19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
AUSTRALIANS 1st japan.
– My question relates to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, and Australia’s participation in that force as the only representative of the British Commonwealth. I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Australian Government’s arrangement with the United States Government was that no forces should be withdrawn from Japan except with the prior agreement of the United States Government? “Was the announcement by the Australian Government last week made with the prior consent of the United States Government?
– The arrangement, whether formal or informal I do not know, undoubtedly was that no force should be withdrawn by the Australian Government without prior discussion with the United States, and with their concurrence after discussion has taken place. Their concurrence was given, and our statement and the timing of the statement were both made in agreement with the United States.
Petrol - Capital Equipment
– I ask the Treasurer a question concerning the abolition of petrol rationing in the United Kingdom. Is it not a fact that petrol is much less of a necessity in the United Kingdom than in Australia? Is there any reason to suppose that there is less of dollar content in the petrol available to the United Kingdom than is the case with petrol available to Australia? Was this step to abolish petrol rationing in accordance with the case presented by representatives of the British Government to a previous Prime Minister, to the Trea surer and to the Prime Minister of New Zealand? Does this decision indicate an improvement in the general dollar position of the whole sterling area ? If so, will the Treasurer take steps to obtain for this country from dollar areas heavy equipment, capital goods, tinplate and other items which are essential for the development and prosperity of this country ?
– The published decision of the United Kingdom Government to lift petrol rationing did not come as a surprise to me, because the facts have conclusively proved that during recent months, and for some considerable time a certain amount of sterling petrol could be made available without any undue strain on the dollar liabilities- or requirements of the sterling area. Consequently petrol rationing has been lifted in the United Kingdom, no doubt with the full recognition of the necessity for the utilization or consumption of petrol in that country, as well as of responsibility with regard to the general dollar position. The whole dollar position is under close and careful examination from week to week, and we are investigating the possibility of obtaining dollars required for carrying out the functions and development of this country in the directions indicated by the honorable member.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether an agreement has been reached between the Government of the United Kingdom and the American oil companies whereby the companies have promised to forgo dollar payments for additional petrol consumed in Great Britain as the result of the abolition of rationing and to accept, as an alternative form of payment, oil tankers constructed in the United Kingdom and 889 other varieties of British products ? Is it a fact that the negotiations that led to the conclusion of this arrangement had been proceeding for twelve months and that the companies agreed to the plan under pressure from the United Kingdom Government, which had intimated that it would not permit the expenditure of additional dollars for the purchase of petrol? Did the companies inform the British Government that they would accept sterling payment in the form of such commodities as I have mentioned if the rationing of petrol in Great Britain were discontinued?
– On thebasis of the information that the right honorable member has disclosed, I should say that his advice on this subject is better and more up to date than that which has been supplied to me as the Treasurer of the Commonwealth.
Marketing of Wool, Mutton and Lamb
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House of the quantity and value of the wool, if any, which has been sold abroad at the governmental level during the year 1949-50? Can he also inform me of the quantity and value of mutton and lamb which has been disposed of abroad at the governmental level ? Would it be correct to say that the quantities of those products, if any, which have been sold direct on behalf of primary producers by the Australian Government to other governments are negligible?
– I am not in possession of the figures which would enable me to answer the honorable member’s question, but I shall secure the statistics, and give him a reply.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact that, at the annual meeting of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce yesterday, the president, Mr. C. L. Kimpton, suggested, among other things, that the Australian Government should make an application to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for a return to the 44-hour working week; and that it should consider the revaluation of the Australian £1, or the lifting of exchange controls in order to allow the £1. to find its own international level ? Does the Government contemplate acting upon the lines which have been suggested by Mr. Kimpton?
– I am not aware of” Mr. Kimpton’s suggestions, “ but when I become aware of them, I shall give them due consideration.
– In view of the frequent absences of the Minister for Health while he is carrying on negotiationswith the British Medical Association regarding the Government’s proposed health scheme, and in view of the widespread public interest in the matter, is it possible for the. Prime Minister toarrange for the Minister to keep either the right honorable gentleman himself or another Minister posted with the latest developments in those negotiations? Also,. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the latest reports published in the press concerning those negotiations, of which, apparently, the Minister approves, are correct, and whether the Government generally is in agreement: with the views that the Minister hasexpressed ?
– The course that thehonorable member has suggested is impracticable. My colleague is engaged in important negotiations and it would beunreasonable to expect him to report’ daily in detail upon the negotiations. When the Minister has concluded his negotiations he will bring the matter in due course before the Government, and if I repeat the phrase, in due course theresults will be placed before the Parliament.
– During World War II. welfare officers associated with the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Australian Red Cross Society and the Red Shield organization who served’ overseas were not allowed exemptions from income tax by the former Government, although on many occasions they shared front-line responsibilities with our troops. Will the Treasurer consider reopening this matter with a view to granting welfare officers who served overseas the same taxation privileges as were enjoyed by members of the forces who served overseas?
– It is not correct to say that no exemption was granted by the former Government to welfare officers who served overseas with the troops. A certain degree of exemption was granted, I think, until 194:7. The matter is a very complex one. I shall look into it and furnish a detailed reply to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– In reply to a question that was asked last week by the honorable member for Farrer, the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation stated that the policy of the Department of Civil Aviation was that the construction of civil aerodromes should bc undertaken in the first place by local authorities and that, if their value was proved by their inclusion as stopping places on existing air routes, the department would consider assuming- financial responsibility for them. I have been advised that the department is now engaged in the construction of fourteen aerodromes throughout Australia, although none is being constructed in Wesern Australia. What rules or policies guide the department in deciding to construct an aerodrome? Does not the Minister consider that the function of the department should be to decide the priority of claims made on behalf of various localities for aerodrome facilities? Has the Minister considered that sparsely populated areas with limited local finance are not likely to be developed under the .present policy? “By reason of the. great distances between centres of population in Western Australia, has the Minister considered the importance to the development of that State of the expansion of internal ali routes?
– I am not aware that the number of aerodromes under construction in Australia at present approaches the total of fourteen that has been mentioned by the honorable member. One aerodrome is being constructed at Adelaide and another is being constructed at Moorabbin near Melbourne, too Mascot airport is being greatly extended, and a, few aerodromes are being mads, ai the instance of the Department of Civil Aviation, in relatively remote developmental areas. The statement that I made recently in reply to a question that had been asked by the honorable member for Farrer applies generally throughout Australia. Local governing authorities must take the initiative in the construction of aerodromes. If the new airfields happen to be situated on routes that carry sufficient traffic, the department will consider assuming responsibility for them. I should have thought that Western Australia already had a considerable network of airfields and air services. However, if the honorable member has in mind any particular areas in that State that he considers to be in need of air services, I shall be very glad to have all the information that he can supply to me about them.
– I direct a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation concerning proposals that have been made by the Cabinet sub-committee that has been appointed by this Government for the purpose of rationalizing commercial airlines. The sub-committee proposes to discontinue flight No. 468, the Trans-Australia Airlines service from Townsville to Mount Isa, and flight No. 467, the service from Mount Isa to Townsville. Those services provide for the whole of the north -western area of Queensland. The sub-committee also proposes to discontinue flights No. 474 and No. 473, operated by Trans-Australia Airlines, which connect the centralwestern and north-western areas’ of Queensland with Brisbane. In view of the fact that the stated .policy of this Government is to develop remote areas and render every possible assistance to people living in those regions, will the Minister refuse to implement the recommendations of the sub-committee or at least ensure that existing services shall be maintained ?
– The information has reached the honorable gentleman before it has reached me. I have no information about the matter of which he has spoken, and if Mr. Speaker will permit me to ask him a question in return–
– Order .’ The Minister will not be in order in doing so.
– The Minister will not dodge the issue in that way.
– I should be most grateful for an opportunity to have that information checked, and to attempt to discover how it has reached the honorable gentleman before it has reached the Minister who is, for the time being, responsible for that matter. When the information reaches me, I shall exercise, the judgment that; I possess in respect of it.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Air whether it is a fact that it is not at present intended to equip the new Pardoe aerodrome at Devonport with full radio navigational facilities? If so, will the Minister reconsider the matter, taking into account that Devonport could be used as an alternative aerodrome when both Hobart and Launceston aerodromes are closed? If Devonport could be used on such occasions Tasmanian-bound aircraft would be assured of a landing point in Tasmania instead of having to return to the mainland.
– I shall have the matter investigated in the light of what the honorable member has said, and advise him of the result of my investigations as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister acting for -the Minister for Air able to make a statement to the House of the reasons for the resignation of the former chairman of the National Airlines Commission, Mr. Coles ? In view of the reported statement in New York of the Minister for Air that private enterprise in the air is to be given more scope, will the Minister who is at present acting for that honorable gentleman indicate to the House the Government’s intention with regard to Trans-Australia Airlines, and the reported possible sale of Trans-Australia Airlines to- private enterprise or its suggested amalgamation with private enterprise? Will the Minister also indicate the full scope of the Government’s intentions in regard to this matter?
– The former chairman of the National Airlines Commission, has himself given his reasons for his resignation through the press. I have not heard any other reasons, publicly or privately, to supplement the reasons that he gave himself. The other matters mentioned by the honorable member relate to policy. It is not the custom to deal with such subjects in reply to questions.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. The Minister who is acting for the Minister for Air, in replying to a question that was asked by the honorable member for Yarra, failed to give a denial to a suggestion that the Government was considering the sale of Trans-Australia Airlines to private interests. In view of the Government’s announcement that it proposes to have the Constitution altered so as to make it impossible for any industry to be nationalized without the approval of the people, will the Government obtain the opinion of the people by referendum before it attempts to dispose of Trans-Australia Airlines or any other government undertaking?
– The quesion is entirely hypothetical. The Government has arrived at no determination in relation to that matter. I have read speculations about the sale, of TransAustralia Airlines. They are mere newspaper speculations as far as I am concerned.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs seen reports from Washington to the effect that the United States .Secretary of Defence, Mr. Louis Johnson, and the chairman of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, will tour the American Far Eastern Command next month with the intention of framing a peace treaty with Japan ? Such reports have been given considerable publicity in the press. Has the Minister been informed officially of ‘those plans by the United States authorities, and in any event, will he make urgent representations to the United States of America for the purpose of ensuring that Australia’s views on a peace treaty with Japan shall be fully considered?
-^ have been officially informed that the United States Secretary of Defence, Mr. Johnson, and General Omar N. Bradley will visit Japan some time before the end of June. The actual details of the duties which they will perform while they are in Japan will, no doubt, also involve discussions upon a peace treaty with that country, but I have no official information about that matter. Colonel Hodgson, who is the head of the Australian Mission in Japan, was to return to Australia by sea, but I have asked him to remain in Japan until after the visit of those two gentlemen.
– As it is part of the Government’s policy to expand open-cut coal production, will the Minister for National Development, when formulating his plans, afford financial assistance to South Australia in the development of the coal deposits at Leigh Creek which is the only coal undertaking in that State? The South Australian Electricity Trust, which is the operating authority, is at present faced with two major problems, the first of which is the construction of an expensive recervoir at Aroona Gorge; and the second, the urgent necessity for replacing an adequate railway, the greater part of which is owned by the Australian Government, between Leigh Creek and Port Augusta where a power station is being built. In view of the emergence of Leigh Creek as one of the pillars of South Australia’s economy, will the right honorable gentleman urgently consider claims for assistance in this work of national importance?
– The general question of how the Government is to provide assistance to the State governments for the development of Australia’s natural resources is at present under active consideration. That being so, I do not believe that it would be in the public interest for the Government to make ad hoc contributions in respect of particular public works however justified the undertakings might be. It is well known that South Australia has not any great superfluity of natural resources; and I have no doubt that if a formal request is made in respect of the construction of a reservoir at Aroona Gorge and the replacement of the railway to which the honorable member has referred, it will receive consideration. However, whilst those matters have been discussed informally, I am not aware that any formal approach has been made with respect to them.
– In view of the fact that the honorable member for Mackellar has charged the New South Wales Government with the sabotage of open-cut coal-mine development, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is a fact that the Joint Coal Board recently wrote to the Premier of New South Wales and expressed thanks and appreciation for the assistance and co-operation extended by the New South Wales Government to the Joint Coal Board in the development, not only of open-cut mines, but also of underground mines? If this is a fact, will the Prime Minister inform the House of the exact contents of the letter written by the Joint Coal Board to the New South Wales Government? Will the Prime Minister inform the House in what way and by what means this Government has made any effort to increase the production of coal from open-cut mines in Australia and in New South Wales in particular? Does the Prime Minister believe that his Government’s refusal to accede to the request of the miners’ federation for increased pensions and other amenities for its members will contribute to the increased production of coal, and that it will preserve peace in industry?
Ma-. MENZIES.- Naturally, I am not in possession of correspondence that has passed between the Joint Coal Board and the Premier of New South Wales. Therefore, I can make no statement on that subject. I have not seen the letter to which the honorable member has referred. That part of his question that relates to coal-mining I shall refer to the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, whose department deals with such matters.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs make a statement to the House indicating what commitments, financial and military, if any, were entered into on behalf of Australia at the Commonwealth Economic Conference on South-East Asia, held recently in Sydney which he attended as Australia’s representative? Can he say also whether the proposed withdrawal of Australian troops from Japan indicates that any undertaking has been given to use those troops in theatres of war outside Australia? If the Minister is not prepared to supply this information at the moment, will he give an undertaking to make a statement to the House and give to the House an opportunity to debate it before the present sessional period concludes?
– I am both able and willing to reply on the matters to which the honorable member has referred. The conference which was held1 at ‘Sydney had nothing to do with any but economic subjects. The conference did not discuss any problems of a military nature. The sole object of the conference was to consider the subject of economic aid to South Asia and South-East Asia.
– Were any commitments of a financial nature entered into?
– A communique was issued at the end of the conference which indicated the nature of the financial commitments. Only last week I informed the right honorable member for Barton that during this week I should make a statement to the House relative to the conferences. That will be done.
– I address a question to you, Mr. Speaker, apropos of your statement relative to card playing in the precincts of Parliament House. I desire to know whether you intend to arrange for officers of the security service to invade the private rooms of honorable members without warrant-
– Order ! Has the honorable member finished?
– Not quite. Do you rule, Mr. Speaker, that I may not ask the question?
-The honorable member has referred to,- the security service, over which I have no control. He is no novice in these matters.
– I desire to know what officers will be employed to invade the privacy of members’ rooms in order to discover whether honorable members are playing cards or doing anything else, and if no officers will be at your disposal,
Mr. Speaker, do you intend to do the detective work yourself ?
– I assure the honorable member that I propose to see to that, . inside this Parliament House, the law of the Australian Capital Territory shall be observed. Gambling is not permitted in Parliament House by any standing order or any decision of which I have knowledge. If the House is prepared topass a resolution declaring that starting price bookmaking and gambling on cards shall be permitted in this building, it will be a different matter. If the honorable member will look at to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald he will see that that notorious lady, Mae West, is opening a gambling casino in Nevada. In certain circumstances, we might have to ask forher assistance here.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. By way of explanation, I remind the honorable gentleman that the reputation of Australian beef is suffering seriously as a result of the present system of marketing. According to advice that I have received, in April last 45,000 tons of sub-standard frozen beef was held in London and was beingdistributed under the socialist system, to consumers. There was a time when Australian chilled beef was equal to beef from Argentina, but that there is now no basis of comparison between beef from the two countries as shown, by the difference between the price paid in England for beef from Argentina and that paid to Australian beef producers. Does the Minister anticipate an early return to the chilling of beef for the export trade? Is it true that in England the annual consumption of meat per capita is 70 lb. compared with 250 lb. per capita in Australia? Is it a fact that prior to the war, chilled beef exported from Australia to the United Kingdom was worth to Australian producers an average of Id. per lb. more than frozen beef, which represented £3 in respect of an average beast of 720 lb? If these are facts, is that disparity the result of government to government contracts? If competitive buying wereintroduced would the British people be- able to obtain a better share of available meat, as was the case prior to the advent of socialization in Great Britain? Would any increase in the export price of beef increase Australia’s London money balances? Does the Minister consider that such a price rise would have the effect of giving a measure of equity to the cattle producers, and put more meat in the mouths of the British people?
– The beef trade between Australia and the United Kingdom consists at present of trade in frozen beef. Neither the Australian Government nor the Australian meat trade decided that that should beso. The British Government, which as the honorable member knows is the sole purchaser in the United Kingdom of Australian beef, requested that frozen beef should be supplied. The United Kingdom desires frozen beef rather than chilled beef because, as is well known, frozen beef will remain in a usable condition for a lengthy time whereas chilled beef remains in a usable condition for a limited period only. In view of those facts I do not predict an early return of trade between Australia and the United Kingdom in chilled beef, although that matter will be dependent upon the United Kingdom’s own wishes. According to my information some experimental shipments of chilled beef are being sent to the United Kingdom from time to time so that we may not only keep ourselves abreast of modern technique but also improve the technique. It is true, as the honorable gentleman has said, that the per capita consumption of meat in Australia is vastly in excess of the per capita consumption in the United Kingdom. I think that the reasons for that fact are well known. It is a fact that some chilled beef was exported from Australia before the war probably to the margin mentioned by the honorable member. The present character of the trade as I have said is a result of the fact that the United Kingdom desires to purchase frozenbeef. My information is that the United Kingdom purchases frozen beef not only from New Zealand and Australia but also from Argentina, so that any price disparity between Australianbeef and beef from Argentina does not result from the fact that Argentine beef is chilled and Australian beef is frozen. No doubt if Australian beef were bringing a higher price in the United Kingdom some stimulation of Australian production would result, which would cause more beef to be made available to the United Kingdom. That is a circumstance that will be under discussion in relation to the proposed long-term meat agreement with the United Kingdom.
Broadcasting of Proceedings
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker, in relation to the broadcasting of the proceedings of this House. My question is a result of a number of communications that I have received, some of which have come from New South Wales, although most of them have come from the Australian Capital Territory. I have received a great number of letters requesting in some instances that the broadcasting of proceedings be extended to include the debates upon the motion for the adjournment of the House. With the indulgence of the House I shall read one communication that I have received, so that the matter may be placed in the proper perspective. The communication, which is signed, reads, in part -
You would agree,I am sure, that Canberra has more politically interested people per square yard than any other place in the Commonwealth, but neither of the two local broad casting stations puts the Parliamentary programme on the air.
It is a fact that much of what is said, at the ministerial level at least, is vitally important to officers of the Public Service in Canberra. To hear a debate is much more valuable than to read it in the press or inHansard, yet this is a most difficult thing to do in Canberra. One must tune in a distant National station and suffer all the fading and the interference which affects even the best receiving sets. My set is a pood one, but it always fades right out in the middle of an interesting question or address.
As radio is primarily for the entertainment of the people, it would not he reasonable to suggest that either of the local stationsshould drop its entertainment programme in favour of Parliament, but it should not be very difficult for the Postmaster-General to arrange for another transmitter to be set up in this area. A very small-powered one, just to serve Canberra would do. Surely the listeners in the Federal Capital deserve to have a choice of the two Australian Broadcasting Commission programmes as the residents oi all other capital cities have.
Or, better still (it seems rather odd that one commercial station has a monopoly here) could not the Postmaster-General grant another commercial broadcasting licence . . .
-Order! I think that the honorable gentleman’s question refers to matters that affect the PostmasterGeneral more than they affect me.
– Will you give consideration, Mr. Speaker, to the need for and the advisability of enabling the broadcasting of debates on the motion for the adjournment of the House? Will you confer with the Postmaster-General on the immediate practicability of installing another transmitter in the Australian Capital Territory in order to serve the needs of the listening public of this area? Alternatively, could consideration be given to the granting of a broadcast licence for the operation of a second station in the Australian Capital Territory, with the proviso that such station must broadcast parliamentary debates at the same time as the Australian Broadcasting Commission does?
– I shall put that part of the question which concerns me before the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee in order to ascertain the committee’s opinion of the broadcasting of the adjournment debate in the course of which interesting matters are sometimes raised. The other matter that was raised by the honorable member concerns the PostmasterGeneral, and I think that he will be good enough to consider the honorable member’s suggestion.
– In view of the fact that the Minister for Supply is endeavouring to obtain dollars from the tourist industry, will the Minister discuss with the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport the possibility of restoring the steamship passenger service between Hobart and Sydney? Since Zealandia, which was later lost in Darwin waters, was taken off this run in 1941, there has been no passenger ship running between Sydney and Hobart. This service is needed by
Tasmania as a whole and would be popular with American tourists who visit Australia. Such a service would earn muchneeded dollars.
– I shall bring the matter that has been raised by the honorable member under the notice of the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, and furnish a reply in due course.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider revising the order of priority that is observed in granting telephone services to new applicants by arranging for preference to be given to applicants in districts where many homes have been constructed recently? Will the honorable gentleman also consider using what public telephone equipment may be available for the erection of public telephones in recently developed areas?. I suggest that there should be a district priority as well as a personal one. Approximately 3,000 homes have been erected within the Bankstown municipality during the last two years, but there is a tremendous lack of telephone services, both public and private, in the outskirts of this municipality. Will the Minister give this district immediate attention ?
– It is perfectly true that in some districts the shortage of telephones is very much greater than in others. My departmental officers are examining the position with a view to supplying the cable that is available to those districts where it is most lacking and where the need is most urgent. I think that the district referred to by the honorable member is one of them. That is the Bankstown-Punchbowl area, which needs a lot of attention. We experience some difficulty in getting contractors to supply public telephone boxes, but if the honorable member or any other honorable member desires particular facilities, which can be shown to be warranted, in any particular part of his area, then I shall have the matter specially examined.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether any steps have been taken to deal with the congestion created in Port Melbourne by the failure of seamen, under Communist direction, to offer to man the ships in that port?
– Yes, a good deal of action has taken place in that connexion since the House last met. Conciliation Commissioner Hamilton Knight arrived in Melbourne on Friday, but was not able to conduct any proceedings or to take them to any length on that day owing to the absence of the secretary of the Victorian branch of the union who was at that time in Sydney. A meeting was held on Saturday morning. Arising from that meeting a decision was made to allow fullymanned ships to depart from the port of Melbourne, but yesterday when efforts were made to secure additional men for ships that were short manned, no men were forthcoming. I discussed this matter myself yesterday with some of tho representatives of the shipowners, and 1 must confess that all the provocation in this matter has not been on the one side. For example, on one ship the master was not content merely with logging and fining the men after their absence from duty in order to attend a meeting, but he logged and fined them three times in the one day and then again on the next day for good measure. Some of the masters logged and fined the men on more than one occasion arising out of the one meeting. The usual monthly meeting of the union was held to-day and I have been advised that at that meeting it was decided that all ships at present short manned should be manned. Steps will be taken by the union to resist the continuance of logging and fining, presumably by application to the Maritime Industry Commission, and a further resolution was carried which called for a meeting of all branch officials in Sydney this week to consider recommending that the management committee decide on a course of action with other militant organizations. That is all the information that I have.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether his department has a committee on nomenclature in Can berra? Is it a fact that Red Hill is to be re-named? If not, why not? Does the Minister recognize the embarrassment which this address causes the loyal residents of this area, particularly in their correspondence with persons overseas? Will he take action to remove the taint of disloyalty that attaches to residents of this area?
Question not answered.
– My question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture concerns the quality of Australian cheese sold overseas. In the reports submitted to the Australian Dairy Produce Board by the chairman, Mr. G. C. Howey, following his visit oversea last year, Mr. Howey made reference to the adverse reports that he had received about the quality of Australian cheese arriving in Great Britain, large quantities of which were described as. unsuitable for the trade. Will the Minister investigate these reports, and if he finds them substantially accurate will he endeavour to rectify the position in the interests of the large number of conscientious dairy farmers and factories directly concerned in the good reputation of the Australian dairy products overseas
– I have seen the report made by Mr. Howey in relation to the quality of Australian cheese. I have also seen some statistics which reveal that the proportion of Australian cheese graded as “choicest” is far from satisfactory. Mr. Howey, I understand, has reported his observations to the Australian Dairy Produce Board, and I believe the board has given consideration to this matter. The question of what steps may be taken to improve the general standard of Australian cheese for export and for home consumption is at present being considered particularly with regard to increasing the proportion which can be graded as “ first quality “ or “ choicest “. Nothing has come to my notice which would indicate that it i3 the fault of the Australian dairyfarmers that our cheese is not rated as highly as we might have hoped.
– 1 ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, whether it is a fact that the rice crop expected this year in the Murrumbidgee area of New South Wales will be the second largest on record. Is it a fact that the bulk of the Australian rice crop is exported, leaving our own population in need of this very necessary commodity? Is it further a fact that before any person in this country can purchase rice he must be in possession of a medical certificate? If those arc facts, will the Minister, in view of the large prospective rice crop, remove the ban on the purchase of rice by the Australian people?
