22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question concerning cases that have come before our courts in which the United States spouse and the Australian spouse dispute the custody of their children. The honorable gentleman knows the type of case I refer to, where an attempt is made by one of the parents to spirit away a child. Those attempts have sometimes been successful because the court was not approached to issue an injunction or otherwise prevent such action. Can the Minister state what is the administrative machinery of his department for watching such cases with a view to preventing the possibility of injustice being done? Can he improve the procedure so that his department and the Attorney-General could be assured of having the matter dealt with by a court with jurisdiction before the act of leaving Australia is completed?
– In my second-reading speech last Thursday night when I introduced the Migration Bill I gave some attention to this matter. If the right honorable gentleman reads what I said he will see-
– I have read the speech and I want to know what is the present administrative machinery.
– Without taking up too much of the time of the House, because this matter cannot be dealt with shortly, I agree that the present situation is far from satisfactory. There have been two recent cases - one early this year and one in 1956 - when the existing laws have been quite fruitless in preventing children being spirited away, as the right honorable gentleman said. That is the very reason why the Government, in the consolidating and amending measure that I introduced last Thursday, is changing the law quite drastically and, I would hope, very usefully, in order to prevent these abuses in the future.
– Can the Minister for Defence say what progress is being made by the Allison committee in its review of the important question of pay and conditions of the services?
– The committee to which the honorable member refers has completed its discussions and the receiving of submissions from the services. Its report, I understand, has been completed and I hope to have it in my hands next week. It will, of course, be considered by the Government and the Government’s decisions will then be made known.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether the Government is planning to reduce the subsidy paid to Australian rifle clubs - a possibility which is viewed with alarm and concern by the 148,000 members of these clubs throughout Australia. Can the Minister give an assurance that the fine work of these clubs will not be curtailed? Does he recall that I have been discussing this matter with him over a period of about six months? Can he give me any further information on the subject?
– There is no proposal to deal with the question of the subsidy to rifle clubs, but I am giving consideration to various matters connected with them other than that. As the honorable member must know, the armed services will be changing from the current .303 rifle to the FN rifle next year. This, of course, will involve a change in the manufacture of ammunition, and many matters affecting rifle clubs will have to be considered. However, there is no determination in relation to these matters and at present there is no intention to deal in any way with the subsidy now paid.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that members of the Royal Australian Navy may have more than one tour of service of six months to one year in the Far East Strategic Reserve? Is he aware, also, that while away, they do not have the benefit of the provision of free passages and allowances for their families? Can the Minister say why Royal Australian Navy personnel in sea-going ships have been made ineligible to participate in benefits under the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956 and the War Service Homes Act 1956? Is it a fact that this
House passed these measures to give encouragement to these men who were prepared to join the senior service and defend our shores?
-The honorable member has raised a matter which was debated and investigated at considerable length before I took my present portfolio. The legislation to which he refers was brought down by the Government just about the time I took over the portfolio. In some inquiries which I then made, I found that the subject had been discussed between the service, the Repatriation Department and the Treasury, and for various reasons1 it was decided that those serving in the Far East Strategic Reserve would not be eligible for the benefits which the honorable member mentioned in his question. Recently, I have received representations from several honorable members - I recall that the honorable member for Braddon and the honorable member for Canning were among them - and as a result I promised to have another look into this matter in order to see whether further consideration could be given to it for the purposes mentioned by the honorable member.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that he had a discussion, over three weeks ago, with the New South Wales, Victorian and Queensland Ministers for Health on the resolutions carried at the conference of all State Ministers for Health last January? Does he still adhere to the view he expressed to me six weeks ago that no useful purpose would have been served by his attending the conference in January? Was any useful purpose served by his discussion with the Ministers three weeks ago? Is the discussion likely to result in any Commonwealth legislation or any statement by him to the House?
– I do not know whether I can remember all of that list of questions, I did have a conference a short time ago with the three Health Ministers mentioned by the honorable gentleman. I do adhere to my former view about attending a previous conference. I am not going to make any statement to the House as a result of the conference with the Ministers the other day. I believe that it was a useful conference.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the fall in the price of butter on the United Kingdom market will financially embarrass many Australian dairy farmers? Will the Minister consider, as a means of creating stability in the industry and providing for full production, an increase of the subsidy payment, so that the subsidy will cover a total amount of production greater than home consumption plus 20 per cent.?
– The Government has on several occasions considered the problems of the Australian primary industries resulting from the fall in commodity prices, particularly the prices of foodstuffs and other agricultural products. It will continue to give sympathetic consideration to problems that arise. I think the honorable gentleman knows that in accordance with this year’s arrangements, £13,500,000 is being applied to the dairying industry as a bounty, and that since this Government has been in office about £125,000,000 has been allotted to that industry. When this year’s arrangements were being considered by the Government, proposals were made for an increase in the subsidy as suggested, but they were not agreed to.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that last week, in reply to a question on notice, I was informed that the £70,000 Ebasco report on the Snowy Mountains scheme would not be tabled for debate by the Parliament? Will the Prime Minister explain why this is so, and say whether or not it is intended to make the report public?
– I was under the impression that I had answered a question on this matter last week. I said - I think in answer to a question by the honorable member for Mackellar - that we had no objection to the tabling of the report, but that it was a matter that had to be determined by the three governments which participated in getting it - the other two being those of Victoria and New South Wales. I said that we were getting in touch with them to find out whether they had any objection. We have none. So far, I do not know what their answer is, but I will find out. If they are agreeable, we will certainly make the report available.
– I direct to the Minister for External Affairs a question with reference to the settlement between the Suez Canal Company and the Egyptian Government. Some arrangements are being made for the payment of compensation to the shareholders of the company because of the nationalization of the canal by the Egyptian Government. Have the representatives of the Egyptian Government met the representatives of the company, and have they come to any agreement about compensation?
– This matter has been under active negotiation for some considerable time between representatives of the shareholders of the Suez Canal Company and the Egyptian Government. I may say that the International Bank offered the services of its representatives as mediators in these negotiations. I believe that a tentative agreement has been reached under which the Suez Canal Company will retain the assets and liabilities of the company outside Egypt and the Egyptian Government will retain the assets and liabilities inside Egypt. Speaking from memory, I believe that something over £28,000,000 sterling is to be paid by the Egyptian Government to the Suez Canal Company in the form of compensation. I understand that the proposal is still to be accepted at a general meeting of the Suez Canal Company. If and when that happens, I assume the agreement will be signed in Cairo at a relatively early date.
– Will that represent any loss to the shareholders?
– I am afraid I cannot answer that question in particular. The company is reputed to have very considerable assets outside the actual canal itself and it has assets in Egypt; but its assets outside Egypt and its liabilities will remain the responsibility of the company.
– I wish to address a question to the Postmaster-General. Some years ago I directed the Minister’s attention to the lack of space and amenities in the Sydney Mail Branch and the generally bad conditions there. The Minister then expressed his personal alarm at the situation, and said that a high priority had been given to the erection of a £4,000,000 building at Redfern for mail branch purposes. Will the Minister inform the House what has happened in the meantime to a project which he then considered urgent? What has delayed the start of this important and urgently-needed project?
– I think that when I replied to the honorable member previously on this matter, I told him that it would be some considerable time before the work was commenced. The position now is that preliminary plans and specifications are being drawn up for presentation to the Public Works Committee which will have to investigate the proposal first and pass it before the preparation of final plans and the erection of the building are started. It is the province of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, to make the final arrangements for the matter to be referred to the Public Works Committee, and I understand that he has that matter in hand now.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs with respect to the session of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East which was held at Kuala Lumpur in the first half of March last. Will the Minister indicate to the House the results of that session? Will a report be furnished by the formidable delegation from Australia which attended the conference?
– I had the privilege of leading the Australian delegation to the conference at Kuala Lumpur in the early part of March. It was a large conference attended by about 35 delegations and about 275 personnel. It was regarded in Asia as a most important conference, and was very largely attended by representatives from Asian countries and also by a number of non-Asian countries, including Australia. The subjects discussed covered a wide range of economic matters affecting the Asian countries, and especially those affecting the economy of the countries concerned. Attention was directed in particular to the deterioration in the overseas trading position of the Asian countries and in their overseas funds as a result of the drop in recent times in the prices obtained for their exported raw materials. I shall not bother the House with the details of the subjects that were covered in a report by the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East secretariat at Bangkok to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The report is not yet out, but I could make a copy of last year’s report available to the honorable gentleman as a sample. It will give him an idea of the range of economic subjects covered. As soon as the 1958 report is available, I will make it available to the honorable member and the House. We have a report from the Australian delegation’s point of view, but it has not been the practice to make such a report a public document.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs: Does he recall that I drew the attention of the House, probably in September of last year, to the case of a woman who had sustained injury from an accident in the home of a member of the staff of the United Kingdom High Commissioner’s Office, by whom she was employed? Because she was not covered by workers’ compensation, and because diplomatic privilege existed, this woman could obtain no recompense for her injury. Does the Minister recall that at that time he said that he would make whatever inquiries were within his power and that he would see what could be done to assist this young woman? In view of the fact that the accident occurred nearly two years ago and this young woman is still gravely handicapped because her health has been seriously impaired, will the right honorable gentleman take whatever action can be taken with the United Kingdom authorities in order to see whether some justice can be done?
– I recollect the case, although I cannot pretend that I have the facts in my mind at this moment. It is the responsibility of my department only to a limited extent, although I believe that the department is aware of the facts of the case. I shall certainly have the case looked at and, as far as possible, I shall advise the honorable gentleman how the matter stands.
– Some time ago, when I asked the Minister for Primary Industry whether it would be possible to have a national organization for the promotion of research into dairy products, he informed me that he was preparing a bill on the matter, ls the Minister going to present the bill this session, or must the industry continue to be a little bewildered by what might appear to be a lack of interest by the Government in the present butter position?
– This is the first time I have heard that the industry is a little bewildered. I have been in the closest contact with the Australian Dairy Industry Council and with the president of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, who is well aware of what is happening. As I have said before, proposals have been put to the Goverment and, as soon as a decision has been made, I shall make it public.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs: Is it a fact that the American Atomic Energy Commission advised the American Government, and other governments indirectly, that nuclear tests could be carried out secretly? Is the opposition of such governments to the ending of such tests partly influenced by that advice? Is it a fact that the American Atomic Energy Commission, in September, 1957, carried out tests with the so-called Ranier device to ascertain the distance at which the tests could be detected, but that no report was issued until last month, when it was stated that the tests could not be detected more than 250 miles away? Is it a fact that a number of scientific establishments had detected these tests as far away as Alaska and that the American Atomic Energy Commission finally admitted that the 250-mile claim was an inadvertent error? If the Minister is aware of this, will he inform the House what influence it has upon the ending of nuclear tests? If he is not aware of it, will he investigate the matter?
– The honorable member has asked a number of questions which have a highly technical content. I do not pretend to be able to give a specific reply to them. So far as my department has information on these subjects, I will certainly have the matter looked at and 1 will endeavour to inform the honorable gentleman.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Because of the incredible industrial, commercial and residential growth in the area surrounding Dandenong, which has placed an extremely heavy burden on telephone and postal services, as well as on the staff of the Postal Department, and which I know the Postmaster-General has been concerned to relieve, will the honorable gentleman accept an invitation to visit Dandenong, there to discuss with the shire council, the chamber of commerce and other interested bodies the progress of new works, and particularly the urgent need to build a new post office to replace the present building, which is nearly a century old?
– The honorable member has been constantly placing before me, over quite a long period, the need for increased telephone and post office services, particularly in the Dandenong area which, although I have not yet seen it, I know from his representations to be an area in which there is very great industrial development. Incidentally, I think I may claim - and no doubt the honorable member will agree - that the department has been able to assist materially in supplying, to some extent, the needs of that area. The honorable gentleman now asks whether I will pay a visit to the area, to see for myself. It so happens that I expect to be in Melbourne for a few days after the House rises, and I suggest to the honorable member that I meet him then and discuss with him a suitable date to make such a visit.
– Will the Prime Minister describe the respective duties to be performed by the occupant of the newlycreated position of public relations assistant, and those at present being attended to by the Prime Minister’s press secretary and the Government public relations officer? Will he state the particular function that will be carried out by the new officer which could not be undertaken by either his press secretary or the Government public relations officer? Will he also explain precisely what he meant by the statement, “ If there is anything to be said about Government policy, he will tell me about it, and I will make whatever statement is to be made “? Is it a fact that Mr. Robert Kennedy will act as the channel, or contact man, whereby the Prime Minister will be advised by big business of the Government’s policy? Is it also a fact that the future practice will be for Mr. Kennedy to prepare statements on Government policy which will then be delivered by the Prime Minister, who might in future be described as Australia’s Charlie McCarthy? Finally, is the position of public relations assistant to be a fulltime one, and what salary is to be paid?
– It is not at all surprising that I should need to have an addition to the public relations staff of my department. My present press secretary, who is very well known and extremely competent, is so fully occupied for the most part in preparing answers to the nonsense talked by the honorable member for East Sydney that I really thought I ought to have somebody who, without subtracting from the duties of my press secretary, could deal with some other matters which time does not at present permit to be dealt with.
– In view of reports that a truce is imminent between the government forces of Indonesia and dissident forces to our near north, can the Minister for External Affairs give to the House any further information on the activities of these forces?
– We have no information to confirm the report, to which the honorable gentleman has referred, of efforts to end the fighting in a truce.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. A few years ago, a French parliamentarian vanished while visiting his constituents in a French African colony, and his bones were not discovered until some time later. He had been eaten by his constituents! Can the Prime Minister assure the House that a similar fate has not overtaken the honorable member for Parramatta?
– I am happy to oblige the honorable member with a very short answer - “ Yes “.
Agreement wilh United Kingdom.
– J address to the Minister for Social Services a question concerning the regulations giving effect to the agreement with the United Kingdom on social security, which were tabled yesterday, and on which the Minister made a statement to the House. I think it would add point to my question if I were to preface it by saying that, in my opinion, the agreement is a great achievement, and constitutes the fulfilment of the very long deferred hopes of many thousands of people in both Australia and the United Kingdom. In view of the importance of this agreement, will the Minister consider arranging for its publication in some concise form for general distribution among the Australian people in order that they may inform their minds of conditions under the new agreement? If such a publication is prepared, will he have it made available in the United Kingdom, where, I am sure, it Would be of great value in attracting immigrants from that desirable source in accordance with our immigration policy?
– I can assure the honorable member that I will give his representations the most careful and the most favorable consideration. I am very pleased that he has found some satisfaction in the new reciprocal agreement on social services entered into between the people of Australia and the people of the United Kingdom. Agreements of this kind are not easy to achieve. The first such agreement was an experimental affair, the efficacy of which, so far as the people from the United Kingdom were concerned, depended very largely on their insurance status in that country, which governed their qualification for social service benefits in Australia. Quite obviously, that method of determining their qualification had serious disadvantages, particularly for married women who lost their husbands, because their entitlement depended on the insurance status of the husband. The new agreement now entered into accepts residence in one country as residence in the other for the purpose of social service benefits, and that, of course, will be of considerable advantage to some 730,000 people. For that reason, even if for no other, it is of tremendous importance in terms of social security. I will consider very carefully the suggestion made by the honorable member for Moore and, if there is anything that I can do to publicize the agreement, I shall gladly do it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army, ls it correct, as the Army Personnel Administration Director is reported to have stated in Brisbane yesterday, that, although the authorized strength of the Regular Army is 26,000, the actual strength is only 20,800, comprising fewer than 8,000 privates, more than 8,000 non-commissioned officers, and more than 4,000 commissioned officers? Is- it a fact that the Army administration regards the excessive hours of work, inferior housing arrangements for personnel and their wives, and poor educational facilities for children, as contributory causes of the low strength of the Regular Army?
– I greatly doubt whether the officer concerned made the statements attributed to him, because the figures that he quoted are quite inaccurate. If he did make such a statement, he should have known better. The total figure of 20,800 is correct, and the House has been informed of that in previous statements that I have made. The House has known that the establishment of 26,000 has not been realized for some considerable time. The article which has been referred to stated that there were 4,000 officers in the Regular Army. There are not; there are only 2,663 officers. The figures relating to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and privates are also quite wrong. Warrant officers and non-commissioned officers number 9.144 and privates number 9.000. If those figures are related to the figure of 20,800, it might appear that there are too many officers. But I draw the attention of the House and of those who keep on making these comparisons to the fact that these officers are concerned not only with the 20,800 members of the Regular Army, but also with the 60,000 members of the Citizen Military Forces, with the 12,000 national service trainees who are called up each year and with the 33,000 members of the Cadet Corps. In other words, the officers are concerned with a total of 120,000. not a total of 20,800.
We are not, of course, satisfied with the present rate of recruitment. The principal reason for the unsatisfactory position in recent years, 1 believe, has been that the economy has been so sound that jobs outside the service have been readily available and that men, when their terms have expired, have obtained more lucrative employment outside the service. However, it is very encouraging to note that our recent offer of a change of conditions - that is, enlistment on the basis of a choice of corps - has been very successful. Since that offer was made recruitment has increased very considerably, and in the last two months it has been quite encouraging. Housing has been quite a problem. However, as the House will know, this Government made an agreement with the States. This is providing a great number of houses and we are gradually making up the leeway in that regard. That is in addition to an acquisition programme of considerable magnitude, which is now being carried on. The House knows, too, that the Government, realizing the difficulties so far as the three services are concerned, recently appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Sir John Allison, who has for the last several months been making an exhaustive examination of the whole of the problems in connexion with this matter. I understand that that report is just about complete. I have not yet seen it, but my colleague, the Minister for Defence, no doubt will let us know when it is completed. It is expected that the report will be completed very shortly. When it is, these matters will be gone into.
Agreement with United Kingdom.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that, following upon the reciprocal agreement with Great Britain, a person of pensionable age, who in Australia is deprived of a pension by the operation of the property means test, will be entitled to the full pension if he goes to live in England.
– I regret that I did not hear the last few words of the honorable member’s question. However, in general terms, I inform him that, under the reciprocal agreement, residence in one country is accepted as residence in the other. If the total residence in both countries com bined is twenty years, such an applicant is entitled to a full United Kingdom social service benefit of 50s. a week.
– I ask a question of the Minister for External Affairs. In view of recent allegations about aid given under the Colombo plan, and the claim that some recipient countries are not making full use of the aid so given, is the Minister satisfied with the large proportion of money spent by Australia on capital aid as against the smaller amount on technical aid? Is it not correct that the New Zealand Government some time ago, after investigating similar allegations, reduced the amount of capital aid and increased technical aid, as that government believed that it was more beneficial to both the recipient country and the donor?
– I am satisfied that there is no waste of any consequence whatsoever in respect of the Colombo plan. As I have said in this House before, every application from an Asian country for aid under the Colombo plan, whether economic or technical, comes to me, after close examination by appropriate officers, some of them technical. I then grant the application, reduce it, or refuse it. I have told the House before of the series of tooth-combs through which any one application for aid has to go before it finally results in goods being delivered to the Asian country concerned. There is a general tendency for a slight diminution in economic aid and, at the same time, an increase in technical assistance. This is due not in any way to any doubts or fears that we have in respect of economic aid, but rather to a constantly increasing demand for training by the Asian countries and, broadly speaking, for what is called technical assistance, and a rather diminishing demand for economic aid. That suits us quite well, because economic assistance is appreciably more expensive, item for item, than technical assistance. I assure the honorable member, and the House, that I do not believe that any wastage worth talking about occurs in respect of the administration of the Colombo plan.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that the
British Medical Association has recommended to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee that the drug butazolidin should be placed on the free list for the treatment of arthritis. I further ask the the Minister: Has this recommendation been accepted by the committee? If not, will the Minister consider, in specific cases where it is clear that relief is given to sufferers of arthritis, that some form of free prescription should be given, taking into account the fact, as is well known, that many drugs are prescribed that are probably doubtful in their lasting effects, but that some drugs do have a positive effect in relieving sufferers, but are expensive for those involved with them?
– I do not know whether the British Medical Association has made these representations or not. nor from memory can I tell the honorable member whether this particular drug is included in the pharmaceutical benefits list. The mechanism is that recommendations can be made to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, through me, or my department, by any interested people. These recommendations are always passed on to the committee, which then, in the light of its clinical judgment, decides whether it is advisable to add the drug to the list. The Minister has no power to place drugs on the list.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. The right honorable gentleman will remember that last November, and again in February, I asked him whether the Commonwealth would accept the same responsibility with regard to injuries caused by the drivers of its motor vehicles as had been accepted by the State governments in respect of their drivers and had to be accepted by private motorists in respect of those who drive their vehicles. Three weeks ago the Prime Minister told me that he had given instructions that work on the problem of answering my question should be speeded up as much as possible. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether I can expect an answer to my question before the House rises next week.
– Yes, I think that can be done. I have a strong feeling that this matter has actually reached me and, so, any delay is now at my table. I shall certainly endeavour to have the question answered next week.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this short bill is to make it clear beyond doubt that a day declared to be a bank holiday or a bank half-holiday by or under an ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory is a bank holiday in the Territory in question for the purposes of the Bills of Exchange Act. This is a question of some importance, because a bank holiday is a “ non-business day “ for the purposes of the act and “ non-business days “ are excluded in computing time where the act imposes a time limit of less than three days, or where something is to be done in connexion with a bill of exchange, cheque or promissory note on a certain day and that day falls on a “ non-business day “.
At present sub-sections (4.) and (5.) of section 98 of the Bills of Exchange Act respectively identify a bank holiday for the purposes of the act with a day on which a bank holiday or a bank half-holiday is declared “ in pursuance of the law of the Commonwealth or of a State “. As regards a bank half-holiday so declared, that day is deemed to be a bank holiday for the purposes of the act only as regards bills of exchange and promissory notes which are payable on that day at any bank in the locality to which the half-holiday applies, and which are not presented for payment during the portion of the day not included in the bank half-holiday.
Although the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory form part of the Commonwealth, there is some doubt whether the expression “ in pursuance of the law of the Commonwealth “ as used in these sub-sections includes an ordinance of either Territory. It is desirable that this doubt be removed from the act, and the bill is intended to achieve this result.
– The Opposition does not oppose this measure. As a matter of fact, we on this side of the House show our co-operation by wishing the bill a speedy passage. We do not even need an adjournment of the debate.
It seems to me, in passing, that we should try to get a uniform term to describe our holidays. We have bank holidays and public holidays. In this measure we are told about non-business days, because a bank holiday has some relation to a nonbusiness day. Perhaps the Bills of Exchange Act might be further amended to tidy up the whole position.
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.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time. The High Court of Australia in June, 1957, in the case of “ James v. The Deputy Commissioner of Taxation “ held that the extending or abridging of a time limited by the Bankrupty Act 1924-1955 for the doing of any act or thing was an act of a judicial nature. As a consequence, a time could be extended or abridged only by a court. Until the High Court’s decision in this case, it was a function of the Registrar in Bankruptcy to extend or limit the time for the doing of any act or thing under the Bankruptcy Act. An examination of the decision of the High Court in James’s case makes it doubtful whether those sequestration orders are valid when they are made after a registrar had extended or abridged a time for the doing of an act or thing in the course of proceedings before a court exercising federal jurisdiction in bankruptcy.
The main purpose of the bill is to establish beyond doubt the validity of these sequestration orders made in such cases. If this were not done, official receivers and trustees might well be liable for dealing without authority with the property of per- sons whom they thought to be bankrupt and persons taking title to property through them might have a defective title to property which they purchase or to which they otherwise obtain title.
The purpose of sub-clause (1.) of clause 7 of the bill is to remove any doubt about the validity of proceedings of the class to which I have referred. Doubts concerning the validity of title derived from trustees in bankruptcy will be removed and trustees will be protected with respect to their dealings with the estates of bankrupts. The Government considers that Mr. James should not be deprived of the benefit of the decision in his case in the High Court and that case has accordingly been excluded from the operation of this sub-clause. This is effected by sub-clause (2.) of clause 7 of the bill.
The judgment of the High Court in James’s case created doubts about two other matters: - (a) the power of the Commonwealth to legislate so as to prescribe the form of seal to be used by State courts exercising federal jurisdiction in bankruptcy; and (b) the practice of entitling documents in the name of “ The Court of Bankruptcy “. As to the first matter, clause 3 of the bill amends section 49 of the Bankruptcy Act so as to prescribe a seal for the Federal Court of Bankruptcy only. This will remove any doubt about the validity of section 49 of the Bankruptcy Act insofar as it purports to prescribe a seal for State courts exercising federal jurisdiction in bankruptcy.
It has been the practice since the Bankruptcy Act commenced in 1928 to entitle documents “ In the Court of Bankruptcy “. It was realized, of course, that there was no court properly called by that name but it was a neutral form intended to apply to all courts exercising federal jurisdiction in bankruptcy. Ordinarily an error in the entitlement of documents would not invalidate the proceedings before the court. It has been thought that the entitlement “ In the Court of Bankruptcy “ fails to identify any State court to such an extent that the failure may lead to invalidation unless steps are taken by Parliament to ensure that no proceedings will be invalidated by reason of this form of entitlement. Sub-clause (3.) of clause 7 of the bill effects this purpose.
