12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
SenatorR. D. ELLIOTT. - I should like to know why there has been delay in presenting to the Senate the papers in connexion with the Canadian trade agreement?
– A copy of the agreement will be laid on the table this afternoon. It is not customary to move simultaneously in both chambers in regard to any matter for which a bill must be passed.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Markets the following question, without notice: -
– I have no knowledge of any proposal to appoint Mr. Gibbons to any position.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act-
Eleventh Annual Report, 1st July, 1930, to 30th June, 1931.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory. (Administration) Act - Health Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Trade agreement between Canada and Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Home Affairs has advised that he has nothing to add to the statement made by him on the subject, as reported in Hansard of yesterday’s date.
asked the Minister representing theMinister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Home Affairs has advised that he has nothing to add to the statement made by him on the subject; as reported in Hansard of yesterday’s date.
New South Wales Collections - Assistance to Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania
– Information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible, in reply to a question, upon notice, asked by Senator Dunn relating to the proportion of Commonwealth revenue collected in New South
Wales, and the amount of financial assistance rendered to the States of Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania.
Justices of the Peace.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– A Justice of the Peace for New South Wales, or any other State, cannot exercise any judicial functions in the Territory. These functions are exercisable by magistrates only. I know of nothing to prevent a justice for a State authenticating in the Territory documents under the laws of a State which may be authenticated by a justice. Justices of the Peace of any State in the Territory, or elsewhere, may accept declarations under the Commonwealth Statutory Declarations Act 1911-1922.
– Information is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible in answer to a question, upon notice, asked by Senator Foll relating to the rights of Commonwealth taxation officers transferred to State services.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to reduce the interest rates onsoldiers’ homes from5 per cent. to 3 per cent.?
– In the budget speech, the honorable the Treasurer announced that it had been decided to reduce the rate of interest on advances for War Service Homes from 5 per cent. to 4½ per cent.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Order of the day read and discharged for the resumption of the debate from the 8th July (vide page 3524) on the following motion by Senator Barnes : -
That the paper be printed.
Senator BARNES (Victoria- Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [3.10]. - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to provide a sum of £10,000,000 from the consolidated revenue fund for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. Similar appropriations are made from time to time and transfers are made under the authority of the Appropriation Act to the trust account from which pensions are paid. From the inception of the payment of invalid and old-age pensions in 1909 to the 30th June last, the amount expended for this purpose was £120,798,000. The amount now asked for, together with the balance of appropriation at 30th June, will suffice approximately for the requirements of the present financial year. The bill has no bearing on the rates of pension payable, or on the provisions of the Financial Emergency Bill now before Parliament, being merely an appropriation of revenue to cover payments of pensions at authorized rates.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Appropriation of £10,000,000 for invalid and old-age pensions).
– While we all admit the necessity for this bill, I wish to impress upon the Government the need to tighten up the conditions under which pensions are granted. Yesterday we were faced with the unpleasant duty of voting for a measure which had for one of its objects the reduction of pensions that are legitimately payable. The financial position of the Commonwealth suggests the need for the strictest care being exercised to prevent fraud. Recently there appeared in the Sydney press a report of a court case in which a woman was charged with bigamy. The evidence disclosed that the accused had gone through the ceremony of marriage with three different men; that all three were living; that she had an order of the court against the second man for the maintenance of herself and child; that at about the time when she married her third “ husband “ she sued the second man and had him put in gaol for arrears, of maintenance; that she had an order against a bachelor in New South Wales for the maintenance of two pledges of affection that she had given him, and that, during the whole of this time, she had been in receipt of an invalid pension. I may add that she was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment, and, I understand, that after the trial the three “ husbands “ met outside the court and held a consultation with regard to the action of the law in depriving them of a property in which, so to speak, they had a joint and several interest. Ibring this matter under the notice of the Minister because, no doubt, other cases of fraud are being perpetrated in all the States to the detriment of those who are legitimately entitled to pensions. I hope that the Leader of the Senate will bring under the notice of Cabinet the urgent need for tightening up the regulations, and impressing upon any Commonwealth officials who permit frauds to be committed at the public expense, a stricter sense of their duty.
– The case mentioned by the honorable senator is, to say the least, very interesting. It is understandable that a woman of that character would take watching. I shallbring the matter under the notice of the Treasurer, with a view to suitable action.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 15th July (vide page 3889).
Clauses 3 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other act or in any regulation, contract, or agreement, or in any award, determination, order, or decision of any authority having power to fix rates of salary, wages, pay, or allowances, all salaries of officers and employees, whether such salary is payable under special appropriation or otherwise, shall be reduced by Thirty-four pounds per annum in the case of adult male officers or employees, and of married officers or employees who are not adults, by Twenty-two pounds ten shillings per annum in the case of adult female officers, and by Seventeen pounds per annum in the case of unmarried officers or employees who are not adults.
.- I move-
That the words “ twenty-two pounds ten shillings “, sub-clause 1, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ twenty-eight pounds “.
Prior to the introduction of the system of adjusting salaries annually according to the rise or fall in the cost of living, no differentiation was made between males and females in the matter of salaries. In 1924 the first general salary adjustment was made following a rise in the cost of living, when adult male officers were granted an additional £9 per annum, and adult female officers an additional £7 per annum. Two subsequent increases of £6 each in the case of male officers, and £4 each in the case of female officers have been granted. It will, therefore, be seen that male officers have received increases amounting to £21, and female officers increases amounting to £15 because of the rise in the cost of living. If the clause stands as printed, and £34 is deducted from the salary of each adult male officer, and £22 10s. from the salary of each adult female officer, an anomaly will be created. In order to overcome that anomaly, and to retain the previously existing relative position of officers, it is proposed that the reductions in the case of male officers shall remain at £34, but that the deduction shall be £28. instead of £22 10s., in the case of female officers. The amendment gives effect to that intention.
– As it is my intention to vote against this clause, I shall oppose the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 11 agreed to.
Clause 12- (1.) The last two preceding sections shall not apply to officers and employees to whom this section applies and the salaries of such officers and employees shall be subject to reduction as follows: -
Provided that any reduction so determined shall approximate as nearly as practicable to the amounts by which salaries (corresponding in amount to the salaries of members of the Forces) of officers and employees are respectively reduced under the last two preceding sections;
Amendment (by Senator Barnes) agreed to -
That before the word “ Naval “, sub-clause (1), paragraph (i), the word “permanent” be inserted.
.- I move-
That the words “ except to such extent, if any, as the Minister, upon the receipt of a recommendation of the committee directs “, sub-clause (1) paragraph (ii), be left out.
Although the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has authority to deal with matters of this kind, power is to be given to the Minister under this clause to vary any award of that tribunal. It is useless allowing such a tribunal to function if its powers are to be interfered with by a Minister, who, under this provision, can vary its decisions.
– It was mentioned yesterday that the “ chickens are now coming home to roost “. I think that members of both branches of the legislature will soon find that that is the case. If Ave give a Minister authority to interfere with wages he will have the power to reduce them below £182 per annum. Under this provision we are placing too much power in the hands of the Minister, who can reject a recommendation of the committee, and use the axe in a drastic manner. Arbitration is the established policy of the Commonwealth, yet we are, by this provision, destroying the principle of arbitration. Although this is a financial emergency bill, it may become a permanent measure, and this power may be
U3ed by some future government. .The Government should keep its hands off the work of the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable senator supported this Government in interfering with a decision of the Arbitration Court in the waterside workers case.
– I am now dealing with the clause before the committee. I regard it .as a duty to sound a note of warning. If we proceed along these lines, I do not know who will be the winner, and who the loser in the end.1 An unjust method is being adopted of dealing with employees, whether they be inside or outside the Government Service. If we abolish all conciliatory and arbitral methods, and say that he who pays the piper shall call the tune, we shall revert to direct action. I do not believe that in these enlightened days any honorable senator will contend that direct action is preferable to conciliation and arbitration. I do not; and for that reason I am supporting the amendment.
Senator DUNN (New South Wales) 3.41]. - I cannot understand why a government that was elected to uphold the principle of arbitration should retire from that position. The last election was fought on this issue, and the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and other responsible Ministers assured the people of this country that if a Labour government were returned to power it would preserve this basic principle, which is one of the chief planks in the platform of the
Labour party. As Senator Kneebone has rightly said, these chickens will come home to roost. Here is a government that proposes to scrap the very principle that was responsible for its election to office. It proposes to place in the hands of a Minister the responsibility of disallowing an award of the Arbitration Court on the recommendation of a committee. I cannot repress the indignation that I feel at a government which was elected to buttress the arbitration principle allowing such a fundamental alteration to be made. Senator Bae is to be congratulated upon having attempted to prevent such a shocking state of affairs. I say, shame on the Ministers who are responsible for this proposal.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.44]. - This clause embodies provisions that are in pursuance of the principle of conciliation and arbitration. If honorable senators will turn to clause 13 they will see that it provides for the setting up of an arbitral, body, consisting of a member of the Commonwealth Public Service Board, a representative of the Public Service Arbitrator, and a person appointed by the Governor-General. I understand that the Governor-General in Council will be empowered to appoint a representative of the particular class or division concerned. Those are the lines on which many conciliation committees in New South Wales are already constituted. The Minister will not be able to act except upon a recommendation of that committee.
– If what Senator Pearce has said is correct, and the committee that is to be constituted will control the rise and fall in wages, paragraph i is superfluous.
