14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Broadcasting Commission Act -
Third annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, year ended 30th June, 1935.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 119.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Woodside, South Australia - For defence purposes.
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN tabled reports and recommendations by the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Brushware and materials therefor.
Electric current rectifiers.
Lumps and lanterns and lamp chimneys.
Metal workers’ bench vises of under 21/2 inch jaw.
Piston rings for internal combustion engines.
Reducing machines for refining chocolate.
Wireless receiver parts and accessories.
Hotel Accommodation - Superintendent of Parks and Gardens
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1 and 2. This matter is receiving consideration.
asked -the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice-
The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1, 2 and 3. No charges under the Public Service Act have been laid against the Superintendent of Parks and Gardens.Certain alleged irregularities were reported officially to the Permanent Head of the Department. In accordance with Public Service procedure, preliminary inquiries were made into these allegations. The question as to whether action under the Public Service Act should be taken is now under consideration by the Permanent Head of the Department.
Motion (by Senator Brennan) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1932 and the Acts Interpretation Act 1904-1934, and for other purposes.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Orange Bounty Bill 1935.
Income Tax Bill 1935.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to introduce a scheme of relief for the widows and widowed mothers of Australian soldiers, as defined in section 4 of the War Service Homes A.ct, and for the wives of Australian soldiers who are temporarily or permanently insane. The Government and, I think, honorable senators on all sides of the chamber are keenly interested in the welfare of widows and widowed mothers whose circumstances prevent them from making the full payments required under the contracts they have executed to purchase the homes which they occupy. The nature of the assistance which should be granted has been closely considered by the Government, and having in mind the general desire to secure for these purchasers security of occupation, a scheme of relief has been formulated which is covered by the new provisions in the bill - proposed new sections 29aa and 39a and the amendment to section 39.
As honorable senators know, repayment instalments are designed to repay the purchase money, together with interest thereon, over the period for which the loan is granted. Proposed section 29aa gives to the Minister the power to assess the amount which shall be paid by a widow, widowed mother or wife of an Australian soldier on account of these instalments, and the balance will be paid from the fund established by proposed section 39 a. The difference between the amount determined to be paid and the purchase instalment, to be withdrawn from the relief trust account, will be charged in the usual way in the account of the purchaser and be made good when the home is sold by the purchaser or disposed of after her death.
The Government realizes also that those purchasers who are unable to pay the full instalment cannot meet the rates, taxes and other outgoings which fall due from time to time. These charges will be paid on behalf of the purchaser from the amount standing to the credit of the relief trust account. Similarly, if the purchaser is not in a position to meet the cost of essential repairs, the commission, which has an arrangement in all States under which first-grade paints are supplied at reduced prices, will make available, at cost, the paint and other materials required, and will endeavour to arrange for the necessary works to be carried out with a minimum charge for labour. The expenditure on account of rates and taxes and repairs will be charged in the purchaser’s account and, if she is unable to make any payment, will be recovered when the home is sold, or when realized upon after her death.
Honorable senators will agree that the relief scheme which has been adopted by the Government will secure for the widow, or widowed mother or wife continued occupation of her house, remove the worry associated with the struggle to pay arrears, rates and taxes, and introduce payments based upon her ability to pay. I know of no other scheme of this character, and I feel that it will be of distinct advantage to those eligible to participate in it3 benefits.
In asking honorable senators to accept this relief scheme, I assure them that each . case will be sympathetically considered. Before assessing the payment required from a purchaser, the whole of her circumstances will be carefully considered, and from time to time a sum which she can afford decided upon. This measure of assistance the Government is willing to extend; but if a purchaser, without good cause, fails to make the payments required, the commission will reluctantly be compelled to recover possession of the home. Whilst every endeavour will be made to avoid that course, it is expected that purchasers will assist the Government to make the scheme a success. The relief scheme applies to the widows, widowed mothers and wives of Australian soldiers, and does not apply to the dependants of the other classes of beneficiaries who are eligible for assistance under the War Service Homes Act.
With regard to returned soldier purchasers,theGovernment has decided to extend until next year the policy now followed, which is based upon the recommendations of the War Service Homes Committee of Inquiry. Those recommendations expired in June last, but the Government is of the opinion that the policy, which is on generous lines, should be continued for the present, and be reviewed in 1936-37.
The other amendments, three in number, are more or less of a machinery character. The first deals with the tenure of the Commissioner, and seeks to increase the period for which he may be reappointed from “not exceeding three years “ to “ not exceeding five years “. It is not proposed to disturb the period of the original appointment, namely, “ not exceeding three years “, but where a Commissioner has rendered satisfactory service and his reappointment is decided upon, it is’ considered that the Governor-General should be in a position to grant a more extended tenure. By providing for a. maximum period of five years, that object will be achieved.
