3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform honorable senators that I have received from
Lady Holder a communication acknowledging the receipt of the resolution of sympathy recently passed by the Senate on the death of her husband. It reads as follows : - “Wavertree,” Kent Town,
To the President, Sir Albert Could. Dear Sir,
Will you convey to the members of the Senate the sincere thanks of myself and family for the kind resolution of sympathy passed, and forwarded by yourself to us in our great sorrow and loss.
The wreath placed on my late husband’s coffin assured us of the esteem in which he was held by you.
Our loss is irreparable, but the nation’s sorrow, is helping us to be brave.
Again thanking you,
I am, Dear Sir, yours truly,
I shall have the reply recorded in the Journals.
– I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether the Government will invite Mr. Lindsay, the well-known explorer of the interior of Australia, to deliver at ParliamentHouse a lecture on the proposed routes for trans-continental railways.
– I am not quite certain whether a matter of this kind does not come within the jurisdiction of the President and the Speaker, but as the honorable senator has raised the question, I shall have an inquiry made.
– If there is a desire on the part of honorable senators that such a lecture as that referred to should be delivered, and the Government see fit to issue an invitation to the lecturer, I am quite sure that there will be no objection on the part of Mr. Speaker and certainly no objection on my part, to the use of a portion of the building for such a purpose.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Defence Acts 1903-1904 -
Naval Forces of the Commonwealth -
Regulations (Provisional). - Amendment of Regulations 106 and 109. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 90.
Financial and Allowance Regulations (Provisional). - New Regulation 99. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 91.
Public Service Act1902. - Return of Temporary Employes in the Commonwealth Public Service during the year ended 30th June, 1909.
Copy of Despatch to His Excellency the Governor-General, dated 18th June, 1909, on the subject of the Navigation Bill.
The Clerk Assistant laid upon the table : -
Return to Order of the Senate of22nd July, 1909-
Mails fromGreat Britain. Detention of, before Despatch to Tasmania.
– I desire to know whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council is now in a position to furnish the Senate’ with information respecting the number of applications for old-age pensions in Western Australia.
– No, but I anticipate that I shall be placed in possession of the information while I am moving the second reading of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill.
Inter-State Mail Service
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice-
THE NEW MAIL CONTRACT.
Complaint from Western Australia.
The Perth Chamber of Commerce has decided to call the attention of the Federal Government to the fact that under the new mail contract with the Orient Company coming into operation in February next the mail steamers for the Eastern States would leave Fremantle before the mail from the East could be delivered in Perth. The result would be to deprive Western Australia practically of the present bi-weekly Inter-State mail service?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Major Battye: Naval Officers’ Appointments : Military Officers for India
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of -the Library the correspondence and papers relative to the appointment of Captain and Honorary Major Battye (Western Australia) to the rank of Major ?
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows: -
Before leaving for England the Naval Director made a suggestion to that effect, and. an applicant was so informed withoutreference to the Minister, who will look into the matter on the return of the Acting Naval Director from Western Australia on Friday.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answer in each case is “ Yes.”
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the question regarding a confectionery combine, asked by Senator Pearce, and the fact that attention has been drawn to other similar organizations, will the Government give some assurance that the Trade and Customs Department will carefully watch the operations of such bodies, in order to restrain them in any actions which may appear inimical to the public welfare?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
It would hardly be possible for the Department to watch the operations of the abovementioned organizations as suggested ; but as the law provides that when the Comptroller-General believes an offence has been committed, or a complaint is made in writing, and the Comptroller believes that the offence so complained of is committed, action shall be taken; such action takes place as the legal advisers of the Department advise.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Sir
Robert Best) read a first time.
– I beg to move -
That this Bill be now read a second time. It will not be necessary, I think, for me to speak at any great length, for the simple reason that the principle underlying this Bill is not a new one, having been approved by all sections of the Senate, and embodied in a law. The Bill can, I suggest, be dealt with much more appropriately in Committee than in the Senate, more especially as by far the. larger number of amendments therein proposed deal with the machinery sections of the principal Act. But I desire to refer to proposals in the measure which touch principles in the parent measure. The first important change is dealt with in clause 12, which provides for the reduction of the residential period from twenty-five to twenty years. A twenty years’ residence qualification was provided for in the Queensland and Victorian Acts. Quite apart from the desirability of reducing the residence qualification as far as possible, there is an obligation upon us, for the sake of uniformity in our Federal law, to adopt the more liberal provisions which have hitherto been in force in the several States. In order that there should be no misapprehension, I wish lo point out in passing that pensions due in Victoria and Queensland will be paid by the Commonwealth as from the 1st July last. There has been some little difference in the method of giving effect to this decision. In Victoria the State Government have been paying, the pensions, and the Commonwealth Government will refund the money so paid. In Queensland no payment has so far been made; but the Commonwealth Government will see that the pensioners are not injured in any way, though, perhaps, they may have to wait a week or two for their pension. I have just been informed by Senator Chataway that a telegram has been received from the Government of Queensland to the effect that they have decided to pay the pension in the meanwhile, and they will, of course, be entitled to claim a refund from the Commonwealth Government upon the passing of this Bill.
– The Bill will be retrospective to- the extent mentioned.
– Yes. My honorable friend has anticipated me. It is provided in the Bill that it shall take effect as from the 1st July last. That is to say, that an applicant for a pension who had been twenty years in Australia on the 1st July last will be entitled to a pension from that date, although his claim may not be put in until a period within sixty days after the passing of this Bill. The reason for that provision is well known, and, as 1 desire to economize time, I shall not further refer to it. Although I am only, briefly touching on these points, I have no desire to withhold any information ; I am brief merely in order to expedite business. If any points to which I do not refer are raised during the debate on the second) reading, I shall be only too pleased to supply any information which may be sought. With respect to the residence qualification, the Bill contemplates and provides that residence shall include residence within one of the Territories under the control of the Commonwealth. That is necessary, and is becomng increasingly necessary, from the ten.dency of our people to put in some portion )f their time in New Guinea ; and, later, it nay happen, in Norfolk Island also. Another of the major provisions of the Bill is that which deals with naturalization. As the law now stands, a person otherwise qualified, but who had not been naturalized for three years, would be unable to obtain a pension. . I£ is now proposed that any person who becomes naturalized before the 30th June of next year can, immediately on obtaining his naturalization papers, apply for, and obtain, an old-age pension, if he is qualified in other respects. That, I submit, is a fairly liberal concession to people who have lived in Australia for a length of time, but who, so far, Have not taken up the duties of citizenship.
– That is .to say, they need not have been naturalized during the whole of the twenty years?
– Yes ; under the Bill it is proposed that such a person might be naturalized to-day and obtain his pension to-morrow, presuming that he is qualified in other respects to receive that pension. Another provision of the Bill is intended to render Asiatics eligible for pensions. Having now referred to the main features of the Bill, I shall, I think, be justified in pointing out briefly the financial responsibilities which this new legislation is throwing upon the Commonwealth. At the present moment we are not in a position to give any definite figures. Only estimates can be submitted, but they are based upon the expenditure in connexion with old-age pensions in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, where such legislation has been in operation for some time. On these figures it is estimated that the payment of old-age pensions under the Commonwealth legislation will involve in the first year probably not less than £1.500,000. The Commonwealth Act is, of course, in some particulars more liberal than are some of the State Acts, and in arriving at the estimate’ of probable expen diture allowance has been made for this increased liberality, which, of course, means increased expenditure.
– In other respects, as compared with State Acts, the Commonwealth Act is very much the reverse of liberal.
– My honorable friend will not dispute the fact that the expenditure under the Commonwealth Act will be greater than it would have been “if we had adopted any State Act.
– Necessarily, because it covers more States.
– It will be greater in each State also.
– It will be greater per head of the population. We know that no Old-age Pension Act which this or any other Government might submit would satisfy my honorable friend, Senator Neild.
– That is a gratuitous impertinence.
– It might be, but I take it that any one who expressed an opinion which was not in accord with those held by the honorable senator would be open to that accusation. But what -I meant to say was that my honorable friend, having made a pet study of this matter, considers that only the proposals which he advocates could constitute a complete and perfect Act. I am not aware of any Government that is prepared at the present moment to give effect to the old-age pensions scheme which the honorable senator advocates.
– They have all copied it.
– The estimated expenditure of £1,500,000 is exclusive of the additional expenditure which will be thrown upon the Treasury by reason of the passing of this Bill. The additional expenditure consequent upon the two amendments of the law which I have outlined is estimated at from ,£34,000 to £40,000. There have been one or two minor amendments in the Act, which have added £2,000 to the estimate of expenditure submitted by Sir John Forrest elsewhere, and it may be taken for the purposes of the debate on the- second reading of this Bill that if passed it will involve an additional expenditure of £35,000. I have mentioned these figures as an introduction to what I am now about to say. Two proposed amendments of the Bill have been circulated by honorable senators, and both, if carried, will very, materially increase the financial responsibilities involved. The additional expenditure involved in the acceptance of one alone of the proposed amendments would amount to£391,000.
– Which one is that?
– The amendment proposing the reduction of the qualifying age for women from 65 to 60 years. That alone would represent an additional cost of nearly £400,000. I would ask the Senate, however desirable the proposed amendment might be if we had the means, and however ‘much it may appeal to their humanitarian instincts, to take a reasonable view of the financial responsibilities of the Commonwealth. Every one is agreed that the position which the Commonwealth occupies to-day in the matter of finance is one demanding the closest attention, the greatest caution, and some measure of anxious thought. Until some adjustment of our financial relations with the State Governments has been arrived at, I would ask honorable senators not to overload this legislation at its inception, but to assist the Government in getting it fairly launched. I hope they will refrain from proposing amendments seriously increasing the cost until we are in a position more accurately to estimate the expenditure involved in the legislation proposed by the Government, and until we are better able to understand our present financial position.
– We understand it perfectly.
– Might I remind Senator Stewart, and those who are putting forward the amendments to which I have referred, that they had ample opportunity, if they thought it desirable to do so, to bring them into operation.
– During the recess.
– We could not legislate during the recess.
– It is a curious thing that the two amendments which my honorable friends opposite intend to propose might have been brought into operation by proclamation. It was within the power of the late Government, during the whole of the time Parliament was in recess, by proclamation alone to have brought into operation the provisions sought by the proposed amendments.
– Private members had no power to give effect to such amendments.
– I am speaking of the late Government, and Senator de Largie should know that what I say is correct. It was within the power of the late Government to give effect to the proposal which stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition to-day. They could have done by proclamation what he now asks us to do by legislation. But, faced with the financial responsibility, they shrank from putting that portion of the Act into operation. Indeed, Mr. Fisher himself plainly told the electors at Gympie that he was sorry he could not give effect to the invalid provisions of the Act at an early date. Under the circumstances, I think it is desirable that we should pass this measure in its present form, without seeking to burden it with financial obligations that we are not prepared to accept.
– I must congratulate the VicePresident of the Executive Council upon his anxiety to get this amending Bill through the Senate as speedily as possible. Every honorable senator will recognise that his brief speech was ample proof of his anxiety to do this. I hope that we shall all be commendably brief in debating the provisions of this measure. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has already declared what are , its main objects. They are to reduce the residential qualification of pensioners, and to deal more leniently with alien residents, both European and Asiatic. I am sure that members of the Opposition thoroughly sympathize with those objects. When the principal Act was under consideration in this Parliament, honorable senators did not bestow upon it that amount of consideration which its importance warranted. I might point out many directions in which it requires to be amended. We have heard a great deal about the encouragement that we should extend to the thrifty members of our population. But what encouragement is given to thrift under the principal Act? If an aged man has been thrifty to the extent of acquiring property in excess of the Value of £50, under the principal Act he is penalized to the extent of £1 for every £10 of such excess.
– It is an outrage.
– I will tell the honorable senator how far it is an outrage. Any aged man or woman in Australia may have an income of £26 a year, and still be entitled to an additional £26 as an oldage, pension. Consequently I hold that we ought to allow them.’ to possess in accumulated property an amount which would be equivalent at £5 per cent, to £26 per annum. That is a serious anomaly in the principal Act. The very same remark is applicable to old men or women who have houses of their own. If they are possessed of property in excess of the value of £310, they are not eligible to receive a pension. On the same line of reasoning, the amount should be increased to £500 or £600. There are many old men and women in Australia who have been thrifty enough to provide homes for themselves, and I contend that they ought to receive more consideration than should be extended to those who have not been equally thrifty. The old men and women who are living in their own homes ought to be permitted the right to draw the full amount of the pension, without any deduction whatever. These are matters with which we certainly ought to deal. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has stated that the late Government had an opportunity to bring into operation the provisions relating to invalid pensions by proclamation. But what an anomalous position they would have occupied if they had done as he suggests, and had not the money with which the pay these pensions. Had the Fisher Government been afforded an opportunity of bringing their revenue proposals before Parliament, they, would then have been prepared to bring the provisions’ relating to invalid pensions into operation. But that opportunity was denied them.
– Did the late Government intend to do that?
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council should not have mentioned anything of that description. It did not matter what Government were in power, an amending Old-age Pensions Act was bound to be submitted. Every consideration would have been given to the question by the -late Government, and to the amendments that would have been moved by honorable senators. But invalid pensions are mentioned in the forefront of the Act itself; and it is only due to the invalids of Australia, who are deceived by the title “ Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act,” that some limit should be put to the time when the proclamation must be issued. That is the reason why I intend to move the amendment which I have foreshadowed. It will be within the power of the Government to issue the proclamation at a time suitable to their financial circumstances, but at any rate I consider that it is the duty of the Senate to see that a limit is put to the time when money will be forthcoming for this purpose. Either we should alter the title of the Act altogether, or we should do something to bring about finality with respect to the condition of unfortunate people, many of whom are more deserving than are the aged themselves. I have only to say in conclusion that I shall give the Government all the assistance within my power to get the measure through rapidly, but at the same time I shall do everything I can to secure the passage of the amendment of which I have given notice, and I trust that the Government will assist me in that respect also.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [3.2].. - It seems to me from the heated reply that the Minister in charge of the Bill gave to a very innocent interjection of mine, that he misapprehended what was in my mind, and was quite needlessly ambitious to defend an Act for which he was in no way responsible except as a private member of the Senate. But I offer my compliments to Senator McGregor on account of the very pertinent manner iri which he has indicated perhaps the chief defect in the principal Act, and one which this Bill does not attempt to amend. This very question was most pointedly brought to my notice during the week end, when I received a letter from a well-known gentleman in Sydney, drawing attention to the case of an old lady, 89 years of age, who, under the New South Wales Old-age Pensions Act, received the large pension of 4s. per week. That is to say, the pension of 10s. per week was cut down to 4s. on account of her ownership of the little cottage in which she lived. But this national Government - the Government of Australia - has, under the Commonwealth Act which we are amending to-day, cut down the 4s. to the most absurd sum of od. per week.
– That is the work of the Fusion Government.
– My honorable friend knows that the Act was passed during the term of the late Deakin Government, with the assistance of the party of which he is so distinguished an ornament. Would honorable senators believe that the Government of a great country would palter with the matter of old-age pensions to the extent of formally granting an old colonist, 89 years of age, 9d. per week? The sum is not sufficient to keep the dear old lady in milk. It is an outrage that such a sum should be offered to any resident of the Commonwealth. It is beneath contempt that the Commonwealth should be guilty of legislation that brings about such an insult; I am almost inclined to use a stronger term and say, such an infamy. I feel very warmly about this subject.’ When I gave notice of motion for leave to introduce a. Bill to-day, it was with the view of amending the section under which these pensions are paid. But if an opportunity presents itself in Committee on the Bill before us, I shall probably endeavour to achieve the amendment which I desire to secure at once, because I would sooner attain the result which I aim at rapidly and promptly than endeavour to engineer through Parliament a Bill, however gladly honorable senators might support it.
– What is the private income of the old lady ?
– She has no income, but she is living in a little house of her own. If honorable senators will look at the Act they will see that the Commonwealth reckons the value of a little cottage, or a few tables and chairs, a washstand, and a towel-horse’ at ten per cent, per annum. We all know that ten per cent, is a farcical rate of interest. You cannot get so much in respect of any decent investment. Those who follow me may perhaps take me to task for not having moved an amendment in the original Act while it was going through Parliament last )’ear, if I do not make a short statement in justification. I must, therefore, repeat a personal explanation which I made some time ago. Understanding that the session was coming to a conclusion at the end of May last year, I booked my passage on a voyage to Northern Australia for the purpose of inquiring into the surreptitious landing of Chinese. I may add that I gained knowledge then that convinced me that the traffic is going on without let or hindrance. It is going on to an extent that is ridiculous. I do not say that there is no check, but the only check is at one or two ports, whilst the Chinese are landing all along the coast. I did’ not leave to inquire into this matter until I had seen the Prime Minister, and received! his personal assurance that the Old-age Pensions Bill would not be dealt with in that session. It was after receiving the Prime Minister’s assurance to that effect that I went, away ; and honorable senators can judge of my annoyance and surprise when, on reaching Brisbane, I saw that the Bill had been introduced and dealt with.
– We had given the Prime Minister a little bit of a push by then.
– I believe that that is exactly what happened - that the party of the honorable senator who so pertinently interrupts, gave the then Prime Minister a little push along, and caused the matter to be dealt with. That was quite proper up to a certain point. I agree with Senator McGregor that no doubt all the members in both Houses of this Parliament desired to have the measure placed on the statute-book as soon as possible. Consequently, it was perhaps a little bit rushed in the last hours of the session. Had I been present, and introduced such an amendment as I have indicated, I have no doubt that the question would have been fought- to an issue, and that instead of money being reckoned as worth 10 per cent., it would have been reckoned at 5 per cent, at the outside.
– And possibly we should have had no Old-age Pensions Act on the statute-book.
– As it would amount to very few pounds to the Commonwealth, but a great many shillings to old people, I cannot conceive that the Bill would have been lost had an amendment to the effect I have indicated been submitted. Let me make myself quite clear. Honorable senators know that under the principal Act, the maximum pension is £26, and that £1 is to be deducted for every £10 worth of property of any kind owned by the recipient of a pension. Putting it roughly, if a person has a cottage or property worth £260, he does not get any pension, though, of course, there is a provision that £50 is allowed in one case, and t, 100 in another; but, clearly no person who possesses property worth £260, no matter what form it may take, can obtain a pension. That is what I object to, and I agree in the most complete manner with Senator McGregor when he points out that a person might be in receipt of an income of £26 a year, and still get a pension of £26 a year from the Commonwealth, making a total income of .£52. I quite approve of that, because if we do not do something of that kind, we shall not encourage thrift in the community. Let it b? remembered that when we are encouraging thrift we are, in some cases, reducing the amount of the pension, while in other cases, we are doing away with all claim to a pension. Every one in the Commonwealth should take an interest in promoting thrift. What I take exception to is that, while the possession of an income of £26 does not take a shilling off the pension, the existence of a bit of property which brings in no income, but may be a shelter to an aged head, cancels all claim upon the Commonwealth. I am very happy indeed to be, for once at any rate, in positive and complete agreement with the honorable gentleman at the head of the Opposition. The Minister pointed out that the measure extends pensions to Asiatics. I have no objection to that” under the conditions laid down, but I want to. know why a naturalized Chinaman, who has come here to his own advantage, is to have a pension, while a native-born Australian, who has to stay here to his disadvantage - because he is not allowed to even groom a horse that is used for the carriage of our mails - I want to know why an aboriginal native, whose lands have been filched from him by the British, is to be treated differently ?
– Oh !
– I must speak the truth. The lands of the aboriginal natives have been filched from them ; their hunting grounds have been taken away, and what do we do for them?
– We give them a blanket each.
– Yes, we give to a native a blanket that does not cost more than 5s.
– And the natives sell the blanket immediately.
– We do much more in Victoria.
– And in New South Wales.
– - In Victoria, we maintain them.
– At this time I do not want to go into the question of the treatment of the aboriginals, but I should certainly like to know why, if under -the Commonwealth law, or, at any rate, under some of the State laws, an aboriginal has a vote in the choice of a member of Parliament, he should be denied, in his poverty and decrepitude, the advantages which we are now asked to extend to the Asiatic? Surely, if there is anybody in Australia, outside the white race, who is entitled to our sympathy and consideration, and, if you will,, to our generosity, though I do not think that that term ought to apply to an old-age pension, it is a man or a woman who has been bereft of all to our advantage. For years I lived in the Dominion of New Zealand, where the native race was treated very differently from the native race in Australia ; there the natives are British subjects, with British rights from the jump, and where the only disadvantage they experience, though some honorable senators may think that it was a great advantage, is that they cannot buy spirituous liquors. New Zealand had many years ago, and still has, Maori members of Parliament, Maori salaried justices, of the peace, Maori parsons, even preaching to white congregations, Maori officers in the Defence Force, and Maori Ministers of the Crown. The different treatment of the native races in the two countries almost passes comprehension or discussion.
– There is a difference in the two races.
