20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Koh. Archie Cameron) took the . chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received representations of importance in relation to the treatment of poliomyelitis. I ask the Minister for Health to state the attitude that he and his department take in respect of Sister Kenny’s treatment of th At disease? Is it possible for the department to adopt Sister Kenny’s method, either wholly or in part, for the treatment of victims of poliomyelitis in hospitals under his jurisdiction?
– The New South Wales Government maintained for a period of about twelve years a clinic that it established at the Royal North Shore Hospital at which victims of poliomyelitis were treated according to Sister Kenny’s method,, but, eventually, it abandoned the clinic. The Australian Government has no intention of introducing that method of treatment in the limited sphere in which the department is responsible for the care of victims of the disease.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister arising out of a report that the Chamber of Manufactures has’ asked him to set up an independent authority, presumably from the chamber itself, to investigate the. administration of the Public Service. Has the right honorable gentleman any intention of noting upon that suggestion? Further, has he considered making available -a senior member of the Public Service to in vestigate certain aspects of the administration of certain industries, with which the Chamber of Manufactures is associated? I suggest that the latter course might prove of value to the Australian community.
– I fear that the answer to both questions that the honorable member has asked must be in the negative.
– Has, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had an opportunity to examine the Land Settlement Promotion Bill that was recently introduced in the House of Representatives in New Zealand? Is he aware of current .reports that that measure prohibits a person from buying, or leasing, farm land unless he undertakes to reside upon it for at least three years and work it exclusively for his own use and benefit? As that measure is expected to be the means of throwing open thousands of farms to potential farmers and will thereby stimulate production to an enormous degree in New Zealand, will the Minister examine the principles of it with a view to introducing a similar plan of land settlement in Australia with the object of stimulating primary production in this country?
– I have not had an opportunity to examine the measure to which the honorable member has referred. I direct his attention to the fact that there is only one government in New Zealand and that it exercises absolute authority in that country. Under our federal system, constitutional power in respect of the terms of occupation and ownership of land, particularly in relation to primary production, is vested, in the State governments. Whatever merit may or may not attach to the conditions that the honorable member has stated to be embodied in the New Zealand legislation, such a matter could be dealt with within Australia, excepting in the federal territories, only by the State parliaments. We are anxious that there should be an extension of land settlement in this country, and have requested the States to give, priority, out of the resources at their disposal, to the expansion of primary production in Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to indicate the plans that have, been made with regard to the expenditure of the special grant of £200,000 for agricultural extension services. Has the Minister received an application from the Murray Valley Development League for participation in this work?
– The intention of the Government in this matter, which has already been announced, is that by far the greater proportion of the grant shall be expended through State Departments of Agriculture, so as to avoid possible duplication by the Commonwealth in relation to an activity that is primarily a State, activity. Negotiations have been proceeding between officials of the Australian and State governments, since 1 had discussions with the State Ministers for Agriculture in Perth, last July. This afternoon a meeting of senior officials of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the State Departments of Agriculture concerned is taking place in Melbourne to formulate a proposal for consideration by the Government. I expect that the Government will be able to deal with the projected proposal in the very near future. The Murray Valley Development League has both telegraphed and written to me undertaking that if this Government will divert some portion of the grant to it, it will conduct some activities the nature of which it did nc specify. If the Murray Valley Development League is able to make any particular proposals I shall ensure that they will be considered by both Australian and State authorities.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the vital necessity of increasing the nation’s food production, he will give consideration to the appointment of a Minister for Primary Production, who would not have to concern himself with the routine business of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture but would be able to devote hi? attention, in co-operation with the States, to an assessment of the nation’s available resources of food and formulate a nationwide plan for the development of food production.
– -The honorable member’s question contains a fairly accurate description of the duties performed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture which, I am quite sure, he performs to the great satisfaction of the primary industries.
– Will the Minister for Health inform me broadly of the nature of the provisions in Queensland for dealing with tuberculosis before the present Australian Government assumed! office ?’ What has been done since to improve- the position? Would it be correct to say that any improvement that lias taken place in Queensland has been chiefly due to the actions of this Government ?:
– Up to 1950 the Westwood Sanatorium, of about 50 beds, was the only tuberculosis institution in Queensland. Tuberculosis patients not resident in that institution were generally treated in public hospitals. Since 1950 I have made available to Queensland, with the approval of the Treasurer a sum of about £1,800,000 to provide a 500-bed tuberculosis hospital at Chermside and hospital annexes at Townsville and Cairns. We have also provided £20,000’ for a chest clinic and tuberculosis laboratory in Brisbane to try to deal with tuberculosis in the early stages, and to establish various X-ray clinics in the true sense. Special accommodation and equipment costing £34,000 have been approved for use in the far north of Queensland in the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis among the aborigines. For these reasons there has been a noticeable improvement in the standard of treatment of tuberculosis in Queensland since 195G
– Can the Minister foi Health inform the House of the progress that has been made with the hospital for tubercular patients at Chermside? Have plans for that building been prepared and approved, and does the responsibility for calling tenders rest with the Commonwealth or the State Government? When will tenders be called for the erection of the building, and when is it expected that the hospital will be available for patients ?
– The responsibility of calling for and approving of tenders for the hospital at Chermside rests primarily upon the State Government, but the final seal is set on the actual plans by the Commonwealth. I am not in a position to give a complete answer to the question about the progress of the building. I shall ascertain the f acts and supply the information to the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the
Government has obtained the advice of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization on the practicability of determining in textiles^ by weight or in any other way, the proportion of re-used and re-processed wool’ and artificial fibres to pure virgin wool? If it has not done so, will the Minister obtain such advice and communicate its- nature to the House?
– I am unable to* answer the question, but I shall communicate the substance of it to my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, within whose administrative responsibility textile labelling, to which the question is obviously directed, falls.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform me whether it is the Government’s intention to sell or otherwise dispose of the machinery in the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool?’ If so, will he state the Government’s reasons for so doing?
– An announcement was made about this matter in the House quite recently. The Government has made a decision to distribute the machinery of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool to other instrumentalities, and its reason for doing so was that it believed a more efficient use of the machinery would be made in that way than is being, made at present. It is not proposed to sell the assets in any normal sense. It, is hoped that State instrumentalities will be able to make better use of them than is at present being made. Some State government instrumentalities have already indicated that they are anxious to use these assets.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that a large number of unemployed persons are not applying for the unemployment benefit because they believe that as they have money in savings banks they are not entitled to such benefit? Will the Minister give publicity to this matter and” explain fully, by means of newspaper advertisements, the nature of the means test in relation to unemployment and sickness- benefits? He should inform the people clearly that a balance of a few pounds in a bank account does not preclude an applicant from obtaining these benefits.
– I shall be pleased to give consideration to the honorable member’s proposal. Of course, some publicity will arise from the asking of the question and my reply, and I should like everybody who has heard the question to know that the. officers of the Department of Social Services are always willing to give all the advice and help that they can give to applicants for benefits.
– Will the Prime Minister consider appointing a committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives to stud) and report upon the age pension system with the object of abolishing the means test, establishing an adequate rate of pension, and formulating a proper system of financing this social service ?
– The answer is “ No “. The responsibility for those very important matters of public finance rests upon the Government, and the Government is not prepared to delegate its functions to those who have no responsibility in the long run for putting them into operation.
– The questions that I ask the Minister for Health refer to. the distribution of milk to school children. Has the Government entered into any arrangement with the New South Wales Government for the provision of refrigerators in schools to keep cool the milk that is given to school children under the Government’s’ free distribution scheme? What is the approximate amount that the New South Wales Government has saved as a result of this Government’s assumption of responsibility for the distribution of free milk? Would it be reasonable to suggest that the New South Wales Government might provide the’ comparatively small amount that would be needed to purchase refrigerators with which to keep the milk cool and palatable ?
– In almost all schools in New South Wales, many of which I have visited while free milk has been distributed, the milk is delivered only a few minutes before it is supplied to the children. Therefore, there is no need for refrigeration. However, the agreement between this Government and the State Government provides that the cost of any equipment necessary for the functioning of the scheme, such as refrigeration plant, shall be shared equally. 1 understand that, in the last year in which the State Government engaged in a limited scheme of milk distribution for the benefit of school children, its expenditure for that purpose was about £180,000. The honorable member has probably noted the fact that the Estimates for the current year provide for the expenditure of £650,000 for the distribution of milk to school children in New South Wales.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. By way of explanation, I point out that at present there is a constant delay of at least three weeks in the issue of Hansard reports, which means that they are stale by the time they are received by honorable members and by the reading public. I wish to make it clear that 1 do not cast any reflection on the Hansard staff. I understand that the delay is with the Government Printer. Will you make arrangements through the appropriate channel for the Government Printer to expedite the printing of Ilansard so that reports of proceedings of the Parliament shall be available within one week, which, I suggest, would be a reasonable time?
– The honorable member has asked me to do something that is altogether outside my province. The responsibility of the Hansard staff and of this chamber ends when we deliver to the Government Printer the corrected manuscript of each individual day’s proceedings. That is done regularly every night. It is a fact that copies of Hansard o£ the United Kingdom Parliament have arrived here by sea on several occasions during my tenure of this office earlier than Hansard reports of this Parliament of the same date have been made available by the Government Printer in Canberra. However, that is not my responsibility. I understand that the Government Printer functions under the control of the Treasurer.
– In view of the increases in living costs during the last twelve months, does the Treasurer propose to introduce legislation to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act during the current sessional period ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No “.
– Is the Treasurer aware that there is a widespread belief in the minds of many people that this Government has seriously restricted credit? In view of the damage caused to our economy by many irresponsible statements on the subject will the right honorable gentleman give the House some information on it so that the truth of the matter may be clearly understood?
– The question which the honorable member for Bennelong has asked gives me an opportunity to rebut much of the wilful and sometimes innocent misrepresentation and misapprehension about the credit policy pursued by this Government. Our policy is one of credit availability as opposed to credit restriction. The truth of that statement may be seen in the fact that, in th3 last twelve months, a sum of £336,000,000 of special deposits lodged by the trading banks with the Commonwealth Bank hasbeen released, and that action has enabled the banking system of Australia to make increased advances, over the same period, of an average amount of £163,000,000 a month. That has occurred despite the fact that deposits have declined by £120,000,000 during the same period. The credit policy of the Government is watched constantly and vigilantly, and is amended and modified to meet altered conditions as they arise. A modification or a relaxation of the advances policy of the banks was made last May, and another modification was made as late as last July, so that extra credit could be made available for hire purchase finance for’ the acquisition of farm equipment. Conse quently, the Government’s policy is one of credit availability, not credit restriction.
– Can the Minister for Territories give the. House any information about the accuracy, or otherwise, of reports to the effect that, due to drought conditions in the Arnhem native reserve, natives from that area have been compelled to kill cattle in order to provide food for their families and themselves? If those reports are correct, will the Minister inform me of the action that the Government is taking to meet that position ?
– I think the honorable member will agree with me when I say that the Northern Territory is a land of romance in more senses than one. T have not seen the reports to which he has referred. On the face of them, I ain disposed to doubt their accuracy, but I shall have very careful and exact inquiries made to ascertain whether there is any substance in them, and I shall inform the honorable member and the House of the action being taken to meet the situation. As the honorable member knows, it is a part of the policy of the Northern Territory administration to provide food for nomadic natives on occasions when their natural food supply is not available.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that at the ANZAUS conference recently, highly qualified speakers expressed great concern at the operation of some unscrupulous patent medicine manufacturers who were stated to be fleecing the public by making outrageous charges for their products and fooling the public by making unfounded and misleading claims for their medicines, some of which were said to be quite worthless and others actually unsafe? Although I appreciate that this is a State matter, I ask whether the Australian Government is prepared to take action by restricting the important tax concessions which allow all advertising expenditure to be treated as a deductible item for income tax purposes, to reputable and approved patent medicine manufacturers whose products have been certified by responsible health authorities?
– At present I have the responsibility of providing a national health scheme for Australia. That occupies practically all my time. 1 do not intend to undertake a job which is essentially that of the States.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and shall preface it by reminding him that I drew his attention to the dissatisfaction that exists among wheat-growers at Binniguy and adjacent sidings with the company which acts in that locality as the licensed receiving agent for the Australian Wheat Board. Has the Minister done anything in the matter and will he state his general policy in relation to problems of that kind?
– On a number of occasions the honor able member has brought to my notice the dissatisfaction of wheat-growers in certain districts in his electorate with the receiving facilities there. I have asked the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board to give attention to this problem, but I have made it clear to the honorable member, as I desire now to make it generally clear, that the Australian Wheat Board is constituted to handle the Australian wheat crop. As the board is comprised of a majority of grower representatives who act with men who are experienced commercial executives, I have no intention whatever, as political head of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, of interfering in the ordinary administrative activities of the board.
– Is the Treasurer aware that 2,000 farms in New South Wales which have already been inspected and surveyed will not now become available to returned soldiers for settlement because of the financial stringency of the moment? Is the Minister aware also that 28,000 returned soldiers hold qualifying certificates which state that they are fit to take up farms which become available? In view of the fact that 28,000 men want to become farmers and the Government has an urgent food programme, would the Treasurer be prepared to float a £50,000,000 loan for closer settlement for soldiers? He may be surprised at the reception that such a loan would be given by the community.
– The question is one that concerns the State governments and particularly the New South Wales Government, which authority has been mentioned by the honorable member. The Australian Government finds the finance for the war service land settlement scheme but the conditions of administration of it and of the acquisition of lands as well as other matters are set out in an agreement that has been entered into between the Australian Government and the States.
– Has the Minister for the Interior any information at his disposal that will enable him either to confirm or deny a rumour that the Queensland Government is considering the abandonment of the war service land settlement scheme in that State? Will he state precisely the responsibility of the Commonwealth in connexion with providing finance for the scheme in Queensland? I make that request because the Queensland Treasurer has made a statement in the Queensland Parliament to the effect that the failure of the scheme in Queensland is due to the fact that insufficient finance has been obtained from the Commonwealth.
– I have no knowledge of any statement by any responsible person that the Queensland Government will cease to operate the war service land settlement scheme in that State. I know that in this financial year the sum of £676,500 is all that has been allocated to it. Queensland entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth in relation to war service land settlement on the same basis as did New South Wales and Victoria. Those three States, which are principal States, entered into an agreement on the basis that they would conduct their own war service land settlement schemes and did not want the Commonwealth to co-operate with them on the same basis as it did with the agent States, which are Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. Queensland has continued to adopt that attitude. Therefore, the Queensland Government is responsible for providing, from its loan allocations, the money that it requires for the purposes of the scheme. Queensland, like New South Wales, has reduced the proportion of its total loan allocations that it expends upon war service land settlement from 6 per cent, to less than 2 per cent.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. By way of explanation, I refer to numerous reports during the last six months of a certain degree of German infiltration of Egypt. Can the Minister say whether, in fact, former officers of the German army, navy and air force have been recruited to the Egyptian services? Is it true that German instructors, technicians and aircraft and munitions experts have taken places formerly occupied by British subjects? Does the Minister consider that the presence of exNazi officers in Egypt during the present revolutionary changes may constitute a long-term threat to the interests in the Middle East of Australia and other British Commonwealth countries?
– I have heard, in general terms, of the trend to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but I have no current information upon the subject. I shall endeavour ,to obtain some information. Doubtless, the honorable gentleman is aware that this matter is entirely within the competence of the Egyptian Government.
– Will the Minister for Health indicate the stage that has been reached in his negotiations with the Minister for Health in New South Wales regarding the provision of a subsidized medical practitioner service at Jervis Bay?
– I have had several discussions with the secretary of the British Medical Association about whether it is possible to establish in
Jervis Bay a qualified medical man whose services both governments could utilize. Unfortunately, the problem has not ‘yet been solved.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House of the arrangements, if any, that have been made with the Minister for Health in New South Wales for the implementation of the hospital benefits agreement in that State? Has a date been fixed for the commencement of the scheme ? If so, have any societies been approved or registered as hospital benefits societies? How are such societies to be registered? What is the weekly subscription that will be paid by persons who join hospital benefits societies? Will any person, irrespective of age or state of health, be debarred from membership of such societies?
– I have not received any recent communication from the New South Wales Government on the matter. All I have had is a statement in the budget speech of the State Treasurer, who is also the Premier, who deals with this matter, in which he said that the scheme itself would start on the 1st October. Under the agreement the actual payments will commence from the 20th August, the date of the termination of the previous scheme. The societies which have been approved by the Commonwealth, the names of which have already been published in the press of New South Wales, will handle the insurance aspect of the scheme. They assure me that age is not a bar to the taking out of hospital insurance.
– I ask the Minister for Health when the House can expect to be informed of details of the Government’s health scheme of which he has notified the various State Ministers for Health? Where can such information be obtained?
– Judging by the results of gallup polls the information for which the honorable member has asked is widely known throughout Australia. If members of the Opposition had given me the opportunity at various times in this chamber, I should have explained the scheme more fully to the House. But honorable members opposite are always taking points of order, or moving, the gag on nae.
– I direct to the Minister for Commerce and Agricultur a, question relative to the distribution of the profits of Joint Organization. I state, by way of explanation of my question, that I have received many inquiries from electors, particularly from people who have left the wool industry, about the likely date of a further distribution of Joint Organization .profits. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the Government is waiting; for a court decision on the Poulton case before proceeding further in this matter.. If that is so, is he in a position to indicate to the House when that decision is likely to be given 1
– The distribution of Joint Organization .profits will be made in two categories. As has been previously announced, wool-growers who are generally entitled to a share of the profits will be paid their entitlements in three further approximately equal distributions, the first of which will be made, I believe, about March next year and the other two in the two succeeding years. Broadly, the entitlements will total about el 3)000,000 in each distribution. The other category consists of persons who left the industry before the high prices of wool occurred.-. Such persons have been classified as those who left the industry before August, 1949. They will be paid their entitlement under legislation of which notice has already been given in this House and on which I hope to be able to make my second-reading speech within a few days-. Payment to those persons will be made as soon a:3 the High Court gives its decision in the Poulton case which will determine the formula of entitlement.
M.r. LUCK. - I ask the Minister for Supply whether. Australian, tin producers are producing sufficient: tin to meet the requirements of Australian industry?’ If not, can he1 indicate any possible developments; that will help to< increase tin production in this- country:?
– My impression, is that tin producers are in a position to supply Australia’s needs; but, on that point, 1 speak subject to correction. My department has under consideration at the moment the whole question of the stimulation of tin production and it is hoped that in the near future the Government will make a further decision in the matter.
– I bring to the attention of the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration the fact that numbers of immigrants who reside at immigrant hostels in New South Wales are unable to obtain employment and are getting seriously into debt. As their inability to find employment ia not due to any fault on their part will the Minister consider the advisability of relieving- them in their plight?
– The matter that the honorable member has raised comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service who is not present at the moment. I shall bring the question to his notice and furnish a reply as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration aware that officers of the department abroad are still advising intending immigrants through newspaper publicity and advertisements that employment and accommodation are readily available for new arrivals in Australia? If he is- aware of that fact, will he put an end to such misrepresentation by issuing a statement ok the present unemployment and the lag in housing in this country and will he also make available at immigration offices abroad photographs of hostels at which accommodation is provided for immigrants ?
– I am aware that until recently, immigration officers in London Were informing prospective immigrants that a need exists for skilled tradesmen in certain- trades in’ Australia. I do not think that if is correct to say that a general’ statement’ of the kind1 tha’t the honorable member indicated is Being made.
– I produced a copy of a statement of that kind in this chamber some nights ago.
– So far as my recollection goes, that statement referred to the need for additional skilled tradesmen. I shall have inquiries made in order to ascertain whether a general statement of the kind that the honorable member has indicated is being issued by immigration officers in London, and if that is being done steps will be taken to correct the position.
– Is the Minister acting tor the Minister for Immigration able to inform the House whether any rural workers, or persons capable of undertaking rural work, are unemployed at present? If such persons are unemployed, will he indicate the reasons why the Government is entering into another agreement with the German Government at Bonn to bring to this country additional rural workers when numbers of Australian rural workers cannot be absorbed ?
– The question that the honorable member has asked comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Labour and National Service. I shall obtain the information from my colleague and advise the honorable member accordingly.
– Has the Prime Minister seen statements that have been made by the Minister for National Development and other Ministers to the effect that depression talk is nonsense, that our economy is sound and that the nation is prosperous? Does the right honorable gentleman agree with such statements? If so, will he instruct counsel appearing for the Government in the wages and hours case before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to give evidence that would justify those statements in order to combat the case that the employers are endeavouring to make in support of their application for a reduction of wages and an increase of hours on the ground that the Australian economy is not sound and that the nation is not prosperous?
– The honorable member has fallen into a trivial but pardonable error. He referred to statements made in the court about the evils of depression talk and the fundamental soundness of the Australian economy. I arn happy to observe that the statements were made by Mr. Monk on behalf of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and I was not uninterested to know that Mr. Monk drew the information on which he based them from the budget speech that was recently delivered by my colleague, the Treasurer. Indeed, when I read the affidavits, I felt for the moment that we were on the verge of the formation of a national government.