The second amendment incorporates two- provisions. The first has for its object the omission of the proviso to section 36(1c), which restricts to £40 the cost of repairs to homes of which the Commissioner is in possession. The commission has on its hands properties which reverted to it as early as 1929. Every three or four years the homes must be painted and otherwise repaired, the cost being charged against the equity of the borrower, who is also credited with all receipts in the way of rental. If the borrower were in possession, he would have to meet these costs, failing which the commission would be empowered to have the necessary works carried out under section 31. The restriction referred to militates against satisfactory sales, as it is far easier to dispose of a home which has been placed in good repair than one which is dilapidated. Moreover, comparatively better prices can be obtained for renovated homes than for other . properties. The commission’s experience is that the restriction has operated against the interests of borrowers, and its removal from the act will dispose of a definite disadvantage associated with its administration. The second provision makes the amendment retrospective.
The final provision amends section 41, so that the Commissioner may offset the amount of an insurance claim against the balance owing by the purchaser. There is some doubt as to whether the existing section extends that power, and in order to place the matter on a proper basis, the present amendment is suggested. Difficulty arises only where the claim is less than the purchaser’s liability under the contract entered into, not where the claim is in excess of the balance owing. The bill is a simple one, and I ask the Senate to give it a speedy passage.
Debate (on motion by Senator Col- lings) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I regard it as a great privilege to introduce a bill to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and, in dealing with a matter of such importance to so many members of the community, I believe that honorable senators will welcome a brief account of the activities of the commission since it was first appointed in July, 1920. The Repatriation Commission, which has been entrusted with the administration of the act, has concerned itself with not only the establishment of general principles calculated to conserve the interests of both the general community and the ex-soldiers and their dependants, but also has endeavoured to ensure that the provisions for the various classes of beneficiaries shall be maintained in equitable relation, and that within the statutory limits the well-being of every individual entitled to benefits, for reasons arising out of war service, shall be carefully safeguarded.
In order to meet the convenience of applicants, and to’ effect a well-considered scheme of decentralization, a branch office of the Repatriation Department has been established in the capital city of each Stale. Each is under the control of a Deputy Commissioner for Repatriation, who is responsible to the commission, for the whole organization and administration in his State. Ex officio, the deputy commissioner is chairman of the State Repatriation Board, on which there is one member chosen from the commission’s staff, and one returned soldier nominated by returned soldier organizations. Each board determines applications for war pensions or living allowances. There is also a Branch Purchase and Contract Board in each State to arrange the supply °y public tender, of commodities for use in the branch office and hospitals ; and a Soldiers’ Children Education Board which deals with all matters regarding the scheme of education and training for the children of those who were killed, or who are totally and permanently incapacitated, or blinded as the result of war service.
The Branch Purchase and Contract Board consists of an independent business man as chairman and two senior departmental officials; whilst the Education Board has on it representatives of the returned soldiers’ associations, the Trustees of the Sir Samuel McCaughey Bequest, the primary, secondary and technical branches of the State Education Department, the University and non-State secondary schools, and the Repatriation Commission.
To ensure that an appeal against a decision of the commission may be heard by an authority entirely independent of the normal departmental machinery, the Government has created four tribunals - two War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals consisting of a legal man as chairman, one representative of the Government and one nominee of returned soldiers, to determine whether a man shall receive a pension ; and two War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunals consisting of a legal man representative of returned soldiers as chairman and two medical men selected from a panel approved by the Minister, and having a special knowledge of the disability from which the appellant suffers, to decide the rate of pension which a man shall receive.
A claimant for pension lodges an application to the branch office in the capital city of the State in which he resides, and after full investigation, including in most instances careful observation in hospital, the complete evidence is placed before the board which may approve or disapprove. If the claim is refused, an appeal may be submitted to the commission, and in the event of refusal, a further appeal lies to an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. If, when a pension is granted, the recipient is dissatisfied with the rate, he has the right of appeal to an Assessment Appeal Tribunal.
For the 264,000 soldiers who returned from service abroad, the commission, through its employment activities, found over 280,000 positions, and to assist further in this desirable object, supplied tools of trade, necessary equipment and rail warrants to the value of over £2.250,000, whilst a sum of £450,000 was granted to the municipal authorities throughout Australia. At present, and for many years past, £2,500 is paid annually to the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia to assist in finding employment for returned soldiers. Through the commission’s scheme of vocational and industrial training, over 27,000 men qualified as wage earners, and in practically every instance these were placed in employment, whilst 46,000 men were given efficiency courses in order to fit them to occupy positions of higher responsibility with consequent increase of pay. Gifts and loans totalling over £1,000,000 were made for furniture rind £422,000 was expended in establishing men in businesses. For the medical treatment of those suffering as a result of war service, there have been established up-to-date institutions efficiently staffed by returned men and women and visited regularly by leading consultant physicians and surgeons in the capital city of each State. Interesting on account of the skilful manufacture of artificial arms and legs, crutches, surgical boots and other artificial surgical aids are the Commonwealth Artificial Limb Factories. Available for consultant purposes in this work is a highly skilled orthopedic surgeon. Some idea of the vastness of the work performed will be gathered by honorable senators from the fact that in 1922 there were approximately 4,000 returned soldiers receiving treatment, whilst to-day this number has grown to approximately 19,000. Last year some 40,000 cases were treated and more than 146,000 outpatient attendances were recorded at departmental institutions and .clinics.
