrial troubles.
Apart from its economic aspect, child endowment also involves cultural implications. The proper cultural training of our children should be the business of every citizen. Obviously it would be of slight avail to provide for the cultural training of only a small proportion of children, because they would be obliged to mingle with the ignorant and the uncouth, who would tend to drag their fellows down to their own level. The standard of culture of any community is undoubtedly determined by what may be aptly described as the lowest common denominator of society. Therefore, the nation has a great responsibility to every child for the sake of the influence that it will have upon its native society. Finally, but certainly not of the least importance, is the fact that the payment of child endowment is an act of justice to parents that reacts as much to the benefit of the community as a whole as to individuals. I believe that the. original idea behind the child endowment scheme was to encourage an increase of population. Unfortunately it has failed to achieve that result.
– The birthrate has increased substantially.
– That is true, but the increase of the birthrate is not the only factor involved. A generation ago, the natural increase of this country showed a very healthy tendency, but little was done in those days to provide for the needs of growing children and parents were unjustly left to their own resources. The result was that the infantile mortality rate was high and the overall increase of the population was very slight.
Child endowment is a social service that belongs to one of the most important and picturesque realms of charity, and I use the word not in any narrow sense. It is an encouraging indication of the recognition of individual responsibility to all members of the community. Child endowment was first launched in Australia in the mother State of New South Wales in 2927. The principle was adopted in the Commonwealth sphere much later, and the first national child endowment scheme became operative in July, 1041. The rate payable at that time was 5s. a week. The present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) was very happily associated with the introduction of that scheme, and I have a very deep appreciation of his attitude towards this highly important social service, but I point out that the Labour party was interested in child endowment before the scheme was formulated. The rate of endowment has been increased twice since 1941. It was1 increased from 5s. to 7s. 6d. in Jone, 1945, and from 7s. 6d. to 10s. in 194S. There seems to he something ironical about the fact that endowment was introduced during the years of the nation’s greatest prosperity. I refer honorable members to the following statement that was made recently by Professor Copland : -
The time to extend the welfare state Ss definitely in a depression, not in a period of boom.
I do not know that I am in agreement with that statement-
– Does the honorable member suggest that there was a period of great prosperity in 1941 ?
– Yes, I believe that we were on the way to prosperity then. However I do not necessarily accept Professor Copland’s statement as a fact.
There is every justification for the Government’s proposal to extend endowment to the first child in every family because, although there may be a period of boom for some people at present, parents are not enjoying much freedom and prosperity. They have heavy burdens to bear, and there is no evidence of any boom for them. The increases that have been effected in the rate of child endowment since 1941 have been related to cost of living- increases. Most thoughtful people in Australia hope that the extension of child endowment will lead to an increase of the birthrate. Obviously this method of increasing the population is cheaper than the immigration scheme, which I do not criticize because I appreciate the necessity for it at present. There is something forlorn about Australia’s situation because, according to the latest available figures, the average number of children in every, family is only 1.3. In those circumstances there is no cause for optimism about the future development of the country. The facts, are well worth analysing. Prosperous- people in Australia do not have larger families than people who live in depressed areas. The average family size has not increased as the general prosperity of the community has improved. That is a serious state of affairs in the light of the urgent necessity for industrial development. The Government is in duty bound to offer every possible encouragement to Australians to have larger families, and it should remove the. excuse which has been advanced from time to time that economic circumstances are responsible for the limitation, of the size of families. Some people will see in the granting of endowment for the first child an extension of social justice, and that opinion will be correct provided the grant that is made with one hand, and is not taken away with the other. That proviso k the only point of difference between the Government and the Opposition on this bill. Some judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration have already indicated that child endowment will be taken into consideration when the basic wage is being determined. I admit that some of the statements by judges who have commented on that matter, particularly those cf Judge Piper and Judge O’Mara, have been somewhat ambiguous, but they are sufficient to indicate the mind of the court. However, there is nothing equivocal in the latest statement by Chief Judge Kelly, who, with other judges, has been hearing the claim for a higher basic wage, and I shall read a passage from His Honour’s relevant remarks, because they should not be overlooked. His Honour said -
At the basis of the problem of settling the disputes before the Court concerning the basic wage for adult male and female workers are, as has been made manifest during these proceedings, questions relative to the amount and just and proper distribution of the National Income and to the capacity of the economy to support such a distribution.
Since these matters have been raised for consideration in another field, since in other words, they lie as the basis of an issue raised at the coming elections for the Federal Parliament by the references made as the possible supplementation of the basic wage by changes in the amount and incidence of child endowment the court (which must not be taken to express any criticism of these references) has decided that it is its duty to proceed no further with the present case while the issue remains the subject of election controversy. The case will therefore be adjourned to a date to be fixed.
That statement leaves no doubt in my mind that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, in the present hearing of the case for an increase of the basic wage, will definitely pay regard to any action by the Parliament relative to granting endowment for the first child of a family. Opposition members have asked for a guarantee that the basic wage will not be affected. The whole matter is most important in the opinion of those of us who recognize the necessity for a substantial increase of the Australian birth rate.
A reduction of the basic wage may have the effect of causing people to postpone marriage until they are older, and that result would be little short of disastrous. The Parliament should do every.:bing in its power to encourage people to marry when they are young, because statistics show that early marriages produce the greatest number of children. Therefore, I emphasize that the Parliament must ensure that the provision of endowment for the first child of a family shall not be taken into consideration by the court when it is computing a basic wage. Strong demands are being made on the Government, and on individual memburs of the Parliament, for endowment for the first child of the family. That payment will be of benefit to families with only one child, but it will be of even greater benefit to larger families. The Government, in my opinion, has a definite mandate from the people to pay endowment for the first child of a family. The operation of child endowment during the last nine years has been most satisfactory, and the demand for endowment for the first child must be treated with due deference. The fact that the endowment is paid to mothers has had a most important influence on the success of the whole scheme, because my extensive observations show that the money has been expended wisely in promoting the health and general welfare of the children. I wholeheartedly commend the originator of the idea that the endowment should be paid to the mother. As I have stated, the Government has a definite mandate to pay endowment for the first child of a family, and I believe that the people of Australia are in favor of the introduction of that additional social service at the earliest possible moment. They may be right or they may be wrong in having that opinion, because they have yet to learn of the view that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court may take of the effect of that payment on the basic wage.
I now desire to direct attention to an inequitable provision in the child endowment legislation. I refer to the principle of a succession of first children, if I may so describe it. The position at present is that endowment is payable for all children of a family under the age of sixteen years, with the exception of the eldest child. “When the first child for whom endowment is received attains the age of sixteen years, that payment automatically ceases, and for the purposes of endowment, the next child becomes the first child of the family. That system is most unfair. I do not know of the principle upon which that arrangement is based, but it is inequitable, and should be abolished.
– Can the honorable member explain how it operates?
– The original theory, I suppose, was that a child, on attaining the age of sixteen years, was no longer dependent upon its parents for support, but that position no longer obtains. Many children are still attending college when they are seventeen or eighteen years of age, and their parents have the responsibility of maintaining them.
– The youngest child continues to receive the endowment until it becomes sixteen years of age.
– That is so.
– That is an advantage.
– There is a marked disadvantage, too.
– I think that it is wholly an advantage.
– I cannot understand the reasoning of the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck). I am one who has been affected by the arrangement to which I have referred, and I assure the honorable gentleman that the so-called advantage is not by any means real. That principle should be further examined, because the system under which there is a succession of first children is anything but satisfactory.
I disagree with the statement by the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) that the Government has a mandate to pay endowment of 5s. a week for the first child of a family. The only statement about that matter which was issued by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party during the recent election campaign was that if they were returned to office, they would introduce legislation to authorize the payment of endowment of 5s. a week for the first child, and that should the Commonwealth Arbitration Court take that amount into consideration when determining the basic wage, the payment would be increased. Indeed, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), in his second-reading speech, said that if the court took the amount of 5s. into account when it was assessing the basic wage, the Government would introduce legislation to authorize the payment of an additional 5s. a week for the first child of the family. I have already indicated to the House the mind of the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, as expressed by Chief
Judge Kelly, and, in the circumstances, I consider that the Government should be prepared to pay endowment at the rate of 10s. a week for the first child of the family, and thereby obviate the necessity for introducing amending legislation at a later date. Honorable members may not be aware that endowment at the rate of 10s. a week is payable for every child who is in an institution. If it is considered that the payment of that amount is necessary to maintain each of those children, the proposal of the Government to pay only 5s. for the first child who is living with it3 parents cannot be justified. The worth of a child to Australia in an economic respect warrants the payment of 10s. a week. It is illogical that the rate which is paid for children in institutions should be different from that which is paid for a child who is living with its parents. The Parliament is responsible for ensuring that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court shall not take into account the payment of os a week for the first child of a family. I believe that the Government could present a statement to that effect to that tribunal. If it will not take that course, it should introduce legislation to provide that the amount of endowment for the first child should not be taken into consideration by the court when it is assessing the basic wage. Therefore, two courses are open to the Minister.
In conclusion, I emphasize that it is desirable that endowment at the rate of 10s. a week should be payable for the first child of a family. The Government should reconsider its present attitude, and accept the Senate’s amendment to the bill as it was originally introduced, which increases the rate of payment from 5s. to 10s. a week. In these difficult economic times, when costs are soaring beyond tinresources of the family budget, the payment of 10s. a week for the first child is not excessive, because the bread-winners are feeling the pinch to a far greater degree than are any other persons in the community. I also commend the idea that representations should be made to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, on behalf of the Government, to the effect that the granting of endowment to the first child of a family should not be taken into account in the computation of the basic rate.
.- The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) shows a complete confusion of ideas when he suggests that this bill is an act of socialization. He completely confuses socialization with social services. Socialization, as it appears in the policy of the Australian Labour party and as it was implemented by the Chifley Government, i9 the establishment of a monopoly under Government ownership to the exclusion of private enterprise. A social service is entirely different from that conception, and is a Liberal principle. As we see it, a social service is the provision of assistance for those in need. Ever since there has been a Liberal party, the need for social services has been recognized, and, for that purpose, revenue has been raised by taxation and paid to the people in order to help them. This bill carries out the Liberal principle in every sense. We recognize that the family is of value in the community. Family life is the greatest source of strength and stability of any country. The best settler is the native-born baby. The Liberal party recognizes the value of the family. That is why the Menzies Government in 1941. was the first Australian Government to introduce child endowment and why it will be the first Australian Government to extend endowment to the first child. This legislation is acclaimed by all sections of the community, and families are anxiously waiting to receive this benefit. It is true that the Government has not any money of its own. In fact, no government has, and the sooner the people of Australia realize that fact the better. Under this measure the Government proposes to levy £15,000,000 from the community and to make it available to the family man or family woman. We, as Liberals, say that such a proposal is fully justified. We do not run away from the fact that the Government must first obtain sufficient money .to finance this benefit. We realize that the requisite money will not come out of the air! However, we say that those with the broadest shoulders should be prepared to pay a certain amount of their incomes so that families may benefit through the provision of child endowment.
– Is that not socialism?
– The honorable member is confused. Social services and social work are as far removed from socialization and government monopolies as the poles are from each other. Tha honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) asked how the Government determined the rate at 5s. as endowment for the first child. In effect, he asked, “ Why pay 5s. ? Why not pay another amount ? “ The reason .why the Government has determined the rate at 5s. a week is that .the Government parties at the last general election promised to provide that amount as endowment for the first child; and whenever those parties make promises they carry them out.
During this debate several members of the Opposition have said, in effect, “ Oh, the Menzies Government was kicked into this “. I remind them that Labour governments during the eight years that they were in office could not be kicked into paying a single penny by way of endowment for the first child of the worker. The fact is that the Government parties went to the country with a definite policy on this matter. We told .the people that we. thought the time had arrived when endowment should be provided for the first child, and we promised to provide that benefit at the rate of 5s. a week. The people accepted that promise, and elected us to do the job. We are now fulfilling that promise. It is utter hypocrisy for members of .the Labour party, which was in office for eight years and did nothing to endow the first child, to ask why this Government does not provide 10s. instead of 5s. a week for the first child. I hope that the time will arrive when we shall be able to provide a higher rate of child endowment as well as higher rates of age, invalid, widow and service pensions.. All classes of pensioners have just claims to a fair share of the national revenues. But it is not fair to expect the Treasurer to hand out sums of the order of £15,000,000 for any purpose whatever until he has had the opportunity to present .his first budget to the Parliament. The Government has been in office for only a little more than six months and it is still operating on the budget that was presented by its predecessors. I venture to say that should the budget to be presented in September disclose that the national revenues are sufficiently buoyant, a fair and just share of them will be made available to all sections of the community.
I repeat .that this measure has been introduced in fulfilment of the promise that the Government parties made to the people at the last general election. It provides for a benefit that will be made available in true Liberal fashion. The essential difference between welfare schemes, that have been introduced by Labour governments and those that have been introduced by Liberal governments is that under the latter no means test is imposed in respect of the benefits to be provided. The Liberal -party believes that all families are worth looking after, and therefore all of them are entitled to whatever assistance can be given to them. On the other hand, an individual has to be practically destitute before he, or she, can become eligible for relief under any social services scheme that is introduced by Labour governments. Labour has applied the means test under all its social legislation. The Liberal party believes that the means test not only discourages thrift but also does discredit to any community. I look forward to the day when the means test will be abolished in respect of all social services benefits.
– Does the honorable member approve of the means test in respect of applicants for age pensions ?
– No ; I look forward to the day when the Liberal party will carry out another plank of its platform, the ultimate abolition of the means test.
– When will that bc?
– It may take a considerable time to do that, and may depend upon what co-operation the Government receives from the Labour party, as well as upon the degree of prosperity of the country. Honorable members opposite have said that the Government should incur the expenditure involved in their proposal, even though it has not had an opportunity to consider how it will finance the expenditure. Just as one cannot pull a rabbit out of a hat unless the hat contains a rabbit, no government can pay out money unless it first obtains money from the citizens of the country. When the Government has ascertained what revenues are available for this purpose, having regard to the financial, position of the country that will be disclosed in the next budget, it will determine how to assist all who are in need of assistance. At the moment, however, the Government’s main concern in introducing this measure is to honour a promise that it made to the people at the last general election. At the same time, it will encourage family life and abolish the means test in respect of this class of social services benefits. I do not think that the Labour party has ever been so divided on any piece of legislation as it is on this measure. Honorable members opposite are blowing hot and cold in this debate. In one breath they claim that the family will lose more than it will gain under this legislation, and in another they make a different claim. The honorable member for Darling and some of his colleagues who seem to hold that view have said that they will vote for the measure.
– Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
– There are 34 honorable members present, including nine members of the Opposition.
– I rise to order. Are you in order, Mr. Speaker, in reflecting upon honorable members who happen to be absent from the chamber?
– If the House does not think that I am in order in doing so, it may say so; but when a member of the Opposition calls for a quorum when the great majority of his own colleagues are absent, I shall draw attention to that fact. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Darling, apparently, intends to vote for this measure, although he believes that it will do more harm than good to families. The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) said that all members of the Opposition were in favour of the measure, but he then devoted the whole of his time to giving reasons why the hill should he opposed. One Opposition member after another, in order to save face, has said with bated breath that he is going to vote for the bill, but has then attempted to convince the House and the people that the measure should be opposed. That is utter hypocrisy on the part of honorable members opposite. Apparently, they are endeavouring to have it both ways. They desire to make party political capital out of this bill which is one of the finest pieces of legislation that has ever been introduced into the Parliament. Indeed, supporters of the Government could have expected the co-operation of the Opposition in passing this bill. We should not have been surprised to hear an Opposition member say, “ Well, if you Liberals have never done anything else in your life, this is a good bill and we will support it “. On the contrary, however, honorable members opposite, after saying that they will vote for the measure, have proceeded to give reasons why it should be opposed. We should have more respect for them if they said straight out that they were opposed to it and gave their reasons for opposing it. They wish to gain both ways. They are telling those who want endowment that they are in favour of the measure and, at the same time, are keeping on side with those in the community who do not favour the legislation. What utter hypocrisy!
Honorable members opposite contend that if the amendments forecast by the Minister in order to restore the bill to its original form are agreed to, the provision of endowment for the first child will affect the computation of the basic wage. That suggestion is nonsensical. The honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) showed conclusively that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court does not compute the basic wage on the size of the family unit. As the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has pointed out, the court, as at present constituted, assesses the basic wage on the capacity of industry to pay; and child endowment has no relation whatsoever to the capacity of industry to pay. Therefore, it is entirely irrelevant for honorable members opposite to imagine that at some time in the future the court will take endowment into account when com puting the basic wage. We are dealing with a real problem of helping families whose mothers are anxiously waiting to receive this benefit. Let us get on with the job and make the benefit available as soon as possible. The Opposition should not hold up the measure because it imagines that the’ Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the future may take the benefit into account when it is computing the basic wage. This Government and this Parliament are quite competent to deal with the situation that would arise if the court altered the basis of assessment of the basic wage. On every occasion on which a worthwhile bill is introduced into this chamber Opposition members raise all sorts of bogies in an endeavour to distract attention from the real issues involved. They do not view it in the light of existing circumstances. They imagine, that all sorts of changes will occur and they endeavour to discuss its effect in those changed circumstances. At present the basic wage is assessed on the capacity of industry to pay. Child endowment has no relation to that matter whatever. We are dealing with the payment of child endowment under the law as it now stands. If or when that law is altered, we shall be able to deal with any problems that arise in consequence of that alteration.
The second suggestion made by Opposition members is that the endowment of the first child should be at the rate of 10s. a week in conformity with the amendment that the Labour Opposition in the Senate made to the Government’s proposal. They are completely inconsistent in this matter. First, they suggest that we should not pay 5s. a week for the first child because that payment will affect the basic wage, and then they ask the Government to increase the payment to 10s., completely ignoring their original suggestion. The people will not be gulled by such rubbish. Members of the Labour party have shown themselves to be absolutely inconsistent, totally unreliable and the propounders of arguments that will not fool anybody. Those Opposition members who have yet to address the House on this bill should state clearly whether or not they favour it. If they favour it, let them vote for it.
If they oppose it, let them vote against it.
.- Accepting the advice of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), I honestly say that I support the principles of this bill to provide for the extension of child endowment. I say to the honorable member, however, that because I support the principles of the bill I do not necessarily support all its clauses. The traditional role of the Opposition in every Parliament is to point out to the Government certain respects in which its legislation is capable of improvement. Labour spokesmen have suggested that certain improvements could be made to this bill, hut that does not necessarily mean that they oppose its principles. I agree that there is a difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition in regard to two features of the bill, but on the fundamental principle of child endowment no difference whatever exists between the political parties represented in this House. Although the Commonwealth child endowment scheme might not have met with the success that its sponsors hoped for many years ago, in the main it has been successful and it has been supported by all political parties. It is interesting to note the change that has taken place since federation in the attitude of the people to the provision of social services. I was most interested to hear the honorable member for Sturt say that the social services legislation introduced .by Labour governments contained provisions for the imposition of a means test. All I can say is that the honorable member needs to brush up his knowledge of political history. The first scoial services legislation applicable to mothers was introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament by the Fisher Government in 1910. I refer to the legislation which provided for the payment of a maternity allowance of .£5. No provision for a means test was included in that legislation, though I confess that during the depression period the imposition of a means test became necessary. It is also interesting to note that despite the honorable member’s assertion that the Liberal party has invariably supported all social services legislation, when the Fisher Government proposed to pro vide a maternity allowance in 1910 many members of the then Liberal party, which is essentially the same party as that which is now in office in the Commonwealth sphere, opposed the measure because they said it would result in the moral degradation to the women of Australia. Thus, the Liberal party has not invariably supported social services legislation. The honorable member should read political history more closely. This is not the first occasion on which he has made a mistake in dealing with something that has occurred in the past.
The history of child endowment in Australia is one of the gradual but reluctant recognition that the community owes something to the family unit, irrespective of the expense involved. The community has -realized the fact that, irrespective of the economic position of the family bread-winner, the nation has an obligation to see that the expense of rearing a family is not altogether borne by parents. The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) has referred to the first large scale experiment in child endowment in this country when in 1927 a child endowment scheme was introduced into the New South Wales Parliament by the Lang Government. It is also interesting to recall that before the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) introduced the Commonwealth child endowment legislation into this Parliament in 1941 a move was already afoot to introduce a child endowment bill into the Victorian Parliament. At that time the Country party Government in the Victorian Parliament led by Sir Albert Dunstan was supported by members of the Labour party. At the instigation of the late Mr. Herbert Cremean, a member of the Australian Labour party, brother of the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean), the Dunstan Government established a royal commission to inquire into child endowment. The commission was about to submit its report when legislation -was introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament to provide for child endowment on a national basis. Over the years there has been a general recognition by all political parties that something should be done for the family unit. In 1927, the Bruce-Page Government appointed a royal commission, which included among its members such a wellknown and beloved national figure as th late Mr John Curtin and another representative, not of the Labour movement, Mrs. Muscio, to inquire into this subject. The majority report, which was submitted in 1929, did not suggest that the Australian Government should institute a system of child endowment. The minority report, however, which was signed by Mr. Curtin and Mrs. Muscio, contained a paragraph which reads as follows : -
That it is undesirable to make allowances for the families of wage-earners part of the system of wage fixing, and although it may be desirable for all wages to be fixed for the same family unit, it is not essential that any scheme of family allowances should be delayed because the Commonwealth Government has not at present sole control of industrial matters.