– Is that what .the right honorable gentleman wants?
– Subject to certain restrictions, yes. I assure the honorable member that I was most interested in the matter.
– Recently, the Treasurer supplied me with a reply to a question in which he indicated that expenditure upon education during the last financial year amounted to £10,200,000. Can the right honorable gentleman supply any details about how that money was distributed?
– I shall treat the honorable member’s question as being on the notice-paper and supply an answer as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister for Air say how many fighter and bomber aircraft have been added to the Royal Australian Air Force since he became Minister for Air?
– Off-hand, I am unable to state the exact figures for which the honorable member ha3 asked, but I shall obtain the information and supply it to him.
– by leave - The Government has given consideration to the. facilities, if any, to be given to Australian delegates to travel to the so-called “ peace “ conference to be held in Peking towards the end of this month. There are certain peculiar features about such a conference in China under present circumstances which the Government felt it could not overlook in considering whether assistance should be given to delegates. The simple fact is that at this very moment Australian servicemen ares participating in an armed conflict in Korea in which United Nations forces are fighting against forces the major part of which are under the control of Chinese authorities at Peking. Yet, apparently, certain people wish to participate in a conference, purporting to be held to promote “ peace “, in the territory of authorities which are opposed to us in serious hostilities, and with the approval1 of those authorities. It seems incongruous, to say the least, that delegates should even request facilities from the Australian Government to enable them to participate in such a conference. Their visit to Peking would undoubtedly be used throughout Asia wholly for propaganda against the United Nations, and to suggest that Australians are not backing the Government’s decision to participate in the United Nations campaign in Korea. The conference is merely a device for intensifying Communist propaganda against the “Western Powers in the Pacific area. The Government believes that the primary purpose of .the conference is not to promote peace, but rather to further Communist policies for undermining the independence of governments in Asia and the Pacific. In other words, this conference is designed as an instrument of war.
For these reasons the Australian Government will not be a party to assisting any Australian to attend the Peking Conference. Accordingly, the Government will deny passport facilities to all prospective delegates. I believe that some of the proposed delegates are contemplating attending this conference from the best of motives. The Government is satisfied that this conference is a fake. Any association with it by Australian citizens is contrary to Australia’s best interests and should therefore be actively discouraged by the Government. The Government believes that Australian citi zens should have the utmost freedom in travelling about the world, but that this freedom must be limited where their movement actively assists those who are fighting against Australia. Further, the Government wishes to avoid all inconvenience to the great majority of Australian travellers who neither intend nor wish to go near these phony “ peace “ conferences. For this reason it does not propose to issue any general restriction on travel. However, passports already held by prospective delegates will be cancelled immediately, and passports will be withheld from prospective delegates who seek them.
– by leave - The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has drawn attention to a very important matter. As most honorable members will remember, this matter was debated in the House several months ago. At that time I pointed out, on behalf of the Opposition, that the real vice of the proposal was the holding of such a conference in what is tantamount to enemy territory while the United Nations armies, including the Australian forces, are fighting against the Chinese and other Communist forces. I do not think that this matter involves any general question of passports. It involves the particular application of what may be fairly and accurately called defence security. The Prime Minister, in his statement to-day, has done little more, although he has done it more carefully, than point out what I pointed out at that time on behalf of the Opposition. Our view, in connexion with a conference that took place on that occasion, was opposed by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt).
– It was also opposed by your Dr. Burton.
– Of course, Dr. Burton was one of the persons concerned, but the proposed restriction of passports on that occasion was opposed not only by Dr. Burton but by your Mr. Holt, and others on the Government side of the House who supported him. I must emphasize again that the matter of passports in general is not involved, and that this proposed action of the Government is purely a precaution of a defence character designed to secure Australian troops, in common with the troops of other members of the United Nations who are fighting in Korea. It only remains to be said that the Government’s action, which might have been taken three months ago, has been taken to-day.
Mr.Calwell.- Another somersault
-Yes, another somersault on the part of the Government.
Debate resumed from the 9th September (vide page 1156), on motion by Sir Arthurfadden-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved, by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert inlieu thereof the following words:-the bill should be redrafted so as to provide for further reductions of the burdens, of the sales tax proposed to lie retained with a view to increasing employment and lessening unemployment in the trades and industries directly affected by the incidence of the tax.”.
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) when he dealt with this matter yesterday, mentioned certain past times when an Australian Labour government- had considerably increased taxes, particularly sales taxes. He referred to the fact thatduring the depression of the 1930’s the Scullin Government introduced the sales tax. He also stated in order to justify the introduction of that tax that thecircumstances that prevailed at the time of its introduction were such as to justify governmental action. Then he pointed out that during the years of ‘the last war Labour governments considerably increased the rates of sales tax, but again contended that justification existed for that action because of the serious war circumstances that prevailed at the time.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! I hope that the honorablegentlemen at the table are not conducting aprivate broadcast.
Mr-. DAVIDSON- Then the honorable member for Batman said thatthe sales taxrate’s contemplated by thisGovernmentin this billwe’re entirely un justified. He argued that although it was quite reasonable for a Labour government to increase therates of sales tax if it considered that serious circumstances justified such an increases it would be quite unreasonable for a non-Labour government to do so no matter how serious thecircumstances. That argument is completely fallacious because no one in his Senses Would claim that any government would increase taxation merely for the fun of doing so. The honorable member’s contention failed to take into account the fact that during the last few years circumstances have existed that are quite as serious as those which faced Australia during the administration of Labour governments. The honorable member for Batman, like other honorable members opposite, has failed to face up to the realities of the present situation. This Government has done so, and in the last, two budgets has fixed the rates of sales tax to deal with that position. The attitude adopted by the honorable member for Batman is similar to that adopted by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) who spoke a short time before the honorable member for Batman. The Leader of the Opposition, when he moved his amendment to the motion for the second reading of this bill, compared the amountof £88,000,000 proposed to be levied by way of sales tax during this financial year with the amount of £42,000,000 collected by the Chifley Government in 1949. His desire wasobviously to convince the people that thisGovernment, quite unnecessarily, was levying very greatly increased rates of tax. Of course it is obvious to any one who stops to think about thematter that if a comparison between ‘the amounts raised by taxes by different governments is to have any value at all it must take into account all the factors which enter into the determination of those rates. It is not enoughsimply to take two figures out of the air andsay that one compares unfavorably with the other unless the elements of the two totals are also compared. Therefore, inorder to complete the right honorablegentleman’s comparison, and submit it in proper perspective to the people, I propose to ‘discuss the factors thataffectedsale’s tax in 1949-50and those that applythis year.
It is well known that sales tax is only one of the various methods that have been employed by governments for many years to raise revenue for the financing of their functions. These functions include defence services. All that the Chifley Government provided for these services in 1949-50 was £60,000.000. This Government, realizing the urgency of preparing for Australia’s defence, has made’ provision this year for the expenditure of £200,000,000 on defence services.
– Order! The honorable member, like ‘an honorable gentleman on. my left last night, is deviating from the subject of sales tas:. I shall not permit a second budget debate to take place on the issue of sales tax.
– I submit with respect, Mr. Speaker, that I am dealing with a matter that was introduced into this debate last night by the Leader of the- Opposition. I assure you that I have no- intention of attempting to canvass the merits or demerits of the items of expenditure to which I have referred. I have simply pointed out that, if the Leader of the Opposition wants to make a fair comparison of the total of £88,000,000 that the Government proposes to collect this year from sales tax and the total of £42,000,000 that was collected in 1949-50 from the same source, he must be prepared to consider the bases on which sales tax rates were established in the two periods. The- people have a right to hear these facts. My comparison of the elements that affected the Chifley Government in 1 949-50 and those that have affected this Government this year will be very brief.
War pensions cost £10,000,000 in 1949-50; they are estimated to cost £36,000,000 this year. The National Welfare Fund absorbed. £120,000,000 in 1949-50; it will absorb £164,000,000 this year. Payments to the States under the tax reimbursement system amounted to £62,500,000 in 1949-50; they will amount to £135,000,000 this year. Total payments to the States from all sources in 1949-50 amounted to £101,000,000; they will amount to £178,000,000 this year. Those comparisons show that, in respect of those four items of expenditure alone, this Government has had to budget for an expen diture of £358,000)000 more than -was expended in 1949-50. Therefore, I believe that it will be generally agreed that, in fact, this Government emerges in a favorable light from the comparison that was made by the Leader of the Opposition. The percentage increase of sales tax collections envisaged this year over those that were made in 1949-50 is not so great as the percentage increase of unavoidable commitments. Would the Leader of the Opposition reduce, even by a single penny, any of the items of expenditure for which the Government has made provision in the budget for this year ? He complains tha* sales tax rates are too high. Does he suggest that, in order to reduce them, we should reduce out commitments for defence services, war pensions, the National Welfare Fund, or payments to the States-? Unless he is prepared to reduce those expenses, his comparison is entirely erroneous and misleading.
The criticism of the Government’s plans that has been uttered by the right honorable gentleman and the honorable member for Batman shows that the Opposition has failed completely to face the realities with which the Government has had to deal. It has failed to realize that the sales tax proposals that we are considering constitute only one element of the vast economic plan that the Government has prepared. The Treasurer pointed out, when he presented his budget for 1951-52., that the Government was determined to halt inflation and was prepared to take unpopular measures in order to do so. When he presented the budget for this financial year, he pointed out that the budget plans for 1951-52 had achieved a considerable measure of success and that this year the way was open for the Government to concede relief to the people and to provide incentives for increased production, which is the basic means of solving the nation’s economic problems. The Opposition criticizes the Government now on the ground that the sales tax relief that it proposes to grant is not sufficient to provide an incentive to greater production. That criticism shows that the Opposition has failed to grasp the fact that, this bill represents only one element of the Government’s complete plan as a result of which a considerable incentive force will be released. I propose to make a passing reference to other elements.
The people should realize that the Government has not set out to provide the desired incentive from only ona source. For example, the 10 per cent, income tax reduction will be an incentive to increase primary and secondary production. The Government also took action recently to relieve primary producers of a heavy burden that they had been carrying under the terms of legislation that was introduced by the Chifley Government in 1944. I refer to provisional tax.
– Order ! The honorable member is taking a very long time in passing from his references to subjects that are outside the scope of this bill. The budget should have been dealt with thoroughly in Committee of Supply.
– I have been trying merely to reply to some of the criticism of the Government by members of the Opposition. They have said that the bill does not provide for the granting of sufficient relief from sales tax to supply an incentive to increase production, which the Government considers to be necessary. The sales tax reductions, for which the bill provides, represent only one of the elements of the Government’s economic plan to provide such an incentive. I trust that I shall not be thought to be attempting to evade your ruling, Mr. Speaker. When I say that the 10 per cent, income tax reduction, the relief from provisional tax, the 20 per cent, depreciation allowance over a period of five years and the negotiation of higher prices for primary products all combine to supply a strong incentive to increase production throughout Australia.
The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) and the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) have already referred to many of the reductions for which the bill provides. I shall not cover the same ground. However, I propose to refer to features of the bill that will be of great benefit to primary producers. These provisions represent a further step in the Government’s progress towards increased production. The bill provides for certain new exemptions from sales tax. For example, the Government proposes to exempt machinery, implements, and apparatus for use in agricultural industries for drainage purposes. This is an important provision because at the present time we are planning to expand considerably not only the volume of primary production but also the area given over to it. Drainage is one of the important agricultural practices which must be carried out, particularly in marginal lands, some of which are now being developed. At the present time, machinery and implements used for drainage purposes have not been free of sales tax. They are’ not classified as implements which are used solely for agricultural purposes. The proposal of the Government to exempt them from sales tax represents a definite step forward and will provide an incentive to both farmers and drainage contractors.
The Government proposes to exempt home lighting plants from the imposition of sales tax. A great deal is said from time to time about the need to arrest the drift of population to the cities. It is agreed on all sides that one way in which the drift may be arrested is to make conditions of life in rural areas more comparable with those in the cities. The provision of home lighting plants can assist in that regard. Machinery which is used for the excavation or movement of earth by contractors and. departmental bodies is also to be exempted from sales tax. At present, machinery used for some kinds of work carried out by shire councils and such bodies is exempted, but the exemption is limited, with the result that contractors have not been prepared to expend the capital necessary to purchase such machinery. The proposal now made to exempt such equipment from sales tax will act as an incentive to contractors to purchase it. Generally speaking, it is beyond the financial capacity of farmers to purchase such machinery for themselves. Yet it is being used more and more in the development and clearing of farms.
I wish to refer also to the proposed exemption from sales tax of materials used in agricultural pursuits, such as hessian in the dried fruits industry, and materials used in the preservation of such hessian. For the first time, all printed matter used by agricultural show societies is to be exempted from sales tax. At first sight it might seem that the exemption of such materials will not provide a great incentive to industry generally, but it should be remembered that agricultural societies in the country play a most important part in the life of the community. Many show societies have experienced difficulty because the sales tax law is so involved that they could not determine the proportion of show printed matter which would be free of sales tax. This is a matter on which representations have been made for many years. This Government has adopted the only practicable method of resolving the multitude of doubts which have arisen from attempts to interpret the sales tax legislation, and has said : “ We shall exempt all printed matter used by such societies “.
Honorable members, on this side of the House have already referred to the fact that the rate of sales tax on sporting goods and radio sets has been reduced from 33A per cent, to 30 per cent. Sporting goods and radio sets are of great importance to country people. As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) stated during the budget debate last year, the development of sport in the country plays a great part in keeping our young people in rural areas. If conditions in the country are such that they find it difficult to develop their sporting ability, they are likely to go to the city and remain there.
The reductions to which I have already referred amount to a considerable incentive to both primary and secondary industries to get down to the task of increasing production. Already evidence is accumulating that the policy of the Government is hearing fruit. In contrast to the statement made last night by the Leader of the Opposition that buyer resistance “ is still operating in the community, certain businessmen in Melbourne have said that a marked increase of sales and a noticeable improvement of business had occurred during the last few weeks. Businessmen of high standing in the community are reported to have made statements such as, “ We have noted a definite increase in buying during the past two weeks “ ; “ There is a buoyancy throughout the store “ ; and “ There seems to be a return of confidence on the part of the public. During the past fortnight our sales have been good. The buying trend has definitely increased. There is every indication of a great season ahead “. Those statements of reputable businessmen indicate the rising trend of business generally as a result of the financial policy adopted by the Government. They also indicate that the people are beginning to give to the Government the degree of co-operation which is essential if production is to be increased. Honorable members on this side of the House have stated repeatedly that the community must realize that our present economic ills cannot be completely cured merely by legislation. It is the duty of the Government to take legislative action as far as its powers permit it to do so, but it is also the duty of the community generally to co-operate with the Government. The people cannot expect exerything to be served up to them on a platter. They also must get down to the task. Having been provided with incentives, they will be able to do their share in restoring the economic health of the country.
I do not for one moment suggest that we have reached anything like the limit in remedying the economic position which confronts us. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), when introducing the budget last month, stated very plainly that the tax relief proposed by the Government represents the limit of the present budgetary capacity of the nation. In presenting the bill now before the House, the right honorable gentleman has displayed the same courage which actuated him in presenting the budgetIn the present economic circumstances, it would have been very easy for him to have taken a chance with the economy of the country. It would have been easy for the Treasurer to double the relief that has been given under this bill merely for the purpose of winning popularity with the people, but such an act would have meant that he would have risked the ruin of all the good which was done by his first budget. The right honorable gentleman has had the courage to resist the temptation to curry favour, and to say, in effect, “I realize that some relief is now necessary as an incentive to industry. After having studied the budgetary position, I consider that relief may be granted up to a -certain point. Therefore, relief will be given up to that point. I also realize that many people will clamour for a greater measure of relief, but I am not prepared to accede to their requests, because the country cannot afford it at the present time “. Honorable members on this side of the House are strongly of the opinion that as the result of the increase of production which, we believe, will flow from our policy, a much greater field of taxation will develop than now exists, and, therefore, it will be possible, progressively, to reduce rates of tax. That basic policy should be followed by any government, regardless of its political views. It should not increase the rates of tax, but should encourage an increase of production, so that lower rates of tax will automatically produce as much revenue as before.
I have already said that we do not contend that there is no room for further relief from the sales tax. Indeed, there is considerable room for further action on one aspect of the sales tax, and I submit it now for the consideration of the Government, so that the necessary measures may be taken at the appropriate time. I have always considered that the sales tax legislation, as it was originally introduced by the Scullin Government in the early 1930’s, contained one objectionable feature. I refer to the levying of sales tax at the furthest point of distribution rather than at the point of manufacture. That method has prevailed since the introduction of sales tax, and its operation means that primary producers and others who are developing the country are forced to pay higher prices for their goods than .are paid by persons who reside in the large cities, because transport and other charges are added to the cost of the article, on which the sales tax is calculated, when it reaches the ultimate distributor.
Theoretically, such a state of affair? cannot be justified. This Government has inherited the method from its predecessors, but I submit that such an. inequity in the legislation should be remedied. I know that consideration has been given to the matter from time to time, and I have been informed, in reply to my own representations, that the system has operated for so long that such an alteration as I have suggested would give rise to many administrative difficulties, and upset the whole system of certification and the like. However, those obstacles to the change are not insuperable, and X urge the Government to investigate the position with a. view to substituting for the present method a system under which sales tax will be levied at the point of original manufacture.
As my time has almost expired, I shall content myself with saying that I support the proposals in the bill, which, I believe, represent the limit to which we, as « responsible Government, can go in providing relief for the people at the present time. I arn confident that the action taken by the Government in reducing rates of sales tax this year will be followed by additional concessions next year.
.- When the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) was making his introductory remarks, he stated that the Labour Opposition had failed to face realities in its consideration of our problems. To support his contention, he strongly denied ,the assertion of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) to the effect that there was a justification for the introduction of the sales tax by the Scullin Labour Government in the early 1930’s. In his endeavour to decry the national necessity that existed in those times, the honorable member for Dawson drew comparisons between conditions that then existed and those of the present day. He suggested that the conditions to-day justified the present rate of sales tax, and he considered that his argument had destroyed the criticisms of the bill that had been voiced by the Opposition. Every time the subject of sales tax is mentioned in’ this House, reference is made to the fact that it was introduced by the Scullin Labour Government.
– Quite right.
– It is true that, the sales tax was introduced by the Scullin
Labour Government. The most superficial student cannot deny an obvious fact. However, the honorable member for Batman pointed out in his speech last night that the conditions which existed when the Scullin Government introduced the sales tax were without parallel in the history of Australia, and that some new avenues of taxation had to be explored if governmental administration was to continue. The introduction of the sales tax at that particular time was justified on the ground of national financial necessity. I express my own personal view on this subject when I say that I consider the sales tax to be the most unfair of all taxes in its incidence and operation. However, I must not digress from the history of the sales tax since its introduction by the Scullin Labour Government in the early 1930’s. To support the remarks of the honorable member for Batman, I shall give the House an idea of how the sales tax has increased in twenty years until it has become a fundamental part of our taxing machine. In the course of that retrospect, I shall show how gently the application of the sales tax fell on the general public at the time of its introduction, and how severely it falls on the people to-day.
I take, as my guide in this matter, the Thirtieth Annual Report of the Commissioner of Taxation, and I draw the attention of the House to the fact that for the financial year 1930-31 the rate of sales tax, which was then an innovation, was 21/2 per cent. Until the outbreak of World War II., only one rate of sales tax applied. Of course, it varied slightly, but the rate was from 21/2 per cent, to 6 per cent. Once, it was reduced to 5 per cent., and subsequently to 4 per cent., but la ter was increased to5 per cent., then to 6 per cent, and later to 81/2 per cent. Because of the financial obligations of the Government for the conduct of the war, national necessity again dictated the desirability of increasing revenue. In 1940-41, three rates of sales tax were introduced. They were 5 per cent., 10 per cent, and 15 per cent. Those three rates were retained, with variations, until this Government assumed office. It is quite true, as the honorable member for Batman has said, that a comparison between the conditions that existed during the war, and those that now prevail, does not redound to the credit of this Government.
When the Labour Government vacated office in December, 1949, there were only two rates of sales tax - 81/2 per cent, and 25 per cent. It remained for this Government, in its budget for 1950-51, to increase the number of rates from two to four, and the rates of 81/2 per cent., 10 per cent., 25 per cent, and 331/3 per cent, became operative. While history may be somewhat monotonous in its repetition, at least it enables us to see the true picture. The budget for 1951-52 inordinately increased the number of rates from four to six, and the rates of 121/2 per cent., 20 per cent., 25 per cent., 331/3 per cent., 50 per cent, and 662/3 per cent, became operative. We have been told that this measure will grant relief to the taxpayers of Australia and, to that assurance the claqueurs on the Government side of the chamber, have added their applause; but I remind the House that we shall still have four rates of sales tax in operation. They will be 121/2 per cent., 20 per cent., 331/3 per cent, and the maximum of 50 per cent. Therefore the range and the rates will still be far in excess of anything imposed by the Labour Government during World War II., which surely, was the time of greatest crisis that this country has ever known.