– During the-last twelve months, wages have been reduced by Ministers with the support of the honorable senator.
– If they were, I was ignorant of the fact. I was not aware that any Minister had the power to reduce wages as he thought fit.
– They rationed employees, which is equivalent to a reduction of wages.
– That is a different matter. What right has any Minister directly to reduce wages as he thinks fit? If we proceed along these lines we shall absolutely destroy the principle of arbitration. The Labour party won the last elections on the cry that the rise and fall in wages should be controlled by a properly constituted tribunal. Now, however, it proposes what is absolutely contrary to the very principle of arbitration. I cannot understand men whose whole lives have been passed in the industrial mill supporting anything of this nature.
– This is described as conciliation.
– I cannot see where there is any room for conciliation, when one person has the power to lower wages as he thinks fit. I call it direct action. I am surprised to find this provision in a bill introduced by a Labour government. We are getting worse as we proceed. It is enough to make a Labourite shed tears of blood. No wonder the people are disgusted.
– I should like to know what all the fuss is about. In the first place, a committee will be appointed whose duty it will be to make recommendations in regard to reductions. Under an amendment to be proposed by the Minister, protection will be afforded to those who are likely to be reduced below the minimum wage of £182 a year. That refers to casual workers, about whom our friends are so keenly concerned. Where there is a danger of any reduction bringing the wage below £182 a year, the question will be referred to the Minister for his consideration.
– The Minister’s explanation is not satisfactory. The clause clearly indicates that the committee to be appointed will have no power to do other than recommend further reductions. It will not be empowered to recommend increases. In short, this is a one-way provision. Although expensive machinery has been set up for the settlement of all such matters by means of arbitration, the clause gives unlimited arbitrary power to the Minister to effect reductions, and the employees affected are to be deprived of any means of obtaining redress.
– I have always taken particular notice of the speeches delivered by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition and, without throwing bouquets at him, I can say that I have never detected him in an untruth, but on this occasion I think thai he is wrong in saying that clause 13 will afford every protection to the public servants. My view is that it will do nothing of the kind. It relates solely to a committee which has no relation whatever to the Federal Arbitration Court. One can understand Senator Dooley saying that no Minister would deprive a public servant of anything to which he was rightly entitled, but the present Government may not always occupy the treasury benches. Paragraph (ii) of sub-clause 3 contains these words -
No further reduction of the salary shall he effected under this act except to such extent, if any, as the Minister, upon the receipt of the recommendation of the committee, directs.
In those words we see a danger of a government taking away a right that belongs to the workers in the Commonwealth Service, to whom this Parliament should afford every protection.
– I hate to intervene in this family quarrel, but I should like to see the words “provided that the salary of an adult male employee “ altered to “ provided that the salary of a married adult male employee “, and at the proper time I shall move to have the alteration made. The single man can look after himself. I want to see some protection afforded to the married adult employee.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment moved by Senator Bae. Ample safeguard will be provided by the proviso which I intend to move at the end of paragraph (ii) of sub-clause 1. That proviso is as follows: -
Provided that the salary of an adult male employee or of a married male employee who is not an adult, shall not be reduced under this sub-paragraph below the equivalent oi £182 per annum unless the Minister so directs.
That amendment should also meet Senator Thompson’s objection. The purpose of it is to give the Minister power to rectify anomalies. An officer whose salary is reduced by 20 per cent, may find that he is being paid less than an officer doing an inferior class of work. The proviso will enable the Minister to make the necessary adjustments to establish equity in the matter. In any case, I understand that these amendments have been approved by the committee representative of those who are most affected by this particular portion of the bill.
Question - That the words proposed to he left out be left out (Senator Rae’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator Plain.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the word “ and “ at the end of subclause (1.), paragraph (ii), be left out with a view to add the following proviso : - “ Provided that the salary of an adult male employee, or of a married male employee who is not an adult, shall not ho reduced under this sub-paragraph below the equivalent of £182 per annum unless the Minister so directs; and “.
Honorable senators appear to be concerned over nothing, because wages and conditions are fixed by the Arbitration Court,and the Minister can act only on the recommendation of the committee. The proposed new sub-clause protects the basic wage. With this provision in the bill, the salary of an adult male employee cannot be reduced below £182 per annum unless the Minister so directs.
– I move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the word “an” (first occurring), with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ a married “.
My purpose is to protect the interests of married adult male employees, and ensure that singleadult male employees shall bear their share of the burden.
– The proviso already protects the position of married male employees.
Amendment of amendment negatived. Senator RAE (New South Wales) [4.10].- I move-
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ unless the Minister so directs “.
I fail to see why we should give the Minister discretionary power to still further reduce wages. I am at a loss to understand why those who have been fighting for weeks and months past against authority being vested in a Minister to make regulations which did not happen to affect wages, but conditions of employment, should allow the proviso to be inserted in its present form, because virtually it will give the Minister a free hand.
– The Minister will not act except upon a recommendation of the committee.
– But the constitution of the committee will not ensure adequate protection for the employees, and it may recommend further reductions. I have not heard any argument to justify the retention of these words.
Amendment of amendment negatived.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 13- (1.) For the purposes of this part there shall be a committee which shall consist of a member of the Commonwealth Public Service Board of Commissioners, the Public Service Arbitrator, and a person appointed by the Governor-General. . . .
– I move -
That the words “ person appointed by the Governor-General”, sub-clause (1.), be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Public Service employee”.
During the discussion on one of the earlier clauses, it was pointed out that this committee would be an all-powerful arbitral body in the matter of wage reductions. This being so, public servants should have direct representation on it.
– The public servants will politically slay the honorable senator when next they have the opportunity.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator; but, in any case, J must do my duty as I see it. If I am wrong, then I must take the consequences. I contend that, since the function of the proposed committee will be to inquire into special cases in relation to wage3 adjustment claims and conditions of employment, one of its members should be a Public Service employee.
– I support the amendment. In my opinion the third nominee should be a representative of the Public Service. Senator Ogden suggested just now that the public servants would deal with Senator Hoare at the first opportunity. I suppose his remarks would apply, also, to those who support the amendment. Only a few months ago a certain section of employees in the Postal Departs ment did not see eye to eye with the State executive of the Labour party of New South Wales with regard to the Lang plan, and trouble arose over a letter sent by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) asking that Mr. McPherson, the organizing secretary, should be released for three months to undertake organizing work. It would be only rightthat this big body of men, 80 per cent, of whom receive little ‘.more than the basic wage, should be given representation on the committee.
– As the clause stands they will be represented.
– If that is so, why not have it definitely stated in the bill?
– I do not know the reason for this storm in a teacup. The clause provides that the committee shall consist of a member of the Commonwealth Public Service Board of Commissioners, the Public Service Arbitrator, and a person appointed by the Governor-General. The provision that the Governor-General may. appoint a member of the committee is the usual provision made in many acts of Parliament. Hitherto, no complaint has been made that he should have that power. If the present Government were in office when the appointment was about to be made, it would, no doubt, ask the Governor-General to appoint a person representative of a large section of the people.
– The Minister’s remarks show that he is hopelessly behind in his knowledge of what the Labour movement stands for. He fails to see why the employees should be represented on the committee. Senator Duncan interjected just now, “ What about the public being represented?” The other two persons proposed to be appointed will represent the general, public rather than the employees, as such. It cannot be said that a member of the Public Service Board of Commissioners would be a representative of the employees.
– The members of the Public Service Board of Commissioners are public servants.
– They are not the creatures of the employees.
– The . previous Public Service Arbitrator was.
– These men do not hold office because of any act of the employees.
– But they are employees.
– Yes; but very highlypaid ones. The Public Service Board of Commissioners is the buffer between the employees and the State. Its members cannot act in that capacity and, at the same time, represent the employees specially.
– What about the Public Service Arbitrator?
– His job is to deal with the law as he finds it. Obviously, the interests of these persons - are different from those of the employees. Their duty is to conserve the interests of the public against any special demands made by the employees. In a democratic country the employees on the lower salaries should have some one on the committee to give expression to their views. If that were done the committee would be much more complete than otherwise. Senator Barnes, in accepting as sufficient the practice which has been followed almost from the time of Noah, shows that he is a hopeless reactionary. In the old days employees were looked upon as necessary evils; it was then out of the question for them to ask to be given direct representation on any body which controlled them in any way. Although the clause provides for the appointment being made by the Governor-General, we all know that, in practice, that means the Government of the day.
– Cannot the honorable senator trust the Government?
– I can trust the present Government to do anything foolish or reactionary. It has shown an inclination to vie with honorable senators opposite in doing that which is reactionary. I would trust it no further than that. Any honorable senator who believes in democracy must vote for the amendment, otherwise the employees will be- debarred from representation on the committee at all. Honorable senators opposite express concern for the interests of the general public insofar as those interests differ from the interests of the employees; but I maintain that those interests will be amply protected by the other appointments. I should be satisfied if the clause read “ a person representative of the employees appointed by the Governor-General”. I am prepared to allow the Governor-General to make the appointment. As I have said, only those who are wedded to reaction will vote against the amendment.