At all times Mr. Curtin was a supporter of child endowment and, accordingly, it was not astonishing that in 1941 he should have supported the scheme that was introduced by the present Minister for Labour and National Service. Although it did not go so far as he wished in that it omitted to make provision for the endowment of the first child, Mr. Curtin regarded it as a step in the right direction and accordingly he did not oppose the measure. In his second-reading speech on the bill Mr. Curtin made a significant statement which I think should be again placed on record during this discussion. He said -
With this bill we are, for the first time in £he history of this country - except for the Maternity Allowance Act - writing into the statute-book our realization of the national significance of family life. That is not a mere platitude - that means something - there has never been any doubt of the services, infinite in variety and extent, which the family tenders to the nation.
The proposals of the present Government will result in a great increase of the number of recipients of child endowment. At present, 640,000 families receive child endowment. Under the proposals in the bill now before us an additional 450,000 families will be entitled to the benefit. The cost of the enlarged scheme will increase the total expenditure on child endowment by £15,000,000. I know of no similar expenditure in the history of th-3 Commonwealth that has been put to better use than this will be put to.
Despite what has been said by honorable members opposite, the problems of -child endowment are closely associated with the mounting structure of the basic wage. An application for a variation of the “basic wage is now before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The members of this Parliament have no idea what decision will be made. It is true that in the past the court has based its assessments of the basic wage on well-defined principles. Those principles, however, have changed from time to time and we have no assurance that the case now before the court will be decided in accordance with the principles that have been adopted in the recent past. The Prime Minister recognized that there might be some change in the basis of -computation of the basic wage, because, during the general election campaign, he said that if the court altered its basis of computation he would, if he were returned to office, provide a payment of 10s., instead of 5s., a week in respect of the first child. He distinctly assured the people, however, that if he were returned to office he would not take any steps to influence the decision of the court. If that is the policy of the Liberal party of Australia it is by no means the policy of the State Liberal parties. The Liberal governments of the States have already made representations to the court in their own interests. I refer particularly to the Governments of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
-Order! I do not think that that has anything to do with this bill. This is a Commonwealth bill.
– The people of Australia have to be careful because governments in the State sphere of the same political complexion as this Government have already endeavoured to influence the judgment of the court. I contend that I should be permitted to draw attention to those submissions.
– That would open up the whole subject of the right of the State governments to interfere in arbitration matters. If I permitted the honorable member to proceed along those lines he would introduce matters that are not covered by either the title or the context of the bill.
– Other honorable members were permitted to make similar references yesterday and they were unchallenged by you, Mr. Speaker.
– If they did so, I did not hear them.
– I have no alternative but to bow to your ruling. Employers generally have fixed ideas in regard to this matter because they recently made the following submission to the court: -
If the basic wage is or is to be fixed in relation to “ social necessity requirements “ account should be taken of amounts available to parents by way of child endowment.
In other words, if employers of Australia have their way, any increase in the rate of child endowment would be taken into account by the court and the method of the computation of the basic wage would be altered. It is for that reason that the Labour party has taken a certain welldefined line of action in relation to its belief that this Parliament should express to the court its opinion that the court, when it is computing the basic w.age, should not take into consideration any amount paid to individuals in respect of child endowment. Because the employers have made to the court the submission that I have read, it is the duty of the Labour party to safeguard the interests of the wage-earners, should the court be influenced by the employers’ submission. We urge that this legislature should, if it is humanly possible, record for the information of the court its opinion that endowment should not be considered in relation to the basic wage. About half of the 2,450,000 wage and salary earners in Australia have no dependent children, and they would be adversely affected by any alteration of the method of computing the basic wage that might arise out of the passage of this measure. The present basic wage, which was fixed by the court some time ago, was fixed on the basis of a family unit of three. We must ensure that that basis is not altered downwards, otherwise any benefits that might accrue to parents from the extension of child endowment will be nullified.
Honorable members who support the Government state that it has received a mandate from the country for the payment of 5s. a week for the first child and that that figure is therefore sacrosanct and should not be interfered with. I point out to those honorable members that six months have elapsed since the general election on the 10th December. The cost of living has increased during that period, particularly in relation to the requirements of children. Among the prices that have increased in that period are those of milk and fruit, both of which commodities are necessaries for children. Last week the retail price of apples in Melbourne wa3 6d. each, and oranges and other fruit are now at correspondingly high prices. The prices of children’s clothing are rising almost daily. I suggest to honorable members opposite that it would take nearly 10s. now to purchase the goods that could have been purchased for 5s. six months ago. I consider that in view of the increase of the cost of living since the Government parties gave their election promise, a good case could be advanced for the payment of 10s. instead of 5s. I fail to see just why parents should not receive as much in endowment for the first child as for their other children. After all, when the first child is born the parents are naturally involved in expense in relation to the purchase of such necessities as perambulators, cots and so on. They are not involved in the same expense when subsequent children are born, because some items purchased for the first child can be used for succeeding children. In my opinion, more endowment should be paid in respect of the first child than for succeeding children. Honorable members opposite say that the Government cannot afford to allocate more than £15,000,000 for the payment of endowment in respect of the first child. The revenues of this country are buoyant at present. As a matter of fact they have never been higher, and there is no indication that in the near future our finances will be in anything approaching a parlous condition.
Some of my colleagues have stated quite rightly that the best immigrant that we can have is the Australian-born baby. We are now spending many thousands of pounds to bring immigrants to this country, and I can see nothing wrong with our suggestion that we should spend £30,000,000 a year on endowment for the first child of each family. The Government claims that it has received the approbation of the people for the payment of only 5s. I suggest that members of the Government parties move around amongst the people whom they are supposed to represent. If they do so, they will find a solid body of opinion that the payment should be 10s. a week for the first child. I have heard both Liberal party and Labour party supporters in my electorate express the opinion that the amount should be 10s. because of the increased cost of living. The average Austraiian family to-day includes approximately two children and the endowment payment proposed in this measure will probably be spent by each family on both children. In other words, as a result of this munificent gesture on the part of the Government, the parents will receive 4Jd. a day in respect of each of the two children. In view of the unprecedented living costs under which the people of this country are suffering to-day I contend that that payment is ridiculously low, and that even a payment of 10.?. a week for the first child could be criticized as insufficient, and should certainly be subject to review in a few months with a view to increasing it to 15s.
However, the main point that we are concerned about is that child endowment should not be taken into consideration by the court when it is determining the basic wage. The history of the fixation of that wage is long and tortuous and there is no saying what the mind of the court will be in future. For that reason it is necessary to impose safeguards as far as possible, in connexion with the present method of fixation. In 1907 Mr. Justice Higgins took a family unit of five as a reasonable basis in making his Harvester judgment. In 1931 the court reduced the basic wage by 10 per cent, but did not alter the family unit basis. In 1934 the court made a restoration wage but still did not alter the family unit basis. In 1937 it awarded a loading of 6s. and still did not alter the method of assessing the wage. That loading was added to the basic wage and brought the wage to the equivalent of the amount provided in the Harvester judgment. In 1947, however, an alteration was made in the family unit basis. Chief Judge Piper, who was President of the Court at that time, said that the court hadalways acted on the basis of a family unit of three, but he also said that the average family had between 1.7 and 1.8 children at that time. Not long after Chief Judge Piper made that statement this Parliament passed a measure that provided for the payment of endowment in. respect of the second child and subsequent children of each family. The basic wage case was thereupon adjourned. At that time the people had hoped that the court would increase the basic wage because of increasing costs, but they were disappointed.
Over the years the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court have suggested that Parliament should Lay down a formula regarding what it wants the court to do in relation to the fixation of the basic wage. There is no earthly reason why this Parliament should not give a lead in that direction by saying in the preamble to this bill that it requests the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to take no cognizance, when it is computing the basic wage, of the payment of endowment for the first child. Mr. Justice Higgins, Chief Judge Dethridge, Chief Judge Beeby and Chief Judge Piper have all at different periods stated that Parliament should give a direction on what should be taken into consideration. “We should not lose sight of the fact that as a result of the introduction of child endowment in 1941, the family unit basis was altered from five to three. In 1941 there was a strong belief on the part of both employers and employees that the court would grant a substantial increase of the basic wage. But because of the introduction of child endowment the court did not grant any increase. As a result of the change in the method of computation of the basic wage the controllers of industry benefited from the introduction of child endowment. We must remember that history has an unhappy knack of repeating itself. Surely this Parliament has a constitutional right to express to the court the opinion that the Labour party suggests it should express. After all, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court i3 a creation of this Parlament. We lay down the lines along which it is to function. Therefore surely it is- within our province to say that the functions of the court shall be amended. “We are coming to a sorry state of affairs when . this Parliament, representing all the people of Australia, is forbidden to say te a court that it created by its own ax% just what it considers the court should do. I do not think that an expression of opinion to the court to the effect that it should not take child endowment into account in relation to its fixation of the basic wage would be a startling innovation or an audacious action.
The Government parties, during the election campaign, promised that if the court took the payment of 5s. child endowment into consideration, they would increase the rate to 10s. Throughout the years there has been a tendency to reduce the responsibility of industry for the maintenance of family life. As I mentioned earlier- the Harvester judgment provided for a five-unit family, but the unit has now been reduced to three and there is no saying that, if this bill goes through in the form proposed by the Government, the family unit will not be reduced to two. That would be a very serious matter. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) referred last night to the fact that some sections of the community believe that the wage should be fixed on the basis of a single unit. That would be even worse than the possible result of this measure. A representation to- the court was made along these lines during the hearing of the 1941 basic wage case. It is a mystery to me why the court discontinued the hearing of the basic wage case before the last general election when the present Prime Minister promised that if the Liberal and Australian Country parties were returned to office they would provide for endowment in relation to the first child. The court summarily decided to discontinue the hearing of the case and the reason for its so doing has never been clarified. The Labour party is of the opinion that if the court has in mind any proposal to alter the method of computing the wage to that of a two-unit basis, there should be a definite request by this Parliament to the court that the three-unit basis be safeguarded. If we do not make such
I believe that the people of Australia support this bill, particularly as it has been amended by the Labour party in the Senate. If the Government pursues a wise course it will accept these amendments, which, to re-state them’, will mean that the payment of endowment for the first child will be sufficiently large to render practical assistance to parents and that the court shall take cognizance of the fact that this Parliament considers that the extension of child endowment should in no way be taken into account in connexion with the computation of the basic wage.
.:– After listening to this debate hour after hour one wonders why we are sitting here and. why we are arguing, because the Government’s proposal seems such a simple matter. Everybody appears to be in perfect agreement, basically. The Opposition appears- to have reached a stage in which it is completely confused. The fight that it commenced in another place over this measure seems to have weakened, for speaker after speaker on the Opposition side have declared themselves to be in complete favour of the bill. Such confusion is not extraordinary when one considers that members- of the Opposition are, I am sure, good-hearted fellows who want to provide this alleviation for the the people. The Labour party at first conducted a campaign with the object of deceiving the people into believing that the Government could not effectively grant this relief to the family. It tried to convince the people that they would not benefit from this bill. Now there is a great deal of confusion among honorable members of the Opposition. They have not made one statement which could convince any honorable member that they feel certain that this bill will affect the basic wage. .Last night the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said that the court need .not say what it took into consideration when fixing the basic wage. So his mind was very confused in .regard to that matter. Then the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holloway) said that he did noi believe that the court could or would let the payment interfere with the basic wage. There is a variety of opinions among honorable members of the Opposition. Some of them who are more informed have,, perhaps, taken a more positive view of the situation. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) made an extraordinary statement. He -spoke .of the effect of the bill on wage conditions and said that he wanted the Government to accept the amendments of the Opposition in another ‘ place in order to enable the Government to keep its election pledge. That is an extraordinary statement for an honorable member of the Opposition to make. After all is ‘said and done, he has only to support the bill as presented .by the Government in the Senate in order .to enable it to keep its pledge. Honorable members of the Opposition .opposed the proposal in the bill during the election. They had every opportunity then of telling the people that they supported the Government’s proposals and that if they were returned to office they would increase the amount to 10s. for the first child. If .they had done that they may have been justified .in supporting the amendment which has been inserted by the Opposition in another place.
– Does the honorable member think .that the Labour party should be frozen ito one policy for eyer?
– Honorable members of the Opposition were violently opposed to this proposal at the election.
– That is not right.
– They were. At least, I can say that that was the case in -my electorate. My opponent tried to deceive the people of my electorate into thinking that this proposal of the Government would be injurious to family life. On the one hand, honorable members of the Opposition opposed the Government’s proposals at the time of the election; on the other hand they now approve of them. Not only do they approve, but they want to double the amount which the Government proposes to pay in respect of the first child. It is no wonder, in the light of those circumstances, that the big guns which came into action in the other place where this bill was to be made a real issue have reduced operating to .such a degree as almost to eliminate all opposition. That i3 all very pleasing and I think it augurs Wei for the mothers of Australia who are to receive .this relief. The honorable member for Watson .(Mr. Curtin) could probably have something to - say about that if he had another chance. The effect that this legislation is likely to have cm the basic wage is not conclusive in the minds of honorable members of the Opposition. Any possibility of this legislation affecting the basic wage was dealt with in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies)., and it was dealt with, also, when this bill was introduced. Honorable members of the Opposition and the people can be assured that if this bill has any effect on the basic wage the Government will ensure that the people involved will receive the benefits that they are intended to receive. This Government is not going to embark ian :any hokey-pokey ‘scheme of duplicity. It is going to give a neal and effective benefit .to the people of Australia.
Honorable members of the Opposition have proposed that the amount payable shall be increased from 5s. to 10s. One cannot help charging them ‘with insincerity when they make that claim. The Government announced in its policy speech that it would pay 5s. in respect of the first child. It has prepared its programme with that object in view as they well know. The Opposition nas done everything possible to destroy the effectiveness of this measure, but at the same time it has said: ‘“If the Government is going to grant ‘endowment .to the first child it should make it 10s.” The Government does not claim that this 5s. as intended to be the means of supporting the first child. It is merely a gesture which will break down an obnoxious principle which has existed for quite a number of years that no payment should be made in respect of the first child in the family. The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) made a submission which some honorable members did not seem to understand but with which I agree. There have been families which have suffered in the past because of a succession of what might he called “ first children “. If there is a separation of four or five years between each child in a family of four or five, particularly if those children are given higher education after the age of sixteen years and are still supported by their parents then, at all times, the family lacks the benefit of child endowment. I had four children. The legislation which made child endowment payable was not in operation when my eldest child was born, but he went on to receive higher education. Child endowment waa paid in respect of two of my children; then another reached the age of sixteen years and I was paid for only one; when that child reached the age of sixteen years I received no more child endowment, although I was still supporting four children.
– The honorable gentleman was not on the basic wage.
– I certainly do not claim to be the capitalist that I am said to be, and anything I have gained in this life I have worked hard for. I know what it means to want, just as much as do any of the planners on the Opposition side of the House. Endowment could well have been very helpful” to me at the time of which I speak. However, those circumstances operate in a lot of families. This legislation destroys for all time a wrong principle upon which child endowment has been based. I have no present pecuniary interest in child endowment because my youngest child has just passed sixteen years of age.
The criticism of honorable members of the Opposition indicates the frustration that they are experiencing as a result of their political jealousy. Perhaps that is understandable in our parliamentary system and we may forgive them for it if, in the end, they place no obstacle in the way of families receiving this benefit. The proposal is a very simple one. It has been stated over and over again that when this legislation is put into effect there will be 1,110,000 people benefiting from child endowment. It has been said, too, that the cost to the Government of this 5s. for the first child will be an extra £15,000,000 and that the total cost of child endowment will have reached £46,250,000. That would be the figure at the present moment. With the increase of families all over Australia there is no doubt that endowment will cost this country a very large sum of money. I think that the expenditure is justified. It is grand to think that there are 450,000 families who will benefit directly from this proposal. No means test is to be imposed in connexion with the payment of this endowment. This is something that will be additional to all other forms of benefit. The fact that the Minister for Social Services who introduced this bill in the Senate has provided that the money can be paid into the banking accounts of the mothers is a splendid thing. There is nothing that I detest more than to see a queue lined up for social services payments.. That has an atmosphere of charity which is not associated with this measure. I know that that operates in quite a few places and in circumstances in which it should not operate. 1 commend the Minister who introduced this bill for having decided that this facility should be made available, and I think that the mothers of Australia will appreciate the plan.
Whilst this bill provides for what is called “ child endowment “, that term is a misnomer to some extent. Payments of this nature are really family endowment. No one will suggest that mothers aggregate the payment of each 10s. to feed each child after their first and that the first child does not receive some benefit from the payments that are made in respect of the others. Previous legislation has merely provided a formula for the payment of child endowment, and this additional 5s. a week represents an addition of £13 a year to the family income. It is a negligible amount, but even that negligible amount, which is as much as we can pay at the present time, will be of immense benefit to many families in this country. Not only will it benefit the children, but in many cases it will be the means of enabling the mother of the family, who perhaps needs a little holiday, to have some small period of relaxation. Whilst it is not intended particularly for that purpose, it will in my opinion, be properly used to provide some little extra comfort for the mother herself. Perhaps it will enable her to have a holiday to recuperate from the strain of providing for her family. Of all members of the Australian community, the mother is the one who has been neglected by legislation. She has also been ignored in most discussions of national importance. I would put the mothers on the highest possible pedestal because I believe that they hold that position in human society. I am not at present, like another honorable gentleman has done, making a special appeal to the mothers of Australia ; I am merely voicing what is in my heart and what I have always believed. Throughout the war years the women of Australia suffered severely. It is well known that because of the restrictions applied in various directions, and the impossibility of getting certain commodities, they suffered much distress. No immense organization has thrown its weight into the struggle to help them and all too often the men, perhaps because of their enthusiasm for their own activities, have forgotten the suffering that has been borne by the women of Australia, From that point of view alone this splendid legislation, which all people should support, is justified.
I conclude on this note: It has been said that the family unit is the most important part of our social structure. It is much more than that. It is the essence of our national body. It is the most sacred thing in all humanity. A nation can be only as good as its family unit, and the family unit is the home. It is in that unit that all the hopes and aspirations of human being3 are expressed and developed. In the home the ideals of the nation are nurtured, and it is the standard of the home that will set the standard of the progress of the nation. Consequently, on broad principles no one can turn his back upon this legislation. I suggest that from now on the Opposition should wholeheartedly support this bill, and then go on to support further important measures. I am sure that in their hearts there is not one member of either House of thi3 Parliament who does not wholeheartedly support this measure.
.- I was very interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer). He commenced his speech by pointing out that the members of the Opposition suffered from considerable confusion of thought. Then he attempted to remove the perplexity that was apparently troubling his opponents. Towards the end of his speech he made the remarkable statement that the suggested payment of 5s. for the first child is a negligible amount. Immediately after saying that he told the House of all that the nation owes to the mothers of Australia, and of the necessity to maintain the sanctity of the home. On his own admission all that he is willing to contribute towards the promotion of the welfare of the mothers and towards the preservation of the sanctity of Australian homes is what he described as a “ negligible amount “. Every honorable member who has spoken on this measure has indicated his agreement with the principle of child endowment.. No honorable member on either side has said that he considers the endowment at present paid for the children after the first, 10s. a week, to be too much. In reality all honorable members are in agreement that 10s. is the least amount that should be paid. Some honorable members would increase the amount but no honorable member, whether on the Government side or the Opposition side would reduce it. Therefore, when introducing this bill to the House, the Government should not have endeavoured to prove that child endowment is a good thing or that the promotion of family life is desirable, because on these things we all are in agreement. The Government should have endeavoured to show why the endowment for the first child should be only 5s., and for every other child in the family under the age of sixteen years 10s. Actually, as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) pointed out, the endowment for the first child should be greater than for subsequent children. That is particularly so in families to which the endowment means most - the working class families. In those families the first child, as- the honorable, member for Batman, indicated, is provided with a pram and. other requisites of infancy. Such, initial items are generally passed on, to other children of the family as they are born.
In a large family not only are such, things as the- requisites of infancy passed, on, but clothing and other necessaries of childhood also are. handed, dow.ni from child to child. In. regard to food, drink, and the essentials of human life, the. first; child; needs quite as. much as: the second. The first child must be provided with, shelter and such a. provision, is: generally greater than that made for & second, third or. fourth child. A bedroom must be provided for “a first child, but when the: second, child, comes along,, if. Lt is. of. the: same: sex;, it; cam share, that, bedroom-. The same thing can. occur, when other children.-, enlarge the family. Therefore in all the necessities of life it may be fairly said, that the first child costs more than those who’ come after., For that reason alone the endowment paid should be at least as-‘ great for the- first child as: for- the others. A further- point is: that the circumstances, of the average family are not so. satisfactory when the; first child- is- born, as when subsequent, children are born. When first children are born to’ young couples., who: are starting oft in. married life, the expense involved often causes hardship. They have had to pay a deposit on a home and buy furniture. Usually they are paying- the. instalments: on their home, and on their, furniture also-, for some years after marriage. Other costs continually recur during- the. early years of marriage.Therefore, a. family cannot usually afford necessary small comforts; as well when it has its- first child as; it can later on. For those reasons I suggest that the Go,vernment should say,. “ We are going toendow the first child to exactly the same amount as the second child and any subsequent children “. There- is: no valid, argument on the ground of necessaries for the children; or conditions of the. family which justifies the Government in making a 5s. payment for the firstchild and 10s. for subsequent children.. No honorable member on; the Government, side, has suggested that the endowment for subsequent children should be reduced. Therefore the payment in respect of the first child should be increased to put it on the same, footing as. the subsequent, children.