In spite of the assertions of the honorable member for Dawson, I assure the House that we on this side of the chamber have not lost sight of reality in our approach to this measure. What are the realities of the situation in terms of promises- made- and promises kept, and obligations entered: into and obligations honorably discharged ? I shall deal first with promises: At the risk of being repetitive I again remind honorable members that in the Australian Country party’s contribution to the joint policy speech of the present- Government parties in 1949, the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden.) said -
If the socialists are defeated-
And we allegedly are the socialists - rates of taxation, both direct and indirect, can and will be steadily reduced.In short, our policy is a progressive reduction of taxation on individuals and the community in general.
Government Members. - Hear, hear!
– Honorable members opposite say “ Hear hear ! “ Let us see how taxes have been reduced since this Government came to office. Supplementing statements by the present Treasurer, as Leader of the Australian Country party, at the 1949 election, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in pursuance of the same objective, which was the approval of the people to their occupancy of the treasury bench, said -
We will review the incidence of indirect taxes (which are a huge though sometimes unrecognized item in Australia) upon basie wage and cost of living items and housing costs.
– That is what has been done.
– We shall see whether that has been done. The figures that I shall cite may not gain the approval of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), but they will certainly support the assertion of the Leader of the Opposition and other ‘members of the Opposition that the promise of the present Government parties to reduce direct and indirect taxes is a classic example of dishonoured pledges. Prom 1931 when the sales tax was first introduced until 1949, a period of nineteen years, successive governments of all political complexion collected an aggregate sum of £404,000,000 from the sales tax. That figure represented an average of £21,300,000 a year. This Government, since it was elected at the end of 1949, has a most unenviable record. In 1950-51 it collected £57,000,000 in sales tax. Collections in 1951-52 totalled £95.500,000; and the estimated yield for 1952-53 is £88,000,000. So, ‘in three, years, this Government will have collected £240,500,000, or an average of more than £80,000,000 a year, from the sales tax alone. That figure must be compared with the average yield of £21,300,000 in the first nineteen years of the operation of the sales tax. Obviously such a comparison is to the great disadvantage of this Government. In the last financial year of the administration of the Chifley Government, the revenue collected from the sales tax was £42,000,000, or £5 5s. a head from every man woman and child in this country. The average annual revenue from the sales tax during eight years of Labour administration from 1941 to 3949, was £20,000,000, or £3 a head of the population. In 1950-51, with the present Government in office, collections from the sales tax represented £7 a head of the population. In 1951-52, that figure rose to £11 10s., and in the current financial year, despite the alleged concessions contained in this measure, the yield will be £11 a head, or nearly four times the average figure between 1941 and 1949. In the light of these figures I marvel at the temerity of the honorable member for Dawson in suggesting that the Labour party is not being realistic. One of the obvious realities is that this Government’s record of broken promises and dishonoured obligations is second to none.
The sales tax is unfair. It falls with the greatest severity upon the basic wage earner and upon the family unit. To-day, the average Australian family pays £44 a year in sales tax. No one will suggest surely that such an imposition does not contribute substantially to the inflationary spiral and to the burden of family financial obligations. I am not alone in my belief that the sales tax is unfair. When the first sales tax legislation was introduced into this chamber by the Scullin Government, some very sensible things were said by members of the then Opposition, who to-day are supporters of this Government.
– Why did the Scullin Government introduce the sales tax?
– Had the honorable member listened carefully to my earlier remarks, he would recall that I referred to the conditions that existed in 1930-31. The proposal, which was then new, was made necessary not only because of the existing economic circumstances, but also because of’ the virtual closing of other avenues of government revenue. When the proposition was first advanced one honorable member made a statement which I shall now quote to the House. It contains much common sense, but I wonder whether the honorable member who made it will vote with the Opposition when the amendment before the House is put to the vote. On the 5th August, 1930, tie present right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) said -
What with income tax, increased customs taxation, increased excise duties, primage duty, land tax and now this sales tax plucking our plumage, we have hardly a feather left.
Later the same right, honorable member said with regard to the sales tax proposals -
The effect, of course, will be to reduce the purchasing power of wages by increasing the cost of living, and make necessary or, at all events, desirable, increased wages. This being done, there will naturally follow an increase in the cost of living, again in turn making necessary a further increase in wages, and so on.
Members of the Opposition will say “ Hear, hear ! “ to that statement, but I wonder whether the right honorable member who made those statements in 1930, when the sales tax proposal was first before the House, will remember his former opinion and vote in support of the amendment, or whether he will swallow the opinions that he held then and vote now with the Government. I shall now read to the House a statement that was made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who now has the portfolio of Minister for Health., In 1930, in a reference to the sales tax, he said -
This taxation will make living not cheaper but dearer. . . . Wis should not impose more harassing taxation upon the workers, the consumers and the common people of this country.
Yet, to-day the right honorable member is a Minister of the Government that has imposed intolerable burdens on the working people. When the opportunity is given to the electors to vote at the next general election, they will remember the broken promises of the Government and will act accordingly. They will remember, too, that the right honorable member for Cowper said in 1930 that this was a disastrous tax upon the common people of the country. He also said on that occasion -
The sales tax has always been regarded as unsatisfactory in its character and one that should be imposed only as a last resort, when a country has no other means of raising sufficient revenue to enable it to carry on its governmental operations and when all other principles are subordinate to the question of adequacy.
To-day the right honorable member for Cowper is a member of the Government that has imposed the greatest range of sales tax in the history of the country. The present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) wept crocodile tears on the 20th October, 194S, in this House, when he opposed the sales tax proposals of the Labour Government of that time. I draw the attention of honorable members to the undertone of sobbing that was imparted to his comments on that occasion. The honorable gentleman who was then the leader of the Australian Country party, and who is now the Treasurer, said - ls there any parent who would allow his child to grow up through a toyless and party- less childhood, or without some indulgence in sweets or ice cream ‘! It is only those of us who have experienced the intense happiness that children get from the simple pleasures, who can appreciate the official niggardliness that taxes them so severely.
The sob story was continued when members of the present Government were in opposition. The present Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) added his note to that of the present Treasurer when on that occasion lie also complained about the sales tax proposals that were introduced by the Labour Government. He said -
The happiness, harmony and satisfaction of young couples would mean far more to this country in the long run than the obtaining by the Government of even hundreds of thousands . of pounds by way of sales tax on these commodities.
We can imagine the paternal look on the face of the honorable gentleman . when he said in comment on the same proposals -
Young couples, who are embarking on married life, in addition to having to pay exorbitant prices to get their homes built, must pay sales tax on their bedroom suites, the mattresses on which they will sleep, the tables and chairs that they will use, and the knives and forks that they will use when having their meals.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council is a member of the present Government, which has the unenviable record of having imposed the greatest range of sales tax in the history of Australia. He subscribes to a policy that applies stales tax with the greatest severitj on the working people. The various divisions of the schedule contain proposals which, if carried to the fullest extent, prove beyond doubt that the Government’s claim to be serving the interests of the country falls completely to the ground.
I shall conclude by making a quotation from the Age newspaper, but before I read it I again draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that this is a hypocritical government and a government of broken promises. It has claimed that it is promoting the best interests of the country by it3 spirit of paternalism but it .has applied that spirit of so-called paternalism to the detriment of the people. By its broken promises, the Government has sown the seeds of its own destruction. The Age expressed sensibly the feelings that most Australians have towards this Government when it stated in a leading article on the 1st July - la the 1949 elections the winning parties Used persuasive devices and made rash, even foolish, .promises which doubtless greatly influenced many people at the time, conscious of increasing inflation and the diminishing purchasing value of money. !Mr. Treloar. - Was the author of the article not referring to the Labour party?
– .The writer of the article had a great deal of common sense and he applied it to a consideration of the weaknesses of the Government parties.
Tie article continued -
The non-fulfilment of these undertakings has been a cause of sharp and widespread disillusionment. From the standpoint of integrity in public life, the tragedy was that these unredeemed pledges were not only unwise, but unnecessary even as “window dressing”, for the reason that in -1949 a change of Government would have occurred through the normal working of the political swing, without attempts to delude the people with lavish or reckless undertakings.
The article concluded with the following paragraph : -
All such deplorable methods betray lack of understanding of the importance of dealing honestly and straightforwardly with the people, without hoodwinking and deception. Politicians making deductions from recent polls, should take heed and realize that the episodes have a simple explanation. What the electors proclaim is that honesty is the best policy ‘for political parties, as for others.
On that note I leave my contribution to this ‘discussion. The Government has not been honest, it has failed in its duty and it has made promises without the slightest intention to honour them.
– I do not intend to follow the example set by the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) in this debate. He adopted an attitude that was irresponsible and perhaps not entirely honorable, having regard to the stand taken by the political party of which he is a member, during the financial debates that have taken place in this chamber during the present sessional period. The honorable member has said that the general rate of sales tax is far too high and that the Government should drastically reduce it; but, throughout the debates to which we have listened in the last month, member after member of the Opposition referred to ways and means by which this Government should expend more and more money. They have contended that social services pensions are entirely inadequate and that the great increases of the rates of pensions granted by this Government are insufficient to .meet mounting living costs. Opposition members cannot have it both ways. Nobody regrets more than do honorable members on this side of the House, and I in particular, the need for the imposition of high rates of taxation. It is obvious to any one who makes the least pretence to be truthful that if we wish to enjoy a high standard of social services and to pay generous social services pensions we must obtain the money with which to finance them from one source or another. I have not heard any Opposition member suggest that the rates of income tax should be increased for that purpose.
The two major sources of taxation in this country are income tax and indirect taxes. An outcry against the existing rates of income tax, and the suggestion that they be still further reduced, were made by almost every Opposition member during the budget debate. We must face the fact that the sales tax is one of the sources from which the Government must obtain money with which to finance its activities. The honorable member for Hoddle has said that the yield from the sales tax has risen steeply since the defeat of the Chifley Government. That is perfectly true ; but so also have costs and .prices of all descriptions. Increases granted during the life-time of this ‘Government have raised the rate of the ,age and invalid pensions) by £1 a week and the rates of other pensions have been proportionately increased. In order to finance these increases the Government must obtain additional revenue from one source or another. That is equally true of the cost of the Pu’blic Service. Every increase of the basic wage means a greatly increased wages bill for the Public Service. I make no apology for the high rates of taxation that the Government has had to impose in order to (finance its commitments. It is idle- to pretend, :as the honorable member for Hoddle .did, that any other government would have applied .a different policy.
The honorable member spoke of inflation and high taxation. Let us be quite clear on the point that no political party, other than those that occupy the Government benches, .ever publicly professed to have formulated a policy designed to reduce taxation or to reduce inflation in this country. The present Government is the only government that has occupied the treasury bench in this Parliament since the war that even appears to have been conscious of the menace of inflation in Australia. During the four years in which the Chifley ‘Government was in office it did not take one positive action to retard the drift in our economy- Only after the present Government had attained office was any attempt made to arrest the steady decline of our economic position. No profit can be gained by honorable members on .either side of tie House adopting the stand that responsibility for the sales tas rests upon any particular political party. It is not a party matter. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said yesterday, whatever may be the state of affairs in regard to the tax all political parties must share responsibility for it. All political parties have said at one time or another that the sales tax is an iniquitous tax and that it must be drastically reduced, but, faced with reality, all of them have increased the rates and widened the range of items upon which >the tax is imposed.
If T have any criticism to offer in regard to the tax it is that, however necessary it may he, it has got into a dreadful muddle, as the honorable member for Fremantle said :last night, and as other honorable members have admitted during the course of this .debate. A review of ‘ the tax is long overdue. In the bill now before us the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has demonstrated that he is conscious of that fact, and he has taken certain steps to make the incidence ‘of the tax more logical and to lighten its burden upon industry and the public generally. In certain instances the tax has been loaded to the point at which it imposes a crushing burden on industry, hinders the marketing of certain articles, and no longer pays because of the operation of the law of diminishing returns. The burden of the tax is so heavy that people will not buy certain articles that ar.e subject to the maximum rate and, as a consequence, the Commonwealth has become the loser because insufficient numbers of them are sold to make worthwhile the collection of the tax levied upon them. I refer in particular to .the silver and electroplate ware industry, which is located chiefly in Victoria and, to a great degree, in my own electorate - which, of course, is the reason why I- am now on my feet. That industry has not grown in an irresponsible way as a result of shortages during the war. Most of the firms engaged in the industry have been established for -many years. One was formed in 1928, another in 1929. another in 1923, and another in 1932! One of them entered the industry in 1912. They are not large concerns but all of them are reputable and well established. They produce silver-plated articles such as teapots and hot water jugs with which we are familiar in our every-day lives and which, nowadays, are not regarded as luxuries. The industry flourished until quite recently, when it was literally killed stone dead by the sales tax. prior to the budget of 1951-52, the industry worked under a sales tax of ‘33* per cent., but in that year the rate was increased to 50 per cent. The increase had a disastrous effect upon sales and employment, and completely destroyed a considerable export trade which the industry had developed. But for the increase of the tax, that export trade would have increased, to the advantage of this country. In 3.9.51, the .average monthly turnover .pf one firm was £1^000, and in 19,52 it is £300. The .average monthly sales of another firm were £8,000 in 1951, and are £1,500 now. The figures that I have given can be checked by the Treasurer, if he so desires. They indicate the degree to which the trade of the industry has decreased, as a result, largely if not entirely, of the increase of sales tax. That decrease of trade is reflected in the employment figures. Between 1951 and 1952, the number of employees of one firm was reduced from fourteen to five, and of another firm from 45 to five. A number of firms have gone out of business.
The point that I am attempting to make is that if the rate of sales tax imposed upon the products of this industry is not reduced, the industry will be destroyed. That would be bad. “We are not seeking to cause unemployment in solid industries of this kind, but rather to foster employment in them. If this industry were fostered, its export trade would develop considerably, to the advantage of this country. A point that will appeal to the Treasurer is that if the rate of sales, tax is not decreased, sales will fall to nil, the industry will close and the Treasury will derive no revenue from it. It would be foolish to get into that position. It is unfortunate that the industry has been allowed to drift for so long, but now the Treasurer has an opportunity to check the drift, and I hope that he will see his way clear to do so. This matter will be brought before the taxation committee which the Government parties have established to examine problems of this kind. On previous occasions, the Treasurer has considered very sympathetically matters which the committee has put before him, and I hope that he will consider this one sympathetically. I believe that committees of that kind, run by Government members, make an excellent contribution to the work of the government of the day, because Ministers can regard them, not as nuisances, but as bodies formed to assist them in their duties.
.- The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) made, generally speaking, a reasoned approach to the problem, but at the outset of his remarks he stated that this is the only Government that has endeavoured to stem the tide of inflation in this country.
– He was only pulling our legs.
– He did not succeed in pulling the leg of anybody other than himself. The difficulties with which the Government and the country are confronted stem from the complete failure of the Government to take practical steps to check inflation. Unless the Government does take such steps, prices will rise further, expenditure upon social services will increase, the States will demand more money from the Commonwealth, expenditure upon wages and salaries will rise, and greater burdens will be imposed upon the whole of the community. Even, now, with a knowledge of the consequences of inflation, the Government has resolutely refused to grapple with the problem. The honorable member for Henty said that the sales tax ought not to be a political issue. That remark came strangely from his side of the House, because, as the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) said this afternoon, we remember vividly the reckless statements that were made by members of the present Government parties when they were in Opposition not very long ago. All the things that could be said to-day, were said then. The anomalies that existed then exist also to-day, but they have been accentuated by increases of the rates of sales tax and of the range of articles upon which it is imposed.
The honorable member for Henty said that, some industries in his electorate were in danger of extinction as a result of the high rates of sales tax imposed upon their products. That is true of industries throughout Australia, The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), when he introduced the measure which authorized those rates, said that the policy of the Government was to divert manpower and materials from what he regarded as non-essential industries to essential industries. If that be his purpose, he will not be concerned about the failure of a particular industry or of many industries, because that is the objective which the Government has set out deliberately to achieve. But, in my opinion, that is not the purpose of the increases of sales tax. I believe that the increases were made because the Government, having failed to manage the financial affairs of the country properly, and being unable to persuade the people of Australia to lend money to it, was forced to extract from the people greater sums in taxes.
It has been pointed out that the variety of rates at which the tax is imposed makes the administration of the tax more complex. In 1950, the Treasurer, in his budget speech, said that a comprehensive review of the sales tax law had been made, and that some anomalies had been corrected and some increases had been made. In 1951, after outlining the economic problem that confronted Australia, the Treasurer introduced his nefarious sales tax proposals, which, he stated, were an essential part of the Government’s plan to divert workers and materials from non-essential and less-essential industries to essential industries. The Labour Opposition pointed out that the sales tax was supposed to discourage luxury spending, but that the Government had encouraged it by permitting the importation of nonessential goods which had reduced our overseas sterling balances.
– In common with the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) I could not understand why the Government chose to encourage the importation of luxury goods from Great Britain and Japan. Although the Government sought to divert local production into more essential lines, it undoubtedly encouraged the importation of luxury goods. The economic situation that now confronts. Australia, and that is pressing so heavily upon the Ministers who are responsible for financial administration, has been brought about by the Government’s inconsistency.
The Opposition has repeatedly pointed out that the primary responsibility of the Government is to reduce the cost of living in this country. The high rates of sales tax have sharply accentuated the inflationary situation. I point out particularly to the honorable member for Henty that a continuance of this method of handling the inflationary situation will result, not in combating inflation, but in a further accentuation of the spiral of rising prices. The honorable member for Henty stated that although the Opposition wants more money to be mackavailable for a number of purposes, at. the same time it urges that taxation be reduced. The Opposition believes that taxation should be imposed in a manner that will do the least harm to the economy of this country. Sales tax, which has had such an adverse effect on industry in the Henty electorate, is perhaps not so bad in principle as is the pay-roll tax. Nevertheless, because of its sudden impact, it is the worst kind of taxation. A substantial reduction of the rates of sales tax would have been preferable to the repeal of the less harmful land tax. The Government, has made only a relatively small reduction of sales tax. If prices continue to rise, as appears likely, the yield from sales tax at the slightly reduced rates might be even greater during this financial year ‘than was the yield last year. Instead of remitting £6,250,000 ito a relatively small group of land-owners, the Government should have made greater reductions of sales tax. The land tax did not do grievous harm. Thi.?, is one direction in which the Government could have eased the general burden of taxation, if it sincerely desired to reduce the cost of living in this country, or at least to check further rises of prices. The Treasurer pointed out when he introduced the budget for 1951-52 that the maximum rate of sales tax was to be increased to 66$ per cent, in order to divert production from lon-essential t to essential lines. However, as sales tax was applied to a wider range of articles than had been the case formerly, it is clear that the reason for increasing the maximum rate was to obtain additional revenue. The increased rates caused a further rise of prices, which added to the already acute problems of the people.
As I have frequently pointed out, although sales tax has not a direct bearing on the cost of living, because it ‘is
Mr.Eric J. Harri son. - I remind the honorable member that sales tax was introduced by a former Labour Government.
– That is so. Sales tax was introduced by the Scullin Government during the depression year?, when a situation similar to the p resent situation had developed. Previous anti-Labour governments during periods of relative prosperity, had borrowed extensively both overseas and in Australia, and had almost exhausted Australia’s credit.
– Order ! The honor- able member is going beyond the scope of the measure.
– The then Labour Government was confronted - as will be the next Labour Government - with a depleted Treasury. Australia’s credit had been destroyed, and the Government was faced with heavy unemployment relief andother social services commitments. In that situation the Scullin Government introduced sales tax. First, however, it caused an investigation to be made of the system of sales taxation that had been introduced some time beforein Canada, and the effect that the tax had had. The ad vice given to theScullin Government was that in view of the prevailing economic conditions, sales tax, which the Government accepted as bag inprin- ciple could notbe passed on to the community because of the lack of purchasing power. It it true that when a tax has been, imposed it is difficult for any government to reduce or abolish it except in conditionsconducive to such a course being f ollowed.When the Curtin Labour Government took office in 19.41 it found sales tax still in existence, but in a more complicated form than had existed in the time of the ScullinGovern
– How would the honorablemember suggest that the defence programme be financed in suck circumstances?
– As I have pointed out on many h occasions, the Government’s monetary commitments in relation to defence, reimbursements to the States social services payments, are all growing, but the actual physical volume of the goods and services, because they are provided at a heavier cost than was the case previously, is not increasing. About the same volume of goods and services is costing moire, so the increased cost of such goods and services does not represent as effective a contribution, either to the defence programme, to the pensioners or to the States as it appears to do on the surface1. As a result of ever-rising prices the defence vote must he increased in order that the same volume of goods and services may be provided in this year as was provided - in last year. We claim that as a result of increasing costs the Government will bo forced to increase taxes again next year in order to maintain the defence effort. As my colleagues have already demonstrated clearly, sales tax and other indirect taxes are objectionable because they are regressive in character, raise the. cost of living, and, except in relation to particular items, do not achieve any real diversion of industry from nonessential to defence or war-time needs. I have here a comprehensive report which was presented to the British House of Commons in 1927 by the Committee on National Debt and Taxation, which is commonly known as. the Colwyn Committee. The committee was established by the British Parliament and exhaustively examined the whole of the British taxation system, the national debt and so on. The committee’s conclusions on indirect taxation are presented at page 2-12 of the report as follows -
An attempt has been made in the tables in p,i nigra ph 255 to illustrate the burden of tin; duties at certain points on the income scale. The figures present a very different. appearance from those of the progressive direct failes. Instead o£ increasing from a very low charge on the small income to a very high charge at the top of the income seale. they advance very little and soon reach n maximum. In other words,! the indirect taxes ure regressive;, the smaller the income, tin; larger is the rate upon it which the taxes represent.