– Statistics in relation to the current crop are not available, but before the recent floods in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area it was anticipated that the rice crop would be heavy. It is a fact that rice is made available in Australia only to Australian people of oriental ancestry and to hospitals and persons who are regarded by a doctor as needing rice in their diet. The ban in connexion with rice is maintained for the purpose of ensuring that the essential needs in Australia, and comparable needs in New Zea land, are first met. It is also imposed to ensure that sufficient rice will be available to discharge our responsibilities to the people in our mandated or trusteeship areas, and in the Territory of Papua and elsewhere. It is our special responsibility to supply these areas. We also supply New Caledonia, the Condominium of the New Hebrides, and other Pacific areas. The surplus rice beyond that required for the purposes I have mentioned has been sent, up to the present time, to food deficient areas, principally to Malaya. A* soon as the volume of this year’s rice crop is revealed the inquiries I have initiated on the continuing needs for Australian rice in Malaya and other places will be measured against the available quantity of rice and a decision will then be made on whether the Government thinks it necessary to maintain the present arrangements for the distribution of rice.
– T ask a question of the Minister for National Development concerning the visit that was made by Com mander Jackson to Western Australia about the 18th April for the purpose of having official talks with departmental chiefs about problems of development in that State. Commander Jackson investigated schemes for harbour development, land settlement, industrial development, electricity and water supply projects, agricultural development, and other matters associated with the development of the north-western area of the State. Has Commander Jackson submitted any report to the Minister a9 the result of his investigations? If not, when does the Minister expect to receive a report from Commander Jackson?
– Commander Jackson is engaged on a series of visits to all capital cities, principally for the purpose of meeting departmental officers concerned with developmental works and also, in appropriate circumstances, Premiers and other State Ministers. It is inevitable that the developmental plans of the State governments should be presented to him in the course of the discussions. The object of this procedure is to make Commander Jackson familiar as quickly as possible with the developmental projects of the States. I have had no formal report from him although, upon his return from each capital city, he has discussed with me at considerable length the plans that have been referred to him. The Government is considering a broad programme for the rapid development of Australia’s natural resources which involves the provision of assistance in various ways to the State governments. As soon as the broad general programme has been framed and accepted by the Government, it will- be announced to this Parliament, if it is in session, or if the Parliament is in recess, by means of nation-wide publication. In the meantime, I do not believe that ad hoc statements about any part of the total problem would serve any useful purpose.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that ex-servicemen’s organizations are gravely dissatisfied about the delay in granting the promised increase of service pensions? Is he aware that Mr. C. R. Laraghy, secretary of the Limbless Soldiers Association of Victoria, said yesterday, as reported in to-day’s issue of the Argus, that disabled soldiers were incensed by the Prime Minister’s failure to fulfil his election promise to review their pensions? Many limbless soldiers were living in pitiable circumstances because of the Government’s parsimony-
– Order ! Is the honorable gentleman basing the question cn a newspaper report?
– Then I should like to know what he is doing with the newspaper that he is holding.
– I am basing my question upon the promise that was made on behalf of the present Government parties d.uring the general emotion campaign. Is the Government prepared te carry out the request of limbless exservicemen
– Order ! I think that the honorable member is trying to read from a newspaper.
– I am not reading from a newspaper.
– Then there is no need for the honorable gentleman to hold one in his hand. I want it to be understood, once and for all, that I shall not permit questions to be based upon newspaper reports. If the honorable gentleman has a question that he wants to ask the Prime Minister, he may ask it; if he wants to read from a newspaper, he may not do so.
– I was not reading from a newspaper. I was referring to it in order to refresh my mind concerning some figures. Is the Prime Minister prepared to accede to the request of the Limbless Soldiers Association of Victoria that the pension for totally and permanently disabled exservicemen be increased to £7 a week and that the pension for men who are suffering from 100 per cent, disability be increased to £3 10s. a week?
– I have not seen today’s issue of the ‘Argus. The honorable member has asked a question about what he well knows to be a matter of government policy, which already has received the very close attention of a Cabinet sub committee and is awaiting Cabinet discussion. I want to make it clear, once and for all, that the Government is not going to make announcements of the kind that the honorable member seeks in answer to questions. Such matters deserve and will be the subject of special government announcements at the appropriate times.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General concerning the broadcasting of sporting fixtures, especially international football and cricket matches. Will the honorable gentleman discuss with the Australian Broadcasting Commission the possibility of enabling such broadcasts to be completed without interruptions, which make them utterly confusing, particularly as the radio descriptions provide the only means by which hundreds of thousands of Australians can follow the progress of such important matches? As the Minister may know, it is not satisfactory, when a footballer is running for the line or a cricketer is 98 not out, to be told “ They are racing at Mentone “ or at seme other race-course. Will the Minister discuss with the commission the possibility of arranging relay channels so that it will be possible for broadcasts, of test matches at any rate, to be begun, continued and completed without interruption?
– I am having considerable trouble with horse racing at present, but I did not expect trouble from this quarter. I thoroughly appreciate the nature of th,e problem that the right honorable, member has raised and I shall communicate with the Australian Broadcasting Commission in order to ascertain whether continuous broadcasts of such sporting events as he has mentioned can be made.
– hy leave - I have previously made brief references in the House to the situation in Malaya, and honorable members will be aware that the Government has recently had the advantage of informal discussions on the subject with
Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, the CommissionerGeneral for the United Kingdom in South-East Asia. There is no question that the .position in Malaya to-day is serious. Last year, there were encouraging signs that the efforts of the civil and military authorities were achieving a steady reduction in terrorist activity and a corresponding increase in the confidence of the Malayan and Chinese communities. Unfortunately, the situation has deteriorated considerably during the past few months. Heartened by Communist successes in China, and no doubt expecting increased moral and material support from sources outside Malaya, these fanatical terrorists have considerably increased the scope and intensity of their activities. It also seems that their operations are being conducted with greater skill and daring than before.
The terrorists operating in Malaya are predominantly Chinese of non-Malayan origin. As I have previously said in answer to a question in the House, their activities are in no way related to any true national or nationalistic movement. They are directly associated with communistic activities in other Asiatic countries. In fact, the majority of their victims have been Malays or Chinese. The results which they are achieving are out of all proportion to their numbers, especially when compared with the strength of the military and police forces deployed against them. There are several reasons for this. The nature of the country, large areas of which are covered by jungle, affords them admirable cover and makes surprise raids and ambushes a relatively easy matter. By terrorizing the local communities, especially the Chinese “ squatters “, they are able to gain early information about the movement of troops and police, and at the same time to prevent information of their own movements from reaching the Government forces. Mainly because of the fear in which they are held, they are able to obtain supplies from and, if hard pressed, to hide among the “ squatter “ communities.
Events in Malaya are, of course, a part of the global pattern of imperialistic Communist aggression, and must be seen in a world context. The ultimate objective of the Soviet leaders is, and always has been, world communism under their control. For some years their tactics had to conform to their relative weakness, but at the end of the war they considered that the balance of world political and military power had so changed in their favour that they could at last go over to the offensive. The result is the “ cold war “, a war waged relentlessly by every means - political, economic, psychological - short of the actual use of armed force. With Machiavellian skill, the Soviet leaders have endeavoured to weaken and disintegrate the non-Communist countries by infiltration in political parties, trade unions, and other organizations, in order to create unrest, disorder and discontent. They probe for, and concentrate their efforts on, the weaknesses of their opponents. Checked in Europe because of the successes of the West in achieving a remarkable measure of economic recovery with the help of Marshall Aid, and because of the Western Union and North Atlantic treaties, coupled with American military aid, which has promoted collective security and strength among the Western Powers, they have turned to Asia. Here they have achieved much greater success, because of events in China, and by the embarrassment of the Governments of Hong-Kong, Indo-China, Burma, Malaya and Indonesia.
Marxist-Leninist theory postulates that one of the so-called “ contradictions of capitalism” is the conflict between the capitalist nations of the West and the colonial and dependent peoples. Zhdanov, at the inaugural meeting of the Cominform in 1947, stated that one of their main tasks was to attack what he called the “ capitalist rear “ by backing nationalist and dissident movements in South-East Asia and the colonial areas. It is generally agreed that the problems of South-East Asia are largely economic and that the fundamental need is to build up standards of living in that area. Honorable members will be aware of the recommendations of the Colombo Conference and of the conference in Sydney to this end. This Government will co-operate to the fullest possible extent in whatever detailed plans are evolved. It is clear, however, that the assistance to be given for economic progress in Malaya must be accompanied by an improvement in the present internal security conditions. The first objective of aggressive communism is to create through the action of a foreign-sponsored fifth column a situation in which the economic rehabilitation of Malaya would be impossible and economic aid would fail to achieve a useful purpose.
Another of the objectives of Soviet global strategy is to increase the military commitments of Britain and France in South-East Asia, and so tie down military resources which would otherwise be available for the defence of Western Europe or other vital areas. As has been shown by our experience in the recent war, Australia has a vital interest in the present situation in the Malay Peninsula, because of the relation of inescapable geographic and strategic facts to its security. Though the defence of Malaya is a responsibility of the United Kingdom Government, it is also a part of the regional defence problem in the Pacific, which must be shared by Australia with the United Kingdom and other countries with interests in this area. Malaya is a key point in the strategic region, of which Australia is a main support area. Apart from the role which Australia may take as a member of the British Commonwealth in co-operation in mutual defence, it is fundamental to our security that the situation in Malaya, which has been brought about by the foreign-sponsored fifth column, should be cleared up as soon as possible. In the light of the situation I have described, the Government is therefore giving careful consideration to the question of ways and means of assisting the United Kingdom Government in its Malayan problem. I hope to make a further statement to the House on this aspect within the next day or so.
– Will the Prime Minister move that the paper be printed ?
– Yes. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Situation in Malaya - Ministerial statement, and move -
That the paper be printed.
The statement which I have just made, and the one which I have forecast, may be debated together.
Debate . (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 25th May (vide page 3279), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– in reply - The House has heard a very interesting debate on the child endowment legislation, and I should like to express to my colleagues in the Liberal party and in the Australian Country party my appreciation, and that of the Government, for the unanimous support which they have given in their speeches to our proposal. It was a prominent feature of the programme which was presented by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) to the people during the recent general election campaign, and, therefore, it is encouraging to have the unanimous support of members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party for the measure which adopts one of the undertakings which we gave at that time. Of course, the bill has reached this House in a form that is unacceptable to the Government, but it has been made clear in this debate that members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party strongly support the stand which the Government is taking on this matter. My reply, therefore, will be directed to the arguments which have been advanced, and some of the criticisms which have been made, by Opposition speakers. It is not easy to thread a way through the maze of their inconsistencies. I suppose that it is fair to say that the Opposition’s comment has run the full gamut of argument from the friendly speech of the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), whose only criticism was that the Government did not intend to pay enough by the way of child endowment, to the other extreme, which was represented by the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who devoted most of his time to a mass of class-conscious clap-trap.
I should not take up the time of the House by replying to the honorable member were it not for the fact that he made his speech when proceedings in the House were being broadcast and his remarks attracted the kind of publicity that sensational abuse usually obtains. His speech was dishonest and mischievous.
– That is not parliamentary language.
– The speech that the honorable member for Hindmarsh made was dishonest in that he deliberately sought to convey a false impression by making allegations /against supporters of the Government that he cannot substantiate. He said that honorable members on this side were stooges for the big business interests that he alleged the Government represents, and that a number of them indulged in week-end jaunts to places outside Australia. We hear far too much of that kind of ci ass-conscious clap-trap in this place. The honorable member said that one supporter of the Government owns five moto: cars. I understand that one honorable member opposite owns five hotels and another, five or more, picture theatres. I do not mention that fact in criticism of those honorable members. It is a good thing that members of the Parliament should represent a cross-section of the community and that honorable members on both sides of the House should include men who by their acumen, thrift and industry have been able to accumulate substance for themselves.
– Who is the honorable member who owns five hotels?
– I do not propose to announce his name, but I shall give it to the honorable member later if he wishes.
– I know the honorable member to whom the Minister has referred.
– The honorable member does not; and for his information I may say that I am not referring to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy). As I said earlier. I am not criticizing the honorable member to whom I have referred. I say good luck to any honorable member who can acquire hotels, picture shows, grazing properties or any other properties. However, I can say definitely that at least five of the ten wealthiest members of the Parliament are members of the Labour party.
– What has this to do with child endowment?
– Very little, I agree. I would not have touched upon the matter except to reply to some of the statements that were made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who tried to convey the impression that by the introduction of this measure not only the Government itself but also the Commonwealth Arbitration Court are engaged in some sinister plot. He was dishonest when he endeavoured to lead the people to believe that members of the Parliament are divided into those who speak for the wealthy and those who speak for the poor. The facts are that members of the Parliament are representative of all sections of the people and that men of very modest means as well as men of considerable substance are to be found on both sides of the House. The only weekend jaunts that some supporters of the Government have made outside Australia have been jaunts that they have made when they went abroad wearing the uniform of this country to fight in its defence. Therefore, one can dismiss with contempt the cheap criticism that the honorable member for Hindmarsh uttered.
Honorable members opposite generally argued along two main lines. First, they contended that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should be instructed to ignore the provision of child endowment for the first child when it was computing the basic wage; and, secondly, they advanced the proposition that the rate of endowment should be 10s. a. week instead of 5s. a week. I propose to test the validity of those arguments in the light of the facts. Some honorable members opposite implied that the Government is making a sinister attempt to offset the provision of this endowment by bringing about a reduction of the basic wage.
– Hear, hear !
– As the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) implies, honorable members opposite contend that the Government has introduced this measure in a deliberate attempt to carry out that purpose. A calm examination of the facts will suffice to disprove that argument completely. I ask honorable members to cast their minds back to the time when the former Menzies Government introduced the original child endowment measure, because I want to establish once and for all the good faith of the Government in relation to this matter. There is no mystery about the circumstance that when the first child endowment measure was introduced the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was considering an application for an increase of the basic wage. It was precisely because the court had such an application before it and because the judges said in the course of the hearing of that application that a situation existed which could not be corrected merely by increasing the basic wage, that the Government of the day stepped in and took the action that it took. There was no mystery about the circumstances surrounding the introduction of that measure. The reasons for its introduction were made clear at that time.
– What did the judges say ? .
– The Chief Judge said, in effect, that in his view, whilst the basic wage was adequate for a man, wife and one child and provided a meagre allowance for a man, wife and two children, any family which included more than two children suffered hardship. He added that the court could not correct that position merely by awarding an all-round increase of the basic wage. That problem did not come within the province of the court, but could be met by the implementation of a system of child endowment. The Government of the day considered not only that position, but also another important factor to which I referred when I introduced the original child endowment bill. At that time Australia was at war and we realized that we should have to finance our defence expenditure by imposing heavy taxation upon not only the wealthier sections of the community but also upon all sections if the purposes of the taxation were to be achieved. Those purposes included not only the raising of the requisite revenue but also the transfer of purchasing power so that man-power and materials and our industrial resources generally could be applied to the demands of war. That was one of the most important factors which confronted the former Menzies Government when it introduced child endowment. At that time no member of the Parliament argued that the provision of child endowment would adversely affect the basic wage from the standpoint of the wage-earner although in strict logic that argument could have been advanced with very much more force then than it can be advanced to-day. I say that for the reason that at that time revenue for the payment of child endowment was raised almost entirely by means of the pay-roll tax, which was a direct charge on industry. Of the £11,000,000 initially required to endow the second child and subsequent children, approximately £9,000,000 was raised by means of that tax. So, at that time, almost the whole amount needed to finance the child endowment scheme was made a direct charge on industry.
The Commonwealth Arbitration Court had said that industry should pay the highest wage it could afford to pay. Conseqently, if industry had to carry that additional burden it could forcibly have been argued that the capacity of industry to pay had been affected to that degree, and that the wage paid by” industry should have been reduced accordingly. That argument, however, was not advanced either by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Curtin, or by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). The proposal to levy a pay-roll tax as a means of financing the child endowment scheme was accepted by them as it was also accepted by the official spokesman of the trade union movement in Canberra at. that time. They criticized the tax, not on the ground that I have mentioned but only on the ground that it represented a charge on one section of the community. The then Leader of the Opposition in this House, Mr. Curtin, and the then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, indicated that they would not oppose the collection of revenue in that way. However valid such an argument may have been in those days, that consideration does not arise in this instance. Of the £31,000,000 required to meet the present cost of child endowment £22,000,000 is provided from the proceeds of the payroll tax. The provisions in this bill will result in increasing the expenditure on the scheme by £15,000,000 bringing the total cost to £46,000,000 in a full year. It is not proposed that pay-roll tax shall be increased to meet that additional cost j it will be met from the general revenues of the Commonwealth which are imposed on a wide variety of people and not by any means on industry only. Consequently the capacity of industry to pay will not be affected by this proposal to anything like the same degree as it was by the earlier proposal. That is the first point which I wish to emphasize.
The second point I wish to make is in relation to the suggestion that there is some sort of sinister motive behind the Government’s proposals in this bill. It lias been suggested that it is at least curious that the Government’s intention to endow the first child should again be made known at a time when the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is considering an application for an increase of the basie wage. The Government’s decision could be so described if in fact it had been made at a time when the court was hearing an application for an increase of the basic wage, but that is not so. The decision of the Liberal party to extend endowment to the first child waS made not when the court was hearing an application for a variation of the basic wage but when the party was first formed in 1945. The first printed statement of policy issued by the party in 1945 stated that the party had decided as a part of its social programme to extend child endowment to the first child. That decision was made not with the notion of gaining party political advantage, but as a definite part of the party’s social programme. During the general election campaign of 1946 the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then Leader of the Opposition, announced his intention to extend endowment to the first child if he were elected to office. During the years between 1946 and 1949 in which years the next general election was held, the Liberal party in publicity propaganda, in statements by its members from public platforms throughout the country and in this House continued to advocate the ex- tension of child endowment to the first child. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who made a very interesting contribution to this debate on a subject on which he is an acknowledged authority, admitted that he had always favoured the endowment of the first child. The honorable gentleman will recall that prior to the general election of 1946, as president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, he sent a telegram to the then Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition, pressing him on behalf of the trade union movement to extend endowment to the first child as part of the Labour Government’s social programme. When that request was refused he sent another telegram to the Prime Minister expressing in very strong terms the concern of the trade union movement at his refusal to extend child endowment to the first child. These are all pieces of evidence which, I suggest, establish the good faith of the present Government in this matter.
Is it believed by the Opposition as the honorable member for Hindmarsh indicated last week, that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is involved in a sinister way in this matter? I remind them, and particularly the honorable member for Hindmarsh, that a strong safeguard against any jiggery pokey on the part of the Government on this matter exists in the composition of the court itself. Of the four judges of the court, three were appointed by governments led by Opposition members, and the fourth member, who was appointed by a Government representative of our side of politics, was subsequently promoted as Chief Judge of the court by the former Government. The body of men who compose the court have the confidence and respect of every section of this Parliament. It is immaterial to me, as I am certain it is to them in the conduct of their duty, by which Government they were appointed. Nobody can argue that they are stooges who were placed in their position by this Government and that they are involved in an underhand plot to deny the wage-earners a fair return for their labours.
– Only the Minister has made such a suggestion.
– Not at all. I could produce the Hansard record to prove otherwise.
– Can the Minister state what proportion of the additional cost of the scheme is to be borne by industry as distinct from the general community?
– Of the £46,000,000 that will be involved in this scheme, £22,000,000 will continue to be raised by way of the pay-roll tax. Of the original cost of £11,000,000, approximately £9,000,000 was raised from that tax.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who led the Opposition debate on this bill, and also other honorable members, have asked that instructions have been given by the Government to counsel representing the Commonwealth in the basic wage case. They have asked, too, whether counsel have been instructed to inform the court that child endowment is to bc taken into consideration by the court in its computation of the basic wage. I want to clear up any misapprehensions on that point by saying that the instructions given by this Government to counsel appearing before the court are precisely the same as were those given by the previous Government. Counsel have been told that they are there to assist the court and that they are not to advance arguments on one side or the other; but that if the court desires information in connexion with Commonwealth matters, or matters upon which the Commonwealth can supply information of assistance to the court, then they are to supply such information.
– Several State governments are represented before the court.
– The government of the States are answerable to their own electors. We are answerable to this Parliament and to those who elected us to office. I merely confirm the fact that we have given counsel no instructions that would in any way prejudice the position of either party in the case. Our counsel are before the court, I repeat, to assist it. As I have indicated earlier, the Government proposes, when the bill reaches the committee stage, to reject the proposition that this measure should include an instruction to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court not to take the payment of endowment for the first child into consideration when it is determining the basic wage.
– The Minister should not debate that point until the committee stage is reached.
– Order !
– Then I rise to order. Mr. Speaker, if necessary.
-Order ! That is n matter for the honorable gentleman himself. I do not know what is necessary from his point of view.
– The Standing Orders contain certain provisions, one of which is that the right of reply means the right of reply to the preceding debate. The Minister has clearly indicated that he intends to deal with certain amendments made to the bill by the Senate. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that you prevented me from doing so.
– I do not think I did so.
– I can produce the proof, Mr. Speaker.
-Order ! Quite a lot of proofs can be produced. The Minister is quite in order as far as I can see.
– The honorable member for Dalley may not have heard as much of the debate as I have heard. I have heard almost all of it. I can assure him that in the course of the debate a great deal of argument has been directed to the Opposition’s proposal that we should accept the Labour party’s amendment so that the bill would, in effect, tell the court that it was to ignore child endowment when it was considering the basic wage.
– That was in the bill as the Minister introduced it.
– Of course it was in the bill as I introduced it, because I introduced it in the form in which it was received from another place. I told the House then that the bill was not acceptable to the Government in the form in which it was received. I do not desire to enter into any detailed argument on the matter now, because I shall debate it in detail at the committee stage. I consider, however, that much unnecessary discussion at the committee stage may bo avoided if I make it perfectly clear now that the Government does not propose to accept the inclusion in the measure of the provision that I have mentioned. It regards such a provision as being bad in principle and of very doubtful constitutional validity. However, we can deal with that matter in more detail when the bill is at the committee stage.
Another argument that has been developed by honorable members opposite in the course of this debate related to the proposition that the payment in respect of the first child should be increased from 5s. a week to 10s. a week. That was a remarkable argument because it cut completely across the Opposition’s earlier argument regarding what it claimed to be the likely effect upon the basic wage of the extension of child endowment to the first child. As honorable members on this side of the House very properly reminded the House, Opposition speakers could not have it both ways. If the payment of 5s. a week would prejudice the basic wage, then obviously doubling that payment would have an even more serious effect. However, the two inconsistent arguments advanced by honorable members opposite went marching along side by side.
I shall deal with the position very briefly. I shall first comment upon the fact that the Opposition has said that if the Government leaves the payment at 5s. a week the Commonwealth Arbitration Court may award a lower basic wage than it would otherwise have done, because it would hold that provision had now been made for the first child as well as for subsequent children. Surely nobody seriously argues that the payment of 10s. a week in respect of the second child and subsequent children represents the charge upon a family’s income occasioned by the rearing of a child. It was never suggested at any point in our discussions in connexion with this bill that by child endowment the second and subsequent children had been provided for in the family wage. Child endowment payments are merely supplements to family incomes. It has never been suggested that they represent a re-imbursement of the actual charge of a child on the wageearner’s income. If honorable members desire a truer picture of what that charge is likely to be, they should consider the provisions that were made during the war years for members of the armed services. I am speaking from memory only, but honorable members will recall that an allowance of a certain amount was made to each soldier for his wife, an allowance of £1 ls. a week for the first child, 14s. a week for the second child, and either 10s. 6d., 12s. 6d. or some comparable amount for each of his subsequent children. That was a more realistic assessment of the actual charge upon a family income occasioned by a child. We do not argue for one moment that when we have provided 10s. a week endowment for the second child or subsequent children we shall have fully provided for the cost of rearing each such child ; nor do we attempt to argue that in providing 5s. a week for the first child we shall have provided fully for the cost of rearing that child. Nobody, and certainly not any member of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, will believe for one moment that payment on that scale represents an adequate remuneration to meet the needs of the family.
The second comment that I desire to make is in relation to the fact that the endowment for the first child is to be less than the endowment for the second child and subsequent children. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) said in his speech that for income tax purposes a rebate of £100 is allowed to taxpayers in respect of a first child, and a rebate of only £50 is allowed in respect of the second child and subsequent children. That means that the taxpayer receives some additional relief in respect of the first child. The honorable member for Perth rather extraordinarily said that we would alter that rebate. In fact, he recommended that we alter it, and said that it would be only fair for us to do so. That is an astonishing proposition to be advanced on behalf of a party that is arguing that we ought to double the payment of endowment proposed by this measure.
– He was not speaking on behalf of the Labour party.