– No doubt there is a considerable difference in the two races, both mentally and physically, but there ought to be no difference in the righteous treatment of the inferior race. There should be as much justice done to the boomerang hunter of Australia as to the lighter-skinned native of the neighbouring Dominion.
– A native does not hunt with a boomerang, it comes back to him.
– My honorable friend has fallen into a not unreasonable error. Evidently he does not recognise the fact that there are two kinds of boomerang, namely, one that returns and one that does not return. It is the latter which hits the hardest. The aboriginal of Australia has a war boomerang and a hunting boomerang. If my honorable friend wants to know a little more about boomerangs he can look up the history of the Dravidian race of India. He can also find all about the Abyssian boomerangs in the proper place, and even the boomerangs which have been discovered in the ancient tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. These are the only two points I submit in connexion with the second reading of this Bill, the general purpose of which I most cordially indorse. I hope that it will be passed, and, like Senator McGregor, ‘I shall not take up undue time in saying anything more respecting a Bill the passage of which I hope to see, with its accompanying advantages to those who are, by unhappy fate, compelled to take advantage of its provisions.
– I think that the VicePresident of the Executive Councilwill agree that no more advantageous opportunity than the present one could be afforded to honorable senators to put right a thing which they have deemed wrong for a considerable time. Of course, there are amendments required which are essential to the good working of the principal Act, and these can be dealt with in Committee. It is not my purpose to delay the second reading of the Bill. I sincerely hope that the Senate in its wisdom will see the necessity of adopting the amendment of which I have given notice. It will be remembered that during last week I asked how many applications for old-age pensions had been made in Western Australia, how manypensions had been granted, and the reason for the delay in dealing with the other applications, as it appeared to me that the delay was extraordinary, compared with the way in which applications had been dealt with in other States. I hold in my hand the official reply to my inquiry. It discloses that in Western Australia 1,325 claims have been received to date, and that eight claims have been withdrawn, seventeen rejected, and forty-six granted. In other words, about eighty applications have been disposed of, which I think every one will admit is a very low number, and suggests a lack of something. I do not know exactly what the cause of the delay is, but it appears to me that no proper effort has been made to deal with the claims. The official reason given for the delay is rather a strange one. It is stated in these terms -
The reason that comparatively few applications have yet been granted in Western Australia is that the registrars are making very careful inquiry into the qualifications of the claimants.
Are we to infer from that statement that pensions have been surreptitiously given in the other States, but that in Western Australia a most minute examination is being carried on by the Government to see how many persons can be prevented from obtaining an old-age pension? I do not accuse any person of having that end in view ; but I certainly should like to know whether the Department is satisfied with the proceedings in Western Australia; and whether they really suggest that it is necessary that there should be closer investigation and inquiry in respect to the payment of old-age pensions in that State than is considered sufficient in the other States. This is the inference I draw from the document, and I shall be glad if the Vice-President of the Executive Council can show me that I should be justified in drawing some other inference than that which the terms of the document force upon me. I intend to do nothing which would obstruct the second reading of this amending Bill, but in Committee I shall give all the support I can to such amendments as I think likely to perfect the measure, and which would give the greatest satisfaction to the people for whom this legislation is proposed to be passed.
– The Government must feel that they are fortunate in having such an Opposition as they have at present. Honorable senators who have so far spoken on the Bill have followed the good example set by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. The Bill deals with a subject on which very lengthy addresses might be delivered ; but honorable senators have shown good taste in expressing themselves briefly upon it. There are a fey points, however, on which we might be unable to express our views if we did not take advantage of this opportunity. I do not agree with the suggestion of the VicePresident of the Executive Council that during the recess the late Government might, so to speak, have legislated on this subject by proclamation. It will be admitted that that would not be a very satisfactory way in which to legislate.
– The Act contemplates it.
– It certainly does; but regard should be had for the peculiar circumstances in which the late Government took office. They did so at the tail-end of a session, and it will be admitted that during the recess they elaborated a policy sufficiently comprehensive to have occupied the time of an entire Parliament, let alone one session of a Parliament.
– And yet that policy did not include the amendments of this law to which I have referred.
– The statement of the late Government’s policy did not go into details as to amendments of the law which the Government proposed to introduce.
– It contained no reference to these amendments.
– An amending Bill was drafted.
– Which didnot contain these amendments.
– If honorable senators opposite were under the impression that the late Government were satisfied with the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, as passed by this Parliament, and thought it should stand for all time without amendment, they were very much mistaken.
– Does the honorable senator contend that an amendment involving an additional expenditure of £400,000 is a minute amendment?
– I do not see how a Government that has offered to Great Britain a Dreadnought, . to cost something like £2,000,000, and Senator Pulsford, who was prepared to go to the length of offering five Dreadnoughts, can very well object to amendments of our old-age pensions law involving the small amount referred to.
– The late Government claimed to have offered all the resources of Australia.
– If the necessity arose, it would have been found that the late Government’s offer was a genuine one. The resources offered were not confined to money.
– Who was to be the judge of the necessity ?
– The people of the country, with the Government at their head who made the offer.
– Shall I be right in describing that offer as a long-dated, unguaranteed promissory note?
– It was a promissory note which the people of Australia would have been quite willing to take up, and I am quite satisfied as to the sincerity of the gentlemen who made the offer. The insinuation that the amendments which have been referred to are to be proposed only because we happen to be in Opposition, is quite unworthy of the honorable senator who made it. If we are to indulge in insinuations, it was from honorable senators opposite that the original Act was most in danger of defeat. If it had not been for the action of the Labour party when it was under consideration, there would have been no old-age pensions payable in Australia to-day
– We had such an Act in force in New South Wales,
– I am referring to Commonwealth legislation. Had we all taken up the same attitude on the Surplus Revenue Bill as honorable senators opposite did there would be no provision made for the payment of Commonwealthold-age pensions to-day.
-The honorable senator might tell us whether Senator Turley did not vote against the imposition of special duties.
- Senator Turley is present to answer for himself, and it will be admitted that he has been consistent throughout in the attitude he has taken up. Whilst I do not intend to propose all the amendments I should like to see embodied in this Bill, I am going to assist the effort to introduce some amendments into it. I hope that in the near future the existing Act will be . still further amended. The provision fixing the age qualification at sixty-five years, irrespective of trade or condition, must involve a greater degree of hardship on some of the poor of Australia than on others. I can speak from practical experience of the conditions in mining districts, and I say that men who follow the occupation of mining are more worn and aged at fifty years than are many of those who follow other occupations at sixty-five years of age. I do not intend to propose a reduction of the age qualification to fifty years straight away, although in some circumstances I think it would be proper to do so ; but I hope that the age qualification will be reduced from sixty-five years, which is altogether too high to meet many of the most deserving cases in mining districts. I hope that the invalid sections of the Act will shortly be amended in such a way as to give greater satisfaction than they do at present. We might very well adopt some amendment which will liberalize this Bill. It is asking too much of us to ask that we should move no amendments at all merely because we agreed to the principal Act only about twelve months ago. It should not be forgotten that honorable senators on this side desired to see the principle of the original Act affirmed, and they were afraid that it would be defeated if many amendments were moved. I do not think that it is a satisfactory method of securing an amendment of the law to proclaim it. I believe that parliamentary sanction should be sought for every amendment of a law. I hope that parliamentary sanction will be given to the amendments we intend to move upon this Bill, as that will be much more satisfactory than to have the Government during a parliamentary recess legislating bv proclamation.
– I have a few brief observations to make on the second “reading of this Bill. I welcome its appearance in the Senate, and will give my whole-hearted assistance to expedite its passage. I am glad to find that it is proposed to reduce the residence qualification to twenty years. I remember that when the parent Act was before the Senate I suggested that twenty, years should be the residence qualification, and I am glad to find that the justice of such a proposal is now recognised. I should like to have seen included in the Bill a provision reducing the age qualification. I think that sixty-five years is far too high. When the Government felt it necessary to introduce an amending Bill of this kind they might have proposed a reduction of the age qualification both for men and women. Part II. of the Bill proposes various amendments of the principal Act, and I am not quite certain as to what its effect will be. It deals with the appointment of an assistant commissioner, of registrars, and special magistrates, and will, I suppose, involve some increase in the cost of administration. The effect may be to avoid the delay in the investigation of cases such as has been pointed out by Senator Henderson as having occurred in Western Australia. If it has that effect in any State I welcome the introduction of the amendments. In common with Senator Henderson I am unable to understand why so long a time has been taken in determining the justice or otherwise of claims made in Western Australia. The reason given has been that the authorities were making very careful inquiries, and I agree with Senator Henderson’s inference that if that reason be correct the authorities cannot have been making very careful inquiries in the other States, where claims have been more rapidly dealt with. There is another way in which, I think, the principal Act might be amended. I think we might very well permit inmates of benevolent asylums to draw old-age pensions. W4e might place on the persons in charge of such institutions the responsibility of spending the money, and if there should be a balance after the keep of an inmate has been provided for - as I believe there will -the accumulated balances might be handed over to an inmate on leaving the institution. If we extended the benefits of the Act to the inmates of these asylums it is possible that they would receive more of the comforts of life than such institutions are at present able to give them. The time is coming when we must face the necessity for bringing into operation the invalid sections of the Act. We are talking of spending money on Australian local defence, and the present Government have offered a Dreadnought or some alternative involving the expenditure of ,£2,000,000 towards Imperial defence. I should like to remind the Senate that there is another system of defence on which we might very well spend some money, and that is in endeavouring to cope with the white scourge which is devastating the youthful portion of our population. We have a disease amongst us, the destructive effects of which are as great here as they are in Britain. There are many families in Australia to-day, in which members ranging from sixteen to twenty-five years of age, are unable to do anything for themselves, and are incapable of assisting in the maintenance of the home. It would have been wise policy on the part of the Government to recognise this fact, and to seriously attempt to bring into immediate operation the provisions of the principal Act relating to invalid pensions.
– Have we the power to enforce sanitary laws ?
– I do not think that we have. But we have power to assist those who may. be stricken down by this white plague.
– We have power to remove the cause of the disease?
– Undoubtedly; we administer the Quarantine Act. Mr. John Burns says that no fewer than five millions qf the human race die each year from this plague.
– I must ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the Bill.
– I shall do so. I repeat that the Government might very well have made provision in this Bill for bringing into operation the sections of the principal Act relating to invalid pensions. There are thousands in Australia to-day who are suffering from the dread disease .to which I have referred. I do not intend to defend the late Government because they did not proclaim that portionof the principal Act. It would be ridiculous to do so. They were not permitted to remain long enough in office to doanything.
– It would only have taken them five minutes to issue a proclamation.
– I have no desire to indulge in recriminatory remarks. But I do say that if it had not been for the Labour party in this Parliament we should not be discussing this Bill to-day. I welcome the appearance of the measure, and I hope that with one or two amendments, which will have the effect of making it more perfect, it will speedily be placed upon our statute-book.
– At the present juncture it seems that thereis a very grave necessity for Australia to incur a heavy expenditure in providing for its effective defence. That circumstance naturally suggests that we shall have less money to spend in other directions. But that is not the view which some honorable senators appear to entertain. In a private house, when the head of the family is ill and heavy expenditure has to be incurred, a good deal of hardship is often inflicted, with the result that there is less money - not more - expended upon luxuries. That must be obvious to all. It would be well for us to get rid of the idea that because we are driven to incur a large expenditure upon defence, we shall have more money to expend on such desirable objects as the payment of old-age pensions. I suppose that every one ofus sympathises with suffering, and that we are willing to pledge the country to the fullest possible extent in relieving that suffering. But we must proceed very cautiously. Under the principal Act the expenditure upon old-age pensions in certain of the States was considerably increased. This Bill will still further increase the expenditure. The Vice-President of the Executive Council did not tell us the extent of the increase.
– It represents about £35,000.
– I understand that the amendments embodied in this measure will have the effect of increasing the expenditure under the principal Act by £35,000. But other amendments of a very important character have been foreshadowed. The adoption of one of these alone would increase the expenditure upon pensions by £400,000. I shall be glad if the Vice-President of the Executive
Council, in replying, will tell us approximately the increase that would be involved if all these proposals were adopted.
– Should not the honorable senator also ask for an estimate of the cost of five Dreadnoughts?
– I can tell the honorable senator. Any child can calculate five times two. In Committee, I intend to submit an amendment relating to the granting of invalid pensions to Asiatics. I was very pleased to note that an amendment of a similar character was moved in another place by Mr. Batchelor, a member of the Labour party. The circumstance augurs well for a growing conception of our duty towards Asiatics.
– I would remind Senator Pulsford that if the party with which he has always been associated had had their way, in the matter of permitting the influx of coloured labour, there would have been no possibility of granting old-age pensions to any of our white residents to-day. The Labour party have always held thatwe ought not to admit to the Commonwealth individuals to whom we are not prepared to concede full rights of citizenship.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to naturalize all the Asiatics who are in Australia to-day?
– I should be very glad to see the last of those Asiatics. I do not believe in naturalizing any of them. But seeing that the Commonwealth has granted them full rights of citizenship it is only just to extend to them any benefits which might flow from the operation of Commonwealth law.
– Does the honorable senator believe that the aborigines should be granted full political rights?
– No. I have always opposed that.
– Does the honorable senator mean to imply that I have favoured maintaining an open door into Australia in the case of Asiatics?
– The policy of the party with which the honorable senator is associated has always been to permit of the influx of Asiatics for the professed purpose of developing the Northern Territory. Whilst Senator de Largie was speaking this afternoon, the Vice-President of the Executive Council interjected, “ Oh ! More halos.” I am glad that he is able to get a halo now and then. I recollect the system which obtained in Queensland prior to the adoption of a Federal scheme of old-age pensions.
– The Queensland Parliament did not legislate on that question whilst the honorable senator was a member of it?
– And the Tasmanian Parliament never even attempted to pass a Bill dealing with it.. In Queensland, the question whether a person should get an allowance of 5 s. per week depended upon the opinion of officials. This allowance could be stopped at any time at the instance of the Minister, on a report being sent in by a police constable. The recipients were worried constantly by inquiries. The police were supposed tofind out all about them - who they were, how many children they had, what positions their children occupied, and whether they were in a position to support their agedparents. The result was that a large number of old people, realizing that their children were not in a position to relieve them, preferred to go to Dunwich, the institution maintained by the State, rather than that the children should have their names dragged before the Police Court.
– The law of Queensland did not allow a man to be sued to compel him to grant assistance to his mother. How, then, could the children of aged people be dragged into the Police Court ?
– Their names were dragged before the public. The police went round making inquiries from every child of an applicant, and if the children were not actually dragged before the Police Court, matters in connexion with an application were just as public.
– That is quite a different story.
– Every one knew why the police were going round making these inquiries.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine himself to the subjectmatter of the Bill.
– The party with which’ Senator Chataway was associated, and which was responsible for returning him to the Senate, was instrumental in maintaining that system.
– Colonel Foxton had something to do with it, I suppose?
– I will tell the honorable senator what Colonel Foxton had to do with the matter before I have finished.
– I thought so.
– When a Minister stood for election, the intimation would be passed round to the people receiving the 5s. per week that if they did not vote for this man their allowance would be stopped.
– Does the honorable senator intend to connect his remarks with the Bill now before the Senate?
– I am proceeding to show how we endeavoured to institute a better system, and one similar to that which we have inaugurated in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator was discussing the conduct of certain individuals, and the statements which they put before the electors to mislead them. I do not think that that matter has anything to do with the Bill.
Sena.tor TURLEY. - No, sir; 1 was simply pointing out that under the old Queensland system the recipients of the allowance from the State were frightened to such an extent that they had not even liberty to record their votes in accordance with their inclinations. For years the party to which I belong endeavoured to secure an amelioration of the condition of the aged poor in respect of old-age pensions. Year after year a resolution was submitted to the Legislative Assembly. What was the result ? The so-called Liberal party was strongly opposed to the inauguration of a better system. One man, who is at present a Minister in Queensland, was. I suppose, more than any one else responsible for bringing up the question of oldnge pensions. I refer to Mr. George Jackson. I wish to give him all credit, although he has left the Labour party, and joined the so-called Liberals. The motion which , he submitted was to the following effect -
That the Coverrlment should introduce legislation providing for a system of old-age pensions, and thus by’ Act of Parliament make provision for the deserving aged poor passing their last years in the society of their friends and free from the restraints and monotony of asylum life.
Year after year, however, we had to contend with the opposition of the Government, and especially of a prominent member of the present Commonwealth Liberal Fusion, who consistently voted against any such legislation being enacted.
– Who was that gentleman ?
– He is now the representative of the Liberal Government in England, Colonel Foxton.
– King Charles’ head !
- Colonel Foxton’. action was very much like that which the honorable senator himself has always taken to prevent legislation of this description.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– The rules of the Senate provide that an honorable senator’s denial must be accepted. Probably, however, Senator Mulcahy will be able to tell us what he did. to establish old-age’ [Tensions in Tasmania when he was a Minister there. In 1899, Mr. George Jackson again introduced a motion pointing out that Queensland was lagging behind other States in this direction.
– I think we ought to have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– On the occasion to. which I refer a member of the Queensland Government, who is now a member of the Commonwealth Government made the following statement -
Some of these Colonies have adopted the :scheme as a means of tickling the ears of the groundlings for political support…..
We should be content with carrying the first ;part of the resolution, which commits the House to nothing more than a pious expression of opinion that something should be done in the way of providing old-age pensions.
I wonder whether the same thing would be said by the same gentleman at the present time - that the Government are now “ tickling the ears of the groundlings for political support “7 Is that Senator Mulcahy’s view ?
– I rise to order. Is Senator Turley discussing the Bill- before the Senate? Is he not dragging in debates which occurred years ago’ in a State Parliament, and dealing with matters which relate to the initiation of old-age pensions legislation ?
– The speech of ah honorable senator must be relevant to the matter under discussion, but I do not think that an honorable senator should be restricted from pointing out any inconsistency in the opinions of members of the Government. It is impossible to confine an honorable senator absolutely to the text of the
Bill. I cannot say that the honorable senator is out of order, but I ask him to keep as closely as he can to the measure.
– I can understand that Senator Mulcahy does not like these things to be brought forward. If I had done something of which I felt ashamed, I should not like to have other people bringing them up against me.
– I ask the honorable senator not to persist in statements of that kind.
– On the occasion to which I have referred, an amendment was moved at the instance of the Government of which Colonel Foxton was a prominent member. The result was to kill Mr. Jackson’s proposition, and the old system was maintained. In the following year Mr. Jackson again brought forward his motion. But he then added to it a proposal to the effect that until an old-age pensions scheme was inaugurated in Queensland the indigent allowance should be increased from 5s. to 7 s. per week. With what reception did that proposal meet from - the Liberal Government? In a speech which he made upon the matter on that occasion, Colonel Foxton said -
Five shillings per week is the cost of a person to the Government in Dunwich, and why should other people be allowed to live ‘outside in luxury on 7s. a week obtained from the State?
Seven shillings per week was to provide aged people in Queensland with luxuries, in the opinion of Colonel Foxton, who is now the accredited representative or delegate, of the .Federal Government in England. But although Mr. Jackson’s motion was opposed by the Government, the majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly thought that it was fair that the indigent allowance should be increased. The motion was accordingly carried, but it was not put into force because the Govern- ‘ ment of which Colonel Foxton was a member did not think that it was good for the old people of Queensland to live in luxury on 7s. per week. In the following year Mr. Jackson again submitted his motion, and once more he proposed to increase the indigent allowance from 5s. to 7s. per week. Thereupon Colonel Foxton, a member of the present Liberal Federal Government, moved an amendment for the addition of the following words -
After the 1st of January next, if the state of the public finances will admit.
That is the very argument that is toeing used against the amendments foreshadowed by Senator McGregor and others - that the finances of the country are in such a condition thai they will not admit of the extra expenditure.
– Exactly the same argument was put forward by Mr. Fisher at Gympie.
– I am not talking about Mr. Fisher, but about the members of the present Liberal Government. Surely to goodness the honorable senator does not object to hearing about the actions of his colleagues.
– Certainly not ; because I recognise that if they are taken from my honorable friends their stock-in-trade will disappear.
- Mr. Foxton moved that amendment to the proposal under consideration, and the result was thatat the end of the year the Government were of opinion that the state of the public finances would not admit of the increase being given to the old people. I have made these references to the career of a member of the present Liberal Government, in order to show that in Queensland an agitation had to be carried on for years and years before poor people were able to obtain any assistance from a so-called Liberal Government. I have an idea that outside of this particular question, we shall have a similar experience with the present socalled Liberal Government when dealing with matters which the Labour party have been advocating. I always like to sketch the career of a Liberal when I get an opportunity, because I think that it may have some educational effect upon those who are inclined to trust that sort of politician. The Old-age Pensions Act of Queensland was passed in1908, when a large majority of Labour men sat behind the Government; and it has been in operation for twelve months. By one amendment, this Bill seeks to bring our principal Act into line with the Queensland Act, which conferred the right to a pension upon a person who had resided in the State for twenty years, and was of the age of sixty-five years. I want to deal now, not so much with what is contained in the Bill, as with the regulations under the Act. In all probability, I shall be told by Senator Millen that they were framed by the Fisher Government. That may be so; but, by whomsoever they were framed, in my opinion, they are very far from being as liberal as they should be. Let me contrast the Queensland claim form with the Federal claim form. Under the former, a, man was asked a few simple questions; but under the latter, a claimant has to answer questions which cover about four sheets of paper, and which are designed to elicit his career from the time he arrived in the country ; the number of childrenhe has, where they were born, where they are living, and a lot of other information which it is altogether unnecessary for the Commonwealth to demand of an applicant.