The table referred to is a modification of a table that had been prepared earlier and had been brought up to date by the committee. The table gives a comparison of the amounts paid in direct and indirect taxes, showing the percentage relationship of the two kinds of tax payments to the income of a man with a wife and a family of three children under the age of thirteen years. Making allowance for increases of costs and wages since 1927, the figures given are comparable with those of to-day. The committee pointed out that in 1925-26 the indirect taxes paid by a man who earned £100 a year and had a wife and three children, re presented’ 11.9 per cent, of his total income, but the same amount of indirect tax represented only 0.2 per cent, of the income of an individual who earned £50,000 a year. Those figures show graphically the regressive nature of indirect taxation in all countries in which it has been applied. An even more definite statement on indirect taxation is contained in the minority report of the committee, which appears at page 372. It reads -
We have found very little support, but much condemnation, among witnesses for indirect taxation in principle. We are ourselves’ of opinion tha/t taxes upon commodities, regarded as part of a general system for raising the money required for State expenditure, are objectionable in principle, and that the important place which they occupy in our tax system can only be defended on the ground that they are (survivals from a period when the administration of direct taxation was much more difficult than it is today.
I shall now summarize the Opposition’s case in respect of this matter. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) pointed out that the Government is taking increasing: amounts from the public by indirect taxes year by year. He pointed out that the Labour Government, by contrast, had endeavoured to reduce indirect taxes, which have a heavy impact on the community. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) informed the committee of the percentage of total taxation that the Government had- taken in indirect taxes. He demonstrated clearly that Labour governments had relied on direct taxes for revenue and had sought to minimize as far as possible the yield- from- indirect taxes of this bad, regressive and business-retarding type. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) have demonstrated that the Government has taken increasing amounts by way of indirect taxes. This action has pushed the prices of goods and services higher, has rendered more steep the inflationary spiral and so has made a slump more likely. As the honorable member for Fremantle said, that is not the end of the problem. When more money is taken from the people by higher prices income tax bears more harshly upon them and the ultimate result is that the Government loses revenue.
The Opposition has not sought to make party political capital out of this situation or exploited it to the degree to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has exploited various matters over the years. We have sought to demonstrate that this regressive taxation bears harshly upon families. It pushes up prices and renders the position of businesses more difficult. The Government will not solve its problem by the imposition of taxation of this type. We ask the Government to accept the amendment that the Leader of the Opposition has moved. If it does not do so it will be forced to take the action which the Leader of the Opposition now proposes when introducing its next budget.
.- The honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) have given an exhibition which can only be described as beating the air. Their main diatribe has been that sales tax is a bad tax. The interesting feature which the Opposition has endeavoured to forget is that the Labour party originated this so-called bad tax. Not only did a Labour government introduce the tax but in addition its operation was continued by successive Labour governments. Did the Curtin Government discontinue the sales tax? Of course not. Did the Chifley Government cease to impose sales tax? Of course it did not. It is sheer nonsense to suggest that the Labour party is opposed to the imposition of sales tax. If the Labour party is returned to office in ten years’ time it will still retain the sales tax. Speeches of the type made by Opposition members this afternoon are not helpful. If honorable members opposite object to the Government’s proposals in relation to sales tax one is entitled to expect that they will direct their criticism at the rates of tax levied on particular items. I invite the attention of the Government to two matters which I ask it to consider favorably with a view to amending the bill. One of these matters has already been referred to by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). The fourth schedule to the bill refers to plate and plated ware made wholly or principally of silver or other precious metals. The honorable member for Henty spoke of the dire condition of the silverplating and electroplating industry as a result of the operation of heavy sales tax. Last year, sales tax of 66f per cent, was imposed on these items and the present proposal is to reduce the rate of tax to 50 per cent. I submit that the reduction should be to a rate far less than 50 per cent.
Quite a number of silverplating businesses have had to close down. In eleven businesses which have continued to operate the number of persons employed in July of last year was 610. That number is now 104. The silverplating business cannot be described as a luxury industry. It handles such ordinary items of household ware as teapots, sugar basins and milk jugs and also manufactures trophies for sporting bodies. If such articles as these are finished in chrome instead of in silver sales tax is applicable to them only at the rate of 12 J per cent. The appearance of the silver-plated article is very much better than the appearance of the chromeplated article, but chrome is imported whilst plenty of silver can be obtained in Australia. Yet our own country’s product, silver, is taxed more heavily than is imported chrome. As the honorable member for Henty stated, Australia was exporting silver ware. That export business will now cease. Although over a month has elapsed since the reduction of sales tax to 50 per cent. was announced, business in the silverplating industry has not improved and those who are engaged in the industry have stated that they will have to cease production unless a greater reduction of the sales tax applicable to their products is made. As a result, not only will the employees in this industry lose their jobs but associated businesses will also be affected. Because of these circumstances I ask the Government to consider any recommendation that may be made to it on this matter by the taxation committee of the Government parties. As the honorable member for Henty stated, this matter is urgent.
I wish now to refer to clause 4, paragraph (£) of which proposes to amend the first schedule to the act by inserting after the word “ drawing “ the word “ colouring “ in paragraph (a) of sub-item (1) of item 51. This matter relates to children’s colouring books. The present legislation provides that books, pamphlets, leaflets and other printed matter shall be exempt from sales tax. There is a long list of items liable to tax such as books of account which are mainly books of manufactured stationery. In the middle of the list sketching, drawing or painting books are mentioned. Generally, children’s books are not taxable as books, but under this measure sales tax will be imposed on children’s books that are used for colouring. Such books provide a means of helping children to make their first step in education. They are in common use in kindergartens and homes. Apparently, the term “ painting “ is not thought to he sufficiently wide to embrace children’s colouring books, particularly as action was recently taken at law against the Commonwealth in order to obtain a ruling on whether “ painting “ books includes “ colouring “ books. Consequently, that item is being amended specifically by insertion of the term “ colouring “. The proposal is, to say the least, trivial. Indeed it is shameful .for the National Parliament to concern itself with matters of such a character. I again urge the Treasurer to abandon that proposed amendment.
.- The whole story about remissions of taxes by this Government sounds to the average man and woman more like a yarn about Laurel and Hardy than a record of practical fulfilment of the promises to reduce taxes upon which the Government was elected to office. In the course of this debate, Government supporters have been apologetic in the extreme about the remissions of sales tax proposed under the bill. When members of the Opposition criticized these proposals, honorable members opposite chided them by saying that sales tax was originally instituted by a Labour government.
– That is quite true.
– That is so; but members of the Opposition have criticized the Government because of its failure to honour the promises that the Government parties made during the last general election campaign that they would reduce not only sales tax but also all other classes of taxes. In this respect, the Government parties have reached an alltime low in political integrity. When honorable members opposite say that the Government is honouring those promises they are merely pulling their own legs. During the last general election campaign, they were aware of the extent of the Government’s commitments. Nevertheless, their leaders crammed their policy speeches with such promises. Honorable members opposite were aware of the Government’s commitments in respect of social services and defence when they promised that they would reduce substantially all classes of taxes. In view of the Government’s failure to honour those promises one i3 now entitled to ask whether or not its supporters were sincere when they gave such pledges to the people. Why do Government supporters who rode into office by making false promises-
– Order !
– Why do Government supporters now object to criticism of their failure to honour their election promises to reduce taxes of all kinds? The leaders of the Government parties made the mistake of publishing their policy speeches with the result that their promises are recorded indelibly. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), at page 15 of his policy speech as leader of the Australian
Country . party during the last general election campaign, stated -
If the Socialists are defeated, therefore, rates of taxation, both direct and indirect can and will be steadily reduced.
– And have those taxes been reduced?
– No. At page 26 of the joint policy speech of the Government parties that was published during the last general election campaign in a booklet -on the cover of which appeared a photograph of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the right honorable gentleman gave the following pledge: -
We still ‘believe that rates of taxation must he steadily reduced, as national production and income rise and as economies are affected in administration.
We .will institute a prompt overhaul of the taxation laws by a competent Committee, to simplify the Statutes and remove anomalies.
We will review the incidence of indirect taxes which are a huge though sometimes unrecognised item in Australia upon basic wage and cost of living items and housing costs.
I take the following quotation from another statement that the Government panties published during the last general election campaign in a booklet, the covers of which were coloured, patriotically, in red, white and blue: -
Further reduction of taxation, including indirect taxes affecting cost of living, housing, home fittings, furniture.
After the next general election Governmen<t supporters will have ample time in which to realize that the people expected them to fulfil those promises. Whereas under the last Chifley budget, sales tax collections totalled approximately £42,000,000, this Government, which was elected on its promise .to reduce sales tax, collected last financial year under that heading £95,000,000, .or £53,000,000 more. This year, altho.ugh it proposes to reduce total collections of sales tax by £6,000,000, it will still collect a sum approximately £47,000,000 in .excess of the -total sales tax -that was collected by the Chifley Government in 1949-50. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), who in private life is an accountant, will realize that that is a backhanded way -of reducing taxes. Indirect taxes under ,the last Chifley budget averaged £23 per head -of the population.
-Order! The honorable member is making an excellent speech on the general .subject of taxation. The measure before the ‘Chair deal? with classifications ,a»d exemptions pf items of sales tax, .and I ask him to confine his remarks to it.
– I have produced sufficient evidence of the fact that the Government has failed to honour its election promise to reduce sales tax. As the honorable member for Batman ,(Mr. Bind) has pointed out, sales tax was originally levied in various countries for the purpose of raising revenues during a period of economic stress. That was why the Scullin Government introduced the tax in this country and administered it on th-at basis. But the present Government is .administering the sales tax in a most vicious way. Yet Government spokesmen boast that they stand for a policy of encouraging .private enterprise. Recently, the Minister for Commerce and /Agriculture (Mir. McEwen) stated in a public speech that the Government intended ‘to depress luxury industries and that it would -administer the sales tax for that purpose. The following report was published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 9 th August : -
The Minister for Agriculture .and Commerce, Mr. J. McEwen, said yesterday that the Federal Government last year had increased sales tux on nonessential goods deliberately with the intention of depressing those industries .which made them.
It had done that to force men back to the land and into the iron and steel and agricultural implement -industries he said. “ The people we hurt hate us like hell, hut please remember that it has been done to get labour back to the farms,” he said.
Let honorable members consider the growing unemployment in rural and other industries, and then ask themselves whether the policy of the Government has had the effect that the Government hoped it would ‘have. As a matter of fact, sales tax was never devised for that purpose, and the way in which it has been used by the Government cuts across its election promises to the people. ‘The Government’s ‘taxation policy has had the effect of increasing -unemployment by forcing industries to close down.
In my own electorate, the exhorbitant rates of sales tax have caused ‘unemployment among workers in the jewellery trade, lie tanneries, the leather industry, the radio industry, and among the makers of domestic appliances. Men and women are being paid off by the Hundred because of the imposition by the Government of this vicious tax. I took the trouble, when the current reductions of sales tax were announced, to ring a number of firms in my electorate to ask them what effect the reductions would have upon them. The proprietor of a firm which manufactures domestic appliances told me that the reduction of tax would have very little effect on his business. Earlier this year this firm employed 750 persons, but that number has now been reduced to 350, although it should be between 900 and 1,000. One firm which manufactures radio equipment had 350 men on the assembly line before sales tax rates were increased twelve months ago, but the number has now been reduced to 30.’ Another firm, which manufactures equipment used in connexion with the icecream trade, has reduced its staff by 50 per cent. I mention these figures so that the people may understand what has ‘been the effect on industry of heavy sales tax increases.
The anomalies that have been caused by alterations of sales tax rates are too numerous to mention in the time at my disposal. Some of them have been mentioned by Government supporters, and from the startled manner in which they rose to address themselves to the subject it appears obvious that the spurs have been applied to them, by their electors who, having read the promises of the Government to reduce taxation, now realize that they have been sold down the river. The tax on ice-cream is still 20 ;per cent., although, the buying of an ice-cream is sometimes the only way in which a parent can give pleasure to his child. Sales tax on popcorn is 20 per cent., as also is the tax on children’s novelties. This Government, which pledged itself to reduce taxation, is pursuing the children to grab their .pennies from them in the form of sales tax on the goods they use. Wireless receiving sets, which are necessary in every home, are taxed at the rate of 20 per cent. The tax makes it harder’ for the public to buy radio sets, and it has also had the effect of bringing about the dismissal of thousands of persons formerly employed in the radio industry. They are now drawing unemployment benefit because the Government has failed to provide alternative work for them after bankrupting the firms by which they were employed.
Motor cars are essential to many persons to-day, yet sales tax on a Holden car is between £160 and £170. Over a wide field of industry the Government’s taxation policy has caused many thousands of dismissals. That might not have been so bad had the Government been able to provide alternative employment for those whose dismissal had been brought about by the effects of its own deliberate policy. The tax on a wide range of articles is still 6s. 8d. in the £1. These include fountain pens, which practically every one uses, travelling bags and leather goods, women’s handbags, evening bags, purses and shopping bags. Let us not forget that members of the Government, including the Treasurer, promised at the last general election that taxation would be substantially reduced if they were returned to power. We shall not fail to remind the people of this. Notwithstanding that promise, the yield from sales tax will be £40,000,000 more this year than when the Government came into office, even after allowing for current reductions. Other articles on which ,:sales tax is levied at the rate of 6s. Sd. in the £1 include baskets and hampers, materials for photograph enlarging, and toilet and beauty preparations. Let the Treasurer, if he so wishes, tell the women of Australia that they should not use hair lacquers, lotions, perfumes, lipstick, eyebrow pencils, &c. The Treasurer has treated such goods as luxuries, although they are regarded as necessaries by practically every woman in. the country. It should be the policy of the Government to ensure that such articles shall be available as cheaply as possible, particularly to those on small incomes. Practically every man uses shaving gear, yet sales tax is levied at the rate of 6s. 8d. in the £1 on safety razors, safety razor blades, shaving sticks and shaving creams. According to the Treasurer and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the firms engaged in the manufacture of such goods should be forced to the wall so that their employees may work on farms. Presumably, when that occurs, we shall import the goods, and pay for them out of our limited balances overseas. Then, it will probably be found that the so-called luxury industries were necessary after all.
We have heard a good deal of talk about the generosity of the Government in reducing sales tax from 66f per cent, to 50 per cent, on jewellery, cut glass ware, watches and watch cases. That is a fairly substantial reduction, admittedly, but 50 per cent, is still an exhorbitant tax. It would be better to reduce or abolish the sales tax on household items such as refrigerators or cups and saucers. This Government has apparently set out to reduce the sales tax on items that might be classed as luxury goods. There is no excuse for the imposition of such a high rate of tax on the sale of many articles. I believe that the proposals contained in the bill should be condemned by all sections of the community, as they were condemned by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) earlier in this debate.
It is idle for honorable members on the Governent side to say that the people are not reacting to these proposals. In recent weeks the electors, at various byelections, have spoken in unmistakable terms about the failure of the Government to reduce appropriately the sales tax, which is widely regarded as an unjust imposition on all sections of the community. The sales tax falls as heavily on the wage-earner or the pensioner, or the person in receipt of social services benefits, as it does on the person with an income of £10,000, £20,000 or £30,000 a year. If a housewife in a basic wage home requires a broom, she has to pay the same sales tax on her purchase as the wife of a company director or a man of independent means. Therefore, through the sales tax the Government is taxing most severely the people on the basic w-age, those whose incomes are below even the basic wage, and the people on pensions. These are the people who should never have been taxed, and indeed it should be noted that they are. exempt from the payment of income tax. Persons whose incomes are of the type that I have mentioned should be required to pay as low a tax as possible. Honorable members on the Government side have said that the Chifley Government and other Labour governments did not reduce the sales tax. Those honorable members have not studied the matter because Labour governments steadily reduced the sales tax. The ordinary sales tax rate was reduced by the Chifley Government to 8£ per cent., but this Government, when it assumed office, increased the rate to 12-$ per cent. This Government promised to reduce taxation. Apparently it believes that the way to reduce taxation is to increase the rates and collect more revenue. Labour Governments progressively reduced taxation to an absolute minimum, and the sales tax was never intended by the Chifley Government to be used in the ways in which it has been used by the present Government. I condemn the proposals contained in the bill as being most iniquitous, and a repudiation of pledges to reduce taxation given by the Government to the people. I believe that ultimately full toll will be taken of honorable members on the Government side who have been parties to the repudiation of pledges to the people which has resulted in a substantial increase of the rate of sales tax instead of the promised reduction.
.- I desire to mention only the salient points of this legislation. I was gratified that the budget was introduced six weeks earlier than usual because the reduced rates of sales tax became operative immediately after the introduction of the budget. In fact, the people received the benefit of reduced sales tax rates on the day after the budget was brought down. In Melbourne and other cities of the Commonwealth notices were exhibited in certain shops indicating that reductions of prices were to take place on and from the morning after the introduction of the budget into this Parliament. Had a Labour Government been in office the budget would not have been introduced until about the. 20th September, and the people would have been waiting for weeks to find out now it affected them. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) seems to have been totally eclipsed since the defeat of the Labour government at the general election of 1949, because’ he has not been keeping himself informed of the current position in Australia and overseas. Circumstances alter cases, and from 1949 onwards the situation has rendered necessary much higher expenditure. The Korean war developed in a way that could not have been foreseen. The international situation became so tense that it was necessary for this Government to make provision for the expenditure of millions of pounds more than it had anticipated, before the 1949 general election, it would have to incur.
I suggest that the reductions of sales tax will be very welcome to the Australian people, and I point out to the House that if by some miscarriage of justice Labour should be returned to power at the next general election those who have clamoured for reductions of sales tax on certain items will not hold office in the new Labour government and therefore will not have the responsibility of deciding whether or not sales tax shall be reduced in the manner they have suggested. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is rather general in character. He has proposed that the bill be redrafted so as to provide for certain reductions of sales tax. He knows that the amendment will be rejected, and he did not point to any specific articles upon which he considered that the Government should reduce sales tax. He adopted that course because he knows that if he should once again assume Cabinet rank the terms of his amendment might be brought to his attention in an embarrassing fashion. No responsible member of the party has spoken in the fashion of the honorable member for Grayndler.
Certain items have been completely exempted from the sales tax for a specific reason. When this Government assumed office it found that the preceding Labour Government had been fostering industries thatproduced luxury goods. Therefore, the Government found it necessary to foster industries that produced machinery and such like products that are designed to promote the common good. The exemptions now proposed will increase food production, will have a beneficial effect upon our health and education services and will be an incentive to increase the population. Proposed new sub-item 6 of item 19 reads -
Machinery, implements and apparatus for pumping, water supply, drainage or irrigation purposes or for the construction of drains or ditches for any of those purposes.
It is quite plain that by exempting such items from sales tax the Government will directly benefit primary producers, and consequently help to increase our production of food. Proposed new sub-item 4 of item 50 reads -
Machinery, apparatus and equipment, to be installed as fixtures in houses or other residentialpremises, for use exclusively or primarily and principally in the generation and storage, or generation or storage, of electricity or gas.
It is quite apparent that people living on the land, particularly in isolated places, will be helped by this legislation to acquire those things for which they have waited so long. Again in the field of food production, the Government has helped the fishing industry in proposed new item 20a. This item reads -
Equipment for use in the fishing industry, namely : -
boats (including lifeboats), oars, sails, lifebelts and similar accessories ;
nets and netting forfishing, and cotton hemp, twine and other materials for the repair of such nets and netting; and
lines, hooks, floats and sinkers, an:! parts for goods covered by this item.
Honorable members will perceive that the Government has had the interests of our vital food industries well in mind in making these exemptions from sales tax.
I now turn to the matter of health. Recently the Premier of Victoria stated that a large percentage of school children had decayed teeth. Doctors who have attended seaside camps of children from country districts have pointed out that the teeth of such children are in a deplorable condition. This Government has totally abolished the sales tax on toothbrushes and brushes for cleaning dentures. The Labour party claims that it believes that there should be increased educational facilities, and everybody agrees that education should be extended. The abolition of the sales tax on equipment, not only books, used by universities and schools will greatly benefit those institutions and the people who use them. Finally, I refer to population. All of us agree, I believe, that babies are our best immigrants. The Government has kept that fact in mind, and has decided to exempt bassinettes, sleeping baskets for babies, cradles, cots, and perambulators, and mattresses, pillows and cushions for use with those articles. Instead of reducing sales tax on unnecessary goods, the Government has properly exempted articles that affect our food production, health, education and population.
– Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr.Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put; -
That the words proposed to be left out (Dr.
Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted..
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nob. 1 to 9) 1952.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 6th August (vide page 102), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That, on and after the seventh day of August, One thousand nine hundred and fifty- two . . . (vide page 101).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Beale do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions in regard to the first and second readings, committee’s report stage, and third readings, being put in one motion covering several or all of the Sales Tax Bills Nos. 1 to 9, and the consideration of several or all of such bills together in a committee of the whole.
Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 9th September (vide page 1136), on motion by Mr. Townley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill seeks to adjust the rate of the age and invalid pension from £3 a week to £3 7s. 6d. a week, make a corresponding adjustment in the rate of widows’ pensions, rectify some anomalies- in the social services legislation, and provide that those changes shall operate from a future date. Unfortunately, no provision is made for a general relaxation of the means test. The Opposition proposes first, that the new rates and changes tobe made by the bill operate from the 1st July last; secondly, that the rates set out in the bill be further increased in order to meet the actual increased cost of living and thirdly, that the means test be liberalized in the light of the change in money values since it was formerly fixed. The amendment which I shall move on behalf of the Opposition with a view to giving effect to those proposals can certainly not be construed as irresponsible. It cannot be said for a moment that the Opposition is putting forward proposals for which it has no responsibility to pay, and, which consequently, are put forward irresponsibly, because the effect of the proposed amendment is to restore the position exactly to that which existed when the Labour Government went out of office in December, 1949.
– The Labour Government had eight years in which to give effect to the proposals that the honorable gentleman has mentioned.
– The amendment which I have forecast relates to things that the Labour Government did in those eight years. The amendment, if it is adopted, will restore the position exactly to that which was established by the Labour Government during its term of office.
– The Labour Government did not attempt to modify the means test.
– The Labour Government liberalized the means test three times. In increased the permissible income of 12s. 6d. a week to £1 a week, and later from £1 a week to 30s. a week, and it made successive amendments of the means test with respect to property. Despite the decline in money values since then the present Government has made no further adjustment. The Opposition desires that the pensioners shall have the benefits of this legislation, such as they are. immediately, and, therefore, will expedite the consideration of the bill by the House. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) made his second-reading speech last night. Usually, a lapse of several days or even a week occurs before the debate is resumed. However, the Opposition, so as to enable pensioners to obtain the benefits as swiftly as possible, has accepted a proposal for the resumption of debate this evening, and will not delay the passage of the bill, but will do everything possible to expedite the reasonable consideration of it.
The bill contains some very satisfactory provisions in rectifying a number of minor anomalies. The Minister is to be commended for some of the minor changes in the social services legislation which he is proposing in this measure, but they are in contrast to his failure to tackle any of the grave problems which affect the recipients of social services, as the result of the inflationary conditions of the last two years. The Minister is, in effect, offering a few luscious titbits to a man starving for a good, wholesome meal. Many persons who are dependent upon the pensions are in that position to-day. Last night, the Minister made a. fine speech. He used a number of splendid, phrases. He enunciated some profound truths. But there is an old saying that fine words butter no parsnips. What the pensioners need to-day is an actual increase in the quantity of vegetables, meat, bread, butter and other requirements of daily life.
This legislation, despite the fine phrases used by the Minister, will not give those increases to them. His speech, indeed, was eloquent in what it left unsaid more than in what it actually said. He did not claim that the increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the pension rate is in any way proportionate to the increase which has taken place in the cost of living since the pension was last adjusted. He made no attempt, in the whole of his long speech, to claim that the increased amount of pension that is to be granted will compensate the pensioners for the demonstrated increase in the cost of living. There was no attempt at all by him. to bring the proposed increase of 7s. 6d. a week into line with the increases in the basic wage as ordered by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in accordance with the demonstrated increase in living costs. He did not attempt to show the relation of the pension rate increases to the increased cost of living as shown in the “ C “ series index computed by the Commonwealth Statistician.
It is obvious why the Minister did not advance those arguments. I shall show, with figures, that he did not refer to such matter because, if he had done so, it would have been shown that the pension should be increased by more than twice as much as the amount which the Government proposes to grant. There was not a word in the Minister’s speech in reference to a general relaxation of the means test, or any promise of such a relaxation in the future. In that respect, the Minister’s speech was different indeed from previous announcements by the Government on this matter.
– The honorable member could not have listened to the Minister’s speech.
– I listened carefully to every word of the Minister’s speech, and I repeat that he made no promise of a general relaxation of the means test in the future. That omission was in remarkable contrast to previous statements by this Government on the matter, because I have no doubt that the House will recall that in 1949, the leaders of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party promised that, if they were elected to office, they would devote the whole of their energies to the complete abolition of the means test, and, indeed, would have the necessary plan ready in 1952. This is the 10th September, 1952, and the Government has introduced a bill to amend the Social Services Consolidation Act, but the measure contains not one word to redeem that promise nor even any modification of the means test, and gives no hope of modification in the future. The Minister made one observation which, I thought, was extremely wise and good. He said -
Let us forget about money for a moment and let us think in terms of real commodities - in terms of clothing, shelter, bread, meat, and coal.
It is true that the Minister used those words in a special context, but I trust that they will be the keynote of the whole debate on this bill, because we are truly dealing with such things. We are not dealing, in terms of money, with the question whether this Government is providing more money for pensions this year than was provided last year or in 194S or 1949. We are dealing with the question whether the pensioner has the opportunity, with the existing pension, to buy anything like the same amount of clothing, shelter, bread, meat and coal as he was able to purchase in 194S and subsequent years. Therefore, I hope that the passage which I have read from the Minister’s speech will be the keynote of this debate.
The Opposition urges the Government to a,gree that the proposed increase of pensions, whatever it may be, should operate from the 1st July last. It is tine that it is not the practice to make increases of social services payments retrospective. It must be admitted that the general rule is that an increase shall operate from a date subsequent to the passing of the relevant bill. It is also true, and, in fairness, should be admitted, that when the Chifley Government increased the rate of pension by 5s. a week in 1948, the payment was not made retrospective, but operated from a date subsequent to the passing of the bill.
– The bill was passed later in 1948 than this bill will be passed this year. The budget was introduced much earlier this year than was the budget in 1948.
– It is true that the budget was introduced somewhat earlier this year than was the budget in 1948. That is one circumstance that is different, and there are many other circumstances which are entirely different. One of them is that, in 1948, the cost of living had been almost stabilized. The rise in the cost of living in that year, as the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) will see if he cares to examine the official figures, was very gradual indeed. In contrast, price rises at the present time are sharp and fast, and pensioners cannot afford., even for a week, to be without the compensating increase in the rate of pension. They certainly cannot afford to be without that compensating increase for many months. Furthermore, the increase of pension granted by the Chifley Government in 1948, as can be seen by reference to the relevant figures, represented a little more than the full increase in the cost of living, because it raised the relation of the pension to the basic wage to the new figure of 39 per cent. The increase that the present Government proposes to grant under this bill is much less than the demonstrated increase in the cost of living.
If any further argument is needed in support of my contention, let me remind the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who is in charge of the House, and other Government supporters, that members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, who occupied the Opposition benches in 1948, showed their adherence to the principle of retrospectivity in pension payments by voting for it on a definite amendment. Now is the time, in completely changed circumstances which are far more injurious to the pensioner, for honorable members opposite to give effect to the professions that they made when they were in Opposition.
The second alteration sought by the Opposition is that the rate of pension be further increased in order to meet the demonstrated increase of the cost of living. In view of the promises which the Government has made to the aged and sick members of the community, there are only two possible answers that can be given to that request. Honorable members do not need to be reminded that the leaders of the present Government promised, during the general election campaign in 1949, that the value of all social services payments would be fully maintained, and, indeed, would be increased. Let us forget about the second part of that promise to the effect that the value of social services payments would be increased. Let us have regard only to the promise that the value of all pension rates would be fully maintained. That promise was definite and specific, and was repeated not only from every election platform and radio station, but also in advertisements in every newspaper day after clay during the election campaign. Therefore, I suggest that there are only two honest answers which the Government can give to the claim that it should now increase the rate of pension in order to make it accord with the demonstrated increase in the cost of living.
The first answer is that the Government cannot afford to fulfil its promises. The fact that it has remitted £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 a year to a few thousand wealthy land-owners completely deprives it of such an answer. The only other answer which the Government can possibly make is that the increased rate which it has already agreed to, fully maintains the value of the pension in relation to the cost of living. The Minister for Social Services has not attempted to assert .that proposition. An examination of the figures makes it abundantly plain why he has not done so. I cite, first of all, the basic wage comparison. The position in relation to the basic wage is as follows : -
The equivalent of the 194S rate in relation to the basic wage to-day would not be £3 7s. 6d., but £4 9s. By the time this 7s. 6d. increase operates, further rises in the cost of living will have occured. The increase of the basic wage since the 1951 budget was introduced less than twelve months ago has been £1 18s. The increase that is proposed in the pension is. 7s. 6d., and that is equivalent not to 39 per cent, but to only 20 per cent. Every honorable member on the Government side is dishonored, in my opinion, while the promise to the weak, aged and helpless people of the community to which he subscribed remains unfulfilled.
The Minister for Social Services has suggested that honorable members should not use the basic wage as a comparison. He has said that he rejects the basic wage as a proper measuring stick for pension rates. I cannot imagine why he should do so. The basic wage is used as a general measuring stick in that respect and has been so regarded for many years. If it is used as a general measuring stick for many forms of payments in the community, why should the pensioner, whose share is so small, be deprived of the benefits of such a comparison? Nevertheless, accepting for the moment the viewpoint of the Minister that the basic wage is not a proper measuring stick, let us look at the C series index. Surely there must be some test of the fulfilment of the Government’s promise, and what better test can there be than the official figures that have been compiled by the Statistician, which represent the increase in the cost of living as shown by the weighted average of the six capital cities in the C series?
– That is for a family.
– Surely the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) knows the meaning of the C series. It is not for a family. As a basis of comparison, we may consider the figure of 1,000 for the years 1923 to 1927 as the normal figure. The weighted average for the June quarter of 1948, on that basis, was 1,278, and the weighted average for the June quarter of 1952 was 2,206. I have to take the June quarter of this year because it is the latest for which figures are available. If I could produce later figures, they would strengthen my argument because the cost of living has increased since the Junequarter. The pension based on the June quarter of 1948 was £2 2s. 6d. with a 5s. adjustment made by the ‘Chifley Government in .the first half of the 1948-49 financial year. The 1952 pension rate is £3 7s. 6d. On the June quarter alone, according to the Statistician’s figures, that amount should be £3 13s. 4d. without allowing anything whatever for thefurther sharp increase of the cost of living that has already occurred since June. Honorable member know that from the 1st July, sharp rises occurred in the prices of basic foodstuffs, including butter. Between June and September, 1948, practically no variation occurred in thecost of living figures. The figures for the September quarter of 1952 are not yet available, but everybody will agree that ft further sharp increase will be evident. Therefore, going back only to Jun& the increase’ of the pension rate should not- be 7s-. 6d. but 13s. 4kl. and with the further increase of the cost of living’ vhidh at present can be only guesswork, it is clear that the pension now should be about £4 a week if the Government were to honour ks promises even to the minimum’ extent. A third way t5 measure the level that the pension rate should have attained–and there could not be a fairer way to the Government - is to’ study the C series* figure at the time that this Government itself first adjusted the pension rate in 1950 after its assumption of office, and compare it with the latest 0 series figure that is available. Such a comparison will show that the pension rate today should be a little over £4 a week, on the Government’s own estimate of the position a few mOnths after it achieved office.
It is good to turn from these aspects to commend the Minister on some minor provisions of the bill. Although he has failed to provide any general relaxation of the means test, there has been some relaxation of it in a few special cases. They Will affect only a few people in the. community and will cost the Government only a few thousand pounds, but ti ley will be very welcome, particularly to blind pensioners. Similarly the removal Of the income restriction on invalid pensions to persons between the ages of sixteen and 21 years will undoubtedly save a great deal of hardship in a few restricted cases. The provision of slightly more favorable conditions affecting some aspects of widows pensions only brings into sharp relief the failure of the Government to grant amelioration of the desperate position of widows in this community. The’ doubling of the basic rates of sickness and unemployment benefits is a long overdue and a clear recognition by this Government of the kind of social services benefit that will be necessary under its administration but it does not fully meet the increase in the cost of living since the rate was altered previously.
If the Minister in intent on making even minor improvements by the removal of anomalies in social services legislation –and I refer to the minor matters which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), will allow him to deal with - there are many other anomalies which have been created over the years by the change in money values, and which the Minister could properly attack. One is the rate of funeral benefit, which has remained at £10 since 1943. The necessity to alter that rate has become very marked in the past few years for the amount provided has not been sufficient to enable funeral directors to bury poor, old people decently. An increase in those benefits would not cost the Government many thousands of pounds, but it would bring the rate to the level of present day money values and I suggest such an alteration strongly to the Minister.
– Funeral directors have had to ask shire councils to help them in cases such as those mentioned by the honorable member.
– That is a shocking state of affairs, and I hope that the Government will introduce an amendment to give effect to the suggestion that I have made. Secondly, there is the figure relating to the disposal of assets. If a person has more than the amount of property which would qualify him for the age pension, he is allowed by law to spend it only at the rate of pension plus the permissible income. Otherwise that person disqualifies himself from obtaining the pension after he has exhausted his property. If he is a single man, he will have to live on £4 17s. 6d. a week, which will be the rate under the new increase, and he must continue to live on no more than £4 17s. 6d. of his own money if he wishes at any time in the future to qualify for an age pension. That figure has become clearly out of touch with living costs. I hope that the Minister will take an opportunity soon to rectify that anomaly. I believe that the Minister’s reference to the value of child endowment underlined heavily the failure of the Government to make any adjustment whatever in the rate of child endowment. The Minister spoke eloquently of child endowment and honorable members opposite now say “ Hear, hear “, but the facts are that this Government which promised to maintain the value of all social services payments, has made no increase whatever in the rate of child endowment for the second and subsequent children, and has allowed the rate of endowment for the first child to remain at 5s. despite the heavy increase in the cost of living.
– The Opposition opposed an increase.
– The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) is entirely wrong. In 1941, the original rate of endowment that was established by a non-Labour government was 5s. That represented 6 per cent, of the basic wage which was then £4 6s. In 1948 under theChifley Government, the rate of child endowment was 10s. or 9 per cent, of the basic wage which was then £5 16s. The present Government promised to maintain at least that proportion and indeed to increase it, yet another budget has been presented to the Parliament and another Social Services Consolidation Bill is before the House, but the rate of child endowment will remain unaltered. At 10s., it represents only 4£ per cent, of the basic wage which is now £11 7s., compared with 9 per cent, at the time of the last Chifley Government adjustment. On behalf of the Labour party, I move -
That all words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for -
1 ) the new pension rates to operate from the 1st July. 1952;
the rates set out in the bill to be further increased to meet the increasedcost of living; and
the means test to be liberalized in the light of the change in money values “.
This amendment can be viewed only as a very fair and reasonable request to the Government. It asks the Government to do no more at this stage than to restore the position that it inherited and to fulfil the minimum promises that it made to the electors. It cannot be said that the Opposition, lacking financial responsibility for its proposals, has put forward irresponsible proposals which involve large new expenditure of public money that it does not have to raise. The Opposition in the hope of obtaining from this
Government at least something real and of value to the pensioners, has confined its amendment to the minimum performance of the Government’s own promises. It has sought only the restoration of pension rates in terms of actual values which the Labour party itself established and paid when it was in government. There is nothing implied in the amendment which can be branded as fanciful or unreal. Instead, it is directed towards something which actually operated in Australia and was proved to be well within the financial resources of the Australian people at tax rates far lower, both in money values and in real values, than those which operate now. It will be said that the Opposition has moved this amendment in order to make political capital out of the plight of the pensioners.
Government supporters interjecting,
– In view of the interjections from honorable members opposite it is obvious that it can be said that to ask this Government to fulfil the minimum pledges that it made to the people is, in the view of those honorable gentlemen, to seek to make political capital. What was the Government doing when it made those promises? Did it have any intention of fulfilling them or did it intend to dishonour them and blame the Opposition for trying to make political capital when it asked the Government to honour them ? The truth is that if the Government will accept this amendment, it will give sincere pleasure to every member of the Opposition just as it will bring joy and new life into the heart of every pensioner. The second part of the amendment merely asks that the means test be altered in terms of money values so that it will not operate any more harshly than it did when the Labour party was in government.
– What does it mean?
– It means fulfilling the Government promise to maintain the means test at least at existing value. Here is the first part of the promise that was made by the Government’s leaders -
We propose to abolish the means test. We will introduce our plan at the 1952 election.
If the Government will fulfil that promise of an election in 1952. There will be general rejoicing. The second part of the promise was -
Meantime, existing means test limits will at least foe maintained and their true value maintained.
On the contrary, the position is as follows : -
The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who has asked what 1 1 io amendment means will know the answer to this question when I tell him that to-day the equivalent of the permissible income in 1949 is, not 30s. but ?2 12s. a week. Now chat he knows that, T hope that he, at least, will take action to honour .the promise to which he subscribed.
The amendment doss not ask the Government to go one step further than the minimum fulfilment of its own election promises to the aged and sick people in this community. What the Labour party if- now asking the Government to do will bc the immediate goal of the Labour party itself when, shortly, it again takes over the reins of government. What the Labour party has done before in office for the Australian people, it will do again in office. In eight years, the Labour party doubled pension rates in this country, during which time the cost of living increased by a lesser degree. It also made successive and great ameliorations of the means test.
The great Labour movement has, however, a far broader social aim than merely the immediate restoration of the things that have been taken away from the pensioners by the present Government. It has turned its back forever upon the ruthless, capitalist laisser-faire past, in which the aged and the sick were tossed aside to fend for themselves after their use to industry was past. The Australian Labour party has also committed itself to press forward by progressive steps, as fast as possible, towards the great goal of complete abolition of the means test, to which it was well on its way in 1949.
It wants men and women everywhere, in youth and age alike, to be able to stand with heads erect and with fearless eyes, secure in the present and confident for the future. Just as it rejects the laisserfaire capitalist concept of tossing men on to the scrap heap when their useful years in industry have passed, so it rejects with hatred the Communist concept of the master State, to which all men shall bow down, and in which their security and their right to eat will depend upon the approval of an official. The Labour party believes in human dignity and human freedom. It looks and moves towards the day when men will be truly free and secure. The attainment of adequate rates of age and invalid pensions and other social services payments, lacking the compulsions of a harsh means test, will indeed be a substantial step in that direction. The first step necessary will be to undo the harm done during the years of office of this Government.
– (Hon. Archie Cameron). I have been considering the general question of amendments to a motion for the second reading of a bill. The practice of moving such amendments is growing considerably in this House. It has not a great deal of warrant under the Standing Orders as they exist at present, but I admit frankly that I have permitted such amendments to be moved in the past. Standing Order 216, which deals with amendments to a motion for the second reading of a bill, states -
An amendment may be moved to such Question by omitting “ now “ and adding “ this day six months “, which, if carried, shall finally dispose of the bill.
Standing Order 217, which deals with the same subject, states -
No other amendment may be moved to such Question except in the form of an amendment relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, and which does not anticipate an amendment which may be moved in Committee. 1 want to make it clear to the House that I have no personal feelings on this matter. The question of the date from which the new pension rates should operate could be settled by an amendment of clause 2 of the bill. Paragraph 2 of the amendment deals with pension rates. I find on a quick glance through the bill that pension rates, are dealt with in 27 places. As the bill was not introduced om! a message from the GovernorGeneral and!, therefore, section 56 of the Constitution is not involved, I see no reason why that matter should not be dealt with in committee. In my opinion, the third paragraph of the amendment is definitely in order in all circumstances.
It- may be the feeling of the House that the practice of making a decision upon matters of this kind on a motion for the second reading of a bill saves time in committee. That is a matter upon which I should like the guidance of the House. I believe that a fairly important principle is at stake, and I do not wish to lay down anything in a hard and fast manner at the moment. All that I wish to do is to direct the attention of all honorable gentlemen . to the course that we appear to be pursuing, so that, in the future, we shall be able to decide a course of action that has been properly considered and has the complete’ approval of every honorable member.
– The practice of suggesting changes to a bill when the motion for the second reading of the measure is before the House has been permitted, not only by yourself, Mr. Speaker, but also by your predecessors. That practice is not only recognized, but is also, as I think you have implied in your observations, very convenient to the House. I suggest that any proposal to alter it should he considered on another occasion.
– The procedure adopted by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan.’ Fraser) has, as is well known to honorable members, become customary in this House. The Government has no objection to it being continued.
– The Opposition takes the view that it would be better for the issues raised by the amendment to be determined while the bill is before the House than to have long desultory debates on many clauses in committee. It is better to face one clear-cut issue when the bill is in the recond-reading stage than to be involved in numerous discussions when it is in committee. Therefore, the.- Opposition) agrees with the Vice-President of the Executive
Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison),, that, at any rate for the time being, it is desirable to continue this practice. It should be continued at least until the Standing Orders Committee has had an opportunity to consider it.