The- Government may suggest that it is in a difficult position. It may say that the question- is not one of justice or of whether the family with one child should receive- exactly the same rate- of endowment as the family with more than’ one child receives for subsequent children. It may say that ft cannot afford to pay more1. I submit that that consideration should not enter into the matter- at all. There should be no- question of whether or not the- Government carr meet the extra payment. Even if I grant the contention that the- money is- not available’ to pay endowment at the same rate for all children, I still; say that if the Government has- a sense of justice and true responsibility it will bring down a. bill or submit an amendment to provide that all’ children, shall be endowed at exactly the same rate even if the rates of endowment for children after the. first have to be- reduced!. But the* Government knows that this country is well able to pay child endowment at the rate of 10s: for all children-.
– Why did not the. party represented by the honorable member take that action, when it. was in office ?.’
-I was not. a member of this House at that time, and the- fact that some government- did not do something, in the dim and distant past, or even, in more recent times, does not nullify the contentions that I am putting- to the House at the present time. The honorable member can serve no useful purpose by telling me that somebody else did1 something- of which he disapproved. His job is to1 refute my arguments, if he can do so.
– I am glad to have the honorable, member’s admission of the facts.
– I assure, the honorable member that, throughout my membership of this Parliament,. I shall try to extract as much as I possibly can from the political representatives of wealth and privilege for the benefit of the average men and women of Australia. That, is what I am endeavouring to do now. There isi no basis of justice or honesty for the proposition to pay endowment for the first child at the rate of 5s. instead of 10s. a week. In fact, the offer of 5s. a week, that was made to the people by the present Government parties during the general election campaign was the lowest bid that they could have made in the hope of securing votes.
– The honorable member and his party would not offer anything.
– I offered many benefits to the electors, including the abolition of the means test and increases of all pensions. I assure honorable members that I shall continue to try to improve upon any offer that the Government may make in connexion with social services, just as I am trying- now to improve upon what the honorable member for Bennelong, has described as a negligible contributionto mothers who have only one child.
– It was the so-called representatives of wealth and privilege who introduced pensions in Australia.
– The honorable member ought to know that the government of the day introduced pensions in 1908 only because representatives of the Labour party sitting on the cross benches in the House of Representatives demanded that it do so upon pain of being deposed from office. Pensions and all other benefits for which average men and women are now eligible had to be extracted grudgingly from representatives of wealth and privilege such as those who now form the Government.
Endowment for the first child of every family at the rate of 10s. instead of 5s. a week is justified also on the ground of the Government’s ability to pay. Never has the national revenue been so buoyant as it is now. The happy financial situation of the Government, of course, is the result of the judicious and careful administration of the Chifley Government. It has at its command reserves far larger than those that any other Government has had the good fortune to inherit. In view of the abundant revenues of the Treasury, the Government should at least multiply its offer by two as a contribution to family welfare. The Labour party’s proposition is justified on the further ground of the reduced purchasing power of the £1. The honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Keon) spoke in this House earlier to-day of the increased costs of commodities, and the Prime Minister admitted in his– reply that prices were continuing to rise. He pointed out that costs had increased this year- probably by 2 per cent, and are increasing at the rate of 1 per cent, a quarter. That rate of increase means that, since the 10th. December last, the purchasing power of the average family income has been reduced by the equivalent of over 5s. a week. Therefore, the promised payment of 5s. a week, endowment for the first child of every family is worth nothing. The honorable member for Bennelong told the people that this new benefit would enable mothers to go away to the seaside for a rest every year, but, in effect, the 5s. is worth less now that it was when the promise to pay it was made. Who has gained the advantage of that vanished 5s. worth of purchasing power?
– Perhaps the banks have it.
– I am sure that they have gained some advantage from it. They have to get something in return for the thousands of pounds that they expended in the electorate of Burke and elsewhere in support of the anti-Labour parties during the election campaign. Big businesses that have commodities to sell will reap the reward of the promised endowment of os. a week instead of the mothers who are supposed to benefit from it. The financial pages of the newspapers show that business organizations are making profits as high as 20 per cent. Those profits represent a toll upon the community. The companies that are making them are taking more from the average family, in extra returns from their activities, than the amount of 5s. a week that was offered during the election campaign. The additional endowment of 10s. a week for which the amended bill provides would be scarcely enough to redeem that promise.
Some honorable members have suggested that wage-fixing tribunals will take the amount of the proposed new benefit into consideration when they make their determinations, but supporters of the Government have declared- that they will not do so. I cannot imagine any judge or other arbitration authority including the amount in his wage-fixing calculations, but that may happen. I am no more infallible than are the members and supporters of the Government, and I am particularly sceptical of my own opinions when I find myself in agreement with them. Therefore, I consider that a safeguard against such an eventuality should be embodied in the bill. The Government should accept the new clause that was inserted by the Opposition in the Senate to provide that wage-fixing authorities shall not take child endowment into account when making their decisions. What reasonable objection can there be to the proposal ? Members of the Government have said that arbitration tribunals will not take child endowment into consideration. Surely, therefore, they cannot object to the embodiment in the bill of a provision to that effect.
– It represents an interference with the functions of the arbitration authorities.
– If I suggested to somebody that he should do something that everybody knows he intends to do and has fully determined to do, he would not be annoyed by the suggestion. The new clause that was inserted by the Opposition in the Senate merely proposes, in effect, that the arbitration authorities shall do exactly what the Government believes that they intend to do in any case. No intelligent person would object to that proposition. Our proposal for the payment of additional endowment at the rate of 10s. a week is fully warranted on the grounds of justice to the recipients, the ability of the Government to pay, and the fact that the additional benefit will not influence arbitration tribunals in the determination of wages. In fact, I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service will in all probability recommend that the Government agree to the amendments to the original measure that were made by the Opposition in the Senate.
.- Before I give my reasons for supporting the bill I shall reply to some of the statements that were made by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). He implied that Liberal governments have a monopoly of the credit for having introduced social legislation. An Opposition member then suggested that the honorable gentleman should examine the records of social legislation, and I believe that if he were to do so, he would discover that it was not until there was a Labour movement that Australia had any social or industrial legislation.
– Together with the means test.
– I shall deal with that. The age pension was first paid in New South Wales. I admit that it was introduced by a Liberal government, but the reason was that the Labour party in the parliament of that State held the balance of power, and used its influence in that respect as a bargaining weapon to persuade the government at that time to introduce age pensions. A means test was applicable.
– In what year was the age pension introduced in New South Wales ?
– In 1909- rather a long time ago for some of the younger members of the Liberal party to remember. Child endowment was introduced in New South Wales by a Labour government.
– Why does not the honorable member deal with the record of the Labour party in the Parliament of the Commonwealth regarding the introduction of social services?
– I give credit to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) for having introduced, in 1941, a system of child endowment that was applicable to all the States. However, the honorable gentleman was merely following the good example that had been set by a Labour government in New South Wales. The honorable member for Sturt emphasized that the Liberal party had promised during the last general election campaign that, if it were returned to office, it would introduce legislation to authorize the payment of endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child of a family under the age of sixteen years, and that the Government would not deviate from that promise. The Labour party contends that the amount of 5s. is inadequate. The fact that the Liberal party during the recent election campaign promised to pay endowment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child is no valid reason why it should adhere steadfastly to that undertaking. Reference has been made to the means test. At the general election in 1946, and again in 1949, the spokesman for the Liberal party promised that a Liberal government would abolish the means test, without any reservation.
– That is not correct.
– Government supporters tell a different story since they were returned to office. Approximately 85 per cent, of the people who receive pensions would not derive any particular benefit from the abolition of the means test. The Chifley Labour Government, on two occasions, partially relaxed the means test in respect of pensions, and although the Liberal party has been represented in this Parliament since federation, it has never done so.
I support the bill in its present form. I am particularly satisfied with proposed new section 94a, which provides that child endowment shall be regarded as a general social service and shall not affect wages or salaries. It reads as follows : - (1.) It is hereby declared -
I warmly support the bill, because it offers the payment of endowment of 10s. a week for the first child of a family under the age of sixteen years, and includes a safe guard to the effect that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration shall not take that payment into account when it is determining the basic wage. I believe that an amount of 10s. a week for the first child is little enough. At the present time, this world is an expensive place for new arrivals, and 10s. a week cannot be regarded as representing an over-generous reception for the first baby in a family. Considerable criticism has been levelled at the Opposition on the ground that, before the last general election, the Chifley Government criticized the Liberal party for promising the electors that if it were returned to office, it would introduce legislation to authorize the payment of 5s. a week for the first child of a family under the age of sixteen years, and that the Labour party did not make a similar promise. I remind Government supporters that the Chifley Government promised the electors that, if it were returned to office, it would completely review all social services, and I have no doubt that child endowment would have been included in that investigation. The Labour party’s attitude at that time was governed by the fear that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court might take into consideration the amount of 5s. a week for the first child of a family when it was computing the basic wage, and that that payment might affect the basic wage by a greater margin than 5s. a week. Our fears were founded on sound premises, because, as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and other Opposition speakers have said, learned judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court have stated during the present hearing of a claim for an increase of the basic wage, that they were basing their calculations on a family unit of three persons, a husband, his wife and one child. It was significant also that when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) promised, at the commencement of the last general election campaign, that a Liberal government would pay endowment for the first child, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court immediately adjourned the hearing for an increase of the basic wage until after the election. At present, certain interests are insisting that child endowment shall be taken into consideration by the court when it is determining the basic -wage. I understand that Mr. Speaker has ruled that honorable members are not entitled to mention those particular interests that are asking the judges of the Arbitration Court to take child endowment into account, but he has allowed us to state that other parties - the Governments of Victoria, South Australia and “Western Australia - are making that submission. I mention in passing that the Labour Government of New South Wales is not a party to it. Perhaps I shall be permitted to say that employers’ federations, which are represented in the Arbitration Court, are using their influence to have the judges take endowment for the first child into account when determining the basic wage. I shall read an extract from one of the exhibits in the present case that is being heard by .the court. It is as follows : -
If the basic .wage is, or is to be, fixed in relation to socially necessary requirements, account should be taken of the amount available to parents by way of child endowment.
That view is held by the employers’ organizations, which are using their influence in the court to have the payment of endowment for the first child included in the computation of the basic wage. If indicates that our fears in this matter are well founded. If the worst fears of the Labour party had been realized, the result would have been serious for all wage-earners. Some honorable members may not be aware that approximately 2,500,000 persons in Australia are receiving the basic wage, and had the rate been based as we had feared, only 1,100,000 persons, representing families with a first child, would have received the benefit of 5s. a week. If the basic wage had been applied in the way in which we thought it would have been, only those ~eople who bad a first child would have eceived 5s. a week as endowment, but ill wage-earners would have lost 5s. a week in the computation of the basic wage. If approximately 2,500,000 basicwage earners had lost 5s. a week, the Government would have received approximately £30,000,000. out of which it would have paid only £15,000,000. The various amendments that were made to this bill -I- the instigation of the Labour party in )<r Senate ensure that the payment of i ndowment for the first child will not affect the basic wage. Under present conditions, the family income is little enough, and the payment of 10s. for the .first child will be of great assistance to the family unit. Every encouragement should be given to parents to have large families, and the increase of child endowment provides that incentive. The Labour party had a victory by manoeuvring the Liberal party into the present situation. An examination of the record of administration by the Liberal party since federation discloses that it has not been prepared to do very much for society generally. The Labour party has secured a victory for the workers of Australia by getting the Liberal party to offer endowment of os. a week for the first child of a family. We hope that the Government will accept the Senate’s amendments to the original bill. It should grant endowment at the rate of 10s. a week for the first child, and ensure that that paymen shall not be taken into account by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court when it is determining the basic wage.
– I have listened most attentively to this debate, and it appears to me that Opposition members are more interested in gaining a party political advantage than they are in authorizing the payment of endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child under the age of sixteen years. As the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) pointed out, that payment will really be a family bonus. “Yet Opposition members are adopting the policy of “ anything you can do, I can do better “. The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) claimed that the Labour party has manoeuvred the Liberal party and the Australian Country party into introducing this bill, but I clearly recollect that the payment of endowment for the first child was a part of the policy of the government parties in 1946, and that it was strongly opposed by the Labour party. On that occasion, Opposition members tried to draw red herrings across the trail, and to engender a fear complex about the effect that payment of endowment for the first child would have on the computation of the basic wage. I believe that the opposition of the Labour party to endowment of the first child contributed to its return to office at the general election held in 1946. However, at the recent general election, the people showed that they will no longer be scared by Labour’s attitude in that matter. The present Government parties promised to provide endowment for the first child at the rate of 5s. a week, and the longer the Opposition takes to consider this measure the longer will the mothers of Australia have to wait to receive this benefit.
– That is untrue. It is provided that the first payment shall be made on the 20th June.
– Having regard “to that date, one might be led to believe that there is plenty of time to deal with this legislation. However, we must remember that the measure now before the chair includes amendments made by the Opposition in the Senate. As the Government will not accept the bill in its present form, it will have to be returned to that chamber, and that process may involve a considerable delay.
– Why will not “the Government accept the hill as amended by ihe , Senate ?
– Because the Government must have regard to its other commitments in respect of other social services benefits. It is honouring the promise that it made to the people at the last ‘general election. It cannot he expected to incur an additional expenditure of £15,000,000 in order to provide endowment for the first child at 10s. a week, instead of at 5s. a week,, and, at the same time, liberalize other social services benefits. Social services benefits as a whole must be viewed in the light of the next budget to be presented to the Parliament. The ‘Opposition claims that it has manoeuvred the Government into introducing this measure, but Labour governments during the eight years that they were in office did not make any attempt to provide endowment for the first child. I am reminded of the old saying, “A thousand words won’t fill a sack”. After listening to honorable members opposite in this debate it would be more appropriate to s-ay, “A million words won’t fill a sack “. I do not intend to traverse the ground that has already been covered by supporters of the Government. I urge the members of the Opposi tion to support the bill and to allow the Government to make a start by providing endowment of 5s. for the first child on the understanding that that rate will be increased when the national finances permit.
– An endowment of 10s. for the first child can easily be financed from the .National Welfare Fund.
– That interjection reveals irresponsibility. The Government must bear in mind the ability of the community to afford this expenditure and also its effect upon our economy as a whole. It believes that it can provide endowment at the rate of 5s., and it intends to do so; but the longer the Opposition delays the passage of the bill the longer will this benefit be denied to the mothers of Australia.
.- In the course of thi9 debate, Government supporters have suggested that there is nothing in the Labour party’s fear that if the amendments forecast by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) with the intention to restore the bill to its original form are agreed to, any endowment provided for the first child will merely constitute subsidizing the basic wage. We contend that the provision of endowment for the first child in those circumstances will lead to an alteration of the basis on which the basic wage is now calculated. Supporters of the Government have simply brushed that contention aside., The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself, however, did not brush it aside in the course of his policy speech at the last general election. He then said that if his party were returned to office it would endow the first child at the rate of 5s. a week and that if the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, consequently, altered the basis on which it computes the basic wage from a unit of a man, wife and one child, to a man and his wife, the Government would consider endowing the first child at the rate of 10s. a week. The right honorable gentleman envisaged that possibility. Therefore, it is useless for Government supporters to pretend that there is no basis for the Opposition’s contention. I shall quote what two other Ministers, by no means junior in status, have said on this matter. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) said -
I believe that the time has now come when the basis on which the basic wage is determined should be altered to cover the requirements of a man and his wife only, and that all children should bc brought within the scope of the child endowment scheme.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Dame Enid Lyons) had this to say-
So, I look to the time when the basic wage will be revised. This Parliament has no power to do that. But it has in its hands a power which could have been, but has not been, used to clear the way, at any rate’ for some improvement - that is, by extension of the child endowment to cover the first child.
The honorable member went on to say, in effect, that the basic wage might well be calculated on a family unit of a man and wife only. Supporters of the Government have said that the Labour party has changed its policy on this matter since the last general election. What of that ! Do honorable members opposite expect me to be frozen to one policy level that was advanced by a government that was rejected at the polls? Did not the parties that they support change their policies as a consequence of the defeats that they suffered at the general elections that were held in 1943 and 1946? The Labour party, in the course of its long history, has made many mistakes and at various times it has changed certain parts of its policy ; but it has never been obliged to change its name or to change its policy in any respect that was not in accordance with its historic past. Members of the Labour party are well aware of the mistakes that it has made. Supporters of the Government remind us of what the Scullin Government did although there is scarcely a survivor of that government who is still a member of the Parliament. But whilst honorable members opposite also advance the alibi that the present Labour party is not the Labour party of old, they themselves have adopted yet another alias.
Some Government supporters have contended that if clause 3, which was inserted in the bill by the Senate against the Government’s wishes, is deleted, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will not take this endowment into account when it is computing the basic wage. I do not believe that any lawyer would advance that argument with complete certainty.
After all, social services power was inserted in the Constitution in 1946. Under placitum (xxiiiA.) of the Constitution, the Parliament is empowered to provide family allowances, and under placitum (xxxix.) it is empowered to make laws with respect to matters incidental to the execution of any power vested by the Constitution in the Parliament or in either House thereof. The Government has been using its incidental powers under the Constitution very extensively in legislation that it has recently introduced. Nobody would suggest that it was not in exercise of the power incidental to the Commonwealth’s defence power that the Government introduced the measure that was recently passed by this House, and no one could say dogmatically that it would not be incidental to the Commonwealth’s power to provide family allowances to limit the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court by directing the court that it should not take this endowment into account when computing the basic wage. I congratulate the Government on its fresh idea that it should not limit the court’s jurisdiction under this measure, because by virtue of the power incidental to the Commonwealth’s defence power it has just passed a bill that limits the jurisdiction of quite a number of courts in this country.
The Opposition proposes that endowment provided under this measure shall be additional to any wage. Clause 3, which the Senate has inserted and which the Government desires to delete, although it could explain its attitude in this respect more honorably than it has done up to the present, reads: -
After section ninety-four of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “94a. - (1.) It is hereby declared -
that endowment payable under this Part is intended to be and is a social service for the welfare of children of all members of the community, that it bears no relation to the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes or to any industrial matter and that it is to he enjoyed quite irrespective of whether either parent of a child is an employee earning salary or wages, is an employer or has any other means ; and
Let us consider the possibility that the Prime Minister envisaged. First, if endowment was provided at the rate of 5s. for the first child, the court might take the benefit into account in computing the basic wage and he undertook that if it did so, this legislation would be frustrated because the benefit would then merely constitute a wage subsidy. If the court failed to adjust the basic wage by 5s. as the result of the provision of this benefit, the position of a worker with a wife and children would remain in much the same position whilst a worker with a wife only, or a single worker, would lose 5s. However, others in categories like members of the Parliament who have children that are endowed would lose nothing because their salaries would not be affected by alterations of the basic wage ; and the same observation applies to persons in other categories such as businessmen and self-employed persons. But if the Commonwealth Arbitration Court took the view of this legislation that the Prime Minister envisaged, unmarried wage-earners and childless couples would be losers. Therefore the right honorable gentleman had the decency to say that if the court took that view he would increase the endowment to 10s. It would appear that the right honorable gentleman made that promise somewhat irresponsibly. Why has he not attempted to exercise the Government’s power incidental to the Commonwealth’s social services power to limit the jurisdiction of the court by preventing it from taking the provision of this endowment into consideration when computing the basic wage? Let us examine how the Government’s proposal may work out. Suppose the rate of endowment is determined at 5s. If the court took the benefit into consideration, some people would suffer a reduction of wages until such time as the Government introduced amending legislation to carry out the right honorable gentleman’s promise to the full. I point out that many people were at least penalized by not receiving any increase of wages because the Prime Minister, during the recent general election campaign, most improperly raised this matter while the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was hearing an application for an increase of the basic wage, and the court decided that as the matter had become the subject of party political controversy it could not properly deal with the matter in such an atmosphere and, therefore, adjourned the hearing of that application. Because of the Prime Minister’s action in that instance, any increase that the court may decide to award will be delayed for several weeks whilst other classes of workers will be denied a corresponding adjustment of their wages for a similar period. The Prime Minister has been the cause of monetary loss being inflicted upon those workers.
– While prices have been rising.
– That is so. In the same way, if the court should take the endowment of 5s. for the first child into account when computing the basic wage, many workers will suffer further loss of income until such time as the Government can increase the rate to 10s. a week. It was for that reason that the Opposition in the Senate inserted clause 3, which I have just read. The Government can accept that provision without accepting the further amendment made by the Opposition in the .Senate to increase the rate of endowment from 5s. to 10s. a week. I also point out that should the court take the endowment of 5s. into account when fixing the basic wage, the Government in order to honour the promise made by the present Prime Minister at the last general election will be obliged to incur an additional expenditure of £15,000,000. If the right honorable gentleman believes that by using power incidental to the Commonwealth’s social services power the Government can limit the jurisdiction of the court in the way that I have indicated, it will not be justified in deleting clause 3. The Australian community has already suffered some form of wage pegging as a result of the Prime Minister having made the announcement of this proposal during the recent general election campaign.