– I am quite certain that that is not the official policy of the party. E can relieve any anxiety about that matter he raised, however, by assuring the House that the Government has no intention of altering the rebate provisions. [Extension of time granted.] The reason why the Government intends to maintain its original proposition for the payment of 5s. a week endowment in respect of the first child is that we made it perfectly clear during the last general election’ campaign that we proposed to introduce endowment for the first child on that scale. We are honouring the undertaking that we gave then, and we do not propose to go any further at this stage than the payment that we then indicated. If honorable members opposite are so enthusiastic about the payment of 10s. a week as endowment for the first child, and consider such a payment so important to the average family income, why did they not do something about it when they had ample opportunity to demonstrate their good faith during the long years that they were in office? They had an opportunity during the course of the general election campaign to state precisely where they stood. They took that opportunity, and precisely where they stood at that time was indicated by the fact that they refused to entertain the provision of any endowment in respect of the first child. A great deal has been said about the basic wage and how inadequate child endowment payments are as a supplement to the average family income. There might be a good deal of force in such comment, but the basic wage, to-day, is not the family wage. The average weekly earning of the Australian wage-earner during the December quarter of last year was £9.73 a week. This position must be considered realistically in the light of that figure. It should not be assumed that the Australian people are living on the basic wage. I invite honorable members opposite to name in the course of the committee debate any industry or any section of an industry in which a man receives the basic wage and nothing more. [ invite them to name, if they will, any one man of their acquaintance who is receiving the basic wage and nothing more. As the name implies, the basic wage is a basis of payment and added to it are industrial allowances and other payments which make up the real wage that is earned. The income of the average family in Australia is made up of the sum of £9.73 which I have mentioned, plus child endowment payments of 10s. for each child subsequent to the first. Australia has one of the highest living standards in the world at the present time and it probably has the highest living standard that its people have ever known.
The arguments and facts which I have put before the House by way of reply completely demolish the case that has been put forward by the Opposition, and I hope that they will have the useful effect of considerably shortening the debate in the committee stages.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In commit lae:
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (‘Child endowment a general social service and not to affect wages or salaries).
.- From many aspects this is the most important clause in the bill. I sincerely hope that the Government will not reject it. If it does reject parts of the clause, I hope that it will favorably consider a portionof it. This clause proposes to insert a new section in the statute. The first part of it is a declaration of the intention of Parliament. It gives no instruction to any court or tribunal on what wage or salary should be fixed. I ask the committee to distinguish sharply between sub-section (1.) and sub-sections (2.) and (3.) of proposed new section 94a. Sub-section (1.) simply makes a declaration of what I understand to be the view of the Minister and of the Government, which is that the endowment payable in respect of a first child is intended to provide a social service for the welfare of children of all members of the community. It has nothing to do with an industrial dispute or any wage which the court may have to fix. I understand it to be common ground, and no one has disputed it, that this payment is intended to be a social service for the welfare of children of all members of the community. Who will receive benefit from this legislation? Not merely the employee, but all sections of the community, including the selfemployed person. There is no section of the community that will not receive the benefit subject to the conditions that are specified. There is no means test. This payment has nothing whatever to do with industrial disputes and wage fixing. It bears no relation to the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes or to any industrial law, and it is to be enjoyed quite irrespective of whether the parent is an employee in receipt of wages or salary or an employer or the possessor of any other means of livelihood. That is where the Minister, in his statement of the position, fell into error. This payment is not intended to supplement family income. It is intended to be a payment to the mother for the benefit of a particular child. It has no more relevance, logically, to the basic wage or any other wage than has any other social service. During the basic wage inquiry the anti-Labour Governments of Victoria, South Australia and “Western Australia, have asked the court to take all social services into account in fixing the basic wage. Such action would be completely contrary to the whole principle of social services. Social service moneys are payable irrespective of whether the recipient is an employee. Why the Government cannot agree to the declaration set out in sub-section (1.) of the proposed new section I cannot imagine. The court could then say, “ There is the intention of the Parliament “. The declaration would not bind the court or limit its jurisdiction, but the court could say, “ It is an indication to us that the Parliament is giving something over and above what the wage should be because it is giving it to those who are employers as well as to those who are employees “.
– If sub-section (1.) is inserted, will the other sub-sections be superfluous ?
– No. It might be contended before the court that a direction to the court to ignore this payment would not bind the court, but this is not a direction. It is a positive description of what the endowment is. It is a true description of the existing position which should be brought to the attention of the court by Parliament in a direct and vivid way.
– That is my point. If it is stated what the endowment is, the court would not take it into consideration.
– That is what I should expect. That is quite correct. But the sub-section would not represent a direct mandate or order to the court that it should disregard the payment. It would not be a negative prohibition upon the court’s jurisdiction but a. positive description of what Parliament intends and, in that case, I cannot imagine that the court would take such a payment into account by diminishing the basic wage that is would otherwise have fixed. In 1941. when child endowment was introduced during the war, it was associated with wages earned in industry because the burden of payment was borne by industry. The Minister will agree that the question of child endowment arose from the court’s suggestion that some payment should be made in respect of children other than the first in order to make the wage-earner’s position more tolerable. But, if what the Minister says is correct, only about half the cost of the proposed payments will be borne by industry in the form of the pay-roll tax.
It i3 quite useless for the Minister to point out that there is no such thing to-day as the basic wage. We are dealing not only with the basic wage, but also with every wage. Every wage payable under a federal or State award includes within its own content the basic wage. If a man is paid £10 a week under an award his wage is subject to the rise and fall of the basic wage. Therefore, we cannot speak only about the basic-wage earner, we must also relate our remarks to all wageearners. With regard to the £9 14s.-
– The figures are £9.73.
– Then perhaps £9.73 and not £6 18s. should be considered. But that is not the point. Under this legislation the danger is that the court’s fixation of the basic wage will be influenced by the payment of endowment. Although that, may not necessarily reduce the basic wage, the court is extremely likely to increase it by less than it otherwise would. I. answer the Minister by saying that the basic wage cannot be considered in isolation, the matter to be dealt with is the court’s fixation of the basic wage as it is immediately reflected in the total wage including the margin. If endowment is taken into account that fixation will be affected by way of diminution of the figure that the court would otherwise fix. That should not be so. The policy of the Government, us indicated in the policy speech of the right honorable member for Kooyong, shows that it should not be so. The right honorable gentleman said that it should not be taken into account, and that if the court did take it into account, in a radical way, then the matter would be reviewed. My point goes deeper; in fact it is the view of the Opposition that social services are not related to wages payable. Social services are payable to all sections of the community. Child endowment is equally payable to a farmer, to an employee and to an employer. “Why should payments, which are for the benefit of families, be taken into account by way of reduction of t he wages or salaries of employees ? That is the crucial question and I ask the Minister to again look at clause 3 which he wishes to omit. I suggest that that would be a dangerous omission.
– The Government is trying to restore the bill to the form in which it was presented to this Parliament.
– The Opposition is trying to improve the bill. The Government is now doing what it complained of our doing in respect of other bills. The Minister voted for the second reading of the bill, but he said that he did not want to make it unworkable in practice. Under sub-sections (2.) and (3.) of proposed new section 94a limitations are placed on jurisdiction. That is an addition to the previous provision, and I ask why the industrial authority should take this into account at all? Why should not the Parliament direct as the amendment of the Senate provides that it should ?
– Order ! The time of the right honorable member has expired.
.- At the present time the committee is considering, strangely enough, not the bill that Government supporters in another place voted for at the second reading. The Opposition was charged with inconsistency on another occasion because it voted for the second reading of a bill and then sought to amend it. Now we find the Government doing exactly the very thing which last week we were ridiculed for doing. That ‘ is voting for the second reading and then seeking to make amendments in committee. The whole question to be determined is whether the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should take into consideration in fixing the basic wage any decision of this Parliament in regard to endowment. I recently said, and I do not withdraw it, that the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) made it clear, during his Western Australian campaign at the general election before last upon making his proposal to endow the first child, that if he were returned to office the Government would, if necessary, indicate to the court that it should not take notice of this particular matter. As this bill was originally presented, provision was made for the payment of 5s. endowment for the first child. No direction in respect of the basic wage was given. Nor did the legislation indicate to the court the wish of the Parliament as to whether or not the additional endowment should be taken into consideration by the court in its fixation of the basic wage. A very significant thing happened during the last general election campaign. As soon as this bill was mooted in the policy speech of the present Prime Minister, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which for over twelve months had been considering the basic wage case, immediately adjourned the hearing of the case. That adjournment was unquestionably due to the fact that some reference had been made to endowment for the first child. It is quite clear that the court adjourned for the purpose of discovering whether a government would be returned which would pay endowment for the first child, thereby relieving the court of the necessity for making provision for its maintenance in the basic wage. In another place the bill, as originally presented, was amended. It is this particular amendment that the Government now seeks to strike out of the bill. The amendment in another place was in the form of a declaration, to which type of legislation we are becoming quite used now-a-days. The declaration is to this effect - that endowment payable under this Fart is intended to be and is a social service . . .
That is a very definite declaration of the intention of another place that this endowment should be treated as a social service and not as a payment representing some portion of the basic wage. It further declares - . . it bears no relation to the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes or to any industrial matter and that it is to be enjoyed tpi ite irrespective of whether either parent of a ch id is an employee earning salary or wages, is an employer or has any other means;
Therefore, regardless of any decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the matter of the basic wage, the intention is that that payment shall be regarded as supplementary to the basic wage, as a gift from the Parliament to the mothers of this country, and not as a portion of the basic wage. The declaration proceeds to state - . . the benefit of the endowment is not to be defeated or reduced by fixing the salary or wages of employees at rates less than the rates which would be paid if the endowment were not payable.
– That is a direction to the court.
-I am glad that the ‘ right honorable gentleman made that interjection because ‘ his leader, at the general election before the last one. definitely declared in Western Australia that if the court sought to interpret such a payment to the people as a part of the basic wage, then the court would be directed to act otherwise. That statement was made by the leader of honorable members who have so often told the committee that it must not interfere with the judgment of the court.
– The honorable member has not produced verification of that statement. I have yet to ascertain from the Prime Minister whether or not it is correct.
– When the Minister appoints me as his research officer I shall look into the matter. If the honorable gentleman investigates, he will find that the statement was made by his own leader in Western Australia during the campaign at the general election of 1946. Strangely enough this is the first time the authenticity of that statement has been challenged although it has been used in this committee, in broadcasts and in many other ways. The bill provides that endowment of the first child must not be taken into consideration by the court when it is computing the basic wage. It is idle for the Minister to say that the court is taking no notice of what is being done in this Parliament. We all know that the court did adjourn for a month or more during the general election campaign immediately it had heard that one of the parties contesting the election was talking about endowment of the first child. I have not the least doubt that now that this measure is before the committee the court will take notice of the fact that the Parliament proposes to make, out of Commonwealth revenue, a contribution towards the maintenance of the first child in each family, and the possibility is that the court will compute a basic wage based on the needs of a man and his wife. That will mean that the provision for maintenance of a child that the court has always included in the basic wage will disappear. The court will declare a man and woman wage, looking upon this Government or any other government as having the responsibility of providing endowment for the children. If the court takes that attitude, and I have not the least doubt that it will, because of its manifest interest in the result of the last general election, not only will the general basic wage earner suffer a reduction of his wage, but everybody else whose wage is based on a margin for skill above the basic wage will also similarly suffer a reduction. That will occur unless this bill is passed in ite present form.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
-291.- One could say a great deal about the clause, but I shall confine my remarks to the points that have been raised by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). The honorable member said that, if the bill is passed in the form in which the Government wants t” enact it, the tribunal that is charged with the responsibility of fixing the basic wage will regard the additional endowment payment as a part of the family income, and therefore will deduct from the rate that it would otherwise prescribe the weekly amount of the new endowment. I do not believe that for a moment. I recall, as the honorable gentleman ought to do, that the original Harvester award was based on a family unit of a man, wife and three children. Mr. Justice Higgins decided ;upon a unit of five persons and prescribed that the wage for 48 hours’ work should be £2 2s. At that time there were no social services other than the old-age pension. The maternity allowance had not been introduced. Since then, of course, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has perhaps - I say “ perhaps “ - calculated the basic wage upon the basis of a family unit of a man, wife and two children. I do not know whether it has done so or not, but I know from my own experience before the court, as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) also should know perfectly well, that arguments in basic wage hearings relate to the amount that is sufficient to maintain a man and his family in decent comfort at the stage of development that the country has reached. The result is that we now have a basic wage of £6 14s. a week. The honor.able member for Dalley has said that, if the bill is enacted in the form that the Government proposes, the basic wage will be reduced. Therefore, he proposes to issue a direction to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and believes that such a direction would be intra vires the Constitution. I do not believe for a moment that it would be so. I cannot, for the life of me, believe that it would be anything but an attempt by this legislature to make an industrial law. It was held ob initio that this Parliament could not make industrial laws, but could merely appoint authorities for that purpose. That power is conceded to it by the provision in the Constitution relating to arbitration. In my opinion, the proposed direction to the Arbitration Court could be regarded as a law, and therefore I. say that it would be ultra vires the Constitution. I realize that the point is arguable, but I suggest that members of the Opposition submit the question to the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) so that we may hear what he has to say about it. I am sure that he would not offer an opinion that would leave out of account entirely the constitutionality of such a clause.
Members of the Opposition were in office for eight years, but they made no attempt to introduce a measure for the purpose of endowing the first child in every family. Now they seem to be seething with a passionate desire to do something for the young married couples of the country. Do they realize that Australia is on the toboggan, that far too many young married couples are childless, and that it is vital to the nation that we shall take every measure that we can to raise the birth-rate?
– Does the right honorable member think that 5s. a week will cause the birth-rate to rise?
– No, I do not. If you cannot get children for love, you cannot get them for money. But when a man finds himself at a critical moment, when he asks himself the question, “ To be or not to be?”, the influence of the additional endowment may put him on the right road. I am of the opinion that the endowment of the first child of every family represents a step in the right direction. No honorable member on this side of the chamber would contend for a moment that 5s. a week, or 10s. a week, is sufficient to provide for the upkeep of a child. But, at any rate, endowment is the means that this legislature has adopted to encourage the people. It is the outward and visible sign that the National Parliament concerns itself with everything that relates to the vital interests of the country. I warn members of the Opposition that we are on the toboggan. The proportion to the total population of the number of children between fifteen and nineteen years of agc is steadily declining. It is much lower now than it was in 1940. An increase of the number of children in Australia is vital to us. “We are right in the path of the steam-roller of population on the one hand and communism on the other hand. Japan has a population of 84,000,000. which is increasing at the rate of 1,500,000 a year. Saturation point has been reached. “Where can the excess population of Japan go? Communism is pressing on and is now thundering almost at our door. It is dominant over two-thirds of the world’s surface. We shall not be allowed to hold this country unless we populate it. This measure represents one way of encouraging population.
– At a dollar a time?
– The honorable gentleman and his friends cut a sorry figure when, having neglected this great problem for eight years, they advance arguments that will not bear a moment’s consideration. The Minister for “Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) referred to the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who talked about having been on the dole. There was a time when I should have thought of the dole as “A gift straight from God “. There was no dole then. The dole is a throw-in. It is the work of capitalism. There was no dole. Now there is a dole. I hope that the Government will persist in rejecting the Opposition’s proposal.
– .Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.-One can agree with many of the statements that have been made by the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) ; but one regrets that, in view of his support of the principle of child endowment, he has suggested that clause 3, which was inserted by the Opposition in the Senate, should be deleted. I submit that the clause is essential if it be the intention of this committee to make a payment of child endowment that will be of real service to the mothers and children of Australia. There is bound to be some conflict from time to time between enactments of this Parliament that are passed under different powers conferred by the Constitution. This measure is to be passed in accordance with the social services power of the Parliament as recently amended. The result, apparently, is to bring us into conflict with the power that is exercised by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. However, as the Parliament has complete power in relation to social services, it is most important that we should make clear in our legis lation our wish that, when exercising this power for the express purpose of giving a benefit to the mothers and children of the community, our purpose shall not be frustrated because another authority, appointed under another power of the Commonwealth, exercises power in relation to wages and working conditions. The conflict is unavoidable,, and the best that we can do is to endeavour to indicate to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and. Arbitration, by making the intentions of the Parliament clear, that we are passing this legislation for the excellent reasons that have been stated by the right honorable member for Bradfield, in order to provide a better standard of living for the children of the community and that we do not want the purpose of the legislation to be frustrated because another authority may say, “ Well, that act having been passed, we must take the whole matter into consideration in relation to the fixation of wages “.
Very real dangers arise from the bill, and it is advisable that they should be pointed out to the committee so that honorable members may realize the grave risk that will be run unless provision is made in it that will state clearly the intentions of the Parliament. During the discussions in the basic wage case that is now before the Arbitration Court, notonly has the history of the basic wage been fully canvassed, but also argument has been initiated, in part by the representations that have been made by the organizations opposing an increase of the wage and in part by statements that have been made by members of the Bench, concerning whether or not the time has arrived to place the method of determining the basic wage upon a,n entirely new foundation. One suggestion that has been made, as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has stated, is that, the basic wage should be determined as a wage that is sufficient to support only a husband and wife. Another proposal is that, in view of the big issues that are before the court, the basic wage should be established according to the needs of a single unit, either male or female. Therefore, whatever decisions may have been made by the court in the past, in this instance the continued use of the old foundation for the basic wage is under consideration and there is a possibility that the old method of computing the wage may be discarded.
The situation is not made any less difficult by the fact that there are in existence precedents that indicate that the payment of child endowment has been used as an excuse for the reduction of the basic wage that is payabie to a very im portantsection of the Australian community. When the right honorable member for Bradfield was Prime Minister in 1921, he introduced into the Commonwealth Public Service, following the decisions- of the royal commission on the basic wage in the previous year, a minimum wage of £4 a week, and applied the principle of child endowment to public servants. The right honorable gentleman will recall that they were paid in respect of each child under the age of sixteen years a sum of 5s. a week. Subsequently, the Government that was led by the right honorable gentleman introduced a bill, which became law, providing for the appointment of a Public Service Arbitrator and the adoption of that system of fixing the wages of public servants. Incidentally, ‘that system is still in operation. When the first Public Service Arbitrator, the late Mr. Attlee Hunt, made his original determination in respect of a minimum wage for public servants, he fixed a rate that was £12 per annum less than the basic wage that had been fixed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and applied to industry generally. Briefly, the Public Service Arbitrator contended that the payment of- child endowment obviated the necessity to grant to public servants the same basic wage as was fixed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for outside industry. Is not that a precedent? Do Government supporters still claim that the payment of endowment for the first child under sixteen years of age may not affect the basic wage ?
After the introduction of child endowment by the Commonwealth in 1941, a departure was made from that practice. The Public Service organizations resolved in 1942 that their members should sacrifice endowment for the first child in order that they might get the benefit of the full basic wage, and the endowment that had been introduced by the Government in the previous year. Therefore, when the trade union movement expresses the view that a very real danger exists regarding the basic wage, because of the proposal to pay endowment for the first child under sixteen years of age, it has for its reasons, first, the statements that have been made in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court itself, and, secondly, the principle that operated in the Public Service from 1921 until 1942. In addition, it has the arguments and the submissions that have been strongly stressed before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court by the Governments of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia and by the employers’ organizations as a whole, to the effect that the court, in fixing the basic wage, should take into consideration the payment of child endowment and that, because of the existence of child endowment, the basic wage should not be increased. For the reasons that I have mentioned, I suggest that proposed new section 94a is vital from the standpoint of the trade union movement, and that it is most desirable not to delete it from the bill, at least until the conflict between two opinions about the constitutional position has been resolved.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) speaks with authority on the views of the trade union movement and, therefore, T accept his statement that it regards proposed new section 94a as vital. But whilst I accept that as a fair statement of the position as he see9 it, I regret that, for reasons that I shall make clear, the Government will not include this provision in any bill that will be passed through this Parliament in relation to this matter. We adopt that attitude for two important reasons that I shall proceed to develop. The first is that, in the view not only of the Government but also of some members of the Opposition, it is bad in principle to attempt to limit the capacity of a court of law to decide for itself, on the facts and on the arguments before it, what in its view is the fairest thing to do in a particular case. The second argument is that an instruction of this kind, because it is intended to be an instruction-
– The first part is not intended to be an instruction.
– If it is not an instruction, what is it? It is meant either to do something or to do nothing. If it is meant to do nothing, why should it be included in the bill? If it is meant to be included in the bill, it is intended to do something. If that is not an instruction to the court, then it is intended to have such strong, persuasive effect that no court would dare to ignore it. That is the purpose of it. Let us be realistic about the matter. To put it mildly, the constitutional validity of that provision is most doubtful. Indeed, that fact was recognized by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who replied on behalf of the Opposition to my secondreading speech. Ibo honorable gentleman proceeded along those lines, and said, in effect, “Even if some parts of our amendments are bad, it is open to the High Court to sever the bad parts from the good, and leave the remainder as a good bill “. The Government will not lend itself to that kind of practice, particularly in relation to a measure of this kind. Are we to pass a bill which we ourselves know to be of doubtful validity, and which, we expect, will be challenged before the High Court? Are we to leave it to that tribunal to decide how much can be lopped off the bill? The Opposition has frequently complained about the delays that are associated with the declaration of a new basic wage. We should be manufacturing delay in a final determination of the basic wage if we were to accept this particular provision, which, we know, stands a strong chance of being challenged by one party or another. Therefore, we shall not accept proposed section 94a.
When I say that it is bad in principle, I offer no comment on the merits or otherwise of the proposition that is set out in the declaration, because that is not my purpose this afternoon. It may be entirely sound as an expression of opinion by members of the Parliament, but it is bad in principle when it seeks to limit the capacity of the court to deal with an issue on ite merits. Even some honorable members opposite have taken that view. For example, a most distinguished member of the Labour party, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), when he was a Justice of the High Court, expressed himself on that matter in a leading case Anthony Hordern and Sons Limited v. Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia. The report of that judgment appears in Volume 47 of the Commonwealth Law Reports., at page 16, and I shall read a part of it -
I should have supposed it somewhat difficult to uphold sec. 40 (1) (a) as a valid enactment if, on tn e construction, it means that “ although there is an industrial dispute as to preference to members of registered organizations and, in the opinion of the Arbitrator, it can be settled only by way of ordering an Tinqualified preference to all members, the Arbitrator is restricted and bound down by the conditions of sec. 40 (1) (n) and must not settle the dispute as he thinks fit.”
At that time, the boot was on the other foot. The right honorable gentleman proceeded -
It is one thing to prescribe methods of arbitrating in relation to settling disputes. It is a- different thing to say that the arbitrator may settle a dispute only by making his award in accordance with the direction of Parliament.
That is precisely our attitude to this provision, and that is exactly what the right honorable member for Bradfield1 (Mr. Hughes) has stated. It is one thing for this Parliament to set up the machinery of arbitration, but it is a very different thing for it to tell the arbitrator that he must do this and must not do that, according to the view of the Parliament at any particular time. When theright honorable member for Barton was a Justice of the High Court, he clearly indicated that it was considered that such a. provision was bad in principle, if not in law. The Government believes that it is bad in principle and of very doubtful validity as a proposition of law, and asks the committee to reject the proposed new section. What real danger is there to those for whom the honorable member for Bendigo has indicated that he is speaking on this matter? Is there any real ground for concern or fear on the part of those who are seeking an increase of the basic wage at the present time? I repeat that all sections of this Parliament can feel confidence in, and respect for, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. No member of the Opposition can allege with justification that the court has been “ loaded “ by a non-Labour Government in such a way as to give a decision that is unfavorable to any section of the community. Three of the four judges of the court were appointed, and the fourth judge was promoted to the position of Chief Judge, by a Labour administration. Therefore, we can feel every confidence in that tribunal.
Looking at the matter again in realistic fashion, I point out that the court says that its function is to prescribe the highest wage that industry can afford to pay. At best, that can be only a hitandmiss affair. The court takes into account all the evidence that comes before ir, and all the argument that is submitted to it, and examines the state of the economy, and overseas and internal conditions. Then it has a “stab” at what it believes to be the highest wage that industry can afford to pay, but its efforts can never be more than a genuine attempt to resch that figure. The best guarantee that the wage-earners of Australia can have that they will be paid the highest wage that industry can afford is a policy of full employment, and a condition of full employment. Any government that maintains full employment - a condition in which more jobs are offering than there are men to fill them - guarantees, in the most real sense of the phrase, the highest wage that industry can afford to pay. Sections of industry that require labour’ compete with one another in order to secure it. The court can do no more than prescribe a minimum standard, but the effect of competition in a state of full employment provides, not a minimum standard, but the real standard and the highest wage that, in effect and in substance, industry can afford to pay. That is why, at the present time, although the basic wage is £6 14s. a week, the average wage throughout Australia is £9 14s. a week. Therefore. I submit to the committee that this discussion is very unreal if it is directed to ensuring that the wage- earner shall receive the highest wage that industry can alford to pay. The purpose that Opposition members seek to achieve by proposed section 94’a is achieved much more effectively by guaranteeing full employment in this country, and by maintaining the conditions that ensure it. The reasons that I have indicated, namely, the doubtful validity of the provision itself and the unsoundness in principle of limiting an arbitration court or a court of justice, instead of allowing it to make what it regards as a just decision on all the facts and on the evidence before it, combine to persuade us to reject the provision.