The bill deals with a number of other matters that require legislative action in order lo remove difficulties that interfere with the efficient functioning of the bankruptcy administration.
The present act contains no provision authorizing the taking of shorthand notes before the Registrar. Clause 4 of the bill remedies this defect and at the same time clarifies the existing provisions relating to the taking of shorthand notes before the court. Provision is also made for reimbursement to the Commonwealth of the costs of making the transcript in proceedings before the court and before the Registrar.
Clause 5 of the bill introduces an amendment to section 53 of the act for the purpose of ensuring that a debtor who has a counterclaim, set-off or cross demand against the person who issues the bankruptcy notice against him has an adequate opportunity of satisfying the court whether his counterclaim, set-off or cross demand is valid before he commits an act of bankruptcy. At the present time, rule 147 (2.) of the Bankruptcy Rules purports to regulate this matter. There are grounds for suggesting that rule 147 (2.) of the Bankruptcy Rules may be invalid. This state of affairs is unsatisfactory as it may result in a debtor committing an act of bankruptcy only because he did not have a proper opportunity of establishing a valid counter-claim, set-off or cross demand.
Clause 6 of the bill makes it an offence for a bankrupt to fail to account to a registrar for the loss of a substantial part of his estate within one year immediately preceding his bankruptcy. This was the position under the Bankruptcy Act until 1954 when an amendment was made which excluded the Registrar from the definition of “ The Court “. It is one of the functions of registrars to examine bankrupts concerning their affairs. Lack of penal sanction to compel a bankrupt to assist the Registrar in ascertaining the facts about the bankrupt’s business tends adversely to affect the efficient functioning of the bankruptcy administration and tends also to take up the time of the Bankruptcy Court unnecessarily.
The remaining provisions in the bill are formal or machinery provisions. All of the provisions are essential for the efficient functioning of the bankruptcy administration. The bill is mainly directed to removing legal difficulties which in recent times have confronted the bankruptcy administration. I commend the bill to the House.
.- The purpose of this bill is well explained in the concluding words of the secondreading speech of the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne). He said -
The bill is mainly directed to removing legal difficulties which in recent times have confronted the bankruptcy administration.
Therefore, the consideration of this measure should not occupy the attention of the House for very long. In supporting the legislation, I should like to point out, however, that it appears to me that we never seem to reach the end of amending the bankruptcy law so that we shall have a proper bankruptcy court with a clean authority.
As I look at the notes at the foot of the bill I find that the original legislation was introduced in 1924 and has been amended fourteen times since. This bill is the fifteenth attempt to achieve a perfect piece of legislation. I hope that from now on the bankruptcy court will be able to function without feeling that it lacks powers or runs into difficulties when it makes its decisions.
.- This is quite an important piece of legislation so far as it relates to the administration of the bankruptcy laws. It clears up certain doubts that have arisen and which were recently pointed out in the course of proceedings before the High Court of Australia. Unfortunately, it is not possible for this Parliament to be a perfect instrument, having regard to the difficulties which arise under the federal Constitution. I should have thought that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), having regard to the training he has been receiving during the last two years, would have realized that quite a number of difficulties arise in the interpretation of the Constitution. It is because of that, mainly, that this bill has come before the House.
In the past we have endeavoured to produce as good a piece of legislation as possible, but the lawyers, particularly those who sit in the High Court, have shown that they are much wiser than we are on the technicalities of the law. But when it turns out that we have made an error, fortunately it becomes possible for us to correct that error, at least in the circumstances of this particular bill.
The bill provides, first, that the Federal Court of Bankruptcy shall have a seal. The Commonwealth legislature provided previously not only for the seal of the federal court, but also for the seals of State courts exercising federal jurisdiction. Provision will now be limited to the seal of the federal court, because it is felt that there is a doubt that we have power to prescribe a seal for a State court. That will be left for the States to prescribe.
The second matter dealt with is the taking of shorthand notes of proceedings before a registrar. Until 1954 that was the usual method of recording proceedings. Of course, it is a great saving of time to have evidence taken down in shorthand instead of by the slow process of long-hand. The latter process is not only slow, but also tedious for the person taking down the evidence. Unfortunately, in the amendment of the act which this Parliament made in 1954 we overlooked the fact that the result would be that proceedings before a registrar could no longer be taken with the aid of a shorthand writer. We are now proceeding to correct that defect.
The next provision relates to a matter of very much more substance. The bill provides that where there is a bankruptcy debt and the person about to be made bankrupt claims that he has a set-off, a cross demand or a counter claim against the petitioner in bankruptcy, he shall be given time to establish it. I have never been able to understand the workings of the bankruptcy law by which a person could be made bankrupt, notwithstanding that there was possibly a commensurate cross claim for money owing to him by the petitioner. That always appeared to me to be a considerable injustice. We are proceeding to correct that injustice, and that provision I regard as most important.
We are also making provision for doing something which we have not been able to do before, owing to the technicalities of the Constitution. The Constitution provides that the judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be exercised only by a court, and that provision has been embodied in the Bankruptcy Act, which provides that a court may do certain things. It has been found in the past extremely convenient for a registrar to do those things, but that is not legally possible, having regard to the constitutional distinction between judicial acts and administrative acts. A registrar cannot exercise what is, under the act, a part of the judicial power; he can only do administrative acts. That difficulty is being cleared up by this measure. Whereas a registrar has been wrongfully purporting to do judicial acts, we are providing that he shall do only administrative acts, although the effect is exactly the same. We are also validating acts which have been done by him in the past. This is within our power, as appears from the High Court decision.
The other matter that we are clearing up concerns the expression “ Court of Bankruptcy “, which was thought to be a convenient title to cover all courts in the Commonwealth exercising bankruptcy jurisdiction. The High Court has pointed out that this title - however convenient it may be - is not at present justified. We are, therefore, making provision that in future the title may be used.
In those ways, the bill clears up a number of points of quite considerable importance and undoubtedly should commend itself to the House.
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.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 1365), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition does not dispute the merit of much of what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in his second-reading speech on this measure, but it does not see the need for any urgency in the passage of the legislation. The Opposition proposes to oppose the passage of the bill for two good reasons; first, because no case has been made out for it at this particular time; and, secondly, because the Government is doing something for one class of pensioner when it does not propose to do anything for a much wider and more deserving section of the citizenry - people who have passed the working period of life and are now in receipt of age pensions and people receiving other forms of social benefits.
The Prime Minister said that the real reason for the legislation is to give the judges of the High Court of Australia, and judges of other Commonwealth courts, pension rates which are more nearly comparable with those obtaining in respect of judges of certain State courts. He instanced the State of New South Wales, where a judge on retirement received 60 per cent, of his salary. He argued that it was not right that judges of the High Court and of other Commonwealth courts should receive not more than 40 per cent, of their salaries on retirement. The purpose of the legislation is to increase the rate of pension from 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, of the salary. That, of course, will still leave the judges of Commonwealth Courts at a disadvantage compared with judges of certain State courts, but I think that the judges of the High Court and of other Commonwealth courts receive higher salaries than do the judges of the State courts. However, the legislation is intended to clear up that position.
The Australian Labour party does not object to paying pensions to judges. As a matter of fact, in 1948 we brought down the legislation which provided for the payment of a portion of a judge’s pension to his widow. That, of course, was in our view a desirable thing to do. We did it for various reasons; first, because we thought it was right, and secondly, because we were told that some of the judges who were getting very old wanted to retire but thought that provision should be made for their widows in the event of their deaths. We treated the judges very generously on that occasion, and the legislation passed the House without difficulty. It cannot be said, of course, that the judges treated the Labour government with any respect, because two of them lingered on, determined to outstay the government, although they were very old men. They retired only after the Chifley Government was defeated and the present Government came into office. They were replaced by two other judges.
We offer no criticism of the calibre of the gentlemen who are serving on the High Court Bench in their places; but we are all human, and I direct attention to the fact that, at the time when we provided for those two judges under the pensions scheme, they were prejudiced against the Australian Labour party. They were so prejudiced that they were determined that a Labour government would never have an opportunity to replace them on the High Court Bench.
We, as a Labour party, have no prejudice against judges. We have no prejudice against anybody serving in any sphere of governmental activity or in any judicial position. However, we have noted - and 1 want to emphasize this fact - that no nonLabour government at any time in the Commonwealth or in any State has ever appointed a Labour barrister to the High Court Bench or to any other Bench. So we can be pardoned if we take a different attitude to-day in respect of this bill from that which we have always taken in regard to matters of this sort.
We put through the 1948 act which treated the judges better than they have been treated before, and at least we paid respect to the fact that their wives might be placed in financial difficulties if, after the retirement of the husbands, they were widowed and had nothing but the husbands’ savings and investments to provide for their future. We offered no objection to the 1956 amending legislation. That was a strange bill. Its main purpose was to include in the definition of a judge these words -
For the purposes of this Act, a. Judge who, by virtue of an Act, ceases to hold office upon attaining the age of seventy years shall be deemed tohave retired.
We gave that piece of legislation a very speedy passage. We would like to do the same with this bill, but until some Minister or the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) if he replies, can show us why it is necessary topass this legislation now, we must voteagainst it to emphasize what we regard as the Government’s niggardliness towards other persons in the community who are equally desirable, from the point of view of good citizenship, but whose claims are being neglected.
In the course of his speech, the PrimeMinister referred to the fact that, under theConstitution, a High Court judge or any other federal judge was appointed for life. That was not the view of the Bruce-Page-
Government when it brought down legislation many years ago to appoint judges of the Arbitration Court for a fixed term. The case ultimately went to the High Court of Australia.
– Alexander’s case.
– Yes. In that case, five judges held that all federal judges, including High Court judges, were appointed for life. Two judges - Higgins and Gavan Duffy - dissented. The judges are appointed for life, as the Constitution stands, unless another set of judges put another interpretation on the meaning of that section. There is no need to worry about a judge who is retiring at, say, the age of 72 years, and whose birthday occurs within a month or so. None of the judges at present on the federal Benches is obliged to retire. So far as the Opposition knows, there is no evidence that any judge is about to retire.
The Prime Minister has said that the bill does not affect the rates of pension of any retired judges, nor of any widow of any retired judge, but it does make provision for a judge to exercise a right to receive the maximum pension on retirement after reaching the age of 60 years provided he has served for ten years. Existing legislation provides that such a judge must have served for fifteen years. We think that, while there may be merit in that proposal, it is rather a generous gesture to say to a man who may have served for only ten years on a federal Bench, “ You can now retire on half your salary and enjoy it for the rest of your life provided, of course, you have passed’ 60 years of age “.
I suppose I would not be allowed to say very much on the question of pensioners generally during a debate on legislation of this sort, but we have a feeling that the Government should do more than it has done for those who are in- receipt of social welfare benefits. We believe that we should direct the attention of the House and the country to our feelings in that regard, and we propose to register a vote against the passage of this bill at the second-reading stage.
.- I believe that this is a good piece of legislation, but in order to emphasize the value of if. I must look at the history of judges’ pensions. The first provision for judges’ pen sions was in 1926 when the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provided pensions for judges of the Arbitration Court. In the same year, the Judiciary Act provided pensions for Justices of the High Court. In 1930, there was provision for a pension for judges of the Bankruptcy Court, and in 1945, provision was made for the judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. In 1947, the ill-fated Banking Act, produced by the political party which now forms the Opposition, provided for pensions for judges of the Court of Claims. The section was deleted by the Banking Act of 1951 from the principal act which this bill amends.
The 1956 amendment has apparently caused some doubt in the mind of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). As I understand it, that measure was a consequential bill to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1956 in which it became necessary to provide for pensions for presidential members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I should emphasize that that piece of legislation went through this House without debate.
The first provision for pensions provided for a judge to receive 50 per cent, of his salary on retirement after fifteen years’ service and, on retirement through ill-health or infirmity after not less than five years’ service, the judge was to receive 20 per cent, of his salary plus 3 per cent, for each additional year up to 50 per cent. It is important to note that at that time, there was no provision for widows or children of retired judges. This act was proclaimed to commence from 9th December, 1948, and all subsequent payments were to be on the new terms.
It is interesting to mention at this time the claim by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that two judges were unkind to the government of the day although it had treated the judges generously. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the judges were unkind in that two of them lingered on. Only a single year passed before the Labour government of that day was tossed out of office, so the course of a year could not properly be described as lingering on.
– They were determined to outstay us and they succeeded.
– Those already appointed could elect within six months of the proclamation of the measure to adhere to the provisions under which they were receiving their pensions or adopt the new provisions. The new provisions of 1948 were designed, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said, to give rights to widows and children. In his secondreading speech, Mr. Holloway, who introduced the bill, made a couple of comments which are worth repeating. In volume 199 of “Hansard”, at page 3071, Mr. Holloway, the then Minister for Labour and National Service, is reported to have said -
Preservation of the independence and high status of a judge as a member of one of the courts of the Commonwealth warrants a pension provision which is complete and adequate. No pension scheme contains these essentials unless it provides for widows and children. The present scheme, although non-contributory and sufficient for the care of an ex-judge during his lifetime, not only fails to provide these essentials but also makes no provision for a judge whose ill health may enforce retirement during his first five years of office. The absence of a provision for dependents, coupled with the lack of a’ fixed retiring age, may well constitute an incentive to a judge to remain in service as long as is physically possible and beyond what might be regarded as a reasonable retiring age.
After that statement, one would have expected the legislation of 1948 to implement, quite simply, a scheme for pensions for widows and children. But that is not what it did. If honorable members will examine the legislation of 1948, they will find that what Mr. Holloway stated later in his speech was what was enacted. He said later -
Towards meeting the cost, however, the age pension will be payable only on retirement after attaining the age of 60 years; the pension payable to a judge will be reduced from 50 to 40 per centum of salary and a proportionate reduction will be made in the pensions of judges retired on account of permanent disability or infirmity.
So, contrary to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, the government of that day was not being generous to the judges. It was taking away from a judge, if he elected to come under the new provisions, 10 per cent, of his pension rights. It seems extraordinary to reduce the quantum of a pension in order to safeguard the position of a wife and family. The then Opposition attacked that provision, the attack being led by the then honorable member for Warringah, Mr. Percy Spender, K.C.
But perhaps the most extraordinary provision of that act was section 13, sub-section 2, which reads as follows: -
The provisions of sections six to eleven (inclusive) of this Act shall not apply to or in relation to any judge who is serving as a judge at the date of the commencement of this Act . . .
The bill before the House now relates to sections 6 and 7 of that act. In the High Court of Australia to-day there are a number of judges who were appointed prior to the date of commencement of this act, which came into force on the 9th December, 1948. Sub-section (2.) of section 13 continues -
It was most extraordinary to provide that a judge had to elect whether he would come within the terms of the 1948 act, which gave him a pension of only 40 per cent, of his salary on retirement, or whether he would adhere to the old provision, which gave him a 50 per cent, pension on retirement. To put the judges in the invidious position of having to make an election was certainly bad, as regards public policy. This provision, also, was attacked by the then Opposition.
After the passage of the 1948 act, of judges sitting on the same bench, one would receive 50 per cent, of his salary on retirement, while another, who had elected to come within the new provision, would get only 40 per cent, of his salary on retirement. The wife of the judge entitled to a 40 per cent, pension would, if she outlived him, receive one-half of the 40 per cent, pension upon becoming a widow. Judges were placed in the invidious position that each had to make a calculation based on his age and his expectancy of life, as well as on his wife’s age and her expectancy of life. He had to decide whether he thought that he would outlive his wife or she would outlive him. If he thought that his wife was likely to outlive him, he had to elect for the lesser pension. The only person in a position to choose unhesitatingly was a confirmed bachelor. Not even a bachelor in the simple sense would have been free to choose unhesitatingly, because he might decide to take a wife after he had elected. It was only the confirmed bachelor who could say, “ I shall remain under the original provision of a 50 per cent, pension “. The calculation having been made, a judge never knew whether fate might intervene and invalidate his decision. 1 think it was very bad for judges, required to sit alongside each other, to have differing pension entitlements. I remind the House that the then Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr. Holloway, stated when he introduced the bill that it was most desirable that there should be adequate provision for the wife and children of a retired judge. During the committee stage of the debate on that bill, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, intervened. I think that we can pay a great tribute to the wisdom of the words that he used on that occasion, and I think we can use them on this occasion to support the passage of this bill. In volume 200 of “ Hansard “, at page 3635, Mr. Chifley is reported as having said -
This matter came up for consideration a couple of weeks ago. A number of honorable members on this side of the committee-
He was referring to the supporters of the then Government, a Labour party government - felt that the justices of the High Court were already fairly treated. The Government, however, decided that provision should be made for their widows and children. Anxiety must be felt by a judge if adequate provision has not been made for his wife and children.
This bill, in fact, restores the pre-1948 position, when a judge received 50 per cent, of his salary as a pension on retirement. I remind the House that when the 1948 legislation was before the House, supporters of the present Government, who were then in Opposition, opposed the provision to reduce a judge’s pension from 50 per cent, to 40 per cent, and to put him in the invidious position of making an election. With this bill, we revert to the pre-1948 position, when a judge, on retirement, received 50 per cent, of his salary. We remove the necessity for him to put himself in the embarrassing situation of deciding whether or not he will adopt the 40 per cent, provision. We go back to the pre- 1948 position, when a judge, on retirement, received 50 per cent, of his salary. On his death, his widow will receive 25 per cent.
There is only one real change of the position that obtained before 1948. In order to qualify for a pension, a judge now will have to serve only ten years, instead of fifteen.
– His widow did not get a pension before 1948.
– That is true. I am sure that the House is aware of the tremendous responsibility that rests on the judiciary of this country. Nobody can gainsay that the High Court judges of Australia enjoy a reputation that is worldwide. The Chief Justice of the High Court has a world-wide reputation as a jurist. Alongside him on the Bench are men of high quality as lawyers and fine calibre as individuals. The members of the Bench spend a part of their lives adjudicating in matters of very great consequence to the people of this country. A tremendous amount of work, worry and responsibility devolves upon them, normally at a time when they could be earning a great deal more money as private practitioners at the bar, where they earned the success which qualified them for appointment to the Bench. I think there can be no hesitation on the part of any honorable member in approving the bill in its present form and its purpose to reduce the period of qualification for pension from fifteen years to ten years.
There is only one point about this bill which I regret. I wish that it included provision for a proportionate part of the pension of a deceased retired judge to be paid to his children under the age of sixteen years, or some other stipulated age. The position now is that, upon the death of a retired, married judge, his widow receives half of the judge’s pension entitlement. In addition, I think that his children under the age of sixteen receive £ I a week. But, as I understand the position as it will apply when this bill becomes law, in the event of the widow dying before the children attain the age of sixteen years, there will be no payment at all to the children. In my opinion, further amendment of the act is desirable to provide for such a contingency. While, possibly, the contingency is a remote and improbable one, nevertheless there may be an occasion when, subsequent to the death of a retired judge, his wife also dies leaving young children without income.
.- The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) devoted a great deal of his time to tracing the history of judges’ pensions and those dependent on them, but I prefer to deal with the position as we find it to-day. As I listened to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and later, to the honorable member for Bruce, speaking about this matter and suggesting that it had become one of such great urgency that it should be brought into the Parliament within a few days of the termination of the present sittings, I wondered who had made representations to the Government. Did some bright boy in the Government think about it and decide that the matter ought to be adjusted, or was somebody in touch with the Government? Was there an approach by what might be regarded as a pressure group, something about which the Government frequently protests?
We cannot be unmindful of the fact that at least one of the judges who will benefit from this legislation is approaching retirement, a time when judges begin to think about their pension rights. I think that the Commonwealth judges should set an example to the Australian community. They should set a standard. Nobody could argue that the Commonwealth judges to-day, even if they were receiving the very generous pensions which at present apply, would be in any great need, or would be compelled, because of the paucity of their pension, to hang on to their positions until the last moment. Let us examine the position.
It is quite true that it was a Labour government which first had the idea of giving pensions to the widows of judges who died during their term of office on the Bench, or after their retirement. Since the honorable member for Bruce has dealt with the history of this matter, perhaps I should tell him that one of the impelling motives at the time was to meet the position where judges who had reached retiring age, or who had passed the age at which they could continue to render good service to the Australian community - there were two in particular - hung on to their office on the ground that they could not afford to retire. It was to meet such a situation that the Labour government of the day decided to increase and expand the pension rights of the judges. There is no harm in mention ing the two judges who were concerned particularly, because the names are well known. They were Mr. Justice Rich and Mr. Justice Starke.
Despite the arguments which had been used prior to the passage of the bill through the Parliament at that time, those judges did not retire; but neither did they remain at their duty as judges, because illness made it impossible for them to do so. Instead, they hung on to their positions because they did not want to retire while a Labour government was in office and while Labour would have the opportunity to appoint their successors. So, although they went on sick leave and, so far as I can recollect, did not sit again after the pension legislation had gone through this Parliament, the moment the Labour party went out of office in 1949 they both went from the scene and made it possible for an anti-Labour government to fill the vacancies. I do not think that I have in any way exaggerated the situation that then existed.
Let us consider what is happening in regard to this legislation. It appals me that this Government should bring down the measure now before the House as a sort of urgent measure, but will do nothing to relieve the desperate situation of other members of the community. It proposes to increase substantially the pensions of judges, although those pensions are not inconsiderable at present. For instance, the Chief Justice, even if this measure were defeated, would still be able to retire on £3,200 a year, while his wife, if he should predecease her, would receive half that amount. A justice of the High Court would retire on £2,600 a year. Let me equate that rate of pension to that which an aged pioneer of this country receives. The pension of the retired judge is approximately 1,400 per cent, more than that paid to the retired pioneer. Surely the Government does not regard that as a proper proportion between the pension of an aged pioneer, who is entirely dependent upon his pension, and that of a retired Commonwealth judge!
Despite all that has been said about the desperate position of judges, surely nobody suggests that when they retire from their positions they are entirely dependent on their pensions. It is well known that the judges of this country have considerable investments which bring them in sizeable incomes. They are able to accumulate the finance for those investments during their activities throughout their lives. Why should that fact not be taken into account when the pensions of judges are being determined? When the pension that is to be paid to a pioneer is being determined, a means test is applied. If he happens to have a few shillings of additional income, that is taken into account. Why should not that principle run right through the community?
Have not we heard supporters of the Government, when we have been discussing pensions generally, continually arguing that the ordinary citizen ought to exercise thrift during his lifetime and accumulate funds so that he might be able to take care of himself in his declining years? In the case of the man with a low income, who has very little opportunity to exercise thrift during his lifetime, we apply a means test; but in respect of the person who is on a high salary and who has the opportunity to exercise thrift and accumulate investments, no means test at all applies. That is completely unfair and illogical. It is proposed to provide that a judge may retire at 60 years of age and to be entitled to the maximum pension after ten years of service, instead of fifteen years, as at present But the old pioneer has to wait until he is 65 years of age before he may receive £4 7’s. 6d. a week.
In my opinion, the Prime Minister, although not evidently intending to do so, cast a slight upon his profession - the legal profession - when he said that the Government’s aim was to attract to the High Court of Australia men of high standing in the profession. He also referred to what he termed “ the importance of maintaining not only the high status but also the independence of the judiciary “. Does he imply that if judges are not given high salaries and generous pensions they will not act with independence - that their independence is governed by the salary they receive and the pension rights they enjoy? That remark seems to me to constitute an attack upon the judiciary which, if it had been made by an Opposition member, would have brought forth quite a number of protests from Government supporters.
There is no lack of candidates for appointment to the judiciary. Any one who heard the Prime Minister would imagine that we had to force judges into these positions. On the contrary, these appointments are much sought after. It is one of the ambitions of every man in the legal profession in this country to become a judge. The suggestion that men have to be induced by the offer of increased salaries and better pension rights to accept appointment as judges is so much rubbish.
The Prime Minister said that the High Court is superior to the Supreme Court of New South Wales, evidently arguing that, therefore, the pension rights of High Court judges ought to be superior to those of judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. It is perfectly true that I would regard the High Court of Australia as the highest judicial authority in the land, but, if we are to determine the salaries and pension rights of judges of the court on that basis, why do we not do likewise in respect of Commonwealth public servants? If a Commonwealth judge is regarded as superior to a State judge, and therefore deserving of higher salary and better pension rights, why is a federal public servant not entitled to a higher scale of pay than that prevailing for public servants in any of the States? Commonwealth public servants do not receive more than State public servants are paid.
– This Government appealed against an award for Commonwealth public servants.
– After a tribunal had awarded Commonwealth public servants substantial salary increases, this Government immediately moved in a Commonwealth tribunal to challenge the award and to deny the increases to its servants. This shows that the Government, when it is dealing with the people in the lower stratum of society, as it might term them, and their economic position in society, adopts a set of principles different from the set of principles that it adopts when dealing with people at the very peak of society.