– My honorable friend is not making this a charge against the Government ?
– No. I said that, in all probability, 1 would be reminded by the honorable senator that the regulationswere framed by the Fisher Government; but that, in my opinion, they are no credit to. their authors, for the simple reason that they seek to elicit information which was “ never contemplated when the principal Act was under consideration. The pension claim which a man or woman in Queensland had to sign under the State Act contained very few declarations -
Those are the whole of the declarations which were made by a personin Queensland who desired to obtain an old-age pension.
– It will probably help the officers administering the law if the honorable senator will indicate which of those declarations he thinks are unnecessary.
– I am not stating that the declarations were unnecessary, but merely pointing out the class of information which a claimant in Queensland was called upon to furnish. After a form was filled in and signed, it was referred to the Commissioner, who, in turn, referred it to the police to make inquiries and report. Under all Governments, the police are called upon to ascertain whether the statements contained in a claim are right or wrong. In Queensland, instead of old people being called upon to fill in a claim as is required under the Commonwealth law, the police obtained the requisite information from them by means of a series of twenty-six questions. The claim form could be witnessed by a very large number of persons, and very little trouble was occasioned to any one. But what takes place under the Commonwealth Act? I hold in my hand a claim form covering nine pages. I know what trouble will be occasioned to hundreds of persons, as it is exceedingly difficult to obtain the desired information from very aged persons. The claimants will not be able to furnish a good portion of the information required. On page 1 of the form, eleven questions are set down, and. then the claimant is asked to state when he arrived in the Commonwealth, and by what ship. I am certain that there are hundreds of persons who cannot give the name of the ship by which they arrived. A claimant is also required to state when he was married and tosupply the names of his children, with the dates and places of birth. Why do the Commonwealth require such information? What has it to do with the Crown whether a claimant has children or not? The very fact that a man has arrived at the age of sixty-five years, has resided in Australia for twenty years, and is not able to maintain himself, should entitle him to an oldage pension. Such information can be procured from a claimant or from those who know him. Yet a man is required to furnish a lot of information regarding his children. Under the Queensland claim form, a man was askedto give the address of himself and wife, or, if the couple were parted, to give the address of each. But not a solitary question was asked regarding their children. It seems tome that it is an outrage upon old persons to be called on to state the number of their children, where they are residing, and their condition in life.
– Suppose that a man’s son does, not assist him, and that that fact is made known to the authorities, they will see that the son helps to support his parent.
– Under the Federal Act there is no recourse against a son. I do not care how many sons a man has, or what position they are in. The parents, if qualified in the manner I have described, should be entitled to receive an old-age pension. In Queensland, the inquiries recently made prevented many an old person from making a claim. It is altogether wrong to demand of an applicant such information as I have objected to. The next question which is asked on this claim form is : “ What are the names and addresses of your children now living?” The Crown has nothing whatever to do with a man’s children. The fact that he is qualified to receive a pension should suffice.
– May I remind the honorable senator that I moved an amendment to strike out all that, and that the only one who supported me was Senator Findley ?
– Why? Because we were afraid to support any amendment coming from the opposite side of the Chamber. We decided to pass the Bill as it was in order to have upon the statutebook a measure which could afterwards be amended. We are advised to be careful when the Greeks offer gifts to us. On that occasion, we were careful; because we could not tell the object which honorable senators might have in view in submitting apparently innocent amendments. We should make some amendments to avoid the necessity for all these particulars. The questions that are asked are in many cases useless, and are merely a source of trouble and vexation to the old people. Here is another question -
How much did each of your children living with you contribute to your support during the last twelve months?
Where is the necessity for that information ? If the old people are entitled to a pension at all, 1 Ve do not require to know whether a son has occasionally been able to give one of his parents half-a-sovereign.
How much did each of your children living with you contribute towards the maintenance of the home during the last twelve months?
– They have no right to ask that question.
– It is absurd to ask such questions. The old people may have boys and girls who are working, and they, are expected to keep an accurate account of all the money handed to them by their children, although that money may have been used in keeping the home going. We condemn espionage, but I am satisfied- that there are hundreds of people who would not dream of applying for old-age pensions if they knew they were required to give this kind of information. Even if It should be necessary to propose amendments of this Bill in order to do so, I think that all this “ flummery,” as I call it, should be wiped out. Claimants for an old-age pension must also get a declaration from some person or persons who have known them for a lengthened period. Now let us consider the kind of information which persons signing these declarations are supposed to give. I repeat some of the questions to which they are obliged to give answers -
What do you think the claimant’s age is, and what is your reason for so thinking?
– Quite right. Why not?
– The object is to discover whether . the age mentioned by the claimant is correct.
– I do not know Senator Trenwith’s age, and even if I had known the honorable senator for a- very long time it is quite possible that I could not answer that question.
– Then the honorable senator could say so.
– Here is another question which the person signing the declaration is asked to answer -
Has the claimant lived continuously in Australia for 25 years?
– That is a condition of the pension.
– There are hundreds of people who could not bring forward one person in Australia to-day who could say that they had lived twenty-five years continuously in this country.
– Then they could not £et pensions.
– I am urging that all this kind of thing should be done away with, because it is really not necessary. People are asked to give information on matters of which they can have no knowledge. The person signing one of these declarations is also asked -
Is the claimant a natural born subject?
I know of thousands of men with respect to whom I could not answer that question.
Is the claimant a naturalized British subject, who has been naturalized for three years?
How am I to know that ?
Is the claimant single or married, a widow or a widower ?
Are-honorable senators aware of the domestic condition of every one with whom they come into contact. Unless all these questions can be answered satisfactorily old people putting in claims are unable to obtain pensions. Let me give an instance. A man came to me the other day and said, “ You probably know my father-in-law.” He told me the name, and said that at one time he used to be in business in a certain place. I remembered the name as that of a man who was in business at the place referred to, but I did not know the man personally, and I could not conscientiously sign the statement I was asked to sign.
– It does not follow that nobody else could do so.
– This man had lived in Queensland some years ago. He had come to Victoria, and subsequently had been for a year or two in South Africa, and then returned to Melbourne. I believe that there is no one in Melbourne to-day who could conscientiously sign that man’s papers.
– Is he in business, here ?
– No, he is an old man who has had to look to the provision for old-age pensions because he is hard-up. No one here knows him. and I believe it would be impossible at the present time to find any one in Queensland who could sign the declaration he is expected to produce. He mentioned the name of one of his sons, and I worked with a man of that name twenty-seven years ago, but I am unable to certify that the man who came to me was in Brisbane at that time, and is entitled to a pension. Only a few days ago I heard that persons in Melbourne signed their names to declarations such as I have referred to concerning people about whom they knew practically nothing. They knew that the claimants were hard up, and they were consequently prepared to fill in their papers for them, but that is not the kind of thing that any one ought to be asked to do. Let me now mention another matter, which, it appears to me, affects the method of administration of the Act. Under the Queensland Act, the limit of value of property owned by a pensioner is £260. I know an old man in Queensland who is the owner of some property, and who under the Queensland Act was drawing 16s. 8d. per month. He had been thrifty, and had been able to acquire a certain area of land, on which his home was built.’ He is living there with his son, who has a fairly large family. He is unable to work the land himself, and there is not a sufficient income derived from the property to enable the old man to do without the assistance to which he believes he is entitled under the Old-age Pensions Act. I got a letter the other day pointing out that the amount of this man’s pension had, under the operation of the Commonwealth law, been reduced to10s. 6d. per month. I immediately made inquiries, and got a promise from the authorities that the matter would be looked into. I have since received the following letter from the Treasury -
In accordance with my promise, I forward a statement showing how the pension of Charles William Brooks has been arrived at.
I may mention that further inquiries are being made into the matter, as it appears probable that under the Act only £2 instead of £7 per annum should be granted.
This case, in my opinion, affords one of the strongest reasons why the Act should be altered in the way proposed by Senator McGregor.. Where a man has been thrifty and has established a home, the value of his house and the land on which it is immediately situated should not, I think, be taken into account in estimating the amount of pension to which he is entitled. I have said that the man to whom I have referred was unable to work his farm, and that although his son worked it, the income derived from it was insufficient, and the father was compelled to make application for a pension.
– Is this the case in which the property has been valued at over £2,000? If not, I should like the honorable senator to give me particulars of the case.
– I am giving the particulars now. The property in this case is valued at £294. The point I desire to direct attention to is that there must be some difference between the administration of the Commonwealth Act and the way in which the Queensland Act was administered. I have said that under the Queensland Act the limit of value is £260, and under that Act the man to whom I have referred was able to obtain from the State a pension of 16s. 8d. per month.
– Does Senator McGregor propose to make a distinction between property let and property occupied by a pensioner ?
– The honorable senator wishes to provide for a case where property owned by a claimant does not bring in any income, and is used as a home. I say that if, under the Queensland Act, in which the limit of value is £260, a man is able to secure a pension of 16s. 8d. per month, and under the Commonwealth Act, in which the limit of value is £310, he is unable to obtain more than10s. 6d. per month, there must be some difference in the methods of valuation or in the methods of administering the Acts. I think that in connexion with the matters to which I have referred, some alterations of the law are certainly necessary. I do not believe that any one desires that our old people should be pestered with a great number of questions. Not long ago, when I was in Queensland, I met an old man who said that he was entitled to a pension. He said that he had been in the State for a certain number of years, and was past work. He sent his son to me with his papers, and, although I knew something of the old people, I did not know where the son’s brothers and sisters were bonn, and could not certify to the details to which I was asked to certify if I signed the papers.
– What is the difference between a claimant for a pension owning property worth ,£290 and letting it at a reasonable rent, and a person owning property of the same value and living in it himself ?
– Where a person has acquired a home of, say, four or five rooms, no deduction should be made from the pension on account of its capital value. In my judgment the value of a home in which a man or” woman has grown up lies chiefly in its associations.
– Its value is in the amount Of income which it will return.
– No. The honorable senator would go back to a system which was operative in Queensland at one time, and under which indigent grants were made. If a person who by the exercise of thrift had saved sufficient money to enable him to acquire a little humpy applied for this allowance, the first question which was put to him was, “ What property do you possess?” If he replied that he had a little home of his own he had to consent to transfer it to the Government before he was eligible to receive the allowance. Senator Gray evidently thinks that a man should be absolutely destitute before he is entitled to a pension.
– Suppose that a woman possesses property valued at £290, and lets it for £6 or £8 a year. If she pays that amount of rental herself, why should she be placed in a different position?
– The case put by the honorable senator would be covered by the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition. We ought not to place too many obstacles in the way of applicants securing pensions, but at the same time we should not insist that they should be almost destitute before becoming eligible to receive them. In Committee I hope that we shall deal with one or two amendments which I have in mind, with a view to making the measure more, liberal than it is. Of course, I freely admit that it is the most liberal measure of its kind in the world.
– It all depends upon how the money pans out.
– But if we are in such a flourishing position that we can afford to spend millions of pounds in presenting Dreadnoughts to the Mother Country, we ought to be able to raise sufficient money to permit of those who have spent the best years of their lives here enjoying some little degree of comfort in their old age, altogether independent of any assistance which may be given to them bv their children. I also think that many of the questions of an inquisitorial nature which are now put to applicants might with advantage be omitted.
– I agree very largely with Senator Turley ‘s criticism of this Bill. During the recess I spent a good deal of time in filling in forms for applicants for old-age pensions, and I know that much of the information sought is of an absolutely useless character. As illustrating this, I may mention that in one of these forms I was obliged to write the names of certain children who had been dead for fifty years. After extracting this information from a feeble and very deaf old woman I was compelled to extract from her her mother’s maiden name. Although we have only had a few weeks’ experience of the principal Act we are already starting to amend it ; but the amendment proposed is necessary. I know of several cases in which highly respectable colonists who in the eyes of the law are still aliens, would”, in the absence of this Bill, be deprived of the right to a pension. I have in my mind a German lady who has resided in Tasmania for sixty years, but who in the absence of this Bill would not be eligible to receive a pension. There are many reputable colonists throughout Australia who occupy a similar position. There is one feature in connexion with the Act which must be carefully borne in mind. It is that we are practically . making a contract for all time with our aged people - a contract which it would be highly improper to alter by effecting any reduction in the payments. Senator Turley has referred to the nature of some of the questions which are put to applicants. I am very glad that he was frank enough to blame his own party as being responsible for the framing of those questions.
– I condemned them the first time that I saw them.
– The regulations require to be amended because they attempt to embody a principle which is not recognised in the principal Act. Under that Statute there is no obligation cast upon children to support their parents. I believe that there should be such an obligation, but I repeat that no provision has been made in that direction in the principal Act. Thus it may come about that different magistrates in dealing with exactly similar cases may make half-a-dozen decrees regarding the amounts of the pensions to be paid. I contend that a magistrate has no right to consider whether the applicant for a pension has any children who are willing to contribute to his support.
– But suppose that the children are actually doing that?
– What guarantee has a magistrate that they will continue to do so? As a matter of fact, applicants are now required to state how much the children with whom they are living have contributed to their support, as well as how much has been contributed by those who are not living with them.
– Suppose, for argument’s sake, that an old person was receiving from his children £100 a year, and that in spite of that a pension was still drawn, would that not be a wrong to the children, and should not the administrators of this measure be informed?
– I do not know what authority there is for the administration to interfere.
– There is authority to ascertain the income received.
– Could that which is a voluntary offering, and not a permanent settlement, be regarded as income?
– Most assuredly.
– I do not see why it should be. I know of cases where children are struggling, and doing their best to maintain their parents, and at the same time they have to provide old-age pensions for the parents of other children who are better off than themselves. It seems to me that the regulations need inquiring into, and possibly amending.
– There will always be difficulties until we have a system of universal pensions.
– I believe that this legislation will do a great deal of good, but whether we ought to go to the extent proposed in one or two of the amendments of which notice has been given. I doubt very much. Indeed, I doubt whether those honorable senators who have given notice of amendments expect them to be passed this session.
– They will be passed some day.
– I have no doubt that they will be. I am largely in sympathy with honorable senators opposite in regard to invalid pensions. I have observed the tremendous disparity which exists between the circumstances of various recipients of pensions. People living alongside each other, each receiving10s. per week, will differ widely in their circumstances. Some will probably be deriving a little assistance from friends. Then, again, there are unfortunate invalids, who are far worse off than many aged people who are in good health, and able to earn a little money. I should like to have a system whereby a little of the pension might be taken from some of those who do not require it or deserve it nearly to the extent that others do. I also wish to make a suggestion as to the administration of the measure. There are hundreds of magistrates who have to deal with the pensions. These men have various dispositions. Some will be naturally soft-hearted, and ready to give all they can. Others will be more businesslike or stern, and will be inclined to give as little as possible. No doubt an effort will be made by the office to bring about uniformity of administration. That, I think, is most desirable. We should not have people in one set of circumstances in one part of a State receiving so much, and another set of people in similar circumstances elsewhere receiving less or more. We need to have careful inquiry and a classification of pensioners, with frequent reports to the head office, so that the administrationwill have an opportunity of knowing how the measure is being administered, and whether even justice is being done.
– Upon what principle ?
– The principle is the real spirit of the Act. That spirit has been departed from by the Government which issued the regulations. Some magistrates will construe them in the direction of being as liberal as possible. Others will construe them in an opposite direction. There ought to be a common rule, in order that old-age pensioners may be generally dealt with as the Legislature intended.
– When the original Act was before the Senate, I referred to one or two directions in which I thought we might make our old-age pensions system better, more humane, and more advantageous to the people whom it was intended to benefit. Advantage has been taken of the present occasion to bring forward amendments, some of which will be moved, whilst others have been hinted at as being possible. It has occurred to me that possibly a view which I have held for some time, especially in connexion with invalid pensions, may be mentioned at this stage in order that honorable senators may think over it; and perhaps when a more complete measure comes forward, as I hope will be the case in the not distant future, the idea may receive attention. In the invalid portion of the principal Act, we provide for a man who is permanently incapacitated. He is to receive a pension. But we have omitted entirely to deal with a case where the husband of a family becomes incapacitated permanently, and, after receiving a pension for some time, dies. The widow is then to receive no help. I venture to think that when we overhaul our old-age pension system, it will be within the province of this Parliament to consider very seriously whether we cannot make provision- for ‘the widow and orphans after the father and bread-winner has died. The point has been overlooked under our present system, but it might very well be considered with a view to meeting distressing cases such as that I have mentioned, and others which I have no doubt have come under the personal notice of many honorable senators. References have been made by Senator Turley to the indigent allowance system of Queensland. I regret that Senator Turley made those references apparently for the purpose of indicating the iniquity of that system. I do not say that it was by any means perfect, but I do say plainly that Queensland, when she adopted it, was far ahead of the other States, which had not adopted even as bad a system as that. Some of the politicians who are associated generally with the side with which T am concerned may be blamed because the system was not perfect, but at any rate they deserve credit for doing something that, up to that time, had not been done in any other State of Australia. The Bill before us is only an attempt to perfect our present system. I hope that it is merely a step in the right direction, and that we shall ultimately secure a system, not simply of giving out doles of half-a-sovereign a week, but a more intelligent and complete system whereby Ave shall endeavour to make the last days of our old pioneers more happy and comfortable.
– One or two questions have been submitted with which I shall endeavour to deal before the motion is put. I should like to say at once that the brevity which has marked the speeches of honorable senators is accepted as an evidence of their desire to get through with the Bill as promptly as possible. Senator Pulsford has asked a question as to the possible cost of the system if the projected amendments are carried out. I cannot give that information. We have had so little experience as to invalidity that any figures are merely experimental. Indeed, they cannot be called estimates at all ; they are more rightly designated as guesses.
– Some estimate has been formed, I think.
– I have found the greatest reluctance on the part of the responsible officials to tie themselves down to any estimate of the cost of giving effect to the new provision _ which has been foreshadowed. But with regard to the other amendments as to which estimates have been formed, I may state that they run into the round sum of about £1,000,000 per annum. Therefore, however much we may desire to introduce an element of enlarged liberality into this measure, the seriousness of imposing an additional million of taxation upon Australia at the present moment must press upon every one of us. With regard to the matter raised by” Senator Henderson, I have had placed in my hands the letter he read as to the number of applications received, and the small percentage dealt with in Western Australia. I think that the honorable senator rather misunderstood the last paragraph of the letter. I take it to mean, if I may be allowed to construe it in the light of my knowledge of affairs in Western Australia, that so many of those who applied there have come from other portions of Australia that it is taking a longer time and throwing upon the Registrars greater difficulty than is the case in other States. I put that forward as a not unreasonable explanation of the slight delay which has occurred. Necessarily in a country whose inhabitants have been drawn from all parts of Australia in a greater ratio than have the inhabitants of other States, there must be a greater difficulty in making inquiries and expediting the business in hand. In regard to the application forms, all that I can say is that I regard them as extremely faulty. I am glad to say that the fault is not one that can be charged against the present Government. For that reason, I can. criticise the forms more freely than I could otherwise do. In listening to the questions which have been read, it seemed to me that it must be obvious that in several cases it would be easy to put three or four questions into one. Many of them hover round one point. I can recall three questions all dealing with the question of nationality. One simple question should be sufficient. It has to be borne in mind that these forms ‘have been distributed throughout the Commonwealth. However faulty they may be now, obviously.it is inconvenient to attempt to alter them when applications are being dealt with over such a wide area. It is better, I submit, to allow the forms, with all their faults, to be used until the first rush of applications has been dealt with, and to get them out of the road before a fresh set is issued.
– What an excellent way to remedy things, to allow them to continue in force as long as possible.
– Surely my honorable friend can see that if to-morrow fresh forms were issued, there would be further delay in dealing with applications in Western Australia. It is far better for a man in that State to make his application on a faulty form than to wait a fortnight until he receives a perfect form.
– Surely that ought not to delay the consideration of applications made on the faulty form? New applications on the amended form could be dealt with far more easily.
– It is better to allow the forms which are in circulation to remain good forms.
– Yes; but why not circulate new forms in the meantime?
– I am not objecting to that being done, but pointing out that it would be a great mistake to attempt to recall the old forms merely because they are faulty.
– I agree with the Minister there ; but are the Government issuing new forms?
– Not that I am aware of.
– The Government are not trying to remedy the evil.
– The honorable senator has no right to make that remark.
– If the Government are doing nothing, then they are allowing the evil to continue.