.- TinMinister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has stated the reasons why he will not agree to the proposed new section 94a, but I submit that none of them has the slightest force. One of his arguments . is that the provision is of doubtful validity, and that this Government, which is working under a rigid constitution, will not in any circumstances put forward a proposal of doubtful validity because some one might challenge it. I remind the Minister that the shadow of those restrictions falls upon every piece of Commonwealth legislation, including measures that he himself has introduced in this Parliament. The truth is that the Minister will not face up to the facts. Proposed new section 94a can be divided into two distinct parts. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), correctly from his standpoint, concentrated upon the second portion, that is the provision to direct the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration not to take into consideration when it is fixing the basic wage the endowment paid in respect of children of employers as well as of employees. On that point there is room for argument, and the right honorable member was quite correct in pointing out that it cannot be lost sight of. But the argument from the standpoint of the Government was not assisted when the Minister quoted an opinion that I gave as a justice of the High Court twenty years ago in a judgment in which Mr. Justice Starke and I dissented from the majority judgment. The Minister quoted not the decision of the court hut the opinion expressed in the minority judgment. The court held that preference to unionists could be given only if other things were equal.
– At that time the right honorable gentleman considered that the principle embodied in the proposed new section was bad in law.
– But it is of no value to quote that opinion to the committee, when it was not the opinion that prevailed at that time. The section that prevented organizations from getting the broad preference was the section, that directed the court to give preference only if other things were equal. However, that can affect only the second portion of proposed new section 94a, which directs that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration shall not take child endowment into consideration when it is fixing the basic wage. I submit that the first part of the proposed new section should be accepted. Even if the second portion is deemed to be of doubtful validity, that would not apply to the first portion, which reads -
What is wrong with the Parliament, when providing this social service under the Commonwealth’s social services power, saying that it is provided on a basis that has no relation to industrial disputes? [f that were done, the Parliament would say to the court, in effect, “ This has nothing to do with the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes. The children of employers, as well as those of employees, are endowed. Therefore, why take endowment into account in respect of the wages of employees ? “ The two aspects are not directly related.
The last point that the Minister made was that the average wage is over 9 a week whereas the basic wage is between £6 and £7 a week. However, the Parliament knows that when the basic wage is fixed, the adjustment is immediately taken up in the wages of all employees who come within the scope of the court’s awards. Such employees are paid the basic wage or the basic wage plus a margin; and any adjustment of the basic wage to the disadvantage of the basic wage-earner will be to the detriment of other wageearners who will either be deprived of any increase or suffer an actual decrease. The Government itself says that it does not want this endowment to be taken into account when the court is fixing the basic wage. Assuming for the moment that the rate of endowment is 5s. a week, the Government says that it does not want the provision of this benefit to affect the basic wage. The first part of the proposed new section would help to achieve that result because the court would have regard to the intention of the Parliament and would completely separate the two subject-matters. But the Government is obstinate in this matter. The Minister made his point in respect of the second part of the proposed new section. I do not agree with his submission. The acceptance of that part would show that in matters of social services the Government and the Opposition could work to some degree in cooperation. Although the former Menzies Government introduced the original child endowment legislation in 19 ti, Labour governments that were in office during the intervening period doubled the rate of endowment payable in respect of all children, excluding the first child in a family. Those governments made an enormous contribution to social services benefits. Even at this stage I ask the Minister at least to separate the two portions of the proposed new section and to accept the first portion, which is merely a declaration of the intention of the Parliament and of what it aims to do in respect of social services. Social services have nothing to do with industrial matters. The Commonwealth’s social services power is entirely new. It had to be given in 1946 because of the challenges that were made against the Government’s attempts to legislate in that sphere. Why cannot the Parliament prevent social services benefits payable under the Commonwealth’s social services power from being cut down in substance by the court ?
The Opposition is most perturbed at the cold and cavalier manner in which the Minister brushes aside the proposed new section, which was carefully prepared. The case for it, which is unanswerable, is, . indeed, the case that the Minister advanced in his second-reading speech.
.- The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) ha9 sought to draw a distinction between the first and second portions of proposed new section 94a. The second portion constitutes a plain direction to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration not to take the provision of this endowment into account when it is computing the basic wage. The first portion reads -
The very title of the bill - Social Services Consolidation Bill - establishes that fact ; so that portion of the proposed new section does not take the matter any further - that it bears no relation to the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes or to any industrial matter and that it is to be 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;
If that is not a direction to the court that this social services benefit is not to be taken into account when the court is fixing the basic wage, the declaration is entirely meaningless. In other words, the first portion of the proposed new section says in general terms what the second portion of it says in precise terms. The. objection to the second portion is equally applicable to the first portion. When the right honorable member says that whilst the second portion could reasonably be deleted the first portion should not be deleted, he is simply trying to confuse the committee. This measure is a straightforward attempt to provide a moderate degree of assistance to families and it should commend itself to members of the Opposition. However, in their eyes the measure is damned because it has been introduced by a Liberal government. Faced with that fact, what does the Opposition do? It proposes a series of amendments in an endeavour to establish the fear in the minds of the people that the
Government has an ulterior purpose in introducing the bill, and that instead of liberalizing social services benefits the Government is making a sinister attempt to lower the basic wage.
– So it is.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has clearly revealed his position., The court has stated quite plainly that in fixing the basic wage it takes into account the capacity of industry to pay and that it does not have any regard whatever to the number of children in a family or to child endowment. Therefore, the proposed new section is quite unnecessary. It will not be accepted by the Government which, however, has given the clear assurance that if the court ever should take child endowment into account when fixing the basic wage it will increase the rate accordingly. The strongest objection to the proposed new section is that it directs the court in regard to what methods it shall use in determining the basic wage. Such a .provision is objectionable in principle. Government supporters strongly hold the view that the court should be unfettered by the Parliament when it is determining the basic wage and conditions of employment generally. While listening to the right honorable member for Barton I asked myself what the Opposition would have said if the Government had introduced a measure under which it directed the court in regard to the methods it should employ in computing the basic wage.
– That has been done before to-day.
– The court should be free to determine the basic wage and in doing so to consider whatever factors it deems fit. It should not be influenced by the Parliament in that respect in any way whatever. Supporters of the Government firmly uphold that principle in order to preserve the freedom of the court. Another objectionable feature of the proposed new section is that it imports into a measure that deals with one subjectmatter a substantive provision that deals with an entirely different subject-matter. In the past, the right honorable member for Barton, himself, has expressed disapproval of that procedure.
Honorable members opposite have charged supporters of the Government with being inconsistent in that, having voted for the second reading of the measure, they now seek to amend it. No more nonsensical argument could be advanced. It has been said that we criticized the Opposition because it proposed amendments to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill after it had voted for the second reading of that measure. In that instance the amendments that the Opposition proposed were designed to destroy the whole purpose of that bill. In this instance a measure was introduced by the Government in the Senate where it was amended by the Opposition in a manner that is unacceptable to the Government. “When it came to this chamber we voted for its second reading because it is designed to give effect to the policy of the Government. We shall amend it in committee by deleting the amendments that were incorporated in it by the Opposition in the Senate. The charge that we have shown inconsistency in the course we are following is too absurd to be pursued any further.
The Opposition is not sincere in supporting these amendments. In its eyes the damning feature of this legislation is that it has been introduced by a Liberal-Australian Country party Government. The amendments inserted in the bill by the Opposition in the Senate were designed to discredit the legislation in the eyes of the people. When I charge Opposition members with insincerity in this matter I do not want it to be thought for a mement that I impugn the sincerity of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) in expressing the fears of the trade union movement about this legislation. I suggest to him, however, that the proper course for him to follows is to endeavour to allay rather than strengthen those fears by his attitude to this bill. The Opposition’s amendment which directs the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to disregard child endowment in its computation of the basic wage would fetter the freedom of the court. It should be rejected by the committee which without delay should approve of this legislation, the primary purpose of which is to make provision for the payment of endowment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child in each family.
– I wish to deal briefly with only two points. The first relates to the gibe by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) that I did not take part in the second-reading debate on this bill. There are many reasons why I did not do so. The principal one is that I regard this measure as the most ill-conceived piece of legislation that has ever been brought before this Parliament. As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has said, the tradeunion movement is convinced, as are all those who have appeared before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in hearings associated with the basic wage, that unless the court is directed not te take child endowment into account in its computation of the basic wage, the basic wage of every working man and woman in this country will be fixed at a lesser amount than would otherwise be the case.
– The Australian Council of Trades Unions wished the first child to be endowed.
– I know the views of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and I assure the honorable member that it does not want any action to be taken that would interfere with the arguments that it is submitting to the court in regard to the basic wage.
– Does the Australian Council of Trades Unions desire the bill to be withdrawn ?
– It does not want the child endowment scheme to be extended in the manner proposed by the Government unless such an extension is accompanied by a direction to the court not take child endowment into account in its computation of the basic wage. I have been informed by distinguished lawyers that it is within the competence of this Parliament, under its recently acquired powers, togive such a direction to the court. Whether or not it is within the competency of this Parliament to do so, an expression of the views of the Parliament on this matter would, no doubt,. weigh with the court. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to fool themselves about this matter. If the court follows the precedents of the past, it will ‘ undoubtedly take into consideration the endowment of the first child in its computation of the basic wage.
– What evidence has the right honorable gentleman for making such an assertion?
– All the evidence of history. No one knows better than does the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) that before he introduced the original child endowment legislation in 1941 there was a clear understanding between the then government and the court that unless the Government introduced a child endowment scheme a substantia] increase of the basic wage was inevitable. The Minister may correct me if he disagrees with my statement that at that time the employers of Australia believed that industry would be much better off if a pay-roll tax were introduced to provide for child endowment than it would be if the basic wage were increased.
– Can the right honorable gentleman name any employers who told him that?
– I cannot name them because I have not their permission to do so. The Minister will, I am sure, admit that most employers thought they would be much better off if a pay-roll tax were introduced than if they had to pay their employees an additional 6s. a week because of an increase of the basic wage. Unless the court has changed its views the Government’s proposal to endow the first child will result in the determination of a lesser .basic wage than would otherwise be granted. The purpose of the amendment inserted in the bill by the .Senate is to provide that the court shall be instructed not to take child endowment into consideration in its computation of the basic wage. I remind the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who is an eminent lawyer, was not sure of what attitude the court would take, for in his policy speech prior to the general election the right honorable gentleman said, “ If the court takes the endowment of 5s. a week into consideration in determining the basic wage, my party, if it is returned to office, will increase the payment by 5s. a week “. If the right honorable gentleman were sure of the attitude the court would take, why did he make such a promise? I have taken the trouble to examine some of the determinations that have been made by the court in the last twenty years. They show a tendency to take such payments into consideration in computing the basic wage. I also know something of the more recent attitude of the court from my close reading of the transcript of the proceedings in the hearing of the present claim.
The second point I wish to make relates to the effect of this proposal on the existing rebates for income tax purposes t that are granted in respect of dependent children. At present a rebate on £100 of income is allowed to a taxpayer in respect of his first child and on £50 for each subsequent child. Will rebates be continued at the same rate if endowment isgranted in respect of the first child?
– If that is so, the rebates allowed in respect of the second and subsequent children will have to bereviewed, otherwise there will be an anomalous discrepancy between the rebate granted in respect of the first child and that granted in respect of subsequent children. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to deceive themselves about this matter.
– Can the right honorable gentleman explain what he means in a little more detail ?
– I observe our kindly Chairman has already glanced at the clock. Time will not permit me to make more than a passing reference to the matter, nor indeed, should I be in order in doing so, because it does not fall within the ambit of this debate. The Minister for Labour and National Service knows that if the rebate system is continued on the present basis there will be an undesirable discrepancy between the rebate granted in respect of the first child and that granted in respect of subsequent children. If the bill is passed in the form desired by the Government that discrepancy will have to be adjusted.
– I do not wish to take up the time of the committee unduly, but when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) speaks in a debate he is entitled to a reply from the representative of the Government, particularly.’ when he makes statements of the kind which the right honorable gentleman has just made. At the beginning of his speech he said - I took down his words as he uttered them -
I regard this measure as the most illconceived piece of legislation that has ever been brought before this Parliament.
I agree with him. The legislation in its present form is ill conceived ; that is why we are opposing certain clauses in the bill and will attempt to restore the measure to its original form.
– The Leader of the Opposition intended his remarks to apply to the bill in its original form.
– The bill as it was presented to the Senate expressed in precise terms the intention of the Government as announced by its leaders .prior to the general election. That intention was clearly endorsed by the Australian people. Insofar as the bill represented anything of substance, it represented in legislative form an undertaking given by the leaders of the parties now in office during the general election campaign. The Leader of the Opposition has also said that if this bill is passed the basic wage will be fixed at a lesser amount than would otherwise be the case.
– I want the Minister to understand that I was referring to the bill in its original form.
– Does the right honorable gentleman contend that the endowment of os. a week in respect of the first child will necessarily mean that the basic wage will be fixed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court at a lesser amount than would otherwise be the case?
– That is so.
– Has the right honorable gentleman forgotten that his own Government increased the rate of endowment, first, from 5s. to 7s. 6d. a week, and later from 7s. 6d. to 10s. a week? Does he claim now that those increases caused the basie wage to be reduced?
– No; because at the time at which the increases were made no claim was before the court for a variation of the basic wage.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways. He now says that no basic wage case was before the court at that time but that a basic wage case is at present before the court. Does the right honorable gentleman argue that when he was in office the increase to 10s. a week that his Government made in the rate of endowment for the second child and subsequent children led to a reduction of the basic wage which would not have occurred had the Government not made that increase? Honorable members opposite cannot have things both ways. We say that the court will determine, as best it oan, the highest amount that it considers industry can afford to pay. What the Governmentintends to do in relation to the extension of child endowment to the first child will not affect the capacity of industry to pay a certain wage. The funds that will beused to finance the payment of endowment for the first child will come out of revenue, and not out of the receipts from the pay-roll tax.
The right honorable gentleman went on to say that the employers apparently had some arrangement with the Government in 1941 whereby they accepted the burden of the pay-roll tax rather than face the payment of an additional amount as a result of any increase of the basic wage. That is an- entirely incorrect and unwarranted statement of the position. Far from accepting the imposition of the payroll tax without question, the employers at that time, as honorable members on this side of the committee who were hereat the time know, strenuously resisted tho proposal of the Government to impose that tax in order to finance the payment of child endowment. The decision to impose the pay-roll tax was the decision of the government of the day and, I repeat, by no means received the support of employers. In fact, for years afterwards I had to fight in my own electorate the charge that I had been responsible for what many people described as the”notorious and detestable” pay-roll tax. There was certainly no collusion between the Government and any organization in relation to the decision to impose that tax. I have dealt in considerable detail with that matter both during the secondreading debate and in reply to the remarks of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) in committee.
I wish now to deal with the final point that the Leader of the Opposition made. He asked whether it was proposed that the rebate of income tax in respect of the first child should be reduced to the same level as the rebate allowed in respect of the second and subsequent children. I have already said that there is no intention on the part of the Government to reduce from £100 to £50 the amount on which, the present re’bate is allowed. Certainly no such intention has been conveyed to me, and I consider that I should have heard something about it had such an intention existed. The right honorable gentleman said that if the Government does not intend to review the rebate provision in respect of the first child after endowment is paid in respect of the first child under this measure an anomaly will exist in that a rebate of tax will be allowed on £100 for the first child and on only £50 for the second child and subsequent children although endowment is being paid in respect of all children. When the right honorable gentleman as Prime Minister and Treasurer increased the rate of endowment from 5s. to 10s. for the second child and subsequent children, he made some differentiation between the first child and other children. Under the Government’s present proposals the differentiation between the first child and subsequent children will be 5s. a week, as the endowment for the first child will be 5s. and for other children, 10s. When the right honorable gentleman was in office the differentiation between the first child and other children was 10s., because no endowment was paid in respect of the first child, whilst 10s. was paid in respect of the second child and subsequent children. But our argument rests on much more solid ground than. that. The fact that we intend to pay endowment of 5s. only in respect of the first child is -justified by the further fact that we are maintaining the tax rebate on £100 in respect of that child. Why should there not. be a differential payment of endowment? The right honor able gentleman has expressed the view that a differential payment will put the first child in an inferior position to that of the second child or subsequent children. That is a somewhat strange argument. A child in respect of whom endowment is paid does not put his or her hands on the money. The money is paid to the mother. Would any one suggest that a mother would provide her first child with less food and less wearing apparel than she would give to her second or third child because she was receiving only 5s. a week endowment in respect of the first child compared with 10s. a week each in respect of the other children?
As I stated in my second-reading speech, nobody claims that the proposed endowment payment represents an amount that would reimburse a family for the charges that are incurred in rearing a child. Indeed, I used a particular illustration regarding that matter, which I drew from the incidence of payment of allowances for dependants of Soldiers during the last war. According to figures that I have obtained, a man in the armed forces received £1 lis. 6d. a week in respect of a wife, £1 ls. in respect of the first child, 14s. in respect of the second child and 10s. 6d. each in respect of the third child and subsequent children.
– Child endowment was also paid in respect of all his children except the first.
– Yes, he received all those payments during the war years. The Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister at that time. I am not criticizing what was done then. In fact, we all approved of it. But the Governmentled by the right honorable gentleman at that time showed no concern over the anomaly under which one guinea was paid in respect of the first child, 14s. in respect of the second child, and 10s. 6d. for subsequent children. I do not know, therefore, what real point there is in the argument that the right honorable gentleman has advanced. I repeat that, so far as I know, the Government does not propose to reduce the tax rebate in respect of the first child. Obviously if we were to reduce that rebate we should diminish very considerably the beneficial effect of the endowment payment that we intend to make. If the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has formed any views in relation to increasing the tax rebate in respect of second and subsequent children, he has kept them a secret so far as I am concerned. I can assure the committee at this stage that nothing has been done that will worsen the position. The anomaly to which the right honorable gentleman ‘has referred existed when his Government increased the rate of endowment, and certainly existed during the war years in respect of the allowances paid in respect of the dependants of our fighting men.
– I shall not have time to deal with all the arguments advanced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), although they are full of holes. He spoke about the allowances paid in respect of the dependants of soldiers during the last war. He should remember in that connexion that, although the allowance paid in respect of the first child of a soldier was higher than that paid in respect of other children, the soldier’s- wife was receiving no endowment payment for the first child whereas she received endowment in respect of the other children.
– The endowment was only os. a week at that time.
– It does not matter what a mother received. The point is that the mother received no endowment for the first child, hut did receive it for subsequent children. Another point that requires clearing up relates to the Minister’s statement that the Labour Government increased the endowment for the second child and subsequent children, and that that increase did not affect the basic wage. Anybody who has studied the workings of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in relation to the determination of the basic wage knows that since 1941 the court, in its determination of the basic wage, has not considered the second, third, fourth, fifth or any other children. For that reason the increase of child endowment in respect of a second child or subsequent children would not affect the basic wage. The plain fact is that if the rate of endowment in respect of the second child or subsequent children were increased the court would take no notice of it because it determines the basic wage on the basis of a family unit of three - «, man, wife and one child. The point to be borne in mind is that there is now a basie wage case before the court. It is quite clear from the remarks of the judges that although the capacity of industry to pay has been one of the factors that the court has been considering, the court is also thinking in terms of certain family units. Some honorable members halve suggested that it may be thinking in terms of a single unit instead of the’ present family unit of three. I repeat, therefore, that if the Labour Government had chosen to increase endowment for the second and subsequent children to £1 for each, the court would not have taken any notice of the increase when it was determining the basic wage. But the court has always taken into account the units of a family for which any other .provision is made. That is exactly what it will do in this case, if provision is made for payment of endowment in respect of a first child. The Government has stated that if the court does’ take the proposed payment into consideration when fixing the basic wage, it will raise the payment to 10s., involving it in an expenditure of £30,000,000 instead of £15,000,000. In discussing this matter we should bear in mind the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of families in Australia in which there is only one child, and in which, according to the averages provided by statistics, there will be no more children. That means that hundreds of thousands of families will obtain the benefit of endowment for the first child and will also have the benefit of the tax rebate on £100 of income. I have taken the trouble to obtain the relevant figures from the Commonwealth Statistician.
– It is foolish to say that there arc hundreds of thousands of families with only one child.
– The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) may, if he so chooses, refer to the figures that have been supplied to me in relation to the number of families that have on.lv one child.
– The right honorable gentleman said hundreds of thousands of families.
– Yes, hundreds of thousands.
– Nonsense !
– It is quite clear that the right honorable gentleman does not know what he is talking about. More than 1,000,000 families receive child endowment. According to the average number disclosed by statistics, hundreds of thousands of families with one child will not be increased by other children. I have introduced that matter merely to illustrate the fact that the wage-earner in a family that has only one child will be in a much more favorable position than wage-earners with more than one child, because he will not only receive endowment for that one child, but also have the benefit of a tax rebate on £100 of his income. His position will, therefore, be more favorable than that of the wage-earner who is receiving 10s. endowment for children subsequent to the first but has the benefit of a tax rebate on only £50 in respect of those subsequent children. I do not intend to try to have the Minister commit himself in this regard. I did not try to make him commit himself in the first place, because I know that this matter must be decided by the Government in conjunction with other matters. I do not even want him to commit himself on the matter of the tax rebate on £100. I wanted merely to point out the anomalous position that could easily arise because a taxpayer will have the benefit of a tax rebate on only £50 for the second child and subsequent children.
– Plus the benefit of the rebate on £100 for the first child.
– He receives that benefit now because he gets no endowment for the first child. I have tried to make the point that an anomaly might arise and to make it clear, in answer to the Minister, that in 1941 the court did not take children subsequent to the first into consideration when it was determining the basic wage, but thought in terms of a family unit of three. It is thinking in terms of family units now, as honorable members will see if they read the transcript of the proceedings, as I have done. I rose merely to clarify these points, but I do not ask the Minister to commit the Government on this matter.
– I should not have risen to speak on this clause had it not been for the comments of certain honorable members opposite, particularly the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes).
The Minister for Labour and National Service distorted facts when he said that the average weekly wage in Australia was £9 14s. 3d. In making that statement, the Minister tried to infer that that is the amount of the basic wage in this country.
– I called it the “ average wage “.
– The making of a statement with an untrue inference in the hope that that inference will remain in people’s minds is an old political trick which was worn out years ago.
– The honorable mem ber needs a trip to Honolulu.
– I could not go to Honolulu because I have spent most of my life on the basic wage. The present basic wage is £6 l1s. a week, and it is not true to say that nobody in SouthAustralia isearningonly that wage. Without consulting any source of reference I could cite two or three awards that exist in South Australia in respect of which the court has refused an application for a margin to be granted above the basic wage. I was, myself, an advocate before the South Australia Industrial Court in a ease that was heard last year in which it was asked that labourers employed by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, who had previously received the basic wage, should be granted a margin above that figure. The people whomI represented have been particularly successful in industrial cases with the exception of those cases in which the court has found itself bound by precedent. Involved in the caseI have just mentioned were several decisions of the South Australian Industrial Court and ofthe Commonwealth Arbitration Court that the court would not, under any circumstances, grant any amount above the basic wage to a labourer unless it can be shown that he has some special skill or that some special circumstance such as a hazard is associated with his work. If the figure that the Minister has given to the committee is correct - and I do not suggest that he would give a false figure - the workers of Australia must be working a tremendous amount of overtime. It is not fair to cite a wage which includes such overtime and other payments such as camping and disability allowances as though it was representative of the wage earned by the average worker.
It is true that the court made it clear, when it gave its decision on the basic wage in 1941, that it had given some thought to the provision of endowment for the first child in a family. It is true, too, that like most of the court’s judgments, its decision was ambiguous. The judges who then occupied the bench were not unanimous in their decision. The possibility of the court taking into account the payment of endowment in respect of the first child always exists. In view of the statements that have been made by certain judges while the present basic wage case has been in progress it would appear that the court’s intention is to take into’ consideration any payment granted in respect of the first child unless this Parliament requires it to do otherwise. That is not merely my opinion ; it is also the opinion of some of the greatest constitutional authorities in Australia.
– The right honorable member for Barton, for example?
– Yes. He. is one of the most renowned constitutional authorities in the country, and he may be one who holds that view.
It is the duty of this Parliament, now that it has been given the necessary power by the people, at a referendum, to provide social services, to see that the money appropriated for that purpose shall reach its objective. That can be done only by adopting this clause which the Government says it will not accept. The clause states very specifically that the endowment payable under the bill is intended to contribute to the welfare of children of all members of the community and that the court shall not use its powers, when fixing the basic wage, to counteract the decision of this, the highest court in the land.