I turn now to the other amendment made by the Opposition in the Senate to increase the original proposed rate of 5s. to 10s. a week. Members of the Australian Country, party, particularly the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) have suggested that members of the Labour party are irresponsible in their attitude towards this proposal. The Government was elected on a programme that included proposals to liberalize social services benefits, whereas the present Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Chifley) did not. promise to make any change in the main structure of. the Labour party’s policy with respect to social services. During the last general election campaign the present Prime Minister promised that if the anti-Labour parties were returned to office, they would ensure that the existing level of social service benefits would at least be maintained and that the purchasing power of the community would be increased as the result of falling prices. He did not make a wholesale attack on the structure of social services as we had developed themover a period of eight years. He simply introduced a proposal to provide this additional social service at a cost of £15,000,000 which had been made possible by the extent of the resources in the NationalWelfareFund which it is estimated will amount to £121,000,000 at the 30th June next.
– On paper.
– Honorable members opposite should have the decency to acknowledge its existence. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) says that it exists only on paper. It was provided from taxes levied on the people. We may assume that the honorable gentleman will not mind what amount is extracted from him in taxes because it will be only a paper charge. Honorable members should not forget that the Government envisaged the possibility of having to meet an expenditure of; not £15,000,000, hut £30,000,000 if the child endowment were increased to 10s. It must have taken into consideration the existence of the resources in the National WelfareFund when it made its promise. The proposition advanced by honorable members opposite in the past that no sound welfare schemecould be established, except on a national contributory basis somewhat on the lines of the non-Labour proposals of 1938, has been thrown aside because they have been able to make substantial promises owing to the existence of the reserves that we established by contributions from tax collections.
I wish to make one or two further observations on this matter before I sit down. I do not see any reason, based either on the administrative ground or on the ground of national justice, for asserting that the first child should be endowed: at the rate of 5s. a week and that other children should be endowed at the rate of 10s. a week. Some administrative difficulties are involved in such a proposal. Let us consider the position of a family of two children,both endowed, one receiving 10s. and the other 5s. a week. Such a family would suffer a. severe loss of income when the first child reached the age of sixteen years. The total amount of endowmentreceived by the family would then be cut not by one-half, as honorable members might think it would be, because one child had ceased tobe wholly dependent, but by two-thirds if the remaining child were endowed at only 5s. a week. The thesis that the first child is not so expensive as subsequent children is quite untenable. Parents are involved in very large initial expenditure on the birth of. their first child.. Let us consider my own experience. I have one child.I hope there will be others.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– I say that becauseI think I am a good type to perpetuate, Mr. Speaker. When my child was born I was involved in heavy expenditure for cots, prams and all sorts of paraphernalia, the purchase of which I had not envisaged. Any subsequent children I have will be able to use those facilities without my wife and I being involved in a heavy outlay. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr: Wilson) has twitted me with the fact that when the Labour Government was in office it made no provision for the endowment of the first child.I direct his attention to the fact that we engaged in an expansion of welfare services which increased the commitments of the Commonwealth from £16,000,000 a year to approximately £82,000,000 a year. Even assuming that there were some social services to which we did not attend adequately, honorable members opposite might at least have the decency to acknowledge that we extended social services and that a great many people benefited from their extension, I have not heard any criticism of the structure of such services- The Government should’ exercise1 the power incidental to its social, services power’ to ensure that the endowment of the first child shall not be taken into consideration in the calculation, of the basicwage and: that endowment shall’ be paid at a- uniform rate of 10s. for all children under the age of sixteen- years.
..- The House is considering, a proposition on certain, phases- of” which there appears to be. a broad band of unity. The propositionis. that child, endowment is desirable. There is. complete unity on that point. To. that first phase of the subject I propose to address myself for a little while. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), has referred to the change that has taken place in the psychological attitude of the Australian community to. the provision of social service benefits. He has rightly said that: that’ change has been particularly marked during the, last 30 years. Honorable members will recall that when a bill’ for the- payment of the maternity allowance was first introduced in this Parliament it was greeted with scorn By those who were opposed to that form of’ benefit, and’ how subsequent events, and the march of time brought about’ a reconsideration of their earlier attitude.. When the honorable member for Batman was dealing- with that matter; an honorable member interjected that in. those days the maternity allowance was termed the “bangle bonus. w. Since then the psychological attitude of the community towards that benefit has greatlychanged. We are now discussing- a scheme which, in earlier years would have been regarded if not as impossible, at least as almost impracticable of operation in: an allegedly conservative community. The subject of child endowment is of the utmost importance, and is all-embracing, in. its. effect, on the life- of the community. Governments of all political, colours now. recognize their obligation to the family unit. I welcome this measure just as much as other, honorable members, do. We may disagree about its scope,, but oh its broad1 general- principles all honorable members are in complete agreement. Naturally only Opposition members support the proposition- advanced in the Senate- and embodied in the- bill that endowment of the first child should be-. increased’ from 5s. to 10s. a week. Ir seems to me to be an equitable and reasonable proposition that the. same rate, should be paid, in respect of all endowed children. There should be- no distinction in the payment made between, the child now proposed to be endowed and other children in. the family who are already endowed. The same costs apply to all. of them. In- fact the major costs have been proved by statistical computations to be greater in the. case of the first child than in that of. the- second and subsequent children. When a similar debate took place in this House- in 1’941 the. present Minister for Health. (Sir Earle Page) contended that it cost 15s. 3d. a week to maintain the first, child, in- a family and. as. little as 9s. Udi. a week to maintain, the. second and subsequent children. The amendment made in this bill By the Senate postulates, the theory that in. the endowment paid there- should be- no differentiation between- one child and another. I do not want to- traverse ground that has already been, covered by other honorable members in this debate, but it is inevitable that I shall reiterate some points that have already been made. Looking backover the history of child endowment I find that child, endowment was first successfully introduced in Australia when a Labour Government in New South Wales introduced such a system in 1926. That scheme continued to operate until’ 1937. Soon after the New South Wales scheme was commenced the Bruce-Page Government appointed a royal commission to consider the possibilities of devising a child endowment scheme on. a national’ basis. Other honorable members- have quoted briefly from that report. I, too, propose to quote certain passages from it.
– What was, the date of* the commission’s report?
– It was presented’ in 1929. The passages that I propose to quote have a definite bearing on the bill now before us. The majority reportdid not contain a recommendation that a child endowment scheme, be brought into operation. The minority report however, contained many statements which are applicable to the subject before us. Even at the risk of repetition I propose to quote some of the recommendations from the minority report. Among other things the signatories of the minority report recommended -
The note which ran through the whole of the minority report was that there should be no differentiation in the amount paid as child endowment. We have advanced the proposition that a uniform payment should be made in respect of each child in the family under the age of 16 years. Certain evidence was tendered to the commission which, to my mind, supports the attitude that has been taken by the Opposition in relation to this measure. Mr. G. L. Wood, senior lecturer in Economics at the University of Melbourne, in evidence before the commission, said -
The diversion of part of the national dividend for the purpose of increasing the efficiency of the poor, would yield a return exceeding that received on the part of the dividend invested in capital goods.
That is a sound principle which the Labour party has endeavoured to apply to all the phases of social service. Later in the course of the commission’s hearing the same witness gave other equally interesting evidence when he was asked a question about additional taxation to provide for an appropriation of £6,000,000. He asserted emphatically that that amount appeared to be well within the resources of the community. Working on these broad general principles the Labour party, when it was in office between 1941 and 1949, set a record in social services provisions that no other government had exceeded, and that certainly no government in the future could possibly exceed.. I shall repeat the statement of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) that in its eight years of office the Labour party increased payments in respect of all social services, includingchild endowment, from £16,000,000 to £82,000,000 a year. If the Labour party had achieved nothing else during those eight years of office it at least would deserve credit for having brought social services to a stage at which they satisfied the great bulk of the community. Broadly speaking, the passage of the present measure will benefit more than 1,000,000 people. The Labour party in the Senate amended the bill to increase the rate of endowment for the first child from 5s. to 10s. a week so that the measure may achieve the greatest possible effect. Honorable members opposite have charged us with inconsistency, but, in fact, we are more consistent than they are. To illustrate the inconsistency of Government supporters I need only refer to statements that were made by some of them in 1945 when a measure similar to the present one was before the House. Before doing so, however, I shall go back to 1941 when the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), introducing a measure to provide child endowment, said -
The Government has given a great deal of consideration to the provision of endowment in respect of the first child. … It has decided that payment for the first child is not warranted.
To-day, honorable members opposite tax us with inconsistency, although the Minister for Labour and National Service contended in 1941 that payment for the first child was not warranted. He also made the following remark : -
The presence of one child in the household does not put it at any 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.
That we do not stand alone in supporting a proposition for an increase of endowment for the first child to 103. a week can be established by quotations from statements by eminent authorities. The present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), in 1945, when the Labour Government increased the endowment for the second child from 7s. 6d. to 10s. a week, had this to say -
More money should be made available for an extension of child endowment benefits, which should be greater as the family increases.
The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) had this to say during the course of the same debate -
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.
Yet these same Ministers are now united in this advocacy of a payment of 5s. a week, and they completely ignore the fact that in the period between 1945 and now the cost of all household commodities has increased inordinately. Because of that increase there is a great measure of economic justice in our contention that the payment should be at the same rate for every child in a family, that is, 10s. a week. When the Senate was debating the motion for the printing of the Financial Statement, on the 6th August, 1946, Senator MeLeay moved an amendment 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 1 041-1 045 be extended to provide for the payment of 7s. (id. per week for the first child in order that all children under sixteen years way come within the benefits of the scheme.
The Liberal party Opposition in the Senate forced a division on the matter, with results that did not suit it. However, the inconsistency is obvious. In 1945, when a Labour government submitted a bill to provide for the increase of the child endowment payment to 10s. a. week, honorable members now on the Government side, who were then in opposition, said that the increase was inadequate. Yet, today they suggest that a payment of 5s. a week for the first child is adequate. Eminent industrial authorities have pointed to the stand that the Labour party took in the past regarding the provision of endowment for the first child, and I subscribe to everything that they have said. The Labour party, when it was in office, did not endow the first child because of the fear in the minds of those people most competent to judge that the provision of endowment for the first child would affect the fixation of the basic wage. However, such a possibility would now be obviated by the acceptance of the amendments inserted in the bill by the Labour Opposition in the Senate, which would provide a measure of safety in relation to the fixation of the basic wage. If we take previous happenings as a guide we shall have an indication of how the court will act in connexion with the basic wage unless the Labour party’s amendments to the bill are retained. In 1941, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was considering a long-standing request for a revision of the basic wage. A premature announcement by the Liberal party Minister who was later in charge of child endowment, to the effect that the Government intended to introduce a scheme of child endowment, caused & delay in the fixation of the wage. Nobody here can deny that at that particular time many working people in Australia were deprived of what was rightly theirs because of the premature announcement that was made by the Minister. The evidence given to this House to-day shows that our amendments will provide a measure of safety in regard to the fixing of the basic wage.
Child endowment is now regarded as an essential social service. It is not a charity payment, but a recognition of the fact that the mothers of Australia are entitled to receive what should be given to them by legislative bodies in every part of this Commonwealth. Most honorable members agree about the necessity for child endowment. The only points on which the two sides of the House differ are in connexion with the amount to be paid and some other aspects of the matter. We repeat that if it is consistent to give ]0s. a week in respect of the second child and subsequent children up to the age of sixteen years, then it is consistent to pay 10s. a week in respect of the first child. The first child, in fact, involves its parents in more expense than do subsequent children, because much of the expense incurred when the first child is born is non-recurrent. At least the same amount should be paid for the first child as for other children.
The retention of our second amendment should prove a sufficient safeguard against the endowment of the first child affecting the basic wage, the fear of which, according to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), had deterred the Labour party from so acting when it was in office.
.- I believe that the proposition before the House is very simple. It is whether ot not the House will agree to the payment of endowment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child of each family. In the first place I shall direct attention to what I believe to be the peculiar attitude of the Opposition in relation to this measure. I believe that it is attempting to cause embarrassment to the Government and to make party political capital out of a measure which the Labour party, in the long period of eight years during which it was in office, refused to introduce. I believe also that the attitude and actions of the Opposition arise from a desire to waste the time of the House, in connexion with not only this measure but also other measures that have come before us. The Opposition has set itelf out to waste time and its tactics may, and probably will, render it impossible for the Government to make the first payment of the endowment to be provided under this measure on the 21st June, the date that the Government proposes shall .be the commencing date of payments.
The first of the two amendments which the Labour Opposition made to the bill in the Senate is that the amount of payment shall be ‘increased from 5s. to 10s. a week, and the second is that the Parliament shall issue an instruction to the. Commonwealth Arbitration Court that the amount paid as child endowment shall not be taken into consideration by that court when it is determining the basic wage. Members o’f the Opposition have indicated that they support the measure generally, but have claimed that the rate of endowment is insufficient. They have endeavoured to start a scare about the effect of the payment upon the basic wage. I pay very definitely that I believe endowment to be a payment to mothers which should have nothing whatever to do with the amount of wages paid to a man for his work. The payment of 5s. a week endow ment for the first child of each family will represent a total expenditure of £15,000,000 annually, and it would be £30,000,000 if the payment were increased to 10s. a week. I regard Government expenditure during the term of office of the Chifley Government as having been considerably out of proportion to the national income, and I believe that one of the responsibilities of the present Government is to reduce the amount that is taken year after year from the taxpayers, and also to reduce Government expenditure. If we analyse the figures we shall find that approximately 30 per cent, of the national income is being devoted to Government expenditure. Mr. Colin Clark, who is recognized throughout the world as an economist of very high standing, has stated that the maximum amount that should be taken from the national income for government expenditure is 25 per cent. The 30 per cent, which this Government and the State governments are taking is unnecessarily high. .Although it may be desirable to endow the first child at the rate of 10s. a week, I believe that, from the point of view of the national budget, the Government cannot afford to do that.
The second amendment that was inserted in the bill in another place is designed to instruct or direct the Arbitration Court regarding the basis on which it shall determine the basic wage. No other legislation of this Parliament does that. The Arbitration Court decides the basis on which it will work and then determines the amount that shall be paid on that basis. It is not a function of the Parliament to give directions or instructions to the Arbitration Court in regard to the basis it should adopt in fixing the basic wage. Perhaps the principle of giving directions to the Arbitration Court is in accordance with Labour policy. The Labour party does not state, in its platform, that the Arbitration Court should fix hours and wages. It believes that they should be determined by the Parliament. Such matters would then become a political football and every three years, at a general election, one party would vie with the other in making promises to the people. That proposal is quite contrary to the principles of arbitration and a provision that gives a direction to the Arbitration Court should not be included in this bill.
Honorable members of the Opposition have said that they represent the trade unions. That many trade unionists had become fed up with representations by Labour party members was demonstrated on the 10th December last. The Opposition gives a certain amount of lip service to the trade unions, but members of the trade union movement are concerned with practical politics and their wives, particularly, will appreciate that this Government is doing all in its power to consider their requirements.
This measure does not require a great deal of explanation.. It was a Menzies government that first introduced child endowment in this Parliament, and it is a Menzies government that is introducing child endowment in respect of the first child. These are two of the most forward steps that have been taken in relation to social legislation. This bill proposes to extend child endowment to the first child, not merely of families that have only one child under sixteen years of age, but also those that have more than one child under that age. This additional amount of 5s. will be paid without the family being involved in any increased cost and without any increase the rate of individual income tax. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) last night suggested that rather than pay this amount of child endowment the Government should grant an additional rebate in relation to individual income tax. That is an entirely wrong approach to this matter. If the honorable member for Perth had analysed his statement I am sure he would have come to the conclusion that the vast majority of people who will benefit from this endowment would not benefit if a rebate of tax instead of a direct payment of endowment were made. Honorable members on this side of the House believe that the Government’s proposal will help considerably to raise the real living standards of the Australian people. This measure is quite in accordance with Liberal party policy. Members of the Liberal party believe that the incomes of the people should be brought to the highest possible level and that costs should be kept at the lowest possible level. In a period like the present when costs are, unfortunately, continuing to rise, this amount of 5s. will be appreciated very much by the people who receive it.
Another social problem has arisen during the last ten years, in which there has been a considerable number of childless marriages. A substantial proportion of young wives go to work each day so that the amount coming into the home may be sufficient to enable them to live at the highest possible standard. That is not a state of affairs that should exist in Australia. A man, his wife and family should be able to live reasonably on the income earned by the man alone. In the first place, the Government’s proposal will encourage young people to marry. It will also encourage childless couples to have families. It is the responsibility of the Government and of this Parliament to give every encouragement to the development of family life. Much has been said in relation to the family unit. I believe that the family unit should be of the greatest concern to every honorable member and to each member of the community. If Australia is to become a great nation it is necessary that its families shall be provided with the best amenities possible. Family life can only be supported by ensuring to it happiness and contentment. Thatcannot be done at the present time because of the spiral of increasing costs and wages. Therefore, I believe that this bill will make a substantial contribution to the betterment of family life.
The Government is doing everything in its power to encourage immigration. It is bringing thousands of people into this country at a very considerable cost and no honorable member disagrees with that policy. But there is another type of really new Australian who should be considered. I believe that the provision of child endowment for the first child will encourage parents to bring new Australians of that type into the community.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– While I was on the roof of this building after dinner to-night,
I came upon, a poker school in. full operation. “When I took up the position that I now occupy I made it perfectly clear, privately, that I would not tolerate gambling in this place. I do not care whether it is on a game of poker or whether it is betting on horse-racing; it is going to stop. I have conferred with the president of the press gallery, and I am not taking action on this occasion because I have not previously announced from the Chair my intentions in regard to this matter, but I .now say that if in the future I catch any man playing poker in this place I shall deal with him. If he is a press reporter, he will not be allowed to remain here; if he is an employee of the House he will be dismissed ; and if he is a member of this House I shall report him to the House.
.- The measure before the House is one to amend the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947-1949, with reference to child endowment. As a preface to my remarks I shall traverse the history of child endowment in this country so as to show that there is a distinct relationship between the present Government and some State governments of the past in this matter. It was a State Labour government that first introduced child endowment to this country. It was introduced in the State of New South Wales. All children were endowed, and the endowment was treated as an adjunct to the basic wage. I emphasize that that Labour Government in New South Wales enacted legislation to endow all children. There was at that time some pressure from the court. It was a different kind of pressure from the pressure that might be exerted to-day. The pressure at that time came from Mr. A. B. Piddington, who was an outright supporter of the principle of child endowment.
– I was one of his committee.
– The fact that the Minister was a member of Mr. Piddington^ committee does not improve that gentleman’s standing at all.
– It improved and helped me.
– I am afraid that it did not improve the Minister’s legal knowledge.
– Perhaps not, but my association with him improved my knowledge of family endowment.
- Mr. Piddington was an ardent advocate of child endowment. It was largely from that quarter that there was pressure on the Labour Government of New South Wales to enact a system of child endowment covering all children. Subsequently, a non-Labour government appointed two other judges to the Arbitration Court bench, perhaps because it thought that Mr. Piddington’s views were a little advanced. Ultimately, the non-Labour government abolished the endowment of the first child by forcing through the Parliament of New South Wales, by the ruthless use of the gag, an amendment of the child endowment act. The United Australia party-Country party Government, in 1941, introduced in this House a child endowment bill which embraced the whole of the Commonwealth. Strangely enough, that bill did not provide endowment for the first or a single child. Therefore, we say that there was complete unanimity in the view of the non-Labour parties in New South Wales in 1929 regarding the abolition of endowment of the first child. That the Australian Government composed of the same parties which in 1941 enacted legislation in which no provision was made for the first child is significant, and requires some explanation from the same parties which are advocating to-day what they dropped from the New South Wales act in 1929, and what they omitted from the legislation introduced in this Parliament in 1941; that is, the elimination of endowment for the first child. I shall quote from the second-reading speech of the Minister who introduced this bill, who in turn was quoting from his leader’s policy-speech at the last general election.
He said that the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) stated -
Child endowment was first instituted for the Commonwealth by the Menzies Government in 1941. Its problems are closely associated with the amount and structure of the basic wage.
I direct the attention of honorable members to that very potent paragraph in this statement of the Leader of the Government that the problems of child endowment are closely associated with the amount and structure of the ‘basic wage. The right honorable gentleman also said -
That wage is at this moment under complete re-examination by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration whose decision we cannot anticipate and have no desire to influence.
That was a very laudable attitude to adopt, but the plain fact is that immediately the right honorable gentleman made that statement in his policy speech the Arbitration Court, which was considering the basic wage case, adjourned the hearing of the case and did not resume it until after the election. Therefore, there is not the slightest doubt that when the right honorable gentleman claimed that he could not anticipate any decision of the court, the court itself was doubtful about the result of the election and adjourned the hearing of the case so that it might know, before proceeding further with it, whether the government elected was in favour of paying endowment for the first child. The right honorable gentleman went further. He said -
If the foundation of the basic wage is altered and its amount is calculated by reference to the needs of a married couple without children (and we have noticed that such a basis has been suggested), then we shall of course provide endowment for the first child on the 10s. rate.