– I have been charged with being a reactionary. I point out that probably 50 or 60 organizations will be affected by this measure. If the Government desired to appoint some one to represent those organizations, it would find some difficulty in doing so. Senator Rae says that the Public Service Board of Commissioners is the buffer between the public servants and the State. I remind him that it is proposed to appoint also the Public Service Arbitrator - a man of high standing in the Public Service. The third member of the committee will, if the clause is passed in its present form, be appointed by the Governor-General, which, as the honorable senator states, means the government of the day. The present Government knows of several men of outstanding ability connected with the Labour movement, who would be well qualified to fill the third position. If the appointment were made by the pre sent Government, one of those men would, in all probability, be elected. On the other hand, if a government representing the Opposition were in power, the position would probably be reversed. I submit that the clause in its present form adequately meets the situation.
– The Leader of the Opposition-. (Senator Barnes) will not get away with, that “ dope “ while I am in the chamber.. The Government of which he is a member is reactionary in its outlook.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain). I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I was referring to the Minister’s attack on Senator Rae. The Minister said that the Government was competent to appoint a person to represent the employees. I want to see incorporated in this bill a provision which will definitely give the employees representation on the board. The Minister can rest assured that the industrial organizations with which federal employees are connected will demand the right of representation on the committee, and will net be dictated to by any “ scabby “ government.
– I do not know whether the Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) realizes what his explanation means. The Minister says that if the present Government were in office when the appointment was made it would appoint a member of a union.
– I did not say that the Government would do so.
– The Minister made clear the intention of the Government. He also said that another government might act differently. I feel disposed to move the following proviso - “ Provided that such representative shall not be a member of the Public, Service, nor shall he be a member of an industrial trade union “.
– Or the head of the All For Australia League.
– Or Mr. Hardy, the Leader of the Riverina movement.
– If the intention of the Government is to appoint a prominent member of the Labour movement, the clause should be altered to give effect to its intention.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Hoare’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority. . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
New clause 14a.
Amendment (by Senator Barnes) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 14a. Where the annual salary remaining after making reductions and deductions in pursuance of this part, includes a fraction of one pound that fraction, if it is less than ten shillings, shall be disregarded, and if it is ten shilings or over, shall be treated as being one pound “.
Clause 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 (Reduction of fees and allowances).
Amendments (by Senator Barnes) agreed to -
That after sub-clause 2 the following new sub-clause be inserted: - (2a.) Where the total amount received by any person in any year by way of payments, fees or allowances to which cither of the last two preceding sub-sections applies, exceeds one thousand pounds, that amount shall be reduced by such percentage, additional to any percentage by which it is reduced under either of those sub-sections, as the Minister directs, but so that the total reduction under this section shall not in any case exceed twenty-five per centum.
That the following new sub-clause be added at the end of the clause: - (5.) The preceding provisions of this section shall not apply to -
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 17 to 19 agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Barnes) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted in Part II.- ( 19a ) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Income Tax Collection Act 1923-24, or in any agreement made in pursuance of that act, any officer or employee transferred to the service of a State in pursuance of that act or of any such agreement shall he subject, under the law of the State to the service of which he is transferred, to such reduction in salary as other officers of the State with corresponding salaries are subject.
Clause 20- (2.) All payments of pensions payable by the Commonwealth under section eighty-four of the Constitution to any person who, having been transferred from the public service of a State to the public service of the Commonwealth, is entitled to retire, or has retired, from office on the pension permitted by the law of the State as if his service with the Commonwealth were a continuation of his service with the State, shall be reduced by such percentages or amounts as are provided, from time to time, . . .
Amendment (by Senator Barnes) agreed to -
That after the word “ pensions “ the words “ or retiring allowances “ he inserted.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister (Senator Barnes) a. matter to which I should like him to give consideration. In the absence of any data, it is impossible for me to move an amendment to this clause, or to ascertain the amount that would be involved if the suggestion I make were adopted. I have a letter from a superannuated public servant in Victoria, who, in direct- . ing attention to this clause, says -
In very many eases these persons-
That is superannuated Commonwealth public servants - are receiving very small amounts, and it is probable that many of them will never regain the amount contributed by them, moreover in many cases their small superannuation allowance is their only income. To deduct from this amount would be reducing the standard of living, of which wo hear so much about, to a very low level. Would you please use your best endeavours to have clause 20 of the bill amended so that no deduction should be made below an amount of £156 per annum.
That letter reached me by mail only this morning. We have admitted in previous clauses of this bill the principle that none of these reductions shall bring any salary below a certain amount. A great injustice or hardship may be imposed on some persons who are in receipt of pensions under the Superannuation Act. We are taking a serious step that can he justified only on the ground that an effort is being made to spread the burden equitably over the whole community. These payments have been made in pursuance of an act of Parliament. That contract is being broken because this country is faced with a crisis in its financial affairs. I do not know how much is involved, and have not had an opportunity to make inquiries or to obtain information ; therefore, I do not propose to move an amendment. But, I suggest that the Minister ascertain the amount that would be involved in the prescription of an amount below which the payment shall not go. I should like to have his assurance that the matter will be fully considered, and that at a later stage of the hill, if possible, effect will be given to the principle of establishing a minimum below which reductions shall not be made. Otherwise, we may deal inequitably with this particular class of person.
– I have had this matter under consideration only this morning, upon the receipt of a letter somewhat similar to that which has been read by the honorable senator. Although, at first sight, the position may appear to be as stated by the honorable senator, I believe that a closer examination will show that there is very little justification for holding that view:For example, in the case of an officer who transferred from the State to the Commonwealth Service, and whose pension amounts to £4 a week, half of the pension is paid by the State and half by the Commonwealth. Seeing that provision has been made for the reduction of the old-age pension by 2s. 6d. a week, we cannot be accused of acting harshly if we take 4s. from a person who is receiving £2 a week from the Commonwealth.
Clause also consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 21 to 25 agreed to.
Clause 26- (1.) Section four of the principal act is amended by omitting the word “ Five “ and inserting in its stead the word “ Four “.
– I move -
That after the word “ Four”, subclause (1), the words: - “pounds nineteen shillings “ be inserted.
I feel sure that in this action I shall have the hearty co-operation, not only of Ministers of the Crown and Government supporters, but also of my honorable friends of the Opposition. The maternity allowance has been in operation for many years, and Australia has prided itself upon the fact that it leads the world in this class of legislation. I am confident that honorable senators opposite will decline to carry the sins of their political associates in another place, and that they will consent to the reduction of the allowance only to the extent of1s.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 27 (Who may be claimants).
– I am opposed to this and the two succeeding clauses, which propose to place the maternity allowance on an entirely different basis from what it has been on hitherto. The principle that they seek to establish is that any person whose income exceeds a certain amount shall not be entitled to the allowance. I was a member of the Senate when the Maternity Allowance Act was enacted by the Fisher Labour Government. The strong point then made was that this allowance was not to be considered as a dole for paupers who otherwise would have no possibility of receiving proper medical attention, but as a recognition of the importance of motherhood ; and that, therefore, it should be granted in the case of every birth, irrespective of the financial position of the parents. It would have been a good thing had old-age pensions been based on a similar principle. It appears to me that a great deal of what will be saved by these proposals will be swallowed up in the extra cost of administration. Where a limit is prescribed it must necessarily lead to investigation, inquisitorial methods, and policing. The cost of administration must, therefore, enormously increase. In my opinion, the principle upon which the allowance is based should not, be touched. A reduction by one-fifth will bring about a considerable saving, but it will not all be clear saving if we are to prescribe limitations involving inquisitorial investigations that destroy the basic principle of the act.
– What was the basic principle of the act?
– The recognition of motherhood by a grant of an allowance sufficient to tide the mother over a difficult and dangerous period. I admit that people possessed of large means draw the allowance. It was intended that they should do so, because it meant preventing the allowance from having any pauper or charity aspect about it. Even if persons with large means do draw the allowance, it very often happens that what they pay in income tax returns to the State very much more than is drawn from it in this way.
– Would the honorable senator argue that persons who contribute a large share of the country’s taxation should be given a special allowance?
– Not necessarily. To prescribe that the possession of a certain income should render a person ineligible to draw the maternity allowance would necessarily mean an arbitrary line of demarcation which, in many cases, might inflict an injustice on persons with heavy commitments. In any case, the machinery necessary to administer the act is likely to be tremendously augmented by preventing persons whose incomes are above a certain mark from applying for the maternity allowance. In my opinion all mothers in Australia, without distinction, should be entitled to claim the allowance. Consequently I oppose the clause.
Question - That clause 27 be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 28 to 30 agreed to.
Clause 31 (Citation).
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [5.15]. - I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Government a case which has come under my attention, and which I believe is a sample of a number of cases that will be found to exist among old-age pensioners. It indicates, I think, a possi- bility of effecting a considerable saving. Two persons, who, I am informed, were born in Australia decided to leave this country and live in New Zealand. They resided in New Zealand continuously for 20 years, and then returned to Australia. Being over 65 years of age they applied for old-age pensions, and last year obtained them.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The act would appear to disqualify such cases. Section 17 of the Invalid and OldAge Pensions Act provides -
No person shall receive an old-age pension unless -
he is residing in Australia on the date when he makes his claim to the pension;
he has on that date so resided continuously for at least 20 years;
Section 18 provides -
1) Continuous residence in Australia shall not be deemed to have been interrupted by occasional absences not exceeding in the aggregate one-tenth of the total period of residence. (1a) Continuous residence in Australia shall not be deemed to have been interrupted by absence in a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, or in any British possession which becomes a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth.