– In that case, we are doing less harm than the honorable senator’s friends would do.
– What have the Government done?
– We are giving effect to the regulations which the Fisher Government drew up and issued.
– If the regulations are wrong, why mot issue new ones?
– What ought I to say about this sudden outburst of extreme virtue and accuracy on the part of my honorable friend, since he changed sides ?
– Why does the Minister condemn a thing when he is in a position to remedy it?
– My honorable friend may rest assured that the evil will be remedied. The forms stand so absolutely condemned, that any Government which came into office would have to amend them. My honorable friend’s party set to poor people in the Commonwealth a task which would puzzle a Philadelphian lawyer ; but now, because the present Government have not immediately set to work to alter the regulations, he finds fault with us. Let him turn round and castigate his own friends.
– We have done so; and want to know what the present Government intend to do.
– We are going to alter the forms.
– It is time that the Government did.
– There are so many mistakes of the late Government which we have to alter, that we cannot do everything at once. Senator Neild asked why Asiatics should be included in the Bill and the aboriginals of Australia excluded. I venture to think that there is a very good reason for the exclusion of the latter. Speaking with considerable knowledge of the inland districts of Australia, I do not believe that the average aboriginal would be benefited if intrusted with a weekly sum of 10s. In New South Wales, and, I think, in most of the other States where it is required, the State has made provision for the natives. In New South Wales, Victoria., and Queensland, provision is made in the shape of missions, with a weekly issue of rations and blankets, and other supervision which
I am quite satisfied makes for the permanent comfort of these unfortunates very much better than would a half-sovereign if placed in their hands every Saturday night.
– It would be the quickest way to wipe them out.
– They never live to reach sixty years of age, any way.
– Although, of course, it may appear illogical, and an anomaly in the Bill, there is a good sound reason for the exclusion of the aboriginals. I believe that the State provision is much better than would be Federal provision in the shape of a weekly dole. Senator McGregor raised a more important point when he discussed the amount of property which should be regarded as not barring the owner from applying for a pension. When the original measure was before the Senate, I expressed the opinion, which I hold as firmly to-day as ever I did, that the pension ought to be payable irrespective of the property which any one might own ; and it is only .by some such provision that the pension can be relieved of the stigma of charity.
– I hope that the Minister will stand by that sentiment.
– I do; but because for financial reasons it is not possible to give effect to that now, I am not going to allow my adherence to that principle to cause me to desist from what I am doing now.
– The honorable senator spoils the sentiment at once.
– My honorable friend might take up that heroic position, and say, ‘ ‘ Because I . cannot pay a pension to a man who does not want it, I will not pay a pension to one who does want it.” I am not prepared to do that. In this case it is justice and humanity on one side, and strict logic on the other, and when there is such a contest as that, then, so far as I am concerned, logic can go by the board every time. With regard to Senator McGregor’s remarks on the point he raised, he is not quite correct. If he wants to deal logically with the matter, he must come down to the absolute bedrock of actuarial fairness, and not assume that a man should be entitled to have property which, at 5 per cent., would give him the equivalent of a pension of £26. because I find it is possible for a man of sixty-five years of age to get for £310, the limit in the Act, an annuity of £36. That fact has to be considered in dealing with the matter. If an effort is . to be made to secure absolute equality, if my honorable friends are going to make an exemption for property which would leave one man in exactly the same financial position as another, it would not be right to merely take the interest on the property, assuming it to be invested. The correct way would lie to calculate on the basis of an annuity. Otherwise my honorable friends would create as many anomalies as they would remove. One man might invest in a property at 5 per cent., leaving it on his death to his descendants, receive a return of only 10s. per week therefor, and also get 10s. from the State, while another man received his annuity.
– Under the Act, it is possible for a man to get an annuity of £26, and a pension of £26.
– I quite admit the anomalies in the Act ; I dislike them as much as my honorable friend does, but that is not a matter which can be settled merely by the fixing of some amount beyond which we will not allow a man to hold property. It requires very careful adjustment, which I do not feel competent to undertake at present. It includes, amongst other things, actuarial calculations, one of which I have ascertained, in determining what amount of annuity can be obtained for the sum of £310, which at present marks the exemption in the Act. I want to make a further appeal to Senators McGregor and Henderson not to proceed with the amendments which they have given notice of. I wish to remind them that they shrank from accepting those obligations when intrusted with the financial responsibilities of the Commonwealth. I speak in good faith, and not in any sense with a desire to charge them with inconsistency, when I say that months ago they stood face to face with this great responsibility, and that, being called upon to shoulder it, they did exactly what the present Government feel that they have to do.
– Could not all this be said in Committee?
– I have no desire to unduly detain honorable senators, but so much has been said on this point that I feel that I ought to make some observations.
– Then we shall have it all over again.
– When my honorable friend was absent from the chamber, I thought it not unbecoming on my part if I addressed this appeal to his chief.
– I have been here during the whole of the debate.
– I have not seen the honorable senator. I ask my honorable friends to remember that, not only did they recognise that the financial responsibilities were so great that they could not enlarge the proposals in this Bill, but that they frankly told the electors so through the speech delivered at Gympie. And, what is more, as Senator Turley reminded us, there was left in the Treasury a draft Bill identical with this one, which, he says, Mr. Fisher has claimed, and which we have taken up as a legacy from the late Government. Neither in the Gympie speech nor in the draft Bill was there a single word in the direction in which honorable senators now ask the Government to go. Seeing that they did not have to consult Parliament, but could have brought the two portions of the Act into operation by the mere issue of a proclamation, I ask them to remember the responsibility which was upon them then, and which is upon us to-day, and not to proceed with the amendments which ‘they have outlined.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Assistant Commissioner.)
– I desire to know whether the appointment of an ‘Assistant Commissioner will involve an increase in the cost of administration, and, if so, the amount of such increase.
– There will be no additional cost if the clause is passed. The work has been, and is being, done, and it is desired to give to the officer who does it an official position, in order that the law may be carried out more effectively. It is obvious that, in view of the fact that the Commissioner may be called away from Melbourne, there should be an officer to whom to depute his powers. The necessary provision is made in another clause for him to delegate his powers to the Assistant Commissioner. It will be recognised at once that this clause involves no additional expense, but will provide a very great convenience.
– Will the Assistant Commissioner receive any increase of salary while he is doing the work of the Commissioner ?
– No, the officer is performing the duty to-day, but he has no official position, and power is taken in the Bill to confer upon him the authority of the Commissioner.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 -
Section fifteen of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (3) the word “paid” and inserting in lieu thereof the word “granted”; and
by omitting from sub-section (3) the words “ is certified by a Registrar pursuant to this Act, and.”
– I move -
That after the word “ amended,” line 2, the following words be inserted “ by omitting the words ‘ The Governor-General may by proclamation declare that the age at which.’ “
Sub-section 2 of section 15 of the principal Act provides that -
The Governor-General may by proclamation declare that the age at which women shall be qualified to receive an old-age pension shall be sixty years, and from and after such proclamation the last preceding sub-section shall as regards women be read as if the word “ sixty “ were substituted for the word “ sixty-five.”
My amendment, if carried, will bring the provision for the payment of old-age pensions to women at sixty years into imme-. diate operation. There is no reason why we should insist on an age qualification of sixty-five years for women. I recognise that the proposed reduction of the age qualification will involve additional expenditure, but it is quite evident that when we passed the principal Act we had this proposal in view. It was our intention at some later date to reduce the age qualification in the way I have now proposed. It is not, I think, necessary to prolong discussion on this matter, because we must all recognise that the mothers of the nation are physically weaker than are the men. As they draw near sixty years of age most women have nearly run their race, and have become physically incapable of maintaining themselves. From a humanitarian point of view it is not unreasonable to propose that the age qualification for women should be reduced by five years. I think it would be reasonable if it were possible for us to do. so to provide for the payment of old-age pensions to women when they have arrived at the age of fifty years.
It will be generally admitted that when they have reached that age women have done good service to the country in which they live. I am sure that we all regard them as the backbone of the community. We have heard that “ the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world ‘ ‘; but women do more than rock the cradle, since they bring people into the world. I admit that some women are possessed of considerable physical capacity after they have reached the age of sixty years, but they are exceptions to the general rule. I submit my amendment in order to test the feeling of the Committee on the matter, and I hope there will be a majority in favour of it.
– I suppose that Senator Henderson will say that the fault is my own, when I tell him that I do not quite understand what the effect of his amendment will be.
– It means reducing the age qualification for women to sixty years.
– I remind the honorable senator if that be the case that he cannot eliminate from the discussion of his amendment the question of cost. It is a most important factor, and in making himself responsible for an amendment which may materially affect the financial aspect of the measure the honorable senator should have informed the Committee what the additional cost involved would be.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council has already supplied that information.
– If it is the object of the honorable senator that women should be given some advantage, as compared with men, and the Government are prepared to scatter a few thousand pounds to meet the extra cost involved, the humanitarian consideration will no doubt appeal to honorable senators. But in dealing with legislation we have to do what we are called upon to do in every circumstance of life - cut our cloth according to our measure. I approve of the principle of the amendment, and I shall be prepared to support it, if I hear from the Government that they would not be in any way embarrassed by it.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [5.37]. - Senator St. Ledger has given the Committee a new version of the old adage that we should cut our coat according to our cloth, but I am afraid that it does not elucidate the amendment. I sympathize with everything Senator Henderson has said, but I regret very much that I shall be unable to support his amendment. The existing Act establishes uniformity in the age qualification for men and women, the limit being sixty-five years. Senator Henderson proposes to introduce a more favorable condition for women, and to limit the qualifying age in their case to sixty years. If I recollect rightly there is a provision in the existing law that in a case of permanent incapacity the age in the case of men as well as of women may be reduced to sixty years, and power is taken as Senator Henderson has said to reduce the age qualification in the case of women to sixty years. I take it that this provision was inserted in the Act because we believed that there should be some more favorable limit of age in the case of women. We thought that if the Executive of the day felt they were in a position to do so they might invite the GovernorGeneral to issue a proclamation for the purpose of giving that concession to women which Senator Henderson proposes should now be given in this Bill. The object of the amendment is to make the concession imperative and immediate. Senator St. Ledger has said the question of cost is involved, but I do not take up the position 1 propose to do in regard to the amendment on the ground of cost. If we were making a complete scheme of pensions for invalids or in respect of old age we might just as well find an extra £200,000 or £300,000 as a more limited amount. The view I take of the matter is, that we have an Act which has been on the statutebook for about twelve months, but which has not yet come into full operation. It would be a pity to amend what is the essential condition of the entire scheme at this stage. It will be well for us to await the result of experience of the principal Act. It will then be perfectly competent for the Executive, without the pressure of Parliament, or, if need be, at the instance of Parliament, to alter the age limit. I trust that it will not be long before the special claims of women are taken into full and sympathetic consideration.
– The honorable senator should give us the assistance of his vote now.
– I am thoroughly in sympathy with the proposal to bring into immediate operation the provisions of the principal Act relating to the payment of invalid pensions. I entirely indorse everything that has been said regarding the superior claims of women.
They are entitled to the most favorable treatment that we can extend to them. They have claims upon us, because they are regarded as the weaker sex, and also because the very existence of the world depends upon them. I regard women as that portion of humanity who have the heaviest burden to carry. They have to carry the burden of child-bearing, and to undertake all responsibility in connexion with the rearing of children. To my mind, they are more entitled to pensions than are men. At the last general election I not only advocated the payment of pensions to women aswell as to men, but also the granting of bonuses to mothers.
– The honorable senator did not mention that matter in the Senate.
– But my honorable friend took care to mention it on one occasion.
– The country is in a bad state if we have to grant bonuses to the cradle.
– My honorable friend knows that no less an authority than ex-President Roosevelt declared) some time ago that the cradles must be kept full. Our female population must be strong and active, and they should have some assurance that in their days of trial they will be properly looked after by the State. I am a strong Socialist in that direction. I repeat that our women should haveextended to them just as favorable terms as are extended to the male portion of the community. But I think it is premature to make the amendment at this stage.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [5.46]. - This is a matter upon which I wrote at some length ten or eleven years ago, and since then I have not seen or heard anything to cause me to alter my view, that a necessity limit is of more consequence than is an age limit. The principal Act provides that a woman may receive a pension at sixty years of age if she is permanently incapacitated. But there is another phase of this question of a necessity limit. A necessity limit involves the question of inability to work. There may be inabilities to work which are occasioned by a cause similar to that which was alluded to by Senator Symon. But there are other things besides ill-health which stand in the way of one’s earning power. Only this afternoon I mentioned the case of an old woman of eighty-nine years who is being looked after by her daughter - a woman of sixty-five years. The latter is debarred by her duties to her aged mother from going out into the world to earn a livelihood, even if she possessed the necessary physical strength. Every honorable senator must recognise that physiological age is of more consequence to the world than is birth age. One person may be decrepit at forty years of age, and we know as a matter of fact that the vast majority of mankind pass away long before they reach sixty years. I will undertake to say that in this chamber there are dozens of honorable senators who are infinitely more capable of earning a livelihood than are the average number of men of the same age outside. The military law of the Commonwealth classes a man of sixty years of age as an incapable cripple, and the civil law puts the limit at sixty-five years. Yet some of the world’s greatest statesmen have been far older than that. Now that we have legislated for the payment of invalid pensions, I contend that we ought to fix a necessity limit rather than an age limit. I do not believe that the people of Australia will apply for pensions unless they actually require them. The rigmarole of questions which an applicant has to answer is sufficient to debar anybody from applying for relief unless he is absolutely forced to do so. Whilst in some respects these questions are an improvement on those which were framed under the New South Wales law, some of them are of rather an abhorrent character. The whole principle upon which old-age pensions should be based is that they are a right, and not a charity. But our forms make them a pitiable charity. The right of those who have served their country, who have done their life’s work, and who have reared families, to recognition at the hands of the State is beyond cavil. In their old age they are just as entitled to consideration by every rule of equity as is the humblest babe that is found a human derelict on somebody’s door-step. The care of our fellows should be the first charge on our sympathies and means. I do not like the principal Act as it is administered, because it exhibits too great a desire to make every applicant appear a pauper, instead of a person who is entitled under the law of the land to share in the provision that has been made for him. I do not know that I can move an amendment in this matter. The subject comes before us in a form that almost forbids amendment. But I pointed out years ago that I would make the pension age fifty-five rather, than sixty-five, because I do not believe that people in Australia, as a rule, would be so beggarly minded as to apply for a pension until it was necessary. I do not doubt that if my honorable friend, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, had his own way he would be as liberal minded as any oT us, but in this matter he is like the centurion in Scripture. He is “ a man under authority.”
– It is the Treasurer’s fault.
– The Treasury is Overflowing.
– I do not think it is. I doubt whether the affairs of the Commonwealth have been conducted in such a fashion as to enable the Treasury to be overflowing, or whether the Constitution allows it to be so. I shall certainly support Senator Henderson’s amendment. It is in the right direction. I admit that it will involve hundreds or thousands of pounds of additional expenditure. But I suppose I have had as close an acquaintance with the question of old-age pensions as most members of the Senate, and my experience tells me that people will not apply for pensions until they are driven by necessity. There will be cases to the contrary because all human nature is not alike; but my remark holds good for the large body of men and women. If I may differentiate between the two sexes, I am sure that women particularly will not be inclined to apply for old-age pensions, when they can do without them. But as I “have said before, the whole Commonwealth pension system is, in my view, constituted on wrong lines. It is constructed on the lines of a dole, and not of a pension, which should be the recognised right of those who have done their world’s work and their service to the community in an honorable manner, and who, in their declining years, are surely entitled at the hands of those whom they are leaving behind them, to the kindliest treatment and the most generous sympathy.
– One of the strongest reasons why the amendment should be agreed to has not been urged. Senator Symon has expressed a desire to see a uniform system carried a little further before agreeing to the suggested alterations. But one of the strongest reasons for the amendment is that it is a well-known fact that generally speaking a married man is a year or two older than his wife. Perhaps in the case of half the married couples in this country the man is five years older than his wife. Under these circumstances we should, under this Bill, have two old people, both unable to work, having to exist for some years on the miserable pittance of 10s. per week between them. The object of our legislation is, however, ‘that they shall have 10s. per week each. I noticed that when Senator Symon expressed his sympathy with the case of the women, there was a general chorus of cheering, showing that honorable senators indorsed his statement. Senator St. Ledger expressed a wish not to embarrass the Government. That means that, although honorable senators opposite recognise the necessity of giving the pension to a woman on reaching the age of sixty years, they will not, from fear of embarrassing the Government, agree to raise the necessary money for the purpose. What kind of sympathy towards the old people is that ? My idea is that if honorable senators generally recognise the necessity of paying 10s. per week to women on reaching the age of sixty years, it is the business of the Government lo pay them. It is for this Committee to do the proper thing, and for the Government to find the means. The Government have power to tax, but from fear that taxation will be unpopular to a number of people from whom they expect support, they prefer to allow the present grievance to continue. I trust that the amendment will be carried, and that the Government will be seized with the necessity of finding from some source the necessary funds.
– I am strongly in favour of the amendment. If I needed arguments in support of it I could find them in the speeches of Senator Symon and Senator Neild. I refer to my colleague, Senator Symon, concerning this matter, with a good deal of pleasure. I congratulate him on having for the first time since I have been a member of this Chamber given utterance to sentiments in accordance with his election pledges. He was at the last election run by a party that wanted to “ down “ Labour. That party was strongly opposed to granting old-age pensions. At the declaration of the poll I congratulated the honorable senator on having advocated Socialism in supporting old-age pensions for both men and women. He got to the top of the poll because of his attitude on this question. He also advocated giving a pension to persons with large families. I wanted to know at the declaration of the poll whether my colleague could show me any provision in the Constitution which showed that this Parliament had anything to do with questions of that kind. He says, as lawyers often do, that though he is in sympathy with the amendment, he does not think that this is the proper time for giving effect to such a proposal. I reply that as we are amending the original Act there could not be a more appropriate time. Let me refer also to what the Minister of Trade and Customs said when addressing a meeting of ladies in the neighbourhood of Melbourne a little while ago. The naughty Labour party were accused of advocating similar amendments to those which they propose now. The Minister of Trade and Customs spoke to the ladies at the meeting held in his own house I think, about what he called the wicked doings of the Labour party. He said that we were trying to embarrass the present Government in their management of the finances, although, he added, “ they knew very well that it would be quite impossible to carry out their proposals,by reason of the great cost which they would involve.” Some person interjected, “What about the moneyto find a Dreadnought?” For the moment the honorable senator put off the interjector by saying, “ I will come to that directly,” but at a later stage he was asked, I presume by the same individual, “ Where will you find the money for a Dreadnought?” and he answered, “ That must be found.” Is it not more humane to see that women who are sixty years of age, and in want, are relieved by the Commonwealth? It is admitted all round thatthe claim is a fair and just one. The money must be provided. I fancy I can hear Senator Pulsford pointing out that the administration of the Bill will cost so much, and that if our amendments are adopted the expenditure will be something dreadful. It is only a few weeks since he declared in his place here that he would be prepared to give to the Old Country five Dreadnoughts or £10,000,000. Let the people of Australia understand that well. I stand here to plead the cause of humanity. We are able to find the necessary money. If it cannot be obtained from existing sources, then, for God’s sake and for humanity’s sake, let us tax large estates, but do not let any honorable senator say that he believes in the principle if he lacks the courage to find the money. Senator Millen does not forget the time when he was connected with the party to which I belong. He is in the Fusion party now. I wish he was free from it. I wish he would come over to this side, so much do I admire him. His sentiments are proper, but he is tethered. His mouth is shut. He does not attempt to tell us how the Government intend to get the money for these pensions. I do not desire for a moment to kill time, but I could not forego this opportunity of raising my voice on behalf of a proposal which is so important to humanity, and in harmony with my pledges to the electors.
. -I think that no side of the Chamber can claim to have a more humane feeling than another side. I suppose that we are all the children of our mothers, and have a kindly feeling towards the other sex. There is a question, sir, which I desire to ask. Are you quite clear that it is competent for the Committee to make this amendment ?
– I expected that question to be asked. It shows what the honorable senator’s sympathy is worth.
– We must not do that which is unconstitutional. I do not see any harm in asking the question.
– Before a ruling is given, sir, may I remind you that it was the practice of the late President - and I am not sure that it is not the practice of the present President - to refuse to answer any question which involved an interpretation of the Constitution, unless it was necessary to do so in order to enable the Senate to proceed with public business.
– I understand, sir, that apoint of order has been raised?
– No, I simply asked a question.
– I will wait until a point of order is raised.
– Did Senator Walker mean to raise a question of order?
– Our time is rather valuable, sir. I am as sympathetic towards poor people as is any honorable senator. I think that my life will prove that. I may be wrong, sir, but it seems to me that this amendment involves additional taxation. In the Senate we are not supposed to add to the burdens of the people.
– Ask for a ruling.
– The amendment, if carried, would add to the taxation of the people, and that, I submit, sir, it is not in the power of the Senate to do.