The plain fact is that the court was evidently waiting for a lead or an indication of whether a majority of the members returned would favour endowment of the first child. That is apparent from the representations that were being made to the court by certain interests to consider the payment of child endowment and to institute a basic wage that made no provision for children. That was not the first occasion on which the right honorable gentleman who is now Prime Minister had referred to endowment for the first child, because, during the previous general election, while touring Western Australia, he stated that if his party was returned it would legislate to endow the first child, regardless of what opinion the court might hold. He said that a government that he led would “ induce the court “ to ignore that legislation. All the outward and visible signs at present show that it is not the intention of the court to ignore this legislation. Had it not been the court’s intention to take notice of the legislation, there would have been no need for it to adjourn for one month pending the result of the election. Now we are entitled to be told by a government that represents the parties which in the State of New South Wales eliminated endowment for the first child, and which introduced in this House a child endowment bill that made no provision for the first child, why it has such a new-found enthusiasm for endowment of the first child. It is abundantly clear from the statement quoted by the Minister in charge of the bill, that the Prime Minister has a suspicion, if not a conviction, that the Arbitration Court now sitting showed by its adjournment are closely associated with the that it intends to take notice of whatever the Government does in relation to child endowment.
– Is the honorable gentleman in favour of endowment of the first child?
– I shall inform the Minister on that point in a moment.
– Why cannot the honorable member tell me now?
– I shall tell the Minister everything in due course. This matter opens up another question. In the light of this new-found enthusiasm of the Liberal and Australian Country parties for the first child, which was not evidenced when the endowment act was passed, I am entitled to ask whether this bill is a direct invitation to the court to lower the basic standard of wages in Australia to the needs of a man and wife, or perhaps of a single person.
– Why not ask the court ?
– The honorable member would be the last one that I should ask for anything.
– This was advocated during the 1946 .general election. It is not new-found enthusiasm.
– I -have already said that the right honorable gentleman who is now Prime Minister made the announcement in Western Australia during the previous general election campaign, and that when asked whether the court would take such legislation into account, he informed a further meeting in Western Australia that he would note what the court did, and that it would be instructed not to be influenced by .legislative action.
– Where “was that said?
– In Western Australia, during the 1946 general election campaign.
– And -where was it reported?
– In the press, which, I presume, would not misrepresent the right honorable gentleman. Unless we accept the Senate amendments, the effects of the Government’s attack on wages will percolate throughout industry. Although 1,100,000 married couples will temporarily benefit by 5s. a week, as the Minister stated in introducing the bill, I submit that, if the Arbitration Court accepts the invitation given to it by the Government, every worker in industry, married or single, with children -or childless, will suffer a reduction of wages. The Government’s proposal is a direct invitation to the court to disturb the principle upon which it has computed the basic wage ever since it was established. If the court should accept that invitation, t’he advantage of 5s. a week that will be gained by 1,100,000 wage-earners will be more than offset by the loss of wages that will be sustained later by them and by millions of other workers who will not come within the scope of this legislation.
T have not the least doubt that the Government’s scheme represents the pay-off to the employers for the financial assistance that they gave to its candidates during the last general election campaign. We were told that the present Government parties did not accept direct cash contributions - at any rate they were not supposed to do so - but they did accept full-page advertisements that were published over the names of ..the organizations that will benefit directly if the workers are deprived of any portion of their basic wage. The employers of Australia will be relieved in two ways if the Government’s proposal becomes effective. - First their wages billa will be reduced, and, secondly,, they will be relieved of a proportion of the pay-roll tax, which will be made good out of the social services contribution that is paid by the workers themselves.
– Child endowment is financed by the Pay=roll tax as well as by the social services contribution.
Mir. ROSEVEAR: - That is so; but the pay-roll tax -will not provide sufficient revenue to finance the costs of child endowment when ‘this bill becomes law. Does the Treasurer .deny that;?
– 3t does not provide half enough .revenue for that purpose.
– I am glad to have that admission. Therefore, the money will be obtained from the contributions that ave ‘withheld from the wages of the workers. Every worker in industry will be taxed for the purpose of providing child endowment for 1,100,000 new recipients.
– How will they be taxed ?
– Are they not paying a social -services contribution at present? The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has admitted that the fund from which child endowment is being paid will not be sufficient to meet the cost of endowment when this bill becomes effective.
– The fund has never been sufficient to meet the cost of child endowment.
– I am glad to accept that assurance. Thus, the cost of paving endowment to an additional 1,100,000 recipients will be a charge upon the wage-earners. I guarantee that the workers in the Dalley electorate who are listening will be satisfied with what I am paving when they hear the interjections that are being made by honorable numbers on the Government side of the House.
– Order! I ask honorable members to restrain themselves.
I think that the honorable member for Dalley would do much better without their assistance.
– I shall miss their assistance, Mr. Speaker, if it is withheld. I repeatthat the employers will benefit from an all-roundreduction of wages if the method of computation of the basic wage is altered and that the workers will be required to finance the additional endowment through social services taxes. TheGovernment’s scheme represents a very gracious gesture by it to the employers in return for the support that they gave to the Liberal party and the Australian Country party during the general election campaign.
– Does the honorable member suggest that taxes will be increased ?
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - I have not said so. Ishall repeat my argument for the benefit of the honorable gentleman, who appears to be slow to grasp the facts.
The Treasurer has admitted that the normal source of revenue for the financing of child endowment is not sufficient for the purpose. He has also admitted that the additional endowment bill and a portion of the existing endowment bill will be financed from the social services contribution, which is, in fact, a tax upon wages. Therefore, the worker will have to pay for the endowment of his own children. Furthermore, the Arbitration Court, having been released from the obligation to provide for children in its basic wage determinations, will establish a wage on the basis of a family unit of a man and wife. The result will be that the incomes of even those persons who will receive the additional endowment, whether it be 5s. a week or 10s. a week, will be reduced because the court will reduce the basic wage, upon which the whole wage and salary structure of the nation rests. I repeat that the present Prime Minister promised the people in 1946, when he was Leader of the Opposition, that he would endow the first child in every family if he gained power, and that he would direct the Arbitration Court to ignore the increased endowment. However, this bill contained no such direction until the Senate amended it for that purpose.
– And it will not contain such a provisionwhen it isfinally passed.
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - I am not sure of that. I say that, if the court could be directed in 1946 not to take notice of any increase of child endowment, it can be directed in the same way now. The Prime Minister made that promise to the people when he was the Leader of the Opposition, and it is up to him to redeem it now that heis in a position to do so. In the form in which it -was originally presented to the Senate, the bill contained no provision for the protection of the -workers against any reduction of their wages as a consequence of the increase of child endowment. Therefore, the Senate inserted a new provision, part of which reads as follows : - (1.) It is hereby declared -
-What precisely is the point that the honorable member has been trying to make for the last half hour?
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - The point is that the bill that was presented to the Senate by the Government included no means of protecting the workers against any reduction of wages as the result of the payment of additional child endowment. The Arbitration Court was to be left free to decide whether, as the result of the enactment of the bill, the method of computing the basic wage should be altered to provide for a family unit of a man and wife instead of a man, wife and two children. The Senate, after examining the measure, amended it to provide that the rate of endowment for the first child in every family should be 10s. a week instead of 59. a week. That wa3 the logical course to follow. I assume that, if the cost of maintaining one child is 10s. a week, the cost of maintaining any other child must he 10s. a week also. I do not say that the proposed rate is adequate, but it would be totally illogical to provide that, although some children should be endowed at the rate of 10s. a week, the oldest child in the family should be endowed at the rate of only 5s. a week, especially as the oldest child would probably be the most difficult and expensive to rear. The Senate also amended the bill by inserting the provision from which I have quoted for the purpose of preventing the Arbitration Court from reducing salaries and wages in a way that would nullify the benefit of the additional endowment. I find that the bill in its present form is acceptable. In its original form, it was completely unacceptable to me.
– Order! There is no other form in which the honorable member may deal with this bill. He may not allude to the proceedings in another place.
– If I had complete freedom to deal with the bill in any form at all I should burn it.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
, - The .House usually recognizes the logic in any arguments that are put forward by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), but the speech that he has just concluded reveals a decided deterioration of his debating ability. At first, he contended that the payment of endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child of a family under sixteen years of age would make heavy demands upon the National Welfare Fund. In other words, he submitted that the pay-roll tax was inadequate to meet the cost of this social service. I freely admit that the receipts from that tax are insufficient to defray the cost of the child endowment scheme, even excluding the proposed payment for the first child. However, the honorable gentleman submitted that the payment of 5s. a week for the first child under sixteen years of age would increase the margin between the total cost of child endowment, and the receipts from the pay-roll tax, and, to that degree, would be a charge upon social services, contributions generally. He employed that argument in an endeavour to prove that the workers would suffer thereby, because they would be required to meet the deficit in the National Welfare Fund. In the course of his speech, the honorable member stated that he associated himself wholeheartedly with the amendment that had been made to the bill in the Senate for the purpose of increasing the rate of endowment for the first child from 5s. to 10s. a week, and, in doing so, he appeared completely to overlook the fact that such an increase of the payment would impose an added cost on the National Welf are Fund, and, according to his claim, upon the working class. I leave the House to decide whether the two submissions are logical, and can be reconciled.
– Why not increase the pay-roll tax ?
– An increase of the pay-roll tax would have an effect on the cost of living. Undoubtedly that tax is a factor that influences the cost of living, about which Opposition members have been so vociferous of late. The honorable gentleman’s arguments are full of inconsistencies.
– Could not the cost of child endowment be met by a tax on profits ?
– A tax is now imposed on profits, and the maximum rate is 15s. in the £1. The political hypocrisy of the Labour party in advocating the increase of endowment for the first child from 5s. to 10s. a week is revealed, not only by the speech of the honorable member for Dalley, but also by reference to the history of child endowment during the last few years. At the Sixteenth Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labour party, which was held in December, 1943, the following motion was submitted -
That the Federal Government-
That was the Curtin Labour Government - be requested to amend the Child Endowment Act to provide that endowment be paid for all children under 10 years of age.
The conference recommended the adoption of that resolution, but the Labour Government disregarded it completely. The honorable member for Dalley complains that the granting of endowment for the first child of a family under the age of sixteen years will place an additional burden on the working class, yet evidently the Sixteenth Annual Conference of the Australian Labour party did not share his fears in that respect. However, that was the official view of the Australian Labour party in 1943.
The honorable member for Dalley stated that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party made the promise during the last general election campaign, that if they were returned to office, they would provide endowment of 5s. a week for the first child, because they knew that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration would take that payment into consideration when it was determining the basic wage. He stressed the fact that after the court had heard our declaration of policy on that matter, it adjourned the hearing of the claim for an increase of the basic wage. Using those grounds for his argument, the honorable gentleman asked the House to accept, as a fact, that the court would assuredly take the endowment of 5s. for the first child into account in its assessment of the basic wage. I propose to trace the history of this matter, and to show the origin of the Government’s desirable proposal to grant endowment for th*1 first child. On the 31st July, 1946, long before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court began its present inquiry into the basic wage, this chamber was considering the Social Services Contribution Bill in committee, and the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) advocated the extension of child endowment to the first child. She stated that the effect of such a payment in respect of every family would be to increase the basic wage by 7s. a week. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson), who was then the honorable member for Bourke, then pointed out that the granting of endowment for the first child would impose an additional charge of £18,000,000 per annum on the National Welfare Fund. The honorable gentleman complained, in effect, that members of the Opposition at that time were demanding in one breath a substantial reduction of income tax, and in the next breath the extension of the child endowment scheme, and he declared that those arguments did not make sense. The honorable member for Bass at that time, Mr. Barnard, said that the honorable member for Darwin had departed from the realms of reality and practical politics, as they then applied. The honorable member for Darwin then moved as an amendment -
That paragraph 3 be postponed, as an instruction to the Government - to investigate immediately relieving the undue burden imposed on the family by the economic situation by expanding the operation of the Child Endowment Act to cover all children of Australian families under the age of sixteen who are at present excluded.
The committee divided, and it is interesting to examine some of the names in the division list. Members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party voted for the amendment, and among those who voted against the sensible proposal for an investigation of the possibility of relieving the burden that was imposed on families by the economic situation by extending the operation of the Child Endowment Act to cover the first child were -
Yet we are asked to believe in the sincerity of the honorable member for Dalley and other members of the Opposition!
The honorable member for Dalley stated in one part of his speech that the payment of endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child would impose a disability on the workers, yet in another part of his speech he supported the payment of 10s. a week for the first child. If his original argument were logical, the higher rate would double the disabilities of the workers. The honorable gentleman also complained that the payment of 5s. for the first child would increase the demand on the National Welfare Fund because receipts from the pay-roll tax do not meet the cost of the present endowment scheme, yet, presumably, the honorable gentleman is in favour of doubling that demand on the fund by increasing the endowment for the first child to 10s. a week. How, then, can we* believe that Opposition members- are sincere? The political history of child endowment proves conclusively that, despite the resolutions of the Australian Labour party, those honorable gentlemen have never been in favour of endowing the first child.
The only mention of child endowment that the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) made in his policy speech at the commencement of the last general election campaign was that the Labour Government had increased the rate of payment from os. to 7s.. 6d. a week. If the proposition of the honorable member for Dalley is to be accepted, the Labour Government, inflicted disabilities and hardships on the working class by granting that increase of endowment. Obviously, a deficit that is caused in the National Welfare Fund, by the payment of endowment at the rate of 5s. a week must be increased when the rate is raised to 7s. 6d. a week.. The right honorable gentleman, in his policy speech, did not state that the Labour party was in favour of providing endowment for the first child. I also have the official report of the Eighteenth Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labour party, which was held at Canberra in September, 1949, obviously for the purpose of formulating the policy upon’ which the Labour party would fight the general election in December of that year. At that conference the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) moved -
That the principle of family endowment be extended to include a personal allowance to mothers of three or more children and that this item be placed on the Labour party’s platform.
That amendment was lost on a division. Again in November, 1949, the present Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister, expounded’ the Labour party’s policy and the only reference that he made to child endowment was in these words -
Remember, too, that the man concerned or his wife is now getting 10s. a week for child endowment and is eligible for other social services benefits as well.
All the action and inaction of the Labour party throughout its history in respect of child endowment proves conclusively that the provision inserted in the bill at the instance of the Opposition in the Senate to increase the rate of os. a week for the first child,, proposed by the Government, to 10s. a week, is- nothing but sheer political humbug.
– I am glad that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) had something to say about party political sincerity, because I have little doubt that this measure insofar as it embodies the Government’s intentions is nothing but a cunningly conceived plot to rob the workers of this country on the pretext of helping them. If the Government has its way, endowment at the rate of. 5s. a week for the first child will be paid to 1,110,000 mothers but, at the same time, the way will be left open for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to reduce the wages of 2,500,000 employees by 10s a week. In other words, the Government wants to give a benefit of 5s. a week to 1,110,000 mothers and allow the court to reduce the wages of twice that number of workers by 10s. a week. When I compare that proposal with that advanced by the Labour party it will be perfectly obvious that what I have said is correct and that the statements that the Treasurer has just made are sheer eye-wash. The Labour party does not believe that endowment at the rate of 5s. for the first child is sufficient. It believes that endowment for the first child should be provided at the rate of 10s. a week, the same as is provided in respect of all other children under sixteen years o£ age in a family. Still more important, the Labour party at the instance of the Opposition in the Senate has also included in the measure a clause which will prohibit the court from reducing the wages of some 2,150,000 employees as a consequence of the provision of this endowment for the first child. That clause reads -
After section ninety-four of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “94a. - (1.) It is hereby declared -
That clause embodies an important safeguard for the worker; but the Government intends to use its majority of stooges in this chamber to delete the clause from the bill.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Is the honorable member in order in referring to Government supporters as “ stooges “ ? Personally, I take strong exception to the term.
– The remark was entirely out of order. The honorable member must withdraw it.
– I withdraw the remark. Under the Government’s proposal, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will not be prohibited in any way from taking into account the endowment provided under this measure when it is computing the basic wage. Consequently, if the Government has its way every single man and woman and every married person with no children or whose children are over sixteen years of age, will suffer a reduction of their wages by 10s. a week, or by a greater amount, in order that half the number of persons who will be affected in that way may receive endowment for the first child at the rate of 5s. a week. That is the state of affairs the Government wishes to establish. It advances that proposal in order that the big commercial interests that it represents may be enabled to obtain labour more cheaply than they are able to obtain it at present. The Government’s proposals under this measure are nothing more than the payoff to their political masters - the millionaires and cartels in this country.
– Order ! There is too much interruption. The honorable member for Hindmarsh is entitled to a fair hearing from both sides of the chamber, but at the moment he is not receiving it from either side.
– Under the Government’s proposal any person who has not a large family will be compelled to live on a miserable pittance. Supporters of the Government do not realize that a single man is just as much entitled as is a married man to a decent basic wage. Every single man in this country has the right to a wage that will enable him to save sufficient money to purchase a home in preparation for marriage. There is no reason why a single man should not be enabled to own a motor car, especially when supporters of the Government can enable their children to drive round the country in Rolls Royces and Packards. I know one supporter of the Government who owns five motor cars. Each of his children also owns a motor car. Yet, honorable members opposite want to grind down the worker to the lowest economic level ; they want him to be paid a wage on which he will not be able to afford a bicycle. Under the Government’s proposal the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will be free to fix a basic wage on the basis of a man and his wife only. On such a wage what possible hope will a single man have of saving sufficient money to buy a home in preparation for marriage, or of ever being able to pay off his home after he gets married ? One of the tragedies in this country is that too many men, when they marry, are compelled by force of circumstances to borrow large sums of money in order to establish a home, with the result that they are never able to get out of debt. It is not generally recognized that the basic wage is totally insufficient to enable wageearners to live a decent, civilized life. How is it possible for a person who receives a basic wage of £611s. a week to do so? Yet, some supporters of the Government receive that income every hour from their investments in private banks and big commercial interests.
How can a man on the basic wage be expected to provide proper education and recreation for his children? Are not the workers’ children entitled to go away from their home town for a holiday? Many workers in Sydney cannot afford to go to the Blue Mountains for a holiday, yet some honorable members opposite think nothing of taking a week-end trip to Honolulu. Many workers cannot afford to leave the town in which they were born, and their poor, little children have never had a holiday away from home. In outback areas there are youths up to the age of fifteen years who have not yet seen the sea. As a matter of fact, a Labour senator was in such poor circumstances that his sou had reached the age of 25 years before he first saw the ocean. The average man on the basic wage cannot afford proper medical attention or to purchase decent clothing for his children, and can give his family entertainment only by denying himself some of. the necessaries of life. “Why should not the worker receive a wage that will enable his family to go to the pictures, or to attend plays and other forms of entertainment? It is all very well for honorable members .opposite to grin cynically. None of them has been obliged to live on the basic wage or on the dole. I have had that experience, and I know what I am talking about. One can read the thoughts of honorable members opposite by the looks on their faces, and judge their outlook by their Oxford accent.
– Order ! The honorable member is becoming far too personal, and he is not dealing with the bill.
– The basic wage regimen, which is inadequate-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! Interjectors on both sides of the House might very well take a little time off.
– The basic wage regimen is a part of a clever scheme to prevent the wages of the workers from being properly adjusted each quarter in accordance with fluctuations of the cost of living. Everybody knows that the basic wage increases granted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in recent years were totally inadequate to compensate workers for the increasing cost of living. At present living costs are soar ing rapidly but the workers are given only a miserable 2s. or 3s. to compensate them for the increased costs of the necessaries of life. In computing the basic wage the court does not take into account the cost of all the commodities that are used in every worker’s household. I propose to read to the. House the complete list of the items that are taken into account by the court in ascertaining the extent of fluctuations of the cost of living.
-Order! The honorable member might very well discuss the bill which deals with the endowment of the first child of a family. Whilst I do not object to the making of some references to the basic wage, I remind the honorable member that the -bill does not deal with the basic wage.
– I am discussing that provision in the bill which prohibits the court from taking child endowment into account when making its computation of the basic wage.
– That is a matter of prohibition. The hill has nothing to do with the basic wage.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. It will be absolutely impossible for any mother to feed, clothe and care for her child on the miserable pittance of 5s. a week proposed by the present Government. Such a feat would be almost miraculous in times such as this when the cost of living is sky-rocketting. The basic wage lags so far behind the cost of living because only one half of the items necessary for the maintenance of the average worker and his family are taken into account by the court in its computation of the basic wage. The remainder are subject to far greater price rises than are those that are included in the regimen. Until this Government takes concrete steps to put value back into the £1 it will be impossible for any mother to maintain her child on a payment of 5s. a week, or even of 10s. a week. All this “ phoney “ talk about putting value back into the £1 is designed solely to tickle the ear9 of the public. The Government has taken no action to give effect to its pre-election promise in that regard. How honorable members opposite can expect mothers to rear their children on a miserable endowment of 5s. a week is beyond my comprehension. If the Government took concrete steps to assist parents to rear their families it would not have to worry about bringing thousands of migrants to Australia to increase our population. If it had the courage and decency to remedy the hardships of the ordinary working man and woman in this community; not only the worker in industry, but also the salary-earner - the school teacher, the bank clerk and all those who have to live on fixed incomes - it would not need to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in bringing migrants to this country. This country needs more good Australian kiddies who will have before them the prospect of being able to secure a decent education, full employment, and the means to enjoy at least some of the good things in life, which are now available only to honorable members opposite and their political friends. Ministers are not receptive to logical argument because the Government is bound hand and foot to a small coterie of commercial racketeers. If honorable members opposite believe that to be an exaggerated statement I shall quickly disabuse their minds on that point. It has been frequently said in this House that members of the Australian Labour party obey the directions of caucus and of their masters outside this Parliament. .Let us consider what some members of the Liberal party have said about their own organization. In 1941, when the Liberal party was known as the United Australia party, Mr. Hollway, the present Liberal Premier of Victoria, had this to say about the organization -
At present a small coterie of not more than half a dozen gentlemen, who called themselves the National Union, had a complete stranglehold on a party which represented 400,000 Victorian voters, by reason of the fact that they, and they alone, controlled the whole of the party fnuds.