That would not cover New Zealand -
A person, whether claimant or pensioner, shall not be deemed to be absent from Australia if he proves that during that period his home was in Australia, and if married that his wife and family, or his wife (if he has no family), or his family (if his wife is dead), resided in Australia and were maintained by him.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Not in the provisions I have read. The persons whose case I have mentioned would appear to be disqualified under those sections, yet they were granted pensions.
Senator SIR GEORGE PEARCE.No. The department, I understand, was in possession of the facts. Some years ago a question arose as to the interpretation of these particular provisions - I am not sure whether they were the same as now; as a matter of fact I think they have sincebeen amended - and a former
Attorney-General gave an interpretation of the law under which, so I am informed, the department has since been acting and under which these people obtained their pensions. Obviously it was never the intention of this Parliament that people should get pensions under the circumstances I have outlined. I am not aware of any reciprocity with New Zealand that covers the point. If the Minister will have inquiries made in the Pensions Department as to cases in Tasmania during last year, he will find that what I have mentioned has occurred. There is, I understand, correspondence on the files of the department between the Deputy Commissioner in Tasmania and the Central Office. I may add that I have not been supplied with this information by any one in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Office either here or in Tasmania.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The clause deals only with reductions.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The clause cites the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and in discussing it I think I am entitled to refer to cases in which, in my opinion, pensions are being paid illegally. If it is the intention of the Government to review the system under which pension payments are made, I suggest that an inquiry should be made into the case which I have cited. If the facts are as I have stated, it is possible that some persons are in receipt of pensions, although they had resided outside Australia continuously for twenty years.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 32 agreed to.
Section 24 of the Principal Act is amended - (a) by omitting from sub-section 1 the words “ fifty-two pounds “ (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the words “forty-five pounds ten shillings”; and
Section proposed to he amended - ( 1 . ) The amount of a pension shall in each case be at such rate . . . but shall not exceed the rate of fifty-two pounds per annum in amy event nor shall it be at such a rate as will make the pensioner’s income, together with pension, exceed eighty-four pounds ten
.- I move-
That the words “forty-five”, paragraph (a), be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ fifty-one “.
The clause cuts across another cardinal principle of the Labour party. Senator Lynch and the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) were pioneer members of the Labour movement in Australia. For many years, they took an active part in the Labour conventions at which the party’s policy was framed. Consequently, they had some share in the enactment of the legislation under which invalid and old-age pensions have been paid for so many years. I very much regret that the Government has seen fit to bring down amendments to reduce the pensions payable to our infirm and aged people, especially in view of the fact that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) is general president, and his colleague, Senator Dooley, is president of the railways section of the Australian Workers Union, which organization has sent many eminent men to the Parliaments of this country. Both honorable gentlemen are, no doubt, aware that a considerable number of pioneers in the Labour movement are now, in the evening of their lives, inmates of the home for aged people at Lidcombe and the Salvation Array home at Collaroy. Although those old people may not have had their names inscribed on a roll of honour, they have all done theirduty and played their part in the development of this country. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will not oppose the amendment.
– Will the Minister explain the purpose of the proposed amendments?
– I appreciate the pathetic appeal made by Senator Dunn to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) and myself as prominent officials in the Australian Workers Union, and I regret that circumstances compel us to oppose his amendment. The clause makes provision to reduce the invalid and old-age pensions from£l per week to 17s. 6d. per week. This matter has been fully debated already, and it has been shown that unless this proposal, as part of the general plan, is adopted, the financial difficulties of the nation will become so acute that it may not be possible to pay pensioners even 10s. per week.
– We are told that we should be prepared to accept this nominal reduction in order to avoid later what is termed an actual reduction of pensions. The Minister has indicated the alternative. His argument was answered in a previous discussion. We have shown that it would be possible, by the adoption of other means, to obtain sufficient revenue and render unnecessary any reduction of pensions. Why cannot the proposed taxation of incomes be increased, thus obtaining additional revenue from those who have something, including ourselves ?
– The honorable senator voted for clause 18; it protects his income.
– That has nothing to do with this matter. I am not endeavouring to secure any personal advantage. All honorable senators know that any contribution which the individual can make will not meet the national emergency. I am quite prepared to accept any reduction of my allowance, even down to the basic wage, rather than inflict hardship upon our invalid and old-age pensioners. It has been asserted, but it is a specious, as well as an unworthy argument, that the decline in the cost of living will compensate pensioners for the reduction which it is proposed to make in their pensions. We have no right to assume that the official statistics, relating to the fall in the cost of living, apply in reality to the consumers in Australia, because those figures are based on wholesale rates which are not always reflected in the retail charges.
– They are based on retail rates.
– I affirm, without any fear of disproof, that numberless articles of consumption are not substantially reduced in price, and that prices for other commodities, such as potatoes, eggs, butter, vegetables, fluctuate so enormously that it is impossible to apply to their cost any rule of thumb method. Whatever decline has taken place in the cost of living is spread over a big list of commodities, the greater number of which are quite beyond the reach of invalid or old-age pensioners, so that actually they do not, to any extent, benefit by this alleged fall in the cost of living. The reasons advanced in support of the Government’s proposals are in the nature of “ after-the-event “ arguments to justify its action. “What is given to the people by the Government with one hand, is taken from them with the other. That, at all events, applies to our pensioners, and I contend that we have every right, and without being accused of indulging in sob-stuff, to denounce what I consider is an infamy in reducing our social services in order to save our own pockets. No reduction should be made in any of these services, which affect so closely the lives of our invalid and old-age pensioners, until the last possible shilling has been wrung from those who are able to bear the burden.
– Why use the word “ wrung “ ?
– What is the use of quibbling over terms? I shall express myself differently, and say that the last shilling should be demanded from those who are physically fit rather than that we should take anything from those who arc helpless. These persons are old; their days are numbered; they have lost their punch; they cannot organize for their own protection; they are entirely at the mercy of the governing powers of the country. This infamous action will redound to our eternal disgrace. Senator Dunn spoke of the services rendered to the workers of Australia by the Australian Workers Union - that body which honorable senators opposite now love so much, because, having ceased to be a fighting organization, it now plays into their hands - but I know that 90 per cent, of the members of that union will look with scorn and contempt on their officers who have been parties to this swindling of the old people of this country.
– The proposal to reduce invalid and old-age pensions came as a staggering blow to me. I might have expected it from the opponents of Labour, but I never thought that those who profess to represent the Labour movement would have brought it forward.
– Will the honorable senator tell us how we can give the oldage pensioners £1 a week?
– I am concerned with principles, father than with money. Rather than reduce old-age pensions, the Government should have remained true to the principles of Labour, resigned from office and appealed to the electorate.
– Would that have found the money?
– The Government should have realized that there is a line of demarcation between principle and expediency. If there had been no other way, the Government, rather than agree to a reduction of pensions, should have appealed to the people, and, if necessary, gone down fighting. In that way, it would have proved its honesty.
– If the honorable senator thought that his place in this chamber depended on it, he would vote otherwise.
– The honorable senator does me an injustice. He knows that before the vote was taken on this proposal in caucus, Senator O’Halloran and I said that the Government should go to the country rather than accept a reduction of pensions. We both thought that caucus would vote out the proposal.
There is still a chance for Labour to regain some of its lost prestige. The Government should say to those who are responsible for the plan agreed to by the Premiers - the professors of economics and the bankers - that it finds itself unable to agree to a reduction of old-age pensions. Were the Government to do that, its members would be able to walk down the streets of our cities and look the old-age pensioners in the face instead of wanting to hide from them by looking into shop windows or turning the first corner. Many of the old-age pensioners have done much to build up the forces of unionism in Australia, and to make Australia what it is to-day. No Labour Government should have reduced pensions below £1 a week. Surely that is little enough. Even now, the Government should say that it recognizes what the old-age pensioners have done for Australia ; that it acted wrongly in proposing to reduce their pensions; and that it intends to retain the pension at £1 a week. By so doing, it would prove itself to be true to Labour principles. I assure honorable senators that it hurts me to say these things, but, in my opinion, it is unpardonable that the representatives of Labour should say that, because the country is suffering from a depression, it intends to take 2s. 6d. a week from the old-age pensioners. The Assistant Minister (Senator Dooley) seeks to justify a reduction by saying that the cost of living has been reduced.
– I have never used that argument.
– Instead of seeking reasons to justify a reduction of the oldage pension, a true representative of Labour will endeavour to show why it should be increased.
– The country has not the money to pay pensions.
– Surely Australia is not so poverty-stricken that it cannot pay a pension of £1 a week?
– The honorable senator appears not to realize that Australia is bankrupt.
– I realize what this reduction will mean to many deserving people. Whether Australia is prosperous or otherwise, I shall never vote to reduce old-age pensions. . Not only should a Labour Government not have introduced such a proposal; it should not have tolerated it. I can imagine the howl which would have been raised by our party had the Opposition introduced legislation to reduce pensions. It is astonishing that so few are found opposing these proposals.
– Not one of us desires to reduce pensions.
– Then why do it?
– Necessity demands it.
– Rather than reduce pensions, the money should be saved in some other direction. I do not blame the Opposition, but I do blame a Labour Government for not fighting to uphold Labour principles. It has placed a stigma on the Labour movement. That bankers and professors of economics should submit such a proposal to a Labour Prime Minister is an insult ; that he should accept it is damnable. The
Prime Minister should have said to the bankers and economists that if the saving had to be made, it should be made somewhere else. He might even have suggested that it should come out of the profits of the banks. Had he’ done that, he might still claim to be worthy of the trust reposed in him.