Let me now turn to another aspect of the matter. Judges do not contribute for their pensions. Even members of parliament are obliged to contribute - and contribute very substantially - for their pensions. But judges, who receive much higher salaries, make no contribution whatever. It is true that they make the normal contribution that every income-earner in the community makes - the contribution that was made by age pensioners when they were earning income - per medium of taxation on the scale appropriate to their income, but they make no special contribution for their pensions. They are in a privileged position.
Here is a remarkable thing to bear in mind. The honorable member for Bruce talked about things that had happened in the past. It has just occurred to me that it would not be a bad idea for me to remind the House of the attitude adopted toy certain Commonwealth judges when dealing with the community in the past. Everybody knows the history of the Premiers plan, under which, by legislative enactment and by edict of various courts, the people were forced to suffer reductions in their income. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration declared, not on the basis of evidence obtained, but merely as an edict, that the salaries of workers should be subject to an overall reduction of 10 per cent. But Mr. Justice Lukin, who was a judge of the court, said, quite plainly, when it was suggested that he and the other judges might accept a similar reduction of salary, that he refused to accept any reduction. At that time, he received, in addition to his salary as a Commonwealth judge, a lucrative pension from the Queensland Government as a retired judge of the Queensland Supreme Court.
It is obvious that there is no urgency about this measure. Many other people in the community are in much greater need than are judges, and the Government should be doing what it can to help the people in need. Is it any wonder that there is a great deal of unrest in industry and the community generally when a bill such as this receives priority over all other measures? We have heard Government supporters in this House say invariably, when Labour members have sought improvement in the lot of the unfortunate pensioners on the lowest pension scale, “ The country cannot afford it”. Because it takes this view, the Government has reduced the medical service provided for pensioners by imposing a means test on it, and has refused to grant even a small increase in pensions to enable them to keep pace with the increase in the cost of living. As a member of the Opposition, I am very gratified at the decision taken by the Australian Labour party to oppose this bill. I approve the decision whole-heartedly. I only wish that Labour was in the majority in this Parliament so that it could defeat this measure.
.- The Opposition has made very heavy weather of the debate on this measure. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has seldom been heard to such poor advantage. He lisped and he limped in opposing the bill. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) did not give forth the gushing flow that this House is so used to. There was nothing much of the rabble-rouser about him on this occasion. It would, of course, be quite erroneous for the House to think that he disapproves of judges! It is well known that the honorable member believes that it is of the greatest importance that only men of the utmost impartiality and the highest standing should become judges, because it is only such men who can fairly exercise judicial power, who can show that they are above prejudice, who can act without bias, and who, if the evidence is on the balance, will say that the case has not been proved beyond doubt. It is, of course, important that that should be seen and understood, because that is the way in which justice is done.
I am sure that the honorable member for East Sydney will always approve of judges who do the right thing and behave judicially, but his talk about this Government’s alleged refusal to increase pensions entirely disregards Labour’s policy, which, over the years, has always been, “ Keep down the pensioner. Do not increase pensions.” The honorable member particularly mentioned age pensioners. They receive 87s. 6d. a week at the present time. Of that amount, 22s. 6d. was given to them by Labour governments, and 65s. by nonLabour governments. Labour, when it increased pensions, which it seldom did, usually gave an increase of 6d. a week. The present Government, when it has increased pensions, has given increases of 5s., 7s. 6d. or 10s. a week - very substantial increases, indeed. What was the attitude of the honorable member for East Sydney in 1949, the year of rapidly-rising prices, when he was a Minister in the government of the day, and when there was a tremendous outcry in the community for increased age pensions? He and the other members of the government to which he belonged, with the full support of the Australian Labour party behind them, said, “ We will not increase pensions, no matter how high or how rapidly prices rise “. The truth of the matter is that the Labour party is opposed to giving anything to pensioners, whether to those who are the poor people in the land, or to those who have occupied important positions as judges.
Let us now look at the matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, from the stand-point of what should be done with regard to pensions for judges. Obviously, a judge’s pension should be such as is proper for a man who has held the high position in the community that a judge holds. The position of a judge in the community is the highest position possible. There is no more important thing than the proper administration of justice, and it is for judges to see that justice is administered properly. Consequently, they must be men, not only of the greatest ability, but also of the highest integrity, and therefore considerable inducements must be advanced in order to obtain men of the highest possible calibre. It is not sufficient to take any man from the bar and simply say, “ We will put you on the Bench “. Before a judge is appointed, the question that has always to be considered is whether he has the suitable temperament, the real knowledge and the right type of character to hold the office of judge.
Men who have made their way at the bar and who have the characteristics that I have mentioned are men in the very high income class. If they give up their practice at the bar and the independent life that they can have as members of the community, they must as judges accept a lower income and separate themselves from their fellows in the community. The honorable member for East Sydney said that a judge is receiving a high salary and a high pension, but the fact is that he is not doing nearly so well financially as he would do if he were still at the bar. In addition to that, once he ascends the Bench, he cuts himself off from the community; his friends become remote and in most instances he lives a life of considerable loneliness. Because of that, many men hesitate before they will accept a judgeship. It is quite idle for the honorable member for East Sydney to say that every lawyer’s ambition is eventually to become a judge. No doubt that idea may pass through a lawyer’s mind from time to time, but many a man has refused an offer of judicial office because he has felt that the sacrifice would be far too great.
If we demand these huge sacrifices from a man because we consider that he is the right man to occupy this tremendously important position, then we should be prepared, and we are prepared, to pay for it. The pension given to a judge is one of the attractions offered to a man when he is asked to accept a judgeship. He knows that, while he will not be able to accumulate the money that he would accumulate if he remained in private practice, at any rate in his later life, when he needs a certain amount of comfort and security, he will be in a position to have that comfort and security because of his pension. It would be quite wrong for a man who stepped down from the Bench to have to accept what would be a beggarly pension because this Parliament was so miserable that it would not do the right thing. Indeed, I do not understand the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to have contested that position. His only contest is, “Why has this bill been brought on at this time? “ Why does one bring on legislation at any time? One brings it on at a time that is the right time for it. It sometimes happens that legislation is not brought on as soon as it should be; it is possible that this is such an instance.
As to the justice of the increase, we could ask, “ What has the Labour party in New South Wales done? “ It has given pensions to judges which amount to 60 per cent, of the judge’s salary - far more than this bill will give. We propose to give only 50 per cent. As I have said, the Labour party in this Parliament is always down on the pensioner, whatever his position. While the Labour party in New South Wales recognizes that judges are entitled to very substantial pensions, the Labour party in this House is not prepared to do the right thing by judges.
I pass by altogether the sneers of the honorable member for East Sydney in regard to judges. I think it is well known that what he has said about certain members of the Bench is not by any means in accordance with fact. It is quite unnecessary for that sort of thing to be said in the course of a debate in this House, but the honorable member for East Sydney, unfortunately, reduces himself to a certain level on occasions when judges are mentioned, although, as I pointed out, he is very happy indeed to know that the right type of man is appointed to the Bench.
This bill gives a pension that is lower than that given in New South Wales. If the bill had given exactly the same as was being given in New South Wales, then it would have been proper for honorable members on this side of the House to have supported it, and I suggest that it would have been proper for honorable members on the other side of the House to have supported it. Having regard to what the Labour party has done in New South Wales, the way in which the Labour party in this House is opposing the bill is, I suggest, a shocking thing. In view of the sneers of the honorable member for East Sydney, I suggest that it is an opposition that comes out of spite and nothing else. Having regard to the great importance of the administration of justice, it is unfortunate that this bill is being opposed.
.- I want to detain the House for only a few minutes to add my support for this measure and to express regret that the Australian Labour party had adopted what I believe can fittingly be described as a pretty halt and miserable attitude. During the course of his remarks, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was, of course, under a severe inhibition. Standing Order 77 prevents members of the Parliament from reflecting upon the judiciary. I am inclined to the view that my colleague, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), was indeed charitable when he referred to the views of the honorable member for East Sydney. The truth of the matter, I feel, is that the honorable member for East Sydney, far from wishing to see the retention of a strong- minded and independent-minded judiciary, would like to see the present judicial system completely overthrown. That may strike the House as being a somewhat challenging and radical observation, but it is very much in keeping with the views expressed by a radically minded individual some years ago- - Professor Laski. In his work, “ Parliamentary Government in England “, Professor Laski said -
The ignorance of, and hostility to, modern social reform of the contemporary Bench may easily make it necessary to build in Great Britain a system of administrative tribunals to prevent it from being wrecked by Judges who deny the existence of the defects it seeks to remedy, and minimise the power of the efforts made to deal with them.
Professor Laski continued -
The need is not merely for a greater elasticity in the canons of statutory interpretation, though that is not only great, but mainly unrealized by the Judges themselves. The need is great also for a far profounder understanding by the Judges that the historic philosophy of the Common Law is in considerable part unsuited by its inherent individualism to the necessary implications of the collectivist age.
– Who said that?
– Professor Laski, and 1 assure the honorable member that the words are worth pondering. Professor Laski was in the vanguard of those who took the view that individualism in modern society should take second place and Professor Laski took the view, as does the honorable member for East Sydney, that there should be established a collectivist form of society. That is completely impossible of attainment as long as there remains a judicial system that is independent and protected.
I move from that point to the attitude of the Labour party to those matters with which members of the High Court have to deal. It has been a matter of considerable chagrin to honorable members opposite that on many occasions the judges of the High Court have, by their decisions, stood between the Australian people and the tyranny of the Labour party. It is to no avail for the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) or any of his colleagues on the other side of the House to try to deny that.
I am convinced that if the Labour party was, by some mischance, returned to the treasury bench and was thwarted in its ambition to establish a socialist state, a collectivist state, as postulated by Professor Laski, and backed by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), and those who sit with him, there would be nothing at all at which the Labour party would stop. That is why I say unhesitatingly that I believe that the Labour party would go to the extreme of stacking the High Court in order to see that its measures were not ruled ultra vires the Constitution.
As the honorable member for Balaclava so lucidly and forcibly said this afternoon, the need for a strong and independent-minded judiciary is paramount. If we are cheeseparing in our attitude, if we are niggardly and take the view that there should not be attractive emoluments and attractive conditions of retirement for judges of the High Court, then we must agree with the concept that the High Court should be turned into an administrative tribunal. If the occasion arises when the independence of the High Court is destroyed, it will indeed be a very sad and sombre day for Australia.
– I rise to oppose this bill. It is really sickening to listen to the arguments of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). If those honorable members were enthusiastic about increases in pensions, they could show their sympathy for the people of this country who really need pension increases by seeing that pensions are increased in the forthcoming Budget. The honorable member for Balaclava spoke of the sacrifices of these venerable old gentlemen of the bench. But the honorable member made no mention of the honorable men in our community who have worked for 40 or 50 years - most of their lives - producing something of great use to the community and establishing the high standards that obtain to-day. But the Government, which the honorable member supports, thinks that a pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week is good enough for these people who have produced the necessaries of life over a period of 40 or 50 years.
These venerable old gentlemen of the Bench get £6,000 to £8,000 a year in salary. That is all right. I have no objection to high salaries. But I believe that tradesmen who have spent most of their lives at their trade, and have sacrificed much of their lives learning a trade, are more important than High Court judges - much more important to the community. They have sacrificed years of their lives both mentally and physically.
– What nonsense!
– The honorable member says that is nonsense. He has never produced anything in his life.
In furtherance of my opposition to increased pensions for these venerable old gentlemen of the Bench, for whom so many salty tears are shed, I point out that Mr. Justice Rich - I believe I can mention his name as I am not speaking of him in a derogatory manner-
– Order! I draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that he may not refer to a member of the judiciary in a derogatory manner.
– I merely wish to state that he retired on his 87th birthday. He had been earning £6,000 or £7,000 per annum for 30 or 40 years. I see no reason why he should be retired on a pension of 50 per cent, of his earnings. How many members of the community would be happy to retire on a pension equivalent to 50 per cent, of their earnings? If a referendum were held I think everybody in Australia would toe well satisfied to retire under those conditions. It is remarkable how many members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party are prepared to support members of the upper crust. But how many of them rush to the aid of the age and invalid pensioners in the community, those people who really need an increase in their pensions? Government supporters line up and vote regularly for a paltry pensions increase of 7s. 6d. or 5s., or something to that effect.
There are grave inconsistencies in the matter of pensions. We have one law for the rich and another for the poor. If honorable members are genuine in their attitude towards the upper ten in the community, they should be genuine all the way and support the age pensioners also. Let us have an addendum to the bill to the effect that all age pensioners shall retire on a pension equivalent to 50 per cent, of the salary they were earning on the day they retire. How many supporters of the Government would be prepared to vote for that? Many tradesmen who retire on the age pension have sacrificed years of their life and, at the time of their retirement, are earning £20 or £25 a week. They have spent up to seven years as an apprentice. In some cases the period of apprenticeship is six years, and in others five years. Then for a long time after their apprenticeship had been completed they attended a technical college to further their studies and to keep abreast of the many processes that scientific advances bring in their train. Men have been known still to be attending a technical college at the age of 45 or 50 years. They are good tradesmen, merely following the scientific progress of their trade. When they reach 65 years of age a grateful government sings their praises, says what great men they have been over the years, lauds the usefulness of their contribution to the industry in which they have been engaged and so forth, and then retires them on a paltry pension of £4 7s 6d. a week. Where is our gratitude to the men who really matter? The men in the community who really count are those who produce. Never mind the crusty old crowd on the Bench! They have never produced anything in their lives. Indeed, most of their efforts have been directed towards thwarting the producer who asked for an increase in his wages.
Let us cast our minds back to the 1930’s, when the judges of the High Court refused to accept a reduction of their salaries during the terrible crisis of the depression. At that time an unemployed workman was asked to support his wife and one child on 14s. a week, but the High Court judges refused to accept any reduction of their salaries. To-day, members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party are loud in their praise of these men, but the age pensioners in receipt of £4 7s. 6d. a week are still wallowing in the economic mire. Of course, when the judges’ salaries are raised there will be a rush by the Public Service heads to have their salaries raised also.
So, the merry world goes on. But when the real producers, the workers in our community, ask for an increase in their award rates, these judges say that, in the interests of our community, wages must be frozen. The basic wage of the workers is frozen, but the judges’ wages are not frozen. They are appointed to their positions for life. Every one in the community would love to be appointed for life to a position with a salary of £5,000 or £6,000 a year. There would be no complaints at all. Such appointments would be welcomed with open arms. But I know that there are at least 2,000,000 tradesmen in Australia who are much more entitled to a higher rate of wage and to greater increases in their wages, than are these venerable old gentlemen on the High Court Bench.
.- Honorable members have just heard a speech by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) which, I believe, more than justifies the payment of far greater remuneration to the persons whom he has unjustly reviled. If these judges have toput up with that sort of thing, then I suggest that whatever financial reward they receive is not sufficient to compensate them for the insults levelled at them by the honorable member.
– I think we could well sack them, and get rid of them.
– The honorable member’sremarks are typical of the attitude that he and his colleagues display. He suggests that we should get rid of these men to whom’ all decent citizens look to maintain equity and fair dealings between people and to see that peace, law and order prevail. But if the judges were dismissed the state of anarchy, communism and socialism which members of the Labour party are looking for, would soon come in.
– Nobody has suggested that.
– The speeches we have heard from some Opposition members this afternoon lead us to expect that such a state of affairs would come about. These honorable members look upon people in high places, who are entrusted with great responsibility, as their enemies.
– Oh, rot!
– It is no good the honorable member saying, “ Oh, rot! “ I suggest that he and his associates demonstrate to the people in this place and to the country that their utterances and actions are rot. If that is not so, let him get up and say whether he wants to associate himself with the extreme socialist element which is responsible for the sort of speech we have heard this afternoon from the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith. This Parliament, which occupies an honoured place in the country, can take little pride in suggestions such as have been made this afternoon, against those who have been elevated to positions of supreme responsibility in this country, or to hear the judges described in the manner we have heard to-day.
I have no doubt that if the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith was the subject of any unfair dealing at the hands of a mate, as he would call him, he would be the first to run and take advantage of the knowledge and assistance which the judges in the courts should, and would, undoubtedly give him, regardless of the fact that he had said what he did this afternoon or that he adopts such an attitude towards them as he has displayed.
However, I rose to deal not so much with what has been said by honorable members opposite as with another point which I believe is of very great importance, involving a matter of principle. I confess that, in view of the trend which the debate has taken as a result of speeches from the Opposition side, I approach this matter with some diffidence. The suggestion has been made that no one is prepared to criticize the administrative actions of the Government unless they are dealt with at the parliamentary level. I wish to refer to the fact that although I am in full accord with the provisions of this bill and am not criticizing its purpose, I am deeply concerned with that part of it which appears to perpetuate what I consider to be a wrong attitude to this Parliament in the matter of administration. I look to this Government, of all governments, to end a practice which has been followed down the years. In his second-reading speech, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that Parliament is called upon in its legislation to recognize that some things are done administratively and subsequently submitted to Parliament for ratification. I contend that before an action is taken, the proposal to do it should first be submitted to Parliament and carried out only after approval has been given.
– We agree with you there.
– The honorable member should demonstrate his conviction. His own party, when in government, was a greater offender in this connexion than this Government.
– Give an example.
– Government by regulation is an example. That was the whole substance of the Labour government’s administration. It ignored Parliament entirely.
– The country was at war at the time.
– Government by regulation is a fundamental principle of the Labour party. It only needs the stomach to get away with it. There are times when administrative acts must be taken because it is not possible to place the matter before Parliament. That has been done. In this measure a provision is contained in clause 4, which excludes from the benefits of this bill those who are already recipients of pension benefits under the principal act. The Prime Minister said that they have been excluded because it is proposed that their existing pensions shall be increased by a proportion similar to that by which other pensions will be increased by this legislation, that is 25 per cent. He added that this would be done by administrative act and that the action would subsequently be submitted to Parliament for approval in the relevant appropriation bill. The Prime Minister said, further, that these pensions, in the past, had been supplemented as a result of administrative act, the approval for which was subsequently sought in Parliament in the relevant appropriation bill. Of course, it is impossible for honorable members to realize just what they are doing in connexion with all the items in an appropriation bill. If the law of the land provides that, for instance, judges’ pensions and other emoluments shall be fixed by the legislature, for goodness sake let that be done by legislation, instead of by executive or administrative act, with the Parliament subsequently being faced with a fait accompli. That practice is adversely affecting the operations of the Parliament. If we continue with that kind of procedure, making no attempt to stop it, the time may well come when we shall play right into the hands of my friends, the Socialists, who will say, “We can carry on the country administratively. We do not need the Parliament, except to meet once a year to ratify what the executive has done “.
– We do that now, only it takes longer.
– The honorable member evidently is so ill-informed and so disinterested that he does not realize that he joins now in the making of very important decisions. Possibly he is looking forward to a day when, under a socialistic system, he will not be called upon to exercise that responsibility, a day when the voice of the
Parliament will be entirely ignored. I assure him that he is not yet living in that day. Earlier this afternoon we passed a couple of measures of very great importance, on which the Parliament had the right to express its view.
On general principles I appeal to the Government to adhere to the practice that when a parliamentary decision is required by law, the Parliament is given the opportunity to make that decision and express its will. Those things which are supposed to be done administratively only after the Parliament has made a decision should be done only then. One could find many instances of this practice not being followed, but not very often does one find in legislation introduced by a Liberal government a provision for this type of administrative action to be not only condoned but also carried on in the future. We are opposed to a system of government by mere administrative action, without Parliament having a decisive voice. I want to see it brought to an end. That is why I rose in my place to appeal to the Government to make greater efforts to stop that sort of thing.
I come back to what I said originally. In the light of the debate as it has been conducted from the Labour side of the House, and the disgraceful matter introduced, I feel that there is some excuse for any government to say, “ We can hardly allow judges to be subjected to the sort of statements we have heard to-day, and we will short-circuit Parliament in every way possible “. However, even taking that factor into consideration, I feel that I am right in protesting against a method of procedure which I believe to be opposed to the fundamental principles of parliamentary government.
.- When this bill, a quite simple, straightforward measure, was introduced into the House, it seemed to the Opposition that its attitude to the bill could be stated quite clearly and conclusively in the course of two speeches. It seemed also, in view of the planning of the debate on this small measure, that the attitude of the Government could be stated in two speeches. If it were not for the opportunity taken by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) to introduce quite irrelevant material, for some calculated political advantage, there would be no necessity for the debate to go any further. It is only in relation to the matters raised by those two honorable members that I desire to make a contribution to the debate.
First, we have the honorable member for Moore - who rises in his place rather than stands up - alleging that the Opposition aims to get rid of judges so as to have a state of anarchy. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in stating the view of the Opposition on this measure, made it quite clear that the Opposition desires an independent and effective judiciary, and recognizes the great benefit to the community that such a judiciary has contributed over the years. There is nothing in the policy of the Australian Labour party which would give the faintest justification for the irresponsible accusation that came from the honorable member for Moore, and it would hardly be necessary to make any submissions in opposing his view if it were not repeated time and time again. It makes no difference that the facts are pointed out. Members such as the honorable member for Moore never miss an opportunity to misrepresent and distort the position of the Opposition, for a mean and petty political advantage. One finds it difficult to reconcile the apparently great confidence of Government supporters that they will be returned to office for ever in this country with the fact that they stoop to seek petty political advantages whenever they get an opportunity. As I say, if it were not for the fact that it is done so continuously, it would be unnecessary to make any answer to it.
Then we have the honorable member for Moreton, who always has upon his face a look as though he is being taken seriously by the House, but I can assure him that he is not. He introduced Professor Harold Laski into the debate as a somewhat sinister figure with some Machiavellian influence over the honorable member for East Sydney, who agreed with Professor Laski. Just to put the record straight, I should like to inform the House that Professor Harold Laski was the Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics for very many years. His contribution to political science has been recognized to have been made in accordance wilh the proper scientific attitude and with academic tradition. That has been recognized by all persons, irrespective of their political views and the kind of political interpretation they place upon his work.
Laski was a man whose writings were a good deal influenced by conditions in the 1920’s and the early 1930’s and by his own experience in the courts. I think it could hardly be said that he had fair treatment from one or two courts in which he appeared in a very famous libel action. Nevertheless, Professor Laski’s influence was an academic influence, which has been exercised equally as much upon people who might agree with the kind of political views possessed by supporters of the Government as upon others. He did not have any balance of influence upon Labour supporters, although he was president of the British Labour party - a matter which, with its sinister implication, the honorable member for Moreton would no doubt have pointed out had he been aware of it. Professor Laski has had some influence upon supporters of the Labour party, along with many thousands of other people who have written and spoken the ideas which go to make up the philosophy of the Labour party, but I would say that he has had very little influence upon the Australian Labour party. I doubt whether a man such as the honorable member for East Sydney has ever bothered to read what Professor Laski has written. Perhaps he also has discovered to be true, from his own experience, a number of the things that Professor Laski considered to be true.
I merely direct attention to the continuous efforts of persons like the honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) to bring out from the background some sinister figures in an attempt to give the impression that a great Australian political party like the Australian Labour party is, in some way, influenced by them. If it were not for these rather unsuccessful attempts by those honorable members to influence the people, it would not be necessary for the Opposition to submit anything in rebuttal.
The position that has been taken up by the Opposition is quite clear. This is a simple measure. We do not need to roam all over the world and discuss Professor Laski, We do not need to consider what happened in 1921 or what was the attitude of the Labour party generally to matters of this sort. The Labour party has taken up the attitude that there is a principle that there should be adequate and fair remuneration for all, but has pointed out clearly that the Government does not apply that principle. The Opposition strongly advocates increases in lower salaries and pensions before bigger pensions for those higher in the social scale such as judges. That is the substantial reason why the Opposition is opposing this measure. It has made its attitude quite clear, and there was no need for Government supporters to introduce into the debate irrelevant matters so that they could seize a political advantage upon which the honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member for Moore try to live.
.- This bill is an important measure because of a matter of principle. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) is to be commended for the stirring appeal that he made in his brief speech on behalf of the many thousands of under-privileged persons - the pensioners of Australia - who are being denied economic justice by this Government. The honorable member referred to the meagre allowance of £4 7s. 6d. a week which is being paid to age pensioners. Notwithstanding continued efforts by members of the Opposition to obtain an increase in those pensions, the Government has callously disregarded their approaches and continues to pay the small rate of pension which is decreasing in value each week because of rising prices.
I speak feelingly on this matter, as I come from the State of Queensland, which has just been cursed by the birth of a Country party government. As fast as it can be done, that Government is eliminating prices control by regulation, causing prices to rise and thereby decreasing the purchasing power of the thousands of pensioners who are entitled to a reasonable deal from this Government and higher pensions. I speak on behalf of the age pensioners to whom the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith referred. I realize that that matter is not within the provisions of the bill before the House, but I want to refer to it in passing to direct attention to the difference between the actions of honorable members who support this LiberalCountry party Government when they are dealing with pensions of judges, and their attitude to pensions for the aged persons of the community.