– I rise to order. I personally resent the attempt by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) to link the Liberal party with the United Australia party. I was one of the first members of the Liberal party, but I was never a member of the United Australia party.
– No point of order is involved. Neither the Liberal party, the United Australia party, nor for that matter the Australian Labour party, can claim protection here.
– In July, 1943, Mr. J. J. Simons resigned from the chairmanship of the executive of the National party of Western Australia, the equivalent in that State of the United Australia party or the Liberal party, alleging undue influence by an outside body, and had this to say about the organization to which he belonged -
While this system prevails, it means that candidates, if elected, financed by and with the approval of this private executive, surrender their freedom and become the creatures of an extraneous body.
– Order ! The honorable member is getting well away from the bill.
– I desire to read only one more quotation before I conclude. I point out, Mr. Speaker, that I was provoked into commenting on the control of political parties by the observations of. honorable members opposite. The Honorable Ian Macfarlan, Attorney-General in the Victorian Liberal party Government in 1937, said this about the party -
My experience has been that the members of the central body, as bosses of the United Australia Party, are little different to the much criticized bosses of the Labour Party. The latter are at least frank and open about it.
The Liberal party proposes to give 5s. a week to 1,100,000 mothers of this country and to take 10s. from the wage earners and, at the same time, leave the door wide open for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to take whatever action it cares to take in the computation of the basic wage. The Australian Labour party on the other hand proposes that the endowment of the first child shall be 10s. a week. We submit that if the cost of maintenance of the second and third children is at least 10s. a week the maintenance of the first child must cost an equal amount. The Opposition in the Senate has made PA, 1sion for payment to all endowed children of a uniform endowment of 10s. a week and has inserted in the bill a clause prohibiting the Commonwealth Arbitration Court from taking such payments into consideration when computing the basic wage,
.- I oppose the bill in its amended form. Before I address myself to the bill, and before I go to Honolulu for the week-end, may I be permitted to say that I have “a wife, a family, a farm and a Ford motor car entirely dependent on me, and that it would have been utterly impossible for me to have played poker on the roof of this building to-night. It is necessary for me to make that simple explanation because it is characteristic of the members of the Austraiian Country party that when they come to this House they try, to the best of their ability, to apply themselves to the tasks at hand. This bill was introduced in conformity with the joint election policy of the two parties that constitute the present Government. It was devised in the minds of the men who composed those two political parties in 1946. The purpose of the bill is to give political effect to a decision to grant endowment for the first child. Because of procedural requirements it was necessary for the bill to be introduced to the Senate, but before it was introduced it was obvious to every person who has the intellectual capacity to reach his own political decisions ;n his own way that this Government had a mandate from the people in clear and unequivocal terms to introduce such a measure in the Parliament. I have been led to believe that the bill was bitterly opposed by the representative! of the Labour party in the Senate who assailed every clause that it contained. Finally certain amendments were made and the bill has now been presented to us in a form entirely different from that in which it was originally drafted. In the other place, if I may be permitted to express the opinion-
– Order ! The honorable member may not allude to the proceedings of the other place. The Standing Orders specifically prohibit allusions of that kind.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. Now that the bill has come before us and we have been asked to decide whether we shall accept it in its amended form or restore it to its original form, it is being bitterly opposed by the very people who for eight long, weary years were in a position to introduce such a measure or a better one. During the eight years that honorable members who now constitute the Opposition were in control of this House and of the Senate it was competent for them to introduce a bill to provide endowment for the first child at 5s., 10s., 15s. or any number of shillings a week. But they made no attempt to do so. They said then that it was politically and financially impossible of achievement. The bill before the House will have practical value for men and women who are trying to rear families. Yet it is being opposed by honorable members opposite so that they can achieve their own party political ends and for no other purpose.
– The honorable member would charge the same men and women £1 a bushel for wheat if he had his way.
– Order ! The subject of wheat has no connexion with this measure.
– I wish it had, because then I could answer adequately the interjection of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I ask this very simple question : What is the meaning of all this whining and recrimination that we hear day after day about a bill that has a humanitarian intention? What is the meaning of all the regurgitations of the past that we hear from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and other honorable members opposite every day ? Obviously the Opposition has the ultimate intention of embarrassing this Government. That intention will fail, of necessity, for the good and sufficient reason that this bill will go through in its original form, as the Opposition well knows. Honorable members opposite have adopted their attitude to confound and confuse the electors merely so as to embarrass the Government. Their second desire in connexion with this measure is to sting the rich, as was freely admitted this afternoon by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) and again only a few moments ago in the unhappy speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The intention of honorable members opposite on every occasion is to sting the rich. Half a century of political history has taught those of us who are capable of learning anything that the rich are not rich enough, or there are not sufficient of them, to finance social services, and that sooner or later the entire community has to pay for such services. The intention to sting the rich must fail in respect of the provision of child endowment just as it must fail in every other direction. Superimposed on those two intentions of the Opposition in relation to this measure is a sinister purpose - the intention to cripple democracy, to bring it down by increasing social services such as this to a dangerous degree. When democracy had thus been crippled its enemies would say that Karl Marx provided the complete answer to meet such a situation. I suggest that even those members of the Opposition who are acting unwittingly should examine the position for themselves. They should gain an understanding of the true merits of this proposal to concede to men and women, and for the first time in the history of this country, an endowment of 5s. a week for the first child of each family. If there were an element of sincerity in honorable members opposite they would support this measure. If it fails to meet the circumstances that it is designed to meet then they will have opportunities to take whatever action they consider necessary to improve its merits. In the meantime. while bitter opposition against the measure continues to be voiced in this Parliament, the women and children of this country are in grave danger of being denied the benefit that the measure proposes. Because of that fact there is an element in the opposition to the measure that can only reduce reasonable people to despair. For thousands of years women have been trying valiantly to rear children and, so far as I am in a position to judge, British women particularly have made an astonishing success of it, in spite of all the difficulties and in spite of the evidence to the contrary that we see in this House from time to time. Women in the past did not have the benefit of social services of the kind that we now have. Admittedly, because of the complexities of modern society and the growth of modern amenities, a system of social services is necessary in a community such as ours.
The Government is anxious and willing to endow the first child of each family at the rate of £13 a year. Honorable members opposite say with their tongues in their cheeks that that amount is entirely inadequate. I admit that this endowment payment will not achieve all that even Government members hope that it will achieve. For example, child endowment for the first child in terms of 5s. a bushel is inadequate. -
Honorable members interjecting,
– Some honorable members have called out to me that I should have said “ 5s. for the first child “ instead of “ 5s. a bushel “. But we all have our genesis in seed, and it is reasonable to talk in terms of bushels in a case such as this. The payment of 5s. a week for the first child of parents who live in a country area will solve no problem because circumstances in country areas differ from those in urban areas. Despite modern progress education is just as difficult for country children to-day as it was half a century or a century ago. Admittedly the various States provide educational services that take country children a certain distance along the road of education, but the State authorities say, in effect, to country people that .beyond that point the education of children is the sole responsibility of the parents.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must return to the bill. It does not deal with education, which is a matter for the States.
– I was directing the attention of the House to the fact that an endowment payment of 5s. a week will solve none of the major problems so far as country children are concerned. Admittedly it will be of material advantage to children in urban areas, because it will relieve the stresses and strains that affect basic wage earners. Apart from that it will solve no major problems and will leave the mothers of families of this country in the position that has always obtained. The only way out of that difficulty is a re-affirmation of faith in ourselves as democratic people who concede the same right to all men and women no matter what their circumstances may be or where they may live.
This measure will involve the Government in an expenditure of £15,000,000 a year. The adoption of the Opposition’s amendments would double that expenditure. If some honorable members opposite had their way the cost of social services would be multiplied indefinitely with the purpose, as I have said before, of bringing democracy down and producing the consequent crash that they hope for, when the theories of Karl Marx would be propounded as a complete solution of the problem. But because it is not possible to sting the rich, and because the cost of social services is a charge on the whole community, it is folly to imagine that legislation of this description will take something from one section of the community exclusively and give it exclusively to another section.
I oppose the bill in its amended form for the very good and sufficient reason that I believe it to be impossible of political achievement in that form. I also believe that if honorable members opposite were to examine the position fairly and squarely they would reach the same conclusion as I have reached. I oppose the objectionable features that have been embodied in the measure in another place. Those features were read out in part by the honorable member for Hindmarsh a few moments ago. Mal I again direct the attention of the House to some of the amendments. The first amendment that the honorable member for Hindmarsh read out is, in part, as follows : -
That endowment payable under this Part is intended to be and is’ a social service for the welfare of the children of all members of the community, that it bears no relation to the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes . . .
If that does not mean that industrial disputes and disturbances are to be encouraged, and that certain people are to have a complete licence to cause the wretchedness and woe that were inflicted upon this community during the eight years that a socialist Government was in office, then what does it mean? It is for that reason that I oppose the bill as amended in another place. The amendments that have been inserted by the Opposition in the Senate have the sinister purpose of destroying child endowment.
The Government does not intend that the benefit of endowment shall be reduced by fixing the wages or salaries of employees at rates less than they would have been paid if the endowment had not been received. It is my humble and considered opinion that the instruction to the Arbitration Court was put into this bill in another place in order to give honorable members of the Opposition the licence to engage in all sorts of threats and rumours against the Arbitration Court and for no other purpose. Any direction from this Parliament to that court would be a corruption of arbitration in the true sense of the term. Honorable members of the Opposition will be delighted to hear that I have almost finished speaking.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– I know that the milk of my human kindness turns to cascara sagrada as soon as it is sipped by those honorable members, but they must get used to tasting it because I shall be in this House for a great many years. If it can be taken into one’s system it ultimately becomes quite palatable. Honorable members on this side of the House have no illusions about child endowment. They know what it will do for the community. This bill will usher in no golden age for motherhood. It will help by 5s. a week to relieve the stresses and strains that are being inflicted on the young mothers of this country. What the Government has proposed is politically possible and practicable and if it is not conceded to the mothers and children of this country that will be entirely due to the political bitterness of honorable members of the Opposition.
.- I must congratulate the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) on his outspokenness. I have listened to quite a few speeches from honorable members on the Government side of the House in regard to this matter. At least one of them has been very honest and sincere in expressing his views in regard to this bill. The honorable member for Riverina left no doubt whatever that he was opposed to any payment of child endowment or to the provision of any social services if they were to be paid for by the taxation of the richest section of this community. I thank the honorable member for being so honest in his statement. He has shown that he believes that the Government has introduced this bill because it has been forced to do so and not because it wants to do so. He is definitely opposed to the provision of social services for the people. That attitude is well out of touch with modern times. I heard someone say recently that the honorable member for Riverina should have lived in the feudal days instead of in the twentieth century. After listening to him to-night I am quite convinced that that remark describes him exactly. His ideas are still those of feudal times. Fortunately, this country has advanced far from those days and has, over the past few years, begun to take an interest in the welfare of that section of the community which needs assistance most.
This bill represents another step toward the provision of necessary social services. The bill as presented to the House meets with my approval as far as it goes. The amendments that are to be submitted by the Government definitely do not meet with my approval and I shall oppose them as strongly as possible. It has been claimed by honorable members of the Opposition - and I think that it has been admitted by the more responsible members on the Government side - that the. matter of child endowment is definitely connected with the basic wage. In making provision for the payment of child endowment to the people of this country honorable members must ensure that the immediate payment of a small weekly sum shall he of direct benefit to the people who receive it and that the money will not be given with one hand and taken away with the other. When I consider what has happened in past years I can only come to the conclusion that unless the safeguard that was inserted by the Opposition in another place is retained in the bill there will be the very definite danger that the immediate payment of 5s. or 10s. a week in respect of the first child will not bring any immediate benefit to any one but will represent an immediate loss to some sections of the community and will cause an eventual loss to every wage-earner. That is the possibility that is worrying me considerably. As a safeguard against that contingency, this bill should provide that any payment of child endowment shall be regarded as a social service and shall not be taken into account in any fixation of the basic wage.
Honorable members on the Government side of the House have said that the Government’s proposal will not endanger wages but my experience has taught me that it will. Mention was made earlier in this debate of the payment of child endowment in the Commonwealth Public Service. That was a matter which affected me very considerably. As a result of agitation by the Commonwealth public servants, who were grossly underpaid during a period of rising prices, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who is now the right honorable member for Bradfield, instead of approaching the Arbitration Court, increased the salaries of all employees of the Commonwealth Public Service by £12 per annum and introduced a system of child endowment which was payable at the rate of 5s. a child a week to all employees of the Commonwealth Public Service. I was a single man at the time and did not obtain the benefit of the endowment. Many others also did not receive it but, when the endowment was introduced, it was a tremendous boon to a large number of poorly paid workers in the Commonwealth Public Service. I knew of one man who received an immediate increase of £91 per annum in the form of child endowment. But that system had been in operation only for approximately twelve months when the Commonwealth public servants were taken before the Public Service Arbitrator for a hearing in regard to the fixation of wages and salaries, and the determination of a new basic wage. The arbitrator decided that the system of child endowment, which provided for the payment of 5s. a week for each child, should be continued. The first child was not excluded from the benefit at that time. The arbitrator ascertained the total cost per annum of making endowment payments and then decided that that amount should be deducted from the total salaries of Commonwealth public servants in order to form a pool out of which the endowment could be paid.. An investigation showed that the average family of Commonwealth employees was .87 of a child to each adult. Because of that the arbitrator said that it would be necessary to reduce the basic wage by £11 per annum. About two years later he investigated the position again and found that the average was then .92 and he decided that the reduction should be £12 instead of £11 per annum. From that time until the introduction of child endowment in 1941 the Commonwealth public servant had to accept a basic wage of £12 per annum less than that which was paid to workers in outside industry. He was recompensed by payment out of the pool that I have mentioned to the amount of 5s. a week a child. If he had a family of three children or more hs showed a slight profit. If he had a family of two children or less or was a single man he received approximately 5s. a week less than the basic wage paid in outside industry during all those years. That is one experience- that I have had of the operation of child endowment and its effect on the basic wage.
Honorable members on the opposite side of the House have taken great credit for the fact that in the year 1941 the then Government introduced a system of child endowment which provided for the payment of 5s. a week a child for all children except the first in each family; but despite the fact that living costs had practically doubled between 1921 and 1941 the very generous government of the day decided that 5s. a week was quite sufficient for each child although that was the amount that the anti-Labour Prime Minister had thought should be paid twenty years before. The significant feature of the introduction of child endowment in 1941 was that the industrial movement then had an application before the Arbitration Court for an increase of the basic wage. That matter definitely exercised the minds of the judges of the Arbitration Court. I direct the attention of honorable mem-
Ur. Bryson. j :7J] bers to the utterances of Chief Judge Beeby on that occasion. After the Government had announced that it would introduce a system of child endowment for all children other than the first, Judge Beeby, in his award, directed attention to the fact and said in effect, “ The court is fixing a basic wage on the basis of a man, his wife and one child “. The government of the day lifted a weight off the back of the Arbitration Court at that time. It is more significant to find now, when the hearing of another basic wage case is nearing completion, that all the employer organizations and anti-Labour State governments represented, are claiming that the child endowment of 10s. a week should be taken into consideration when the court is arriving at its decision on the amount of the basic wage. It is of no use to deny that the Arbitration Court does take into consideration the matter of child endowment, and has previously done so, because the action of the judges in suspending the hearing of the case during the general election campaign, in ‘consequence of the statement on the matter which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made in his policy speech, definitely proves that it is a very live one in their minds. The present offer of the Government is 5s. a week with no guarantee that that sum will not be taken into consideration by the Arbitration Court when it is fixing the basic wage. The safeguard which this House should write into any legislation must ensure that the court shall not take endowment into consideration. This House must instruct the Government’s representative at the Arbitration Court that he must inform the court that in the view of the Parliament of Australia child endowment shall not be taken into consideration in the fixing of the basic wage. It is all very well to argue that in this legislation we cannot instruct arbitration courts, and that if we do so there is the possibility of the legislation being declared invalid upon reference to the High Court. I do not know who would take it to the High Court. Irrespective of the constitutional limitations, this Parliament can instruct the Government’s representative at the Arbitration Court to request the judges to give no consideration to the matter of child endowment when they are assessing the basic wage. If the Government is honest in its intentions, the Minister will announce from the table that the Government will give an instruction of that nature to its representatives.
– What is the instruction?
– An instruction to the Government’s representative at the Arbitration Court that he shall advise the court that in the opinion of this Parliament child endowment payments should not be taken into consideration in the assessment of the basic wage. That would overcome the difficulty, and would protect the living standard of the workers. If this bill is to pass as the Government proposes to amend it, then the basic wage assessed by the Arbitration Court would be 5s. a week less than it would otherwise have been. That will be a definite loss of 5s. to over 2,000,000 workers. The payment of 5s. additional endowment to a million or so families will be offset if the breadwinners are working under Arbitration Court awards and their wages are reduced by 5s. a week. Therefore, there will not be even a small gain to the people who are receiving child endowment. Any immediate apparent gain will be purely an illusion. Such an action is worse than the old confidence tricks that honorable members have read about. People are gaoled for working these tricks. The Government says to a person, “ We shall given you an additional 5s. a week child endowment “. Then it goes round to the back door, which is the Arbitration Court, and says, “ The workers’ wives are collecting 5s. extra in child endowment, so we ask you to reduce wages by 5s. a week “.
– Surely the honorable member does not believe that?
– I do believe it and that is why I am speaking in this way tonight. I have suffered under that system myself. I experienced it from 1921 to 1941.
– Does not the honorable member believe in child endowment?
– Yes I do.
– Well, what is the honorable member talking about now?
– If the honorable member is too stupid to understand what I have said already then I cannot explain it any further. I am sorry that it will not enter the honorable member’s head, but if he had had experience of the industrial movement and of working for a wage close to the basic wage he would understand a good deal more about the matter than he apparently does.
– Order !
– I regret that there are honorable members in this House who have no idea of the meaning of the industrial movement. They cannot conceive what the struggle for an improved basic wage and decent social services means to the poorer section of the community. If some of those honorable members could be thrown out on the labour market, where they would have to struggle for job9 at the basic wage or close to it, they would have an entirely different outlook on life and would understand what the workers’ struggle means.
– My friend, I have.
– The trouble is that the honorable member has forgotten about it or has taken his instructions from the people who paid to put him here.
– I rise to a point of order. I take personal exception to the remark that I am taking orders from the people who paid to put me here.
– The words are not unparliamentary, and the honorable member for Wills can continue his speech.
– I take personal exception, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to those words-
– The honorable member takes exception to what words?
– I take exception to the words that I was voicing the opinion of people who paid to put me here. That is offensive to me and is a reflection upon me.
– If the honorable member regards the words as a personal reflection upon him I ask the honorable member for Wills to withdraw them.
– I do not want to cause any arguments. I did not use the words that the honorable member accused me of having used. I said that he does not understand the position, or he is doing something for somebody else.
– Order ! Does the honorable member withdraw ?