– The method proposed by the honorable senator would mean that these old people would have no pension at all, because the nation would default.
– Better that than that old-age pensions should be reduced.
– Why did not the Labour party increase the pension when it was in power?
– The platform of the Labour party provides for an increase of the old-age pension. It is the duty of Labour members to protect pensioners and others who are unable to protect themselves. For that policy . the Government should have fought to th, last ditch.
– Instead of getting nothing at all, the pensioners will still get 17s. 6d. a week.
– As I have said, the platform of the Labour party provides for the old-age pension being increased. Honorable senators have urged that the reduction of the pension to 17s. 6d. a week will mean no loss to the pensioners because the cost of living has fallen in proportion. In that case, Labour could have given effect to its platform by leaving the pension at £1 a week, because, with the fall in the cost of living, that would have been equal to an increase in the pension. It distresses me that men associated with the Labour party should be prepared to do these things. I hope that never again will a Labour Government be guilty of reducing invalid and old-age pensions.
– I scarcely know how to regard myself after the stirring orations we have heard from the “ big four “ who are opposed to these proposals. I am reminded of the youth in Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad, who wrote daily in his diary, “ Attended morning prayers “. When he was asked by another lad why bo made these entries, seeing that he never attended morning prayers, he said, “ It will read well at home “.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether what Mark Twain said has anything to do with the clause under discussion.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).I am waiting for Senator Lynch to connect his remarks with the subject before the Chair.
– I shall not have much difficulty in doing that to your entire satisfaction. These four gentlemen who stand as the only genuine fount of human compassion in this chamber - there are only four of them, and I suppose we, on this side, are the 32 steel-hearted members - should realize that, after all, we have our own ideals’ and human impulses just as they have. We have wandered about the world, have assisted the poor perhaps to a greater extent than they, and have done so without proclaiming it to the world. Some of us have done as much in a single afternoon perhaps for the cause of humanity and charity as they have done in their whole lives. The “ big four “ opposite pitt themselves forward as the only advocates, defenders and champions of the poor, down-trodden, and afflicted in this country. They are four extraordinary men, and it is pleasing to think that they are the only members of this chamber to condemn those “ brutal tyrants “ who, in adopting the plan, are treading the course which this Parliament has before it. Why is it so? These four big posturers are only endeavouring to score off their mates in this Parliament. These are the men who went to the caucus-room, and are now employing the tactics of the three-card trick man. The vote went against them, and they are now “ scabbing “ on their comrades.. They have not an ounce of compassion in their ungrateful bodies. The decision went against them, but they are now endeavouring to appear in a favorable light before the electors to win votes.
– Why does not Senator Hoare and those of that little group with which he is associated reserve utterances such as they have made to-day until they are speaking on the Yarra
Bank in Melbourne, or at Botanic Park, Adelaide? Such statements may be “ swallowed “ there.
I ask the honorable senator to discuss the amendment.
– Senator Hoare and his colleagues are now in the company of men who know, and have studied, something of the world and its affairs and the conditions under which the people live. He is now in company of men who have forgotten more than he ever knew.
– I again ask the honorable senator to speak to the amendment.
– I cannot stand quietly by when, by implication, we are libelled by these four unjust and untruthful men.
– Order !
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Lynch has referred to certain honorable senators on this side of the chamber as “unjust and untruthful men.” As duly elected representatives of our respective States, we have as much right to express our opinions as have other honorable senators. I ask that the statement to which I have referred be withdrawn.
– If Senator Lynch used the words to which exception has been taken, I ask that they be withdrawn.
– Senator Rae spoke of swindling and robbing; he said that honorable senators on this side of the chamber were aiding and abetting swindling and robbery. Is that in accordance with the principle of fair play? Are you, sir, to allow certain honorable senators on this side of the chamber to be referred to as swindlers and robbers? Are we to be castigated in that way, and not to have the right to ask them to justify such extravagant and outrageous statements? Words of that kind may be used on the Yarra Bank in Melbourne, the Domain in Sydney, or the Botanic Park in Adelaide, but they cannot be used by these honorable senators when face to face with men who have had to fight the grim battles of life, and have maintained an honorable reputation. Do these four honorable senators opposite, who want to curry favour with the electors, suggest that they are the only ones in this chamber with kind hearts in their bosoms ?
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I have supported increases in the invalid and old-age pensions time and again. Every one will admit that this is one of the most unpleasant tasks that we have had to face. The fact that it is unpleasant is proved by our past actions in increasing pensions. That we have assisted in increasing pensions should show that our hearts are not in this job. Owing to the circumstances now confronting us, nothing else can be done. If a Commonwealth government had for its membership samples like these four men - these four impossibles - the pensioners would not have to submit merely to a reduction in their pensions; they would not be getting even bread and water.
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Lynch has referred to certain honorable senators on this side of the chamber as “ these four men - these four impossibles.” I ask that those words be withdrawn.
– I ask the honorable senator to respect the feelings of other honorable senators.
– If they object to being called men, I withdraw and apologize.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable senator is only adding insult to injury. I contend that honorable senators should bo addressed in a proper manner.
– I understand that Senator Lynch has withdrawn the remark to which exception has been taken.
– I have already said that, if they object to being called “men” I withdraw and apologize. I ask honorable senators opposite to contrast the position of an old-age pensioner with that of the person whose case I cited the other night, who has invested £1,900 in government stock, and, at present, is receiving 43s. a week in interest. Under the Commonwealth Debts Conversion Bill, which the Senate passed yesterday, this bondholderwill be compelled to forfeit about l1s. weekly, thus reducing his income to£l 12s. a week. Presumably, that is all this man and his wife have to live upon. He has said so. He . is not entitled to receive the old-age pension. Onthe other hand an old-age pensioner and his wife, even under the reduced rate, will receive 35s. a week, as against the thrifty person, who is to get only 32s. a week. Is he not worthy of the same sympathy and some consideration? His income, on which he, possibly, has to support a wife, is reduced below that of an old-age pensioner and his wife, and yet this is the man that Senator Rae wants to reduce still further. No plea is put forward on his account, because he is a bondholder, whose vote is not of much consequence to those who are opposing reduced pensions. Honorable senators opposite seem to disregard these people in our midst, who, by hard work and frugality, have saved money to lend to the Government, and so have enabled public works, which provide employment for men, to be undertaken. As one who, on four separate occasions, supported an increase in the old-age pension rates when some honorable senators opposite had not been heard of, I am justified in telling them that, unless they can submit better arguments than they have, they should hold their peace. They use violent language concerning men whose boots they arc not fit To blacken. I repeat what I said on a previous occasion, that the time has arrived to hurl back these false charges into the teeth of these scoundrels-
– I rise to a point of order. I ask that Senator Lynch withdraw the word “ scoundrels “.
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the word “ scoundrels “.
– I applied it only in a general sense.
– The honorable senator must discuss the amendment.
– I am making these remarks with all earnestness in an endeavour to reason out the position as between man and man. I am showing that sympathy should be applied in each case and equally. Why are not the scales held evenly between all sections of the community? The answer is that votes and political jobs are involved.
– That is dirty.
– It is the truth. W e should have a showdown in this country; a complete exposure of the tactics of these men.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– When the pensions were under State control in New South Wales, and the Tories in that State deprived pensioners of a vote, I used my best efforts on their behalf. The only argument that can be regarded as, in any sense, valid, is that, there is, according to Senator Lynch, no other way of saving this money than by reducing pensions. With respect to the case mentioned by Senator Lynch-
– The particulars were taken from the Sydney Bulletin, and are already on record in Hansard.
– I understand that the interest of the person in the case he mentioned is to be reduced to 32s. a week, which the honorable senator claims is considerably less than the pension received by a pensioner and his wife under the reduced rates.
– The honorable senator wanted to reduce him still further.
– I wanted to do nothing of the kind. My proposal related to those who are in receipt of higher incomes; it would not have come anywhere near such an amount as his.
– The honorable senator wanted to reduce him by another 1 per cent.
– What I said was that so long as physically fit persons had any income at all it would be wrong to attack old-age pensions. For very many years, so I have been told, there have been no snakes in Ireland. I can well understand the reason. The concentrated venom of all the snakes in the rest of the world could not exceed in its virulence that which is exhibited by the honorable senator in his speeches. Those who have left the Labour party are not satisfied unless they are continually blaming those who have remained true to their pledges. I know nothing about any caucus decision on this matter. I have not been a member of the Parliamentary Labour caucus for some months; but I am adhering to the Labour platform when I take the stand that in no circumstances shall a reduction of old-age pensions be sanctioned. On the contrary, every effort should be made to raise them. On that point -
Let the galled jade wince, our withers are un wrung.
It is useless for honorable senators to state over and over again that they take this action reluctantly, when they will not give any consideration to counter measures of a practical nature such as I and my associates have proposed on more than one occasion. We have demonstrated that there are various ways in which the amount needed could be obtained without touching old-age pensions. It is not right that such a retrograde method as this should be adopted. I am not concerned with who has been responsible for raising the old-age pension from .time to time. It is well known to every honorable senator that the party which actually passes legisla tion is not in every case the party that has advocated it. Time after time in Great Britain democratic reform legislation, for which the Liberal party had fought for years, has been enacted by the Conservative party. I would never attempt to judge the character of a party by the legislation for which nominally it has been responsible, unless it could prove to have been the originators of it. For some years the old-age pension in Australia has been £1 a week.