– Under our Standing Orders this point of order cannot be taken because we have, in effect, an undoubted right to amend every Bill. The only possible authority under which it could be taken is section 53 of the Constitution. This is not an Appropriation. Bill or a Taxation Bill, and it was with regard to such measures that that section was framed).
– The honorable senator maintains that it is only a machinery Bill, 1 suppose?
– Yes. If the honorable senator’s contention was right, we could not amend a Bill if the amendment would involve the purchase of a bottle of ink or the dotting of an “ i,” because forsooth that would add to the burden upon the taxpayer. This point has been raised before, sir, and it is well that you should be fortified with the rulings.
– The honorable sena-. tor expected the point of order to be raised.
– As it was raised by a sympathetic member in another place I had good ground for suspecting that it would be raised by a sympathetic senator like Senator Walker.
– I only thought about it five minutes ago.
– I was wiser than the honorable senator, because a week ago I anticipated his action. A ruling was given on the Bounties Bill, which was somewhat analogous to this measure, although I might premise that it had to be preceded by a message, and was, to a certain extent, an Appropriation Bill, which this Bill is not. On the 19th September, 1907, this point was raised in Committee by Senator Best, and the ruling of the Chairman was dis.sented from. From Hansard, page 3480, !er me quote the proceedings in the Senate -
The Chairman of Committees. - I have to report that in the Committee on the Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounties on the production of certain goods, when we were dealing with the first Schedule, Senator McColl submitted a proposal for a request to the House of Representatives to increase the maximum amount that may be paid in any one year for the production of rice from ^1,000 to ,£5,000. On a point of order raised by the VicePresident of the Executive Council, I ruled that the proposed request could be received, and dealt with by the Committee as a request. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has dissented from my ruling in the following terms - “ The Chairman has ruled that Senator McColl’s request can be received. I dissent from the ruling, on the ground that it is against section 53 of the Constitution.” 1 desire to say that, in giving the ruling I did, I consider that I was following the practice that has been established in the Senate, and which has been acquiesced in by the other branch of the Legislature.
– It was suggested, indeed, by the other branch of the Legislature.
The Chairman of Committees. - It was not regarded as an invasion of the powers of the other House or as an exaltation of the powers of the Senate. I draw attention to the fact that in the first session of the first Parliament, when the Senate was dealing with the Audit Bill, which contained a number of machinery clauses, and also a clause providing for the salary of the Auditor-General, various amendments’ were made. When we were dealing with the clause relating to the Auditor-General a proposal was submitted to increase the salary. The Acting Chairman of Committees at that time, Senator Dobson, thereupon ruled that the amendment could not be received, and that the proposal should take the form of a request. That decision was not challenged. Therefore, what I have described became the practice of the Senate. In the year 1903 the Senate had before it the Sugar Bounties Bill. Certain amendments were made in it affecting the machinery of the measure. One amendment was made which had the effect of extending the time over which the bounty should be paid. When that Bill came before another place it was contended that the latter amendment could not be constitutionally made, and that the wish of the Senate ought to be signified by way of request. But the other place showed no disinclination to accept the other two amendments which the Senate made in the Bill. It sent back a message to the Senate expressing the opinion that the third proposition increasing the area of the bounties increased the proposed burden on the people, and therefore should have been sent down in the form of a request. The Senate agreed to that course. I have before me the ruling given by the then Chairman of Committees, Senator Best. It is reported in Hansard for 1903, pages 1694 to 1697. He said that the alteration extending the area of the bounty should be made by request. He also said, on page 1696, that on this class of Bills requests could be made involving an increased charge on the people; and, further, that requests could be made as to one part and amendments as to another part of the same Bill.
– The other House took no exception to our request.
The Chairman of Committees. - No. Our practice has consequently been clearly established : that we can in one Bill make both amendments and requests. I understand that the argument will be used that in consequence of the procedure of another place we should limit our powers in this respect. But I submit to you, Mr. President, as the ultimate guardian and custodian of the rights of the Senate, that we should not allow the procedure of another place to affect our course of action, which should be based upon our own constitutional powers.
– The procedure of another place is not involved in the question at issue.
The Chairman of Committees. - I think that that point will be raised, inasmuch as it was raised in Committee. Our powers are clearly set forth in section 53 of the Constitution. We may not amend a Bill so as to increase any proposed chargeor burden on the people, but we may make requests to the other House in regard to Bills which we may not amend; and in regard to Bills like that now under consideration we may make both requests and amendments-
– Of course, we are all desirous of establishing a reasonable and satisfactory practice with regard to what I admit to be a most troublesome and complicated matter. I am sorry that the Chairman of Committees has raised a point which has not been immediately submitted to you, namely, as to whether we” should have regard to the practice of the other Chamber and regulate our practice accordingly. That question is not before us, although it may be considered as a matter qf expediency. My colleague tells me that he dissociated that point from the point of order. The sole question now submitted to you is this - whether on a Bill which is not a Bill imposing taxation, and which is not a Bill appropriating the ordinary annual services of the Government, we have a right both to amend and make requests? Section 53 of the Constitution must be our guide in this matter. That section provides that - “ Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys or imposing taxation shall not originate in the Senate.”
Then it says that - “ The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.”
Senator Best continued on the same lines for some time, but I shall not weary honorable senators with further quotations from his remarks. I shall, however, ask the Committee to bear with me while I quote from page 3481 of Hansard for 1907 the following ruling given by the President, because we are dealing with a very important matter.
– The proposal submitted in Committee was that the House of Representatives be requested to increase the amount of bounty payable in any one year in respect of rice from£1,000 to£5,000. The Chairman ruled that that request could be received. The Vice-President of the Executive Council dissents from that ruling, on the ground that it is contrary to section 53 of the Constitution. The question is one that is, in some respects, novel. If it were not for the peculiar wording of section 53 of the Constitution in regard to the powers of the Senate to request amendments, there would not be much difficulty. I take it that the real question raised is whether, in one Bill, the Senate can both make requests and amendments. The Minister’s contention is perfectly clear, that “ the Senate may, at any stage, return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend,” it being provided earlier in section 53 of the Constitution that “ the Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.” There is no question as to the meaning of that provision. It applies to taxation measures, and also to measures dealing with the annual appropriation. But all Bills beyond those two classes of Bill we undoubtedly have the right, under the Constitution, to amend. The question then arises whether that right is lessened by the further provision that - “ The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.”
And if the power of amendment in that direction is taken away, is this Chamber powerless to deal with the matter by way of increasing any proposed grant, either by suggestion or otherwise? The Vice-President of the Executive Council rather took exception to some remarks made by the Chairman of Committees, with reference to the Sugar Bonus Bill that was before this Chamber in 1903.
– Oh, no.
– I thought the honorable senator did so, but I may have been mistaken. The question was raised on that Bill, in 1903, of whether a certain amendment proposed by ex-Senator Glassey would have the effect of increasing the burdens upon the people, and, if so, whether it should be submitted by way of amendment ot by way of request. Clause 2 of the Bill then under consideration provided that- “ There shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, to every grower of sugar-cane or beet within the Commonwealth, in the production of which sugar-cane or beet white labour only has been employed after the 28th day of February, 1903, a bonus at the rates provided by this Act……
Ex-Senator Glassey proposed to amend that clause by omitting the words “ after the 28th day of February, 1903,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words, “ For a period of twelve months immediately preceding the delivery thereof for manufacture.” It was clearly shown then that the effect of the amendment would be to increase the number of persons entitled to the receipt of the proposed bonus, and so require the payment of an increased amount of money by the Treasury than that contemplated by the Bill, thus increasing the charge or burden or tax on the people. It, therefore, became clearly a proposal in direct derogation of the provision that “ the Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.” After a long debate, it was ultimately determined to submit the proposal to the other Chamber in the form of an amendment. When it came before another place, Mr. Speaker said - “ I think that my position requires me to point out to the House that this message covers an amendment made by the Senate in the Bill, which amendment is of such a nature that it would, if passed, 1 increase ‘ a ‘ proposed charge or burden on the people,’ and that it is in direct contravention of sub-section 3 of section 53 of the Constitution that such an amendment should be made by the Senate.”
Speaking as the custodian of the rights of the other Chamber, he continued - “ The alteration, if sought, should have been by request and not by amendment.”
The message was subsequently taken into consideration, and the Bill was returned to this Chamber with a message pointing out that the amendment was an attempt to increase a proposed charge or burden on the people, and, therefore, not an amendment which the Senate would make.
– And accepting our other amendments.
– The other amendments were accepted, but they were not of great consequence. The Senate then had a long discussion upon the question. Some fine-drawn distinctions, which are not pertinent to the question now before us, were attempted to be made between a tax or charge or burden upon the people. The Senate, acting upon amessage from another place, ultimately determined to submit their proposal by way of request ; so laying down a practice, so far as they could, that such Bills could be dealt with by amendment in certain respects, and by request in others.
– And both in the one Bill.
– In the one Bill. It was returned to the other place with such request for amendment, and the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, referring to the request, said - “We have given close consideration to that question, and we have come to this conclusion : that where the Senate can amend, it ordinarily is not able to suggest ; but where its amendment cannot be by way of increase, it is intended by the Constitution that it should retain the power of suggestion, as in other cases. Where the Senate admittedly could not make an amendment to increase the burdens of the people, it can, as in other cases, make a suggestion which, if adopted by us and carried into effect, would increase the burdens upon the people.”
It was decided, after very keen discussion in both Houses, that the true construction of the provision of the Constitution was that a proposed law might be of such a character that in one direction it could be amended and in another direction, where the power of amendment did not exist, a suggestion could be made, and that this class of Bill became practically a composite class, in dealing with which two powers could be exercised by the Senate. The question now arises whether any distinction can be drawn between the Sugar Bonus Bill of 1903 and this Bill. I have searched the records to ascertain the procedure followed in both cases in another place, where these Bills have to be initiated, for we cannot initiate them. The procedure appears to have been the same in both cases. In the case of the Sugar Bonus Bill a message was received from the GovernorGeneral “ recommending to the House of Representatives that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for a bonus to growers of sugarcane and beet.” In the case of the Bill now before the Senate, the message from the Governor-General recommended to the House of Representatives ‘ “ that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounties on the production of certain goods.” The message, therefore, was the same in both cases.
In the case of the Sugar Bonus Bill, themessage was ordered to be taken into consideration on the following day. On the following day it is recorded that - “ The Order of the Day for the consideration in Committee of the Whole House of His Excellency the Governor-General’s message, No. 2, having been read, Mr. Speaker left the Chair, and the House resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole. Mr. Speaker resumed the Chair ; Mr. Chanter reported that the Committee had agreed to a certain resolution. Ordered - That the report be considered at once. And thereupon the said resolution was read, and is as follows : - Resolved - That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for a bonus to growers of sugar-cane and beet. And the said resolution was adopted by the House. Ordered - That Sir George Turner do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.”
In the case of the Bill now under consideration, it is recorded that - “ The Order of the Day having been read for the consideration in Committee of the Whole House of His Excellency the Governor-General’s message, No. 5, Mr. Speaker left the Chair, and the House resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole. Mr. Speaker resumed the Chair ; Mr. McDonald reported that the Committee had agreed to a certain resolution. Ordered - That the report be considered at once. And thereupon the said resolution was read, and is as follows : - Resolved - That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounties on the production of certain goods. And the said resolution was adopted by the House. Ordered - That Mr. Groom and Sir William Lyne do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution. Mr. Groom then brought up a Bill intituled ‘ A Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounties on the production of certain goods,’ and moved ‘ that it be now read a first time.’ Question - put and resolved in the affirmative - Bill read a first time.”
This Bill, therefore, was introduced under precisely the same circumstances, and dealt with in precisely the same way as was the Sugar Bonus Bill in 1903. We have reached a position very similar to that arrived at with regard to that Bill. The question is whether we can amend this Bill, and also make requests concerning matters that it is not within our power to amend. In view of the decision arrived at by this Chamber, and accepted by the oilier, I consider that the ruling given by the Chairman of Committees upon this point should be adopted by the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 6.35 to 7.45 p.m.
– The rulings I have quoted prove conclusively that it is competent for the Senate to consider a proposal for the amendment of a Bill even though it should involve an increased burden on the taxpayers. As I understand the point of order raised by Senator Walker, it is that it is not competent for the Committee to make or request an amendment of this Bill which would increase the burden on the taxpayers.
– I think it is recognised all round that the Senate can do one or the other.
– I am submitting that although it might not be competent for us to do what Senator Henderson proposes by way of amendment, it is undoubtedly competent for us to do it by way of request. Therefore, while awaiting his decision I would say that if the Chairman rules Senator Henderson’s proposal out of order as an amendment, it will be competent for the honorable senator or any other member of the Committee to move it as a request.
- Senator Henderson has moved the insertion of certain words which, if carried, would have the effect of enabling women who have reached the age of sixty years to at once claim pensions. Under the existing Act the GovernorGeneral in Council might issue a proclamation which would have the same effect. But that proclamation might be issued this year or five years hence. I have been asked by Senator’ Walker whether Senator Henderson’s proposal involves an increased charge or burden on the people, and is, therefore, out of order when submitted as an amendment. It is quite clear from the valuable authority quoted by Senator Givens that this is a composite Bill. It has been laid down by the Senate and accepted by another place that in dealing wilh some Bills we have the right to make both amendments and requests. In the ruling which has been quoted, it is mentioned that when the Senate was considering the Sugar Bonus Bill ex-Senator Glassey moved an amendment which would, if carried, have increased the number of sugar planters who could claim the bonus, and so would have involved an increased charge on the people. It seems to me that Senator Henderson’s proposal, if agreed to, would involve an increased charge or burden on the people, and I must therefore rule that as an amendment it is out of order. It can, however, be submitted as a request. I am not losing sight of the fact that this is not a Bill to appropriate money. We have already voted over ;£i ,000,000 to provide for the payment of old-age pensions, and the proposal submitted, if agreed to, might never be given effect. But we must look at the real nature of the proposal, and ask whether it would involve an increase of the charge or burden on the people. I do not think I am entitled to say that we should wait until we have a money Bill before us to give effect to the proposal before it is ruled out of order. It appears to me that practically and substantially it would involve an increased charge on the people, and can, therefore, be submitted only as a request.
– Submitting to the ruling you have given, I now move -
That the House’ of Representatives be requested to amend clause 10 by inserting after the word “ amended,” line 2, the words “ by omitting the words 1 The Governor-General may by proclamation declare that the age at which.’ “
– I shall not detain the Committee for more than a few minutes in speaking to the proposed request. From every side there has been a chorus of approval whenever it has been proposed that pensions should be paid to aged women. Some honorable senators have gone so far as to say that we should reduce the age qualification to a greater extent than Senator Henderson has proposed if the time were opportune, or if some ideal set of conditions could be brought about. It our sympathy is sincere we shall try to do what Ave think desirable in spite of difficulties. Sympathy that is extended only when no difficulties are in the way is of very little account. If Ave carry the proposed request I ha’e no doubt that any difficulties in the way of giving it effect can be readily removed if the Government have the courage to ask Parliament to remove them. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has told the Committee that the difficulties in the way are money -difficulties, and I am sure that the people of Australia are not so poor or so lacking in resource that for the sake of a paltry ^200,000 they will allow the aged women of the Commonwealth to suffer the hardships of poverty
– The amount invoked would be ,£301,000.
– I am very glad to have the exact estimate, but Senator Millen is aware that it is merely an estimate, which the Government have no means of verifying.
– I shall give the figures directly which show how it is made up, and it will be found that it is a fairly accurate estimate.
– The amount might be larger than has been stated.
– I am inclined to think that it will be found to be very much less. I am satisfied that the people of Australia are not so lacking in resource that they will neglect to make provision for the aged women of” the country who have borne the heat and burden of the day, and have been mothers of present and future taxpayers, citizens, and defenders of Australia. “ It is a cruel thing to say that women who have lived a life of hardship and toil, who have borne sons and daughters, and have sacrificed themselves to bring them up properly, should be left destitute in their old age. I am sure that the people of the Commonwealth do not desire that, and if the Government have the courage to ask the taxpayers to provide what will be necessary to give aged women pensions, they will willingly respond. All that is asked is that there should be a reduction of five years in the age qualification for women So satisfied was this Parliament of the justice of such a request that we have already in the existing Act made provision to give it effect by the issue of a proclamation by the GovernorGeneral. What is asked now is that this provision instead of remaining conditional upon’ the issue of a proclamation should be brought into operation straight away. If it is desirable that such a provision should operate five years hence, it is equally desirable that it should operate now. Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council tell me that the resources of the Commonwealth are in so embarrassed a condition that the Government dare not face the necessity of imposing additional taxation to meet this charge?
– It is very evident that the Labour Government thought so.
– That is not evident at all.
– -Then why did they not do it ?
– They were never given a chance to do it. Senator Mulcahy laughs in a sneering way as if he held the right end of the stick, but let me give the Committee the actual facts. In order that they might be able to give effect to this provision, the Labour Government had to obtain authority to raise the necessary taxation, and when they came down with a definite policy, proposing the imposition of that taxation, Senator Mulcahy was one of the first to assist in kicking them out of office. The Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that this Bill was left in draft by the late- Government, but his colleague, the Treasurer, has absolutely denied that.
– The honorable senator knows that Mr. Fisher said that the draft of the Bill was left in the. Treasury.
- Mr. . Fisher stated that the measure- had practically been drafted, but the Treasurer has denied that there was such a Bill in existence.
– The Treasurer simply said that all the material for the Bill was in the Treasury, but that its actual drafting was undertaken after the late Ministry had left office.
– When the late Government threatened to submit necessary taxation proposals there was an immediate conspiracy amongst all sections of the then Opposition to oust them. I stated that I was in favour of all these amendments when the principal Act was under consideration. I am in favour of them still, and I intend to show my sympathy with the proposal of Senator Henderson by voting for it.
– - I am sorry to again have to trespass on the time of the Committee. But there are certain facts connected with this proposal which, even at the risk of repeating myself, I must put before honorable senators. I shall first deal with the statement of my genial, but vehement; friend, Senator Givens, that the figures which I have already quoted are really only in the nature of an estimate. They are estimates it is true, in that nobody can tell to a pound what will be the cost of this scheme. But there are very good reasons for stating that for all practical purposes they are accurate. The - experience of New South Wales shows that 40 per cent, of those of the qualifying ages are applicants for, and actually draw, pensions. We know, too, that there are 42,000 .women in the Commonwealth between sixty and sixty-five years of age. Thus, if 40 per cent, of these were granted pensions, that additional number of pensions would be 16,800, and, taking the average amount of the pension that has been paid in New South Wales at £26 3s. 2d. per annum, the extra cost would be £391,650. It is idle to attempt to dismiss these figures as mere guess work. Of course, it is very easy for honorable senators opposite to pose as the friends of those on whose behalf they profess to speak.
– Why does the Vice-President of the Executive Council use the word “ pose “ ?
– I hope that my honorable friend will not continue to interrupt me. He did so- this afternoon in a manner which was very suggestive of insult, and if others are prepared to submit to his insults I am not. When statements are repeatedly made which I have shown to be untrue-
– Why should the honorable gentleman accuse members of the Opposition of posing, when he is so nettled about an accusation of that sort himself?
– If it is a reasonable thing to adopt the proposal of Senator Henderson now without any regard to its financial effect upon the Commonwealth, it was an equally humane thing to do it six months ago.
– Humbug !
– My honorable friend knows as much about humbug as does anybody. I repeat that if it be a sound thing to make this provision to-day, it was an equally sound thing to undertake it in May last.
– The Act was not then in operation. It did not come into operation until i st July.
– The late Government took the step which was necessary to bring it into operation on 15th’ April last. Consequently, it was competent for them on the 16th April to have issued a proclamation reducing the qualifying ages of female applicants for pensions just as we are asked to do now.
– Provided that we had the necessary funds.
– Only an hour or two ago we listened to a moral lecture by Senator Turley, who quoted- from a speech delivered in the Queensland Parliament, in which these words occur : “ When funds permit.” He bitterly condemned the use of those words as a mere subterfuge.
– But we will grant the Government the necessary funds at once.
– Not only did the late Government not issue the necessary proclamation to bring the invalid provisions of the principal Act into operation, but Mr. Fisher frankly told Australia at Gympie that it was not possible to do that.
– If the party to which the honorable gentleman belongs had had their way, we should have had no Federal scheme of old-age pensions to-day.
– I might with equal justification declare that there is no man in Australia who is so bitterly opposed to the payment of old-age pensions as is Senator Lynch. I may tell him that I voted for the payment of pensions long (before he was heard of in politics, and probably 1 shall do so again after he is retired from public life. Senator Givens has questioned the statement that this Bill was not drafted before the late Government left office. Certainly Mr. Fisher stated that the whole of its provisions had been discussed time and again, and that the Bill came to the present Ministry as a legacy from their predecessors’. I hold in my hand a paper - the Worker - from which I intend to quote.
– What Worker is it?