– Having got what I believe to be the feeling of the House, I accept the amendment, ls it seconded ?
– I second the amendment.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), began his speech in a temperate manner. He congratulated the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley), upon the form and content of his speech. I hoped that the honorable gentleman would continue in that strain and content himself with a general criticism of the measure, but, instead, he departed from that course and, towards the end of his speech showed that, despite his protestations to the contrary, he was acting irresponsibly in making his proposals because he knew that he would have no share of the responsibility for doing the things that he was advocating. The honorable gentleman also distorted the position. It was the Labour party that broke the link between pensions and the basic wage. In those circumstances, it is useless to contend that now the Labour party wishes to revert to the course from which it then departed.
Let me deal with the honorable gentleman’s distortion of the promises made by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government parties. As I have said on previous occasions, the present situation has been caused by a series of circumstances over which no Government could have exercised any control. The charge that I hold most strongly against the Labour party is’ that, throughout difficult periods of the past, it. did nothing to prevent the present situation from developing;. It was, for example, responsible for the introduction of the 40-hour week, which is, in fact, only a 36-hour week. The Labour party is as responsible as any other political party for present conditions. Let me read to the House the promise that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), made in his policy speech. He said–
– On what date was this speech made?
– .Order ! I ask the honorable gentlemen to maintain order, because on a question of this kind the House could quite easily get into a state of disorder.
– I think that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will recognize the document on page 11 of which is to be found the following statements : -
We made no cash promise to pensioners, whose pensions had not been raised by the Chifley Government, in spite of rapidly rising prices, right through from the latter part of 1948 to the end of 1049, hut we increased their pensions in our very first budget by 7s. 6d. a week. We do not yet know what the appropriate alteration should be by the time of the next budget. But we do say that we understand the difficult problem of the pensioners in a period in which prices are rising. The pensioners need not be led away by election cash offers. We will look after them. We may be relied upon to do full justice to their needs, as we have done before.
That is the promise that was made. There is in it nothing of that kind of glant that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro imported into his references to it.
– Read the Prime Minister’s 1949 policy speech..
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will have his opportunity to speak on the measure later.
– I congratulate the Minister for Social .Services on both the content and the manner of delivery of his speech, and I hope that be will not regard the remarks that 1 am about to make as in any sense condemnatory of his actions. He knows my views well from other days, quite apart from any remarks that I may make to-night. I was interested in the way in which he opened hi3 speech. He said that three different classes of people had to be considered in rela tion to the problem of social, services. It was clear from his remarks that proposals contained in the bill would be received with mixed satisfaction by the people of those three classes, particularly by the individual taxpayers who constitute the first class that he men- tioned. They will also be received with mixed satisfaction by the third class. The second class, the beneficiaries, will be the most satisfied of the three classes, because the bill provides for an extraordinary improvement of the various social services rendered by the Government. As the Minister has pointed out, in 1938-39 the Commonwealth expended £16,400,000 on social services. In the budget for this financial year the corresponding expenditure is to be increased to £173,000,000, which is an increase of 900 per cent. I can easily imagine the problem that will face any future Minister for Social Services or Treasurer, if the future is to be charted by our past actions. Where are we heading in this matter of social services, when in one year the amount of social services expenditure is to be increased by an amount of £36,500,000 ? The total proposed expenditure by the Commonwealth on social services this year is additional to the amounts paid by the States in the field of social services, and does not take into account further expenditure to which we shall be committed when the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) introduces the remaining stages of the national health scheme.
I can imagine the problems with which future Treasurers will be faced if we continue to provide social services at the rate of improvement that has been current during the last twelve months and is proposed for the ensuing year. The Minister said that this continued expansion of social services, without proper regard for our resources, could well throw an intolerable burden on the productive activities of die community. I agree that that is so. He used the words “ could well throw “. 1 wonder whether he would be prepared to say that it. “is throwing” a great burden indeed on the productive capacity and resources of the community. Have the proposed increases been determined in terms of what our national resources will allow? I have suggested in this chamber on previous occasions that nowadays we ought to approach the problem of the budget from the aspect of the amount that we can afford to expend on different activities, and not from the point of view of the amount that people may demand we should expend. By what yardstick are we to measure the amount that our resources will allow us to expend? In any examination of this question of our resources we must consider the proportion of producers between the ages of sixteen and 60 years compared with the total number of social services beneficiaries, and the proportion of producers between the ages of sixteen and 60 years compared with the proportion over the age of 60 years. Unless the number of producers and the level of production can both be increased, the burden of social services on the community will become increasingly intolerable.
There was a time when I might have said, with much more certainty than I could now express the same view, that the number of producers between the ages of sixteen and 60 years would decline in relation to the number aged 60 years and over. However, because of the increase of the birth-rate and the flow of immigration, I am not sure whether I should now find such a view tenable. I still maintain, however, that the problem of the relationship of the number of beneficiaries of social services to the respective proportions of the different age groups in the community will have to be taken into account when we are determining the burden that the productive resources of the nation can bear. We shall have to consider changing many of our preconceived notions. One such notion which we shall have to change relates to the retirement of people at the age of 60 years, or the sending of workers on long-service leave at the age of 59 years. If such people are to be thrown out of production at the age of 59 or 60 years, not only shall we lose productive capacity, but we shall also be deprived of the benefit of both their physical and mental capacity, which should be available to the community, and could provide great assistance to us at a time when we require an increase of production to enable the provision, and enjoyment, of social services by the community.
We should also review the relationship of the provision of social services to a large section of the community to the productive level that the community is able to maintain. Is that level of produc- tion the measure of the benefits that people demand? Is it what they are prepared to pay for ? Is it what the taxpayer will stand? The yardstick that I propose should be adopted is the amount that people are prepared to pay in order to enjoy s benefit and not merely the amount that they demand. Unless we have some means by which we can measure the amount that people are prepared to pay to enjoy a benefit, then we shall always be working in the dark and on the basis of what people demand rather than what they need. One of the ways in which we can overcome thi3 problem is to introduce a contributory scheme of social services. In fact, that is the only way by which we can achieve the abolition of the means test, which the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson ) has constantly urged.
I shall now contradict a statement made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro when he spoke of the attitude of the Minister to the means test. The view of the Minister on that matter, according to the printed notes that he has distributed, is expressed in the following terms: -
I have said that it is my earnest wish to see the means test abolished while I hold the portfolio of Minister for Social Services. That is still my earnest wish, and I hope to see it fulfilled.
We all wish to have the means test abolished. That seems to me the only way in which people who have been willing to husband their resources by thrift can be rewarded. The time has come when we have to review our attitude to thrifty people who make provision for the future, compared with thriftless people.
I now turn to one other aspect of this matter. I submit that the argument that people have paid for social services by the work they have done during their lifetimes, is specious. It is equally specious to argue that people pay for social services in their ordinary income tax payments. There is no relationship between the amount of income tax paid by a taxpayer and the manner in which it is expended. Money paid in income tax becomes amorphous. It is assimilated into the whole financial system and it is impossible for any taxpayer to detach a proportion of his income tax payments and claim that that amount has paid for a benefit that he is entitled to receive.
A great deal of talk is heard these days about inalienable rights. A jeweller who recently visited me at my office told me that in his opinion every girl had an inalienable right to a diamond engagement ring. I cannot understand such a philosophy. My own opinion about the inalienable rights to which an individual is entitled, is that each person has the right set out in the American Declaration of Independence - the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that the State shall interpose no obstacles to the enjoyment of them. The State, however, cannot make people happy. It can only provide opportunities for them to be happy. There must be some means of ensuring that social services benefits shall be directly calculated upon the amount of contribution for the provision of such benefits that a person has made. That is to say, there must be a definite relationship between the amount of benefit .that a person receives and the amount that he is prepared to pay for it. Unless such a relationship exists we have no basis for calculating the amount that we can afford to expend on social services. [ admit that there is a class of people, to which the Minister has referred, for whom we shall always have to provide. They are the people who have been stricken by “ the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune “. Such people will always be on our doorstep. I suggest, however, that many such people require SOn]: other treatment than the payment of a monetary sum. They require rehabilitation. We should address ourselves to that issue. The problem of dealing with some of those people who are the casualties of our economic and social system and of maintaining the whole field of social services mentioned by the Minister seems to me to be important. We are tending to create a feeling that the Government has a duty to provide for everybody, as if a government had any money that it had not already taken from somebody else! The Government is only the trustee of the public funds, and people have no right to claim that they are entitled to be supported by the State irrespective of the contribution they have made in the past to make that support possible. They are entitled to support only according to the measure of their own efforts and the amount that they have been prepared to pay for that support.
One of the other changes that seems to be developing is that the system of social services provided by the State is tending to dry up the stream of individual sympathy. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), was has just interjected, is one of those persons who will know .exactly how a system of this kind is drying up the springs of social sympathy. He knows that many people, particularly people with whom he associates, are saying, in effect, “ The Government is taxing me for social services and, therefore, I will not pay any more voluntarily “. For that reason, many people refuse to make donations when collectors on behalf of voluntary organizations canvass for subscriptions. They adopt the attitude that they are not prepared to pay social services contribution and, at the same time, make voluntary contributions for charitable purposes. That is one of the most disastrous consequencies of the development of social services benefits in this country. Most voluntary agencies with which I have been associated have a life history that is very attractive. They keep sweet the milk of human kindness. They are the only agencies that can perform such a service for the community. However, whereas voluntary agencies used to exist in practically every suburb, the great majority of them have now been obliged to cease their activities because they cannot afford to continue the services that they provided. They cannot collect sufficient money to enable them to carry on those activities.
– Who wants charity?
– It is a question not of charity, but of paying for what one receives and of qualifying for relief. Probably, the honorable member for Ballarat has not realized that persons are entitled to a reward on the basis of merit and not merely because they have been spendthrift and have failed to pull their weight in the community.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I must ask the House to come to order. This is not a laughing matter. If honorable members are not prepared to maintain order voluntarily, I shall be obliged to enforce order by other means.
– One change that is taking place as a result of the provision of social services benefits by the State, is that the individual is tending to lose his sense of responsibility to the community in which he lives. Statements made recently by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) provide proof of the fact that many people are refusing to accept their responsibility as citizens. They adopt that attitude because they believe that the State owes to them everything and that they owe to the State nothing.
I should like to see social services benefits provided on a contributory basis and in circumstances that would enable voluntary agencies to carry on their activities for the good of the community as a whole. To those honorable members who believe in State ownership I point out that one of the great tragedies that is occurring to-day is the closing of all private hospitals. Previously, such institutions existed in practically every suburb and fostered individual relationships with patients. But, to-day, most patients are obliged to undergo treatment in public institutions because of the spiralling costs of labour and the demands that the State is making on voluntary agencies. I should like to see those agencies continue because, whereas the State deals with people in the mass those institutions deal with people as individuals and on a personal plane. Our social services system does not allow for contact with the individual as a person. This change is being effected so rapidly that people are experiencing difficulty in re-adiusting themselves to the new set of conditions. Abundant evidence of the existence of that difficulty is apparent. Probably, the most difficult phase of such re-adjustment exists in respect of the administration of social ser vices benefits, because the wider the field that the Government enters, the greater becomes the problem of organization and the more remote becomes the opportunity for popular control. Probably, the complaint that one has heard most in recent weeks about the Public Service in its administration of benefits, such as the unemployment benefit, arises from the fact that the organization involved has become so big that it excludes personal contact between the individual and the official. Inaccessibility to the public servant as an individual is responsible for this feeling of malaise, which derives directly from the fact that our governmental institutions are losing capacity for individual control. The social services system is becoming altogether unwieldy.
I sometimes think that the modern system of government provides fresh justification for the activities of popular representatives. Their role has always been that of interpreting popular wishes for the Government. To-day, however, because of the changed character of the Public Service, they must be, in effect, an irresistible force trying to break down the immovable mass of Public Service resistance. That development is becoming increasingly pronounced as the Public Service grows, and it reinforces the demand that my colleagues have been making that the Public Service should be investigated in order to see whether it is capable of carrying the load that it is obliged to carry. There is no doubt that the Public Service is overloaded. The breakdown is obvious from the way in which people are criticizing the Public Service. Many persons go further still and criticize individual public servants which, to my mind, amounts to stabbing in the back people who have no opportunity to defend themselves. Therefore, some check should be made to ensure that the Public Service shall be properly administered. It is useless to say that such inquiries are not necessary because internal checks are constantly being made. On the contrary, there is much to be gained by resorting to outside experts. Recently, an investigation was made into the harbour management and also into the development of uranium deposits. A similar investigation should be made into the organization of the Public Service. We should remember Churchill’s aphorism to beware of building a society in which no one counts for anything other than a politician or a public servant. We can act on that advice by building a society in which individuals will be regarded as individuals and by ensuring that the organization of government shall be sympathetically and efficiently carried out. At every opportunity I have advocated the need to obtain the services of the best class of public servants. By that means we can get results but, at the sami3 time, public servants are human; and that remains the problem that we must recognize and solve. Under this measure, hundreds of millions of pounds are to be provided for social services benefits. I conclude by saying that we owe a duty to the taxpayers to ensure that this money shall he expended to the best advantage. We owe to the beneficiaries of social services benefits the duty to ensure that those benefits shall be administered sympathetically, and we owe to the community the duty of ensuring that we shall not destroy the sense of individual responsibility by resorting to sloppy sentimentalism.
.- The attitude that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) has adopted in this debate does not surprise me, because it has been the attitude of all conservative politicians towards social services benefits since they were introduced as a result of (;he efforts of the Australian Labour party. The honorable gentleman tried to. demonstrate that on this occasion the Government was being over-generous and that, in fact, it could not afford to increase the rate of pensions by 7s. 6d. a week. The honorable member referred to the 40-hour working week and implied that the reduction of working hours to that level had caused production to decrease and, as a result, the country could not afford to provide social services benefits at the rate proposed under this measure. Whilst he found it very disturbing and embarrassing to deal with some of the promises that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made in the past, in respect of social services payments, he conveniently turned to the policy speech that the right honorable gentleman made in 1951. He completely disregarded the Prime Minister’s statements in the joint policy speech of the Government parties during the general election campaign in 1949. The latter speech was the more important because it was in that year that the Government assumed office as a result of making false promises to the people.
It seems rather strange that all of the criticism of the Australian worker and of the introduction of the 40-hour working week as being the cause of the decline in production, emanates from people in the community who, in many instances, have never themselves contributed to production. Recently, Sir Charles Lloyd Jones returned to Australia after having made a five months’ luxury tour round the world accompanied by his wife and son. Immediately upon his return to this country, he said that as a. result of his visit overseas he had come to the conclusion that Australians were not working hard enough. The pensioners do not want the Government to give them a pension as a charity. They regard, quite properly, this social services benefit as due to them by right. Members of the Australian Labour party agree that pensions, ultimately, are paid out of production. But the salaries of members of Parliament and every charge that the Government has to meet are derived from the same source. It seemed to me that the honorable member for Warringah adopted the attitude of a. university professor dissecting a specimen and did not .’realize that he was dealing with human beings. I can well understand the honorable gentleman’s difficulty in participating in this debate. His problem arises from the fact that he does not know the people whom this legislation directly affects and, therefore, he is not aware of the every-day demands that they must meet.
I shall not raise the interminable argument about which political party was responsible for the introduction of age and invalid pensions. Members of the Australian Labour party are content to rest upon the fact that members of anti-Labour parties at the time when pensions were originally introduced gave full credit to the Labour Opposition for having used its bargaining power in Parliament in order to force the Government of the day to introduce such legislation. However, to-day, the pensioners are not primarily interested in knowing which party introduced pensions. That point may be of some academic interest to them, but they desire to know above all other things, how the Government now proposes to help them to provide for their present needs. Perhaps it can be said that no government, regardless of party, has ever dealt in strict justice with the pensioners. Let us test this Government on the question of whether it intends to deal with these people fairly.
The honorable member for Warringah engaged in misrepresentation when he said that a Labour government had abandoned the system of relating the rate of pension to the current basic wage and, therefore, members of the Opposition were inconsistent in urging that that system should now be restored. The honorable gentleman told only half the truth. It is perfectly true that a Labour government introduced the system whereby the rate of pension was related to the basic wage and that a similar government departed from that system. But why did not the professor tell the House and the public the reason why that Government departed from that system? Its reason for doing so was that as at that time there had been a slight reduction in the cost of living index figures the application of that system would have meant that the rate of pension would have to be reduced by the paltry amount of 6d. a week. The Labour government refused to take such action. I was never happy about relating the rate of pension to the basic wage unless, in the first instance, a proper examination was made of the needs of pensioners. That has never been done. Consequently, when it comes to a question of the promises that have been made to these unfortunate people and the action actually taken to help them, we find that they are worse off than they were in 1948 when the Labour Government increased pensions to 38 per cent, of the basic wage. In view of the promise of the Prime Minister to maintain the value of pensions and, indeed, to increase their true value by restoring value to the £1, the Government, if it were honest, should now increase the pension to at least 38 per cent, of the basic wage. However, the Government does not propose to do that. The honorable member for Warringah said that the Government will not do that because it has to have regard to what the country can afford. Well, if the pension now to be paid by the Government is the best that the country can afford, there should be a review of our over-all expenditure to ascertain quite frankly whether we should cut down our expenditure in certain directions. We should take action to ensure that taxation is maintained at a reasonable level so that the people who need the pensions can be given a decent standard of living, which is something that they have never been given by this Government.
Let us now consider the attitude of honorable members on the Government side, and examine their ideas about pensions. They do not regard the pensions paid under our social services legislation as a right. They do not regard the Government as being in any way responsible to ensure that all citizens enjoy a decent standard of living. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) said on one occasion that th pension is designed only to supplement the income of the recipient. The Minister also indicated that pensioners should look to charitable institutions for additional aid. I suppose he meant that they should attend jumble sales to buy clothes and depend on charitable institutions to give them hand-outs. Indeed, his view seems to be the same as that of the honorable member for Warringah. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) said on one occasion- that it was never intended that the pension should provide a comfortable living for the pensioner, and that it was designed solely to supplement his income. At least the Vice-President of the Executive Council can be reassured on one point, that is that the pension has never provided the recipient with a comfortable living. Let us now consider the statements that have been made by honorable member after honorable member on the
Government side. They have made it quite clear that they have always regarded the payment of pensions as a charity. I can well visualize, in other circumstances, the honorable professor from Warringah being in charge of a gas chamber, because he obviously considers that the pensioners have outlived their usefulness and are of no more use to any conservative government in this country.
Government supporters interjecting,
– The pensioners were once the real producers of the community, but the Government now says to them, “ You should have been thrifty in your younger days when you. were working in the community “. If honorable members examine that statement they will come to realize that if everybody in the community were to exercise thrift there would be a business collapse. In most cases the pensioners, during their working lives, have received incomes that did not permit them to save. Consequently they have been spenders. Even if they had been able, by making great sacrifices, to save a certain proportion of their weekly wages there would have been much less money in circulation, which would have caused a business slump instead of an increase in prosperity to the business community and the community in general. Therefore, honorable members will perceive that the Government is dealing with thepensioners in a dishonorable way. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) said that the pensioners are doing very well. I was pleased to hear the honorable member, and his colleagues, make statements such as that because there were quite a number of pensioners among the people who were deluded by the Government parties before the general election of 1949.
– Why did not the Labour party do something about the pensions in 1949?
– I will reply to the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) by repeating a statement made by the late Mr. Chifley in 1949. He was quite prepared to increase pensions-
– Why didn’t he ?
– Mr. Chifley approached the 1949 general election as a believer in such a thing as political honesty. He did not want it to be considered that the Labour party was dishonest, and he did not want the Labour party to be charged with buying votes by offering a bribe to pensioners. As truly as I stand here to-night, had the Labour party been returned to office in 1949 the pensioners would have received a substantial increase in the rate of their pensions. That is recognized by every honorable member of the Labour party who is in a position to know the facts about the matter. Suppose we grant that the Labour party in 1949 did fail to grant an increase of pension rates. Let us forget what has happened in the past. Would the honorable member for Bennelong be prepared to restore to the pensions the value that they had in 1948?
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order! I must ask honorable members to give the honorable member for East Sydney a fair hearing. The honorable member is entitled to be heard in silence and without interruption. Those remarks apply to honorable members at the table as well as to those on the benches.
– The Government’s proposal will do little to restore the value of the pensions to what it was when Labour held office. Let us examine the exact position of the pensioner, and consider the increased pension that will be provided under this legislation. It will be £3 7s. 6d. a week. Assume that a pensioner is allowed to have three meals a day or 21 meals a week. Everybody will agree that a meal cannot be purchased to-day for 2s. because in fact a cup of tea costs 9d., but assume that the pensioner pays 2s. for each of his 21 meals. That would cost him 42s. a week. If he were able to get a room for 20s. a week he would be fortunate, because most people do not want to let rooms to old or invalid persons. His rent and his food would thus cost him £3 2s. a week and he would therefore have 5s. 6d. remaining out of his pension. Out of that sum he would have to provide himself with smokes, if he could, a glass of drink on occasions, which he would be entitled to, and also fares, entertainment, and clothes.