The bill provides that a judge who has attained the age of 60 years may retire on a pension equal to 50 per cent, of his salary. That is a very generous allowance. If I remember rightly, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia now receives £8,000 or more a year. That means that his pension on retirement will be £4,000 a year, which is no mean sum of money. It has been the policy of the Labour party when it was in office in Queensland not to pay pensions to judges. That Labour Government believed that a man who was appointed to a judicial position should be in the same category as any other individual and make provision for This own economic future. Apparently, the principle in the Commonwealth sphere is that judges will be paid a pension.
One must accept the situation as it is, but while the principle of pensions for judges is accepted by the Parliament, I believe that the provisions for such pensions should operate on a different basis from that which is now observed. I believe it is appropriate to refer in this connexion to the pensions fund to which members of this Parliament are compelled by law to subscribe. We know that there is a Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund for which honorable members and senators have deductions made from their parliamentary salary. All members of the Parliament pay £4 10s. a week to that fund. After contributing for many years, and on retiring at the age of 65, they receive a pension of £15 a week. The senior judge of the High Court of Australia, who is receiving £8,000 a year, makes no contribution to any retiring fund, but will receive, on retirement, a pension of £4,000 a year, or almost £80 a week.
I believe that much of the criticism that is directed at judges in this connexion would be removed if they received their retiring allowances or pensions from a contributory fund. The Commonwealth Public Service operates on that basis in relation to -pensions. Members of Parliament have built up a most substantial retiring fund and, on the basis of their contributions of £4 10s. a week, it now has a balance in hand in excess of £300,000. I believe that judges’ pensions should be put on a similar basis, and their contributions could be calculated on a scale comparable with that applied to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund.
Some honorable members on the Government side have stated that members of the bar who have been appointed to the High Court of Australia have made a considerable sacrifice. I have no doubt that many of them have made sacrifices, but many others have not done so. An excellent field has been created for members of the legal profession by those who framed the Constitution in the closing days of the last century and who, in the words of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), have given us a Constitution which prevents this Parliament from governing the nation. Lawyers have, in the Constitution, a wonderful field in which to operate. Many hundreds - perhaps thousands - of them in Australia receive a very good income because of the complexity of the disputes arising from the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. They do pretty well.
I have no doubt that even though, in the words of the honorable member for Balaclava, the judges- do make sacrifices, it is not a very small list which is submitted to the Prime Minister when it is proposed to select a judge for the High Court. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister would have a very large panel of names of persons who were prepared to be judges of the High Court, at a very high salary and - what is more important to them, I suppose - with a very high retiring allowance or a very good pension for a widow.
I would say that there is one clause in the bill which is very just. It is the last one, which provides that the bill shall not be applicable to persons who have been receiving a pension for some time past.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.) Ayes . . . . . . 53
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 2) 1957-58. Second Reading.
Debate resumed from 6th May (vide page 1472), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure deals with the financial accounts of the Commonwealth for the year ended June, 1958. It relates to expenditures already incurred, or expenditures that will be incurred in the remaining part of the financial year, which were not allowed for when the Budget was made. In a Budget of the size of the Australian Budget, about £1,200,000,000, it is impossible to estimate absolutely precisely the expenditure that will be incurred throughout the year. There are always unusual events or things that were not foreseen at the time of the preparation of the Budget - alterations in salaries or new commitments that emerge only during the course of the financial year.
The measure provides for additional appropriations aggregating £1 1,000,000, which sum, set against the total Budget of about £1,200,000,000, is seen to be in the region of only 1 per cent, of the total.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, is it intended that the four Supply bills shall be debated together, or are they to be taken separately? I understand that it is usual for Supply bills to be debated together and dealt with separately subsequently.
– The bills relate to different years. The bills that relate to Supply for this year may be dealt with together, and the others later on.
– There are two appropriation bills for this year.
– Yes, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the works and services bill also be dealt with now, but we shall get a little mixed if we attempt to discuss two financial years at the same time. For the moment, we shall be considering two Supply bills, covering additional estimates for ordinary services and for capital works and services.
As 1 have pointed out, the amount of approximately £11,000,000 represents only 1 per cent, of the aggregate expenditure for the year. That indicates the impossibility of budgeting to the nearest penny. Thereare one or two items that I think call for particular consideration. A matter that warrants some discusion is the little rider that was tacked on to the motion moved by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), dealing with the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. It stated that, in addition to thisamount of £11,206,000- . . there be granted to Her Majesty, for theservices of the year 1957-58, for the purposes of the-
Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve established by the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Act 1955, such sums as the Treasurer from time to time determines.
Of course, that is an easy formula which enables surplus revenues arising from Commonwealth accounting during the year ending 30th June, 1958, simply to be tucked away in the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Account. In fact, the Estimates that were introduced in the Parliament in September last indicated that nearly £120,000,000 already had been provided as an item of expenditure to go to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Account.
I wish to have a few words to say about this form of finance, particularly in relation to the reason for the establishment of this account. The reason is set out in some detail in the answer to a question on notice which I asked of the Treasurer and which appears at page 1799 of “ Hansard “ of 24th October last. The matter was covered also in some detail in the 1957-58 Budget speech of the Treasurer, which was delivered on 3rd September, 1957. The information in the answer to which I have referred discloses that, at 30th June, 1957, there was approximately £317,000,000 to the credit of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Account, and that during the current financial year, approximately threequarters of which already has gone, it was proposed to add a further £119,000,000. The measure that we are now contemplating provides for further surplus revenues, if any, to be taken into the account. Of course, at this stage it is debatable whether there will be surplus revenues, but if there are, they may automatically be placed to the credit of this account.
What was the origin of the account, or the reason for establishing it? By way of answer to that question, I propose to read the following extract from the answer which the Treasurer supplied on 24th October last: -
The Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve was established by act of Parliament assented to in November, 1955. The purposes of the Reserve are defined in section 6 of the act and are explained in more detail in my second-reading speech in this House on 26th October, 1955. Its object is the reduction of Commonwealth Government debt - particularly debt maturing in the next few years, which includes a large proportion of war debt for which there may be considerable redemptions on maturity.
In other words, it was established because the Treasurer had considerable doubt whether government loans would be filled in future, because of the reluctance of people who invested in war loans during the war period, from 1939 to 1945, either for patriotic reasons or because there were no other avenues of investment in those days, to continue to invest at low rates of interest. The Australian Labour party believes that the interest rate of a country such as Australia ought to be held as low as possible, because to do so benefits all sections of the community, not only the government. After all, the gilt-edged rate ultimately determines the rate at which money can be borrowed on private account. Only recently, we have had quoted in this House instances of the peculiar pickle into which Australia has got itself through failure to control the interest structure of its economy, a failure that has had its impact on loan conversion during the course of this financial year.
In the tables which accompanied the Budget speech of the Treasurer in September last, there are details of Commonwealth loans which fall due for conversion during the current financial year. On 15th August last, loans totalling £153,000,000 fell due for conversion. On 15th November, a further £77,000,000 became due, and on 15th May - in less than a fortnight - £188,000,000 worth of Australian national debt will fall due for redemption or conversion. Recently, an announcement was made in a Treasury bulletin that an overseas loan of £16,000,000 sterling, or £20,000,000 Australian, which had been raised during the regime of the Labour Government at the low interest rate of 3 per cent., had had to be converted in London last month at the high interest rate of 6 per cent., and that even then the loan had had to be issued at a discount of 10s. - at £99 10s., instead of £100. Yesterday, I suggested to the Treasurer that, as a matter of common sense, rather than convert at 6 per cent, a 3 per cent, loan of £20,000,000, with an annual increase of £600,000 in interest on the transaction, it would be better to redeem such loans from moneys standing to the credit of Australia’s international reserves.
Apparently, the Government feels that, on balance, Australia’s international position has deteriorated to such an extent that it is better to hold that £20,000,000 in London and take a new loan at 6 per cent, rather than redeem the loan, reduce our reserves by £20,000,000, and save ourselves £1,200,000 annually in interest. If the £20,000,000 had been repaid, no interest on it would have been payable, and we should have been saved £1,200,000 every year until 1976. Although our international reserves are lower than they ought to be, surely they are not so low that it would not have been prudent to take the course that I have suggested, and, instead of converting the loan of £20,000^000 at 6 per cent., incurring an annual interest impost of £1,200,000 for nearly twenty years, and remaining under an obligation to repay the principal sum at the end of that period, cancel the loan altogether by paying it off. Australia’s reserves would have been reduced by £20,000,000, but we should not have had this annual interest burden, and the principal sum owing would have been redeemed immediately. The Treasurer falls back, as he always does, on the old dodge of suggesting that the decision was made by the Australian Loan Council. These decisions supposedly made by the Loan Council, pf course, are taken by it with the pistol of the supreme financial authority of the Commonwealth fully loaded and pointing directly between the eyes of the State representatives. Although the .contention that the decision to convert this loan was freely agreed on at a meeting of the Loan Council, with the Premiers and Treasurers of the States assembled together, raises a good debating point, it begs the economic realities of the present financial supremacy of the Commonwealth.
– Which is responsible for the decline of Australia’s finances.
– Exactly. It is responsible for the deterioration of Australia’s financial position to such a degree that the internal gilt-edged interest rate, which was down to 3i per cent, less than ten years ago, has now risen to .more than 5 per cent. Ten years ago, Australia could .borrow in
London at 3 per cent., but it now has to borrow on that market at 6 per cent., although, strangely enough, it can borrow on the dollar market at an effective rate of
Ai per cent., or somewhere near 5 per cent., after allowing for underwriting and other charges. This is an indication of the deterioration of Australia’s internal financial mechanisms, and a great deal of responsibility for this deterioration must be laid at the door of the Commonwealth Government, which is charged with the ultimate responsibility for the country’s monetary policy. And monetary policy is a weapon that cannot be used on its own to-day. It has to be backed by a proper fiscal or taxation policy, and the implementation of such a policy is solely in the hands of governments.
Getting back to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, I ask these questions: Why should there be any doubt about whether securities representing some £400,000,000 of Australia’s national debt will any longer be regarded by those holding them as gilt-edged? Why does the Treasurer doubt whether those who hold those securities will want to take cash instead of an investment in a further loan, even though they can now invest at a higher rate of interest than they already receive? The answer, of course, lies in the fears raised by the capital .losses that have .been incurred in the past by some holders of such securities. Many people held their securities until they came up for conversion because they did not want to incur capital losses, which, in some instances, have amounted to as much as £12 of every £100 invested, and in most instances to between £5 and £10 of every £100 invested, in the event of its being necessary for the holder to sell the securities.
Surely this raises a question that the Government should face up to, because, in any modern community, there should always be a role for direct investment of the public’s savings in -Government securities, if so desired, rather than in private securities. But, in Australia, the government sector of investment is becoming less and less significant. I have not with me the figures showing the movement of the national debt, but- they have been mentioned in the House. If one examines them, one finds that, in the aggregate, the proportion of the national debt of well over £3,000,000,000 held by individual investors, as distinct from government agencies and institutional investors, has been declining over the years. In the last year or two, the aggregate amount held by private investors has been reduced, although the aggregate debt of the country as a whole has increased. That is a serious situation, which it is incumbent upon any government to investigate. But this Government pays no attention to it. The only device adopted - it was mentioned by the Treasurer in his last Budget speech - was to take the short way out and defer the evil day for a short time.
In the last few loans that have been raised, there has been provision for shortterm borrowing for periods as short as twelve months and no longer than two years, at an interest rate of nearly 5 per cent, for the two-year period. Naturally enough, one cannot incur a very great capital loss if the loan will be converted in two years. As a result, there has been a tendency for some individual investors to invest in short-term loans. As I have said, however, that merely defers the evil day for a couple of years. In his last Budget speech, on 3rd September, 1957, as reported at page 222 of “ Hansard “, the Treasurer said -
In recent years, investors and convenors have sought short-term securities to a much greater extent than they formerly did, and the result of this tendency is, of course, to add to the total of early maturing debt.
Of course it is, because the loan has to be converted within twelve months or two years. That is so from the outset.
In some countries, of course - and this is true of the United States of America, by contrast with Australia - there is a tendency for the public to hold the major part of the individual holdings of government securities at the short-term end of the market rather than at the long-term end of the market. So long as there is a money market so organized that it can control the short-term market, as there is in the United States of America, and provided that some people want to invest as fast as others want their holdings redeemed, there is not very much of a problem. There is a problem, however, when many people are getting out of bond investment and nobody is getting into it. That is the situation at which we have arrived in Australia.
The root of the problem is that, under the financial policy of this Government, many individual investors have incurred heavy capital losses on their investments. From time to time, we on this side of the House have suggested, with no response from the Government, that it ought to devise a government security tailored to fit the situation, as it were, which should be issued in such a way that investors would run no risk of incurring capital losses. We had an example with war saving certificates. A certificate was sold for, I think, 16s. and after a period of seven or eight years it was worth £1. Interest was added each year and the income was free from taxation. Generally, a period of six or nine months had to elapse before the certificate could be sold. After all, people cannot regard government bonds altogether as bank accounts; they are in a different field. However, provided the period of six or nine months had elapsed, ‘a person could sell certificates without any fear of capital loss.
That type of security is very popular in the United States of America. Those who read some of the popular magazines that come from the United States, such as “ Time “ or “ Newsweek “, will from time to time see advertisements, inserted by the United States Treasury, which advocate this type of security for the small investor. Why does not the Australian Government use a little imagination in this direction, instead of adopting a stop-gap which merely puts off the evil day? The Government should issue a type of security which will guarantee the amount invested against capital loss but which will give to its holder a reasonable rate of interest. In my view, the small investor is more concerned with the capital integrity of his investment than he is with a high rate of interest. The prudent person, of course, wants to obtain as much as the market will give, but he certainly does not want to be involved in capital loss. Such capital loss is, on occasions, caused by manipulation of the market in a great see-saw battle that sometimes goes on between the government seller at one end and the large financial institutions at the other.
The small investor could be kept out of that labyrinth and segregated in a more secure field. If that were done, his investment would be a valuable contribution to the national savings and to the financing of the public works programmes of the States and the local governing authorities. It is doubtful whether this source would yield, in aggregate, terrific sums, but at least it is a field that ought to be in contemplation by the Government. However, in default of that, about £120,000,000 annually has to be taken out of the ordinary revenues of the Commonwealth - there are plenty of useful purposes to which it could be devoted - and held against the fear that, when debt conversions are due, the investors will not convert but will ask for cash. The Treasurer expressed that gloomy foreboding when he presented the Budget last year. I do not know what he will propose when he presents his last Budget in a month or two. Meanwhile, in this bill, he is taking the opportunity to freeze any surplus revenue that may be received between now and the end of June so that he can appropriate for the purposes of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve “ such sums as the Treasurer from time to time determines “.
This is rather like the era of financial speculation in England - the era of the “South Sea bubble”. Then, people became so wild to invest in anything that they were willing to invest in something that they would be told about later. It seems that the “ South Sea bubble “ is about to burst, so far as the Commonwealth and State financial relations are concerned. But it will burst in the face of the State governments, because they are suffering the pinch of financial extremity. It is rather ironical that every time the financial difficulties experienced by the States are mentioned, the Prime Minister or the Treasurer says, “ We are giving more of our resources back to the States for their needs than was ever given before.” More and more must be given if Australia is to have an expanding economy and if its population is to increase at the rate of 200,000 persons a year. To maintain even the present level of activity, there must be greater and greater expenditure both on current account and on capital account. That is the only way to allow for an expanding economy and to allow for the growth that is necessary, not only to maintain, but also to improve the standard of living of Australia’s citizens.
The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have no right to say, “ Really, it is our money and we are giving it to the States out of goodness of heart “. It is being given to the States - in many instances, grudgingly - only to permit them to meet the various responsibilities that still lie with them under the existing constitutional arrangements. Every State is clamouring for more money simply to keep going at existing levels. The States need even more money if they are to expand - and expansion is necessary. If we are to get rid of the sort of thing that was mentioned yesterday by my colleague, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), where schools have as many as 70 students in a class instead of only 24 or 25, much more money must be given both on capital account and revenue account out of the sums collected by the Commonwealth in the most convenient way - that is, by uniform taxation. The States must be better reimbursed to enable them to discharge their obligations.
One or two items in the Additional Estimates call for a little more comment and explanation by the Treasurer. Quite a number fall within the category of defence expenditure. About £7,000,000 of the £10,000,000 on the ordinary departmental accounts is required for additional expenditure by the defence services. Some of these items are rather large. No information was given by the Treasurer and I suggest that, at least in the committee stage, the appropriate Minister should give some information about them.
I refer to Division No. 170K - Royal Australian Air Force Squadrons Overseas - Maintenance - “ For payment to the credit of the Korean Operations Pool Trust Account, £3,500,000”. Most of us think that the Korean war is over, and it seems rather odd that at the end of the 1957-58 financial year a sum of £3,500,000 should be appropriated for the Korean Operations Pool Trust Account. No doubt there is an explanation, but the explanation has not been given and it should be given. The next item to which I refer is Division No. 172 - Equipment and Stores - “ petrol and oil, £516,000”. That is quite a considerable under-estimate by a department in computing the quantity of petrol and oil that would be needed for its vehicles and equipment during the currency of a year. That again, I suggest, calls for some further explanation.
Division No. 185 - Defence research and development - is a sort of inverted item. lt deals with the amount that is to be recovered from the United Kingdom, apparently for some joint project of research and development that has been undertaken by Australia and the United Kingdom. But instead of recovering £2,150,000 as her share, Australia apparently is to recover only £1,440,000, a difference of £710,000. 1 suggest that in fairness to the House a little more explanation of this item is required.
I come now to Division No. 191 - “ Acquisition of sites and buildings, £537,600 “. Most honorable members were under the impression that the Commonwealth already had sufficient sites round the periphery of the continent without rushing in and buying others in the last few months of this year, thereby involving the expenditure of £537,600. This item is under the control of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall); no doubt he will be able to throw a little more light on it.
Division No. 145, “ Aircraft and Aero Engines, £78,000 “, although a small item, ponders a very big question relating to the future of Australia’s aircraft industry. This item is under the control of the Department of the Navy. Whether the item covers aircraft to be bought from overseas, or additional aircraft to be built in our own factories, I do not know. The inclusion of this item gives me an opportunity to point out again that the aircraft industry in Australia is now in a state of serious decline. The industry had a noble record during the hours of Australia’s dire peril. At one stage 15,000 “people were employed in various sections of the industry throughout Australia. Quite a large part of the industry is centred in my electorate. On the one hand is Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited, a private concern, which at least has a programme of Sabre jets to keep it in production up to 1960. It also has one or two other projects in hand that seem to be able to keep the undertaking together. Adjacent to that undertaking is the government factory, operated by the Department of Defence Production, the employees of which do not know whether the factory will be closed on 30th June. That is the rumour circulating around- the works. Some months ago I asked a question in the House about this matter, and the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Townley), who had only recently taken over the portfolio, said that he would investigate the matter and give me an answer. The subsequent answer that I received was that a committee was being set up to investigate this important matter. A few weeks ago I asked the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Defence Production, who was overseas, whether this report was yet available. The right honorable gentleman was good enough to get the information at once. He said that he expected to have the report to hand in a few days. Nothing further has been heard about the matter, and meanwhile hundreds of people in the area are apprehensive about their future. It is time the Government, instead of indicating the vast organizational changes that it proposes to make in the defence structure, gave us a little more information about the vital industries that are part of the defence mechanism in this country, and none more necessarily so at the moment than the aircraft industry. We want a little more information and a little less piety and platitude from the Government in these directions.
The final matter to which I refer highlights some of the difficulties that beset organizations doing magnificent work in this country. I refer to an item under the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization - Division No. 129 -Administrative-“ Tribophysics, £4,785 “. Until a month or two ago I did not know what tribophysics was. However, I received a letter from the chief of that division of the C.S.I.R.O., Dr. Boas, whose department is in the grounds of Melbourne University. He wrote to Victorian members asking them if, when they had time available, they would visit his organization. Ultimately I was able to go along and was conducted round the division. Many of the details of the things being done there were beyond my comprehension, but at least it was obvious that the services that were being rendered there in a most unspectacular way were of great significance to Australian secondary industries. It was pointed out that one small piece of equipment which, if its purchase could be authorized, would make the work of the officers much more fruitful, cost only about £5,000. But when the estimates for this division were submitted to the head office of the C.S.I.R.O. - it must be remembered that the tribophysics division is only one of about 40 separate divisions and sections within the organization - Dr. Boas was told that he must pare his estimates by a few thousand pounds. This necessary piece of equipment had to be sacrificed. In consequence the work of that division has been stultified to a degree. I hope that this additional sum of £4,785 now being appropriated may provide that piece of equipment which may solve problems relating to our secondary industries.
This division of the C.S.I.R.O. deals with the problem of friction where surfaces come together in the course of industrial production. Friction confronts industry from time to time with grave problems and research is being conducted into those problems by this division of the organization. Expensive microscopes and photographic equipment, among other things, are necessary. Often a government with a Budget of £1,200,000,000 does not always realize that there is a little friction in its own working. An amount of £5,000 or £10,000 is small in relation to the total Budget, but its expenditure may mean a great deal to the people working on the spot who have no direct influence over Ministers. They cannot get the ear of Ministers. In March they are told to prune their estimates by £10,000 or £20,000. Sometimes such pruning may be necessary, but sometimes it results in stultifying important developments in the community. That is true of one organization - the C.S.I.R.O. It has equal application to the States. The States are sometimes unable to convince a Commonwealth government, such as this Government, of what it would mean to have another £30,000 devoted to public libraries, an additional £45,000 spent on adult education, or a further £50,000 devoted to child welfare. These problems do not always sink home, and it is not very satisfactory for the States to be told that they are being given more money than ever before. Needs to-day are greater than they were in the past and it is time this fact was realized by the responsible financial authorities in Canberra.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The House has before it two bills. The first is entitled the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1957-58, which seeks parliamentary authority for expenditure for which provision was not made in the Estimates for the year ending 30th June next. The second bill is the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1957-58. Before the suspension of the sitting the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) dealt with the Appropriation Bill at length and concluded his remarks by referring to clause 4 which makes provision for the payment of funds into the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
On previous occasions in this House I have pointed out that if the Government cannot raise sufficient finance from the people by way of loans to meet their needs, it must obtain the money from them by way of taxes. Under the Appropriation Bill the Government is making provision to meet additional expenditures. I have always been interested in the clause in measures of this kind similar to clause 3. Sub-clause (1.) provides -
The Treasurer may issue out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and apply towards making good the supply hereby granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year ending the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight, the sum of Eleven million two hundred and six thousand pounds.
That is the sum which will be required to meet the expenditure calculated in the additional Estimates that have been presented to us, but we do not know whether it will eat up all the money that has been collected in revenue during the year. Under the Constitution the States have certain claims in reference to surplus revenue, but to get over the difficulty the Government has instituted the practice of putting any surplus into a special fund. In this case it is paid into the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his second-reading speech, said that the Appropriation Act of 1957-58, which authorized expenditure of revenue for this year, included an amount of £119,363,000 for payment to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. That means that the Government considered that when it had collected revenue from the people it would have sufficient to meet the estimated expenditure and also a surplus of more than £119,000,000 which could be allocated for some specific purpose. The Treasurer allocated that sum to this special reserve fund.
Why was it necessary to do that? Why was it necessary to tax the people so heavily that the revenue collected was £119,000,000 more than was needed to meet estimated expenditure? The Government had a plan. Last year when the Australian Loan Council wanted to obtain a loan of a certain sum, the advisers to the Government said that it would not be able to raise that amount from the people by way of loan. They said that the people would not be prepared to subscribe to loans to meet expenditure by the States and by the Commonwealth - although nearly the whole amount would be spent by the States.
Although the Loan Council fixes the amount which, it considers, should be raised by loan, the things that matter are whether that amount can be raised, and if it cannot be raised, whether the Government can guarantee to make up the deficiency. So the Commonwealth Government comes into the picture and tells the Loan Council that it will guarantee or underwrite the loan to the extent that it is not subscribed, in order that sufficient money will be available to meet expenditure for the year.
As I have said previously, this is a practice which is rather foreign to the parties which are opposed to the Labour party. The Labour party has always advocated that the Government should be able to meet necessary expenditure, if not entirely by loan then by way of taxation. If, for example, we look at the amount of money provided in the Estimates and examine the expenditure on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme we find that the hundreds of millions of pounds required for that purpose are being raised from the people not by way of loan but by way of taxation. Interest is being charged on the money allocated to the Snowy Mountains scheme; and members on this side of the House are not at all keen on the practice under which interest has to be paid on money which the people have subscribed by way of taxes for the welfare of Australia. The Snowy Mountains Authority does not pay interest at the rate of 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. out of its income but it adds this amount of interest to the capital sum which is being provided by the taxpayers to build that great scheme.