– The Sydney Worker. Are there any degrees of reliability as between the journals which bear that name? The point which I wish to make is that this Bill is practically the Bill of the late Government. There was never the slightest intent disclosed in any memoranda which our predecessors left in the Treasury to do more than this Bill does.
– The honorable gentleman’s colleague, the Treasurer, has denied that.
– No. When Mr. Fisher was in office-
– If he had been allowed to remain there, we should have had a better Bill.
– Had he been allowed to remain there, Senator Henderson would not have submitted this request to-day. The next point to which I wish to direct attention is that though the Fisher Government were in office for six months, and thus had ample opportunity to give effect to the proposals of Senators Henderson and McGregor, they did not move a hand in that direction. They knew that they were preparing to raise the necessary money, and that Parliament would grant them that money.
– We did not know that Parliament would grant it.
– My honorable friend has already said that Parliament would do so. I say that the responsibility and pressure which were upon the late Government are also upon the present Government. I merely wish to show how utterly inconsistent it is for members of the Labour party to endeavour to make it appear that it is merely opposition to a humanitarian proposal which prevents us from doing what they desire. In speaking of the Old-age Pensions Act, Mr. Fisher is reported in the
Worker to have said -
Once inaugurated, we shall be able in the not far distant future, perhaps, to give effect, not only to the old-age pensions, but to the invalid pensions as well. I am sorry I can’t tell you now that the Invalid Pensions Bill will be brought in immediately.
What did he mean by that statement? He did not mean that the provisions of the Act relating to invalid pensions would be given effect to immediately,because it is obvious that no Bill could be introduced during recess.
– When was that statement made?
– In April last, and, curiously enough, the newspaper from which I have quoted bears the date of 1st April. When the Prime Minister said then that it was not possible to bring in the Bill “ immediately,” he did not mean that it was not possible to introduce the Bill in April last, seeing that Parliament was not sitting then. What he meant was that it was not possible to bring in the Bill immediately after Parliament did meet.
– That is the honorable senator’s construction.
– I should like to know what Senator Needham’s construction is. Is it supposed by honorable senators opposite that Mr. Fisher meant that it was not possible to bring the Bill in “ immediately,” when Parliament was not sitting? I venture to say that no one would repudiate such an interpretation sooner than Mr. Fisher. What he implied was that the word ‘ ‘ immediately ‘ ‘ as there used meant, that when Parliament did meet, and the opportunity was present for introducing the Bill, it would not be possible to proceed immediately with such a measure. I shall show, presently, how differently Mr. Fisher dealt with other Bills which he did propose to introduce immediately - that is, as soon as the House met. I defy my honorable friends opposite to find a single line in Mr. Fisher’s speech at Gympie, or from the speech of any other representative member in their party, during the recess, to indicate that the obligations thrown upon the Commonwealth by this Bill were going to be enlarged this session.
– There was a speech of mine in which I said so. I may have contradicted the Prime Minister’s utterance; but I certainly said that we were going to issue that proclamation at the earliest possible moment.
– And that is the policy of the present Government.
– But this Government is not taking steps to obtain the revenue.
– The honorable senator does not know what steps we are taking to obtain the revenue. He will hear in a short space of time. Mr. Fisher went on to say -
Now, whatever happens, the Constitution must be obeyed, and the full three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue must be paid to the States. Three courses are open (a) to cut down expenditure; (b) to impose additional taxation ; (c) to reduce the amount payable to the old-age pensions fund. Now, as to the first course, I have shown how exceedingly difficult it is, considering how the votes were cut down this year. As to the second course, the collection of revenue by additional taxation during the current year is not practicable. However regrettable, it may be necessary to adopt, to some extent, the third available course, namely, to reduce the amount payable to the old-age pension fund, but if that is done, I say, once for all, that - whatever the state of the funds may be on 30th June- the old-age pensions will be paid in full from the 1st July next.
There is no dispute about that. But when Mr. Fisher pointed out that, owing to the contraction of the revenue, and for other reasons, it might be necessary to cut down the amount necessary to be paid for the old-age pensions fund-
– That was for the last financial year.
– Does not my honorable friend recognise that old-age pensions were only payable from the 1st of the current financial year? The very last line of the quotation which I have made showswhat Mr.Fisher was referring to; because he said that the. pensions “will be paid in full from the 1st July next.”
– Did he not say that he would raise the revenue for the then financial year ?
– No money was wanted for the actual payment of old-age pensions during the last financial year. The reason why I have quoted that portion of his speech is this : I wish to show that Mr. Fisher recognised that the Government had their backs to the wall, and that it would place a strain upon the Treasury to pay the pensions already provided for by the Act; and he also recognised how utterly impossible it was to extend the benefits of the Act at the present juncture.
– He proposed to do that by additional taxation.
– For this purpose?
– For this, and for many other purposes.
– I will show my honorable friend what Mr. Fisher proposed on that score. The land tax was to pay for several nationallization schemes, for a very much expanding Defence Force, both naval and military, and also to provide the necessary money for old-age pensions ; but, at the same time as this land tax was to be a bursting-up tax, and not a revenueproducing tax, a conundrum is presented, which T am not able to answer. Further on in his speech, M.r. Fisher set forth the revenue and expenditure, and the position as between the Commonwealth and the States ; and he went on to say -
Assuming that this revenue of £11,000,000 - that is, his estimate of Customs and Excise revenue for some- years to come - will be realized, the Commonwealth Treasurer will be called upon in the next few years -
I draw attention to that phrase - to meet the following additional expenditure. And the first item in the additional expenditure which the Commonwealth Treasurer, according to Mr. Fisher, would have to meet in future, reads -
Old-age pensions (not including invalid pensions), £1,750,000.
All through this document and these figures, the assumption is that the late Government did not intend to pay invalid pensions. And I say that there was no other action open for them. I want to make that quite clear. Nothing that I say on this point is to be regarded as a criticism of the action of the late Government. They took the only action which the finances allowed their, to take, just as the present Governir.ent is taking the only action possible under the pressure of the financial position. But it conies with very bad grace from those honorable senators who were supporters of the late Ministry, and who would have been supporting them now had they been in office, to submit this request. Had Mr. Fisher remained in office, I venture to say that we should not have had this proposition put forward. Just now when I was saying that when Mr. Fisher said at Gympie that this proposal could not be introduced immediately he meant that it would not be introduced immediately this session, I was met by an interjection to the effect that “ immediately “ meant somewhere after May or June, and before Parliament met. I pointed out that the- word could only have had reference to when Parliament met, because there is no other place except Parliament where a Bill could be introduced. Now let me show how differently Mr. Fisher spoke of other measures which he proposed to . submit to Parliament. Speaking of the Northern Territory, he said -
We are prepared, as a Government, to submit a scheme approved by Mr. Trice, Premier of South Australia, and Mr. Deakin, to the Australian Parliament.
There was a definite proposal there. Again, if honorable senators will look at Mr. Fisher’s references to a land tax, they will see a similarly definite pledge. He did not say, “ We cannot introduce this immediately,” but he gave a definite pledge -
We propose to submit to Parliament a Bill lo provide for the taxation of unimproved land values.
There was an indication of the intention of the Government to do the thing at once. In the case of the land tax, the Northern Territory, and other matters, there was a definite and distinct pledge to introduce measures when Parliament met ; but in regard to the amendment of the Old-age Pensions Act, there was the assurance that, for financial reasons, he regretted that he could not give an undertaking to proceed immediately. All these points, to my mind, suggest a want of sincerity and frankness on the part of honorable senators opposite. I naturally expect that all Oppositions will utilize every opportunity that presents itself to them in the ordinary way. I do not seriously complain of that. But when we are face to face with a serious financial problem, and until we have arrived at a clear understanding with the States, and know exactly what our financial position is, I suggest that it is not a fair thing to introduce into this Bill the enlarged obligations sought by the suggested amendments of Senators Henderson and McGregor.
– I shall support the request that has been moved by Senator Henderson. I should not have spoken, but for the concluding remarks of Senator Millen. In justice to Mr. Fisher, I desire to say that Senator Millen, in my opinion, has put an entire misconstruction on the Gympie speech. He has laid particular emphasis on the fact that .Mr. Fisher said that his Government would not deal with invalid pensions “ immediately.” But the request which Senator Henderson has moved does not touch the question of invalid pensions. The object of it is to reduce the age at which pensions will be paid to aged women. Senator Millen has entirely missed the object of the request.
– I dealt with the two amendments as one.
– The honorable senator tried to make out that if Mr. Fisher had remained in power, Senator Henderson would not have moved this request. I agree with him. It would not have been necessary to move the request, because if Mr. Fisher had remained in office a clause to the same effect would have been incorporated in the amending Bill introduced by the Government in another place.
– Why did not Mr. Fisher leave memorandum to that effect with the rest of the Bill?
- Senator Millen has said that the Fisher Government did not, while in power, issue a proclamation covering the same grounds as the amendment now suggested.
– The Fisher Government did not even force the Bill at all.
– No, because the members of the Fusion party took good care not to extend to the Fisher Government the common courtesy of giving consideration to the Governor- General’s speech. They at once summarily ejected Mr. Fisher and his colleagues from the Ministerial benches. I am not complaining about that now, but I wish to call attention to the unfairness of Senator Millen’s criticism that we did not take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves.
– The Fisher Government could have issued a proclamation making the Old-age Pensions Act apply to invalids from the 1st July.
– Long before the 1st July there was no Labour Government in power. Consequently, Senator Millen’s argument does not hold water. Another matter referred to by Senator Millen was that of raising the money to pay old-age pensions. If the Fisher Government had remained in power, the money would have been raised to meet the increased expenditure which the requested amendment would necessarily involve. If Mr. Fisher at Gympie was definite about anything at all, he was definite in his statement that he would introduce a Bill for the taxation of unimproved land values. The result of such taxation would have been to provide money for the purposes of the Old-age Pensions Act, and to extend its benefits to a greater extent than the present Government propose.
– And the Government could not have collected a penny of the land tax during the current financial year.
– I did not assert that the money would have been collected during this year. There was an honest intention on the part of the Labour Government to meet the growing responsibilities of the Federation. If we could not have collected one penny of the land tax during the current year it could have been collected in the following year. It shows that we would have been prepared to meet the increased expenditure.
– According to the honorable senator’s own statement the late Government would not have been prepared to do so before next year.
– I am replying to the general statement of Senator Millen, that if the Labour party had remained in power we would not have made the effort which we are now making. I give a very emphatic denial to his assertion. Had the late Government remained in possession of the Treasury bench the duty of submitting a proposal of this kind would not have been left to a private member of either House, because they would have taken good care that the necessary provisions were embodied in the Bill before it was introduced, seeing that they had suggested several methods - a land tax, a note issue, and two or three other things - by which the money could be raised to carry out their policy.
– It is clear now that the request of Senator Henderson will cause an extra expenditure of about £400,000. Because the Government cannot see their way to go much further, and at once to complete this measure, they are being taunted with not doing that justice which they ought to do to the claims of the aged poor. What is the historical fact with regard to the oldage pension system? For years the Labour party had every Government in the hollow of their hand, and could have turned them out at any moment. If we look at the financial statements which have been issued’ from time to time, what do we find ? While we were returning to the States the unexpended portion of’ the Commonwealth’s gne-fourth share of the revenue to the amount of millions, the institution of a system of old-age pensions was neglected. If the system of finance which had been recommended time and again by the supporters of the Government had been adopted, the Commonwealth would have had, not only that surplus at its disposal, but ample means to provide for a fairly comprehensive scheme of old-age pensions during all the time that the Labour party were keeping Governments in office, and not lifting a finger to get this great principle enacted. How can they excuse themselves for pressing the present Government when we are trying to cut our coat according to our # cloth?. The Opposition know as well as we know that we have in front of us vast difficulties, requiring the application of the greatest financial care and skill to surmount them. In spite of the existence of those difficulties, however, the Labour party propose an extra expenditure of £400,000, and because we on this side cannot go the whole way with them they taunt us. We are entitled! to recall the position which they have occupied for the last seven or eight years, and ask why, in the face of the millions returned to the States, they did not make this a party question? They never made the provision of old-age pensions the condition of giving their support to any Government. But year after year they allowed the surplus revenue to be returned to the States. They never went to the Government, and said, “ We will not support you unless you bring in a system of old-age pensions.” They continued, smilingly and contentedly, to allow every Government to return millions to the States without lifting a finger. But now, when the Government have proposed a certain scheme they demand an increased expenditure.
– What did the honorable senator do during all those years?
– The honorable senator is not going to side-track me. I intend, not only on this floor, but elsewhere, to indicate to the people the_ extent of the Labour party’s political sincerity and the value of their fireworks. Long before the Labour party came into existence there were many Liberals who fought for the introduction of a scheme of old-age pensions. There were many persons who advocated the enactment of the principle.
– I quoted’ one of them to-day.
– The honorablesenator did not quote me, and I have no sins to answer for in that regard. On the first occasion when I stood on a platformin my State I urged the adoption of this principle, and I have not ceased to advocate it.
– That was when thehonorable senator was running with theassistance of the Labour party.
– I always ranon my own, and I shall go down, I dare say, when I have not strength enough todo so. It is too late in the day for the Labour party to think that the people of Australia can be deluded by the taunts which they have thrown at the Government, because it is well known that during a period of seven or eight years, whilethey supported Government after Government, they never lifted a finger to doanything for the aged poor, but tacitlysubmitted to everything which was done by the occupants of the Treasury bench.
– It is very amusing to me, who have’ knownSenator St. Ledger for a long time, to hear him talk about the action which he hastaken in connexion with old-age pensions. I admit that when he first stood for a seatin the State Parliament he advocated theprinciple. Why ? Because it was a plank in the platform- of the Labour party.
– It was; and thehonorable senator had to swallow it before the first deputation which went on his behalf to the Trades Hall could get a promise of their support. A deputation from the men who wanted to bring the honorable senator into public life waited uponthe people at the Trades Hall, upon the hated Socialistic Executive, as he now calls; them, to ask if they would pledge the support of the Labour party, as far as they could, to him if he stood, saying, that it would not cost the Labour party anything: except their work; that some persons were prepared to finance the candidate ; that they did not care much about the Government;: and promising that the honorable senator would support nearly all the planks of the Labour party in return for that party’ssupport.
– This is all fiction, or worse.
– I know all about the honorable senator’s doings. Not long afterwards, there was a vacancy in the representation of another electorate, and he complained to me, and, I was told, to others, that in his opinion he was being badly treated, because we had not asked him to contest that electorate, in the face of the fact that we had a man who was prepared to sign the pledge.
– The honorable senator would make a splendid novelist.
– In some novels there is a good deal that is true. The honorable senator has asked me what the Labour party has been doing all these years. Apparently, he is not acquainted with the provisions of the Constitution. Some years ago we asked that an Old-age Pensions Bill should be brought in by a Government which we were supporting, and we were told that until a period of five years had expired, as provided in the Constitution, nothing could be done. I think that Senator Pearce will admit that that opinion was expressed by Mr. Deakin, Mr. Glynn, andothers, and that as soon as we had an opportunity we said to Mr. Deakin, “ The price of our support is the provision of old-age pensions.” That was why the Old-age Pensions Bill was brought in last session. The Deakin party had stated up to that time that they did not believe it possible to finance a scheme, but when they received that notice from our party a Bill was submitted. When the inside history of this movement is related, it is made clear that what we have heard from Senator St. Ledger is not worth a snap of the fingers. He said that the Labour party had not been doing anything in this matter. This afternoon he talked about the Liberals who had advocated this principle. I made a quotation from a speech by a member of the Liberal Government, which I can turn up in the Queensland Hansard, and in which he stated that those in the other States who were advocating this class of legislation were only trying to tickle the ears of the groundlings for the purpose of getting political support at the elections. Is that the sort of Liberal we have at the present time ? Now, coming to the remarks of Senator Millen, let me quote, not from the Worker, but from the Brisbane Courier, the statement of Mr. Fisher concerning old-age pensions -
Then there was the question of old-age pensions, the Act providing for which would come into force in July. Whatever the difficulties of the Commonwealth might be as between themselves and the States, the Government would carry out that system. -Whatever the financial embarrassment of the Commonwealth might be, that would be carried out to the. letter. They hoped also that they would be able in the not distant future to give effect to the invalid provisions.
There was no question of bringing in a Bill, because that was not necessary.
– Read on.
– Then Mr. Fisher made another proposal. He said -
He felt that the States, being relieved of the payment of old-age pensions, amounting annually to £1,500,000, would not hesitate to pay invalid pensions during the time of the Commonwealth financial embarrassment.
– I suppose the honorable senator will admit that Mr. Fisher did not contemplate paying them.
– There is the speech of Mr. Fisher at Gympie. He did contemplate paying them.
– He contemplated that the State Governments would pay them.
– He said-
They hoped also that they would be able in the not distant future to give effect to invalid pensions.
He did not assume that the State Governments would pay them, but that in the meantime, and until the Commonwealth Government would be in a position to pay them, the State Governments being relieved of the cost of old-age pensions-
– From when?
– From the 1st July of this year.
– Then Mr. Fisher did contemplate that the State Governments would pay invalid pensions this year?
– Perhaps for two or three months until the proclamation under the Commonwealth Act was issued, he assumed that the State Governments would pay the invalid pensions provided for in the State Acts. That was a very reasonable position to take up. Let me remind honorable senators opposite of the fact that it was Mr. Fisher who in another place insisted that a certain amount of the surplus revenue should be paid into the old-age pension fund. The Government of the day proposed to pay a certain amount into the fund, and Mr. Fisher contended that they should pay more, his object being to provide as large a fund as possible for the payment of old-age pensions. I have stated the position he took up by quoting from a journal which represents the views of honorable senators opposite.
– The honorable senator does not believe that journal, as a rule.
– Of course I do not. I believe that it is the result of a mishap when it tells the truth concerning the Labour party. Senator Millen has said that these provisions might have been brought into effect at once by the Labour Government. I admit that a proclamation giving them effect might have been issued; but, as the honorable . senator has ‘ said, the Government were aware that financial difficulties were in the way. He did not add, however, that they submitted a programme to Parliament proposing increased taxation which would have enabled them to meet the necessary expenditure very soon. The present Government have told Parliament that they intend to undertake expenditure amounting to millions of pounds, but they “have not said where they are going to get trie money.
– When were the Labour Government to get it ?
– From the taxation of large estates and from an absentee tax. When the States were being relieved of expenditure involved in the payment of oldage pensions, it was reasonable for the Treasurer of the Labour Government to ask that they should pay invalid pensions under their own Acts for a few months until the Federal Government had been able to derive as a result of their taxation scheme sufficient money to enable them to relieve them of the .payment of invalid, as well as old-age, pensions. That was a definite programme. We have heard nothing from the present Government as to how they intend to raise money for the payment of old-age pensions. We have been told that they intend to adopt some system of borrowing, but surely we are not going to meet a recurring expenditure such as that involved in the payment of old-age pensions with borrowed money. I take it that Senator Millen did not desire to touch on the question as to how the Government propose to raise the money.
– Even a boy would know that until the. Budget was declared no Government would say what they were going to do.
- Mr. Fisher told the country at Gympie what his Government proposed to do.
– He was making a policy speech.
– He said in making that speech that his Government intended to submit definite proposals, which, he explained, were to provide the necessary money. Senator Millen himself has asked us to consider how definite Mr. Fisher was on the question of land taxation. That was because he expected in that way to provide funds for the, pay ment of invalid and’ old-age pensions. We have heard something about the payments made to the State Governments, and I have admitted that they were paid far too much. That was because there was a continual clamour by honorable senators opposite that more and more should ‘be returned to the States. When we were supporting the Surplus Revenue Bill we were told that we were trying to rob th=; State Governments and to withhold from them money which they wereentitled to receive. It has since been proved that they were not entitled to receivethat money. Senator Millen now says that we returned too much money to the StateGovernments, but ‘ while that money was being returned the honorable senator was sitting on the door mat asking that more and more should be returned to them. I am satisfied that Senator Henderson’s proposal will commend itself to a majority of the people, and that they will be prepared to sanction any scheme of taxation necessary to provide sufficient funds to relieve our aged women. But I believe also that there is a section of the public who will decidedly object to being taxed for this or any other purpose. I refer to the big landholders of Australia, who hold lands the value of which has been created not by themselves, but by the work of the whole community. I suppose it will be admitted that honorable senators opposite moreclosely represent that class than we do. We have been told that Senator Henderson’ would not -be moving this request if Mr. Fisher were still at the head of the Government. I fancy that that is a libel onthe honorable senator. I think I know him pretty well, and that if he thought he was proposing what was just and right he would not hesitate to submit his proposition as an amendment to a Bill brought downeven by a Labour Government. Honorable senators are apt to overlook a very important difference between honorable senatorson this side and honorable senators opposite. Honorable senators opposite have no voice in deciding the principles of measures introduced by the present Government. They cannot vote against the Government for fear that they might have to go to the people, and they are bound to support any measure that the Cabinet proposes. . Onthe contrary, if a Labour Government were in power honorable senators on this side would be in a position to consult with Ministers as to the provisions to be inserted in any measure submitted to Parliament. They would be able to give fair notice to Ministers that if provisions of which they approved were not included in the Bill, the first to vote against it when it was submitted would be the members of their own party.