The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) looked across the chamber at me very seriously a moment ago and took umbrage at a statement that I had made to the effect that I had suffered from the effects of the depression, in that I had had no opportunity to obtain a decent job at a reasonable wage, but “had to accept a miserable dole. The right honorable gentleman’s opinion of social problems has become so warped that he does not regard the dole as one of the bad features of capitalism. Instead, he extolls the idea of paying doles to capable, young, vigorous men instead of giving them work sit an adequate rate of pay. He hinted that in his day there was no such thing as a dole. The right honorable gentleman is the last person who should talk about what happened in his day and during his boyhood.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– Like the previous speaker, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), I should not have risen to speak on this clause except, for the fact that another honorable member who had spoken before me had made certain statements with which I disagreed. The clause before the committee is one which poses the whole question of whether the policy of the Government announced in specific terms before the last general election should be carried into effect in those terms, or whether the will of a defeated minority should be imposed upon the Parliament by reason of action taken in another place. Briefly that is the problem with which this committee is faced at the present time. The arguments put forward by leading members of the Opposition would have a much greater validity had they been applied in this Parliament during the period of almost nine years when Labour was in office. However, during that time the Labour Government completely failed to provide 5s., or any other sum, as endowment for the first child. That is notwithstanding the fact that a feeling existed in this community that such relief should be given. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, who is unfortunately not here at the present moment, prefaced his remarks with his usual reference to the hard and difficult conditions under which he lived during his earlier years. I would say to the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and to other honorable members who use the same kind of argument, that they are not the only people who may have had acquaintance with poverty and hardship. T would also say to the honorable member, if he were in this chamber now, that the only person who is finally hurt by carrying a grudge and who has his shoulders galled by the burden, is the person who persists in carrying it. It does not add to the wisdom of debate to put forward a personal experience of that kind, and consequently I think that the type of argument advanced by the honorable member does not benefit this committee or the nation. Neither does it enhance the prestige of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I agree with the Government in the reasons that it has given for submitting this particular legislation.
I am rather at a loss to follow the argument put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) when he raised the point that if the assistance envisaged by this bill is given it will create certain Anomalies in regard to taxation. I believe that the general tenor of the debate has been that the first child is usually a far greater liability to parents than is the second and succeeding children. An increase in the number of family units, when it goes beyond a certain point, creates distinct difficulties; but as there must be a first child in families containing more than one child, it is tremendously important that there should be specific relief given in respect of that child. Without labouring that matter I shall pass to a further aspect that has been raised. that is the greAt concern of the Opposition about whether this particular amendment will have some effect upon the assessment of the basic wage. All the arguments which seek to affirm that point are obviously and speciously devised to try to give the impression that the great heart of the Labour party is bleeding for the unfortunate family which consists of one or more children. That bleeding must have been stopped by a congealing process when the Labour party was in the position to open the source of supply and let the blood run for the benefit of the first child. That argument impresses me not at all, and I conclude my remarks by saying that the Government has been given a specific mandate, in response to a promise made in specific terms at the last election to do something for the people, that neither this chamber nor another place should endeavour to thwart. If they take such an action they will not do justice to the confidence that electors repose in parliaments.
– Honorable members on the Government side do not quite appreciate the attitude of the Opposition towards this
Clause. I am amazed because honorable members contend that the provision of 5s. endowment will mean 5s. extra in the family income of a family containing one or more children. They say that every family with children under sixteen years of age will receive an extra ‘5s. The Opposition in the Senate inserted an amendment in the bill to increase the payment to 10s., but the clause before the committee does not deal with the amount of the payment. Honorable members on this side consider that child endowment is a payment to the mother to assist her to provide for her family. The Minister has stated that that is the intention of the Government. The Government contends generally, and the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) specifically, that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court cannot be directed. The right honorable gentleman also says that he does not believe that this matter will be taken into consideration by the court. .If that is actually the position, and if the court will not take any notice of the endowment, what harm will be done by the insertion of a provision in this bill expressing our belief that the 5s. will not he taken into consideration in assessing the family income? When the court assesses the basic wage the only direction given to.it so far as its determination is concerned, is that it should consider what is a fair and reasonable living wage. The right honorable member for Bradfield said that at the beginning of such fixations a fair and reasonable basic wage was the living wage for a man, wife and three children, sufficient to provide for a five unit family. I myself always understood thai to be the position. In 1941 a clear statement was made that the basic wage was not sufficient to provide for a five unit family. The court judges said at that time that it was only sufficient to provide for a man, wife and one child. They said that the wage included a certain amount which could be applied towards the support of a second child, but that it was not . enough to afford a reasonable living to a family which consisted of a man, wife and two children. It was then determined by Parliament that provision should be made for all children after the first at the rate of 5s. a week.
Since then the endowment payment has become 10s. a week. But when the court is considering a basic wage it must consider the needs of the family in relation to the income to meet the need. If no intimation is given to the court that it should not take into consideration child endowment, then no doubt it will be considered. Do honorable members think that the court will take into consideration the 10s. that is already being paid for the second and third children? If they do not, then on the present cost of living there will have to be a tremendous increase in the basic wage so that its purchasing power will compare with what it was previously. Therefore, I cannot understand the Government not being prepared to -accept this Senate amendment. This clause has nothing to do with the proposed payment of 10s. a week. It simply indicates that whatever is fixed will not be taken into consideration by the court. In’ effect the Parliament says, to the court, “Eis what yow consider to be a fair and reasonable wage for a family, and, in addition to that, provision will be made of an extra amount for the maintenance of the children”. If that is done, then ‘a fair indication will be given to the court and the court will, ‘ no doubt, act upon it. No direction has ever been given that the court shall not take this endowment into consideration. The only direction the court has been given in relation to fixing the basic wage is that it should fix a reasonable one. Consider the position that arose in 193.1 when, wages were brought down below the necessary minimum, and people had to live on an insufficient income. In 1936 or a little later a 3s. prosperity allowance was made. Later on a war loading was given. That was given because it was thought that the people were entitled to something additional to what the court had decided was a fair and reasonable wage to keep an average family.’ Th, Opposition does not want to argue on thi’ question of whether it should have provided the 5s. during its eight years of office. If we had made such a provision we would have wanted the payment protected during any consideration of the basic wage. If honorable members want to be honest with themselves they should say to the people, “ We are prepared to show you in legislation what we think you should get Over and above a fair and reasonable basic wage “.
The Government has said that the payment of endowment will not affect the basic wage. During the second-reading debate I told the House that I went out and told people that I believed that if this legislation was enacted and they got the 5s-., they would lose it again in the assessment of the basic wage and would ;be no better off. In fact those who did not receive endowment would be worse off. I did not say that to people with my tongue in my cheek because I believe thai the judges, when they fix the basic wage, must take into consideration the income of the family and what is needed to provide for the children. That will not bc done if a direction is not given. I do not claim that my feelings for the workers are deeper than those of other honorable members, but I am eager that they should obtain the full benefit of the proposed additional endowment. Therefore, I believe that the committee should agree to the provision which declares that the new benefit shall not affect the basis of computation of the basic wage. I can see no objection to it. Some honorable members have said that the Parliament has no power to direct the judges of the court, but I believe that the court would take cognizance of the wish of the Parliament, expressed legislatively, that the endowment should be paid as an addition to family income and should not be taken into consideration in determining the basic wage. We should clearly state our wish that the endowment should not be given to the people with one hand only to be taken away with the other.
.- The Opposition has been consistent in its attitude to child endowment and its relationship to the basic wage. Our wish has always been that endowment should be an addition to the family income and should not affect the basic wage in any way. It ill becomes the Government to accuse us of insincerity because it was a Labour government that first introduced child endowment in Australia. Many people have claimed credit for that great social reform. In fact, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) once assumed the informal title “ the bachelor Minister to a million mothers “, although he has surrendered all claim to it now as he is no longer a bachelor.
– “ The godfather to a million babies “ would be more appropriate.
– Coming events may cast their shadows before them. Probably the credit for the introduction of child endowment should really go to some humble woman, a- member of the Labour movement who first made the proposal at a party conference and finally had it. included in the policy of the Australian Labour party. She should be remembered as we remember the Unknown Warrior. Her name may have been forgotten, but we should honour her for what she did for the nation. Politicians and governments have cashed in on the reform that she initiated. “ It was a Labour Government in New South Wales that introduced child endowment upon the basis of an idea that had been developed by the late Mr. A. B. Piddington, ICC. The accusations of insincerity that have been levelled at us by the Government have a hollow ring because we know that the historic role of the anti-Labour forces has been to oppose every reform of the nature of child endowment. Every new measure of social justice has been resisted strongly in the first place by the anti-Labour forces. The Minister for Labour and National Service will recollect that he did not have the unanimous support of his own party in 1941 when he introduced legislation to provide for the payment of child endowment throughout Australia. A government composed of members of the United Australia party and the Australian Country party was in office at the time, and its ranks were divided £ gainst the proposal. Eventually the Minister, who held the same office then as he holds now, took upon himself the responsibility for the introduction of the original bill. I give him full credit for that, but I remind him that only the support of the Labour Opposition, which was then led by the late John Curtin, enabled him to have the measure placed upon the statutebook.
– That is not correct.
– The Minister, may correct me later if what I have said is not true, but I was a member, of this Parliament then and I recall that ve; on this side of the chamber joined forces with the supporters of the bill. Many adherents of the Government of the clay withheld their support from the measure. Some of them remained outside this chamber while the Labour Opposition, as a solid bloc, supported it. The Labour Opposition to-day is well aware that theextension of the child endowment scheme may influence the rate of the basic wage with the result that the workers may not receive the full benefit of the proposed increase. Therefore it supports the clause, which was inserted by the Labour Opposition in the Senate as a safeguard. The danger that we envisage is not new.
The history of child endowment shows :hat wages in New South Wales were affected directly by the enactment of the original State legislation. That scheme was to be financed by means of a pay-roll, tax such as that for which the original Commonwealth child endowment legislation provided. At that time, Mr. Piddington, who was the single member of . the Industrial Commission of New South
Wales, had laid down a formula which provided for the payment of child endowment and the calculation of the basic wage according to a standard family unit of three. However, a change of government occurred in 1928, shortly after the child endowment scheme had been introduced. The new Bavin anti-Labour Government held views that were at variance with those that had been expressed by Mr. Piddington. In fact, it regarded the learned gentleman as a revolutionary and a starry-eyed dreamer, and it did not attempt to give effect to his ideas in relation to child endowment. In order to nullify his influence, it increased the membership of the Industrial Commission to three, placing him in a minority, because the two additional judges certainly did not agree with him on the issue of child endowment. That situation gave rise to conditions such as we apprehend as the result of the legislation that we are now considering. The employers of New South Wales applied to the Industrial Commission for a review of the basic wage and claimed, through their skilful legal advocates, that child endowment should be considered in relation to the family income and that the pay-roll tax should be regarded as a charge on industry and should be taken into account in calculating the wages that industry could afford to pay. Whatever effect those arguments may have had, the fact is that the commission, in 1928, substantially reduced the basic wage in New South Wales. According to my memory, the ruling rate when the application was made was £4 2s. ft week and the commission, having acceded to the application, reduced it to £3 10s. a week, the lowest rate that had been in force for many years. In calculating that rate, the commission obviously must have decided upon a family unit of husband and wife only. That decision penalized single men and married couples without children. It resulted in a saving of £4,000,000 a year in wages to the employers of New South Wales. Child endowment, financed from the pay-roll tax, was costing them a little over £1,000.000 a year. Thus the net saving in wages to the employers as the result of the reduction of the basic wage was £3.000,000 a year. That state of affairs continued in force for some years, with the result that the employers were able to make a considerable profit out of what had been intended to be a great social benefit.
However, there were far more serious repercussions than that. The great economic depression occurred during the succeeding years. Considering the effect of the reduction of the basic wage upon the purchasing power of the workers, one can readily understand that it had a vital influence upon the severity of the economic crisis. The wage-earners had less in their pay envelopes, the housewife had less in her purse, and the storekeeper, in turn, had less in his till and was unable to give his usual orders to the manufacturers, who then began to put off workers. As one industry depended upon another, the result was a snowballing of unemployment in New South Wales. Other factors may have influenced the economic situation
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are wide of the clause.
– I shall show that they are relevant to the clause. There may have been other factors, but the influence of child endowment upon the basic wage in New South Wales in 1928 was a precipitating factor in relation to the economic depression. The effect of the measure that we are now considering will be similar. The bill could be the first leak in the dyke. A deluge of unemployment could be caused in Australia if the basic wage were reduced as the result of the extension of child endowment to the first child in every family. In fact, this may be quite in accord with the Government’s plan for checking the inflationary spiral.
– Order ! The honorable member should relate his remarks to the clause. I shall not allow him to continue to discuss the subject in that strain.
– The declaration in the clause, which the Opposition supports whole-heartedly, is the acid test of the Government’s sincerity. The Minister has assured us that the benefit is not intended to be taken into account in any way in relation to the basic wage.
T he CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) and the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) for thecontributions that they made earlier to-day to the discussion of this clause. Their remarks have enabled me to confirm my objection to the clause, which was inserted by the Senate, with a clear conscience. I do not want anybody to be deprived of the full benefit of the endowment for which the bill provides or to suffer from any reduction of wages consequent upon the enactment of the bill. The situation is simple. The Government honoured its election promise to the people by introducing a bill in the Senate providing for the payment of endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child in every family. Members of the Opposition in the Senate introduced certain amendments in order to give effect to their own ideas, and the. amended bill is now before us. The right honorable member for Barton indicated very clearly that there was such an element of legal doubt about sub-section (3.) of the proposed new section 94a (3.) that he was prepared to discard it. I am guided by his opinion. In any event, I already had grave doubts about the constitutionality of paragraph (e) of the sub-section, which states that the provision shall apply to every authority having power under the law df a State to determine any wage or salary. I do not think that we need the opinion of an exmember of the High Court to convince us that we should have great difficulty in proving the legality of that provision. Therefore, because of the element of doubt and the possibility of long-winded delaying legal actions, the committee is justified in deciding that that part of the clause at any rate must be rejected in the interests of the mothers who are anxious to obtain their just rights, which this Government has promised to give to them ns early as possible.
T have listened attentatively to statements which have been made by various members of the Opposition in support of proposed new section 94a, and I say frankly that the impression which T have gained from their remarks is that the whole of their case Ls based upon supposition. They say, in effect, “ Suppose the Commonwealth Arbitration Court does this, what will the Government do?” They are supposing that the court will take a certain line of action when this bill becomes law. Supposition is not of much value to us as a basis for judgment when we intend to do something which, we believe, is right and necessary for the mothers of Australia. In those circumstances, we cannot be worried about a suppositious case. I have not yet heard anything to convince me that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will take a certain line of action when this bill becomes law.
I now direct attention to sub-section (1.) (6) of the proposed new section, which states that - the benefit of the endowment is not to be defeated or reduced by fixing the salary or wages of employees at rates less than the rates which would be paid if the endowment were not payable.
That paragraph is so obviously related to sub-section (2.) that, in my judgment, it must meet the same fate as that subsection if its validity is challenged. Subsection (2.) is merely the machinery provision of that expression by this Parliament, and, according to the say-so of that distinguished legal authority, ‘ the right honorable member for Barton, if that sub-section is defeated, sub-section (1.) (6) must share its fate. Sub-section (l.)(o) provides - 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 expression is unusual. Have all members of the community got children? The paragraph proceeds - that it bears no relation to the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes or to any industrial matter and that it is to be 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;
Those matters do not come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The paragraph merely states that child endowment is sacrosanct and may not be attached for the purposes mentioned. That provision worries me, because the effect of it may be to permit
J some one to attach child endowment for purposes other than those which are specifically defined in it. If the Opposition requires a suitable safeguard, a proper form of protection should be provided, and not the limited form as set out in sub-section (1.) (a). I disagree with the opinion which has bren expressed by the right honorable member for Barton that proposed new section 94a has been well drafted. I have pointed out that the constitutional validity of one part of it is extremely doubtful, and that the other part is quite inoccuous and useless.
Another point which T desire to make is that, if there is an element of doubt b8?ed upon a supposition of action that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court may or may not take, the proper procedure is to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act in order to define the powers of the court, instead of endeavouring to sneak a provision like proposed new section 94a into the Social Services Consolidation Act. An amendment which is designed to ensure that the court shall not take endowment for the first, child under sixteen years into consideration when it is computing the basic wage should appear in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I have a rooted objection to legislation by subterfuge, of which proposed section 94a is an example. However, I venture to suggest that any attempt to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act for the purpose of directing the court to adopt a particular method in arriving at the basic wage would be as strongly opposed by the Opposition as it would be by myself.
– It has already been done with respect to determining hours of work.
– I am aware of the fact that, unfortunately, it has already been done. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) knows that similar procedure was adopted in Western Australia and elsewhere. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court receives a reference by an act of the Parliament to determine the basic wage. The way in which the court shall arrive at its determination, the evidence that it shall take and the matters on which it shall base its findings are all subjects for decision by the court itself. The moment the Parliament gives the court a direction, it will trespass on very dangerous ground. ,;
– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I shall address myself to the arguments that have been advanced by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), and the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie). The honorable member for New England claims that -the Government has a mandate to introduce this legislation, and implies that this clause, which has been inserted by the Senate, violates that mandate. It is quite clear that, to the honorable member, the word “ mandate “ is a ju-ju to be carried about for the purpose of suspending critical thought, because if we try to discover in what respect this clause violates the promises of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or is likely to be opposed by the Australian community, we can find no honest argument on which to indict the clause on either count. ‘A Prime Minister has a mandate to form a government, and a moral obligation to carrY out the promises ,that he makes, and that is the extent of his mandate. In the Australian Constitution, it was deliberately arranged that the Senate, since only one-half of, its members are elected at the one time, should represent a different movement of opinion from the House of Representatives. I consider that it is a foolish provision, but there it is, and it is quite clear that there will be some disagreement between the two chambers. If the magic word “ mandate “ is to be invoked in those circumstances, then, quite clearly, the Senate, from that point of view, should always agree with the House of Representatives. Under those conditions, why the Senate should exist becomes an unfathomable mystery. However, I want to discuss the operative words of proposed new section ,94a to which the honorable member for New England has taken exception. Subsection (1.) (b) provides - that the benefit of the endowment is not to be defeated or reduced by fixing the salary or wages of employees at rates less than the rates which would be paid if the endowment were not payable. lt is quite clear that many persons will receive the payment of 5s. a week for the first child under sixteen years of age that the Government proposes to grant as an additional benefit. Members of the Parliament, for instance, will receive it, though their wages are not fixed by any tribunal. Many persons in private employment, and self-employed persons will receive it as an additional benefit. But if the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration were to take it into account when it was determining the basic wa’:e, it would result in loss for some people, such as childless couples and all single persons. No advantage would accrue if there were a reduction of 5s. in the basic wage, or a failure to increase it in a manner, which might be justified, by 5s. a week. There would be no advantage to a family consisting of a man, his wife and one child.
– The honorable member is merely supposing.
– The honorable member for Moore objects to my statement on the ground that it is suppositious. Yet the Prime Minister raised it as a supposition during the general election campaign. He said, “ We shall pay 5s. endowment for the first child under sixteen years of age. If the Commonwealth Arbitration Court takes that into consideration, then we shall pay 10s. endowment “.
– The Prime Minister did not make that statement.
– That argument was advanced by the Prime Minister.
– It was not.
– I shall correct the wording of; my statement. The Prime Minister said, “If the Court were to fix the basic wage on the unit consisting only of a man and wife “- <-
– That is a different proposition.
– It is not a different proposition. Under those conditions endowment would be paid for the first child in a family under sixteen years of age, and if that child were, in consequence, eliminated from consideration in the family unit, the effect would be a reduction of the basic wage.
– Endowment is not full provision for the child.
– I recognize that 5s. is not full provision for a child, but 10s. a week is fuller provision for it than 5s. is, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) must agree. However, all this casuistry will not alter the fact that with the elimination of the first child, who is the third unit in the family, from consideration, the basic wage will almost certainly be less. If a wage is fixed for two people it will certainly be less than if it is fixed for three people. The Prime Minister considered that there was a possibility that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court might do that, and in order to provide for that contingency he said, in effect, “ In those circumstances, we shall pay endowment for the first child at the rate of 10s. a week “. I do not know the purpose that he had in mind, but his announcement certainly prevented the Commonwealth Arbitration Court from operating for some months. That suspension of the hearing when the payment of endowment of the first child became a matter of controversy was to the advantage of employers in this community.
The honorable member for Moore considers that we should not, and, indeed, that we. cannot bind the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I remind the honorable gentleman that the social services power of the Commonwealth is a new power. It was inserted in the Constitution in 1946, and has been the subject of interpretation by the High Court on only one occasion. That interpretation was with respect to pharmaceutical benefits, and not to the payment of family allowances. Nobody in this chamber has the right to be dogmatic about the decision that the High Court may give, but the view which is expressed in this sub-section is that it is an exercise of the Commonwealth’s social services power, and is not designed to stop industrial disputes or to be anything that comes within the purview of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Nobody can say whether or not the High Court will accept that declaration. As I have said, that new head of power has not been made the subject of interpretation in any decision of the High Court. I believe that that power should be tested. I also believe that this Parliament has the right to declare its intention that when it makes a social services payment, it does so additionally to anything that may be paid to the community. The idea that judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration are indignant old gentlemen, who would resent a declaration by the Parliament of its intention on social services, on which it clearly has power to legislate, is extremely foolish. I believe that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would accept the Parliament’s declaration of its intention, and therefore the elimination of the proposed new section would clearly place the payment of child endowment in greater jeopardy than it would be in if the declaration were not included in the bill. The honorable member for Moore was formerly a member of a State parliament. I remind him that State parliaments have a plenitude of powers, excepting powers that are specifically conferred upon the National Parliament under the Constitution. The National Parliament invariably legislates on the basis of supposition. It cannot say with any degree of certainty how the High Court may rule with respect to the extent of any of the Commonwealth’s powers including even the defence power which is its widest power and has been the subject of varying decisions from time to time. Therefore, there is no merit in the argument that we should not attempt to provide this social services benefit completely divorced from the basic wage, any reduction of which would have the effect of cancelling out the benefit.
– The passing of the bill as amended by the Senate would be legislation by subterfuge.
– In legislation for the provision of family allowances, a declaration that such allowances shall be entirely ignored by any wage-fixing authority would be a proper exercise by the Parliament of the Commonwealth’s social services power. Although I do not know who would be likely to challenge this legislation, we must allow for that possibility. However, that possibility exists in respect of most legislation, including the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, because nearly every piece of legis lation rests upon supposition as to its validity if it is open to challenge by the High Court. If the Government removes the safeguard embodied in proposed new section 94a, it will disclose a sinister intention. Speeches like that made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) who avoided reference to the principle embodied in the proposed new section have clearly revealed the discomfiture of the Government.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) was most unconvincing when he was dealing with the proposed new section 94a. Indeed, the arguments he advanced were unintelligible. He appeared not as the dashing cavalier and father of over 1,000,000 children but as a masked highwayman who is about to rob over 2,000,000 basic wage earners of £36,000,000 by reducing the basic wage and to hand over that sum to the wealthy supporters of the Government. The Minister knows as well as I do that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, regardless of what it may wish to do, is bound to take endowment for the first child into consideration when it is fixing the basic wage. At the recent general election the present Government parties deluded’ the people by promising to provide endowment for the first child in a family. At first glance, the Government’s proposal, which seemed to be very impressive, appealed to the sentiments of the people. But what are the implications of the Government’s proposals that are embodied in the measure now before the committee? When we examine the possible effects of the provision of endowment of 5s. for the first child in relation to the basic wage, the bill is revealed as one of the most insidious pieces of legislation that has ever been introduced into the Parliament.
– The honorable member said that about the Communist Party Dissolution Bill.
– The same observation applies to most legislation that is introduced by Liberal governments which, like the present Government, are always anxious to preserve the interests of wealthy supporters. The Opposition would not press the other Senate amendments embodied in the bill if the Government were prepared to accept proposed new section 94a which directs the court that when it is fixing the basic wage it shall not take into account the endowment of 5s. to be paid to the mothers of Australia. In respect of all legislation, particularly social services legislation, the Labour party always bears in mind the real interests of the great mass of the people to the exclusion of the special interests of the wealthier section of the community. We can estimate the amount of money that will be taken out of circulation as the result of the provision of endowment for the first child in a family in its effect upon the basic wage. Will single female employees who are paid a wage that is 54 per cent, of the base male rate, suffer a proportional reduction of their wages? That would cause them severe hardship. The sum of £36,000,000 is to be taken out of circulation as the result of this simple subterfuge on the part of the Government of making a gift to its wealthy supporters in return for their contribution towards its election. This is the Government’s pay-off to those supporters. The withdrawal of a sum of £36,000,000 from circulation will do irreparable harm to small business people who will soon go to the wall. That trend is already in evidence. I am most concerned about what will be the full implication of the court’s action in fixing a basic wage on the capacity of industry to pay. What will be the reaction to such a development? After endowment becomes law, for the first child in a family will the court assess the basic wage on a single unit or on a unit of a man and his wife? I can foresee that the basic wage, consequently, will be reduced by from 10s. to 15s. a week. I am rather sympathetic towards the Minister in charge of the bill. He has been left to bear the brunt of the Opposition’s attack, .and must rely for assistance upon a number of second-rate debaters. If the court fixes the basic wage upon a single, or double, unit as the result of the provision of endowment for the first child in a family, chaos will be caused in the business com munity. The huge monopolies who support the Government-
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the chair.