In actual fact, the Government is following a practice which members of the Opposition strongly favour. The Government has acknowledged that if it cannot induce the people to subscribe voluntarily to a loan, it must make what could almost be called a capital levy on them. When all is said and done, if revenue is taken from the people by way of tax for something which is not, in the ordinary sense, capital expenditure, and that money is obtained by increasing the rate of income tax by1s. in the £1, it is practically a capital levy of 1s. in the £1. The people never get the money back; it is by no means a loan. It is used for a specific purpose.
Although the Government decries socialization, accuses members on this side of being socialists and says that we would use the money of the people for government purposes, we find that that is exactly what the Government is doing, because it has no option to do otherwise.
Why has it no option? In our Estimates we make provision for the various government departments. Amongst them is the Department of the Treasury, including the Taxation Branch, which, from taxes, collects the money necessary for the Commonwealth to carry out its public works programme. Why is it done in this way? We have to raise money by way of taxation to meet the cost of works and to redeem loans becoming due. We have already agreed that an amount of £119,000,000 should be appropriated for the redemption of loans, and this measure provides that any money unexpended at 30th June, will automatically be paid into the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, and will be used for that purpose. We would not need it if the Government were to adopt another of the policies which were applied by the Labour Government. I refer to the exercising of strict control over interest rates.
One of the reasons that we have difficulty in getting sufficient loan money for housing and other purposes is the determination of the present Government not to go Labour’s way in making money available at a reasonable rate of interest. Wherever possible, the Government allows private interests to take control of money, to do as they like with it. Under the banking legislation there is provision for a certain amount of control. The Commonwealth
Bank Board can, with the consent of the Treasurer, fix the rate of interest to be charged on overdrafts. Having made that provision, the Commonwealth should be prepared to go still further and exercise some control over the rate of interest paid by people needing money for other purposes.
For many years now I have been very fearful about the gradual increase in the amount of money that is being devoted to hire-purchase in our community. I am not worried about people buying on hirepurchase things to meet their needs, providing they pay only a reasonable rate of interest. But in the daily newspapers we read reports of the activities of various finance companies, some of which are associated with the banks. I do not want to name the individual banks, but I could do so if it were necessary. Some of our big banking institutions are very much interested in the stock of hire-purchase finance organizations. As every honorable member knows, the newspapers contain advertisements by hirepurchase organizations inviting people to invest and promising a return of 10 per cent. At the end of the year, some of these big companies financing hire-purchase transactions are able to pay dividends of 15 per cent, or 16 per cent, and still have large amounts in reserve. This makes us wonder whether we, as the guardians of the nation, are doing our duty by permitting that kind of thing to go on. It is all very well to say that it is the fault of the man who buys an article on hire-purchase. We know that the practice is growing and growing. Big city departmental stores invite people to purchase under a budget system, paying a deposit and then ls. in the £1 each week. That system is not quite in line with real hire purchase, but it is a product of the hire-purchase system as we know it.
I remember going down to Melbourne in a train about eighteen months ago. Between Albury and Melbourne I was talking to a man who was very much interested in motor car sales. He was working at this occupation and knew the position. He knew what it was costing people to purchase motor cars on hire purchase. He told me that people had no conception of the actual amount of interest companies were raking off when cars were bought under hire purchase over two and a half years at a flat rate of interest of 8 per cent. But this system started years ago, before motor cars were introduced. My first experience of it was in connexion with the purchase of pianos. The interest rate was said to be 5 per cent., but when a purchaser thought that he had paid the total amount, the company would tell him that the 5 per cent, was a flat rate on the original amount owed. A working man would be buying a piano at the rate of a couple of shillings a week and for the whole of the four or five years during which he was making payments, he was charged 5 per cent, on the total price. I am afraid that this system will bring ruin to many of our people.
Some two or three years ago I spoke on this matter at a Labour meeting in my own State. I said, “You men are working and receiving a full week’s wage at a rate prescribed by an arbitration award. In addition, many of you are working on Saturday and Sunday. Instead of receiving only the award wage of £16 or £18, you receive another £10 or £12, making a total of about £30 a week. You are committing yourselves under hire-purchase agreements on the basis that that is your regular income. Take it from me that when there is a little slump and the employer can get plenty of men to work at the ordinary rate, he will not pay the special week-end rate, and you will find that you are down to a normal weekly wage.”
When I had finished speaking at that meeting, a man came up to me and said, “ What you have said can happen is already happening “. He referred to the motor industry in South Australia. He said that men who had been earning up to £30 a week had bought expensive motor cars, on which they had to make repayments of £15 or £20 a month. Honorable members know very well that £20 a month as an instalment on the purchase price of a motor car is not a very high amount to-day. Those men, who were paying that amount, were suddenly put on to the ordinary rate. They did not know just what to do. They did not know how to make the payments and they were afraid of losing their motor cars.
Another illustration of how many people are living close to the mark in relation to their own finances appeared when the Parliament increased the sales tax on motor
Cars. I knew quite a number of men who were working at General Motors-Holden’s Limited. They were able to buy Holden cars at concession prices. They were buying new cars every year and, because they “were buying at a concessional rate and selling their old cars at the market price, they were able to get new cars at practically no expense to themselves. As one man said to me, “ If I can get a new car by paying only £50 extra, I reckon I have done well, because I have had the use of the old car for twelve months and now I have a brand new one to go on with “. The men had booked new cars for purchase. When the extra sales tax was applied, they found they could not go ahead. They had to cancel their orders for the cars they were going to buy, because they could not afford them.
You, Mr. Speaker, may feel that my remarks are getting away from the bill, but I am arguing that we should try to alter the financial system so that we can avoid this position. High interest rates have to be paid when people buy on hire purchase, not only motor cars, but also on such things as wall-to-wall carpets, refrigerators and other necessities. If we could ensure that only reasonable rates of interest would be charged, we would not have people with money investing it in hire-purchase companies at 8 per cent., 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, interest, or whatever high rate they can get, instead of investing in Commonwealth loans.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to-day to loans that would mature in the next financial year. As the Treasurer knows, loans for large amounts will fall due and must be converted or redeemed in cash. I hope that the right honorable gentleman and the Government will pay heed to my comments in this connexion. Previously there have not been any other channels for public investment outside Government loans; but now the people are able to invest in other channels and receive one and a half times or twice the return that they have been receiving for Government bonds. If the Government ignores the situation it will see a sharp reaction. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to a question he had directed to the Treasurer about an overseas loan at 3 per cent, being converted or redeemed in cash. In its place, investors were being offered something like 6 per cent. The honorable member asked why Australia had to pay more interest on overseas loans. The reason is that investors are not satisfied that our loans are as good a risk as they were. If we want to raise money in the United Kingdom to finance necessary works, we must be confident that our loans there will be renewed. I did not intend to speak at length on this matter but it is so important that I have taken advantage of your leniency, Mr. Speaker, to speak at some length. I felt impelled to do so because, when appropriations of money and taxes are under discussion, this is the place to express any views that we have on those natters.
One of the bills under discussion -the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1957- j>8 - provides for the appropriation of £11,206,000 for general expenditure. The other provides for an expenditure of £3,537,000 on works and other services. I have been considering what is the need for these two bills. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to one provision for defence expenditure. He was generous when he said that the amount provided in the additional estimates was only approximately 1 per cent, above the original estimate. He considered that that showed a pretty fair appreciation of the requirements by those who prepared the estimates.
As honorable members know, the Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, has presented reports from time to time on public expenditure. The committee has tried to instil into departmental officers the need to base their estimates soundly and not to over-estimate or underestimate. We know that in many cases unexpected eventualities arise, but we emphasize that departmental officers should keep as close as possible to the estimates. I have examined some of the items in this bill, and I cannot understand why estimates of expenditure have been so far out. Division No. 8 provides for Parliamentary printing. Printing of “ Hansard “, including the cost of distribution, was estimated at £65,000. Now another £16,000 is required. I know that this matter was dealt with previously, but I should like to know the reason for the additional vote. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has said, the Treasurer did not give any detail in his speech. The transcript of his speech covers only one and a half pages and does not give any details.
– There are documents provided for that purpose.
– I know that, but the documents do not go out to the public.
– Nor does the speech.
– That is so to a degree, but it is astonishing how many people listen to the parliamentary proceedings when they are broadcast and tell you what they have heard. Even the newspapers bring these matters to the notice of the people on occasions. As I have said, the cost of printing and distributing “Hansard” exceeds the vote by £13,800. The shortage for parliamentary printing as a whole is £31,000.
Some of the figures presented in the bill are remarkable. One of them is the provision for the Taxation Branch of the Treasury. There may be more work this year for the men in the Taxation Branch, but I believe that revenue will be down. The Estimate for the Taxation Branch was £7,802,000, but under Division No. 48 provision is made for additional expenditure of £250,000. When that additional amount is voted for one department, I wonder whether the Estimates are as accurate as they could be in all the circumstances.
Another matter to which I wish to direct attention is Division No. 52 - Bureau of Census and Statistics. The total expenditure for this division was set down at £1,211,000, but the bill provides for an additional amount of £345,800. The Treasurer was correct when he said that some information is given in the documents, but unless somebody examines them and asks questions, we shall not get very far. I suppose there is an explanation for the additional Estimates if we delve deeply enough into the documents. The provision for postage, telegraph and telephone services in many departments has been greatly under-estimated. Quite a lot of extra money is to be made available for those services.
There are other matters to which I wished to refer, but I have not the time to do so. I emphasize, however, that if we are to have proper parliamentary control of public expenditure, we must examine the Estimates carefully. I hope that the Government and the Treasurer will take some action in connexion with interest rates to ensure that our Commonwealth loans are really gilt-edged investments worthy of the support of the public, and that they will not be tossed to one side as they are now.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 6th May (vide page 1472), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 6th May (vide page 1473), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The two bills that the House has just dealt with proposed additional appropriations for this financial year. They showed clearly the accuracy with which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and his officers have estimated expenditure. In dealing with the bill now before the House, we have to look at the estimated expenditure for the next five months, and we cannot do that without taking into account the overall economic position at the present time.
Since this Government has been in office - that is, since December, 1949 - Australia has enjoyed the most prosperous years in its history. We have had nine years of full employment, nine years of improving wages, salaries and conditions, and nine years of improving social services. We have had nine years of balanced Budgets. In not one of those years has this
Government run into a deficit. During the whole of that period, all our Commonwealth public works have been paid for out of revenue. In addition, substantial surpluses have been built up, which have been made available to the States for their public works.
If other things were equal, we could say that the achievements of this Government would enable us simply to follow the course that we have been following during the last nine years. But when we look at the world economic position, which is influenced by matters over which we have no control, we find certain disturbing features. We find, for example, that the price of base metals has fallen substantially. It has fallen even to uneconomic levels. We find a very substantial fall in the price of wool. We find that the price of many other primary products has fallen to such an extent that there is concern about the stability of the industries producing them. If we look at countries that have a great influence on world conditions, we find that there is substantial unemployment in the United States of America. We find unemployment in Canada. In Japan, there is a balance of payments difficulty, and likewise in France.
The amazing thing is that the economy of this country has remained so sound in spite of the difficulties encountered by so many other countries. I think that the manner in which our economy has been managed over the last nine years is a great tribute to the Government. Notwithstanding the disturbing world features which I Save mentioned, Australia is as sound today as it has been in any period of that nine years. During that period we have seen Australia go from strength to strength. The outside world has such confidence in Australia that £500,000,000 has been invested in Australia by people who live outside Australia. Under normal conditions, they would have invested their money in their own countries, but they realized the great opportunities that there are in Australia and they chose Australia for the investment of their funds. That, of course, has been to our very great advantage.
As I mentioned earlier, in looking at the appropriations for the next financial year, we cannot be unmindful of these disturbing economic conditions on the other side of the world. That does not mean that we have any less confidence than we had in the future of Australia. We all know the strength and potential strength of this country. We know that we are going from strength to strength. But 1 do not believe that we can simply say that what has been good for the last nine years is necessarily good under to-day’s conditions. The policy during the last nine years has been to bring about stability of prices - to curb what otherwise would have been galloping inflation. The Government has to its credit that inflation has been stopped and we now have stability of prices.
We must turn our minds to increasing the purchasing power of the community. I believe that we have to watch very closely the employment situation and take such steps as are necessary, almost from day to day, to maintain full employment. Unemployment could easily develop from world conditions as they are to-day. Therefore, we must be particularly vigilant to take such action as is within our power to maintain full employment.
I mentioned earlier, Sir, that for nine years the Government has had a balanced Budget. For nine years the Government has accumulated surpluses. The purpose of that, of course, has been to meet just the kind of situation that we are facing to-day. I believe that the policy of the Government during the last nine years has been absolutely correct, but I think that the time has now arrived when we must use some of those surpluses for the purpose of maintaining full employment and giving a stimulus to private industry. In other words, I think that the time has come for us to think about extending credit. I appreciate, of course, that the surpluses I have mentioned are not cash surpluses. They have been used for loans to the States for capital development, but the situation is that during the last nine years we have paid for capital works from revenue, although, under normal circumstances, they would have been financed from loan funds. For the last few years we have been doing that at the rate of between £100,000,000 and £150,000,000 a year. So, we have plenty of fat to live on in this country, if I may use that term. I am of the opinion that we must be prepared, at the present time, to extend credit and reduce taxes in order to stimulate private industry and to enable, under prevailing world conditions, the maintenance of production and consumption at something like the present figures.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), when speaking just before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, referred to the lack of support for government bonds. Once again, the Labour party is about a year behind the times. If the honorable member had said that twelve months ago, he would have been correct. The position is, Mr. Speaker, that the last two government loans have been oversubscribed, and if I forecast correctly, the present loan will be heavily oversubscribed. However, owing to the fall in world prices for metals and primary products, people are nervous about investing additional money in plant and capital equipment until they know that there will be a market for the goods that they produce. Consequently, money that would otherwise be going into the development of primary and secondary industry, to-day is becoming available for national loans. Any person who studies the stock and share market and the situation of government bonds, will appreciate that to-day there is much more money, if not ample money, available for that kind of security.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports stated that the effective interest rate on government bonds at the present time was more than 5 per cent. Again, Sir, he is a year behind the scene. The interest rate was more than 5 per cent, twelve months ago, but at the moment it is substantially below 5 per cent, for the reason that, according to the ordinary law of supply and demand, money is becoming available, not because it is not wanted for other purposes, but because there are not at the moment avenues for investment in primary and secondary industries, due to the substantial fall in world prices.
Our first job, I believe, is to stimulate the consumption of goods and commodities in this country. If we do that, we will be able to offset the damaging conditions with which we are faced in our overseas markets. Australia has led the world many times. I believe that we can lead the world once again and prove that, notwithstanding the difficulties of America, France and Japan, we can so regulate our economy that we can maintain full employment, sound profits, increasing wages and improving social services. I am sure that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who is at the table, with his great knowledge of economics, will realize that this matter is not one that can just be left to take its course. The danger signal is up, not within Australia, but outside it, and that brings us to the necessity to take early steps to meet the position internally, because unfortunately we have no control over it externally. So I urge the Government, in its next Budget, to take steps to stimulate the purchasing power of the community.
We all know what a devastating thing inflation can be, but we do not want to get it into our heads that at all times we should adopt a deflationary policy. Of course, a deflationary policy should be adopted when there is a boom and it is necessary to put a brake on rising prices. But just as it is necessary to stop prices from continuing to rise in a time of boom by taking certain governmental measures, so in times like the present we must stimulate consumption by increasing the purchasing power of the community, in order to keep men in employment and industries going. Nothing is so wasteful in a country as unemployment. Therefore, even if such a policy meant - and I do not think it would - a slight increase in prices, it would be well worth while if it made sure that unemployment did not develop.
The purpose of my rising to-night is to plead with the Government to be exceedingly watchful at the present time, because conditions, comparatively, are so prosperous in Australia, and our economic affairs are going along so well, that there is rather an inclination to shut our eyes to overseas conditions which, in many parts of the world, are not good.
I want to suggest one or two ways of putting into effect the policy that I suggest. First, there is the question of taxation. All tax reductions put more purchasing power into the hands of the people, who spend all or most of the extra money that they have available, and thereby increase employment. This increase, in its turn, further increases spending and employment. Even if the Government were forced to budget for a deficit next financial year, taxes should be reduced, and any reductions made should be made in a way that would promote the maximum consumption of goods and commodities and the maximum level of production. I believe that, in addition, we could stimulate purchasing power by improving social services. I have discussed social services in this House so many times that I shall not, this evening, go into the details, which, I think, are well known to most people in Australia.
The building industry has a greater influence on employment and production than has any other industry. Therefore, I suggest that more money should be provided for building. The greatest shortage at the present time is probably homes for the aged, and the Government has done a wonderful job under the Aged Persons Homes Act, which has been responsible for the provision of accommodation for 4,000 aged people. The last four homes that were constructed by an organization known as Aged Cottage Homes Incorporated, over which I have the honour to preside, were sought by 84 applicants, although the homes had not been advertised and few people really knew that the organization had homes available. The demand for this kind of home is terrific, Mr. Speaker, and we could do much good by providing, in various ways, more money for the provision of homes for aged people, not necessarily within the terms of the Aged Persons Homes Act, but under a policy directed to achieving a solution of the problem much more quickly than at present appears likely.
Much more money ought to be made available for housing under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. We must strive to provide every house that we have labour and materials available to build, even if we incur Budget deficits in the process. I realize, of course, that we should have to stop before we reached a stage at which the number of artisans, building workers, and other tradesmen, became inadequate to complete the number of houses that we were trying to build, but I believe that we should fully utilize all the available labour in the building of homes.
We should also take the opportunity to do much more to provide sufficient office accommodation for the Public Service throughout Australia. In Adelaide, for example, the Commonwealth has for many years been paying -very high rents for office accommodation scattered throughout the city. This is costly, uneconomic, and wasteful. The dispersion of the accommodation means that the various departments, all of which deal with one another in various ways, find it necessary to have officers travel from one side of the city to another in the course of the ordinary business conducted between the departments. It is false economy to allow such a situation to continue. We could not do much about it before, because there were not sufficient building workers and other tradesmen available to provide the accommodation needed, but we have now reached a situation in which materials and workers are readily available, and now is the time to undertake the big public construction works that are so essential - works that will result in substantial economies in Commonwealth expenditure.
It is a direct responsibility of the Commonwealth to provide homes for members of the defence forces. I believe that one of the principal reasons why we have been unable to maintain the strength of the forces has been the housing difficulties that servicemen have experienced. Therefore. I suggest that this is the time for us to embark on a definite policy to increase the number of homes available for servicemen, and, indeed, to set ourselves the target of providing a home for every serviceman who needs one.
– I told the Government that twelve months ago, but it took no heed.
– It is a pity that the honorable member did not tell the Labour government to do something about it.
Another matter to which we must turn our attention is the problem of roads. I do not suggest that we should spend millions of pounds without any thought of where the money is to come from. We have now had nine years of surpluses resulting from sound financial administration, during which the country has been placed on the soundest economic basis that it could possibly be placed on. We are now in a position to provide employment for every Australian worker and every migrant if we will only utilize the available resources for the purpose, and we should follow a policy that will achieve that result. It may be, Sir. that we should have to change our policy within twelve months in order to avoid a return of over-full employment, but 1 suggest that, now, probably for the first time in the last nine years, we are in a position to build homes, office buildings and public buildings, and to use all the available labour and materials for the purpose. In conjunction with such an objective, we should turn our attention to the problem of roads. Road works quickly provide employment for unskilled workers, and they should be an important part of a general plan, especially as we all know that many millions of pounds will have to be spent on our roads in order to give us the kind of road system that we want.
I urge the Government to consider the general situation in Australia in the light ot the labour and materials available. Having ascertained what labour and -materials are available, the Government should list essential public works in order of priority, maintaining a proper balance and guarding against the return of a situation of over-full employment.
In conclusion, I congratulate the Government on its amazing record of achievement during the last nine years. It has a record of which it may well be very proud. My only request is that the Government be not content to live on its record. It should have a dynamic policy for the future. In 1949, I was confident that this Government would have a marvellous record of achievement, and I am just as confident now that, under changing world conditions, it will produce a plan to keep Australia prosperous, to maintain full employment, to keep wages and profits rising, and to improve social services year by year.
.- The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) concluded by congratulating the Government on its marvellous record.
– Very true - it has a marvellous records
– It is interesting to hear that interjection, but claims about the Government’s glorious record are not supported bv the record of bankruptcies for the last financial year, which indicates that more people have become bankrupt in the last financial year than in any year since the depression. If Government supporters are proud of that and acclaim the policy that has resulted in so many people being forced out of business and into the bankruptcy courts, that is an indication of the marked distinction between the thinking of Government supporters and the thinking of Opposition members. We believe that in a country such as Australia, just as there should be no unemployment and just as the needy, such as age and invalid pensioners, should be supplied with sufficient money and goods, so legislation should be enacted to ensure that bankruptcy will become almost a thing of the past, except in those rare cases that we know can occur on occasions. The number of bankruptcies recorded is now higher than it has been since the depression; yet honorable members opposite applaud the Government for its glorious record over the nine years that it has been in office. I say that the Government has a sorry and disgraceful record. It has legislated in such a way that it has brought about these bankruptcies.
I should like to refer now, Mr. Speaker, to a matter about which you know something. The honorable member for Sturt mentioned the need for buildings and said that we should embark on a great building programme because we are now in a position to do so. More than two years ago, the Government approved of the construction of a new ward at the repatriation hospital in South Australia. South Australia is blessed with a very good general repatriation hospital at Dawes Road, except for one point. The hospital is first class and the medical officers and staff give wonderful service. But the neurosis ward is an old, temporary building. It is a prefabricated building, which even this Government recognized a long while ago was obsolete, and should be replaced with a new ward to provide for the needs of the patients. Although the construction of a new ward has been approved, nothing has been done to build it.
What are the facts, Mr. Speaker? You know them well, because you take quite an interest in this hospital. As a rule, there are 36 patients in this ward. They are crowded together; the beds are almost touching. They are also crowded together in the dining room. They rise very early in the morning, receive certain treatment and then go to the showers. To reach the showers, they cross through a garden on a covered path. It is pretty cold in winter and, if it is raining, the patients can still get wet despite the covering. Then, only three showers are provided for 36 patients, and these people, suffering from neurosis, must queue up for showers. With the money that is voted to the Department of Works and the Repatriation Department, why cannot the Government get on with the job of building this ward, which it admits is a necessity?
These patients are pushed about. Originally, occupational therapy was provided in four divisions - wood work, metal work, basket work and bag work. With its glorious record, this Government, trying to save a few pounds here and there at the expense of the needy, decided that the wood work and metal work sections were not needed, so that a teacher or two could be dispensed with and a few pounds saved. Consequently, these patients are compelled to spend their time on occupational therapy in either the basket work section or the bag work section, irrespective of whether that treatment is the most suitable treatment for them. I want to know why the Government does not provide proper amenities for these people.
I mentioned this old prefabricated building, which houses the neurosis ward. In the summer time, the patients have an old cooling system that uses water. When it is turned on, instead of cooling the patients, it gives them a shower; the water drips down on them. When they need a shower, they have to queue to get one; but, when they are resting in bed on a hot day and the cooling system is turned on, they are given a shower with the water that drips over them. I ask the Minister for Primary industry (Mr. McMahon), who is at the table, to convey my request that something be done about this ward to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). I waited all last week to ask the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) a question about this matter. When he did not enter the chamber, I directed my question to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), but he brushed it aside as if it was no concern of his. The inmates of the repatriation hospital at Dawes-road deserve the assistance of this Parliament. They deserve some action to see that a new ward is built, not promises that it will be done at some time. The building of the ward should be commenced at the very earliest opportunity.
Quite apart from the fact that the ward is in very bad condition, this Government has failed to work out some scheme with the South Australian Government for the treatment of the very bad neurosis cases. I am pleased that this debate is not being broadcast. I would not be happy, when talking about these people, to think that my remarks might be heard by their families, because the facts that I am giving could cause them some distress. The neurosis ward should be such that it could cater for all the treatment required by these patients. The South Australian Lunacy Act is almost as old as the South Australian Parliament, but no one has thought to do anything to bring it up to date. Under that act, the State Government, with the agreement of the Commonwealth Government, sends a patient of the repatriation hospital, whose treatment has reached a certain stage, to a State mental hospital. The Government, and this National Parliament, should be ashamed of itself for saying to exservicemen, “We cannot give you further treatment. We recognize your disability. We are prepared to pay you a pension and to give you some treatment, but we have not the facilities for all the treatment that you need. Therefore, you can go to the State Government “. I say, with some pity for all these patients, that they are forced to receive their treatment in the State mental hopitals. That is completely wrong. The ex-servicemen’s committee formed by honorable members on the other side of the House should give some attention to this matter.
South Australia seems to be the kindergarten State in regard to the treatment of these patients. Inquiries I have made reveal that facilities in all other States for treating ex-servicemen suffering from neurosis are of a very high standard, but in South Australia these neurosis cases are almost a forgotten section.