– Why were not these proposals submitted when the principal measure was being considered?
– I have already told honorable senators the reason. We knew at the time that we had to face the opposition of honorable senators who professed to believe that some relief should be given to the old people of Australia and posed as being sympathetic with this kind of legislation. When the Bill was introduced they voted solidly against the second reading.
– As the honorable senator voted against the proposed imposition of special duties for the same purpose.
– I did, and I am proud of the action I took on that occasion.
– The same thing was said then.
– I know that I said a good deal then, and I say now that if it were proposed to-day to meet the expenditure for old-age pensions by the imposiition of a special duty on kerosene, tea, or any other article I should be as strongly (Opposed to the measure as I was before, no matter by what Government it was introduced. I do not know why Senator Millen should taunt me with having voted against the proposal to which he refers.
– I voted with the honorable senator on that occasion.
– The honorable senator was one of the strongest opponents of that proposal. As one who was opposed to the Government of the day that might have been expected, but I voted with the honorable senator against a Government whose legislation in other respects I was supporting. I was referring to the difference between the parties in the Senate, and I explained that the rank and file of the Government party were merely puppets in the hands of the Cabinet, who had to dance according as the Cabinet pulled the strings, whilst a Labour Government would naturally consult the members of their party, their legislation being affected by the views of those . whom they consulted.
Every honorable senator opposite agrees that we are considering a very reasonable request. They say that they believe that women over sixty years of age should receive old-age pensions under the existing Act ; they might be given such pensions by the issue of a proclamation. Senator Henderson proposes that women over sixty years of age should be given pensions not later than the 1st January next year. That gives the Government five months within which to make arrangements to meet the necessary increased expenditure.
– If the honorable senator will look at Senator Henderson’s request he will find that it fixes no time. A time is fixed by the request suggested by Senator McGregor.
- Senator Henderson would doubtless accept such an amendment if Senator Trenwith will move it.
– The honorable senator had better ask Senator Henderson to withdraw.
– There is no need for him to withdraw. If Senator Henderson’s proposal be carried - and I hope that it will be - there will be nothing to prevent the Government from moving the insertion of an addendum declaring that invalid pensions shall be payable not later than January next.
– In submitting my proposal, I refrained from uttering a word of comment ; and I do not know that I should have had anything to say upon it at the present stage, but for a rather heated exclamation on the part of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Of course, I recognise that he has had a long political experience, and that probably he is familiar with all the engineering dodges of which a politician is supposed to be capable. That fact probably explains his statement that had the late Government remained in power, I would not have submitted this proposal. May I remind him that at the very begining of our discussion upon the Old-age Pensions Act, I expressed the view that the qualifying age of sixty-five years was considerably higher thanit should be. But I supported that measure because I was very anxious to see it placed upon the statute-book, especially in view of the emphatic declarations in favour of a Federal scheme of old-age pensions of Senator St. Ledger and a number of others. I thought thai a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush. I was quite prepared to accept their statements, and to walk side by side even with an anti-Socialist, in order to obtain legislative recognition of a principle in which I believed. I am not concerned with the question of where the money with which to pay these pensions is to be obtained. We owe them to our old people as a right, and it will be for the Government who are in office to meet the bill when it falls due. There axe scores of methods by which the necessary funds could be obtained, if the Ministry chose to put them into operation. But I am satisfied that honorable senators opposite will do their best to prevent effect being given to those methods, because they recognise that if once they are applied, their own occupations as politicians will be gone.
.- We have heard a good many expressions of opinion as to what ought to be done in regard to the payment of these pensions. But I think we must all recognise that the present financial position of the Commonwealth will not permit of immediate effect being given to the provisions of the principal Act relating to invalid pensions. I only wish that it would. We have also heard a good deal in favour of the imposition of a progressive land tax for the purpose of bursting up large estates. But I need scarcely point out that if such a tax achieved the purpose of its advocates, it would not provide the money with which to pay these pensions.
– Has not the honorable senator heard of an absentee tax?
– Certainly; but the whole thing is a myth. Under such circumstances from where is the money with which to pay old-age pensions to come?
– We will tax bachelors.
– I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition would dare to do that, because bachelors, as well as married men, have votes. I am satisfied that if honorable senators opposite once got the principle of land taxation affirmed, they would make it apply all round - even down to the man who owned only a quarter of an acre allotment. Personally, I believe in a land tax, and I have always held that such a tax should be operative in every State. Honorable senators upon this side of the chamber entertain quite as much sympathy with the poor as do honorable senators opposite, and yet the latter are constantly posing as the only persons who are imbued with human sympathy. I leave it to the people to discover the great services which they have rendered to the poor. It is all very well to say: “Let the Commonwealths find the money with which to pay these pensions,” but it is certain that if we donot first raise the money, we cannot payit away. I am satisfied that the invalid provisions of the principal Act will be brought into operation as soon as our finances will permit. In the immediate future, we shall have to undertake an effective defence scheme-
– We never promised a Dreadnought.
– But the Government of which the honorablesenator was a member would have done so if it had suited them. I am prepared to fulfil the promise which I made in that connexion. It is truethat we have not the money yet, but we are prepared to find it when it is required. When Mr. Fisher was Prime Minister, he candidly admitted that he could not giveimmediate effect to invalid pensions on account of the condition of the finances. That was a manly admission on his part. The present Government find themselves in asimilar position. They are prepared toreduce the qualifying age of pensioners from sixty-five to sixty years as soon as the finances will permit of it, and in that they will have my support.
.- The proposal which we are now considering is one of which honorable senators have approved in the abstract. It is already embodied in the Act, but the day and hour when it is to be brought into operation has yet to be decided. I think that the principle involved is a proper one. The Act makes a fair and legitimate attempt to achieve its purpose, but it is left to the Governor-General, which means the Government of the day, to decide when certain portions of it shall be brought into operation. I think it is legitimate and fair to say that there are some questions which Parliament ought to undertake to decide definitely for itself. This may fairly be said to be one of them. Therefore the question is : What ought Parliament to fix as the latest date when this provision shall come into force? It appears to be generally admitted that it is not possible topay invalid pensions this year out of existing funds, or out of any funds which could be madeavailable.
SenatorTurley. - That is not admitted.
– It is, atall events, obvious that we could notby any form of taxation that we can think of raise at once the money that would be -absorbed by the reduction of age.
– Does the honorable senator seriously mean that he cannot . think of any means of raising the money for paying these pensions?
– I do not think it can be raised this year. But if the request is so amended as to fix the period so that the Government cannot postpone theissue of a proclamation for too long a time, I shall be prepared to vote for the request.
– How long would the honorable senator suggest ?
– A reasonable time would be next year. I am inclined to think that it would be possible to pass legislation for some kind of- taxation for raising the money before that time. Parliament might reasonably say that the proclamation shall not be issued later than the end of 1910. That might be wise, for two reasons. -First of all, it is not too long a time. We are nationalizing the old-age pensions system, and making it applicable throughout the Commonwealth. This Bill, as far as.it ;goes, applies this beneficent legislation on a more liberal scale than at present exists in any of the States. I do not pretend that the provisions of the Bill are sufficient for all time ; but I do say that the measure marks an advance. Therefore, I suggest to Senator Henderson that his request should be amended. He has expressed a willingness to make it more elastic. If -we desire that it shall be something more than a placard, it certainly must be made -more elastic, because we know that effect «could not be given to the provision in its present form. We know, as reasonable men, the action that has already been taken by another place in this connexion. I therefore. urge upon Senator Henderson to bring this proposal more within our -possibilities at the moment. It is certainly not desirable to place the Commonwealth in the position of having to repudiate payments due under this measure during the present year, through inability to find the means. But the Commonwealth is not too poor to meet its obligations in this respect in the future. I feel that this is an obligation. I do not look upon old-age pensions as a charity. “We are discharging a debt that we owe to aged people of this country. We must, at -the earliest opportunity, find the means of meeting that debt. But I doubt whether we can, during the current year, meet the ob ligations which this /request, if carried, will entail upon the Commonwealth Treasury.
– Why not make the provision operate from the beginning of next year ?
– I hope that the Government will be in a position to issue the proclamation then. But, at all events, there is sufficient reason for imposing on them the obligation to make the provision operative later in the vear.
– I recognise that Senator Henderson’s request is in the nature of a test question. It has been represented as a mere piece of posing on the part of those who support him; that the Government of the day have not the necessary funds ; and that there is no possibility of their being able to pay the money if called upon to do so. But similar excuses have been made before. I am not going to consider the position of the Government in this matter in the slightest degree. The Ministry jumped into office at a time when they knew perfectly well that heavy financial obligations were bound to be placed upon them. They did not accept office with their eyes closed. Seeing that they were in such haste to reach the Treasury benches, we must hold them responsible for raising the funds to meet their obligations under the request, if it be carried. The Government which they displaced were prepared to find the funds for paying old-age pensions, no matter what extension of the scheme there might be.
– The honorable senator thinks that the present Government can find the money, even if the late Government could not?
– Our Government was prepared to find the money to meet this proposed extension, and to do a great deal more.
– That is an easy statement.
– It was a statement that was made publicly at Gympie. I question whether a more candid statement was ever made by a Prime Minister than that of Mr. Fisher on the occasion to which I allude.
– He was merely prepared to pay the old-age pensions which Parliament had then decided upon.
– He was prepared for extensions. He could not have been expected to do more than outline his policy. A Prime Minister dealing with a number of different subjects could not be expected to go into detail on every question. To do so would have been utterly absurd.
– Why did Mr. Fisher express his sorrow if he intended to proclaim invalid pensions this session?
– He was sorry because it was not done sooner. I remind the Committee that it is owing to Mr. Fisher’s action that we have Commonwealth old-age pensions to-day. He was the man who moved in the House of Representatives, and Sir William Lyne, who was also working with our party, agreed to find the funds for financing the proposal. Mr. Fisher took action, and Mr. Deakin was, as usual, pliable.
– That statement does not come very well from an honorable senator on the Opposition side.
– It is a fact, and we need not be afraid to state it. The Opposition have no cause to be troubled on account of the anxieties of the Government. They had no consideration for us. They were in an indecent haste to get into office, and having got there it is their business to finance any proposal of this kind that is forced upon them. It is useless for them to whine about the difficulties. They should have known about them when they took office. Senator Millen, I am sure, recognised that there were financial difficulties ahead when we were discussing the Surplus Revenue Bill, and when, in common with othermembers of the then Opposition, he opposed the measure.
– I did not oppose it, and therefore the honorable senator should not say so.
– The wriggling of those who opposed the Surplus Revenue Bill is wonderful. That measure was fought as strenuously in this chamber as any measure was ever fought by an Opposition, although everybody knew at that time that it was the Bill which enabled old-age pensions to be paid. We were told of the great financial difficulties in which the States would be placed. I come from a State which will be called upon to contribute more to the old-age pensions than will any other State, but its representatives in the Senate have never hesitated for a moment to urge that the principle should be enacted, no matter what the cost might be. I desire to impress upon honorable senators that Western Australia will have to contribute to the pensions for other States as well as to pay for its owns pensions.
– It has never paid for its own.
– Under this arrangement the position will be that out of every £2 we pay we shall receive only about £1. We shall be required to pay twice asmuch as we are likely to get for our aged poor. It will be seen, therefore, that Iam not speaking from a purely State standpoint, but am taking a broad view of the question. I am quite prepared to run any risk in order to procure a workable scheme. At the present time our legislation on thisquestion is not satisfactory, and when a chance is offered it is our duty to effect an improvement. It has been said that this is a mere electioneering dodge on our part. May I remind honorable senators on the other side that we have been electioneering as long as we have been here. On every occasion I have consistently supported the provision of old-age pensions, no matter what the cost might be to my State, because I recognised that the principle should have been enacted much earlier. The delay has been solely due to constitutional difficulties, which Senator St. Ledger knew of twelve months ago, but which apparently he has utterly forgotten.
– I did not forget either one or the other.
– Then, how is it that the honorable senator charged the Labour party with not having brought forward a scheme of old-age pensions sooner?
– Because the Labour party ought to have done it. It could have been done.
– I hold that unless we agree to this request we shall not be doing our duty by the aged poor of the Commonwealth.
Question - That the request (Senator Henderson’s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Senator Henderson) put -
That after the word “ amended,” line 2, the following words be inserted, “ by adding to sub-section 2 of section 15 the words ‘ provided that such proclamation shall issue not later than the first of July 1910.’ “
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I am surprised to hear Senator Trenwith’s statement, because I was under the impression that Senator Henderson had moved his last request in order to meet the views expressed by Senator Trenwith.
– I said definitely what I was prepared to support and what I urged the honorable senator to do.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that if the operation of the proposal were delayed until the end of the present financial year, that would give the Government ample time, if they were prepared to propose taxation, to raise the necessary funds.
– I ask the honorable senator to speak to the question, Clause 10 is now before the Committee.
– It proposes an amendment of the existing Act, andI should like to be allowed to say that we do not regard this legislation as affording an opportunity for the exercise of generosity. We regard an old-age pension as a right. Honorable senators opposite arecontinually talking of generosity. Senator” Sayers just now interjected that honorable senators on this side are very generous, and he wondered that we are able to clothe ourselves in view of the enormous amount we must give away. Let me tell honorable senators opposite that the Labour party do not call upon the wealthy to give to the poor. They are not asking for the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table in order that they may be given to Lazarus. They are asking merely that old people, because of the work they have done for the State, shall not be denied what they claim as a right. Those who have read and studied, and those who have themselves been poor, are aware that the poor receive assistance, not from the wealthy, but from each other.
– That is not our experience in the hospitals in New South Wales.
– I cannot allow the honorable senator to continue to make a second-reading speech.
– I am not endeavouring to make a second-reading speech. I am pointing out merely that we do not regard this as a matter of generosity.
– I cannot allow the honorable senator to proceed on those lines. He must speak to the question.
– I have no objection to the clause, but I wished to reply to some statements which have been made from the other side, and to say that honorable senators on this side are not in a position to give away quite as much as honorable senators opposite claim to give.
Clause agreed to.
Section sixteen of the Principal Act is amended by the omission of the words in subsection (1)’ “Asiatics (except those born in Australia), or” and inserting at the end of sub-section (i) the following proviso : -
Amendment (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That the words “ the omission of,” line 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ omitting.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 13A. Section nineteen of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the words “ not being later than the first day of January One thousand nine hundred and ten.”
This clause deals really with a matter of detail, and I hope that honorable senators who have expressed so much sympathy for those, who through illness caused by accident or in any other way are unable to earn a living for themselves, and who feel that they are a burden on their friends and have no hope for the future, will be prepared to make more definite provision for those people than has been made for them in the past. We know that to the people to whom I have referred the very title of the existing Act is misleading. It holds out to them a hope which so far has not been realized. I trust that a majority of the Committee will support the new clause. As I wish to see these people obtain pensions as speedily as possible,I shall do no more than ask the support of those who have expressed so much sympathy with the invalided section of our population.
– I feel that what Senator McGregor proposes is a proper thing for Parliament to undertake. The proposal would affect a very large number of persons who we have already agreed by legislation ought to beprovided for. If a reasonable time is given to the Government, it is fair to say the hour beyond which their relief shall be no longer delayed.
– Then why does not the honorable senator move an amendment on the proposed new clause?
– I do not see that there will be any use in moving such an amendment. Senator McGregor might alter his clause.
– I will not do so to please the honorable senator, who has as much right to move an amendment as I have.
– That is perfectly true. If an amendment of the character I have suggested is proposed, I shall be prepared to vote for it. I think it is fair that Parliament should state the time whenso important a provision should be given effect, but I think that the time provided for in the proposed new clause is, in all the circumstances, too short.
– And the honorable senator has not the courage to move an amendment. He is a nice supporter of invalids.
– I regret that I cannot support the proposed clause. The last amendment suggested was one which, if carried, would have admitted a number of persons to the right to receive oldage pensions who are not as badly in need of the assistance as are many invalids who are not 65 or 60 years of age, but in many cases under 20 years of age. But before we undertake any drastic amendment of the Act, it is only fair that we should consider what its effect would be. We should have some information as to what we are being asked to commit ourselves to financially. It is all very well to vote here for proposals which involve increased expenditure without knowing how much that expenditure would be. The small State of Tasmania is already committed to considerable increased expenditure on account of old-age pensions.
– What will the offer of a Dreadnought involve Tasmania in?
– When I am speaking of the offer of a Dreadnought it will be time enough for the honorable senator to interrupt me. I am speaking to a proposal which I cannot support, and it is right that I should give the Committee my reasons for opposing it. Senator McGregor, who has been the Leader of theSenate, and is now Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, has submitted his proposed newclause in very few words, and, so far as I know, he has not taken the trouble to discover what increased expenditure it would involve.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that it is impossible to give an estimate of the increased expenditure involved. He could only give a guess.
– We have not even had a guess from Senator McGregor, who has assumed the responsibility of making the proposal. It was due to the Committee, from an honorable senator holding so prominent a position, that he should give them some information.
– I can give it now, if the honorable senator desires it, but I did not wish to waste time.
– The honorable senator ought to have given it when he proposed such an amendment of the measure. I am not disposed to commit the State 1 represent to increased expenditure, the extent of which I am unable to estimate. I am aware that Tasmania is already committed on account of old-age pensions to additional expenditure to the extent of about £70,000.
– Will Tasmania not be getting it all back again?
– I understand, as well as does Senator Lynch, that the money will be spent in the State. I am in honest sympathy with the proposal now made, but will, with reluctance, vote against it, knowing that we have provided for some people who do not need assistance, whilst we have left unprovided for many persons who do require assistance, and who would get it under the proposal now made. It seems to me that between this and the next session, which means between this and the next Parliament, it will be the duty of the Government to ascertain what the payment of pensions to invalids will cost. Until that information is before the Committee,I do not feel justified in voting for this proposal.
– I am somewhat surprised at Senator Mulcahy’s request for more information in reference to this matter. This afternoon Senator McGregor has consistently endeavoured to conserve time, but Senator Mulcahy apparently wishes to prevent him from doing so. He is anxious to obtain more information.
– Does the honorable senator himself know anything about the matter ?
– So far the honorable senator has not given us much information.
- Senator Gray represents a State in which more information is obtainable on this question than in any other. This afternoon Senator Mulcahy declared that he had a very great amount of sympathy with the poor and the afflicted.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– The honorable senator stated that there was a certain section of the community - the afflicted - who were entitled to more consideration than are those with whom this Bill deals. He pointed out that even at the age of fifteen years there are many persons who require assistance from the State. Now, it is all very well for the honorable senator toexpress sympathy with them, but of what use is that sympathy if it is not supported by his vote?
– Did the honorable senator believe that yarn which Senator Mulcahy told this afternoon?
– I really did think that he was in earnest at the time. He spoke of the way in which some persons were afflicted, and declared that they should receive extra attention at the hands; of the State. But I would remind him that sympathy without relief is like mustard without beef. It is not very satisfying.
– A lot of relief the late Government extended to the poor and the afflicted.
- Mr. Fisher’s declaration of policy at Gympie contained many proposals for raising revenue. It was because of this that the whole forces of capitalism were brought to bear with a view of. ousting him from office. A very similar condition of things obtains in the Old Country to-day. There, the Budget which was recently delivered has caused consternation amongst the property-owners. They are vigorously denouncing the Government, and pulling every wire that they can for the purpose of displacing it. Why? Because the taxation which they propose will fall upon those who are best able to bear it. The Fisher Government did precisely the same thing. They proposed to issue Commonwealth bank notes. In Queensland, when the bank crisis occurred, in 1893, some persons actually sold the notes of private banking companies for 5s., 6s., and 7s. in the £1.
– When was that?
– In 1893. I know persons in Brisbane who sold their notes for 1 6s. and 17s. in the£1.
– I rise to a point of order. Is this discussion upon paper currency relevant to the question at issue?
– Honorable senators have been allowed to discuss ways and means in connexion with this Bill so that I do not think I can exclude the observations which Senator Turley is making.
– Exception has been taken to the proposal of Senator Henderson upon the ground that we have not sufficient money with which to meet the demands that it would create, and I am merely replying to that contention. I am satisfied that’ the proposals of the late Government commanded the support of at least threefourths of the people.
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss the details of those matters.
– I do not intend to do so. When the banks in Queensland were failing the Government went to their assistance, and within two days legislation was enacted under which their notes were issued as Treasury notes. The same thing could be done by the Commonwealth within fortyeight hours. At the present time we have an excellent opportunity to carry out the proposal outlined by Mr. Fisher at Gympie -a proposal to which effect has been given in Queensland for sixteen years past, and the experience of which has proved eminently satisfactory.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether this discussion on the Queensland Treasury note system is pertinent to the Bill.
– I think that Senator Turley has a perfect right to make incidental reference to the matter, but he must not discuss details. .