– Proposed new section 94a embodies a direction to the court that it must not take this benefit into account when it is fixing the basic wage. If the Government does not accept that provision, which was inserted in the bill by the Senate, chaos must result. I am concerned about the welfare of the wife of an invalid pensioner, who has a dependent child under the age of sixteen years for whom the pensioner now receives an allowance of 9s. Will that allowance be correspondingly reduced ?
– It will be correspondingly increased to 14s.
– No provision to that effect is made in the bill. I firmly believe that as the result of the provision of endowment of 5s. for the ‘first child, that allowance will be correspondingly reduced. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy speech at the recent general election said, in effect, that whether or not the basic wage was altered-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As the debate on proposed new section 94a has proceeded, I have become increasingly convinced that the case in favour of that provision is fully justified. The proposed section can be divided into three parts. The first part embodies a general declaration that endowment for the first child in a family is not to affect wages, or salaries. That seems to be in accordance with the promise dealing with child endowment that was made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech at the recent general election. The second part makes it clear that child endowment is not to be defeated by the fixation of wages or salaries at a rate lower than they would be fixed at if child endowment did not operate. The third part of the proposed new section provides that the various wagefixing authorities shall bear that declaration in mind and shall not take child endowment into consideration when fixing wages. It seems to me to he essential that the Parliament should make a declaration of that nature.
As has been pointed out in this debate, child endowment and the basic wage have been indissolubly related since endowment first became a matter of practical politics in Australia in 1921. I strongly disagree with the statement made by the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) that the Opposition’s case in support of proposed new section 94a is based on supposition. 1 shall remind him of certain facts in order to convince him that our support of the proposed new section arises from a very real fear as the result of what we have seen happen in the past. Child endowment, in respect of all children in a family, including the first, was first introduced as part of the method of the fixation of wages payable to members of the Public Service and as a consequence the base rate fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator’ for all members of the Public Service was for a period of 20 years 5s. less than the basic wage that was fixed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. That is a practical illustration of endowment of the first child resulting in the fixation of a lower basic wage than that which operated elsewhere. The second illustration was given by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), who pointed out that during the operation of the child endowment scheme in New South Wales a lower basic wage applied in that State.
There is a third reason, which has not yet been explored, why subsections (2.) and (3.) should be accepted by the Government. It has been pointed out on more than one occasion during this debate that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court fixes the basic wage in accordance with what the court assesses as the capacity of industry to pay. It has also been pointed out that the court has made it clear that the existing basic wage is based on the needs of a man, wife and one child. The basis adopted by some of the State arbitration courts, which are also covered by this claude, is quite different. The legislation under which the arbitration authorities of Queensland. South Australia and Western Australia have been
Mr. Clarey. constituted imposes certain obligations in respect of the fixation of the basic wage, hours of labour and conditions of work generally. In those States the courts are required by statute to fix a wage sufficient to support a family of certain numerical proportions. In two of them a solemn obligation rests upon the court to fix a wage that will support a man, wife and two dependent children. In the remaining State there is an obligation on the court to fix a wage that will support a man, wife and three children. Instructions have been given to the courts of those States by the respective parliaments to adopt principles that differ from those adopted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. They cannot refrain from taking into consideration the income received by a family as a consequence of child endowment. Their task is to fix a wage that will support a certain family unit in reasonable comfort. They have not the power to decide whether or not child endowment received in. respect of the first child should be regarded as family income for the purpose of wage fixation. Thus, a very definite problem will arise in those State courts that have power to fix a basic wage and to take into consideration family responsibilities and obligations in its computation. The same problem would arise in New South Wale.c but for the fact that some years ago the law of that State was altered to provide that the wage fixed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for the city of Sydney should automatically become the basic wage applicable to that State. Wages are assessed by the wage-fixing tribunals by a variety of methods.
I come now to the particular problem that faces us as a result of the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech during the general election campaign. I think that his statement may be summarized as an indication that if he were returned to office his government would provide child endowment for the first child at the rate of 5s. a week, but that if the basis of computation of the basic wage was altered by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as a consequence of the endowment of the first child it would increase the rate of endowment to 10s. a week. Even assuming that ihe rate of endowment were increased to LOs. a week as the result of the action of the court, the matter would not end there if the court felt disposed to alter the wage to take into account the additional 5s. a week. In those circumstances, the fact that payment had been further increased would be an additional argument for a further variation of the basic wage.
– That would be the ca3e if the provisions of clause 3 were not included in the bill.
– I want to make it clear to the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) that if the endowment of the first child is fixed at 5s. a week and the court takes that payment into consideration and, as a consequence, the rate of endowment is increased to 10s. a week the additional 5s. a week will also be taken into consideration by the court. The only way in which we can escape such an outcome is by making a declaration, whether wholly or in part in the form suggested in this clause, indicating that child endowment is to be regarded as assistance given to a family apart altogether from wages.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Once again I must draw attention to the fact that a good deal of supposition has been indulged in during this debate. There has also been much confusion about the meaning of the word “ endowment “. It !s true, as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has said, that in 1.921 a system of family allowances was introduced into the Commonwealth Public Service, but those allowances were not regarded as family endowment.
– The allowances were termed “ child endowment “.
– Endowment is a gift. A family allowance is a payment made to the head of the family to compensate him or her for the additional expense incurred in rearing a family.
– How was the allowance described in the Commonwealth Public Service Act?
– It was described as a family allowance, which is quite different from child endowment.
– It served the same purpose.
– It did not serve the same purpose. There may be a compensating factor in that the basic wage fixed by the States is based on family unit> of varying numerical strengths and the fact that because there were family units in excess of those provided for in State legislation the Commonwealth decided to provide for a system of family endowment. Notwithstanding that consideration, child endowment is definitely a gift from the Commonwealth to the parents of families. Although some of the States fix a basic wage to operate within their own borders on family units of differing size, the provision that Opposition members seek to embody in this bill will not remedy the difficulties that they foresee. The fact that the size of the family unit is not taken into consideration by some of the State arbitration courts in computing n basic wage is evidenced by the close relationship that exists between ti e basic wage fixed by them and that fixed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. 1/ the Commonwealth Arbitration Court fixed a basic wage to meet the requirements of a family unit of three, and the Arbitration Court of Western Australia made its computation of the State basic wage on the basis of a family unit of four, and there was, as is the case a difference of only 2s. between the State basic wage and the wage fixed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, that would not mean that in the opinion of the Arbitration Court of Western Australia it costs only 2s. a week to maintain an additional child. The arbitration courts arrive at their determinations on the evidence submitted to them on the cost of living and the ability of industry to pay. Their determinations are based on many factors. .! see very great danger in interfering with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in any way. There is an implication in the argument advanced by Opposition members in support of the clause that, the court may take into consideration the possibility of the introduction of a means test. The more simple our legislation is. the less likely is it to be successfully challenged. T agree with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) that all Commonwealth legislation is liable to challenge. But why should we dangle a bait before those who want to have a “go” at it? The Senate’s amendment will have a result that I wish to avoid. It will unnecessarily delay the payment of this benefit to the mothers of Australia. We should make the additional 5s. a week available to mothers as speedily as possible instead of raising doubts on whether this Government has the power to bind the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in respect of a matter about which even the leaders of the Opposition party are in doubt.
– I shall endeavour to take up the debate at the point at which it was left by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). The honorable member had drawn attention to the effects of the rejection of this clause. We must remember that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said this afternoon that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court could only make a stab at assessing what industry could afford to pay as a base wage. If honorable members opposite analyse the reactions of the court to the original endowment legislation introduced in 3941 they will find that the amendments made by the Opposition in this bill will have the reverse effect from that indicated bv the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie). The new provision would be welcomed by the judges of the court who remember what happened in 1941 when the members of the court pointed out to the government ?f the day the substantial difficulties that confronted them in determining what was a just and proper wage. The Minister also referred to the measures which could be related to the capacity of industry to pay. But in considering this question and giving judgment upon it the court made the point very specifically that there is no clear means of measuring the general wage-paying capacity of the total industry of the country. That was actually the first strong point that the court made following its deliberations in 1941. The Minister said that the best the court can do is to “ make a stab at it “.
The court made it abundantly clear in 1941 that the basic wage that it was determining was sufficient to provide for a family of a man, wife and one child. The Labour Import 1944, issued by the Commonwealth Statistician contains the following passage in relation to the 194.1 case : -
The Chief Judge suggested that the more logical system would be to grade the basic wage according to family responsibilities and that, notwithstanding the increase in aggregate wages, the benefits resulting from a reapportionment of national income to increase the wages of those with more than one dependant chi’.d, would more than offset the inflationary tendency of provision for a comprehensive scheme of child endowment, and that if a scheme of this nature were established as recently announced by the Commonwealth Government-
He was referring to the original scheme for the establishment of child endowment. Let me say quite pointedly that the Minister is either talking with his tongue in his cheek in submitting this legislation at this stage or he did not believe in the case that he put to the House when he introduced the original legislation for the introduction of child endowment in 1941. The passage continues - - future fixations of the basic wage would be greatly simplified.
That is the basis on which the court considered the matter at that stage, when the basic wage covered a family unit of three and when the remainder of the family was to be covered by the child endowment that the then Government had foreshadowed. If that simplified the work of the court, how much difficulty will this legislation put the court to unless the Opposition’s proposal that this Parliament shall declare that the court shall not consider endowment payments when fixing the basic wage, is accepted by the Government? After all, this bill, as the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) pointed out, is one that comes within the social services consolidation legislation. As such it should be concerned only with social services. It is necessary to relate this legislation specifically to the people whom it is supposed to benefit. The only way to do that is for the Government to adopt the bill as it now stands. The court has already made it abundantly clear in its 1941 finding that, in effect, unless the
Parliament enacts such a provision it will strike again at the simplification of the court’s approach to the problem of determining the basic wage. The court said in 1941 that the legislation of that year in respect of child endowment had simplified its work because it had put into the picture the family unit on which the court should base its determination of the basic wage. Unless this measure is kept entirely on a social services basis by the adoption of the amendments made in the Senate, its effect will spread into the sphere covered by the industrial arbitration legislation. Almost the only statement of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) with which I agree was his contribution on that particular point. If the Government continues with its present proposals in relation to the measure it should amend section 25 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act which describes the court’s functions. But it need not go so far as that. The Government and its supporters have openly invited the court to take endowment into consideration when determining the basic wage by saying that it will increase the payment of endowment to 10s. a week if the court does certain things. Neither the Prime Minister nor any other Minister should have made such a statement if he had been sincere in the pledge to give mothers the benefit of 5s. a week endowment for the first child, without its being taken into account by the court. By making such public statements in relation to the Government’s intentions, in the event of the court taking certain action, Ministers have, in point of fact, pushed the court into the position of having no alternative but to take endowment into account when fixing the basic wage. The only way to obviate that is for the Government to accept the Senate’s amendment. The Minister has had something to say on the question of whether the proposed new section is constitutional or unconstitutional. He has expressed the view that it is unconstitutional. Who will test its constitutionality? The court will not do so. The proof of that fact is contained in its 1941 finding. Will the employers test it? They surely would not test legislation that was introduced by their own Government. The trade unions would not test it, provided that it did not interfere with the determination of the basic wage. So from what does the Government’s fear in respect of a possible challenge arise ? There would be no challenge from any of the authorities that would be concerned. The court would welcome a clear expression of the mind of the Parliament in this matter. After all, it is the Parliament that control social services and that should determine a matter such as this. The Government might well re-consider its approach to this matter. If it accepts the clause as it stands it will simplify the work of the court and keep faith with the people who are to receive the payment to be provided by the measure, and will gain the support of the trade unionists in connexion with thi* matter.
.- I was rather interested in the peculiar argument of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who spoke about getting the bill through the Parliament as hastily as possible is that no delay will occur in relation to the payment that is to be made to those who are to benefit under the measure. That is a story that is as old as the Parliament itself. Opposition to a bill often brings forth the plea that its passage should not be delayed because such delay might interfere with some payment that is to be made. If the Government fears that a thorough discussion of this bill here will result in any delay in payment being made to the intended recipients, there is nothing to stop it from embodying in the legislation a provision making the payment retrospective to any date that it desires to fix. The people at the referendum gave this Parliament the power to make laws in respect of social services. The declaration that the Senate has inserted in the bill does no more nor less than assert on behalf of the Senate a right that was given to it by the people by referendum ; that is, the right to deal with the matter of child endowment and other social services. In this clause the Parliament declares, for the information of anybody outside, including the court, what its opinions are in respect of child endowment. I do not think that anybody but a fool would believe that the court was in any doubt at one stage about what the implication presented by the payment to be made under this measure was, because immediately the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) mentioned the proposal in his policy speech before the last general election the court, which was considering the basic wage case, adjourned the hearing, not to go fishing but for the specific purpose of finding out what the wishes of the people were in respect of the problem that it would have to face when it was determining a new basic wage. The court knew that in due course it would have to decide whether in determining the new basic wage it should take this payment into consideration or confine its calculations to the basis of a family unit of a man and wife only. For that reason the court adjourned for five weeks. If the honorable member for Moore or the Government is concerned over any delay that might occur in the passage of this legislation, because of the time devoted to it in this chamber, or in the Senate, in rectifying what we may do here, it can insert a clause making the payment retrospective. I believe that the Opposition would assist to that end. The declaration made in the bill brings it into line with the powers, that we presume the Parliament was given by the people at a referendum. It reads -
Endowment payable under this Part is intended to be and is a social service.
I repeat that the Parliament very definitely received power from the people to legislate- in respect of social services. The declaration goes on to state - . . it bears no relation to the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes or to any industrial matter.
That clearly indicates to the court what the Parliament, which should have the say. in matters of this kind, has in mind. It will leave no doubt in the mind of the court about the intentions of the Parliament and of how it expects the court to view this particular portion of the legislation. The declaration continues - . . it is to be enjoyed quite irrespective of whether either parent of a child is an employee earning a salary or wage, is an employer or has any other means;
That makes it very clear to the court that this declaration of the Parliament is to the effect that there is to be no means test in relation to this measure. I believe that if we did less than make this declaration an unsympathetic court might take the payment of endowment for the first child into consideration when fixing the basic wage. The clause adequately meets that situation. The declaration further states -
It should be made very clear to every wage-fixing authority that this payment, when voted by this Parliament, is not to be taken into consideration in the assessment of any salary.
– This Parliament cannot do that.
– That has yet to be proved. There are legal gentlemen on this side of the chamber who consider that the Parliament can do this. Possibly there are legal gentlemen on the other side who hold the ‘Contrary view. Every time this Parliament legislates on any matter there is the possibility of some one appealing to the court and upsetting the legislation. I believe that the right honorable gentleman has had more experience in verification of that fact than has ony one else in this Parliament; consequently, I think that he should at least approach this legislation with the same caution as honorable members of the Opposition have approached it in supporting the proposed new section so that there will be no doubt in the minds of any wage-fixing authority that this endowment is being given to mothers by this Parliament in respect of first-born children up to a certain, age for the purpose of their proper maintenance. In the opinion of those who advise the Opposition legally, this provision is within the powers that were given to the Commonwealth Parliament at the referendum.. It is the d tv of the Government to allow it to remain in the legislation so that this Parliament, which was given author:tv to legislate in respect of social benefits, will not be misunderstood or misinterpreted by any legal authority.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I was impressed by the statement of the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) to the effect that if one cannot get children for love one cannot get them for 5s., or even 10s. I agree with that statement. The birth of children can be encouraged only by removing the fear of want. I ask honorable members opposite to stop shamming and to let the committee arrive at some agreement on this bill. It is true, as the right honorable gentleman has said, that this country will not obtain all the children’ it needs for 5s. each; but 5s. is better than nothing and- 10s. would be better than 5s. Something even better than 10s. would he a guarantee that the basic wage shall become the bulwark for the family against starvation and privation and be adequate to ensure that a man and his wife and family shall not have to go without what they need. The right honorable gentleman made great play of the fact that the Labour party had been in office for eight yearswithout making provision for any payment in respect of the first child in a family. That is so, hut the Labour party is peculiar insofar as it has always preferred to be right rather than consistent. If it has been wrong in the past in having refrained from giving an endowment of 10s. for the first child, endowing the first child without adequately protecting the wage-earner against a reduction of his wages by the Court on that account also is wrong.
The right honorable gentleman also said something about the constitutional power of this Parliament to direct the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I am not a King’s Counsel, as is the right honorable gentleman, nor have I had 56 years of parliamentary experience. But if the referendum that was held on the question of whether the Commonwealth Parliament should have the power to legislate for social services did not give to it the right’ to grant child endowment, I do not know why it was held. The only way in which the people can really be assured of gaining the benefit of child endowment is by directing wage-fixing authorities not to take into account the receipt of such endowment when assessing the basic wage. I do not agree with the statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service that the people endorsed the Government’s proposal. I believe that whatever may be said about the people’s desire for unrationed petrol, or the outlawing of the Communst party and all the petty side issues that the parties opposite dragged into their election campaign, one thing of which they did not approve was the failure of those parties to give a guarantee to the wageearners that they would not give with one hand and take as much away with the other. That failure lost votes which might have been given to Government supporters. I made particular reference in my district of Hindmarsh to this aspect of their policy, with the result that the electors returned a Labour candidate with a majority of nearly 17,000. They were not prepared to accept the policy offered to them by the Liberal party.
The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who, unfortunately, is not in the chamber, and who is evidently studying up some more industrial law, thinks he is an authority on industrial law because he told the committee that State tribunals, in fixing the basic wage, always take into account the ability of industry to pay. That is one thing that the South Australian industrial court, which is called the Board of Industry, is prohibited from doing. In fixing a living wage it is required to take into account the needs of a family unit of a man, his wife and three children, and is not permitted to take into account the economic ability of the industry to pay a particular wage. However, it is a fact that, the wage so fixed never varies to any great degree from the economic wage that is fixed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and by some of the other State tribunals. The cold hard fact is that no one knows definitely what the court has done, or what principles have been followed in fixing the basic wage in the past.
– The court makes that clear in its various judgments.
– The honorable member is the first Person I have known to say that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has made anything clear. In recent year– the court has often carefully avoided giving written reasons for its decisions. When it has given reasons they have sometimes been such unintelligible nonsense that nobody has been able to understand them. When it is possible to make sense of any two judgments, one often finds that they contradict one another.
Unless this proposed section is accepted, the court, although it may not do so openly, will use the payment of endowment for the first child as a reason for reducing the basic wage.
– If the Commonwealth Arbitration Court reduced the basic wage it would have to give its reasons for doing so.
– The honorable member is wrong on that point. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court does not have to give reasons for anything. The court gives quite a lot of judgments without stating any reasons. When explanations are given, the purpose is not to state why a decision was made, but to try to hide the reason for it. The clause is necessary in order to ensure that the employers will not be able to impose on the taxpayers a portion of their wages bill. That is what they will do unless the provision is adopted. This bill will give to the employers the right to take from the public purse, by means of child endowment, about £30,000,000 in order to relieve themselves of certain wages bills.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It has seemed to me that many speakers on the Opposition side of the chamber have been in the position of children who fear the shadows. They have been displaying fears which did. not seem to have any substance. I listened to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) with great interest. He is one who must command respect in this committee especially when he talks of trade union matters. He brought forward . one item which seemed to be of special importance. He said that in two States the State wages boards estimated the basic wage on the basis of the needs of a man, his wife and two children and that in a third State the wages board took, as a. basis, the needs of a man, his wife and three children. Child endowment has now been in operation in this country for about nine years and yet none of the wages boards in the States to which he has referred has reduced the basic wage because of its application. His argument gives the lie to the line he indicated. The same thing applies in respect of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which made no alteration of the basic wage upon the introduction of child endowment or upon the increase of the rates of child endowment. Therefore, the fears of honorable members opposite are quite groundless. The second point is that child endowment is one of a large number of social services. Those benefits ‘ consist of the maternity allowance, pharmaceutical benefits, invalid, unemployment and. age pensions and many others. Newly placed on the statute-book is the legislation in relation to the medical benefits scheme. Since those benefits have been introduced to ameliorate the conditions of persons on the lower scale of income not one change has been made in the basic wage.
– There has not been a basic wage inquiry in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court since 1940.
– It is a matter that could have been brought up by the employers, who have so often been called the “ bad boys “ in this particular connexion; If any such argument had been raised by employers, honorable members opposite would have ventilated the matter in this Parliament. I point out to the committee that social services now cost about £100,000,000 a year, and that most of that, money is paid to persons on the lower scale of wages. The third point, which 1 do not think has been mentioned by any speaker during the debate in this committee on this proposed section, relates to who pays for child endowment-
– The workers.
– Exactly. They contribute a large proportion of the money that is paid out on social services. Child endowment is now to be paid out of Consolidated Revenue. As the committee is aware, that fund consists of moneys paid as income tax, excise revenue, customs duties and so on. A very large proportion of it i3 contributed by the wageearning class which number no fewer than 2,500,000 in Australia. How could an arbitration court say that because a man receives 5s. for his only child, his basic wage should be reduced by that amount? It is quite evident that he himself and the rest of his fellows are paying most of the child endowment that is being paid back to them. Therefore, the case put forward by the Opposition has been exaggerated and there is no real reason to think that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will take endowment into account when determining the basie wage.
– “Why does the honorable member think that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court adjourned for over a month during the recent general election campaign?
– I suggest that that adjournment had nothing to do with this matter. There was a controversy at the time about a matter that was being heard by the court.
– As soon as the right honorable member for Kooyong mentioned child endowment the court adjourned the hearing of the basic wage case.
– There happened to be an election issue and the court had nothing to do with whether the issue went one way or the other. Had I been in the position of the court, I think that I should have adjourned the hearing, because the court should not deal with matters that have become an election issue. It is natural and proper to adjourn under those circumstances.
– “Why should not the court adjourn pending the result of this debate, if the honorable member’s argument is a good one?
– The election is over and the court now knows where it stands. It knows that the Government will provide child endowment.
– It knows by how much to reduce the basic wage.
– I suggest that the interjections of the honorable member are quite irrelevant to the argument. I approve the proposal of the Minister because I think that this committee should not interfere in the affairs of the court, which should be independent of politics.
.- Honorable members have repeatedly referred to the mandate which, it is suggested, the Government has in respect of the provision of child endowment. They have inferred that that mandate is wide enough to prevent the Opposition from incorporating in the bill a direction to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to ensure against the possibility of the court taking endowment into consideration when assessing the basic wage. I suggest to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) that the talk of a mandate, if it could be logically applied to this clause, has become somewhat tedious. Is the honorable member for New England aware that every member of the Opposition, so far as his constituents are concerned, has a mandate from them to carry out the policy which the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) expounded at the last general election? That mandate is that the Labour party shall continue in the same way as it has done in the past, particularly during the last eight years, to ameliorate the conditions of the people of this country without dangling something in the nature of a bribe in front of them at an election. During this debate honorable members have asked repeatedly, “Why did the Opposition not promise this amount of child endowment? Why did it not give it previously during its eight years of office ? “ The fact is that during those eight years we extended the social services of this country from a total provision of £16,000,000 when we took office to about £88,000,000 when we relinquished office. ‘ During the war, incidents occurred in this chamber while honorable members of the Liberal party or whatever they called themselves in those days were in Opposition. In relation to widows’ pensions, those honorable members said “Yes, we believe in legislation of this type, but the time is not ripe for it, the country is at war “. We were repeatedly criticized for extending social services during that dangerous period. It is a certainty, as is shown by the speeches made by the Leader of the Opposition, that we should have enacted child endowment for the first child had we been re-elected. At this present time our revenue is so buoyant and the national income so great that what might not have been practicable on the 10th December, would be quite feasible to-day. I refer the honorable member for New England to the fact that the wool cheque alone will be over £50,000,000 more than it was last year.
– Order ! The honorable member must not speak in generalities. He must confine bis remarks to the clause.
– I appreciate that; but you, Mr. Chairman, will concede that the matter of mandates has been introduced. Honorable members hav’e charged that the Opposition has been negligent in the discharge of its duty in regard to social services.
– I ask the honorable member to return to the clause; he m 11 s t not keep his speech at this general level.