– Is there a special section for them at the normal asylum?
– No, there is not a special section. The Commonwealth Government is very pleased to shelter behind the old act that I have mentioned and to send the patients out for further treatment. The honorable member for Sturt said that we are enjoying a very prosperous period; I hope that the Government will get busy and see that these people receive the treatment that they are entitled to receive.
Whilst I am speaking about repatriation ma tiers. I should like io comment on the many decisions - I do not like to say wrong decisions - that are made by the commission and even by the tribunals that hear appeals. In a cavalier sort of way, they seem to brush aside most of the appeals that come before them. In saying this I am conscious that to some extent the blame does not fall on the members of the tribunals. I know of one particular case where an exserviceman had been trying for many years to obtain recognition of his war-caused disabilities. Time after time he failed, despite the fact that he had good medical evidence to support his claim. He made a final appeal to the commission, supported by medical evidence from a very high authority, but his claim was refused. He took his case a step further and went before the tribunal. The person appearing for him at the tribunal obtained evidence to prepare his case and discovered that the report compiled by the Repatriation Department showed that the ex-serviceman thought he was suffering from a weak heart. He was not working and was receiving social service payments. The implication was that he imagined he had a weak heart, and because of that he did not want to work and was receiving social service benefits. The report also stated that he was quite capable of doing light work, and very much of it.
This ex-serviceman had worked at the General Post Office in Adelaide. He had been dismissed by the department on the advice of the Commonwealth Medical Officer because his health was so bad that he was no longer capable of doing his work and, in the opinion of the Commonwealth doctor, to use his own words, it was too big a risk to keep him in employment because he might drop dead. In addition, the ex-serviceman had applied for an invalid pension and the examining Commonwealth doctor recommended that he be granted an invalid pension because, in the doctor’s view, he was in such a bad state of health that it was impossible for him to work. His own repatriation doctor, who treated him, had warned him that if he did any work at all he was likely to pass out. The officers who compiled the report for the tribunal had said that the ex-serviceman imagined he had a weak heart. Would he not be entitled to imagine that he had a weak heart when he had lost one job and had been told by his own doctor that he dare not do any work, and when he had been granted an invalid pension after examination by a Commonwealth doctor? The tribunal pointed out that this case had been going on for years. Eventually, because the tribunal was shown that somebody in the Repatriation Department had neglected to do his job properly and that a doctor at the Repatriation Hospital at Dawes-road had made out a completely wrong report, the claimant was awarded a small pension. The man is now totally and permanently incapacitated. He would not be receiving a pension to-day if the misleading reports of the commission and the Repatriation Department had not been discovered.
The people who carry out this work are not exercising enough care. I sympathize wih them, because they have hundreds of cases to deal with. They probably get a little tired and feel that many of the applicants are not entitled to pensions, and accordingly they brush some of them aside. But even if it means employing more people in the department, and more doctors, justice should be done to the ex-service men and women who apply for repatriation benefits. Additional staff should be made available to ensure that applicants’ claims are examined carefully and that, where justified, benefits are granted. The Government should see that the onus of proof section of the Repatriation Act is properly administered, which does not appear to be the case at present.
I hope that the Government will at least get the ward at the Repatriation Hospital at Dawes-road started, and, in addition, examine the general procedure for dealing with applications by ex-service men and women for repatriation benefits. If necessary, it should make any improvements that are desirable.
The honorable member for Sturt, in answer to an interjection by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), asked, “ Why did you not tell your own government that when it was in power ?” That is a pretty poor alibi that Government supporters keep sheltering behind. The present Government came to office in 1949. Since then it has failed to honour its promise to maintain social services at the level at which they stood when it took over. It is an everlasting disgrace to’ the Government that it has done nothing about child endowment. If the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who is at the table, had still been in charge of the Department of Social Services, we should have seen some improvement, but his successor, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) does not seem interested in the young children of the community. The Government has done nothing in that regard, and it is hard to take such retorts as: “ What did your government do ?” The honorable member for Sturt, who made the remark, should use such influence as he has with the Government to see that it brings its social service benefits up to date, and that child endowment receives the attention it deserves.
– The Government is looking after the judges.
– Yes, but where the age and invalid pensioners are concerned, the Government waits until Budget time and gives them a small handout saying that no more can be given. Yet it is able to find sufficient money to give judges pension increases that they do not need nearly as much as the age and invalid pensioners need them. I hope that the increase of judges’ pensions which the House approved to-day foreshadows that justice will be done to age and invalid pensioners, and other social service recipients, and that in the near future they will be treated with the same liberality as the judges have been treated by the Government.
I want now to say something about the 1962 British Empire Games. I do not want to be always saying that the Government is not spending enough money, but I am prompted to do so because honorable members are constantly reminded of the buoyant state of the economy. As a South Australian naturally I should like to see the 1962 Empire Games held in Adelaide, but as an Australian my main concern is that they should be held in Australia. For the Empire Games to be a success Australia must do more than produce the athletes to participate in them. The whole-hearted support of the community, the State governments, and particularly the Commonwealth Government is needed. To-day, I read in a newspaper that the Premier of South Australia has written to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), pointing out that if the Government is not prepared to accept its responsibility and make grants higher than it has been suggested it will make, it would be far better for Australia not to stage the Empire Games. We could not afford to put on a show that would be second-rate compared with what will be done at Cardiff this year. I am informed that the Prime Minister has said that £100,000 is the limit that the Government will provide towards the 1962 Empire Games. That means that the State governments and the various local government bodies will have to find substantial amounts of money. That is all right; they may or may not be able to do it, but it means also that the amateur sporting bodies of this community have to go around, cap in hand, begging here and there for funds to enable them to equip their representatives properly to compete in the games and uphold the prestige of this country in international contests. An honorable member asks why the Government does not take a Minister off one of his trips because the expenditure so saved would pay for sending the Australian team to the Games. But I should not like to deprive a Minister of his trip.
I am sure that many of our athletes who compete here, in the British Empire Games or at Cardiff or in some other country are just as good ambassadors as and probably do a better job than any politicians who are fortunate enough to go abroad. The athletes are really our best ambassadors and have probably done most to build up good relations between Australia and the Asian countries. I know this to be the case from a personal experience. Some years ago, I think in 1952, the Australian Swimming Union brought to this country a Malayan named Neo Chwee Kok to compete in the Australian swimming championships. He wrote to me on many occasions afterwards and I met him when I went through Singapore recently. He told me when he was returning home that he left this country with tears in his eyes because he had made so many good friends and enjoyed good fellowship with them. He found Australia to be a good country with wonderful people. That was the response of one lad to the efforts of the Australian Swimming Union which sponsored his trip and paid his expenses to come here. He appreciated our goodwill towards him and went back to his own country to be an ambassador of goodwill for Australia. I repeat that our sportsmen who go to other countries can do more good for Australia than many politicians whether they be rank-and-file members or Ministers.
– Goodwill for Australia was built up by the A.I.F. members when they were abroad.
– I will not argue with the Australian Country party that goodwill was not built up by A.I.F. members when they were abroad. No doubt it was. My point is that this Government could quite easily guarantee that the Australian sporting bodies are well provided for so that when their representatives go abroad to compete at places like Cardiff they will be properly equipped and have adequate funds. The Government should see that sufficient money is forthcoming to enable the British Empire Games to be held in this country in 1962. If we are well represented it will be an opportunity to build up good relations.-
While on the subject of good relations I should like to mention another matter with which I am sure the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) who is now at the table, will agree. Although sporting bodies have done a magnificent job in building up goodwill with representatives from other countries, I do not rule out the good work that parliamentarians have done. This Parliament would do well to invite to Australia not one or two, but as many as a dozen or more parliamentarians from countries such as Ceylon, India and Pakistan, but particularly Ceylon. It is a country comparatively near to our shores and whose people we have found to be very friendly towards us. Other nations are vitally interested in Ceylon also and have held out the hand of friendship to its people. Some of those countries we have criticized because they are behind the iron curtain, but they are prepared to sponsor trips for parliamentarians from Ceylon to visit them.
If we could bring a dozen parliamentarians from Ceylon to these shores - not representatives of one particular group but of Communists, Socialists, Trotskyites or Conservatives - and show what Australia can do for its people, it would be a good thing. We should let them see what the trade union movement has achieved for the workers of Australia and how the Australian people generally feel towards Asian peoples. I hope that at some time in the future we shall be in a position to invite a delegation of parliamentarians from these countries and when they arrive, allow them to meet not only the V.I.P.’s - the very important people in the community - but also the ordinary people - the workers in the factories and workshops and on the farms. This would give them a first-class opportunity of seeing that Australians are proud of their democratic way of life. We can demonstrate to them that we can make democracy work and that we are not afraid to welcome them here. If we do that sort of thing we need not fear any competition from the iron curtain countries. We would be showing them what we believe to be right and what is the best way of living. If such a plan were carried out, it would pay handsome dividends in the future.
.- The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) has followed the usual pattern of the Opposition. He has asked for more money for this and that - more money for repatriation, pensioners, trips for politicians from abroad to Australia and for athletes. I do not consider that we should always feel responsible to provide finance for every lot of international games held in Australia or for Australian athletes who go abroad to compete. Some Australian athletes are particularly good ambassadors abroad, but, unfortunately, there are some, whom we could name, who have been particularly bad ambassadors abroad. However, by and large, I agree with the honorable member on one point, that when the Australian Olympic Games team goes abroad we have a duty to see that it is the best possible team that can be raised and that lack of finance is not a bar to its going.
I am glad to see that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is in the House, because I feel that we should consider the question of allowing contributions towards the cost of an Olympic Games team as income tax deductions. No honorable member here was backward in coming forward and taking two or three, or as many tickets as we were allowed, so that we could attend the Olympic Games in Melbourne at the expense of the committee. Surely, when our team is sent over to Italy in 1960, we should consider what help we can give to the Olympic Games committee. I think that most important matter will receive due consideration.
I am also glad to notice that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) is at the table because I want to relate my remarks mainly to primary industries. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) apologized for the fact that he got away from the bill. But this is one of the few occasions in parliamentary debate when honorable members can depart from the subject-matter of the bill and talk about almost anything. Tn some parliaments the supply debate is described as the “ moans and groans “ session.
The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) spoke of the serious financial position which exists throughout the world and pointed out that there has been a grave reduction in the export income of Australia. He said that the fall in the overall returns from metals was something like 34 per cent. In the nine months of this financial year up to 31st March last, compared with a similar period twelve months before, our export income dropped by £81,000,000. This was partly accounted for by the fall in the value of wool. About 50 per cent, of it was due to the fact that the value of wool and sheepskins, during that period dropped by £42,000,000. The prices fell very considerably, I think by about 18 per cent. Due to the fact that there was a drought, there was a slight reduction in production. It was not a very large reduction - about 300,000 bales. In recent sales in Brisbane, the price of wool was quoted as being the lowest in this country for ten years. The same is true of wheat, although the reduction of about £34,000,000 in returns from wheat is due more to the fact that we have had a bad drought and a small crop than to a fall in prices.
We have to do our utmost to stimulate the production of our primary industries, to ensure that they are efficient both in the way they are run and in their marketing. We must encourage the use of scientific advances as soon as possible. In regard to agriculture, we are in a very difficult position, because of the Constitution. There are three distinct bodies - first, the State Departments of Agriculture; second, the Commonwealth Department of Primary
Industry; and third, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The last two are under the control of the Federal Government, but not under the control of the same Minister. I have always felt that separate control of the C.S.I.R.O. and the Department of Primary Industry is a mistake. I feel that the two organizations are so bound together that they should be controlled by one Minister, so as to get greater uniformity of policy.
To-night I want to throw out to the Minister - who, unfortunately, has been called out of the chamber - a few thoughts on how we could improve our production and our marketing and get a little more out of our primary industries. The first suggestion I make is in regard to wheat marketing. For a long time now, conferences have been going on between wheatgrowers and the Government for a new scheme which is to apply after the present stabilization scheme has finished. I know that that is necessary, but, however we work out this stabilization scheme, it is only a means of cutting up equitably amongst the growers the money that we get. I want to see some scheme which will give the growers a greater return. Had we spent anything like the same amount of time and money on devising an improved method of separating different varieties of wheat so that they could be sold separately abroad, we would have achieved far greater results. For many years in Australia we have had the f.a.q. system of wheat handling. For many years it was satisfactory, because the Australian wheats were nearly all soft wheats. With the application of science, new varieties of wheat have been bred in this country. As a result of improved pastures and the greater fertility of the land, the new hard varieties have a very high protein content. We have reached the stage where it is imperative to alter our method of marketing and to get a division between the soft varieties and the hard varieties, both of which are readily saleable separately. When they are lumped together, however, they are not wanted. Recently, I was told that in one bag of Australian wheat which arrived in South Africa - I think it was in Rhodesia - eleven different varieties were discovered. People abroad who purchase our wheat are saying that they want to know what they are getting when they purchase it. Cereal chemists in the United Kingdom have pointed out that in tests conducted on Australian wheat over a relatively short period, the protein content was shown to vary from 8 per cent, to 12 per cent. This remarkable variation has caused many technical difficulties in milling.
Japanese buyers have come to this country recently and purchased wheat. They wanted to purchase more, but they said they could not do so because of the great variety of types and the variation in the protein content of the wheat. The South Australian Government has led the governments of Australia by introducing a special separation system. It may be called a segregation system, but I prefer to call it a separation system. It is very simple and has not increased the difficulties of handling wheat in South Australia. It is known that certain varieties are grown in certain areas. When wheat from one area comes to the silo, it is treated as being of one variety and put into a bin as such. A different variety grown in a different area is known to be a hard wheat, and when a truck load comes to the silo, the elevator arm is swung round and another bin is filled. It is a very simple system, which has been introduced without the least upset of the handling and marketing of wheat.
I do not know whether authority lies with the various State handling boards or with the Australian Wheat Board, with the Commonwealth Government or with the State governments, but it is time that something was done in this direction. If we do not do it, we will lose many markets that have previously been open to us. We are losing markets for flour in the Far East, not because our flour is of poor quality but because it is a mixture of so many qualities. I do hope that the Government will take a leaf out of the book of South Australia, will realize that this can be done, and will press ahead with it as soon as possible.
The next matter I want to mention concerns a question I asked of the Minister for Primary Industry in the House the other day. Tt is the use of artificial insemination, or A.I. as it is known, in the beef cattle industry. As the Minister pointed out in answer to my question, this method is being used extensively throughout the world. I raise the matter at this moment for two reasons. First, one of the greatest authorities in the world on artificial insemination of cattle, Dr. John Hammond from Cambridge University, has just been visiting Australia. During the course of his visit, he told us that 25 per cent, of the cattle that are born in Great Britain are produced by A.I. fathers. The second reason is that a ban has recently been placed on the importation of stud bulls and stud rams. One result of the ban is that no more bulls will be brought in, and those that we have here will have to be used more extensively. A normal bull, under ordinary conditions, might produce during its entire lifetime 400 or 500 calves. Yet in Denmark, as long as ten years ago, first-class bulls were producing about 5,000 calves in one year. It does not need very much imagination to realize that by getting first-class stock we can improve the quality of our beef cattle considerably and very much quicker by this method.
I mention this matter now because beef cattle breeders in Australia have refused to allow cattle born by A.I. to be recorded in the stud books. I believe that this is a very selfish and short-term outlook. I think that the Australian Government has some right to demand that the public outlook be considered and that action be taken, whether by the States or the Commonwealth. If the Minister for Primary Industry cannot do something in the matter himself, perhaps he could do something about it as chairman of the Australian Agricultural Council.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is rabbit destruction. In Australia we have seen an absolute miracle with the advent of myxomatosis. Unfortunately, myxomatosis is on the way out and we cannot expect another miracle of that sort. We must ask ourselves, therefore, what we are to do to ensure that the rabbit population which has been reduced by myxomatosis, does not rise to greater numbers than existed in 1948-49. An officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization was sent to New Zealand to study the methods that have been used there. A report upon his visit has been circulated to honorable members.
A report has been issued by Mr. F. N. Ratcliffe, officer-in-charge of the Wild Life Section of the C.S.I.R.O., and a second report has been made by Mr. Fennessy, who is also an officer of that section. They have advanced some constructive ideas. It would appear from their reports that the sooner we adopt some of the New Zealand methods of rabbit extermination, the sooner we will get a system which will replace myxomatosis when its effects taper off completely. There are two different methods of rabbit eradication. One is the system in vogue in New South Wales, which could be called the inspectorial system. Inspectors go round the country and, if rabbits are seen on the properties, tell the men on the land that they must get rid of the rabbits. Three months later, the inspectors return and tell the producers again that they must get rid of the rabbits. Eventually, if the land-owners have not exterminated the rabbits, they are taken to court.
There was an example of this procedure recently in my home district. Three persons were lined £5 for not eradicating rabbits. Obviously, that penalty will not make them get rid of the rabbits on their properties. Two charges of assault were also laid, one by the rabbit inspector against the landowner and the other a counter-charge by the land-owner against the inspector. Obviously, a lot of heat is generated in this rabbit inspectorial system, but instead of fighting with the land-owner, the inspector could have been killing rabbits.
That is the difference between the Australian system and the New Zealand system. In New Zealand, the Rabbit Board is charged with the responsibility of killing rabbits. The land-owner has nothing to do with rabbit eradication. He pays a rate to the board and officers of the board are responsible for rabbit destruction. In Australia, if you inspect the average area, you can see that approximately 25 per cent, of land-owners in the district keep their land completely free of rabbits. About 50 per cent, try hard to do so, but because of lack of finance, ill-health or some other difficulty they are not entirely successful. Probably 25 per cent, of properties are a source of infection for the rest of the district. Those properties are owned by absentee landlords, no-hopers or persons in ill-health. They never keep their land clean and they infect other properties. Under the New Zealand system, instead of an inspector telling people to get rid of their rabbits without result, the inspectors have power to enter any property, destroy the rabbits and charge the land-owner for the work. It appears to me and to officers of the C.S.I.R.O., that we will have to adopt the New Zealand system in the long run if we are to keep rabbits down in Australa.
There are many sides to this problem. In New Zealand the rabbit has been decommercialized. If you kill a rabbit there, you cannot sell the carcass or the skin. As a result, there is no trapping and breeding of rabbits for profit.
I said that I proposed to suggest a few methods for the improvement of agriculture so that our external balances might be helped even in perhaps a very small way. I know that we have no constitutional control over some of these matters, but I believe that the Minister for Primary Industry, as chairman of the Australia Agricultural Council which is representative of the Commonwealth and the States, should bring these matters before the notice of the council regularly. I think he should call meetings of the council more frequently. If the Agricultural Council meets often, it can decide just who is responsible for these things. They are only some of many that need attention, but I hope that constant consideration will be given to these matters and that, as a result, our balance of trade will be improved.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) on his constructive speech on the problems of primary industry. It was no less satisfactory because of the humour that came from it. It was in remarkable contrast to the speech made earlier by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson).
I should like to call the attention of the House to the proposition that was put forward by the honorable member for Sturt. He sought to give the impression that the Government had done a magnificent job over the past nine years, and that everyone in Australia was prosperous. I think we should submit the propositions put forward by the honorable member to somewhat closer analysis.
In the first place, he spoke about the record of the Government in finance. He said that the Government had maintained a surplus, or that its Budget had been balanced, while it had provided for the
States an enormous amount of money for their own requirements. The first point in relation to those propositions that I want to make is that the Government has so conducted its own financial affairs that it has either balanced its accounts or maintained a surplus. Very often, the surpluses were greater than they appear to be. They were frequently concealed, as reference to the Estimates each year will show quite clearly.
Associated with that policy has been most excessive drawing upon the central bank reserves. This may be reflected - not exactly - in the volume of government and other securities including treasury-bills that are issued by the Commonwealth Bank from year to year. When the Government was elected to office, the total amount of treasury-bills was £349,000,000. In 1955, the total was £459.000,000, an increase of £1 10,000,000. At its highest, the total was close to £600,000,000. That means that a substantial amount - well over £100,000,000 - has been printed - new money or created money.
Supporters of the Government are in the habit of throwing their hands in the air in consternation when anybody suggests such procedure. On one hand, the Government maintains what it calls financial stability only at the expense of creating a large sum of money through treasury-bill financing procedure. This has contributed considerably to the inflation that we have experienced, to our cost, during .the time that this Government has been in office.
The first point, therefore, that we have to bear in mind in relation to the proposition of the honorable member for Sturt is that we have had very dangerous and damaging inflation during the last nine years. Continuously, the Government has promised to put value back into the £1, and continuously it has failed to do so.
Let us have a look at the proposition that everybody is prosperous. First, let us ta”ke social services. A widow in receipt of an A class pension is now lis. 6d. a week worse off, in real terms, than she was when this Government came to office. A widow in receipt of a B class pension is 7s. 6d. a week worse off in real terms than she was when the Government came to office. The reason for this, as in the case of most other social service payments is that although in many cases there has been an increase in the money value of social service benefits, that increase has not been sufficient to make up for the increase in prices of about 100 per cent, that has taken place since the Government has been in office. It is obvious that if prices have increased by 100 per cent, one needs twice the amount of money to buy the same quantity of goods. Most of the people in receipt of social service benefits are not in receipt of nearly twice as much money now as they were previously. Judged by this standard, the class A widow is lis. 6d. a week worse off than she was when this Government came to office. The class B widow is 7s. 6d. a week worse ofl. The 500,000 people who receive age and invalid pensions are 9s. 6d. a week worse off.
The Government has given away child endowment altogether. The only alteration that it has made in the nine years that it has been in office has been to grant endowment of 5s. a week to the first child. A family with two children is now 7s. 5d. a week worse off than when the Government came to office, families with three children are 19s. lOd. a week worse off, families with four children are £1 12s. 6d. a week worse off and families with five children are £2 7s. 6d. a week worse off. These two benefits, pensions and child endowment, make an enormous difference to a great many, if not to the majority, of the working people in this community. Inflation, during the term of office of the Menzies Government, has made these people considerably worse off. That is the position with regard to social services.
Let us look at wages. Here is an indication of the position of all those whose wages are determined by the basic wage and by awards. Official figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician in the “ Monthly Review of Business Statistics “ show a striking stability in the real wage index. At best, the real wage index has merely maintained the level that we would expect if it had been able to keep up with the official index of price increases. When the Government came into office, the index figure was 1.206. It went as high as 1.229 in 1954-55, since when it has fallen. To-day, it is below 1 .220. There has been a fall in the value of real wages during this time. It is not surprising that there has been this fall in real wages, because the basic wage has been frozen since 1953, when the cost of living adjustments were abandoned. Awards have been solidly frozen too.
The arbitration system has been used as an authority to discipline the trade unions and break down their bargaining power, so it is not surprising that profits have increased. We have had an astounding record of increased profits in recent years. Average profits have probably risen from 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, to 20 per cent. Each year companies, particularly the larger ones, have been able to report record profits, and they have reported them in quite a bare-faced manner. So the position of the people in receipt of social service benefits or wages has worsened, whilst the position of people whose income is derived from company profits has improved. That is the position with regard to the distribution of income that has arisen since the Government has been in office.
Because prices and profits have been free to rise, because wages have been frozen and controlled, and because social services have been increased only very slightly, if at all, one would expect to find that the amount of goods and services produced for those whose incomes have been frozen would not have risen to the same extent as the amount of goods and services produced to meet the demands of the better-off sections of the community. Let us test this proposition and see if that is what we find.
Turning to the paper, “ National Income and Expenditure 1956-57 “, we find the expenditure on dwelling construction. A dwelling is a pretty fair example of a commodity produced to meet the requirements of the average person. Expenditure on dwelling construction was £205,000,000 in 1951-52, £192,000,000 in 1952-53, £208,000,000 in 1953-54, £228,000,000 in 1954-55, £228,000,000 in 1955-56, and £216,000,000 in 1956-57. There was a slight rise, and then a fall.
The building statistics published in the “ Monthly Review of Business Statistics “ show that the number of houses actually under construction when the Government came to office was about 80,000. In recent years, it has been in the vicinity of 60,000 - roughly 20,000 less. That has happened because the spending power of the ordinary citizen has not risen rapidly enough to allow him to pay the deposit and high rate of interest required for the purchase of a home.
Let us look at what has happened in relation to “ Other new building construction “ - another classification in the paper “ National Income and Expenditure, 1956-57 “. If what I have been saying is correct, one would expect that where the money is, the money would be spent. One would expect it to be spent on those glass, steel and concrete palaces in the cities, and on luxury hotels. In this category of building are included such things as schools and hospitals, but I shall indicate what has happened to them in a moment. Expenditure on “ Other new building construction “ amounted to £81,000,000 in 1951-52, when expenditure on dwelling construction amounted to £205,000,000. The value of dwelling construction has now reached £216,000,000, an increase of £11,000,000, but “ Other new building construction “ has risen from £81,000,000 to £163,000,000. It has more than doubled.