– It is all very well for Senator Mulcahy to exclaim that his State has to pay a certain proportion of the money expended upon old-age pensions. Undoubtedly it has. So has every State. I believe that the vast majority of the people of Tasmania are quite prepared to hear their full share of the financial burden imposed in this connexion. What class is more deserving of consideration than is the afflicted ?
SenatorMulcahy. - The honorable senator had a chance to extend that consideration to them for six whole months, but failed to do so.
– I did not know previously that Senator Mulcahy was under the delusion that I was a member of the Fisher Government.
– Did not the honorable senator say that it was the practice of his party to meet together and tell the Government what they wanted?
– I said that when legislation was about to be introduced the Labour party would communicate their desires to the Ministry. Then, if the measures which they submitted did not give effect to their principles, they were in a position to move amendments in those measures. I was pointing out that the blind, the halt, and the maimed, whom we see in our streets require consideration. They receive plenty of sympathy from honorable senators opposite, but they get nothing more. We see in our streets unfortunate people who are trying to maintain themselves, some by playing instruments, others begging mutely for assistance. We all realize that something should be done for them. It is not a question of charity. Honorable senators opposite seem to regard the whole of this matter as one of charity. I do not. I think it is a question of humanity. These unfortunate people should not be dependent upon the whim of passers-by for- the few coins dropped into their tin boxes. They should receive assistance from the State to enable them to live in reasonable comfort. It is of no use for honorable senators to say that we will grant this assistance next year or the year after. A few years ago, when we were making this question popular throughout Australia-
– “ We ?”
– Yes ; and as soon as it was made popular, we had the Liberal politicians jumping over each other to advocate the same thing.
– The honorable senator may feel glad that Senator Neild is not here just now.
– Was that when Senator Millen was a member of the Labour party ?
– I believe that Senator Millen would have done something for the invalid poor if he could.’ But we want more than sympathy from honorable senators opposite. Ten shillings per week will be of far more use to the invalid poor than any amount of sympathy. The people of Australia are not so mean or hard up that they are not prepared to endure taxation for this purpose. Senator Trenwith says that he agrees with us, but will not vote for the date that we seek to fix. Does not the honorable senator think that this provision can be brought into effect by the time proposed by Senator McGregor ?
– I hope it can.
– The honorable senator would like the Government to bring the provision into operation earlier.
– I would fix a time when I am sure the Government would have the money.
– Are we not to propose to pay anything to the invalids of Australia until we are all perfectly sure that the money is available? Surely it is better for us to throw the responsibility of raising the money upon the Government. While the :grass is growing the horse is starving. If Senator Trenwith does not believe in the date which we propose, why does he not move an amendment? If we cannot carry the date proposed by Senator McGregor, the honorable senator will receive the support of every member of our party in proposing a later date. Surely it is the duty of an honorable senator who does not believe in a detail of an amendment to propose an alteration of it. We have had many little lectures from Senator Trenwith to the effect that we should always take what we can get, and ask for more. Let me ask the honorable senator to-take his own medicine. It may not be always wise for a doctor to swallow his own concoctions ; but when it means giving assistance to thousands of people throughout Australia, it seems to me that it is the duty of an honorable senator who believes in action being taken to put his opinions to the test. Mr. Fisher said at Gympie that he sincerely hoped that the States would continue to pay invalid pensions as the Commonwealth was relieving them of expenditure on account of old-age pensions.
– How many of the States were paying invalid pensions?
– I believe they were being paid in New South Wales, Queensland, ‘ Victoria, and to some extent in Western Australia. At least three-fifths of the invalid poor of Australia were receiving some help. New South Wales is continuing this assistance. When the matter was brought forward in the Legislative Assembly of the State, there was a sufficient number of members to back up the Labour party, and defeat the Government upon the question, because they were not acting with sufficient liberality. The Labour party is not numerous in the New South Parliament, but by a majority of four, with the assistance of some Government supporters, they insisted upon liberal treatment being extended to the invalid poor. Is it not a fair thing now that the Commonwealth should assume this burden? Surely it is important that the interests of the invalid poor in Tasmania and South Australia should be considered. If this amendment be agreed to, the Commonwealth Government can go to the States, and say : “We will relieve you of this expenditure, and we must make provision accordingly.” But the Government cannot say that to the States if they have not accepted the responsibility. I believe that there is not one Parliament in the Commonwealth that would decline to listen to an appeal from the Federal Government to that effect. Every Parliament would be prepared to assist the Commonwealth to pay this money to the invalid poor. But that is the only ground on which you can approach them. I believe that the Premier of Vic toria would gladly fall in with a definite proposition of this kind. New South Wales has already come to a decision, and I believe that Queensland would immediately fall in with the proposition. I do not know so much about the position of the other States, but I certainly think that every State Premier would fall in with the proposition’ of the Commonwealth Government to do something towards relieving the’ invalid poor. It is because I feel strongly that I ask honorable senators opposite, instead of talking so much about their sympathy, to back up their sympathy with their votes on this occasion and make this legislation effective.
– I have refrained from speaking because I was very anxious that this Bill should pass as quickly as possible, in order that those who are debarred under the principal Act may get a pension. But one or two reasons have induced me to rise. In this chamber to-day we have witnessed hypocrisy reduced to a science.
– Is that expression in order, sir?
– As it may be intended for me, the honorable senator should not take it to himself.
– I am not quite clear whether the honorable senator objects to the words or to the truth of the statement.
– I ask, sir, whether the honorable senator is in order in stating that he has witnessed here hypocrisy reduced to a science ?
– If the expression is not applied to any individual senator I cannot rule it out of order.
– Judging by the attitude of many honorable senators today the expression has such a general application that it is impossible to apply it to any individual senator. I regard it as a duty, I might almost say as a sacred duty, to the Democracy and the poor of the Commonwealth to apologize on behalf of my State, because it happens that despite the number of invalids and the amount of suffering endured by those who have been maimed in industry, I am the only representative of that State here who is prepared to give a vote to relieve those persons, though, of course, Senator Findley, if he had been in good health, would have been here to vote with me. Senator McColl as a Victorian knows that only recently, at the suggestion of the Minister of Mines, a vote of the miners was taken as to whether some hundreds of men should be permitted to work in the mines, seeing that their state of health was so bad as to endanger the lives of others. In order to preserve their own health and to be able to earn money for their wives and children the miners decided by a majority of some thousands to throw hundreds upon the streets. Do not Senator McColl and Senator Trenwith know that to-day in Ballarat, Bendigo, and other mining districts, there are hundreds of men waiting for the grave to receive them? Yet it is proposed to tell those suffering men that we cannot find money to give them invalid pensions. Are the men who are walking the streets living on the charity of the wealthy mine-owners of Bendigo or the wealthy men of Melbourne? No, sir, they ire supported by the subscriptions of the poor. They are supported by the sale of shilling tickets in the streets of Victoria. Gambling art unions are carried on in order to put a crust into the mouths of men who were maimed or contracted disease in the mines of this country. through working under unhealthy conditions in their earnest effort to provide bread for themselves and families.
– It is a pity that the Fisher Government did not find all that out.
– The honorable senator never gave them a chance to do so.
– These poor men are not loafers asking for a pittance from the wealthy of Victoria. They are not idlers frequenting the street corners. They are not men who by gambling and’ drinking brought themselves to a state of poverty. But they are men who entered: the mines of Bendigo, Maryborough; Ballarat, and other parts of Victoria when they were strong and healthy, only to find! themselves at the age of thirty or thirty-five years rendered useless to the capitalist mineowners who are no longer able to exploit them. In order to preserve their own health even the workers have had to turn against men whose health has been ruined in the endeavour to make the wealthy men of this country even wealthier. And yet, forsooth, those wealthy men are not to be taxed to provide a little money to put bread into the mouths of the sufferers. What explanation can Senator McColl offer to the poor men who are living on the Watson Fund in Bendigo when he goes there and says: “I should have liked to provide some support for your families, but we had no money available”? What reply will he. give to the hungry men, their poor wives, and. practically starving kiddies when he is asked, “ If you cannot find the money for our necessities, where are you going to get the ,£2,000,000 for a Dreadnought ?” I do not know what answer he will give. It will require even greater hypocrisy than we have seen here to-day to find an effective answer. At Bendigo, Ballarat, Maryborough, and other mining centres in Victoria, Senator Trenwith received the votes of 20,000 miners to send him here - to do what?
– I shall get them again, too.
– No.. The honorable senator will not again receive those votes if the miners hear that he stated here that we cannot find the money. Only a few weeks ago he rose from his seat on the Treasury bench and said, “ I indorse the major portion of the Gympie programme.” When he made that remark, did he not indorse the right of the Fisher Government to levy a tax in order to provide money for these pensions?
– The Fisher Government did not propose to levy a tax in order to provide for these pensions this year.
– Has the honorable senator read the amendment? Does he not know that it provides for the payment of these pensions from the 1st January of next year? If it is a question of raising new taxation, and there is any little difficulty to be overcome through the :money not coming in to the Treasury until next year, surely the men who could raise ^2,000,000 within twenty-four hours for a Dreadnought could raise ,£200,000 or £300,00° to cover a period of :six or twelve months? Are we asking that this money shall be paid to the invalid poor as an act of charity? No; it “is to provide for men who have been maimed :in industries. There is no honorable senator to-day who will not admit that in every industry, not alone in Australia, but in the world, there is a tendency to force wages (down to the level of the necessities of the worker and his family. In some cases the rates have been fixed by the law of this State ‘below the level which would provide for a worker and his family. Are young men who work in unhealthy occupations to ‘be asked to practise thrift in order to provide for a rainy day when their health “is ruined ? Are men to be expected between the age of sixteen or seventeen years, and the age of thirty or thirty-five years, to save sufficient out of a wage of 7s. 6d. a day to provide for the time when they will no longer be able to work. Yet we find that two honorable senators, who have intimated their readiness to vote against our proposal, were returned on the votes of those miners and other persons in a similar position. They propose to go back and tell the men that they sympathize with them, and say how much they would have liked to extend what they evidently regard, not as an act of justice, but as an act of charity by the grace and generosity of men who are always -willing to postpone the grant until a time when it would be of very little use.
– -As the honorable senator has been doing for six months.
– Yes; the honorable senator and his party.
– The honorable senator “can find no speech or vote of mine which indicated that I was in favour of postponing the grant of either old-age or invalid pensions - not for six months, but for one moment.
– Can the honorable senator show me one single speech he made in which he publicly urged the Fisher Government to bring that portion of the Act into operation at once by issuing a proclamation ?
– No,- but I can show a record which sets out that the honorable senator attended a Labour Conference which was in favour of granting pensions, not to-day or six months hence, but sixteen years, ago.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that Senator Millen attended a Labour Conference?
– No, I was referring to a young man who was desirous of becoming a member of Parliament, and who did become one on the strength of the fact that he was in favour of legislation of this kind.
– Is this another “ geebung “ Labour man?
– No; but he is one of those who, like Senator Trenwith, would not have been here to-day had he not promised to provide invalid pensions and pass similar legislation for the benefit of the poorer classes.
– I won my first seat in Parliament by fighting a Labour man, and I expect that I shall also win my last one in that way.
– I have no objection to Senator Millen or Senator McColl or Senator Trenwith or even Senator Walker winning a seat here as an opponent of the Labour party, but Senator Trenwith, who came into this Chamber, proclaimed as a Labour man, willing to vote for this class of legislation, and who practically obtained the votes of the people under a false pretence, has no right to betray those who sent him here by proposing to postpone legislation of this sort. As he seems to be inclined to postpone this act of justice to the poor men of Victoria, I can only say that it is impossible for me to correct the evil of his vote here, but if it is within the power of myself and my colleagues, the poor men of this country shall know that he betrayed them despite the fact that he lived politically in the Senate on their votes.
– The concluding remarks of the last speaker were most extraordinary, and ought not, I think, to be tolerated in a Chamber of this character. He talked about me having betrayed some persons who voted for me. He ought to know, as most persons in Victoria know, that my career in the State during forty years has been absolutely consistent. Very frequently in his brief period here my young friend has shown how ill-informed he is as to facts that control the things which he sometimes thinks ought to be done.
– I heard the honorable senator speak once in the Sydney Domain. Will he go there again and speak ?
– I shall go wherever it is possible to advance what I believe to be the interests of humanity.’
– Will the honorable senator speak in the same place ?
– Order !
– I should not have risen, had it not been for the very extraordinary statements which have been made from the other side.” We are here as legislators to do what we think is best in the interests of the Commonwealth. We may often differ as to details in connexion with principles on which we are agreed. That appears to be the extent to which I differ in this case from Senator E. J. Russell, who has taken the liberty, in a wholesale way, to declare that I have betrayed certain people.
– Is this a question of detail ?
– If is most assuredly. The principle of this Bill is that invalid and old-age pensions shall be paid. That principle was adopted nearly twelve months ago, and it was possible to initiate it in any form only on the ist of last month. The circumstances of the case rendered it impossible to give effect to what we thought so desirable, until a very considerable time after the date on which we declared it desirable. We have advanced in this matter of old-age pensions enormously from the time of the first inception of the question in Australia. We have advanced to a much greater length from the inception of the question in New Zealand, where it was first dealt with in Australasia. When it was proposed and carried in New Zealand that old-age pensions should be instituted, those of us who believe in the principle shouted “ Hooray.” We thought that a splendid example had been set in New Zealand. It was a splendid example; but it was a very short step compared with the step we are taking to-day, even without the adoption of Senator McGregor’s amendment-
– It was npt such avery short step.
– It provided for the payment of less than 7s. a week, when we are proposing to pay 10s., not to old men and women only, but also to invalids, “ in the not distant future,” to use the words of the late Prime Minister.
– That is a very delicate qualification.
– The late Prime Minister also proposed taxation to make the payment of invalid pensions possible.
– I have no hesitation. in saying that I am, and always have been, prepared to do. what is necessary to find the means. But when we are proposing to fix the hour at which this thing shall be done, it is wise and fair to fix such a time as will allow of ample opportunity to provide the means to do it.
– -Will the honorable senator support a tax on the unimproved values of land ?
– It is not often that I object to interjections; but I think I have been outraged here to-night. In view of my career in this State and in Australia, I think I ought to-be permitted now to proceed without interruption.
– I asked the honorable senator a very pertinent question.
– The honorable senator is aware that his question raises an issue which is not now before the Committee.
– The honorable senator should give a direct answer to a direct question.
- Senator Needham is not entitled to call upon me to answer any question under the sun, when we have before us a particular question to which we should be compelled to confine our remarks. It the honorable senator knew anything of Victorian history, he would know my views on the question he has raised.
– I know several of the honorable senator’s views.
– Senator Needham cannot know several of my views on any single question, because I have not several views on any question. I shall not pay any more attention to the honorable senator.
– Will the honorable senator permit me to ask this question in fairness to himself? Will he say what words I have used in which I have not given him credit for any work he has ever done?
– I know that the honorable senator has said that I have betrayed some one. That is monstrously unjust.
– In this particular matter ; I did not refer to the honorable senator’s forty years’ career.
– I think I cannot be charged with egotism because it happens that with my longer and, may I be permitted to say, fuller knowledge of economic questions-
– It is not in good taste for the honorable senator to tell us what he knows, and what others do not know.
– It may not be in good taste, but Senator McGregor will remember that my remarks were elicited by observations which can hardly be regarded as in good taste. I am trying to deal with the issue before the Committee, while referring to what I consider the unwarranted nature of the allegation made against me, I do not care what my honorable friends opposite may think. My record shows that I have not merely sympathy with, but active and vigorous advocacy and action to refer to in c’onnexion with measures of this sort. I have not always been able to agree with my honorable friends opposite.
– The honorable senator is evidently against us every time now.
– I cannot help that. I suppose that is the fault of honorable senators opposite. I am with them every time they are right. I cannot do more.
– The honorable senator must think that the Government are right every time now, because he is always with them.
– The Government have been right all the time since the commencement of this session, and for that reason I have been with them. In spite of their declarations, honorable senators opposite have not been able to be against the Government every time since the commencement of the session. They have been continually preaching that it was their action that has forced the Government in this matter. That may be so. I do not care who has forced the Govern ment when the fact remains that they are now in a position in- which I am glad to support them.
– The honorable senator has voted against his own speech this afternoon.
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn. It is declared that I voted against my own speech this afternoon. That is positively incorrect, and I ask that it shall not be permitted to stand.
– If the honorable senator desires that I shall withdraw the statement I do withdraw it, but I can think it all the same.
– That is an example of the taste of honorable senators opposite. 1 know the speech to which Senator Needham referred. I said in the most definite manner that I would vote for Senator Henderson’s proposal if it was made to apply at the end of 1910. Is not that what I said?
– That is another qualification.
– The honorable senator never talked like that when I heard him in the Sydney Domain. There was no nonsense about him then.
– I do not know on what subject I spoke when the honorable senator heard me in the Sydney Domain.
– I heard the honorable senator in his early days, when he was fighting hi,: way up.
– I am trying to deal with the issue now before the Committee, and I ventured the opinion that it is wise if we name a date beyond which the operation of this provision shall not be postponed - and that does not fix the date on which it will come into operation - to allow a reasonable time to elapse. I should not have discussed the matter further, but for the extraordinary statement made by Senator E. J. Russell.
– Will the honorable senator .say in what way I was guilty of an outrage? Will he tell me what I said that was wrong?
– I say it was an outrage for the honorable senator to speak of me as betraying.
– Betraying the men who sent the honorable senator into this Chamber.
– I do not know what the honorable senator is talking of. I say that I have voted throughout my political career, and shall do so wherever I have the opportunity, on the lines of this Bill, to make provision for those who are unable to provide for themselves. But it is not necessary that I should stand up and talk to the electors, and prate about things that I know to be impracticable, in the hope that I may hoodwink some persons into believing that I am the real Simon Pure, and that nobody else is. I shall never do that.
– Senator Trenwith has accused me of committing an outrage upon him. I certainly spoke strongly, and I meant and felt what I said. I spoke, not on behalf of myself, but on behalf of those who by their votes sent Senator Trenwith to this Chamber. I waited patiently for a reply to the facts I quoted, and the only reply I got was the statement that I had committed an outrage upon the honorable senator. Walking down Bourke-street and Swanston-street to the railway station, we can see half-a-dozen men any day, cap in hand, begging, because they have been maimed in following their occupationin some manufacturing industry. I ask the honorable senator now, in all fairness, to say whether he does not knowthat there are hundreds of men in the mining districts, not to speak of the manufacturing districts, who, because their health has been shattered by working in the mines, and who because they know no other occupation, are unable now to secure employment in any part of Victoria. These men voted to send the honorable senator to this Chamber. He can make that claim with pride. But I ask him whether he believes that one of these miners who is now suffering from miner’s complaint would have given him a vote if he knew that he was going to postpone the assistance which would keep the bread in his mouth. I say that by the honorable senator’s vote to-night he has betrayed the men who sent him here to support legislation of this kind. That was the strongest statement I made, and if that is an outrage upon the honorable senator, I can only say that if is justified ten times over in the interests of the poor men to whom I have referred. Senator Trenwith has brought to his rescue his forty years’ record, and I wish to say that I have never at any time adversely criticised his early record. In my last speech in this Chamber, I gave the honorable senator credit for his influence on me as a young fellow. I wish again to say that I owe a good deal to Senator Trenwith, as I knew him in the early days.
– The miners the honorable, senator speaks of owe a good deal to me also, and they know it, and acknowledge it.
– The honorable senator owes them a good deal, too.
– I admit that I do.
– I have given Senator Trenwith full credit for all the work he has done in Victoria. But I say that Senator Trenwith, prior to 1900, and the same honorable senator since that date, are as far apart as is the most rabid Socialist in this Chamber, from the Leader of the Anti-Socialist party, Senator St. Ledger. Of course I say that without any intention of offence to Senator St. Ledger. What was the basis of Senator Trenwith’s political record? The denunciation of every man who attempted to sweat another, and the denunciation of the land monopolist. But to-day, when we desire to insert a clause whichmay compel the Government to impose taxation upon land monopolists to raise the money to give it effect, we have not his co-operation.
– I desire to know whether the honorable member’s remarks are pertinent to the clause ?
– The honorable senator was beginning to put himself in order by discussing the ways and means aspect of this matter.
- Senator Trenwith ‘s whole political career-
– The honorable senator is now out of order.
– Seeing that the rules of this Chamber will not permit me to say what I wish to say, I shall leave Senator Trenwith to explain his votes to those who sent him here.
Motion (by SenatorMillen) proposed -
That the Senatedo now adjourn.
Senator St. LEDGER (Queensland) [10.58].- With the leave of the Senate I should like tomake a personal explanation.During the debate upon the oldage pensionsscheme, I was charged by
Senator Turley with having exhibited sympathy with that proposal merely from a desire to win the support of the Labour party. To that statement I give an emphatic and absolute denial. He also stated that I had expressed regret to him that I could not gain the support of the Labour party.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 August 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19090804_senate_3_50/>.