– The highest in the world.
– If that be so, I am glad to hear it. I do not believe that it is, if we compare the cost of living here and elsewhere. Our cost of living, unfortunately, is still higher than it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago; consequently £1 a week can be regarded only as a miserable pittance. So long as there is any possibility of obtaining the revenue required from any other source, those who insist upon making this reduction deserve all that I have said of them.
– When the cost of living went up the soldiers’ pensions were not increased.
SenatorRAE. - I am willing to support anything that the honorable senator proposes on their behalf.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out bo left out (Senator Dunn’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 34 to 36 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 37 to 39 agreed to.
Clause 40- (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal act, pensions payable under that act to persons included in the following classes shall subject to this section be reduced by twenty-two and one-half per centum: - (3.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal act -
.- I move-
That sub-clause (3.) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-clause : - “ (3.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal act, the Governor-General may take such action as is necessary to give effect to any recommendation made by the committee constituted in pursuance’ of section forty-one of this act in relation to the cancellation or reduction of the pensions payable under the principal act to any class of persons whose pensions are reduced in accordance’ with the provisions of sub-section (1.) of this section “.
Sub-clause 3, as printed, gives the Governor-General power to make further reductions, but, as the Government has received an assurance from a committee of soldiers’ representatives that it will provide for the full amount of savings in the matters referred to it for inquiry, the Government has decided to amend the provision in the way I have now proposed.
– I understood that the Government was prepared to accept an addition to paragraph b of sub-clause 2, to exempt from the 22½ per cent. reduction the wives or children of soldiers whose pensions are being reduced by 22½ per cent.
– Now that everything is being left absolutely in the hands of the committee to be set up under clause 41, there is no need for the amendment which the honorable senator has in mind.
– Yesterday, on the second reading, I read a telegram from the Maimed and Limbless Soldiers League protesting against clause 40. It seems to me that the Minister’s amendment meets the league’s objection. When J was speaking, the Minister interjected that the league’s wishes had been met by the Government. I should, however, like an assurance that the amendment now submitted meets with the approval of that league and various other soldiers’ associations.
– All these matters are to be left to the committee, and the representatives of the leagues have expressed their satisfaction with that arrangement.
– The partially blinded soldiers are anxious to know how they stand under this clause, because there does not seem to be any particular reference to them. Their case is rather unusual. They have been receiving a weekly allowance of 7s. 6d. That arrangement was made under a regulation, because it was not thought desirable to amend the act for the purpose, but the partially blinded soldiers feel that something should be embodied in this bill to establish clearly that they are entitled to this allowance, because at any time the regulation under which it is now paid may be cancelled.
.- I support Senator Duncan’s request. As a trustee for the Partially Blinded Soldiers Association of Australia, I am In a position to know that the partially blinded soldiers have the utmost difficulty in securing employment. On account of their disability, they are debarred from working on railways or tramways or in lifts, and, because their partial blindness is almost invariably accompanied by some facial disfigurement, it is difficult for them to obtain positions as salesmen. Some years ago, by regulation, an allowance of 7s. 6d. a week was paid to them, and I ask now if that allowance is to be retained, or if the Government proposes to do away with it. I hope that it will not.
.- Sub-clause 3, now proposed to be deleted, provides that the commission may cancel any pension payable to any person whose pension is reduced in accordance with the provisions of sub-clause 1. Sub-clause 1 covers a number of classes of pensioners, but not soldiers. The amendment provides that the Governor-General may take such action as is necessary to give effect to any recommendation made by the committee to be constituted under clause 41 in relation to the cancellation or reduction of pensions payable under the principal act to any class of persons whose pensions are reduced in accordance with the provisions of sub-clause 1 of this clause. It will be noted that the amendment makes provision for the “ cancellation or reduction “ of pensions, whereas sub-clause 3 provides only for the “ cancellation “ of pensions. I quite agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator Guthrie and Senator Duncan, but partially blinded soldiers are among a class of pensioners who are not affected by this clause.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [8.13]. - The pensions referred to by Senator Duncan and Senator Guthrie are provided for by a regulation made under the principal act, and no step can be taken, to cancel or reduce them except by the promulgation of a fresh regulation, which must be laid on the table of the Senate, and be subject to disallowance. An attempt to insert a safeguarding provision in this bill would involve the insertion of other safeguarding provisions in relation to all other allowances made by regulation.
– The clause does not cover the matter raised by Senator Duncan or Senator Guthrie. In any case, all allowances payable under the act have been referred to the committee of representatives of the soldiers’ leagues, and that committee has approved of a 22£ per cent, reduction of them. It has also approved of the amendment which I have just submitted.
– In common with other soldier senators from Queensland, I have been asked to secure the withdrawal of the authority given to the assessment tribunal to reduce pensions, and also to submit an amendment with regard to widows’ pensions; but since receiving this request, I have been informed on good authority that -the Prime Minister has arranged all these matters satisfactorily with the soldiers’ committee.
– That is so.
– That being the position, I do not propose to take the requests any further.
– While I appreciate all that has been done by the soldiers’ committee in connexion with war pensions, I wish to have it on record that, in the absence of a ballot of the rank and file of all the organizations, I cannot support these proposed reductions. I am informed that the soldiers’ committee took upon itself the full responsibility of forwarding recommendations to the Prime Minister. It would have been much more acceptable if, before submitting its alternative proposals, the committee had sought an expression of opinion of the members of the various organizations.
– I point out to Senator Dunn that the soldiers’ committee, which has been conferring with the Prime Minister in this matter, was elected by members of the various organizations. Captain Dyett is the federal president, so it may be said, quite truthfully, that the committee is representative of the various soldiers’ organizations throughout the Commonwealth.
– I remind honorable senators that the soldiers’ committee was elected before there was any thought of making reductions of war pensions. Therefore, it had no mandate from the membership to either accept the Government’s proposals or submit other recommendations. In my opinion, it should have absolutely opposed any reduction of soldiers’ pensions. If it. had done that itwould have had the country behind it.
– I should have been behind it too.
– I rise to a point of order. The discussion as to whether or nott he officials of the various returned soldiers’ organizations have the confidence of the rank and file has nothing whatever to do with the clause.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The discussion of the point referred to by the honorable senator is certainly out of order.
– I was merely replying to remarks made by other honorable senators.
– Surely the organizations have been consulted by their leaders ?
– That I do not know; but I have received numerous letters from members of various sections, including the partially blinded, the wholly blinded, the limbless soldiers and others, asking me to oppose any reductions of their pensions. 1 have no doubt that other honorable senators have also been approached in this matter.
– Soldiers’ pensions are not being reduced.
– Reductions are to be made in pensions payable to certain dependants of returned soldiers.
– I have a prior amendment to submit.
Amendment - by leave - temporarily withdrawn.
– I move-
That the words “ twenty-two and one-half “, sub-clause 1, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “one”.
Honorable senators, I am sure, clearly understand that my intention is to place on record my strong opposition to this proposal to reduce, by 22½ per cent. the pensions payable to dependants of returned soldiers. The sacrifice by the bondholders of portion of their interest is to be a so-called voluntary contribution to the success of the rehabilitation plan ; but, in the case of soldiers’ dependants, the sacrifice is to be compulsory.
– Where isthe honorable senator’s mandate for this amendment? What organizations are behind him?
– The whole of the rank and file of returned soldiers is behind me.
– That is not so.
– Time will tell. Senator Rae and I stand by the principle which we have so often affirmed in our opposition to the general plan, and I am sure that in this matter we have the whole of the trade union movement in Australia with us.
– The statements made by honorable senators opposite that the provisions of this clause apply only to dependants, and, therefore, do not affect returned soldiers, is neither more nor less than a quibble. Surely it is patent to all that if pensions payable to members of a returned soldiers’ family are reduced the whole of the family income is affected to the extent of that reduction? In the great majority of cases the family income is pooled, so the total income must be less if these reductions are made, and the returned soldier himself, or some member of his family, must suffer. If, because of his serious illness, the ex-soldier requires special attention, the rest of the family will be compelled to go short of comforts which otherwise they would enjoy. No argument submitted by honorable senators opposite can prove the contrary position. Senator Thompson asked what mandate we had received. If any mandate is necessary, we have it in the promises that were made to the soldiers when they went to the war. They were then told that if they enlisted they would on their return be treated like heroes, and never want, and that should they not come back their dependants would be well cared for. No one will dispute that those promises were made. Yet here in this bill a blow is being
Struck al these men through the allowances payable to their dependants. It is vile hypocrisy to say that the soldiers are not being affected by these proposals. I shall support- the amendment.
– I agree with Senator Rae that it is hypocrisy to say that we are not reducing the pensions of soldiers. We propose to reduce tlie payments to their dependants in certain circumstances; and what is that but reducing their pensions? A committee of soldiers has been considering the question of reduced pensions, and has agreed to make heroic sacrifices. I should vote for the amendment were it not that 1 feel that I must stand behind the committee representing the soldiers’ organizations. I deplore the fact that the Government is forcing returned soldiers to accept a reduction of their pensions to the extent of £1,291,000 per annum.