Is not that an obvious indication of the maldistribution of resources - material, labour and capital - that has occurred under this Government’s policy? Is it not what we would expect under a government with an economic policy that produces such inequalities in the distribution of income?
We would expect, perhaps, in an economy of this sort, with a government of this kind, that expenditure on capital equipment would increase in a pretty substantial manner too, but I suggest that that is nol the case. The paper on national income and expenditure shows that in 1954-55 the amount spent on capital equipment was £306,000,000, but was only £313,000,000 in 1956-57. Surely this lack of a significant increase in the amount spent on capital equipment should cause people such as the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) to have second thoughts.
Why is it that we have little more than stability, in money terms, in this field, despite the great increases in costs that have taken place? I suggest that the reason is that we have reached a condition of stagnation in the Australian economy in recent times. Most of our increases have been money increases. The condition of stagnation is pretty clearly shown by recurring unemployment. I am not going to overstress the importance of unemployment. About 65,000 people are actually registered for employment. Rather am I going to stress the fact that, in the last two years, the Australian population has risen by 563,000 people. A little less than half of that number would be available for employment and would have joined the labour force. But during that time, only 44,000 people have been able to gain employment. The real problem in Australia is not so much the number of people who are out of work, as the slow increase of the number of people in work. I suggest that as long as we have maldistribution of income, so that wages and social services for the people who really buy the goods from the shops and factories are kept frozen or stable, so long can we expect stagnation in the economic development of the country. That is what we have been getting.
Let us look at one point which the honorable member for Sturt managed to overlook. It concerns the significance of the balance of payments. The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) stressed that the prices for wool, wheat and dairy produce are falling. This is a real problem and one that is going to increase in importance. What has been the position with regard to this matter? The White Paper, “ National Income and Expenditure “ shows the rigorous controls on imports which are so severe as to cause opposition to develop in a great many supporters of the Government who own and run factories and who seek to import goods into this country. These controls are causing such persons to believe that their support of the Government should be brought to an end and are having a serious influence on the development of the Australian economy. Despite the existence of these rigorous controls, the deficit in the current account - the difference between what we have spent overseas and what we have received from overseas in recent years - has run like this: In 1951-52, the deficit was £579,000,000; in 1952-53, we had a surplus of £192,000,000; in 1953-54, there was a deficit of £17,000,000; in 1954-55, there was a deficit of £258,000,000; in 1955-56, there was a deficit of £235,000,000, and in 1956-57, there was a surplus of £80,000,000. We are riding for a deficit this year. It does not seem to me that that kind of trading situation is one that might be expected in a country that was really prosperous and being well run.
Let me turn to another matter. The Government has said that its migration programme has a high priority. It has painted a picture of millions of Asian people who are turning Communist and who are ready to swoop down from Asia, wearing their jack-boots, into Australia. The Government has been painting a picture which is supposed to keep us awake at night. Because of this situation, the Government has been telling us that migration is of vital importance, but what has happened in relation to its migration programme? Again, I turn to the actual figures given in the “ Monthly Review of Business Statistics “, in which it is shown that the excess of permanent arrivals in Australia over departures - the net gain from migration - has been as follows: - In 1949-50, the record year, it was 13,799 per month. That was the result of the Chifley Government being in office. In the first year in which the Menzies Government, this great advocate of migration, was in office, the monthly figure fell to 11,045. In the next year of the Menzies’ Government it was 8,746; then it was 5,274, then 4,282, and in the following year, 7,471. There has been a slight increase in recent times. This Government says that it is dedicated to the migration programme, but with a record like that which I have indicated, what kind of a programme would we have had from a government that was opposed to migration?
I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this question of migration in fact spotlights defects and deficiencies. If we are to have a migration programme we must have an expanding economy, and we must have full employment and adequate houses for the migrants to live in. If we do not have those things; if we have unemployment or an economy that is not growing; and if we do not build sufficient houses, such opposition will grow to migration that no government in office will be able to withstand it. The record of this Government is that of a government which has turned the favorable attitude to migration, created very largely by the late leader of the Labour party, J. B. Chifley, and its present deputy leader, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), into one of considerable opposition to migration. That has come about despite the favorable conditions for migration built up by those two gentlemen, conditions which guaranteed full employment and adequate housing when Australia was undertaking her migration programme. It was this opposition, associated with the increase of unemployment in 1952-53 - that crisis which was associated with the clamping down of import controls for the first time, when thousands of migrants were walking streets of the capital cities, such as Melbourne, looking for work - that compelled the Government to reduce its migration programme, so that the figures that I have quoted fell from 11,045 per month to 8,746, then to 5,274, and then to 4,282.
The Government has not maintained full employment while it has been in office, and the migration figures prove that contention.
– Labour did not, either.
– We hear this kind of statement time and again. On every occasion that a telling point of criticism of this Government is made, the only answer that comes from the chattering members of the Australian Country party is, “ What did Labour do? “ During the whole of the time that the Labour government was in office the total intake from migration rose every month to the record figure for Australia of 13,799. The figures rose from approximately 2,000 a month in the first year to, I think, 6,000 in the next year, to about 8,000 in the following year, and to 13,799 in the year after that. In addition, all the migrants had employment. At no stage was there more than .8 per cent, of unemployment.
The matters that I have indicated represent practically all that can be dealt with in the space of half an hour, but there is a great deal more that could be taken into account in analysing the position of this Government. I say that the Government has been able, by means of its propaganda and by the red herrings which it has drawn across the trail from time to time, in the shape of anti-communism, to fool the Australian people into believing that it has done an adequate job of managing the economy. I submit that the Government, because of the facts and figures that I have stated, has failed to do an adequate job of management, and I suggest that the fundamental reason for its failure is that it has been prepared to follow an inflationary policy. It has not maintained a full employment policy. It has pursued a policy which has been concerned with a high aggregate amount of spending, a condition which, is favorable to the making of excessive profits, which is acceptable to its supporters and from which flows a condition of fairly high employment. But employment was not its main aim. That was to keep its supporters satisfied, in the conditions of expanding money demands and expanding profits that it has maintained. The Government has not been concerned to look at the conditions that are occurring inside the aggregate. It has been concerned only with the aggregate. It is not concerned to know whether we are building houses for the people, or whether we are building an excessive number of offices in the cities, luxury hotels and service stations. It is not concerned to secure the kind of things that we need for national development and the kind of things without which we cannot have national development.
Time and again the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has come to the table of this House to answer questions and has said that the spending of money in this community by the banking system is simply and solely a matter for the banks to determine. I say that we cannot achieve the objectives of national development, upon which most of us agree, if we maintain that attitude. The attitude of the Australian Labour party to these matters is not that which supporters of the Government several times tonight have stated it to be. The honorable member for Farrer commenced his speech by saying that the comments of honorable members on this side of the House indicated that Labour advocated more and more money for everything. That is quite contrary to what Labour advocates. This Government advocates more money for those who can get it. Labour advocates more money for those things that the community needs. And we believe that we can get more money for the things that the community needs under a system of controls over spending exercised through the banking system and through investment - controls which do not amount to a close and rigorous system of control at all, but which are necessary to promote conditions conducive to national development.
Let me illustrate that by reference to the figures that I have already quoted, which show the result of not adopting such controls. I indicated the amount spent on private dwelling construction. Everybody - even the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) - admits that far more private dwellings than are being constructed are needed even to maintain existing standards, much less improve standards. Expenditure on dwelling construction increased from £205,000,000 in 1951-52 to only £216,000,000 in 1956-57. Expenditure on other new buildings increased from £81,000,000 to £163,000,000.
Hire-purchase business is a relatively new undertaking for the private trading banks which allow the rate of profit to determine where they use their money, and which adopt the principle that those people who can get the money shall have it. Since 1953 - the figures do not go back much earlier than that - the amount lent on hire purchase has increased from £109,000,000 to nearly £300,000,000 - an increase of almost three times. But the amount lent by the trading banks direct, at 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, interest, has increased from £638,000,000 to only £790,000,000. If it is the customary practice for banks to lend on overdraft at 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, interest, and, at the same time, they can create hire-purchase subsidiaries, entered, in many instances, by a door round the corner of the building from the main door of the bank, through which they can lend at an actual return of 20 per cent, or 30 per cent., is it not reasonable to expect that overdraft lending will be reduced and hire-purchase lending will be increased? Is that not what is to be expected? Do not the figures bear out that expectation? Hire-purchase lending has increased from £109,000,000 to about £300,000,000 and overdraft lending has increased from £638,000,000 to £790,000,000. These figures indicate precisely what is happening, and it is quite useless for the Prime Minister, every now and again, in this House, to lament the fact that the trading banks, which are the traditional lenders for housing and other essentials, are not lending as they should do. We have heard of Canute and the waves. We now have Menzies and the hire-purchase system. And Menzies is as impotent in the face of that system as Canute was impotent in the face of the waves.
– I rise to order, ls it in order for the honorable member for Yarra to refer to the Prime Minister merely by the name “ Menzies “? Should he not use the term “the right honorable the Prime Minister “? When Labour was in government, Labour members raised objection when members who were at that time in Opposition made a mistake similar to that now made by the honorable member for Yarra, and I submit that the ruling given then should be adhered to now.
– Order! The term used by the honorable member for Yarra was quite correct in the connexion in which it was used.
– Perhaps the honorable member should say, “ His Majesty King Canute “!
– Perhaps, as the honorable member suggests, I should use the descriptions “ His Majesty King Canute “ and “ the right honorable the Prime Minister “ in association in the analogy that I have just presented to the House. However, I am sure that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) appreciates the significance of it as I put it just as much as he would do if I had referred to the Prime Minister strictly in accordance with the requirements of the Standing Orders.
The propositions that I have put forward relate to the Government’s general policy. I should like to devote the rest of my time to a particular incident concerning the Department of Trade and the Tariff Board. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), on 30th April, as reported at page 1294 of “ Hansard “, made the following statement about Mr. Date, a member of the Tariff Board: -
Mr. Date accepted appointment to a board whose head-quarters are in Melbourne. . . . At the time, he resided in Sydney; and after his appointment he raised the question of domicile.
The Minister asserted that the consideration extended to Mr. Date concerning his domicile and travelling expenses was exactly the same as that extended to Dr. Westerman, the present chairman of the board, who resides in Canberra and is allowed to travel to and from Melbourne in order to perform his work as chairman of the board, which has its head-quarters in Melbourne. The Minister’s assertion is that Mr. Date was in a very different position, in that, although he lived in Sydney, the question of his domicile was not raised until after he had been appointed to the board. The Minister says that, therefore, he had no right to rely on the fact that his domicile was in Sydney. As I understand it, the facts are that, at the time of his appointment, Mr. Date received from Senator O’sullivan a letter stating that he was to be appointed to the Tariff Board, that the recommendation for his appointment would be submitted to the GovernorGeneral in Council, and that his appointment would not take effect until a date to be determined by the Governor-General in Council.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) very rightly said that Australia is enjoying prosperity such as we have not had for many decades. None of the glib, pedantic utterances of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has disproved anything that the honorable member for Sturt said. The honorable member for Yarra quoted at length from statistics and books, and I suggest to him that he would do better if he threw the blanket off his head, walked about the streets, and saw with his own eyes the prosperity that exists. Let him observe the way the people dress and behave. Let him go to race meetings, picture shows and other entertainments, and see the crowds attending. Let him try to book a seat for any of the more popular entertainments staged in the theatres and he will realize the prosperity that the man in the street now enjoys. Opposition members raise a howl at that, but they know that it is true. Let them go out on the streets and observe the new post offices that have been constructed. Opposition members ask where they are. They are everywhere. There are none so blind as those who will not see! Let Opposition members go out and observe the new aerodromes in country districts. Let them travel on the good roads that have been provided. They all have motor cars to drive and petrol to keep them going, as do the people generally, in this period of prosperity. When Labour was in office, we had petrol rationing and no petrol.
– Order! The House is much too noisy. I ask honorable members to maintain silence. The honorable member for Lawson need not speak so loudly now.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I repeat that the people have plenty of petrol to enable them to drive their motor cars along the well-built road’s that have been provided with the assistance of Commonwealth Aid Roads grants mad’e by this Government.
– Not so loud!
– If honorable members persist in interjecting, I have no alternative but to raise my voice. Let Opposition members go to the public bars and other places and they will see the prosperity of the people. There is no need for the honorable member for Yarra to cite a lot of figures in an attempt to disprove the contention that prosperity exists in this country. It is obvious on every hand.
The honorable member discussed hire purchase. I understand that, at the end of February, the amount outstanding on hire purchase was approximately £270,000,000, and not £300,000,000- the figure mistakenly quoted by the honorable member. I am not enamoured of hire purchase. Who will take advantage of it and pledge their future except people who know that they have steady jobs, and that they can ultimately hope to pay off the goods that they have obtained and own them outright?
The Government might well take as its bible in this context the “ Treasury Information Bulletin “. Those who care to examine the latest issue will find that its pages are full of indications of the prosperity that the country now enjoys.
– Artie Fadden prepares that bulletin.
– It surprises me to think that a person of the stature of the honorable member would suggest that the figures contained in this publication are not correct. They are very illuminating. The percentage change in the number of new motor vehicles, other than motor cars, registered from the March quarter of last year to the March quarter of this year was an increase of 40 per cent. Who will say that there is no prosperity when such a figure appears in an authentic document? The number of new motor vehicles registered in the month of March, 1958, was 16.9 per cent, greater than in March, 1957 - another indication of prosperity. The registration of new motor cars was 10 per cent, greater and the registration of other new motor vehicles was 32.6 per cent, greater. All through this document is evidence of the prosperity enjoyed by the people of Australia to-day. I should also like to draw attention to the figures given in an earlier part of this document. They show that 69 per cent, of hire purchase expenditure has been devoted to motor vehicles, tractors and vehicles of that kind, but, I am sorry to say, only 5 per cent, is invested in plant and machinery and 26 per cent, in household and personal goods.
I believe that I have exploded the arguments of the honorable member for Yarra. There is prosperity to-day. The people know that and they appreciate the prosperity, which can be credited largely to the good conduct of this Government. The honorable member for Yarra said that the migration figures were confusing because they included the number of people who had left Australia. In this era, people can afford to leave Australia and many have been taking advantage of the opportunity over the last seven or eight years. They are travelling overseas and broadening their minds with the experience that they have in other countries. They could not do so in the regime of the Labour government; they could not afford to do so, but to-day it is most difficult to obtain a passage on a ship in the normal season.
The Treasury Information Bulletin also contains a word of warning. It brings to mind the old adage that Australia rides on the sheep’s back. That was never truer than it is to-day. It is one reason for the existence of the Australian Country party in politics. We all come from country districts. Many of our good friends in the Liberal party realize, as we do, that the rural interests must be looked after and must be watched, because when one examines the figures in this bulletin, one can read a warning. At the present time, we enjoy prosperity, but there is a decline. If we are cautious and watch this decline, as the Government has watched other declines in the past, we will get over the hurdle.
Despite the fact that the honorable member for Wilmot implied that this bulletin was prepared by the Treasurer and, therefore, might be biased, I draw attention to the fact that the Treasurer has not disguised the figures. He points out that the exports of wool and sheepskins in the first nine months of 1957-58 were £42,000,000 less than in the corresponding period of 1956-57, and that the average price obtained for wool at auctions was 66d. per lb. for greasy wool, some 18 per cent, less than in the earlier period. I am sorry to say that, since this document was prepared, the price of wool has declined further. At the last Brisbane auctions, wool averaged only 50d. a lb., and the cost of production in Queensland has been given, I understand, as about 60d. We cannot afford to have the price of wool decline further, unless we are able to balance it in some other way. So long as this country depends on wool, wheat and other primary products, as it has for many decades, we must ensure that these industries are protected, assisted and given an opportunity to maintain the balance of payments, which is necessary to support our secondary industries.
The Treasury Information Bulletin reveals that the exports of wheat and flour in the first three-quarters of 1957-58 were £34,000,000 less than in the corresponding period of 1956-57. The quantity of wheat and flour exported was 51,000,000 bushels, compared with 107,000,000 bushels in the earlier period. Exports of other grains also decreased in value between the two periods. Unfortunately, the same position applies to butter. The value of exports of butter was considerably lower in the first threequarters of 1 957-58 than in the corresponding period of 1956-57. The quantity available for export was less, and a substantial fall in prices took place on the United Kingdom market, where most of Australia’s butter exports are sold. The value of exports of other dairy products also decreased. The exports of cheese, eggs, milk and cream declined in the period from July, 1957, to March, 1958, as compared with the period from July, 1956, to March, 1957, from £15,000,000 f.o.b. to £12,000,000 f.O.b.
This position must be watched, particularly at this time when the grazing and farming interests have suffered the longest and most devastating drought for many years. It must be watched to ascertain what assistance can be given to keep these industries stable and in the position that they have always enjoyed of being good contributors to the economy. I do not suggest necessarily that an attack should be made on the basic wage, but it must be remembered that the basic wage to-day, on which rural awards depend, enjoys a prosperity loading of £1. If the prosperity is not being enjoyed by the rural industries, as it cannot be enjoyed when the cost of production is greater than the selling price, then they must be assisted in some way. This may be a suitable time for the Minister to look into the possibility of restoring the fertilizer bounty. If that were done, an opportunity would be given to these people to get right back into production again.
The Opposition always tries to seize something and claim it as its own. It has tried to decry the prosperity that we enjoy by saying that it is a false prosperity, existing only because we have taken a leaf out of its book and inflated the currency, and that is why we appear to have a prosperity. That claim is not believed by the people. They know what prosperity is.
This morning the honorable member for Wilmot tried to establish a right as spokesman for the rifle clubs, when he asked a question of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). He said that he had been making persistent inquiries for six months. I want to know where he has been during the last six years, when I have been fighting for the rifle clubs. He probably does not know what he really wants. When the Minister said that he would not interfere with the subsidies to the rifle clubs, the honorable member appeared to be quite satisfied. I am not satisfied, and this debate gives me an opportunity to say that the rifle clubs have played a valuable part in the defence system for many years. They have been told year after year that there will be no interference with the subsidy, but that raises the possibility that something else that will affect the rifle clubs is contemplated. I know that the Minister has promised that he will do nothing to interfere with the stability of the rifle clubs without full consultation with the chairman of the National Rifle Association of New South Wales or the Federal Council of Rifle Associations. I know that he will honour his promise in that regard, but the rifle clubs are very concerned that it should even be contemplated that something be done to disturb this very valuable movement. A meeting, sponsored by the Canberra Rifle Club, is to be held in Canberra early in August. The secretary of that club has asked me to issue a challenge to members of another place to select a team of four or six to compete with a team from this House so that we can see just what goes on at a rifle range. I invite the honorable member for Wilmot to join the team, I shall be very glad of the opportunity to coach him on the range.
I wish to refer now to the progress that has been made in the Postmaster-General’s Department. Honorable members are very appreciative of what has been done by this Government to improve postal, telegraph and telephonic services throughout the country. The honorable gentleman who occupies the position of PostmasterGeneral in the Government has a very fine record. The telephone services provided in Australia are a credit to his department and to its officers. The extent of to-day’s telephone services was not visualized a few years ago. When the Government came to office it inherited a lag in the provision of telephone services. It has overtaken the lag and has made great progress with current applications. I do not lay any blame on the Labour government for the lag in the provision of telephone services. It simply could not do the job during the war period.
I should like now to refer to the Department of Civil Aviation. On Saturday last it was my privilege to welcome the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) to Mudgee. The people of Mudgee took to heart a commendation by Henry Ford that I read in a book recently. As I recall it, he said, “ Whether you think you can do a thing or not, the answer is ‘ Yes ‘.” The people of Mudgee thought they could build an aerodrome, so they set to and built one.
Similar things have happened before in other parts of my electorate- When people decide to get together and take away from the Government responsibility for a project, they usually accomplish something. Great credit is due to them for so doing. I was delighted to have Senator Paltridge with me on the occasion of the opening of the Mudgee aerodrome. I wish to pay a tribute also to the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) for arranging for a flight of aircraft to pass over the aerodrome. Its arrival in perfect formation was timed to synchronize with the conclusion of the opening address of the Minister for Civil Aviation.
– It was perfectly synchronized.
– Yes; it was an example of the ability of our defence services, of which we can be proud indeed. I was delighted to find the people of the district so interested in the latest aircraft and the type of flying manoeuvres carried out.
I wish to congratulate the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) on his very clear thinking about wheat marketing. Wheat marketing has worried members of my party for a considerable time. I recollect that in the early 1920’s a branch of an organization of which I was a member agitated for the proper classification and grading of wheat. We were told then that it could not be done because there was no provision for bulk handling. To-day, when we have bulk handling, it is sometimes said that wheat cannot be graded properly unless it is handled in bags. The sooner we get down to a proper form of grading wheat, the sooner we will establish a better marketing arrangement and secure a better disposal of our crop overseas. The honorable member for Farrer is right when he says that if we are selling mixed wheats as wheat of f.a.q. standard, we cannot expect to place our better quality wheat where it is required and our softer wheats where they are needed. That problem must be examined.
I also congratulate the honorable member for Farrer on his reference to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization which, apart from its other activities, has done so much for the wheat farmer, the woolgrower, and other rural industries. I am very glad to know that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), has had discussions with the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and that matters are in hand for a renewal of the wheat stabilization plan that has met with so much success.
I refer now to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and its administration. I believe that both are due for overhaul. When a member of one of the defence services is injured or killed, and an application is made to the service concerned for the payment of compensation, the application is examined and sent on to the Treasury with a report. At that stage letters pass between the Treasury and the applicant in an almost continuous stream until, ultimately, a decision is reached. Even when a decision to pay compensation is made, that is not the end of it. Consider the case of a member of one of the services who has been killed in the course of his duty. Having decided that his widow and family are entitled to compensation, payment is made, but only on a parsimonious scale. For the loss of her husband the widow is entitled to receive £2,350. For each child she receives £100. That is not so bad. But in order to arrange for the payment of a fortnightly amount of 30s. for each of her children the widow must forgo some of the entitlement conferred upon her by the Act. The proceeds are set aside for the benefit of the children. When the children reach the age of sixteen years the full amount set aside for them is exhausted. There are a great many defects in this arrangement. In the first place, the amount of compensation is totally inadequate. In a civil case there would probably be some redress if it were held that the employer had been negligent and that he was liable to pay compensation. It is very doubtful whether an individual could secure a court judgment against the Commonwealth in respect of the death or injury resulting from service in the armed forces. I should imagine that security measures might prevent the proper hearing of such a case. If that is so, and no redress is available at common law, the scale of compensation provided in the act should be considerably higher than it is.
Once a decision has been made to pay compensation, I cannot see any reason why any deduction should be made from the amount due to the widow of a deceased member in order to enable a larger fortnightly payment to be made to her children.
A trustee has been appointed under the act. He is an officer of the Public Service and it is his responsibility in such cases to pay such moneys into some kind of trust account. The money is usually deposited in the Commonwealth Savings Bank with interest accruing at the rate of H per cent. I cannot understand why that should be done when the money could be invested in Commonwealth bonds which bear a higher rate of interest.
I raise this point because we are approaching a Budget session. In view of -the difficult position of the services to-day in getting a full establishment I believe that this is one of the things that could be -done. Private businesses pay handsome compensation to employees who are hurt, or to the widow and dependants, if an employee, unfortunately, is killed in the course of his employment. In ordinary common law cases juries award amounts of £20,000, £30,000 and £40,000 in circumstances which could not be considered to be dissimilar to the loss of life in service activities.
I want to finish on this note: There is no question, as I said earlier, about the prosperity which this country enjoys to-day. “Nor is there any question that the people of Australia appreciate that prosperity, and honorable members should have no hesitation whatever in passing this supply bill to enable the Government to carry on, until after the Budget has been presented, the good work which it has been doing for so many years.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn. Mr. R. W. HOLT (Darebin) [10.42].- T wish to bring before the House and the responsible Minister a matter of the utmost urgency because it concerns the preservation of the civil liberties of the individual - and, in this case, of a number of individuals. It involves a threat to the livelihood of certain people whom I shall mention later. Individual freedoms are also involved as a result of administrative personnel taking action against persons who have no redress in the legal process of the land, and any appeal, insofar as it lies against an administrative action is to an administrative board, and therfore represents an appeal from Caesar to Caesar.
The story begins in November, 1949, when retrenchments were contemplated in the Aircraft Maintenance Branch of the Department of Supply at Fairfield. In the ledger section, heavy reductions in staff personnel and of the entire branch were suggested and the branch was disturbed. Rumours got around, following a pronouncement that the Commonwealth Public Service Board would eventually wipe out the whole branch. As the Government aircraft factory had, only a short time previously, fired more than 1,100 employees, the aircraft maintenance staff feared that the same thing would happen to them.