– I refer honorable members to the fact that at the outbreak of war the Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), made a miserable offer to the wives and children of the men who enlisted - half-a-crown for the wives and ninepence for the children-
– Order ! If the honorable member does not deal with the clause I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I am sorry if I have unwittingly strayed from the clause. At this stage I respectfully, in a non-party and non-partisan spirit, suggest to honorable members oh the Government side that they should take every pros- perity factor seriously into consideration, t was inevitable during the general election campaign when the present Prime Minister said that if the Commonwealth Arbitration Court took child endowment into consideration the Government would increase the payment from 5s. to 10s., that when the bill came to this chamber there would be the widest possible discussion of this clause by all honorable members. That situation having arisen, it must be clear to the members of the court that this Parliament has discussed the proposal. If it is conveyed to the judges of the court that this Parliament by a majority vote has decided to leave it free to do what it likes in respect of the matter, there will be a grave risk of the court taking child endowment into consideration and the workers of this country suffering. The single people will be deprived of something that they otherwise would have got, and the married people will get less than they otherwise would have got. Because of the court’s action during the general election campaign, a grave responsibility rests on members of the Government parties to take that matter into consideration, and to ensure that the desire of this Parliament that there should be no interference with the basic wage due to child endowment shall be conveyed to the judges of the court. I believe that a large number of honorable members on the Government side also hold the belief that there may be an interference with the basic wage. I leave it to honorable members, particularly on the Government, side, to make quite sure that they shall not finally be responsible for the court doing something that it might not have considered doing but for the vote of this committee.
.- There is one idea incorporated in this clause. That is that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or the wage-fixing tribunal shall not take child endowment into consideration when fixing the basic wage. Every honorable member of this committee has agreed with that submission. No honorable member on the Government side considers that wage-fixing tribunals should consider child endowment when fixing wages. That being so. what objection can there be to the insertion in the bin of a provision with which every honorable member is in agreement ? The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) said that this Parliament has no power to make an industrial law, and that, as this would constitute an industrial law, it would be ultra vires and should not be embodied in the bill.
– The court could be toldwithout the matter being embodied in legislation.
– The honorable member suggests a third idea. He says that the court can be told and that there is no need to put the suggestion into the legislation. If the court can be told that, then surely there can be no objection to telling it by way of legislation. The right honorable member for Bradfield said that it would be ultra vires because it would be beyond the legislative powers of this Parliament. He is one lawyer, but there are a number of other lawyers on this side who say equally as strongly that it is not ultra vires and is within the legislative power of the Parliament. In reality, we are entitled to put it into the legislation, and if it were passed it would carry the full weight of the law. On both sides of this committee there is only a handful of lawyers, and the other members, who are not legally qualified, have to determine the issue. Because of that, and because there is a doubt amongst lawyers, I say let us take the cautious and sensible view and put the provision into the bill. Let us accept it because its inclusion can do no harm, whereas its exclusion could cause a great deal of harm.
– The honorable member said previously that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would not take the additional endowment into account when computing the basic wage.
– Yes, and I still say so. Some supporters of the Government consider that the direction should not be included in the bill, although they have not said that it would be ultra vires the Constitution. They consider that, it i.s an unnecessary safeguard and that the judges will not take child endowment into consideration in any circumstances. All that the Opposition asks is that the safeguard be included in the legislation, even though it may be unnecessary. I remind honorable members that, throughout the history of parliamentary government, unnecessary safeguards have been inserted in legislation for the protection of people. It is wiser to err on the side of caution than to be careless. The Communist Party Dissolution Bill is a measure in which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his supporters declare that they have included every possible safeguard that they can think of. The Opposition has thought of a safeguard in this instance, and it should he accepted by the Government. Any doubts in relation to the proposal should be resolved by Government supporters acknowledging that, though they consider it to be unnecessary, it ought to be included in order that the Parliament’s intentions f-hall be stated in the legislation. 1 shall not engage in any fine legal discussions, or debate the possibility of the court taking the additional endowment into consideration.
– The honorable member has already done so.
–On this occasion, for once, 1 am in agreement with most Government supporters. I do not believe that the court will alow the new benefit to affect its calculations in reviewing the basic wage. Nevertheless, I contend that a safeguard should be provided, because no supporter of the Government has stated any logical reason why it should be deleted. Government supporters generally have raised side issues and introduced irrelevancies about what various judges have done on different occasions. There has been a great deal of historical disquisition about industrial tribunals and social services, but plain common sense supports the retention of the clause as a safeguard even though it may prove to be unnecessary.
.- Ever, at this late stage I appeal to the Government on behalf of the Opposition to reconsider its attitude, lt is difficult to understand why the Government should be adamant on this issue. Its behaviour is churlish and stubborn, and it has stated no good reason for its objection to the Senate Opposition’s inclusion in the bill of a declaration of the Parliament’s intention that the payment of additional child endowment shall not affect the calculation of wage rates. There must be a nigger in the wood pile. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), who recently told us a great deal about getting rabbits out of warrens, is perhaps qualified to tell us how to find the nigger. His enthusiasm for the endowment of the first child in every family is remarkable in view of his previous political conduct. I am reliably informed that, when the Stevens
Government in New South “Wales introduced a measure to repeal the legislation that provided for payment of endowment in respect of the first child in every family in that State, the honorable member, who was then a member of the State Parliament, made his sole contribution to the consideration of the measure by moving for the application of the gag on the vital clause after only the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition, and one Government supporter had spoken. I notice that the honorable member is very intent upon the book that he is reading, and, therefore, I assume that he does not intend to explain his contradictory behaviour.
– Order ! The honorable member had better remain intent upon the clause that is now before the committee.
– In view of the dire economic repercussions that arose from the attitude of the Bavin Government in New South Wales towards child endowment, and the action of the Industrial Commission in taking endowment into account when computing the basic wage, the Government would be well advised to be guided by the views of the Opposition on this issue. As I explained earlier in this discussion, events in New South Wales in 1928 considerably accentuated the effects of the economic depression, which were more severe in that State than elsewhere in Australia.
It seems to be obvious that the Government has in mind the possibility that something may happen in relation to child endowment and the computation of the basic wage. Statements that were made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his election policy speech, and by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), in his second-reading speech, indicated that the additional endowment might affect wages. At any rate, the Government has admitted the possibility and one cannot forecast what will happen in that regard. The Government may start a trend that it will not be able to control. Certainly there is a strong probability that the employers’ organizations will request the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to take the additional endowment into account, as happened in New South Wales when they applied to the Industrial Commission for a review of the basic wage. The leopard cannot change its spots, and, in fact, the employers have already indicated, through their advocates in the court, that they are contemplating such a move. Such an application would be in line with their general attitude in relation to wages and conditions of employment. They have initiated a propaganda campaign in favour of a 44-hour working week, and a wage reduction would be a natural corollary to longer hours. The aim of the employers is to establish a pool of unemployed so that they may discipline the workers, break down existing wages and conditions and stimulate production. By some inverted process of reasoning, they hope, by this means, to put value back into the £1. The Opposition considers that the inclusion of the declaration in clause 3 is a verywise precaution. After all, the court might accept the direction in the bill. In any case no harm would be done. Both sides are supposedly in agreement regarding the principle of this bill. If so, surely we should be in agreement concerning its details. Obviously there is a lack of sincerity somewhere, and it appears to he on the part of the Government, which could give definite evidence of its bona fides by accepting the clause as a fair and necessary safeguard for the protection of those for whose benefit the measure is intended. I make a final appeal to the Government to relent and to relax its churlish and stubborn attitude. It could well accept the advice of the Opposition, which, I believe, has the welfare of mothers and children more at heart than have Government supporters.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Kadimah - Aborigines - Coal - Canberra : Hostels - Electoral. : Liberal Party Pre-selection.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to refer to a matter that is being widely discussed in the City of Melbourne, and in its suburbs, and is of great importance to many people. Before long, it may be of importance to all Australians. I understand that during the last two or three weeks, a number of officers of the Victorian Police Force have been visiting the homes of people and interrogating their children. They are concentrating on members of the Kadimah, a cultural and literary society that hasbeen in existence,for approximately 39 years.
– What is the organization?
– It is a Jewish organization. I understand that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has attended some of its meetings.
– I did not make a frivolous inquiry. I was merely seeking information.
– This organization, which has been long established, is a conventional and conservative body. Its members are business and professional men, university people and the like. I have attended meetings of the society in its hall, were I have heard lectures by persons who are not members of the Jewish faith. The Kadimah has an excellent library.I have been informed by persons who are more expert in the subject than I am, that it is one of the finest libraries in Australia, apart from certain public libraries. The society was most fortunate in having been bequeathed the wonderful collection of books that had belonged to the late Mr. Theodore Fink, and to his son Thorald Fink. Members of the Kadimah study subjects of mutual interest. A movement, if I may so describe it, has been formed for the children of the members of the society.
Within the last two or three weeks, a number of men who, I have been told, are Victorian police officers have interrogated the children of some of the members of the Kadimah. I am not sure whether those persons are members of the Victorian Police Force, and that is one of the reasons why I raise the matter inthe House, because I should like to know whether the inquiries have been pursued under the authority of the Commonwealth Investigation Service or whether they have been instituted by the State. However, the interrogations have given a bad impression in Victoria, and the fear complex is becoming accentuated. because the investigations have been conducted simultaneously with the debate in this Parliament on the Communist Party
Dissolution Bill 1950. Consequently, considerable anxiety Las been engendered in the minds of these fine, well respected people in the City of Melbourne, and in its suburbs. Some of them have asked me to protest against the inquiries and to ascertain the reason for them and whether they have been ordered by the Commonwealth or the State authorities. As I stated, I understand that officers of the Victorian Police Force are pursuing the investigations, but I do not know whether the Commonwealth Investigation Service itself sometimes employs the police of the various States to assist it in its work. [ hope that the inquiries have not been ordered by the Commonwealth authorities, because I believe that the investigagabon is a great mistake. I have known about the club for many years, and I have not heard it suggested that the organisation is an anti-British movement, or that it is engaged in certain propaganda work and associated activities. I have attended some of its meetings for ednra.tion.il purposes and I have heard university professors, who have not been of the Jewish faith, give lectures on highly intellectual and cultural subjects. Various members of Kadimah have now asked me to ascertain whether a mistake was made when inquiries were instituted about its activities. Some members are Australians of the third and fourth generations and, nearly 40 years ago, constructed the hall in which the society meets. Other members arrived in Australia within the last five, six or ten years. Previously, they had suffered severely in European countries under the Nazi rule and under other oppressive regimes. Naturally, they are upset when investigators knock at their doors and parents are asked such questions as, “ What hours does your daughter or son keep? Are they out late at night? Where do they go, and what are their activities? “ The comparatively new arrivals in Australia are upset by questions of that nature, and believe that it is the beginning, or perhaps like the beginning, of the conditions to which they were subjected in the older countries of Europe. I try to assure them that those conditions will not be repeated in this country, but I must comment here that it is the beginning of the kind of activity that wo associate with a police state. The whole matter should be carefully investigated. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service to ascertain whether or not the inquiries are being prosecuted by the Commonwealth. If they are, I consider that he should make investigations, and ascertain whether certain persons have been over zealous, and whether they have knocked indiscriminately on peoples’ doors and asked the kind of questions that I have repeated. I know of eight or nine persons who have been so interrogated, and I had an opportunity only yesterday to crossexamine some of them. They live in my own electorate, and in nearby suburbs such as Elwood, Fitzroy and Carlton. From the wide-spread nature of the reports, the Minister will see that the homes of a considerable number of families have been invaded in that way. J regard the incidents as very nasty. 1 do not like them at all. The whole matter is anti-Australian. We are not accustomed to it. I hope that the Minister will investigate my complaint with a view to ascertaining whether any authority that may have been given for those inquiries has been extended beyond the reasonable methods that it was intended to employ. I certainly hope that the Commonwealth is not responsible’ for them.
– I should like to support the remarks that have been made by the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and to raise another matter. First. I’ direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to the fact that the subject to which the right honorable gentleman has referred has also been presented to me privately in this manner. The organization, although it has long been established, may appear strange to some Australian people, and for that reason, and not knowing anything about its activities, they may consider that it is engaged in subversive activities and report the matter to the police. Those step3 to which the right honorable gentleman has referred may have been taken in pursuance of inquiries that have been based on those reports. But. as the right honorable member has said, the investigations have had an upsetting effect on some Jewish families and some members of the club, who. have had experience of similar police activities and interrogations in Nazi Germany. [ think that the Minister will agree that it would be undesirable for such action to take place where it is quite unwarranted, and I feel that the plea of the right honorable gentleman that an inquiry should be conducted may well receive sympathetic consideration from the Government.
The second matter that I should like to raise is within the jurisdiction of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride). I direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to the statement of a Commonwealth medical officer, Dr. C. E. Cooke, concerning the health of aborigines within the Northern Territory. He considers that the health conditions of many aborigines are a menace to themselves and to the people with whom they come in contact. It has always been said in this House that the treatment for leprosy has been so effective that it has won the confidence of the aborigines in the Northern Territory and that they have presented themselves for treatment. In that way, the incidence of leprosy, to a degree that was previously unrevealed, has been made manifest, and the disease is more common than we had thought it to be. The greater number of sufferers that, is being disclosed is the result of the aborigines’ confidence in the treatment that is being given for it. Ad* this is an investigation by a high Commonwealth medical officer, and as it relates, among other things, to tuberculosis, I ask the Minister whether he will ensure that steps shall he taken to give as effective treatment for other diseases among the aborigines as it is commonly claimed is given for leprosy.
.- Last week, I received a written reply from the Minister for Fuel. Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay( regarding the amount that is to be paid by way of subsidy on certain quantities of coal that are to be imported. The Minister informed me that the subsidy was fi ,700,000, and I subsequently learned that, approximately 1,000,000 tons of coal will be imported from India and South Africa. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has stated that in the period of nearly seven months during which the
Government has been in office, it ha< been considering this vexed problem of coal production, yet to-day open-cut coal production at Callide in Queensland is about to cease because the operators are not able to market the coal in Victoria and in other States. Those operators have guaranteed that they can supply 200,000 tons of coal by the end of this year at the rate of 5,000 tons a month. Last week there was a stockpile of coal at Gladstone, which is the nearest port. It will take the best part of twelve months to land coal from overseas at. Melbourne. It is a reflection upon theGovernment that it is subsidizing the importation of that coal at the rate of £2 a ton when additional coal can be economically produced in Queensland. The Minister was not ab:e to supply particulars of costs, but I have ascertained that, whereas Callide coal can be landed at Melbourne at the cost of £5 12s. Gd. a ton. the cost of coal from South Africa will be £6 6s. 6d. a ton, and coal imported from India will cost £6 10s. a ton. All honorable members are aware of the wages and labour conditions under which coa] in South Africa and India is mined.
The taxpayers of Queensland are asked to make a contribution indirectly toward the cost of importing that coal whilst the Government refuses to give any assistance in the development of the Callide field in that State. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) has done nothing but talk about this project. I point out that the Harbour Board at Gladstone proposes to expend £100,000 on the installation of- modern coal-handling machinery, and, in addition, plans to reclaim an area of thirteen acres on which to stockpile Callide coal, but it will be forced to abandon that project until we have in office an Australian Government that will be disposed to develop natural resources in States other than the southern States. I note from press reports that this Government has sent an investigator to report upon the Callide field project. Is that all that the Government is able to do after being in office for nearly seven months; during which period it has had before it a report that was made by Mr. Dedman, the former Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who personally investigated the possibilities of the field, and also a report of a committee of experts? One firm alone at Callide has no fewer than 99 trucks, most of which are diesel-powered and some of which are so large that they cannot be used economically for other work. I urge the Government to hasten its consideration of this matter. If it can justify its action in subsidizing the importation of coal from overseas, surely it can justify the provision of assistance in the development of so valuable a field as the Callide field which is situated in an area that is sparsely populated and offers an opportunity to develop the port of Gladstone which, of the harbours on the east coast of Australia, is second only to Sydney.
– I direct the attention of the Government to a matter which, although it is principally of local concern, loses nothing in importance because of that fact. In the Australian Capital Territory, both the Department of Works and Housing and the Department of the Interior are responsible for the maintenance and conduct of several hostels. Some of them are being controlled in a satisfactory manner and no ground for complaint exists in respect of them. However, some of the hostels, particularly one that I visited recently in the company of the Parliamentary Secretary for the Interior (Mr. Hamilton) has been allowed to” fall into a deplorable state of disrepair. I am- sure that the department would not permit a private landlord to conduct a hostel that was in a similar state. Unless one inspects the premises at first hand, it is almost impossible, to conceive that a government would have allowed any building under its control to fall into such a state of disrepair. Therefore, I 11 rae the Government to review its responsibilities in this matter.
I also wish to refer to the practice on the part of the management of the hostels under government control of demanding retainers from boarders who wish to have their rooms reserved for them when they .are absent during their ordinary vacation or on public holidays. All boarders, including both temporary and permanent public servants, are re quired to pay retainers for that purpose. It is hardly conceivable that in hostels, all of which are controlled by the same department, different terms and conditions operate in respect of the payment of retaining fees. I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride) will have a complete investigation made with a view to correcting the anomalies that have snow-balled over the years and have caused great inconvenience and discomfort to the persons affected. If the Government intends to maintain hostels, it should maintain them at a high standard. Otherwise, it should seriously consider handing over the management of all its hostels to private enterprise, which, I am sure, would do a better job than the department is now doing in many instances. ‘
– The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) referred to coal production at Callide where there is a large deposit of first-class steaming coal which, it is estimated, will yield 21,000,000 tons of coal by open-cut mining in the ratio of not less than three to one. However, the history of that field did not commence six months ago. The field was discovered during the last’ century, and at the turn of the present century the Queensland Government evolved plans for the construction of a railway to link the field with Gladstone, the nearest port.
– How far distant is Gladstone?
– Eighty-five miles. ,A few years ago, a man named Julian evolved plans to mine the coal and to export it from Gladstone. However, ever since there has been a complete lack of appreciation of the potentialities of the field on the part of the Government of Queensland. Last year, the Victorian Government offered to purchase 200,000 tons of Callide coal per annum, but owing to the Queensland Government’s bad handling of the whole matter and its decision to stockpile the coal rather than send it to Victoria, the Victorian Government decided, despite the difficulties that were caused by the recent coal strike, to abandon the transaction. The Queensland Government forwarded a sample shipment to Melbourne, but the sample was of such poor quality that I doubt whether the Victorian Government is now keenly interested in purchasing Callide coal. Every honorable member will recall the serious labour upset that occurred on the wharfs at Melbourne when the sample of Callide coal arrived at that port. Due to the Queensland Government’s mishandling of that transaction and its lack of appreciation of the great asset that the field constitutes, the whole project has been brought into disfavour, with the result that an extensive permanent market for Callide coal has been lost. The blame for the present position must be placed at the door of the Queensland Government.
It is necessary to transport the coal by road from the field to Gladstone, but very little has been done by the State Government to repair the road, which is in a very bad state. Recently, when the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) and T visited the field, we counted fifteen trucks that had broken down on the roadside because of the bad condition of the road. However, the Queensland Government insists upon levying a road tax of 5s. a ton on all coal that is carted from the field. If that Government were expending that money on repair of the road, the position would not be so bad as it is, but it has failed to maintain the road in good condition, although at the end of the last financial year it had not expended £876,000 that had been set aside for road works, whilst it is estimated that at the end of the present financial years moneys unexpended after being set aside for the same purpose will amount to nearly £1,000,000. Although other States are in urgent need of coal, the Queensland Government insists upon placing a road tax upon all coal that is transported from Callide.
The operators on the field are most enterprising. Although they have been obliged to use obsolete machinery, they have been able to produce coal at the Callide field at a low cost. The Australian Government is giving all the assistance that it can to help the operators to purchase modern machinery, and the operators are willing to invest capita] in the field in order to develop it economically. Young men with plenty of courage and the necessary intestinal fortitude are ready and willing to drive heavy vehicles over the corrugated roads to transport coal from Callide to Gladstone. The Gladstone Harbour Board is willing to provide every facility for the handling of the coal. This Government is willing to find markets for the coal. But, in between all these, is the blockheaded Queensland Government that impedes that project in every possible way, just as it has done during the last 10 years. Until the Queensland Government profits by the mistakes of the past, and gets down to business, the Callide field, like everything else in Queensland in which the State Government is concerned, will remain moribund.
– By how many votes was the Queensland Government returned to office in the recent general election?
– When the members of the Queensland Government make up their minds about this and other matters, the State will progress. We have the initiative to produce the goods; we need only assistance to produce them. During the seven months in which this Government has been in office, it has done more to assist the development of the Callide field than the previous Government did in eight and a half years.
– Last week, on the motion for the adjournment, I recounted to you, Mr. Speaker, the Gilbertian decision made by the Department of the Interior regarding the charges made in government hostels in Canberra, a matter that was also mentioned to-night by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott). I refer to the red-tape ruling dealing with rebates that are granted to persons who stay at those hostels, and who are away over holiday week-ends. The very deep interest that you showed in the remarks that I then made, Mr. Speaker, encourages me to recount to you also the very serious and, I think, quite shameful sequel to that matter. In order to refresh your memory, I mention that it has been the practice for a number of years in Canberra to make reductions of the weekly charge for accommodation at departmental hostels when guests are absent over holiday week-ends. When they are absent over gazetted holiday week-ends, the charge for board is restricted to room rent only, at a rate of 9d. a day. That rule has been followed in the Australian Capital Territory for many years; but, recently, an extraordinary position has been established, because the rebate was withheld unless the guest9 affected made an appearance at breakfast following their return from the holiday. That was the decision to which, through you, Mr. Speaker, I directed the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride), when I spoke on the motion for the adjournment of the House last week. I then pointed out that not only could there be no justification for so absurd a requirement as that a guest should come in on the Tuesday morning to breakfast in order to qualify for the rebate, but also that the withholding of the rebate was a serious matter to a number of young and junior employees in the service of the Commonwealth who wished to take the opportunity of the holiday week-end to visit their parents or friends in other parts of the Commonwealth, and who found themselves at a loss cif 35s., more or less, because they had not appeared for breakfast on the Tuesday morning following their return. Since then, 1 have received a letter from, the Minister dealing with the decision. I read it with very great pleasure. The Minister wrote as follows: -
The anomalies created by this concession where guests returned to the establishment on the Tuesday and were not granted the concession have been examined by me and I have issued a direction that where a guest who was absent from Canberra over the Ea?ter weekend returned to duty with his department on the Tuesday or where he was absent on approved leave on the Tuesday following Easter Monday he will receive the benefit of the rebate over the Easter week-end, i.e., he will be charged room re”t only for the Good Friday to the Easter Monday inclusive.
When I read that portion of the Minister’s letter, I expressed to myself great praise for the honorable gentleman’s sense of justice, his willingness to examine an anomaly, and his readiness to correct it. Then I read the final paragraph of the letter, which is in these terms -
After making a very close examination of the position I have come to the conclusion that there is no justification for continuing this arrangement and I have, therefore, instructed my Department that henceforth the concession which has been in operation in respect of holiday week-ends is to be withdrawn.
In other words, because employees of the Commonwealth, who have to live in these Comonwealth hostels, have dared to protest and to bring to notice an absurd anomaly affecting the application of this rebate, the concession has been abolished. If that decision stands, they will receive in future no rebate whatever in respect of absences over holiday week-ends. The clear impression given by the letter is that no one in this city may dare to question the ways of the bureaucracy; that if one dares to express a protest against any of the conditions existing in this city, one does so only at the risk of having one’s position worsened.
I cannot understand the action of the Minister. This matter was presented by the employees to the officers of his department in a very reasonable and courteous manner, and I also presented it on their , behalf to the House, but the result is, that the whole of the concession that, was enjoyed by residents in Government, hostels in this city for very many years , is abolished. If the employees concerned were members of a militant trade union., or if they were people who on occasions, resort to strike action, I am certain that the privilege that they have enjoyed, for. many years would not have been taken away from them without consulta-tion and without fair warning. If mem- , bers of a militant trade union, or a; body of employees who occasionally, resort to strike action had made a protest against some condition affecting their, employment, I am perfectly certain that, their position would not have been, worsened because of their protest. Government employees in Canberra do not go on strike. They are not able to go on strike. They are not unreasonable people, and they are patient. Because they do not engage in strike action, and because they are patient, they are compelled to suffer, as they will suffer, by this decision of the Minister.
Those of us who reside in Canberra are living in a highly regimented state, of society. Many members of the Commonwealth Public Service have no alternative to living in these hostels. All of them are overcrowded, and there is a long waiting list of people who are seeking accommodation in them. Is that any reason why justice should be denied to people when they make a complaint about the conditions under which they are forced to live in these hostels? An honorable member interjects that it is a vindictive action. I do not say that the Minister is vindictive. I notice that he is smiling broadly as I bring this matter to his attention. I assure him that it is a serious matter to many junior employees in his department and in other Commonwealth departments in Canberra. Those departments are seeking to recruit employees throughout the Commonwealth to come to Canberra, yet, without consultation with them, and because they have dared to complain about the conditions in the hostels, this serious adverse decision is made that affects their interests. The loss of 35s. over a holiday week-end is indeed a serious matter to Commonwealth employees, particularly those on the lower rates of pay. This privilege, which they have enjoyed for many years, affects their cost of living, and they have a very small margin left after they have met all their costs. Recently the charges of the Government hostels were substantially increased. I ask the Minister once again to re-examine the matter on the basis of justice and fair play. I appeal to him ‘not to take from these employees a privilege that they have enjoyed for many years, and certainly not to allow the impression to be given that if a person dares to question the ways of the bureaucrat in Canberra, he will be made to suffer for it.