– I withdraw the statement because I want to conclude my speech in the time remaining to me. To-day the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews), and the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) raised a matter that has been exercising my mind for many years. That is the matter of the payment of child endowment to all children after the first, as well as payment for the first child. That matter needs some attention because under the proposal of the Government that 5s. shall be paid for the first child the position will be aggravated. I intend to use my own case as an illustration. When child, endowment was introduced into this country I discovered that my second child became my first. After a few years I found that my third child became my first. Then I found that my fourth child became my first. There are four children in my family, but I am told that the only child I have at present under sixteen years of age is my first child. Something needs attention in regard to that position, and I believe that the opportunity is now available to rectify what has been an anomaly for many years. By making a uniform payment in respect of each child, irrespective of the position it holds in the family, that anomaly will be removed. While there was one child under sixteen there would be a regular weekly payment, and for two children the payment would be double, and so on. If 10s. is prescribed as endowment for the first child, that anomaly will be removed. If there is to be an alteration of the normal amount to 5s., the trouble will be aggravated. I suggest that if this bill is to be successful, another clause should be inserted in it to provide that the first child shall not be a continuing liability to parents, because the second child becomes the first after a time, and -v ?n Whatever may be the sim paid in respect of a child at birth, whether it be os. or 10s., that amount should be continued until the child reaches the age of sixteen years. If that were done it would remove this anomaly.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is what I believe to be an omission from this bill. It has been said that child endowment was introduced at the rate of 5s. a week in 1941, and that on two occasions during the last eight years the Labour Government increased the weekly payments. When the Chifley Government went out of office the rate of child endowment was 10s. a week. Since the last increase of 2s. 6d. a week there has been a considerable increase of the cost of living. At this stage I do not blame any government or anybody else for that increase, but the fact remains that living costs have increased to a great degree since the rate was fixed at 10s. I suggest that the rate of 10s. for the second and succeeding children is not sufficient under present economic conditions. I believe that the Government should give immediate consideration, to the inclusion of another clause in the bill to provide for an increase from 10s. to 12s. 6d. a week at the least for all children after the second. I think that the first child should also be endowed at the rate of 12s. 6d. a week, because I defy any honorable member in this chamber, or anybody outside it, to prove that a child can be kept, in the prevailing conditions, for 10s. a week. The basic wage worker has to use a considerable portion of his wage to augment the 10s. a week that i« paid. I think that as child endowment is one of the most essential social services that has yet been introduced, we should ensure that the poorest section of the community shall not be hard hit because of the increased cost of living, but that as living costs increase the weekly rate of child endowment shall increase proportionately. We should thus render to the people a real social service. I know that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) informed the House that the rich cannot afford to pay any more than they are paying. I do not believe that statement, because I think that the rich can pay considerably more. I believe that Australia is more prosperous to-day than it has ever been at any previous period of its history. The financial columns of the newspapers every day in the week report that companies are increasing their capital, their output, and most important of all their profits. The profits that are being made hy financial and commercial concerns, and the dividends that are being paid to the shareholders, on watered capital, are higher than they have ever been. The timeworn argument that the economy of the country cannot stand the strain of extra expenditure on social services carries no weight in such circumstances. In fact, the economy of Australia is in a healthier condition to-day than it ever was before. Instead of worrying about reducing company tax and income tax on those in the highest brackets, the Government should concentrate upon the improvement of social services. Company taxation is not severe having regard to the profits that are being made. The exceptionally high taxes that are mentioned from time to time are levied on excess profits. The reports and balance-sheets of companies during the last few years have proved that, notwithstanding the so-called excessive taxation, their profits are higher now than they were at any other time in their history. There is no need to worry about the reduction of taxes in the interests of that section of the community which is best able to afford to continue to pay at a high rate. We should assist the poorer sections of the community by liberalizing social services. I suggest that the endowment payment of 10s. a week for which the bill now provides should be increased to at least 12s. 6d. a week. In conclusion, I am greatly concerned about the possibility of the additional endowment payment affecting the decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court in the basic wage case. I ask the Government again not to persist with its proposal to omit clause 3, which has been inserted by the Senate, because it contains a definite statement of the opinion of the Parliament that child endowment is only a social service.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Thompson). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I very much appreciate the action of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) in calling for a quorum. It is very unfair when an honorable member has emptied the House-
– I rise to order. The honorable member is referring to the fact that a quorum was called for., I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to what clause of the bill such remarks are relevant.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! The honorable member for Mallee will continue.
– It is most unfair to call for a quorum when an honorable member begins to speak after another honorable member has emptied the House as a result of his wearisome statements. The honorable member who is addressing the House at the time is often unjustly blamed for having depleted the attendance. Therefore, I appreciate the action of the honorable member for Hindmarsh in calling for a quorum before I began to speak.
The histories of all sorts of pension payments have been discussed during this debate. I propose to deal briefly with the history of child endowment alone. The present endowment scheme was introduced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) in 1941, when he was a member of a former nonLabour Government.
– Child endowment was first introduced in New South Wales.
– The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has pointed out, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is trying to remind me by interjection, that the first child endowment scheme in Australia was inaugurated in New South Wales many years ago. That is true, but I notice that the members of the Opposition who have referred to the fact have carefully avoided giving credit for that scheme to the leader of a political party of which the honorable member for East Sydney was formerly a member, Mr. J. T. Lang. The Labour party, of course, hates Mr. Lang like poison and has never honoured him for having established the original child endowment scheme in New South Wales. We have now reached another stage in the history of child endowment in Australia. In debating the hill, members of the Opposition are only continuing the delaying tactics in which they have engaged ever since this Government came into power. The fact that there is no substance in their arguments has been clearly demonstrated. They are suffering from a sense of frustration because this Government proposes to do something worth-while that they failed to do during the eight years in which they held the reins of government. Therefore, they are trying to hinder the Government in its efforts to give effect to the mandate that it received from the people on the 10th December last.
One of the main issues in this debate arises from the suggestion that the Arbitration Court will take into consideration the proposed additional endowment payment when it is determining the basic wage. I do not pretend to be an industrialist or to be knowledgeable about the Arbitration Court, but I do take an interest in debates in this House and claim to be able to assess with some accuracy the opinions of men whose comments are worthy of note. I was keenly interested in the speech of the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), who was formerly Minister for Labour and National Service. I believe that he is the best informed member of the Opposition upon the combined subjects of social services and industrial matters. He said that any statement to the effect that the Arbiration Court would take the additional endowment payment into account in its basic wage calculations was false and ridiculous. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters), who is a comparative newcomer to this Parliament, expressed the same view. The honorable gentleman has impressed me with his sincerity since he has been a member of this House, and I believe that he is highly regarded by his Labour colleagues because he was instrumental in reducing Communist influence within the Federated Clerks Union. Therefore I attach some importance to his utterances. He said that he could not agree with his colleagues who said that the Arbitration Court would take official notice of the new child endowment payment.. However, the honorable member suggested that clause 3, which was inserted in. the bill by the Senate, should be retained because the direction to the Arbitration Court to ignore the additional endowment that is embodied in it would not do any harm even if it did not do any good. I made a note of his words, and this is exactly what he said -
What harm is there in an amendment which directs the Arbitration Court to do that which we. know it will do any way?
He said that the Arbitration Court would act as it thought best whether the direction were included in the bill or not.
– The honorable member ie misquoting the statement.
– That is what the honorable member for Burke said word for word as I took it down. Nobody in this House can successfully deny it. The opinions expressed by the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Burke have impressed me deeply, because both of them stand very high in my opinion as authorities on industrial affairs and social services.
I have not heard anything from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) about this bill -
– The honorable member should be careful or he will hear something from me.
– I should like to hear from the right honorable gentleman because he did nothing about the extension of child endowment when he was Treasurer.
– We did more than any ten anti-Labour governments have done.
– The honorable member’s interjections are of no importance to me or to anybody else in Australia. The Leader of the Opposition is wise in keeping out of this debate. I believe that he is fair-minded and would not like to become too deeply involved in the Opposition intrigue that is intended to delay the implementation of the promise that the people approved by their votes on the 10th December last. One member of the Opposition has said that the instruction to the Arbitration Court to ignore the additional child endowment should be embodied in the bill as a demand. As far as I know, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court has always been an independent body. Employers and employees have been able to approach it freely, and it has always dealt impartially with their claims. If we tell the Arbitration Court now that it must ignore the extension of the child endowment scheme when it is calculating the basic wage, what is to prevent some other government, or even this Government, from instructing it to take certain factors into consideration? The procedure would open the way to the destruction of the court’s independence as a judicial authority. If this Parliament considered that certain action by the court would be in the best interests of the people-
– Nothing that this Parliament said would matter because it has no power to make an industrial law.
– The right honorable gentleman’s statement supports my contention that the instruction that has been inserted in the bill by the Senate could have no constitutional effect.
– It is ultra vires the Constitution.
– The right honorable member has had more experience in this Parliament than any other living man-
– He is not the Arbitration Court.
– We must take more notice of experienced men like the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) than we take, with all due respect, of the new honorable member for Hindmarsh. Opposition members have revealed considerable confusion of thought during this debate, and no one has made heavier weather than the honorable member for Dalley. He was in a storm throughout his speech. He made a remark that gave me the impression that he did not care what happened to the people generally. He said, “ The people in Dalley, however, will be satisfied with what I say”.
– Hear, hear!
– Obviously, the honorable gentleman was speaking to only a small section of the community, and he made it apparent that he was adopting a political expedient to try to pep up the confidence of his constituents in himself as their representative. But the confused thinking on the part of members of the Opposition did not end there. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) said that we must not dwell on the past, and that we must always deal with the present. That comment had a strange ring, because the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) had dwelt at great length on a royal commission in 1928. Members of the Opposition are obviously muddled. They are not unanimous in their opinions about this bill. One Opposition member states one view, and another Opposition member states a conflicting view about whether the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will take endowment for the first child into account when it is determining the basic wage. I advise Opposition members to obtain leave of absence from the House for a few days, and to debate this bill thoroughly in caucus so that they may present a united front on the measure in this chamber. In that way, they would avoid the exhibitions of confused thinking that they have given to-day. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) asked, “ Do you think that our policy should be frozen ? “ when we invited him to explain why the Labour Government had not provided endowment for the first child in the past. The honorable gentleman added, “We are changing our policy, having regard to how the people voted at the last general election “. Some of the older members of the Opposition are sticking to the guns that they have used for the last eight years, but younger members of the Opposition consider that they should use. more modern weapons. I agree with them. _ During the last general election campaign, not one member of the Labour party advocated the payment of endowment for the first child.
– The honorable member is wrong, because I did.
– Then the honorable member did not advocate that policy with the consent of his leader, the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley).
– How does the honorable member know that?
– If the honorable member for Bendigo advocated that payment with the knowledge df the right honorable member for Macquarie, it is clear that his leader said, in effect, “ Here is a lone wolf. Let him do as he pleases.” I should not be so foolish as to advocate policies that, within -my own knowledge, could not be given effect, but the honorable member for Bendigo was not inhibited in that way. If he led his audiences to believe that there was some prospect of the Labour party providing endowment for the first child, he must have completely misled them, because its policy, written and spoken, during the last general election campaign did not mention the granting of that social service. While I have been a member of this chamber, and for years before that, the Labour party has consistently opposed the provision of endowment for the first child.
At this stage, I desire to pay a tribute to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Dame Enid Lyons) to whose consistent advocacy the Government’s proposal to grant endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child is largely due. She has described that payment as a step in the right direction. Even the honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will not claim that they have had as much experience of bringing up children as has the VicePresident of the Executive Council. Her views on child endowment, and the opinions of veteran members of the Parliament on the possible effect on the basic wage of the payment of endowment for the first child, merit serious consideration. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party made a promise to the people during the last general election campaign that, if they were returned to office, they would provide endowment for the first child. The Labour party did not make a similar offer; it certainly did not offer 10s. a week for the first child. Honorable mem bers who now compose the Opposition were silent on that occasion, because they thought they might win the election. Towards the end of the last Parliament, many of them held that strange hope despite the strong feeling among the people against the Chifley Government’s socialist policy. Because of that confidence, they did not repeat the Liberal party’s offer to provide endowment of 5s. a week for the first child. They feared, in fact, that they would be in the position of having to honour such a promise. Almost immediately the present Government assumed office, it gave instructions for legislation to be drafted to provide for the payment of 5s. a week for the first child. The Labour party is now trying to defeat that proposal. When the Government introduced the Social Services Consolidation Bill in the Senate, a member of the Labour party said: “Let us increase the amount of the endowment from 5s. to 10s. a week for the first child “. As the Labour party would not offer 5s. a week for the first child during the general election campaign, I should like to know how it justifies its present contention that the payment should be 10s. a week. The Labour party has not the responsibility of providing the additional money. When the Chifley Government had that responsibility, it was peculiarly silent on the subject. Now, however, Opposition members are particularly vocal, but their contentions are not consistent. Their thinking is muddled. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) gave the honorable member for Dalley a severe dressing down.
At this juncture, I shall deal briefly with the contentions of the honorable member for Dalley. He spoke for half an hour, but I shall be able to dispose of his arguments in a very brief space of time. He stated that the payment of 5s. for the first child would cause chaos in the computation of the basic wage, and that basic wage earners would receive less than the amount to which they were really entitled. Was a similar result experienced when the Labour Government increased child endowment from 5s. to 7s. 6d., and later from 7s. 6d. to 10s. a week? Of course, it was not! Sincere men like the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports know the facts. The right honorable gentleman did not talk rot of that kind. Those Opposition members who expressed the view that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would take the payment of endowment for the first child into account when determining the basic wage, were put up to speak for a certain reason. Everybody knows that the Government would like to provide more and more money for child endowment, but there are limits to the public purse. One honorable member opposite asked, “ What has the Australian Country party, in the hill-billy corner of the chamber, done about social services ? “ Another one said that the Labour party had consistently increased social services during its term of office from 1941 to 1949. But those increased payments were made possible hy the efforts of the people whom the Australian Country party represents. The sale of their wheat, wool and other primary products in the markets of the world brought large sums of money into the Commonwealth’s coffers, and enabled the Labour Government to increase social services benefits.
– It is work that matters.
– I agree with the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes). When Opposition members speak of the workers, they have in mind the employees who are engaged in secondary industries and who live in such electorates as Dalley and East Sydney. I remind the Opposition that the primary producers are always at their posts, and that their efforts have made the social services payments possible. Credit should be given to those to whom it is due. If C sell a house, a horse, or a bicycle, it is almost certain that the next day, two or three people will tell me that they would have paid me more than I had received. It is strange that those kind of people are always conspicuous by their absence when the sale is being made.
– Is that the experience of an auctioneer?
– Yes, I have had experience in that profession. I have repeatedly noticed that if I have sold sheep for a certain amount, somebody else will tell my client later that he could have obtained more for them. The Opposition members are now telling the people, “If you had returned us to the treasury bench, we would have increased social services, including the provision of 10s. a week for the first child”. Thai attitude is completely unreal. Had the Labour party been returned to office at the last general election it would not have considered providing endowment for the first child. The people of Australia are well aware of that fact. The Opposition has spoken of the Government’s “ newfound enthusiasm “ for granting endowment for the first child, but the Leader of the Australian Country party disposed of statements of that kind by reading from the records of the Parliament to show that, in 1946, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) had advocated the provision of endowment for the first child, and that the Labour Government had rejected her submission. The right honorable gentleman read the names of some thirteen honorable members of the Labour party who opposed the proposal of the honorable member for Darwin at that time. So far from this being a new-found enthusiasm, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have advocated for a long while the payment of endowment for the first child. The Labour party, when in office, would not consider the proposition, but now that it is in Opposition it has the audacity to contend that the rate of endowment for the first child should be 10s. a week. The people will not be misled by that change of front. The audacity of Opposition members on this issue beggars description.
The honorable member for Dalley said that the Treasurer had admitted that receipts from the pay-roll tax would not meet the whole cost of child endowment. That was a foolish statement. That information was not secret, but was readily available to any honorable member who took the trouble to compare the receipts from the pay-roll tax with the total cost of child endowment. Apparently, the honorable member for Dalley was not aware of that fact before to-day. He said that he had forced the Treasurer to make that admission, and he was so pleased about it that he repeated it at least ten times.
– The honorable member is indulging in tedious repetition.
– Some of the colleagues of the honorable member for East Sydney are past-masters at tedious repetition.
-Order! I ask the honorable member to address the Chair.
– I invite the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), through you, Mr. Speaker, to read the reports of the speeches of some of his colleagues, and then he will begin to understand the real significance of tedious repetition.
– I had to make my point about ten times before it would sink into the heads of Government supporters.
– I do not repeat any of my remarks. If Opposition members cannot comprehend them, I cannot be held responsible for their obtuseness. The Treasurer merely stated a well-known fact when he said that the receipts from the pay-roll tax were not sufficient to meet the total cost of child endowment. There was no question of the honorable member for Dalley wringing an admission from him. The Treasurer would have given that information at any time to any honorable member who had asked for it. Those are the facts.
– As this expenditure will be financed from the pay-roll tax, the worker will himself pay the cost of this endowment.
– Yet, the Opposition wants to double the rate from 5s. to 10s. a week.
– The honorable member for Dalley is again trotting out the old arguments which the Treasurer has knocked silly. I do not intend to go over the ground that has been covered by my colleagues. It must be clear to the Opposition, which claims that the wage-earners themselves will provide the money to finance this scheme, that they will be obliged to provide twice as much if the rate is increased from 5s. a week to 103. a week. Many honorable members opposite have asked why the Government will not increase the rate to 10s. No doubt if this country were a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Opposition claims that it is, the Government would bc able to provide endowment at the higher rate. However, in financing this proposal the Government will have regard to its commitments in respect of all other classes of social services benefits which it hopes to liberalize. Nevertheless, the existing rate of child endowment cannot be regarded as sufficient to maintain a child. According to the number of children in a family, parents are correspondingly out of pocket so far as the cost of their maintenance is concerned. I do not believe that any one regards endowment even at the rate of 10s. a week as sufficient to maintain a child; but that is not the purpose of child endowment. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) endeavoured to lead us to believe that if the rate were increased from 5s. to 10s. the benefit would enable parents to buy houses. On that basis, endowment at the rate of 15s. for each child would enable parents to buy the most modern motor cars. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, who made a most extraordinary speech in which’ he outdid the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), also contended that endowment at the rate of 10s. a week would enable parents to purchase all sorts of comforts for their families. No reasonable person believes that endowment at the rate of 10s. is sufficient to maintain a child until he, or she, reaches the age of sixteen years.
– The Government does not propose to increase the rate to 10s., first, because it cannot afford to do so ; and, secondly, because it realizes that the great majority of parents still take some pride in parenthood and are prepared to make sacrifices in order to bring up their children to be good citizens, That is a duty that devolves upon all parents. Therefore, the members of the Opposition should abandon criticism of the type that they have voiced in this debate. They know that if they were in office to-day, they would not even attempt to provide endowment for the first child in a family.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The object of this measure is to provide endowment for the first child in a family. Listening to supporters of the Government in this debate one might be led to conclude that the Labour party opposes the bill in principle. That is not so. The only differences of opinion that exist between the Opposition and the Government are in relation to whether the rate of endowment should be os. or 10s. and whether provision should be made to safeguard the worker by prohibiting the Commonwealth Arbitration Court from taking this benefit into account when it is computing the basic wage. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said that during the recent general election campaign Labour party candidates were silent about providing endowment for the first child. The reason for our silence was that we refused to enter into a political auction with our opponents in that matter. I point out that when the anti-Labour parties advocated the provision of endowment for the first child at the rate of 5s. a week at the general election that was held in 1946 they were decisively defeated. In reply to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), who said that Labour governments during eight years of office had found it to be politically and financially impossible to endow the first child, and in reply to the statement made by the honorable member for Mallee, to which I have just referred, I point out that in the period during which the Chifley Government was in office annual expenditure on social services benefits increased from £18,000,000 to over £100,000,000. That Government achieved that record in a period during which it was faced with the problems of prosecuting the recent war and of the transition from a war-time to a peace-time economy. Nevertheless, it liberalized social services benefits to the degree that I have stated, and. at the same time, remitted taxes amounting to millions of pounds. Those facts should convince not only the Australian people but also the world that the welfare state has been established in this country.
The Labour party will always adhere to its present policy of providing and extending social services benefits wherever possible. “We support the provision of endowment for the first child in a family because we believe that it is the the duty of the national government to guarantee economic and social security to our people. That policy is fully justified, particularly when we realize that 22£ per cent, of the national wealth is owned by only 4^ per cent, of the population. The Labour party will always do its utmost to improve the lot of the under-privileged. Even when it has been in opposition, as it is at present, it has fought for the liberalization of social services benefits. In keeping with that policy, the Labour Opposition in the Senate has inserted several important provisions in this measure. During the recent general election campaign the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, in effect, that the problems of child endowment are closely associated with the structure of the basic wage. There is no question of the standing of the right honorable gentleman in the legal world, and he has grave doubts regarding whether child endowment may affect the basic wage structure. When the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) introduced legislation in 1941 to provide for the payment of child endowment, he said -
The essential provision is that endowment at the rate of 5s. a week should be paid for all children under the age of sixteen years in excess of one child in each family. The Government has given a great deal of consideration to the provision of endowment in respect of the first child. While it approached the question sympathetically it has decided that payment in respect of the first child is not warranted. On the Commonwealth Court’s own recent finding, the present basic wage is adequate for a man, wife and one child.
There is much confusion in the minds of honorable members, particularly those on the other side of the chamber, about the probable effect of variations of child endowment upon the basic wage. One school of thought, to which I belong considers that the endowment of the first child might affect the basic wage, and while that doubt exists we should take every precaution to ensure that the wageearners shall not be detrimentally affected. We should have a provision in this legislation to make it clear that the intention of the Parliament is that the payment of endowment for the first child shall not affect the amount of the basic wage. The honorable member for Riverina who was so outspoken in bis opposition to the Senate’s amendment on this point, must hope that the Arbitration Court will take the endowment of the first child into account when fixing the basic wage.
– Rubbish !
– The authorities that I have quoted believe that there is room for doubt on the point. It is our duty to resolve the doubt. All those who are opposed to our resolving the doubt must be in favour of the court’s doing what it chooses in this matter, even if that should result in a reduction of the basic wage. This matter goes back to the time when Mr. Justice Higgins delivered bis famous Harvester Award in 1907, in which he declared that a living wage should be based upon the needs of a man, his wife and three children. Industrial tribunals since that time have based the living wage on family units of varying size. In some States, the wage is based on a family unit of a man, his wife and three children, and in others upon that of a man, his wife and two children. We are concerned with the family unit of a man, his wife and one child, and we do not want the basic wage based upon the needs of such a family unit to be reduced. The Government hopes that the court, when fixing the basic wage, will take into account endowment of the first child because that would have the effect of reducing the pay-roll tax that must be paid by many of its wealthy supporters. It would also further the Government’s plans for putting value back into the £1. In answer to a question on this subject, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said to-day that, because of the tremendous purchasing power in the hands of the community, the value of the £1 could be restored only if production were increased. Seeing that the labour force is limited, production can he increased only by increasing the number of working hours. Of course, another way to effect a closer balance between production and purchasing power would be to reduce wages, and that is what the Government hopes the Arbitration Court will do. It would be a good argument to place before the court that, when fixing the basic wage, it should take into account only the needs of a man and his wife, because all the children would be taken care of under the child endowment scheme.