A holiday, of course, would be out of the question. I suggest to honorable members on the Government side who may follow me in this debate that they should work out a pensioner’s budget ,to try to prove whether he could live on £3 7s. 6d. a week. I suggest that no person whose income is £3 7s. 6d. a week could have anything but a poor existence. Yet these pensioners are the people who in the past produced our wealth.
Throughout the speech of the Minister for Social Services I noticed that the honorable gentleman dealt with the pensioners as though they all earned the 30s. a week which the act permits them to earn. The Minister, in his calcula-tions, added 30s. a week to the pension of a single man and £3 a week to the combined pensions of a married couple. The Minister cannot deny that at least 80 per cent, of the pensioners receive nothing, or merely a few shillings a week, in addition to the pension. Why did not the Minister deal with the great majority of the pensioners who have no income and are therefore the ones more urgently in need of help ? They mostly live alone, and are completely dependent on their pensions. Does the Minister believe that they should depend for their clothing on jumble sales or the left-offs of friends, or does he consider that they are entitled to live as ordinary human beings ? Who wilL suggest that this country cannot afford to feed and clothe its people properly? If the pension be increased to a reasonable rate there will not be a terrific demand for materials in short supply, because pensioners will even then be not in a position to afford luxurious motor cars or expensive furs. They will not spend their money on such things. They will spend it on food and clothing and other necessaries of life. Australia is a great productive country which produces an abundance of food - or it should be doing so - and it is surely able to provide a reasonable standard of living for those unfortunate people who have to accept the pension. The Government is still basing its approach to pensions on the amount it considers the country can afford to pay.
I would not presume to say what percentage of the basic wage the pension should be, because that would probably be a matter for proper investigation having regard to the needs and problems of the pensioners. If it were made 40 per cent, it would be only 2 per cent, more than was actually being paid in 1948, when the pension bore the highest percentage of the basic wage in the history of pensions. If it were made 40 per cent, of the basic wage it would amount to £4 14s. a week, and I think that that amount in itself is not such a tremendous increase. It would merely afford an existence to the pensioners. The Government and the country can easily afford to pay the pensioners that amount. I shall now consider the actions of anti-Labour governments in the past. The Chifley Labour Government established a new system in this country in regard to social services payments. It imposed a social welfare tax, and the money so raised was placed in a separate fund. That was done because the Government knew that whenever the revenues of a nation decline the first class of people to be attacked by tory governments are the unfortunate pensioners because they compose the weakest section of the community. They have their own organizations, but because they are to-day non-producers they cannot exert the same pressure on the Government as other sections can. Therefore, if the present depression in the country increases, this Government, will increase its attack correspondingly on the conditions of the pensioners. Honorable members should read the journals of our various financial institutions. They will then discover that these organizations are already talking about introducing another Premiers plan under which everybody will be asked to make some sacrifice - the workers,, the pensioners, and so on. Then honorable members will find that as the depression deepens there will be a demand by the Government for another Premiers plan, and that that demand -will be supported by the various organizations that support the Government outside this House. When the revenue begins to shrink the Government will claim that it. cannot increase taxa tion. If that claim were made I should ask, “Why not?”
The Labour party objects to the incidence of taxation. This Government lias proceeded to ,tax the workers more heavily than its predecessors and has destroyed incentive to earn. What would he wrong with the Government going ahead with the scheme that it announced in 1949 for imposing an excess profits tax? Why should not the land tax he left alone? There are still many very wealthy undertakings in this country, despite all the Government’s protests to the contrary. Many such undertakings are paying dividends of 30 per cent., 40 per cent, and more. But the Government persists in assuring us that it cannot impose any heavier taxation. I remember that when revenues shrank in past days anti-Labour governments were prepared to make pensioners sign away their homes. Those governments “made the pensions a charge on the estates of the pensioners.
M’r. Curtin. - The Lyons Government did that.
– Yes, that was done by the Lyons Government. Because of that act many unfortunate people surrendered their pensions. I well recollect members of the anti-Labour parties in. this country showing their delight because certain old people had decided that they would surrender their pensions rather than submit to the injustice of the action of the Government in making the pensions a charge on their estates. Honorable members will remember how the government of thai day humiliated the poor unfortunate pensioners by chasing up even their married children and putting them through a most rigid ‘examination to ascertain whether they could contribute to the upkeep of their aged or invalid parents. AntiLabour governments will adopt the same attitude again if our revenue shrinks and one of the first things that they will do will be to reduce the pension rates. That is why the Government proposes, in my opinion dishonestly, to absorb what is known as the National Welfare Fund into the general revenue fund. It will become indistinguishable from other revenue, and nobody will know exactly how the fund stands at any particular time. The Minister for Social Services must be aware that it is dishonest for “a Government to levy a tax for a definite purpose and then, after the tax has been accepted by the people, pay the proceeds into general revenue instead of into the special fund established for the purpose.
I hope at least that the Government will not reject the proposal in the amendment of the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) to make the increased rates of pension effective retrospectively to the 1st July. I shall be interested to hear the views of the Government on the practicability of this proposal. I know of nothing that should prevent it from being put into effect. However, the Government invariably refuses to make benefits retrospective when they apply to unfortunate members of the community such as pensioners. No doubt honorable members on’ the Government side of the House recollect the Nicholas report, which dealt with the salaries and allowances of members of this Parliament. There was no difficulty about making the increased payments that were adopted on the strength of that report effective retrospectively, and there ought to be no difficulty about dating back increased pensions payments to the 1st July last. In fact, I think that the Opposition has been rather moderate in proposing that date.
I refer now to the means test. The Labour party has declared that its policy is to eliminate the means test gradually as circumstances permit. This Government does not propose to do anything about the means test. Its supporters talk glibly about rewarding for their thrift persons who have contributed to superannuation funds or have otherwise provided for the future, but they have done nothing to enable such persons to benefit from the proposed increase of pensions rates. If the means test is to apply in relation to social services benefits, it should apply also to pensions that are paid in accordance with the terms of the Nicholas committee’s recommendations, especially those for Prime Ministers and ex-Prime Ministers, in respect of which no contribution is made by the recipient.
The Minister may twist the figures as he likes, but the fact remains that the
Government is asking Australian families to accept a reduced standard of living. The honorable gentleman referred in his second-reading speech to the situation of an invalid pensioner with a wife who was also receiving an invalid pension, and two dependent children. He said that such a pensioner would be able to have a total income of £10 9s. a week. Is it reasonable to expect a family of that size to exist on a total income that is £1 6s. a week less than the basic wage in New South Wales?
– If any of them can earn extra money !
– Yes, they can obtain that income only if they are able to supplement the pension.
– Where could any of them get a job now ?
– As the honorable member suggests, it is not an easy matter in these days for anybody to find work. Able-bodied men are having difficulty in obtaining jobs. I remind the Government and its supporters that it was a Labour government that amended the provision that a person must be 100 per cent, totally and permanently incapacitated in order to qualify for the invalid pension. We realized that it was a ridiculous provision and that it prevented many deserving persons from obtaining a benefit to which they should have been entitled. Therefore, we reduced the level of incapacity to 85 per cent. The effect of the provision now is that an invalid pensioner is permitted to augment his pension by his own efforts as long as he remains, according to medical opinion, 85 per cent, or more incapacitated.
– An invalid pensioner could not earn much to-day.
– That is true, but technically he is permitted to earn a little income in addition to his pension. Unfortunately, as a result of the method of administering the provision, pensioners who have been fooled into the belief that they may add to their pension by way of earnings are entirely deprived of the benefit because, as soon as they begin to earn an income of any consequence, they are hauled up for a medical review and their names are struck off the pension list.
Many unfortunate Australians cannot obtain work to-day. A man cannot qualify for the age pension until he is 65 years old, but what happens to an unskilled worker if he loses his job before he attains the pensionable age? In my opinion, an unskilled man 55 years of age would find it impossible to get work to-day. But the Government expects such unfortunate individuals to exist for a period of ten years on an income of £2 10s. a week, which is less than is paid to a pensioner. All workers should be provided at least with the opportunity to live like human beings.
– Even men 45 years of age cannot find jobs to-day.
– That is true in many instances. However, I repeat that a man without special skill who has reached the age of 55 years cannot find work in Australia to-day. But ‘the Government is not concerned about such hardship. Everybody must be aware of the unfortunate situation of widows. Any increase of their .pension rate must be acceptable to them because it will afford some measure of relief. But why is thu Government so parsimonious toward them? These unfortunate women are more desperately in need of assistance than are many other sections of the community. The Government, which pretends to deal justly with the various sections of the community, continues to neglect widows but has no hesitation in handing back £7,000,000 a year to wealthy interests as a result of the abolition of the land tax. It contends that the land tax was imposed originally for the purpose of breaking up big estates but that it did not succeed in doing so. The land tax, as every honorable member knows, was paid largely by breweries, newspaper companies, banks, insurance companies and big retail stores in the various cities. Those organizations are receiving inflated profits to-day and would not have suffered the slightest hardship or difficulty if the land tax had not been abolished.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not intend to follow the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) through all his mudslinging and filthy insinuations -
– Order !
– The people are heartily sick and tired of listening to the honorable member for East Sydney, who is never able to speak pleasantly about anybody or to admit the worth of any action of the Government. However, I cannot let ‘him get away with certain inaccuracies and untruths-
– Order ! The honorable member may not attribute untruths to another honorable member.
– ‘I cannot allow the honorable member to get away with certain inaccuracies that would certainly mislead the people if they believed them. The first inaccurate statement made by the honorable member contained the implication that the age pension wa3 introduced by the Labour party. Nothing could be further from the truth. The age pension was introduced in 1909 by a Liberal government. That was followed six months later by the introduction of the invalid pension. The maternity allowance was introduced in 1912; child endowment was introduced by a Liberal Government in 1941, and child endowment for the first child was introduced by the Menzies Government in 1950. That shows how inaccurate is the suggestion of the honorable member for East Sydney that Labour has been responsible for the social services of this country. His next, inaccurate and grossly misleading claim was that a Labour government had raised the age pension to 38 per cent, of the basic wage. At no time while Labour was in office did it raise the age pension to 38 per cent, of the basic wage or anything like it. I have before me the official computation of the relationship of the age pension to the basic wage throughout the years. It shows that, in 1949, just before Labour relinquished office, the age pension was 33 per cent, of the basic wage. That is quite different from 38 per cent, of the basic wage. I repeat that never during the whole of Labour’s term of office was the pension 38 per cent, of the basic wage or anything like it.
I come now to the statement that the Labour party granted increases of pensions payments. On the 14th June, 1949, “while Labour was still in office, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) asked the following question: - 1 ask the Treasurer whether the Government intends to increase the rate of age and invalid pensions. If so, will the increase be between 3s. and 5s. a week, as suggested in the press, or will the Government ensure that the new rate shall have some practical relation to the cost of living?
The reply of the then Treasurer, Mr. Chifley, was as follows : - 2so consideration has been given to a further increase of pension rates. The Government considered this subject not long ago-
Actually it was nine months earlier - and made a general increase, and it is unlikely that a further increase will be considered so soon after that. The law provided at one time that pension rates must be related to the cost of living and must rise or fall according to variations of the cost of living index figures. However, when “ C “ series index figures fell about three years ago, there was a great protest against any reduction of pensions. As a result, the provision that related pensions to the cost of living was removed from the law. Therefore, the pension rates are not now affected by the cost of living.
The truth is that, in 1949, the Chifley Government did not increase pensions by as much as one penny. Further, the Chifley Government refused to tie the pensions rate to the cost of living index. The age pension had been related to that index by legislation introduced by an earlier Menzies Government, and it was the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) who, while Labour was in office, introduced the measure which detached the pension from the cost of living index. What utter humbug it is therefore for Labour now to come forward with this amendment urging increased pensions to meet the higher cost of living! Had honorable members opposite left on the statute-book the legislation that was placed there by the Menzies Government, the pensions rate would still be tied to the C series index. The honorable member for East Sydney claimed that Labour’s policy was gradually to abolish, the means test. Surely we are entitled to ask him why, during the eight years of Labour rule, when he was a senior Minister, neither he nor his party did anything either to abolish or to ease the means test.
I wish now to refer to a statement made earlier to-night by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) who moved the amendment that we are now discussing. The honorable- member worked out a sum using three different formulas, and on each occasion he produced a different answer. First, he said that the pensions rate should be related to the basic wage, and his sum, based on such a relationship, produced the pensions figure of £4 9s. a week. He then said that the .pensions should be related to the C series index. He proceeded to work, out another sum using that formula, and he arrived at the figure of £3 13s. 6d. a week. Finally, he worked out the same sum using still another formula, and arrived at the figure of £4 a week. What does the honorable member want? He succeeded only in proving either that his mathematics are very bad, or that it would be idiotic to tie the pensions to one of the indices that he mentioned. It is quite clear from this amendment that the Labour party at present is opposed to the abolition of the means test. I am sure that fact will come as a great shock to the hundreds of thousands of people who are eagerly looking for the early abolition of the means test. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro also made the completely inaccurate statement that there was no indication in the Minister’s speech of any intention to abolish the means test. On the contrary, the. Minister said in the clearest and most definite terms -
I have said that it is my earnest wish to see the means test abolished while I hold the portfolio for Minister for Social Services. That is still my earnest wish, and I hoped to see it fulfilled.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! Once again I must insist on silence. These rumblings like chain earthquakes that come from time to time from either side of the House, according to who is addressing the chamber, are not assisting proceedings at all. Honorable members shall maintain silence or retire from the chamber.
– In view of the definite statement by the Minister to which I have referred, it is most unkind to the thousands of old pepole who are anxiously looking forward to the abolition of the means test for a Labour spokesman to make the wilful misstatement that the Minister said nothing about the abolition of the means test. I pay a sincere tribute to the magnificent work that has been done by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) since he has held that portfolio. He has shown the truest sympathy with and understanding of the aged people. He has completely transformed the outlook of the officers of his department, and has made it now an entirely “ service “ . department. One of the earliest acts of the Minister was to tell the officers of his department that their job was not to save money but to ensure that every elderly person should receive his just entitlement. Every man or woman who calls at the Department of Social Services in Adelaide is treated with the utmost courtesy and is given the greatest assistance at all times, and the officers go out of their way to ensure that old people shall receive every penny of the amount to which they are entitled, even though, through ignorance, they have not claimed the full sum.
The statement of the Minister that he wishes to see the abolition of the means test while he holds .the portfolio of Social Services must have been heard by 1,000,000 people throughout Australia with the greatest satisfaction and hope. There is nothing that the people desire more at the present time than the abolition of the means test. Approximately 500,000 public servants - servants of the Commonwealth, the States or local governing bodies - are, by virtue of their contributions .to superannuation funds, rendering themselves ineligible for the age pension upon their retirement. Approximately 240,000 persons are members of private provident funds, and by their thrift are cheating or depriving themselves of the pension. Another 23,000 persons who contribute to the miners’ pension fund are in a similar position. I am sure that the honorablemember for Hunter (Mr. James), who at all times exhibits a great interest in miners’ affairs, realizes the harshness of the provision whereby contributors to the miners’ pension fund are, by their thrift, depriving themselves of the age pension. I regret that it is not possible for the Government to abolish the means test at the present time, but I am gratified to note that, under this bill, the means test will be liberalized in many directions. The first is in respect of permissible income. The Minister stated in his secondreading speech -
The means test will be liberalized by permitting all pensioners to have additional permissible income of 10s. a week for each dependent child together with the present permissible income of 30s. a week, before the rate of pension is affected. Then an invalid pensioner, his wife and two children may have a total income of £10 9s. a week including pension payments.
M.r. Costa. - How many pensioners have children under the age of sixteen years ?
– The honora.ble member for Banks (Mr. Costa) may not be aware of the position, but .those of us who move among the aged and the sick know that many pensioners, particularly invalid pensioners, have children under the age of sixteen years. Those persons will derive great benefit from this modification of the means test.
The Minister ha3 also explained that the means test in respect of widows will be modified. He said - -
Widows who have one or more dependent children will also receive an increase of 7s. 6d. a week. This will give to such a widow a pension of £3 I2s. 6(1. a week. In addition, she will receive endowment and share in the liberalization of permissible income in respect of dependent children. She may, if she has one child, receive an income of £5 17s. 6d. of which £3 17s. 6d. will be received from the Commonwealth.
The Minister proudly announced the abolition of the means test in respect of a class of permanently blind persons, in the following words : -
For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Social Services a pension is to ‘be made payable to a class of persons free of a means test. I refer to the payment of a pension of at least £3 .a week free of a means test to all qualified persons in the Commonwealth sixteen years of age or over who are permanently blind and who are not in receipt of a war pension for the same disability.
A permanently blind person who seeks a pension in excess of £3 a week, will be required to comply with the provisions of the means test. Applicants for the sickness benefit have not been overlooked in this bill. The Minister stated -
For sickness benefit purposes income received from an approved friendly or similar society has always received favourable treatment hi that £1 of it is completely exempt from the operation of the means test. This amount will be doubled to £2.
That is a valuable concession to thrifty persons who have insured themselves in respect of the expenses incurred because of accident or sickness. The means test has also been modified in another direction. The Minister explained the position in the following words: -
In accordance with the Government’s policy of encouraging people to make provision for the costs of hospitalization by taking out hospital insurance, the means test will be liberalized by excluding from income those payments made by organizations registered under the Hospital Benefits Act or its Regulations where such payments are made direct to a hospital or where they are made by an organization to a person to reimburse him for hospital expenses paid. It is unjust that a person should be penalized by receiving a reduced pension or benefit when, because of his own thrift, he has endeavoured to protect himself against the devastating costs of illness and accident. The existing provisions have had a detrimental effect on hospital finance as persons were reluctant to insure knowing that their insurances would be treated as income for the purpose of the means test. [Quorum formed.~
– Before I call upon the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) to resume his speech, I direct the attention of the House to the fact that during the greater part of the sitting today a quorum has not been present in the chamber. At intervals of approximately five minutes throughout the sittings I have taken note of the number of members present. I shall cite the figures if honorable members want to hear them. If honorable members are not interested in what is going on in the chamber they should complete the Government’s business by passing the measure now before the House.
– I have demonstrated chat this bill eases the means test in five different ways. Since this Government lias been in office it has eased the means test in two other respects; first, by increasing the property disqualification from £750 to £1,000, and in the case of widows from £1,000 to £1,250, and, secondly, by exempting from the provisions of the means test insurance policies to a surrender value of £750. Although we are disappointed that the Government has not been able completely to abolish the means test, we all are extremely grateful to it for the manner in which it has eased the provisions of the means test. The Minister for Social Services throughout his second-reading speech revealed his determination to ensure that, before he relinquishes his portfolio, which he has adorned with great distinction, the means test shall be abolished.
As long as the means test provisions remain in the law thrift will be discouraged. As each year goes by governments will have greater difficulty in inducing people to work and save if we continue to penalize thrift by depriving the thrifty of the age pension. I shall cite two examples of the harshness of the means test. Two aged persons in my electorate, who had lived in the same house for more than 90 years, had to be admitted to hospital because of their advanced years. Upon admission they were deprived of the age pension because the house which they owned was valued at more than £1,000. The second example relates to the experience of an old resident of the Eventide Home in my electorate, who bought a 5s. ticket in a lottery and was fortunate enough to win a prize. Imagine the feelings of the poor old man when suddenly he found himself in possession of a substantial sum of money. In his delight at his win he generously gave £100 each to his nephew and neice, only to learn a week later that because he possessed the money he would be deprived of the age pension.
This is not a party political matter. It is wicked and cruel that Opposition members should use the aged as a party political shuttlecock. I remind them that the means test was in operation during the eight years in which Labour was in office, but that they did nothing about it. Since the present Government has been in office, particularly since the honorable member for Denison (Mr.. Townley) has been Minister for Social Services, the Government has made very great efforts to ease the means test. I am confident that the Minister will realize his ambition to see the means test abolished before he relinquishes office. I shall be very disappointed if, before I cease to be a member of this Parliament, the means test is not abolished. As long as I remain here I shall continue to reiterate my view that the means test is a most iniquitous part of our social services legislation and that it should be abolished. It is a blot upon Australia’s otherwise magnificent record in the field of social services. I trust that every honorable member will rally to the support of the Minister. ‘ I was distressed to learn during the debate on this bill to-night that Opposition members are not prepared to support him. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro merely sought the liberalization of the means test provisions. We want the means test to be abolished; Opposition members merely want its provisions to be liberalized. If Labour’s record during its eight years of office is any indication of the liberalism of Opposition members, the gesture made to-night by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has meant nothing. Honorable members on this side of the House are resolute in their determination to abolish the means test as early as possible.