.- I had not intended to speak on the motion for the adjournment, and I should not have done so but for the claptrap that has been indulged in about the Callide coal-field. I cannot allow that to pass without comment.
– We do not want the honorable member to mention it.
– I appreciate that very well. First, I should like to reply to the interjection by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) during the speech of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), in which he asked by what majority the Queensland Government was returned at the recent State election. The Queensland Labour Government won a majority of seats by a minority of 25,000 votes, and there was also a disparity of approximately 60,000 votes between the Commonwealth and State electoral rolls. Reference has been made by the honorable member for Capricornia to Gladstone Harbour. That harbour, without doubt, takes second place only to Sydney Harbour as the finest natural harbour in the Commonwealth. Its development lacks only the co-operation of the Queensland Government. It has been suggested that a railway line should be constructed to run directly from the coal-field to Gladstone Harbour, but the Queensland Government will have none of it. That Government proposes to construct a line through Rockhampton and thus considerably lengthen the distance by rail between the coal-field and the port. The distance by a direct route would be only 85 miles. Vast and valuable deposits of coal exist in the Callide and Blair Athol fields. The display of a certain degree of intelligence and of co-operation on the part of the Queensland Government would make possible the proper development of those deposits. During the last few years, the Queensland Government considered a scheme under which a firm from Great Britain was to be given a monopoly to the amount of £17,500,000 to develop the Blair Athol field. When the proposition was tested, it was found that it was merely a part of the fraudulent propaganda that is normally disseminated for political purposes, as so frequently happens in connexion with schemes that are said to be under consideration by the Queensland Government. Last year, I understand, the Victorian Government not only wanted to obtain coal from the Callide field but also proposed, at its own expense,- to maintain the road from Callide to Gladstone in order to ensure the delivery of coal to the port. During the coal strike, when Labour governments throughout the Commonwealth were thinking so much about the interests of the community, the Queensland Labour Government refused to co-operate with the Victorian Government in that matter.
That is one of the greatest blemishes on the records of parliamentary government in this Commonwealth.
Mr. Rosevear interjecting,
– I should not think that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) would bother to interject. Indeed, I am astonished that the honorable member is here after what he said a few weeks ago.
– Tell us what Labour did in the coal strike.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will please keep quiet.
– As a Queenslander, I am sick and tired of the hypocrisy, not only of the Queensland Government, but also of honorable members who represent Queensland constituencies, about federal assistance to develop Queensland’s coal-fields. I am certain that if the Queensland Government showed a spirit of co-operation and a true desire for development, it would get all the assistance it requires.
.- The truth of the position regarding Callide Valley coal is that if the State Labour Government of Queensland would hand over the Callide Valley field to private enterprise the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who comes from Queensland, would not mind paying a subsidy of £2 a ton on Callide Valley coal. Here we have a Treasurer of Australia subsidizing South African and Indian capitalists
– Coolie labour.
– Yes, subsidizing coolie labour to bring coal to Australia, when he will not pay the same amount of money to the people of the State in which his electorate is situated. That is my charge, and the Treasurer himself should get up to-night and make an explanation of his anti-Queensland attitude. He should not put a new member of the Parliament up to present a case for the Government. After all, that new member is a “ oncer “. He will be here for one Parliament only and then we shall know him no more. The Treasurer has not yet defended his position in this matter. Why should Victoria not have Callide Valley coal?
The honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) went to Queensland while he was a senior Minister in the Victorian Government, to get Callide Valley coal for Victoria. A sample .of Callide coal was sent to that State, but we are now told by honorable members opposite that the sample was bad. In fact, I think that the honorable member even used a vernacular term and said it was “ crook “. Somebody else said it was a case of sabotage. Following that statement, the honorable member said that the State Government of Queensland sabotaged its own export of coal. Nobody believes that. I understand that a poor sample of Callide coal was delivered to Victoria and that there was a justifiable hold-up in the negotiations because of its quality. The coal was left lying on Queensland wharfs for a considerable time and was sent to Victoria with a view to discrediting the Labour Government, of Queensland within twelve months of the general election in that State.’ Honorable members opposite who represent Queensland electorates had an opportunity of telling the people of Queensland their story a few weeks ago, and doubt’ less they took advantage of every facility that was afforded to them to do so. But the Queensland people did not believe them because they returned the Labour government to exploit the Callide Valley field as a national undertaking. The hatred of honorable members opposite for nationalization is so bitter and deep that they have not the slightest hesitation in refusing to expend Commonwealth money to develop this part of Australia that badly needs developing. How are we to populate, northern Queensland unless we establish industries there?
Mr. Fadden interjecting.
– Order ! The right honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Fadden) should come to the treasury bench. He should not interject from a back bench.
– The Labour Government was returned in Queensland because the Queensland people believed the story that its members told. The Victorian Liberal party Government would be glad to get Callide Valley coal. The Liberal party Premier of Victoria has never said i hat Victoria does not want Callide Valley coal, but he has said that it did not want coal, of the quality of the bad samples that were delivered to Victoria. The Victorian Government will take good coal from Queensland because it desires, as would any other administration in that State to make the State independent of coal supplies from. New South “Wales, because of the industrial trouble that occurs in the New South “Wales coal-mining areas. As a result of the wish of Victoria to make itself independent of New South “Wales coal supplies it is expending its own revenue in bringing coal from overseas ind is obtaining a subsidy from the Commonwealth Treasury. The Treasurer should go back to Queensland and make his defence of his anti-Queensland attitude before the people of that State. Until he does so, it is idle for honorable members opposite to try to blame a Queensland Labour Government that has done its very utmost to exploit and develop the fields at Blair Athol and Callide Valley.
I turn now to the railway that has been mentioned. It is true that the port of Gladstone is nearer to the coalfields than Rockhampton is, but it is also true that a connecting line between Callide and the main line at Rockhampton would be cheaper and would result in the use of less steel. The decision in that respect was made on the advice of experts, and not for the purpose of excluding Gladstone. Honorable members opposite should get their facts right before they enter this House to speak on such matters as this. Before this House rises to-night the Treasurer should explain himself. Otherwise he must stand condemned before the people of Australia, particularly Queensland, as a subsidizer of cheap foreign labour in India and South Africa and as ah enemy of the State that sent him into this Parliament as well as of its people.
– I shall reply first to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) who directed my attention to a report made by Dr. Cooke regarding leprosy in the Northern Territory. I shall brine the honorable gentleman’s remarks to the notice of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) under whose jurisdiction the matter falls.
I listened with some interest to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser). In his usual way he tried to present a pantomine or burlesque of a perfectly simple incident that occurred in Canberra recently. As the honorable member has stated, a concession has been granted to occupants of government hostels for a long period, in that they have been allowed a rebate of board charges in respect of time spent away from Canberra during holiday periods. When my attention was directed to the way in which this concession had been administered I immediately instructed that a reasonable interpretation of it should operate. Consequently, for the period which the honorable member mentioned, the occupants of these government hostels have received the same concession that they had enjoyed over the years. I can assure the honorable gentleman that it was with no idea of vindictiveness that I had a survey made of the position in relation to hostels, when this matter was brought to my attention. I found that previous governments had carried on these hostels for a number of years apparently quite unconcerned about the financial returns and that eight hostels and hotels under government control in Canberra had lost the appalling total of £53,351 in the financial year 1948-49. That loss amounted to over £1,000 a week. I also found that whilst certain increases of tariff had been made - and they were not substantial as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has suggested - in the 40 weeks that ended on the 20th March of this year those hostels and hotels had lost during that period £36,171. Consequently, I considered that it was time that a close examination was made of the position. I do not believe that the people of Australia are prepared to subsidize the cost of living in Canberra to the degree that those figures indicate. I am quite familiar with, and regret, the high cost of living in Canberra. I also know, however, that wages in Canberra have been raised specially to meet these conditions. Consequently, I consider that the position has to be examined and that the taxpayer of Australia should not be asked to proven hundreds of thousands of pounds to subsidize a condition in Canberra that could not possibly operate in other parts of Australia. It is true, as I have said, that the concession has operated for many years, but it has not operated in privately run hostels. Therefore, people who live . in government hostels have been enjoying a concession that others in privately run hostels have not been given. I also found that the concession is estimated to cost the Government £2,000 a year. In view of those facts, I decided that a review of the concession would be one of the means by which a huge loss on these hostels might be obviated. I say in all seriousness that I am not yet satisfied that the tariffs that are being charged “in these hostels now are adequate to meet the position, and T intend to have a closer examination made. I regret very much the possibility that an increase will have to be made, but on the other hand I have that sense of responsibility which any government should have in respect of hostels or any oilier activity that it conducts.
I listened with some interest to the speech of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott). T regret that some of the statements that be made in respect of the condition of hostels and other government buildings in Canberra show that a state of affairs exists that we should not expect to find in this territory. However, I suggest that the conditions that he described have not occurred suddenly, but are the result of a long period of accumulating deterioration. My department is very -keen to carry out e Kee.tive maintenance on hostels and other buildings in Canberra, and to bring them to a reasonable state of repair, but at the moment *t has a great deal of work on hand. That work is carried out by the Department of Works and Housing, which has lagged very badly and has not been able to keen up with the requirements of the Australian Capital Territory not only in respect of houses but also in relation to office and shop accommodation. Naturally repair and maintenance work has fallen into arrears. I can assure the honorable member, however, that I am well aware th pt a state of disrepair exists, and that I am doing everything possible to achieve a reasonable state of maintenance. I again assure the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that it was with no feeling of vindictiveness that I had a survey made of the position in regard to the hostels concession.
– I did not accuse the Minister of vindictiveness.
– The honorable member said that he felt that it was a case of vindictiveness on my part or on the part of departmental officers. It was neither. The step was taken after a close examination of the matter and I can assure the House that that examination has no: been concluded. I hope that no further or extensive increases of tariffs will have to be made but I have a keen appreciation of the responsibility that this Government owes to the taxpayers of Australia.
Mr. CURTIN (Watson) rH-13].- On the motion for the adjournment of the House recently I mentioned a certain Liberal pre-selection ballot, and I was taken to task for doing so by a low-grade individual outside this House who edits a gutter sheet called Things I Hear. The low-grade individual who edits that sheet for the one purpose of political blackmail, and who does quite a lot of work in the course of election campaigns on behalf of the parties now in office, made scurrilous attacks on the good name of individuals whose boots he is not fit to wipe. I refer to a person . named Frank Browne. I suggest that Frank Browne should clean his ears out and listen intently to the broadcast of the proceedings of this House, or read the records of the House before he tries to assassinate the character of a man who is much superior in every respect to this gutter snipe, this blackmailing editor-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s language is becoming quite unparliamentary. I think he could express himself with much less warmth.
– I am very cold. I hope that this individual or any informer of his is listening to my remarks. The Liberal party endorsed a candidate for the forthcoming New South Wales general election who votes the Communist ticker in union affairs and is a consistent follower of the party line. He is one, Hurley, who was endorsed as Liberal candidatefor Waverley. Hurley first came to tinnotice of unionists when he joined force.- with the expelled leader of the Communist cell in the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Comrade Bergeest, who is now trying to take over the Australian Labour party-controlled Painters and Decorators Union. Hurley has been acting .as Bergeest’9 assistant and has never supported Australian Labour party secretary, Mr. P. Carter, as long as he has been in the union. Hurley stood on the Communist ticket at the last election of union officers and was soundly beaten. Thi3 Liberal candidate is also known in the Sydney Domain, where he is a weekly speaker from the platform which publicizes a certain paper which is published with Communist assistance. Rank-and-file unionists are watching developments with amusement. The Melbourne News Weekly of the 15th March, 1950, asked -
Does Liberal Leader Vernon Treatt agree with Hurley’s sectarianism and fellow travellers’ views or is he just muscle bound from the neck up?
The following paragraph appeared in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph of the 23rd April, 1950.-
State Liberals recovered smartly from one of the most comic blunders in their recent history. They nominated for Waverley against the Attorney-General (Clarry Martin), a candidate whom they billed widely as a trade unionist. What they hadn’t found out was that the gentleman had. been a Commo nominee in the ballots of his own union and an associate of one of the more prominent Returned Soldiers League officials recently expelled for alleged Communist activities. The Liberals have now nominated Ross McKinnon, popular Rugby international.
Mr. Ross McKinnon has been a great footballer and I have always had a good opinion of him, but since he has joined the Liberal party and has become its candidate my opinion of him has been considerably reduced. I rose only in order to vindicate myself against this low-type, blackmailing individual who mails his sheet under the auspices of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), who sits on the treasury bench opposite. I think that the Postmaster-General should ascertain what kind of mail goes through the Post Office and, if this individual writes and does other work for the Communist party, whether his information goes through the Post Office in code in the guise of Things
I Hear. I ask the Minister in charge of the House (Mr. Holt) to bring this matter to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral with a view to the elimination of this blackmailing sheet.
– in reply - I wish to make a brief reference to one matter that has not been referred to from this side of the House but which was raised by the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and was referred to by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). The members of the Jewish community . and people of Jewish faith in Australia have the respect of all honorable members in this Parliament and have proved themselves to be law-abiding members of the community. I should be very astonished, therefore, if any police inquiry revealed any facts of an extensive character which could be held to be a responsibility of the Jewish community as a whole. I have no knowledge and, as far as I am aware, no member of the Cabinet has any knowledge of the matters to which reference has been made to-night, but I can assure the honorable member for Fremantle that inquiries will be made in order to ascertain whether action has been taken by any Commonwealth department in that regard. I understand that the Premier of Victoria has also had this matter brought to his notice by people in that State. I make this statement in order to counter the mention that has been made of the existence of a police state. There is no country in the world in which a police state has been developed and has operated alongside a functioning, parliamentary democracy. It is only when a parliamentary democracy fails to function that a police state develops, and so long as the private members of this Parliament or ‘State parliaments are able to raise matters of public interest in the way that is open to them in this country they need have no fear of the existence of a police state. However, suitable inquiries will be made concerning the matters that have been raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation- B. M. Hall.
Defence -R. L. George.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land, &c., acquired for -
Banking purposes - Whyalla, South
Defence purposes -
Cannon Hill, Queensland.
Port Kembla,. New South Wales.
Immigration purposes - East Hills, New South Wales.
Postal purposes -
Crystal Brook, South Australia.
Stirling West,. South Australia.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
National Memorials Ordinance - Determination regarding the nomenclature of public, places in the Canberra City District, together with Plan (dated 24th May, 1950).
House adjourned at 11.22 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1, How many employees of the Department of Information have been retained in the Public Service and in how many cases were the services of employees terminated?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Iron and Steel.
s. - On, the 30th March. the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). asked me, amongst other things, the following question: -
Will the Prime Minister consider the granting of. a subsidy on imported 16gauge steel used for the manufacture of steel fencingposts so as to enable requirements to be met without increasingthe retail price?
In reply to the honorable member’s question, I would advise that the Government is not in favour of the granting of subsidies in respect of steel imported for the manufacture of fencing posts. The Government has approved of the admission into Australia, free of duty, under customs by-law, irrespective of the country of origin, all 16-gauge steel imported in the form of bars-, rods or sheets, provided such steel is for the manufactureof fencing posts and that such steel is shipped to Australia on or before the 30th June, 1950.
s. - On the 23rd May, the honorable member for the AustralianCapital Territory (Dr. Nott) asked me a question concerning the convening of a conference of State authorities to discuss uniform ways and means of controlling all high speed motor transport in the interest of both public safety and economy. In reply to the honorable member,I would advise that a committee known asthe Australian Uniform Road Traffic Code Committee has been appointed by the Australian Transport Advisory Council (which comprises all State and Commonwealth Ministers associated with transport. The committee consists of one representative from each State one representative for both the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory, one each from the Australian Automobile Association, the Australian Road Transport Federation and the Transport. Workers Union of Australia, together with a representative of the
Department of Fuel, Shipping and Transport, who is chairman. Considerable preliminary research work has been carried out by the Department of Fuel, Shipping and Transport, and plans have been prepared for the consideration of the whole project of uniform traffic laws by stages. The matter of speed of vehicles, including motor cycles, will receive particular attention.
s. - On the 17th May, the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) asked me the following question : -
Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is the intention of the Government to give sympathetic consideration to the position of superannuated public servants who were recalled to the Commonwealth Service during the war years and whose pensions were cancelled during that time; and has any decision been reached by the committee that was appointed by the previous Government to inquire into this matter? If so, what was the nature of the decision and does the Government propose to give effect to such a decision?
The answer to the honorable member’s question i9 as follows : -
The conditions applicable to superannuation pensioners who are temporarily re-employed by the Commonwealth after their retirement are under review by the present Government in the light of the examination undertaken by the Chifley Government immediately prior to the last general elections. This and associated problems are receiving the close attention of the Government, but the stage of final consideration by Cabinet has not as yet been reached.
E - On the 16th May, the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) asked the following questions: -
Is it a fact that the only laundry in Canberra increased its charges by 100 per cent, recently?
Are the prices still controlled in the Australian Capital Territory?
Is the Minister aware that the domestic implications of this act have been many and varied and have caused great distress among unmarried public servants and members of Parliament?
In view of this complaint and others which have been voiced recently, will the Minister investigate the operation and profits of this monopoly.?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following information : -
The Canberra Steam Laundry is the only laundry in Canberra, and on the 1st May last operated a new schedule of laundry charges which had already been approved by the New South Wales Prices Commissioner to all laundries in that State.
This schedule has been approved by the Controller of Prices for the Australian Capital Territory.
The Controller of Prices advises that the increase on small articles was CO per cent, in some cases, but the general increase was about 40 per cent, over 1939 rates which is not regarded as excessive by comparison with the general cost of living increase of GO per cent, over 1939.
The rates and charges of the laundry except for dry-cleaning are subject to price control and the profits of the company for the current; year according to the first nine months are likely to be well below the general industry average.
– On the 26th April, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) asked me a question in regard to rates of pay for members of the forces, in which he stated, inter alia, that civilians employed in the service departments received a cost-of-living increase of £18 last November and would receive a cost-of-living increase of £12 per annum in May, and that during that period members of the forces had not received any increases in pay. The honorable member also inquired whether members of the three services on reaching the date of retirement had been applying for their discharges and when asked by officers to state their reasons for refusing to sign on for additional terms had almost invariably replied, “We cannot afford to stay in the services. We must get out in order to earn enough money to keep ourselves “. Whilst the result of inquiries since made indicates that in a number of cases members of the forces have applied for their discharges on economic grounds, I am advised that reviews of the pay code of the services have been made in the light of industrial margins for skill in industry and cost-of-living increases applicable to the Commonwealth Public Service. I am also advised that with the exception of the £12 increase in May, 1950, cost-of-living increases to the Public Service have been taken into consideration in reviews of the post-war pay code. Further, that the position is continually under examination and the May, 1950, cost-of-living increase of £12 per annum for the Commonwealth Public Service will be taken into consideration when the post-war pay code is next adjusted.
t.- On the 23rd May, 1950, the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) asked the following question: -
In connexion with the publication of numbers of newspapers for circulation among new Australians in foreign languages or the languages of the new Australians I ask the Minister for Immigration whether, in view of the necessity to encourage the early assimilation of the English language and its constant use by new Australians, he will investigate the possibility of providing for an arrangement whereby an English interpretation will be placed alongside the articles in the foreign language in each one of those newspapers, column for column?
I promised to furnish the honorable member with precise details of the circumstances and conditions under which the publication of newspapers in a foreign language is permitted. I now wish to furnish the following information: -
Every application for permission to publish a foreign language newspaper is investigated in the first instance by the Commonwealth Investigation Service. Inquiries are made into the aims and objects of the proposed publication, the proposed nature of its contents, and the background of the persons or organization associated with its production. In addition, the security authorities are asked whether there is any security objection to the granting of the application. If either the Commonwealth Investigation Service or the security authorities report adversely on an application it is not favorably considered. If, after considering the reports of the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the security authorities, the secretary of my department is satisfied that the application is a bona fide one, approval is given under the following conditions: -
that nothing will he published in the newspaper which - (a) is likely to foment disaffection, or spread disloyal or revolutionary propaganda in the Commonwealth, or is in any way detrimental to established authority within the Commonwealth; (b)is likely to cause a breach of the peace; (c) is offensive or objectionable; (d) is in conflict with the Government policy of assimilation of new settlers;
that at least one-quarter of the publication will be in English, and that the leading article (if any) will be in English, accompanied, if desired, by a translation in the approved foreign language;
that a copy of each issue shall be forwarded immediately after publication to the secretary of the Department of Immigration and to the Commonwealth Investigation Service.
t. - On the 17th May, the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) asked the following question : -
Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been drawn to the suggestion that some migrants coming to Queensland might be disembarked at north Queensland ports, instead of at Brisbane, with a view to encouraging them to settle in country areas T Will Hie Minister consider this proposal to see whether it would bc pf any practical value from the point of view of decentralization and rural development?
I informed the honorable member that I should be glad to consider the suggestion. I now wish to furnish the following reply.
British migrants destined for Queensland under the free and assisted passage schemes are covered by personal nominations made by relatives and friends, or group nominations siubmitted b;1 Government instrumentalities and employers. A requisite to acceptance . of any nomination is that the nominator will accom modate the nominee on arrival. After being received by the Queensland immigration authorities at the Yungaba State Reception Depot in Brisbane, the migrants proceed straight to their nominators wherever they may be in Queensland. Apart from the extra cost involved in shipping proceeding to North Queensland ports, there would be no point in providing* special reception facilities at those ports when the migrants in any event would be going to their nominators in North Queensland. Under the Commonwealth nomination scheme, which lakes in migrants not covered by personal or group nominations submitted through the States, it is proposed to .receive initially all these migrants at the Commonwealth Government’s immigration centre at Bathurst, New South Wales, from where they will be allocated to essential employment in the different States. It is far more economical from the aspect of obtaining maximum use of shipping and existing accommodation facilities, as well as general administration of the Commonwealth scheme, to process Commonwealth nominees in this manner. Migrants who arrive in Australia under our agreement with the International Refgee Organization are now processed and allocated to employment in the eastern States through the reception centres at Bonegilla, Victoria, and Greta, New South Wales. The reception and processing of displaced persons necessitates a considerable administrative organization consisting nf members of the several Commonwealth departments which are associated with the absorption of these people into Australia. These organizations have been established at the centres mentioned, the resources of which are adequate for the requirements of the eastern States. At present, Queensland’s labour from this source is allocated from Greta centre. ‘J he disembarkation of vessels in the northern ports of Queensland would, of necessity, require the duplication nf an organization already existing at Greta which is capable of handling Queensland requirements. Furthermore, the demand being made on my department for displaced person labour in northern Queensland is small relatively to the State generally. Therefore, if the proposal to disembark vessels in northern ports was adopted, at most, vessels could only, be disembarked at intervals of several months. This would result in very uneconomic use of the facilities which it would be necessary to establish there. The Government fully appreciates the desirability of ensuring the maximum amount of decentralization and of rural development, the need for which becomes progressively greater as our population grows. The Ministry of National Development and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture are examining many aspects of these problems, and the Immigration Planning Council, which amongst other things, advises the Government on ways in which immigration can contribute to a desirable pattern of development in Australia, with due regard to decentralization and the general distribution of population, is engaged in a comprehensive study of measures by which the development of the Australian rural economy and of regions outside metropolitan areas can be expedited. One immediate step that is being taken is to establish a number of small hostels in country areas for the accommodation of some thousands of British migrants arriving in Australia under the Commonwealth nomination scheme. The honourable member can be assured that the migration programme will be accompanied by the strongest possible encouragement to decentralization.
t. - On the 25th May, the honorable _ member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald) asked me a question’ relating to the administration of unemployment and sickness benefits in Sydney following administrative changes in the Commonwealth Employment Service. I now inform the honorable member as follows : -
The arrangements that have been made do not in any way alter the previous procedure under which applicants for unemployment and sickness benefits lodge their claims with the district employment officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service. The office at the Show Ground which has been established by ti e Department of Social Services is only concerned with the machinery for processing claims received at district employment offices and arranging payments where such are to be made. It should he on rare occasions only that it becomes necessary for claimants for benefits to go to the Show Ground office of the Department of Social Services. I should add that the system which has now been introduced in Sydney has been operative in Melbourne for some considerable time. It appears to operate quite smoothly and to cause no inconvenience to the members of the public.
On the 17 th May, the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Da vies) asked the following questions: -
Is it a fact that difficulty in procuring import licences for spare parts for American motor vehicles is causing a great deal of concern in many quarters?
Is it a fact that many motor ambulances in the Illawarra district of New South Wales are on the verge of breaking down and that if permission is not granted quickly to import parts for motor vehicles all ambulances will be seriously affected?
In view of the fact that the Illawarra district is a large industrial one which has in it heavy industries such as steelworks and coal mines which make constant demands on the ambulance services, will the Minister give instructions for import licences to be issued at once in order to meet this situation?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
Newspapers: Publication in Foreign Languages.
Unemployment and Sickness Benefits.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 May 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500530_reps_19_207/>.