The real reason for the Government’s opposition to the Senate’s amendment on this point is that the amendment would safeguard the basic wage, and prevent the Arbitration Court from reducing it by 10s. a week. All those who object to the Senate’s amendment must be in favour of a reduction of the basic wage. Let us consider the objections that have been raised by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to the proposal that the endowment of the first child shall be increased from 5s. to 10s. a week. During the general election campaign the right honorable gentleman promised that substantial reductions of taxation would be made if his party were returned to office.
A9 the Opposition’s proposal to double the endowment payment in respect of the first child would involve the Commonwealth in the expenditure of an additional £15,000,000 per annum, the Treasurer fears that he may be prevented from honouring his promise that he would reduce the taxes now imposed on the wealthy companies of this country, notwithstanding that they are enjoying a level of prosperity never previously experienced in the history of this country. During the general election campaign the parties now in office promised that if they were returned to power they would provide child endowment of 5s. a week for the first child in all families. Since then the cost of living has risen so steeply that the purchasing power of the 5s. then promised has greatly diminished. If honorable members opposite are sincerely desirous of honouring their preelection promise in full, they should he prepared to accept this bill in it9 amended form. It is true that 10s. a week is not sufficient to maintain a child in present circumstances; but it would enable the mothers of working class families and the wives of workers living in the outback areas of the Commonwealth to overcome many of the difficulties that confront them in the rearing and educating of their families. I know from personal experiences in the electorate which I have the honour to represent that when the child endowment payment was increased from 5s. to 10s. many mothers were able to send their children to boarding schools instead of sending them to work. That was particularly noticeable in the back country of Queensland, where many families are settled at great distances from secondary schools. Child endowment has been a great boon, particularly to families in outback areas. I appeal to the Government to accept the bill in its amended form. During the general election campaign the right honorable gentleman who is now Prime Minister said that if the endowment of the first child were taken into consideration by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in its computation of the basic wage, he would increase the payment to 10s. a week. Why wait until the court has announced its decision when the same result can be achieved by the acceptance of this bill in its present form?
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
The Parliament : Questions; Rights of Members - Civil Aviation: United Nations: Mr. Trygve Lie: Dr. H. V. Evatt. M.P. - Pensions - RYDE Municipal Council: ELECtricity Plant.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to raise two matters. The first relates to the practice adopted by Mr. Speaker in calling honorable members during question time in this House. After the general election the Liberal party and the Australian Country party combined to form the Government of this country. At question time it has been the practice of Mr. Speaker to call a member from each of the Government parties in turn, and then give the call to a member of the Opposition. Since the Australian Country party chose to trail along behind the Liberal party and share in the fruits of office, I contend that you, Mr. Speaker, should treat all members of the Government parties as belonging to one group, which, in fact, they claim to be. Your practice in separating them into two groups enables members of the Government parties to ask two questions to the Opposition’s one, and gives to Government supporters a distinct advantage over members of the Opposition. If the Australian Country party were now, as it used to be, a cross-bench party, and not a Government party, the method adopted by Mr. Speaker would be justified. In the present circumstances I respectfully submit that it is not. I respectfully ask you, Mr. Speaker, to review the present practice.
This week I asked a question about the aerodrome which has just been completed at a site located 6 miles from Devonport, in northern Tasmania. The Minister acting for the Minister for Air (Mr. Casey), in reply, indicated that, in his opinion, aerodromes should be named after the city or town to which they are adjacent on the ground that if that were done they could be more easily identified by the people. In the opinion of the right honorable gentleman, the aerodrome at Cambridge, near Hobart, should be named the Hobart aerodrome. Similarly, the aerodrome now known as the Parafield aerodrome should be known as the Adelaide aerodrome, that now known as the Guildford Junction aerodrome should be re-named the Perth aerodrome, and the Western Junction aerodrome in Tasmania should be re-named the Launceston aerodrome. There may be some common sense in the Minister’s contention, but I cannot understand why the Department of Civil Aviation should suddenly change its views in relation to this matter. During the last ten or twelve years it has named aerodromes indiscriminately. Some have been called after the towns to which they are adjacent, others have been called by a name commonly known in the district in which they are situated, and some have been named after prominent persons, such as the Kingsford-Smith aerodrome at Sydney. I respectfully ask the right honorable gentleman to request the Department of Civil Aviation to reconsider its decision in relation to the aerodrome adjacent to Devonport which has been known as the Pardoe aerodrome since it was first established about two years ago. The aerodrome is in my electorate, and Devonport is in the electorate of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons). The people of Devonport want the aerodrome to be called Devonport aerodrome, but the people in the area surrounding it want it to be called Pardoe aerodrome. When the aerodrome is officially opened on the 5th
June, the tickets issued by the air line operators to passengers who travel to it will have “ Devonport “ on them. Travellers by air to Launceston and Hobart do not have “ Cambridge “ or “ Western Junction “ upon their tickets. If the name of Pardoe were chosen as the official name of the aerodrome, and if the airline operators put “Devonport” on tickets that would satisfy both schools of thought. I put that proposal forward as a compromise.
- (Hon. Archie Cameron). The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has raised the matter of the number of questions asked in this chamber. He will come to my office in due course, examine the figures, and next week he will state the correct position. The week before last, members of the Labour party asked 51 questions, members of the Liberal party 26 questions, and members of the Australian Country party fourteen questions. Last week members of the Labour party asked 47 questions, members of the Liberal party 28 questions, and members of the Australian Country party ten questions. This week members of the Labour party have asked 42 questions, members of the Liberal party 25 questions, and members of the Australian Country party ten questions.
– How do the preferences go?
– As far as preferences go, I state once again that every honorable member has an equal right to information. During question time I do not recognize any party. Quite frequently I give three calls to honorable gentlemen on my left to one to honorable gentlemen on my right. That is largely due to the fact that there is a very much smaller demand for the call by Liberal members than there is by Labour members and Australian Country party members. It often happens that, having called a Liberal member, I call a Labour member, an Australian Country party member and then another Labour member before I give the call to a Liberal member. I shall require the honorable member for Wilmot to come to my office, examine the figures, and correct his statement next week.
– I do not think that the House should adjourn without some reference having been made to very important events that are taking place outside it. I refer to the plan put forward by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Trygve Lie, after his visit to Moscow and his conference with Stalin. American senators have referred to it as an appeasement of Russia. There are three aspects of the plan to which the House should direct special attention. They are, first, that there is no mention in it of any elimination of the Russian veto; secondly, that it calls for universal membership of the United Nations, and therefore negatives any suggestion that the contemplated aggressor, Russia, should be excluded fi om that organization; and thirdly, that it calls for the resumption of talks on the control of atomic energy within the framework of the United Nations which would, therefore, be subject to the Russian veto. The plan is in line with the major Russian strategy of delay until it is ready to attack. It represents a complete surrender to the point of view that Russia is endeavouring to foist upon the world under the fairest and most specious of pretences.
I desire to direct attention, in particular, to the background of the man who prepared the plan. Mr. Lie was appointed as Secretary-General of the United Nations under Soviet auspices. In the past, he has generally lined up with Russian plans. Let me give three instances of that. He intervened on behalf of the Greek Communist murderers who were due to be executed, but he did not intervene on behalf of the Polish socialists who were murdered by Stalin behind the Iron Curtain, lt will be recalled that he was concerned with the appeasement of Russia in the 1948 Berlin crisis. I shall read some comments upon that crisis by Mr. W. H. Chamberlin, one of the foremost authorities in the United States on international affairs. He said -
Lie’s pro-Soviet move was made towards the end of 1948. The Security Council had passed a resolution condemning the Soviet blockade of West Berlin. This resolution was stymied by a Soviet veto. Lie, in collaboration with the then President of the Assembly, Herbert Evatt - a vain, garrulous, empty-headed Australian Henry Wallace type - drew up a resolution-
– I rise to order.
– Order! The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) is not speaking from his place. Honorable members have proper places in this chamber.
– The quotation continues - proposing that the Security Council should drop the case and refer it back for negotiation among the powers concerned.
– I rise to order.
– The honorable member for Wills cannot put the clock back. A point of order should be taken at once. Honorable members should get into the habit of being in their places.
– I rise to order. You have said, Mr. Speaker, that an honorable member must speak from his place. I suggest that the Standing Orders provide that no honorable member shall interject from a seat that is not his own,, and that there is nothing in them which prohibits an honorable member from speaking from a seat that is not his own. The prohibition relates only to interjections. The Standing Orders are perfectly clear on that point.
– My decision is. equally clear.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you were acting properly when you said to an honorable member who rose to take a point of order that he could not put the clock back. You had not heard his point of order. He may have wished to refer to something that had been said after he rose on the first occasion. I do not think you are entitled to rule that an honorable member is out of order until you have heard the point that he wishes to raise.
– If the honorable gentleman disagrees with my ruling, he has his remedy.
– The quotation continues -
Lie and Evatt proceeded on the assumption that no issue ‘of right or wrong .was involved,, no question of one-sided aggression which waa the proper concern of the Security Council.
In his official attitude toward the Soviet boycott of the United Nations, the SecretaryGeneral played the ignoble role of ready accomplice of Soviet blackmailing tactics. If successful, they will rob the United Nations of any shred of authority and prestige.
We must consider whether Mr. Lie, who was appointed as Secretary-General of the United Nations under Russian auspices, may be too much under Soviet domination - whether guilty or innocent. I do not know - to be a fit and proper person to continue in that responsible position.
I think also that this House should regard with suspicion the man who has now been put forward for that post. The question of who fills that post is of particular concern to this House because in all of three instances that I have cited the Secretary-General was supported by the right honorable and ineffable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), whom I have described in the past, and whom I still describe, as one of the chief architects of the coming world disaster. By hie procrastination when time was still on our side and when war could certainly have been avoided, he has made war very likely. He is one of the guiltiest men living, if his guilt is to be measured by the consequences of his action. I do not believe that it is to be measured by a motive in this instance, other than perhaps the motive of vanity. I do not believe that the right honorable member knew what he was doing, but I think that there is no doubt about what he has done, and at this moment when what is occurring in the United Nations disastrously follows the pattern that he set as its President, we in this Australian Parliament owe a special debt to humanity to make clear our attitude in respect of the crime that was committed against humanity by Australia in the person of the right honorable member.
– I call the honorable member for West Sydney.
– I think that the honorable member for West Sydney will defer to me.
– Will the honorable member for West Sydney defer to the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt)?
.- I am intervening only because of the extraordinary speech of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). If this were a debate on international affairs we could deal with these matters in a fitting way, but now, at the end of the day’s business, when the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) is absent, we have a private member rising to make a savage and completely unjustified attack upon the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I believe everything that the honorable member said about the Secretary-General to be wrong. The Secretary-General has just returned from a visit to Moscow that he undertook in connexion with the. discharge of his duties under the United Nations Charter, by which Australia is bound and to which this Parliament gave its approval. The Secretary-General has the duty to try to reconcile differences between the powers. He has performed that duty, and all his other duties, faithfully and well. Just imagine the honorable member for Mackellar saying, without even going through the points, that Mr. Lie went to Russia and did not refer during his visit there to the elimination of the Russian veto. The veto provision was put in the United Nations Charter by all the great powers - Russia, Britain, the United States of America, France and China. The countries that opposed the veto provision were countries like Australia, and at the San Francisco Conference, I, on behalf of Australia and in company with a delegation representative of all the parties represented in this Parliament, opposed the unrestricted veto. The honorable member also referred to me as though there was something unjustified in what I did. He also said that Mr. Lie wants universal membership of the United Nations. He criticised that suggestion. The reason for Mr. Lie’s desire to have universal membership of the United Nations is that Russia has vetoed a large number of applications for membership. It vetoed the applications of Ireland, Portugal, Italy, and also of other countries.
– Such as Spain.
– No, Spain is not an applicant for membership, but there are a number of other countries which Russia has vetoed. When Mr. Lie asks for universal membership he is in substance objecting to the Russian use of the veto. The honorable member for Mackellar knows little or nothing of the subject. He talks wildly about these things because his object - he makes no secret about it - and, apparently, his great ambition is that there shall be a war against Russia. The honorable member will not deny that because he says it, in substance, in all his speeches.
Mr. Lie’s duty under the Charter is to try to reconcile differences between the powers. The honorable member also spoke about atomic energy. We have spent hours debating that subject in this House. He said also that Mr. Lie was elected to the position of SecretaryGeneral under the auspices of Soviet Russia. That also is inaccurate. Mr. Lie was elected by the unanimous recommendation of the Security Council. That recommendation was unanimous because all the five powers on the council have to concur in a recommendation before it is effective. That recommendation was adopted by the General Assembly. Mr. Lie was Foreign Minister of Norway at the time of Norway’s greatest crisis. He was always loyal to Britain and the Allies and did magnificent service for the Allied forces during the war. Russia, Britain, France, the United States and China and, later, the General Assembly supported his appointment to the position of Secretary-General. So much for that point. The honorable gentleman also said that Mr. Lie tried at one conference to obtain the remission of the death sentences imposed by the Greek Government upon certain Greek prisoners. If Mr. Lie did so then he did it on behalf of the organs of the United Nations. I acted in that matter in my capacity as President of the General Assembly and I make no apology for that action. The best answer to the honorable gentleman is that the death sentences were, in fact, commuted by the Greek Government. I do not think that a man should be blackguarded in this House because he has carried out his duties to the United Nations and has saved lives. .How do we know that those convicted men were murderers ? I do not believe that they were. The Greek Government commuted their sentences and that is enough.
The honorable gentleman also said that I was an accomplice of Mr. Lie in relation to the Berlin dispute because, as President of the General Assembly, I acted in an endeavour to settle that dispute. The intervention of the United Nations in that matter has been approved by no less an authority than Mr. John Foster Dulles, a member of the Republican party in the United States, and Mr. Dulles has publicly paid tribute to Mr. Lie and myself. The honorable member’s remarks to-night were shocking, but I suppose that they were made with a view to the honorable member’s obtaining some sort of publicity for himself in the war between Wentworth and Stalin that is being waged here without the approval of the Government. I say “without the approval of the Government “ because the Minister for External Affairs did not “take the same attitude as the honorable member has taken, when he discussed this important ma tter in the House. I submit that Mr. Lie is honorably discharging his duty, in connexion with all these matters, as it is ordained in the United Nations Charter.
I am sorry to take up the time of the House on this matter. As far as I can see every statement made by the honorable member was wrong. We acted in perfectly good faith in .1948 during the Berlin crisis, which was settled on just terms, and I make no apology for anything that I did as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I acted in the interests of Australia and of peace. Mr. Lie is a great Norwegian public servant and a servant of the nations of the world. He has the confidence of all nations, and I think that it is outrageous that he should be attacked on such an occasion as this, not during a debate on a substantive motion on international affairs or some other subject during which we could hear the views of all honorable members, but in a casual and utterly irresponsible manner on the motion for the adjournment of this House.
– I call the honorable member for West Sydney.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented.
– Order ! I have called the honorable member for We3t Sydney.
– I understand that in about a fortnight’s time this sitting period of the Nineteenth Parliament will come to a close- and that the recess will probably last for two or three months. By the end of that recess nine months will have passed since the Government was elected to office. In that period the Government has done nothing for the relief of age, invalid and service pensioners. We heard a cold and callous reply from the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) yesterday when he said that nothing could be done for those people until the budget was brought down. I ask the Government what was done by the previous Government when the people of Britain were literally starving? The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) not only sent food to Britain, but provided millions of pounds for thatcountry to assist it in its distress. During the last week this Government has decided to spend millions of pounds in the alleviation of distress in South-East Asia, and rightly so. But, when it comes to our own kith and kin in this country, the Government intends to send the members of the Parliament home for three months and to leave pensioners in semi-starvation all over the country. Honorable members opposite have prated about what they do for the people, and what they have done for the wool barons and the wheat barons. The only desire of most of them at the present time is to go into recess and spend the rest of the winter at Paradise Beach and such places. That is a disgraceful state of affairs. As the anti-Labour Treasurer of this country in the depression years Sir Earle Page was known as the “tragic treasurer”, I consider that the present Treasurer should be called the “ starvation treasurer “. I ask honorable members to compare their princely allowances with the paucity of the age pension. What has the Government done in connexion with this matter since it was elected to office?
– “What did the Chifley Government do?
– In common with all other honorable members, the honorable member who has just interjected has been elected by the people of this country to protect the interests of the people. If he considers amelioration of the lot of the age pensioners unwarranted, he is not worthy to be called a good Australian. Those unfortunate people are suffering semi-starvation. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) spoke in condemnation of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). His efforts could have been better directed towards assisting to relieve the plight of the age pensioners in this country. Although the Government has introduced a measure to ban the Communist party, I consider that, by keeping aged people on incomes on which they can barely exist, it is assisting to breed communism. At the next election the people of this country will form their own assessment of the Government’s attempts to hoodwink them in this matter. In his policy speech in November last, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) undertook to restore value to the £1 if elected to office. I should appreciate an intimation by the Government to-night of what it proposes to do in this matter, in order that I may convey that information to the age pensioners in my electorate when I return to .Sydney at the week-end.
.- I wish to ventilate a grave injustice that has been perpetrated on some of my constituents.
– I advised the honorable member not to stand for election to the Parliament.
– Unfortunately, local governing authorities in Australia today are suffering very severely through lack of funds. In the near future many local -governing bodies will be asking the State governments for increased allocations from the proceeds of the petrol tax. Therefore the matter that I am about to raise is one of interest to this Government. Within my electorate is situated the Municipality of Ryde. Some years ago the Ryde Municipal Council established a small electricity plant. It has bought its power in bulk from the Sydney County Council and reticulated it to the residents of the municipality. The Ryde Municipal Council is a very active body, which, incidentally, received the prize in New South Wales last year for being the most progressive municipality in the State. From the rates that it has collected from the residents of the municipality it has almost paid off the capital expenditure on its electricity plant. At present only an amount of between £16,000 and £17,000 is owing on it. In order to obtain funds with which to carry out urgent maintenance work on the roads and footpaths in its area, the council decided to sell its electricity plant. The Sydney County Council offered £35,000 for it, which tender was accepted by the Ryde Municipal Council. At that stage it was necessary for the Sydney County Council to submit the proposed agreement to the McGirr Labour Government in New South Wales for approval. An extraordinary thing then happened. Not only did that Government refuse approval, but it also arbitrarily included the Municipality of Ryde in the district of the Sydney County Council. That action automatically deprived the residents of the municipality of the value of their plant. In other words, the McGirr Government robbed my constituents of about £20,000, which money was urgently needed to carry out road and footpath maintenance in the municipality. This action of the McGirr Government is all the more unjust because of the fact that only a short time before the council of the adjoining Ermington-Rydalmere Municipality was permitted to sell its small electricity undertaking to the Sydney County Council. It received the amount agreed upon. It is significant that the mayor of the Ryde Municipal Council, Mr. Ken Anderson, has been selected by the Liberal party to stand for election at the forthcoming election in New South Wales. One wonders whether there is any connexion between that circumstance and the refusal of the McGirr Labour Government to permit the residents of the Municipality of Ryde to receive the money for the asset that they developed, and which has been taken over by the Sydney County Council. If this is not confiscation, I should like to know what is. It is in line with the attitude of the McGirr Government towards the confiscation of the property of the people in various parts of the metropolitan area of Sydney. This is a glaring instance of confiscation, and I trust that even at this late hour, the Premier of New South Wales or the Minister for Local Government in that State, Mr. Cahill, may see fit to rectify this obvious injustice to the residents of the Municipality of Ryde. As matters stand they are to be deprived of the use of their money in. their own municipality, merely because the local government legislation confers the right on the State Government arbitrarily to include the municipality in the area controlled by the Sydney County Council, and no body other than the Sydney County Council is permitted to sell electricity in that area. It also deprives the Sydney County Council of the right to meet its moral obligations to theRyde council. That agreement has already been signed -by the Ryde Council under its seal, and it will now be prevented from completing the transaction.
– I wish to correct a misrepresentation by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). He said that–
– I rise to order.
– The honorable gentleman has asked for permission to correct a misrepresentation.
– Is he making a personal explanation or another speech?
– I am keeping him to a personal explanation. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) can rely on me to do that.
– I thought that you might have forgotten that he spoke a little while ago.
– I have not forgotten.
– The right honorable member for Barton remarked that it was my ambition to have war with Russia. On the contrary, I have made it clear that it is my ambition to avoid war with Russia.I thought that I had made that clear, and I repeat that I regard the appeasement of Russia by people who, like most appeasers, are making war–
– Order !
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to-
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Land Settlement of Ex-Servicemen.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 May 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500525_reps_19_207/>.