– The disabled soldiers will not be affected.
– I know that; but the returned soldiers generally are being forced to accept a reduction of £1,291,000 per annum. Although disabled soldiers and the widows of soldiers will not be affected by these proposals, in other directions the reductions will cause hardship. The idea of reducing these pensions is most distasteful to me.
– We all dislike it.
– When a Nationalist Government increased invalid and old-age pensions because of the rise in the cost of living, no increase whatever was made in soldiers’ pensions.
– The benefits have been widened considerably.
– Unfortunately, at the last election a number of returned soldiers were misled by the promises made by the campaign director of the Labour party in New South Wales, Mr. Theodore, who told them that -
Thu placing in employment of partially disabled returned soldiers is a very hard problem. . . . These mcn could all be found positions in the Public Service doing useful work.
The Government has honoured that promise by sacking returned soldiers from the time it came into power! Referring to homes for aged soldiers, Mr. Theodore then said -
The question of providing homes for returned soldiers who have passed the age of being able to compete in the labour market is one that has not been thoroughly investigated. The Labour party pledges itself to take this matter up immediately, if returned to power, and to make the necessary provisions.
That promise has not been fulfilled. Mr. Theodore’s appeal to the returned soldiers concluded -
A Labour government this time to remedy your hardships.
Those promises have been broken. I should like to support the amendment, but if I were to do so, I should be opposing the committee which has done such splendid work. Apparently, the members of that committee have given a pledge to make further reductions ; and having done so, I know that they will carry it out. When the committee formulated details to save £1,018,000 per annum as it has already done, the Government ought to have been satisfied, instead of requiring it to devise ways and means by which a further saving of £270,000 could be made. The soldiers who were promised everything when they went away are now to be treated harshly. I was unable to accompany them to the firing line, but 1 feel keenly that they should not be called upon to make this sacrifice. Of the flower of our manhood 60,000 gave their lives in the Great War; 130 returned blind; over 800 were partially blinded; while over 1,000 lost limbs; others developed tuberculosis and other diseases. Honorable senators talk of equality of sacrifice! What sacrifice that is demanded of others can compare with the sacrifice that these men made? Who would lose his eyesight for £4 a week, or suffer the loss of a limb, in order to receive a pension of £2 a week?
– They did not enlist merely to receive a pension.
– I know that. Can the sacrifice which is being demanded of the bondholder be compared with that which the disabled soldier has made? I am in an awkward position, because I should like to give the amendment my whole-hearted support.
– Then vote for it.
– I would do so, only that it would mean going back on the committee. I am disgusted with the Government for demanding this further sacrifice from the soldiers. Rather than require them to find this money, I would have taken it from the higher paid officials of the Commonwealth, or from honorable members like myself. The reduction of soldiers’ pensions is altogether too drastic.
– Senator Payne is evidently under a. misapprehension. The reduction will not apply to the mothers of deceased soldiers, or to their widows or children. At a recent Federal Convention of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, held in Canberra, Captain Dyett, the Federal President, presided. If I remember rightly, the outcome of the conference was that certain recommendations were made to the Government. The Prime Minister refused to accept those recommendations, claiming that the cuts were not big enough. The Assistant Minister (Senator Dooley) is entitled to his opinion; but it is obvious that if the amount now spent in pensions to soldiers and their dependants is to be reduced by £1,291,000 per annum, the persons entitled to these pensions will be affected by the reduction. Otherwise, how could a saving be made? Does the Government hope to get the money by means of a fiduciary note issue, or to find it in some paddock in front of Parliament House? As money does not grow, somebody must be affected if so large a sum of money is to be saved. When the returned soldiers met in Canberra for their federal convention, the Prime Minister placed a pistol at their heads when he told them that if they were not prepared to meet the Government in the general reduction that had to be made, they would get nothing. The soldiers were forced into the position of having to accept half a loaf rather than get no bread. As a returned soldier I have a duty to perform to my injured mates, as well as to my own conscience. The proposals of the Government are wrong in principle. I desire to read the following newspaper extract:-
The Limbless Soldiers Association has created a fund for the old-age of its members who are prepared to convert the Commonwealth bonds they hold to the 4 per cent, conversion level. There is no “equality of sacri fice “ in cutting limbless soldiers’ pensions.
No pension can give to a returned soldier a limb that he lost in the war. As the invalid and old-age pensions of many of the mothers and fathers of returned soldiers are to be reduced, the income of some families will be further depleted. The newspaper paragraph continues -
Last year 29,000 disabled soldier pensioners were treated in repatriation hospitals for war disabilities, amongst which gunshot wounds, chest and heart trouble, shell shock, neurasthenia predominated. During that year 2,400 died.
The members of this great army of Grecian giants, as they were termed by Sir Phillip Gibbs when he saw them in the streets of Cario, are passing away at the rate of 2,400 a year. The paragraph goes on to state that -
While the total number of deaths since 1010 of the Australian Imperial Force members numbered over 30,000, in 1021 the basie pension was fixed at £2 2s., and has remained the same up to the present, though cost of living advanced for many yeaTs from that time. Special pensions in force last year of £4. 4s. were: - blinded, 129; tubercular, 1,111; permanently incapacitated, 1,355.
Notwithstanding this, some honorable senators contend that returned soldiers will not suffer. As a result of the reduction in the pensions paid to dependants the returned soldiers must experience further hardships. We have also been told that the reduction will not be felt to any extent owing to the reduced cost of living. Prices of certain commodities and house rents have been reduced owing to economic circumstances; but the unfor- tunate returned soldiers are not to have the benefit of cheaper houses. The paragraph further states -
An analysis of other figures show 5,077 to be on the £2 2s. rate, while 55,000 were receiving from £11s. per week down to 5s. The average rate paid to all pensioners (soldiers and/or dependants) in 1921 was £1 3s.11d., while in 1930 the figures were £11s. 4½d. per fortnight. The Repatriation Commission in the last report to Parliament has this to say of 1929-30 Economic necessity has compelled many soldiers to approach the Commission for assistance. Included among these were many who had obvious entitlement to benefits, and very properly received them.”
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Dunn’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Senator Barnes) agreed to -
That sub-clause 3 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following subclause: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Principal Act the Governor-General may take such action as is necessary to give effect to any recommendation made by the committee constituted in pursuance of section 41 of this act in relation to the cancellation or reduction of the pensions payable under the Principal Act to any class of persons whose pensions are reduced in accordance with the provisions of sub-section 1 of this section; and
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 41 - (1.) The regulations may provide for the constitution of a committee which shall have power to inquire into the pensions payable under the Principal Act to any classes of persons and to make recommendations to the Minister as to the reductions, additional to any reduction effected by this part, which should be made in those pensions
.- I move-
That the words “ The regulations may provide for the constitution of a committee “, sub-clause ( 1 ) , be left out.
I move this amendment to test the feeling of the committee on the whole clause. The disadvantages of soldiers’ dependants are further intensified under this clause, which provides that the committee may make recommendations for reductions even in excess of those provided for in the bill. This is adding one infamy to another. Are honorable senators so dense as to place the power provided in this clause in the hands of the committee or the Minister? The only safeguard is that regulations may be framed covering the constitution of the committee and the duration of its operations. In addition to the disabilities already imposed upon soldiers’ dependants, it is now proposed to authorize the issue of regulations providing for the constitution of a committee which shall have power to inquire into the pensions payable under the principal act. Recently there was a great outcry with respect to the regulations promulgated under the Transport Workers Act, because they did not meet with the approval of some honorable senators. In spite of the alleged reluctance of some honorable senators to vote for specific reductions in pensions, they will, I suppose, support this clause under which it will be possible “to determine the extent to which pensions may be further reduced. I trust that the committee will express its disapproval of such under-the-lap methods by defeating the clause.
– I support the amendment. Week after week the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) has, to use the vernacular, slangwhanged the Government because of its action in gazetting regulations governing the employment of labour on the water- front. The action of the Opposition in moving to disallow them was taken in the interests of the wealthy ship-owners, and met with their entire concurrence. I appeal now to the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues to remove this power to regulate the pensions of returned soldiers. The spineless Government that at present occupies the treasury bench has allied itself with the Opposition in this attack upon returned soldiers. I feel like hiding my head with shame at having been associated with it at one time. The proudest moment in my political life was when I was expelled from its caucus. It has filled me with pride to be able to put up this fight with my colleague. The proposed regulations may provide for the constitution of a committee that will have the power to inquire into the pensions payable under the principal act to any classes of persons, and make recommendations to the Minister in regard to reductions. Of whom is the committee to be composed? Any Tom, Dick or Harry may be appointed to it. It is useless for me to appeal to the Leader of the Government (Senator Barnes) or the Assistant Minister (Senator Dooley). I might as well appeal to Lot’s wife, for all the sympathy that I would get from them. Therefore, I make this last appeal to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) and his supporters to remove this provision from the measure.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move-
That the following words be added to subclause 1 - “ and as to the cancellation of the pensions of any such class “.
This merely enlarges the field over which the committee may make recommendations.
– I hope that the Leader of the Government (Senator Barnes) will abandon this proposal. The honorable gentleman has said that its only purpose is to increase the powers of the committee. How much more “power does the committee want?
– The object is to harmonize the wording of this clause with that of another that has already been agreed to.
– I cannot see that any measure of harmony will be effected. There is no indication of the manner in which the committee is to be constituted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 42 to 46 agreed to.