A member of the ledger staff, a Mrs. Harris, with eight and three-quarter years’ service in the department heard that she was to be retrenched. She sought advice from her union officer who told her that if she resigned she would not be entitled to furlough benefits. However, she took other action independently and sought the advice of the union representatives from time to time. The situation became more complicated after she had sought advice from the union, because she felt that by then she was receiving much more attention from the officers of the department than she should have been.
The rumour gathered force that the Treasury had instructed the staff office of the department deliberately to offer alternative employment at a more unfavorable situation and at a much lower rate of pay to employees who were to be retrenched. If an employee refused on the ground of a lower salary and the inconvenience of travelling, he or she was dismissed and deprived of emoluments to which they would otherwise have been entitled.
Mrs. Harris is now residing in my electorate at Reservoir and carrying on an independent business. In 1957 she, unfortuntaely, not taking advice, resigned and within a month other people in the same class of work had their positions abolished, lt is true that they were offered the same type of employment at a much lower rate of pay, but if they refused they were fired. The department, on information received, then alleged that an officer of the union had betrayed or disclosed to members of the staff the confidential contents of a letter. This was contrary to the Public Service Act, the Defence Act, the Crimes Act and so on. A Mr. Shore, a ledger section supervisor, was interviewed on successive occasions by the manager and eventually by security officers. He signed an affidavit and swore a statement under the Evidence Act that he had not shown or told Mrs. Harris of the department policy. He was interviewed subsequently for two hours and cross-examined by a regional security officer and another security officer.
Subsequently, the heresy hunt switched to a Mr. Oaten, the union steward of the Federated Clerks Union (Victoria). He was interviewed by security personnel. The security officers themselves then visited Mrs. Harris in the shop she had opened at Reservoir and told her that they were from the union. They said they were union officers and that if Mrs. Harris would swear an affidavit that Shore and Oaten had told Mrs. Harris of her possible retrenchment, these two security officers would guarantee her payment of her pro rata furlough. One security officer is alleged to have remarked that she could not lose. In other words, having disguised themselves and sought to elicit or solicit a false admission for their benefit they then tried to induce the woman by a bribe to convict these two officers.
Mrs. Harris refused to swear such a statement and she accused them of being what they were. After they had gone she rang up her union representative and was told that their first statement that “ they were from the union” was false. After promising to return after Mrs. Harris had “ thought it over “, these alleged union officers left. In fact, they were security officers but they did not attempt to return to discuss the matter with Mrs. Harris.
Their final statement to Mrs. Harris was, “ Do not tell Mr. Shore or Mr. Oaten of our visit “.
Since then Mr. Oaten has been required to furnish affidavits which he has not seen. He has been required by the security officers to admit, in a sworn affidavit, to a statement which he is alleged to have made but which, to the best of his belief and knowledge, he has not made.
After one particular interview recently, in April last, Mr. Oaten, on legal advice declined to sign any affidavit until he was permitted to see the supposed statement sworn by the security officers. In other words, the security officers had made a statement which Mr. Oaten was alleged to have agreed with. Then they asked him to swear an affidavit, which he had never seen, to the truth of statements which had not been disclosed to him by members of the security service.
So far as Mr. Oaten is concerned and from the threats he has received in his employment he believes that it will be only a matter of time before his services are dispensed with. His livelihood and the welfare of himself and his dependants, if he has any, are threatened because he has simply done his duty as he sees it. I ask, in conclusion, that the Prime Minister have a look at the Franke report, which has been mentioned by members on his own side of the House, and establish the right of appeal to a judge rather than to the Public Service Board, so that evidence may be taken on oath, legal forms adhered to, and legal representation made available to the man accused. I ask that the principle stated in the decision of the American Supreme Court in the Jenks case be introduced in this country, so that if anybody is accused and the accusation is based on reports or evidence by the Federal Bureau of Investigation - in this instance, the security service - its officers will be produced in the court, or the documents upon which thecharge is laid, will be produced in court and made available to the accused’s attorney or his solicitor.
I ask that the Prime Minister, in hisreview of the Public Service, take into consideration the matter of appeal against theunjust decisions of administrative tribunals and institute a system of appeal to a judge. A judge of the county court or other lower jurisdiction could be given federal jurisdiction to hear such cases, and the rule of evidence established in the Jenks case should apply. Any security documents which are the basis of accusations against an accused should be produced to him or to his attorney.
I ask that the Prime Minister take cognizance of this matter, so that we can maintain our civil liberties. I believe that the greatest threats are going to be made to our civil liberties in the future, and now is the time to jealously regard the rights of every one, regardless of class, colour or creed.
.- I desire to raise for the attention of the House a matter which was under discussion on 30th April and is a matter of urgency. For the last four years issues have been present inside the Tariff Board in relation to a member, Mr. Albert Date, the Department of Trade, the chairman of the board and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). The issues have centred upon the date of Mr. Date’s appointment to the board. Up to 30th April, the date of appointment was taken to be 5th February, 1954. In fact, the Minister, on 30th April, acted on the assumption that that was the date. But it was on 30th April that the department finally admitted that the appointment dated from 15th February, 1954. This was after four years of prolonged and almost impossible negotiations, in which that member of the Tariff Board was involved, and from which all the circumstances the Minister complained about on 16th March have arisen. The Minister stated on 30th April of this year, as recorded at page 1294 of “ Hansard “-
Mr. Date accepted appointment to a board whose head-quarters are in Melbourne … At the time, he resided in Sydney; and after his appointment he raised the question of domicile.
Most of the issues that have arisen between Mr. Date, the Tariff Board and the Minister, have arisen from the dispute about whether Mr. Date raised the question of domicile after or before the date of his appointment.
In the statement I have just quoted, the Minister was asserting that decisions about Mr. Date’s domicile and consequential travelling expenses were exactly the same as those in the case of the present chairman of the board, Dr. Westerman, who resides in Canberra and is allowed to travel between Melbourne and .Canberra to perform his work as chairman of .the board, the .headquarters of which are in Melbourne. The Ministers’ assertion was that Mr. Date was in a very different situation from Dr. Westerman in that, although his domicile was in Sydney when he was appointed, the question of his domicile was never raised until after his appointment and, therefore, he would derive no rights whatever from the fact of his domicile being in Sydney. The Minister was endeavouring to prove, as the department has been doing for four years, that that was the case, in order to make fish of one and fowl of the other.
As I understand the facts, they are that on 5th February, 1954, Mr. Date received a letter from Senator O’sullivan, who was then the Minister for Trade and Customs. The letter stated that the Minister had pleasure in informing him that the Federal Cabinet had recommended to the Governor-General in Council his appointment as a member of the Tariff Board. I want to direct the attention of the House to the next sentence in the letter, which read -
Before it becomes effective, this recommendation must be approved by the Executive Council, and in such circumstances I must request that this matter be regarded as confidential.
That letter made clear that the appointment did not take place until the recommendation was approved by the Executive Council. Mr. Date was asked to keep that information confidential. However, a press release was made of that information on the same day, and it appeared in the press on the following day. He was asked to keep something confidential one day, but it was published in the press the next day.
This letter was answered by Mr. Date in a letter dated 9th February, wherein he did raise the question of his domicile. The matter turns on whether the appointment was made before or after 9th February, the date on which he raised the matter of domicile. In his letter of 9th February, he stated -
The request to take up duties -immediately presents many problems, but to meet the wishes of the Chairman and yourself I have, at considerable personal inconvenience, made arrangements by utilizing some accumulated leave to be in Perth next week. After return to Sydney, I propose to devote the following two weeks to finalizing work in my present position, in respect of which, as you will appreciate, I must give considerable notice. I will discuss with the Chairman in Perth the matter of travelling expenses and pro rata adjustment of salary.
He stated, further -
In connexion with domicile of one or more members of the board in Sydney, this may prove necessary and desirable.
That was the date upon which the matter of domicile was raised - 9th February, 1954. The question arises whether that was before or after the date of his appointment. It is significant that payment of travelling allowance is allowed to a member who is away from his home to attend sittings of the board, pursuant to section 11 (2.) of the Tariff Board Act. So it is a question of where the domicile is.
There is no doubt that 9th February, when this question was raised, seems to be before the date of Mr. Date’s appointment to the board. In fact, the Executive Council minute to which Senator O’sullivan referred was not approved until’ 15th February. It read -
That in pursuance of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1953 the under-mentioned persons be appointed members of the Tariff Board for the period 5th February, 1954, to 31st December, 1958, both dates inclusive.
Is the date of appointment 5th February or 15th February? The first factor to be taken into account in determining this issue is that Mr. Date did not accept appointment until 9th February, so the contract was not completed until 9th February. Therefore, the date of appointment could not be 5th February.
A further point is that Senator O’sullivan on 5th February, did not inform Mr. Date that he was appointed, but said that his appointment had been recommended to the Governor-General in Council. Senator O’sullivan wrote -
Before it becomes1 effective, this recommendation must be approved by the Executive Council. . .
As I said, the recommendation was approved by the Executive Council on 15th February, so that is quite clearly the date of appointment.
What is more, on 23rd April, 1958- this is a matter to which I referred at the beginning - Mr. Date received a letter from Mr. Crawford in which the date of his appointment was referred to as 5th February, 1954. The Department of Trade and the chairman of the- board had been maintaining all the way through from 1954” that the date was 5th February, 1954. But on 30th April, 1958, the very day on which this matter was being discussed in the House, at 11.37 in the morning a teleprinter message was sent from Mr. Dickinson, the Assistant” Secretary’ of the’ Department of Trade, which read -
Mr. Crawford’s letter to you dated 23rd April, 1958. “ 5.2.54 “ should read “ 15.2.54 “. Regret error.
That was clearly an admission on the part, of the Department of Trade on 30th April - just last week - that it had made an error in asserting that 5th February, 1954, was the date of appointment. In other words, the department admitted on that day that the date of appointment was 15th February, 1954. As Mr. Date had raised the question of his domicile on 9th February, it follows that he had raised it before’ his appointment to the board, but at 5 p.m. on 30th April, 1958, the Minister claimed that Mr. Date had raised the question of his domicile after his appointment. It is clear from the documents as I have seen’ them that the Minister was wrong in his statement of 30th April. It is clear also’ that the treatment of Mr. Date was quite different from that accorded to Dr. Westerman.
The question now arises: Did the Minister and the Department of Trade claim, by error, that the date of the appointment was 5th February, or was if for the purpose of backing the decision made by the former chairman of the board, supported by the Department of Trade, that Mr. Date was not entitled to reside in Sydney and totravelling expenses because the question of his domicile had’ not been raised until after his appointment? It would appear that if his appointment was, in fact, made on the 15th February and he had raisedthis matter on 9th February, his positionwould be quite different. Had it been otherwise, the conflicts and the problems surrounding the work of Mr. Date on the Tariff Board would have been different from what has ensued.
I think that the department, in endeavouring over this period of four years tb’ make out’ that the date of the appointment was 5th February, which is contrary to theexpress provisions- of the correspondence that had taken place in relation to the appointment, has done considerable injustice to this member of the Tariff Board and’ Has brought about a situation in which his services have been so discoloured by this conflict-
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not propose to reply to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) at length. I did not hear his commencing remarks, but his speech had a regular theme. I think it was quite a useful speech for the House to have heard because it puts into proper perspective this matter which has been occupying Mr. Date’s mind for so long.
The theme song of the honorable member for Yarra seems to have been: Was Mr. Date appointed on 5th February or 15th February four years ago? Does it matter an awful lot? Is it really worth while Mr. Date distracting himself from his tremendously important duties as a member of the Tariff Board to argue whether he was appointed on 5th February or 15th February? I really do not think, that it warrants the amount of attention the honorable member has compelled the Parliament to devote to it.
To put the facts as they have been supplied to me by the Department of Trade - and I have no doubt that they are correct - let me first remind the House that when a gentleman is to be appointed to a high office of this sort, Cabinet does not just sit down and say, “ There is a chap in Sydney named Jones. We will appoint him to the Commonwealth Bank Board, the Tariff Board or some other body “. A regular procedure is followed. Various names are suggested. If Cabinet thinks finally that Jones would be a suitable appointee, it does not proceed to recommend the Governor-General to appoint him without first discovering whether Jones would like to be appointed and is willing to accept the appointment. Of course he is approached and sounded! Of course, if he is a normal, intelligent man he makes it his business to learn something of the post that is offered to him, the duties attached to it and the pay that goes with it! Of course he does that! All this takes place weeks or months before the formality of the appointment actually occurs.
That was the procedure in the case of Mr. Date. He was approached some considerable time before. That process having been gone through, we come to the formalities. On 5th February, 1954, Senator O’sullivan, who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, advised Mr. Date of the decision to appoint him. He advised Mr. Date by letter. In that letter it was definitely stated - and I quote -
The head-quarters of the Tariff Board is in Melbourne.
Mr. Date was advised by letter by the Minister of the intention to appoint him and where the head-quarters of the boar/ were situated. On 9th February - four days later - Mr. Date replied in writing to the Minister accepting the appointment, but including a paragraph suggesting that he could bring up the matter of head-quarters with either the Minister or the chairman of the board at a later date. On 15th February, in those circumstances, the Executive Council minute appointing Mr. Date was signed. Those were the formalities on the occasion of his appointment. I do not propose to canvass it any further.
.- 1 will not detain the House for very long, but I take advantage of this opportunity to refer to some remarks I made on 27th March last concerning the printing of the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I complained then - I think with some justification - that there had been unnecessary delay, or what seemed to be unnecessary delay, in the printing of that report. I suggested, very naturally, that the fault must lie in the Government Printing Office.
I have received a letter from the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) dated 23rd April in which he stated that he had inquired into the reason for the delay to which I had referred. The right honorable gentleman said that the significant feature of the timetable reported to him was that the proof of the title page of the report was sent to the Senate on 12th November, 1957, and was returned to the Government Printer by some authority in the Senate on 11th February, 1958. So the fault lies with the Senate and not with the Government Printing Office. The Treasurer concluded his letter by stating -
I am sure you will agree that the Government Printing Office was not responsible, and I have myself written to the President of the Senate directing his attention to this interval.
If I have done the Government Printing Office or the Government Printer harm I regret it, but I spoke from the available evidence and I am glad to know that the trouble was not in the Government Printing Office but elsewhere. I should like to say, now that the difficulty in this case has been sheeted home to the Senate, that I hope whoever was responsible for delaying the return of the title page of an important report for three months will not offend again. I think that all reports from responsible bodies should be printed as soon as possible and presented to the House as soon thereafter as it can be done.
– What was on the title page?
– The title page showed that it was the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for last year. I do not know why the title page should have been held up for so long. If there was any question of principle embodied in the report, the delay might be understandable. I am no more aware of the facts in that particular matter than is the honorable member.
I have always held the view that the Government Printing Office should be asked to move with the times. The Government should provide money for a more modern and bigger printing office. I hope the day will come when all the printing work of the Commonwealth, so far as it can be done economically, will be done in Canberra. I should like to see the Government Printing Office able to do what the government printing offices can do for State governments in the capital cities - that is, to print the reports of the Government and even accept work from honorable members and do work for political parties. There is no reason why such a practice, which is common in the State capital cities, should not be adopted here. At any rate, it would be another way of helping to build the Naitonal Capital. It may be that some day some action will be taken in that regard. The object of my rising was to set the position right, as I now know it, and to thank the Treasurer for clearing up this problem.
.- The Labour Government of which I was honoured to be a member introduced a proposal into this Parliament to place the onus of proof with respect to exservicemen’s claims for pensions on the repatriation authorities. That was done after a great deal of consideration and after expressions of dissatisfaction with the previous position from ex-servicemen’s organizations and others. It was deemed to be distinctly unfair to ask ex-servicemen, who did not have access to army records and other documents, to prove, after a space of years, that their disabilities were attributable to war service. So the Labour government of the day amended the act, believing that the administration of it, as a result of that decision, would change. But, unfortunately, there does not appear to have been, under an anti-Labour government, the desirable change that the Labour Government was seeking. Instead of the Repatriation Department adopting a more sympathetic attitude towards ex-servicemen, it is, no doubt at the urge of the Government to economise, now making some very harsh decisions.
I want to bring to the notice of the House a case concerning an ex-serviceman, whose name I shall mention because I have his permission to do so. He is Mr. Daniel David Evans, and he lives at 6 Georgestreet, Paddington. Mr. Evans applied, on 17th February, 1931, for acceptance of asthma and bronchitis as war-caused disabilities. The application was declined. He appealed, and the appeal was disallowed on 8th March, 1931.
On 13th July, 1950, some years later, he asked that spondylitis, arthritis, asthma and duodenal ulcer, from which he was then suffering, be accepted as war-caused disabilities. On 5th December, 1950, the commission declared that the asthma was an accepted war-caused disability.
On 11th March, 1955 - five years later - following an accident which this exserviceman had suffered - he had a bad fall, which was due to giddiness, caused by coughing due to asthma - a repatriation board accepted head injuries and deafness as war-caused disabilities from the 1914-18 war. Up to that point, the department had taken a reasonable attitude to the applicant. It had accepted asthma as a war-caused disability in 1950. Five years later, because he had fallen as a result of giddiness and coughing due to asthma, it accepted the injuries that he then suffered as being attributable to war service.
On 21st March, 1955, the ex-serviceman appealed against the rejection of certain disabilities as ‘being war-caused. Those disabilities were duodenal ulcer, spondylitis and fractured ribs. The Repatriation Commission declared that those disabilities were not due to war service. During the hearing of the appeal which the ex-serviceman made against this decision, a letter was submitted from Dr. L. A. Commins, who does work for the Repatriation Department. I shall read a part of the letter, because the Repatriation Department sought to justify its subsequent action by relying on what this doctor had written. In -fact, it appears to me as if what the doctor wrote, actually supported the ex-serviceman’s case. Dr. Commins wrote in these words -
This ex-serviceman has complained to me of “ blackouts “ for many years associated with spasms of coughing. Such a condition is quite conceivable and is in accordance with his accepted disability.
During such turns a vast number of injuries would be possible and his fractured ribs could have easily been sustained in this way. With the spondylitis, however, one cannot be sure injury is an accepted causative factor and if he struck himself with sufficient force in a fall from a height whilst unconscious, spondylitis could ensue at a later date.
The appeal body regarded that letter as justifying it in sending the matter back to the Repatriation .Commission. The Repatriation Commission, five years after it had accepted asthma as a war-caused disability, decided that the decision of 5th December, 1950, had be.en made in error. It decided that the bronchial asthma was not a warcaused disability. It also decided that other disabilities, due to a fall. caused by giddiness brought on by asthma, were not acceptable. The old fracture of the skull, bilateral nerve deafness, emphysema, bronchitis, hysterical personality, fractured ribs and duodenal ulcer were declared not to be acceptable as due to war service.
What position are we reaching in this country? This unfortunate ex-serviceman, after a great deal of difficulty, presented his case to the repatriation authorities, which accepted bronchial asthma as a war-caused disability in -1950. Later, the exserviceman, not being satisfied with a decision in respect of other disabilities, pursued his claim. I am not certain whether Dr. Commins’ letter was submitted by the exserviceman, but I would think it was submitted by him as it appears to support his claim. There was nothing in the doctor’s letter which justified the appeal body in sending the case back to the Repatriation Commission, and the Repatriation Commission deciding that it had made a mistake five years earlier.
If a mistake was made in favour of the ex-serviceman, it is the first mistake of that kind that the commission has made. Its mistakes are usually made at the time when application is made. In many cases it makes decisions which, in my opinion, are not based on the evidence submitted in support of the claims. But surely, if the commission is sympathetically disposed towards ex-servicemen, even if it had made a mistake five years earlier, why did it not forget about it?
This ex-serviceman is now an old and very sick man. At this period, when he has enough worries in eking out an existence, the commission has decided that because, according to its judgment, a mistake was made five years earlier, he is to have his pension taken from him. The commission might even claim repayment of the pension that this man has been paid for five years, on the basis that he was not entitled to it during that period. It would not amaze me if the repatriation authorities did take that attitude.
I have given the name and address of this ex-serviceman, and the facts of his case can be checked. I hope that the exservicemen on the Government side of the House, who are always reminding us that they are ex-servicemen and expressing great consideration for other ex-servicemen, will persuade the Government to have this case re-examined. I am quite certain that there is not an honorable member in this chamber who would not condemn the repatriation authorities for this action and who would not support the return of this exserviceman’s pension. I am hoping that the ex-servicemen on the Government side will adopt that attitude. I cannot expect the same .consideration from Cabinet Ministers, because they have set out on an economy drive. So we find all sorts of reductions taking place with respect to social service payments and war pensions. I have seen this happen in the past in this country. When a government sees that the financial position has become difficult, the first people who are affected are the unfortunates in receipt of war pensions or social service payments. The Government begins to look for ways in which it can economize. I believe that the circumstances I have outlined illustrate the policy upon which the Government has determined. I hope that this case will be re-examined and that if the facts are as I have stated them, the Government, or some members of it, will see that action is taken.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice - 1- Was Romano Travertine marble used on the Arbitration Court building, Melbourne?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
How many policies have been taken out with the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, and what is their value?
– The corporation commenced operations in the quarter ending 30th September, 1957. By 31st March, 1958, the corporation had issued 29 guarantees covering trade to a value of £9,700,000.
t asked the acting Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions as as follows: - 1 and 2. No firm decision has been made as to the source of supply of the 105-mm. howitzer and ammunition pending the completion of negotiations with the United States authorities.
s asked the acting Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has replied as follows: -
m asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Of the persons who receive an age pension at present, how many have (a) no income apart from the pension, (b) an income of less than £1 per week, (c) an income of £1 to less than £2 per week, and (d) an income of £2 to £3 10s. per week?
– It is regretted that it is not possible to furnish a reply to the honorable member’s question relating to the number of pensioners who have income other than the pension. Income of the amounts he mentions does not, in any case, affect the rate of pension.
s asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
1960 .. .. .. 490,000
1970 . . . . 590,000
1975 . . . . . . 650,000
If there were no means test, the estimate of persons of pensionable age is as follows -
1960 .. .. .. 1,060,000
1965 .. 1,160,000
1970 .. .. 1,275,000
1975 .. 1,405,000
1960 .. .. 24,584,000
1965 .. .. 26,842,000
1970 .. .. 29,601,000
1975 .. .. 32,611,000
If there were no means test, the estimate is as follows: -
1960 . . . . . 55,120,000
1965 . . . . 60,320,000
1970 . . 66,300,000
1975 .. .. .- 73,060,000
These figures are obtained by dividing the total estimated cost by £4 7s. 6d. - the present maximum rate. It is not apparent what particular significance these figures have. If they are not the figures the honorable member wants I shall have further estimates made if he will let me know exactly what he is seeking.
t asked the Minister for Air. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Civil aircraft are generally unsuitable for specialist military tasks such as paratrooping training, which would require considerable modification to the structure of civil aircraft, which then would he unavailable or unsuitable for their daytoday civil tasks. The twelve Hercules, however, could not meet all the service requirements for movement of personnel and equipment, either in peace or in war. The service will continue to rely on- chartered civil air transport- for the movement of large numbers of personnel both in peace and war, and will continue to move small numbers of personnel and equipment by civil air transport where this is the most economical mode of transport in times of peace. It must be emphasized that while the Hercules can move large numbers of personnel, it is intended to place first priority on the use of these aircraft for the movement of heavy equipment and freight and for specialist operational training.
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has now furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has now furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s question: - 1 and 2. Imports of red granite are not separately recorded and in these circumstances I am unable to give the honorable member the specific information requested.
It may be of interest to the honorable member to know, however, that imports of red granite would be recorded under the statistical heading “ granite unwrought including rough or scrabbled from the pick “. Details of such imports are available in terms of the declared value for duty purposes and are as follows: -
There may be separate clearances of wrought red granite under the heading “ Stone and Marble “-tariff items 262(c)(2), 262(d)(2) or 262 (e) (2) - but these as the following figures will show are negligible: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply: - 1, 2 and 3. On 3rd May, 1957, the High Court gave judgment in the appeal of Darling Island Stevedoring and Lighterage Company Limited v. Long and a copy of the judgment may be found in (1957) “ Argus Law Reports “ at page 505. Having regard to the rule in Standing Order No. 144 that questions should not ask Ministers for legal opinion, I do not propose to answer these questions further.
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
In the years 1955-56 and 1956-57, the principal projects financed from the amount of £800,000 provided were roads of access to Commonwealth property and strategic roads. The allocations were as follows-
The remaining funds are in Commonwealth Aid Roads Trust Account and will be utilized as required on road works defined in Section 12 of the act.
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What were the percentage variations in each of the last five years in the aggregate gross earnings shown by the owners of ships (a) registered in Australia and (b) engaged in the coasting trade in their returns to the Minister under section 421 of the Navigation Act?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
Although section 421 of the Navigation Act was, with certain other sections of the act, proclaimed to come into operation on the 1st March, 1923, regulations prescribing the time at which returns to the Minister were to be made and the form in which the information was to be furnished were not issued by the Government in office at the time or by any subsequent government. Consequently no returns have been furnished.
a asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following replies: - l.-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 May 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580507_reps_22_hor19/>.