– I support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). At the outset of my remarks I wish to correct some misapprehensions under which the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) appears to labour. It was with some astonishment that I learned that not only does he suffer from misapprehensions on this subject but also that he has been misinformed about it. If he will examine the Hansard record of the debates that took place in 1909 he will learn that the age pension was introduced on the 1st July of that year as the result of an understanding reached between the Labour party and the Ministry of the day.
– Nearly 50 years ago !
– That may be so, but let us establish these facts clearly in our minds. Let us not level untrue charges at one another. I may have misunderstood the honorable member, but I was under the impression that he said that the age pension and the maternity allowance had been introduced by a Liberal government. The fact is that invalid pensions were first introduced on the 15th December, 1910, during the period of office of the Fisher Labour Government. Later, on the 10th December, 1912, the Fisher Government introduced the maternity allowance. In view of the misleading statements that have been made by some honorable members opposite it may be appropriate for me to give to the House a brief history of this matter.
In 1912, Australia was regarded as the leading country in the matter of social services. Successively, age and invalid pensions and the maternity allowance were introduced. The early years of this century witnessed remarkable achievements in Australia in the field of social services. Between 1912 and 1941 there was a gap when no additional social services were granted to the people. The nation seemed to have started the provision of social services benefits with a spurt, had reached a certain distance and had then grown cold, and lost interest in social services. The first break in that long period took place on the 1st July, 1941, when a non-Labour government introduced child endowment. A sum of 5s. a week was paid from that date in respect of all children except the first in each family up to a specified age. That child endowment payment was introduced not as an extension of social services but because of a plain intimation by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that unless child endowment was introduced by the Government, the court would have no alternative but to increase wages by 6s. a week. On the 1st July, 1941, child endowment was introduced. As a consequence, the application that was then before the court for an increase of the basic wage was not pressed further and was dismissed.
I shall now remind honorable members of the progress of social services between 1942 and 1949. Rapid extension of social services took place in that period. Many persons and classes of individuals who hitherto had had no protection came within the scope of social services provisions because of decisions of the Curtin and Chifley Labour governments. In 1942, widows’ pensions were introduced. They were followed in 1944 by the introduction of unemployment and sickness benefits. About the same time allowances were made to the wives and children of invalid pensioners and funeral benefits were introduced. In 194S, an act was passed providing for the rehabilitation of the physically handicapped. In a period of seven years when the nation had to face greater strains and stresses than it had faced at any other time in its history, there was a sudden, forward move in social services and a gradual improvement of the benefits that were provided for those people who needed a minimum income but who had been overlooked previously in federal legislation. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has said that the Labour party did nothing to ease the means test. I believe that he made that remark honestly but he was misinformed. If the honorable member studies the history of Australia between 1941 and 1949, he will discover that gradually, but nevertheless surely, the Curtin and Chifley Labour governments did a great deal by increasing to £750 the value of property that could be owned by an invalid or age pensioner. He will find also that the permissible income of pensioners was gradually increased until it reached 30s. a week. The honorable member will discover also that the Labour party’s policy of gradually mitigating the means test provisions until such rime as the means test could he abolished altogether, was vigorously applied. I shall now direct my attention to some of the provisions that are now before the House.
– The honorable member’s history of social services is very incomplete.
– The progress of social services* legislation1 in any country indicates to the fullest possible extent its trend in respect of humanitarian thought. The question of how the national income of a community can be redistributed so as to give minimum incomes to those who are most in need of them has exercised the minds of most governments in civilized countries. At times it has been a. major matter of discussion in international organizations and conferences. I recall that in 1944 the International Labour Conference in Philadelphia, at which 42 nations were represented, devoted almost the whole of its time to ascertaining the probable social position of the mass of ‘the people in the different countries when the second world war ended. The unanimous opinion of that conference pf -representatives of governments, employers and workers was that the one great charge that must be laid on the shoulders of the nations and the o’ne big responsibility that they must face was that of ensuring that minimum incomes should be available to all sections of the people and particularly to those who, through no fault of their own, were unable to earn an income of any description. At that conference, the Philadelphia Charter was drafted and thu nations resolved that they would fight destitution and want within their own borders. A perusal of the decisions that were made by that conference indicates the comprehensive planning that was agreed upon by the nations to provide for the peoples of all countries minimum incomes that would at least keep them free from fear of want and destitution. Therefore I, say that when we are dealing with social legislation of this description, we are putting to the test the capacity of our own country to live up to the principles that, have emanated from advanced political thought since the dawn of this century. I think it can pe said with truth and sincerity that the , obligation of a nation, is to give to the best of its ability to those who most require assistance from the general production of the community. .As a. nation expands andprospers and its productivity grows, the amount that should be given to the people who are unable to provide ;ah income for themselves should not proportionately decrease. Instead, they should share in the general prosperity of the community by an increase of social services that are available to them.. I believe that in the measure that is before the House, the full extent to w’hich this country might gO in assisting the aged, invalid and others in need of assistance in the community, has not been reached. Therefore I believe that in some respects this bill must be criticized. The increasesthat are given in the bill are most welcome. They mean that something additional is being given in a monetary sense. But that does not necessarily imply that the standard of living that the recipients have enjoyed previously is being maintained. It is because I consider that the bill fails to satisfy those particular requirements that I support the amendment. I support it, also, because the proposed increases are inadequate, and because the easing of the means test has been only limited. I welcome the easement of the means test as outlined by the Minister, which has been spoken of so glowingly by the honorable member for Sturt. Nevertheless, I consider that the Government should have gone muchfurther to mitigate the means test than is provided for in the Bill. I suggest, for instance, that if a Certain, statute which is shortly tq be repealed, the Land Tax Abi, were kept in operation to assistin the provision of more liberal social services’ to the’ people we could go much further in this direction than is provided, for -in the Bill.
A good deal has been said in relation to a yard-stick by which we might measure the rate of pensions. Objection has been raised to the use of the basic wage as a yard-stick.. The basic wage might well be used for the purpose, because it is the amount that the courts of this land have decided shall be the minimum “wage tb be paid tb any male adult in industry. It establishes the Minimum standard’ foi’ a large ‘number of Australian workers. We might well ask, “ Can we not use’ the basic wage as a guide to establish fair and’ appropriate rates of social services benefits? “ I have prepared a statement showing the relationship of the rate df age anc! invalid pensions to the basic wage. With the the statement in Hansard. It is aft consent of the House I incorporate follows: -
This very simple statement shows the progress that has been made in relation to pensions. It also indicates the extent to which we have applied the principle - whichI believe to be the correct one - that as a community expands and prospers, and its productivity grows, the payments to pensioners should be increased. The weekly amount of age and invalid pensions shown in the statement is the weekly amount that was payable on the 30th June of each year. Likewise, the percentage shown of pension to the basic wage was the percentage on the last day of each financial year. From 1910 to 1921 the rate of pension was approximately 19 per cent, of the basic wage. It varied from 16.3 per cent, to 21.9 per cent. The statement shows quite clearly that from 1922 onwards there has been a tendency to increase the percentage of the pension to the basic wage. The percentage increased from ID. 4 per cent, in 1922 to 34.3 per cent, in 1949. I suggest that these figures do not in any way conflict with the figures that have already been submitted to the House.
There is another way in which to compare the figures. In October, 1948, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), has mentioned when an increase of pension to 42s. 6d. a week was granted, the rate was 39 per cent, of the basic wage, which at that time was £5 16s. a week. The pension, of £3 7s. 6d. a week proposed by this legislation, which will come into operation shortly, will be 29.7 per cent, of the basic wage of £11 7s. a week, which has applied since the’ 1st August last. Until 1949 the percentage of pension to basic wage rose steadily, but since 1949, unfortunately, it has decreased. In 1949, the age and invalid pension was 34.3 per cent, of the basic wage; in 1950, 31.5 per cent.; in 1951, 28.8 per cent, and at the 30th June last, 27.8 per cent. When the new rate comes into operation the pension will be 29.7 per cent, of the basic wage.
– Plus free medical treatment and free medicine.
– I am dealing only with the percentage of pension to the basic wage. I am not dealing with the means test or anything else. As I have stated, the new rate of pension will be equal to 29.7 per cent, of the basic wage. By the 30th June of next year, if prices continue to rise, the pension will probably be less than 27.8 per cent, of the basic wage, as it is at present.
– But if prices fall, the reverse will be the case.
– It should be our aim to increase social services benefits. As the Minister for Social Services has pointed out, a re-distribution of the national income may become necessary, because many people who are contributing to the National Welfare Fund do not receive a benefit from it. It is desirable, as the prosperity of a community increases, to preserve the purchasing power of the recipients of social services benefits. If their purchasing power declines it is a very had thing for the community as a whole.
I have also prepared a statement in relation to unemployment and sickness benefits. With the approval of the House, I incorporate it in Hansard. The statement is as follows: -
When unemployment and sickness benefits were introduced on the 1st July, 1945, the benefit provided for a man was £1 5s. a week. In addition, an allowance of £1 a week was made to his wife, and 5s. a week for one child. The payment to the man was equal to 26 per cent, of the then basic’ wage of £4 16s. a week, and the allowance to his wife was equal to 21 per cent, of the basic wage. A payment of 5s. a week was made in respect of one child, and that payment represented 5.2 per cent, of the then basic wage. The present proposals are that the sum of £1 as. shall be increased to £2 lC=!., that the payment in respect of the wife shall be increased to £2, and that the payment in respect of the child shall not be altered. A sum of £2 10s. represents 22 per cent, of the basic wage, a decrease of .4 per cent., and a sum of £2 represents 17.6 per cent, of the basic wage, a decrease of almost .4 per cent. If the standard of purchasing power applicable to 1945 were to be maintained, the man would receive a weekly payment of £2 19s. and his wife £2 7s., a total of £5 Cs.
I suggest that it is necessary at all costs to maintain the purchasing power of sick and unemployed workers who are temporarily deprived of the opportunity to work in industry. Nothing is more likely to have a disastrous effect upon the community than a loss of purchasing power, especially a large loss if many people are unemployed. I urge the Government to consider those matters again so that the very best results can be achieved by this legislation.
I suggest that the Government should make further abatements of the means test so as to give a fairer deal to pensioners. The permissible income of pensioners could, with justice, be increased. The increase would not cause harm to the community, but, on the contrary, would be of great advantage to it. It would be reasonable to permit persons who are in receipt of superannuation payments also to draw the age pension. The Minister, in his second reading speech, said a great deal about thrift. I am sure he will agree with me that people who have made provision for their old age and also, by their taxes, have contributed to the National Welfare Fund, from which social services payments are made, should not be deprived of the right to a pension paid under the social services legislation, merely because they have been wise and thrifty enough to contribute to a provident fund or a superannuation scheme.
– The Chifley Government would not agree with that.
– I am under the impression that this Government considers itself to be much better than the Chifley Government. Therefore, we expect it to do things that the Chifley Government did not do. Having regard to the great promises that have been made by the Government parties and to the high ideals which honorable gentlemen express every now and again, it is astonishing that, whenever we ask the Government to do something, it tries to pass the buck to somebody else. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric j. Harrison) should explain what the Government proposes to do in this matter. It is a government which says that it believes in giving the people a fair go. I believe that the permissible income of pensioners should be increased, because to-day 30s. a week does not go very far. Let me cite some figures which, I am certain, will be of assistance to the Minister. In 1948, an age pensioner and his wife received a joint pension of 75s. a week and had a permissible income of £3 a week, making a total of £6 15s. a week. The basic wage then was £5 14s. a week. Therefore, a married couple in receipt of the age pension and earning the permissible income received 21s. a week more than the basic wage. In 1949, a man and his wife received a combined pension of £4 5s. a week and had a permissible income of £3 a week, makins; a total weekly sum of £7 5s. The basic wage then was £6 4s. a week, so their total permissible weekly income was 2ls. more than the basic wage. In 1950, the rate of pension for a married couple was £4 5s. a week and the permissible income was £3 a week, making a total of £7 5s. a week. The basie wa.g:i then was £7 2s. a week, so their total weekly income was 3s. more than the basic wage. In the last two years, the position has deteriorated considerably. Earlier in 1952, the combined pension of a husband and wife was £6 a week and their permissible income was £3, a total of £9 a week. The basic wage then was £10 16s. a week, so their total weekly income was 36s. a week less than the basic wage. Under the present proposals, the combined pension of a husband and wife will be £6 15s. a week and their permissible income will be £3 a week, a total of £9 15s. a week. The basic wage is £11 7s. a week, or 32s. a week more than their combined income. If the permissible income is raised many pensioners will be able to take their places in industry especially in the summer months and earn additional money as well as add to industrial output.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I support the bill and oppose the amendment. We have listened to facts, figures, ancient history and claims of party generosity. The important fact is that this bill provides for substantial increases of social services payments, especially of age and invalid pensions. I do not propose to go over the ground that has been traversed by previous speakers. I am eager for this measure to be placed on the statute-book as soon as possible so that pensioners may receive the increased payments that they need. I hope this Government will follow the example that was set in 1949 by the late Mr. Chifley, Referring to social services legislation introduced in that year, he said that his Government had considered the position, that it was responsible for raising the necessary money and for making the appropriate payments, and that he would not accept any amendments. I hope that this measure will be disposed of in a similar fashion, so that the pensioners may get their additional payments quickly.
The budget for this year is the third budget that has been presented since I have been a member of the Parliament. Each year, the Opposition has made what it has considered to be generous proposals, but I believe that most of what it has said has been complete humbug. I remember clearly that in 1950, before the budget for that year was brought before the Parliament, the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) presented a petition, signed by a number of pensioners in his electorate, which asked that age and invalid pensions be increased by 7s. 6d. a week. When the petition was presented, members of the Opposition cheered. Apparently they believed that 7s. 6d. a week was a large increase to which the Government could not agree. But, in fact, age and invalid pensions were increased by 7s. 6d. a week. On that occasion, we listened to the same kind of humbug as that to which we have listened to-night. During the general election campaign of 1951, the Labour party promised the pensioners that it would increase pensions by 10s. a week. Honorable gentlemen opposite must have believed that they were being very generous, and that that was an adequate increase.
– The people would not trust them.
– That is so. Subsequently, this Government increased pensions by 10s. a week, the exact sum mentioned by the Labour party in one of its rash promises. We listened to the same humbug in 1951 as we have heard to-night. The speeches of Opposition members during this debate have been of a type that has been heard from the Opposition time and time again. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) started his speech like a boa-constrictor about to slay. In that role he slimed the Minister (Mr. Townley) all over and then tried to swallow him. The honorable member started to speak gently so that people would say, “ What a nice man “. He worked his voice up to a shriek and shook his fist as he does in every speech that he makes in this House. His conduct did not astonish either honorable members or the public.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in his usual soap-box style, tried to tear the Government’s proposals to pieces. He suggested that the Government should reduce expenditure in order to pay more money to the pensioners but he did not say where expenditure should be reduced. I suggest that the first item of expenditure that he would want to reduce would be defence. What is the good of trying to establish social security if we have not security from external enemies?
– That is so much bunkum.
– If the empty vessel from Watson will be quiet for a while some people may be deceived into thinking that he has a brain. I believe that the Government has done its best in this matter. It has taken its other commitments into consideration. It has determined the amount of tax that can be levied and has proposed the payment of the highest rates possible to pensioners and other people who are entitled to social services. I believe that these people will be very grateful to the Government for the proposed increase of their rates. It is unfortunate that Opposition members believe that people should lean on the Government. They preached that principle during the eight years of their term of office. They talked about people’s rights but not about their responsibilities. They have revealed themselves to be completely irresponsible in connexion with matters of this nature. Now they have claimed that inflation is causing hardship to a number of people. I agree. But have they done anything to arrest the inflationary trend? They have not. During the debate on the Estimates the Opposition claimed that the members of the Labour party represented the age pensioners because they had more age pensioners in their electorates than had honorable members on this side of the House. Have they done anything for the age pensioners apart from paying them lip service, and trying to make party political capital out of them? Certainly not. They could assist age pensioners in many ways which would help them more than the receipt of additional money from the Government.
When I was in England recently I saw an article in the London Times about the action that had been taken by the Finsbury Borough Council to assist age pensioners. The council had realized that old people wanted more than food, money, and clothing. It considered that if these people received only those things they would become senile and a charge on the community, so it provided a building where people over 70 years of age could do light work, manufacturing certain articles. They would probably work only for two or three hours a week, but it gave to them an interest in life and provided them with additional income. The cost of operating the establishment was borne by the council and the old people were given an opportunity of avoiding loneliness and senility and their health was greatly improved. The council had a waiting list of people who wished to join this self-help scheme. If the guardians of the poor who sit opposite start a scheme such as that one in their electorates they will find plenty of cursed capitalists ready to help them. Such a scheme is not a charity but a genuine attempt to help people to help themselves. The honorable member for East Sydney referred to “ these unfortunate people “, and used that term a dozen times. They are certainly unfortunate if they have to depend on and listen to such people as the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. If honorable members want to help these people they will find that something can be done. The charitable organizations which seem to be despised by Opposition members would be very pleased to help in that direction. Opposition members tell us that they are great organizers. They were union organizers and they organized their way into the Parliament. Surely they could organize to help “ these unfortunate people “, as the honorable member for East Sydney called them. I support this bill and oppose the proposed amendment. I hope that the bill will be passed without much delay.
– I am sure that all honorable members of the Opposition would be prepared to help the people of whom we have heard so much during this debate. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) suggested that pensioners would benefit if they were worked as cheap labour from- 70 years of age onwards. For the last three years, Government supporters have advocated the abolition of the means test. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has told the House of a scheme under which pensioners would benefit from about 74 years of age until they were about 100 years of age. Australia is now producing more wealth than it has ever produced before. The primary producers, who are not concerned about the plight of the pensioners, are the very people who, year in and year out, receive Government subsidies worth millions of pounds. The honorable member for Gwydir said that there are plenty of institutions to care for pensioners. There are several institutions in my electorate which care for more than 200 aged people. The Little Sisters of the Poor at Randwick, in Sydney, care for 250 people, and the Salvation Army home at Marrickville and many other institutions also care for aged people. Other people are willing to slave in order to care for the old people who are the pioneers of this nation, but what is the Government prepared to do? Honorable members opposite would realize how dreadful the lives of poor and lonely old people are if they were to hear their stories of the hardships they have faced in order to rear their families decently, and of their sons, on whom they had relied for help in their old age, whom they have lost in war. Twenty years ago a non-Labour government started its ten years of misrule, which left many people unable to save for their old age.
We still hear of many injustices in relation to repatriation benefits. One man who visits my office at Glebe every Monday morning, walking with the aid of a stick, has in an envelope four inches of bone from his shin. The bone had to he removed as a result of war service. He receives a pension of £1 15s. 9d. a week. When he applied’ for an increase of pension the Repatriation Department informed him he was not entitled to an increase because he was not 100 per cent, incapacitated. He was unable to obtain a social services benefit for almost six weeks. The doctor who examined him told him that he could do pick and shovel work, although in actual fact the man cannot do hard work. Prom his scant pension he pays 19s. a week room rent. That is how ex-servicemen are treated by this Government. If the Government were sincere it would not ask any Australian man or woman to live on £3 7s. 6d. a week. How can people live on such an amount? We all agree that they can not do so. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) deserves to be congratulated, at least for extending sympathy to pensioners. But sympathy does not fill a person’s stomach! The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has told us that he favours the abolition of the means test. The Government does not intend to abolish the means test. If it did, it would move to abolish the test now, when foodstuffs cost twice as much as they did under the Chifley Labour Government so that the people are literally starving. The honorable member for Gwydir said that we should co-operate with the Government and do something for the age pensioners. The West Sydney Labour party electorate council has arranged a dance at the Sydney Town Hall on the 18th October in aid of pensioners. On the last occasion on which such a dance was held it netted £535. Even members of the Liberal party will be welcome at the dance, and the admission charge of 3s. that they pay will aid pensioners. I remind the House that theSydney City Council, which has noobligation, as the Government has, to aid pensioners, pays £4,000 every year for the relief of pensioners. Why does not the Government follow the example of the non-Labour Government of New Zealand, which honorable members .opposite frequently hold up to us as an example, by giving to. every pensioner a bonus of £10 at Christmas time? The Government is Liberal in name only, but, fortunately, it has not long to remain in’ office, a fact which provides the only ray of hope that the pensioners have. Pensioners know at least that by the end of another year the means test will have been abolished by a Labour government, and that they will enjoy their inherent rights as the people who made this country what it is. The professional politicians on the other side of the chamber know nothing of the needs of pensioners.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in this bill.
The following papers were presented : -
Copyright Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 76.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs ( 3 ) .
Designs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 77.
Patents Act - Regulations - -Statutory Rules 1 952, No. 74.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Repatriation Department - V. J. Bennett, A. T. Clements, J. M. Ellis, A. G. Grant, C. D. Jermyn, W. K. Manning.
Trade Marks Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 75.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Mf. Drury asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
During what period was the Honorable J. J. Maloney Australian Ambassador to Moscow ?
Bid he furnish a report to the Government in respect of hill term of office?
Was the report tabled in Parliament?
If nut, will he make public the contents pf the report?
h asked the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable, member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520910_reps_20_218/>.