Clause 47 -
Section 45 p of the principal act is amended -
) by inserting after the word “ increase “, the words “ reduce, cancel “…
.- I move-
That the word “cancel”, paragraph (a), be left out.
This clause enables an assessment appeal tribunal to reduce or cancel a pension, whereas hitherto it has had power only to increase or continue an existing pension which is the subject of appeal.
Upon further consideration, it does not seem proper that an assessment appeal tribunal should have the power to cancel a pension. Accordingly, it is proposed to restrict the effect of the clause, so that the tribunal will have power to increase, reduce or continue a pension, but not to cancel it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 48 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted - “ 48a. The second schedule to the principal act is amended by inserting in the fifth paragraph, after the word “Forces”, the words “ who is totally blind as the result of war service or “.
The fifth paragraph of the second schedule relates to allowances for totally blind soldiers. The allowance is £1 a week, and there are 130 totally blinded soldiers in Australia. It is thought that unless this provision is made the allowance they receive for attendants, under Regulation 39m, will be reduced by 20 per cent.
– There is no need for the amendment because the Prime Minister has given the assurance that the regulation under which the allowance referred to is made will not be altered in any respect.
– On the Minister’s assurance that the allowance of 20s. a week for totally blinded soldiers will not be reduced, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clauses 49 and 50 agreed to.
Clause 51 (Bounty under Gold Bounty Act 1930).
– I ask the committee to strike out this clause which imposes a 50 per cent, cut in the gold bounty. It seems to mo extraordinary that the most, recently bestowed bounty under which a payment has yet to be made should be reduced by 50 per cent., whilst all other bounties granted by the Commonwealth, most of which have been in existence for quite a number of years, are to be reduced by 20 per cent. only. If the committee declines to pass the clause the gold bounty can be added to the list of bounties contained in the second schedule which are to be subjected to a reduction of 20 per cent.
Since this proposal of the Government has been announced a wave of indignation has passed over every section of the people in Australia, and Western Australian newspapers arriving to-day show that practically every public body from the Legislative Assembly down to the smallest municipal council that has met since the announcement was made, has passed a resolution of protest against the injustice of the descrimination shown by singling out the gold bounty for a 50 per cent reduction, compared with a 20 per cent, reduction in the case of all other bounties. The people of Western Australia, being patriotic, are prepared to accept the principle of equality of sacrifice, hut it seems to them, and to me, most extraordinary that the Commonwealth Government should propose to effect a 20 per cent, cut in the case of bounties which are paid almost exclusively in the eastern States, and a 50 per cent, cut in the case of one which still has to be paid, but which will largely benefit Western Australia. In the Western Australian Legislative Assembly on the 7th instant, the following resolution was adopted on the motion of Mr. Munsie, Labour member for Hannans, who was the Minister for Mines in the last Labour Government of the State: -
That in the opinion of this House the Government should make a most emphatic protest against the action of the Commonwealth Government in specially singling out the gold industry to effect economies and reducing the bonus by 50 per cent, as against the cut of 20 per cent, and less in bonuses to other industries.
I make the following quotations from a report of the debate : -
Discrimination Between States.
It was absolutely unfair to single out this industry, Mr. Munsie continued. Every other State had had bonuses or bounties and, in many instances, had been receiving them for a considerable time. Yet they were to be reduced only by 20 per cent. Had it not been for the fact that Western Australia was responsible for most of the gold production of the Commonwealth, the 50 per cent, reduction, he was convinced, would never have been mentioned. Had Victoria, New South Wales, or Queensland been producing a larger amount of’ gold, there would have been no attempt at the reduction. -If there was anything that would carry a secession referendum in Western Australia it was actions such as these. (Hear, hear. )
– Is that the honorable senator’s “Hear, hear”?
– No ; it was the “ hear, hear “ of all the parties of the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Munsie’s remarks continued -
Much had been said about Mr. Lang and his repudiation. What was this? The Commonwealth Government had, within six months, repudiated 50 per cent, of a bonus granted by an act of Parliament, which came into operation on 1st January last.
– Mr. Lang evidently lias a few friends in Western Australia. However, we shall support the honorable senator’s view in this matter.
– Justice compels me to say that Mr. Lang’s name was not mentioned in any terms of appreciation ; but I welcome none the less the support the honorable senator has promised in this matter. It is a tribute to him. Mr. Munsie’s remarks continued -
If the Government was going to act in this way he doubted whether it would get back very quickly the £5,000,000 that was being shipped to London. He did not know whether capital could bc induced, in those circumstances, to come in and develop the State.
In passing, I may say that this bounty, which is to have a reduction of 50 per cent., is the only bounty granted, not on the total production, as was asked for and expected by the industry, but on the excess production from the 1st January, over the average production of the previous three years. In this respect the gold-mining industry is in an entirely different position from that of other industries that have received bounties from the Commonwealth on the whole of their output, and is, therefore, all the more deserving of assistance. The bounty is given only for a special effort in the way of increased production, and a mining company must agree to work the whole of its ore body that can be worked, even if it makes no profits in doing so, before it can receive the bounty. Thatprovision was laid down by the Government in order to secure the maximum of fresh employment in the industry.
Sir James Mitchell, the Premier of Western Australia, said -
The amount being spent on mining machinery in this State in consequence of the encouragement given by the granting of the bonus was enormous. The bonus was about the first thing from the Commonwealth to come the way of this State, and Western Australia had to pay a tremendous sum to support the bonuses handed to other States. It was important to the whole of Australia that gold production should be encouraged. The benefit which the industry was receiving on account of the exchange might cease at any time, whereas the bonus was to last for ten years. The Federal Treasurer had not considered the importance of the industry in this State.
Most of us remember that the Gold Bounty Bill was passed during the absence of the Prime Minister from the Commonwealth, and when the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) was not a member of the Ministry. It appeared to us when Mr. Scullin was in Australia that he had not much sympathy with the proposal to pay a bounty on gold, and we welcomed the fact that, during his absence, the then leaders of the Government granted the bounty. We cannot now help feeling that he and Mr. Theodore have taken the first opportunity to nullify something which was done when one was absent from the Commonwealth, and the other was not a member of the Ministry.
Mr. Cunningham, member for Kalgoorlie, Legislative Assembly, said, in the course of the debate to which I have already referred -
This State was producing more gold now than for many years past, and upon the prosperity of the gold-mining industry depended the prosperity of many primary producers engaged in meeting the demands of the local market.
Mr. Corboy, the Labour member for Yilgarn and Coolgardie - characterised the halving of the bonus as a shocking repudiation of an obligation of honour.
Mr. Sampson, member for Swan, a Nationalist, said-
The action of the Federal Government was an absolutely immoral one. Since the bonus was granted, gold mining had received a new lease of life. The position was sound. The bounty would have assisted Australia; it would have provided new wealth and, probably, would have brought back the golden days of the ‘nineties. He did not agree altogether with bounties, but there was no denying that the gold bonus would have been a great thing for the State. The State was being made the victim of a confidence trick, and the Federal Government was showing despicable discrimination.
– What is the honorable senator’s amendment?
– I want the clause struck out so that we may add the gold bounty to the list of bounties mentioned in the second schedule, as subject to a reduction of 20 per cent. instead_of 50 per cent, as proposed. The gold-mining industry will then be brought into line with other Australian assisted industries, none of which offer the same opportunity for fresh employment, or for relieving our financial difficulties, as does the production of fresh gold. The Mayor of Kalgoorlie, who was a member of the gold bounty deputation which visited Canberra, took a very prominent part in the protest which was made when news of the reduction of the bounty was received in Western Australia. He sent the following telegram to the Postmaster-General (Mr. A. Green), who is the representative in another place for the gold-mining district of Kalgoorlie: -
I am astounded and disgusted at your Cabinet’s action in attacking the gold-mining industry so ruthlessly. Everybody here is indignant, and looks to you to rectify the position and prevent the belated justice given to the gold industry being rendered valueless.
He also telegraphed to Sir James Mitchell, the Premier of Western Australia, in the following terms: -
Indignation and disappointment have been expressed here at the proposed reduction of the gold bonus by the Federal Treasurer, which will have a damaging effect on industry and employment. 1 respectfully urge you to take immediate action to prevent this injustice.
The following statement was also published in the press on the subject: -
Mr. Leslie said to day that he was astounded by Mr. Theodore’s advocacy of a reduction by 50 per cent, of the bonus. “ The drastic action contemplated has been announced by Mr. Theodore before any money whatever has been paid over by the Federal Treasury on account of the bonus,” he continued, “ and before claims could be made for participation after the first year of the operation of the Gold Bounty Act. From the moment the bonus was approved by the Commonwealth Parliament, a stimulating effect has been given to the industry, not only in Western Australia, but in other States. Prospectors have pressed the search everywhere, on old fields and new. Has all this to be nullified by a dishonorable proposal for a reduction of 50 per cent, in the gold bonus % Mr. Theodore’s proposition ought to be fought by all right-thinking members of the Commonwealth Parliament, and the people of Australia as a whole “.
This matter was the subject of a question by Mr. Gregory, a member of another place, last week. That honorable member asked the Prime Minister to supply information showing the assistance given by the Commonwealth from 1923 to 1931 to different industries by way of bounties. The answer given by the Prime Minister was as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 July 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19310716_senate_12_131/>.