One of the commission’s valuable contributions to the civic life of the community is its scheme of training for the children of those who died, or who are totally and permanently incapacitated, or who are blinded as the result of their war service. These children are at all times under the personal guidance of teachers who take a great interest in their careers, and the scheme itself is governed by experts in primary, secondary, technical and university education. So far the scheme has cost over £1,500,000, the expenditure last year being approximately £S0,000. A total of 18,000 applications had been dealt with, and of the 10,000 children who have completed training and qualified for positions, almost every one is employed. Over 2,000 boys and approximately 2,000 girls are still attending school, whilst over 1,500 are serving apprenticeships or are unindentured apprentices; 1S9 are doing professional courses and 46 are in agricultural training. This living memorial to those who served and suffered is of immense benefit, not only to the children themselves, but to the community at large.
In war pensions an amount exceeding *130,000,000 of money has been paid, iris expenditure last year exceeding £7,369,000. .Each fortnight £280,000, or £20,000 a day, is needed to meet this obligation. There are 75,000 soldiers and 189,000 dependants receiving pensions. The administrative cost for every £100 of pensions paid is £2 2s. 5d., and this is regarded as satisfactory.
The whole of our repatriation scheme compares more than favorably with similar legislation in operation in any other country, and many of its features find no parallel elsewhere. The special rate of pension of £4 a week for those who are blinded or totally and permanently incapacitated, or who suffer from an advanced stage of pulmonary tuberculosis, is peculiar to Australia. The permanent pension at 100 per cent, rate to sufferers from pulmonary tuberculosis is not found elsewhere, nor is there such a liberal scheme of allowances for those who are confined to wheeled chairs or cots, or whose injuries are so severe as to warrant the constant services of an attendant. Honorable senators, I am sure, will agree, from this hurried resume of the activities of the department that successive governments have done all that is possible to alleviate sufferings directly traceable to the Great War.
Experience gained in administering the provisions of the act, has made it abundantly clear that there was a large body of men who were suffering so severely that their employable usefulness had departed. These were suffering, some effects impossible to define, effects which were not directly or indirectly traceable to war service but which nevertheless made an insistent appeal for consideration by the Government. This class of sufferer was not confined to Australia; all the belligerent nations have had to cope with a similar problem, but only in Canada and New Zealand has special legislation been introduced to alleviate their conditions. In both Canada and New Zealand, an allowance approximating £1 a week for a single man and £2 a week for a married man has been granted, and after fully considering the situation in the Commonwealth, this Government has now decided to introduce special remedial measures. Shortly, it is proposed to make provision for a pension at 60 years of age for a soldier, and at 55 years of age for a nurse, who served in a theatre of war. This, in effect, is a reduction by five years of the age of eligibility for the old-age pension, and is a recognition by the Government that those former service men and women whose employable usefulness departs at an age earlier than it does in the case of a civilian, are due for special consideration. Irrespective of age, for those whose physical or mental condition renders them permanently unemployable, the Government intends to grant a pension at the rate provided in the new bill, provided they served in a theatre of war, whilst to those former soldiers who suffer from pulmonary tuberculosis and whose condition has not been accepted for war pension payment, the Government intends to grant a service pension whether they served in a theatre of war or not or whether they are permanently unemployable or not. Having in view the necessity for doing everything possible to prevent the spread of pulmonary tuberculosis the Government also proposes to give free treatment in repatriation institutions for sufferers of this class, and to enable them to purchase extra or special foods as their condition necessitates, the tubercular sufferers will he permitted to draw invalid pension in addition to service pension. The maximum rate of pension will be 18s. a week for a single man or widower, 30s. a week for a man and his wife, and 2s. 6d. a week for each child, limited to four. The total allowed income in respect of any pensioner will be £79 6s. per annum.
I emphasize that so far as social legislation in this country is concerned, the proposal now before the Senate is entirely new and it is easy to visualize the difficulties which will confront the administration. Honorable senators can call to mind certain classes of returned men who in some respects are abnormal, and whose ability to obtain and pursue remunerative employment is strictly limited. The class the Government has in mind in this respect is not so seriously afflicted as a totally and permanently incapacitated man, nor does the Government desire the definition to be so stringently interpreted as is necessary under the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. It is intended that in respect of those soldiers who, whilst not bedridden, or totally and permanently incapacitated for life, are, through physical or mental disablement, prevented from obtaining and following a remunerative occupation, each case shall he determined on its merits in a reasonable manner, due regard being paid to the applicant’s experience, previous occupation and general, qualifications. The Government desires that the commission, in adminis tering the provisions for service pensions, shall act with both sympathy and commonsense.
Whilst, no doubt, all will agree that the main object of this bill is to provide a new scheme of service pensions, to which I have made brief reference, it has another object. The Government proposes to liberalize the existing provisions. In many cases, the Repatriation Commission commuted pensions where the condition was stationary, where the proposition submitted was a sound one, t.nd where the degree of disability did not exceed 30 per cent. Unfortunately, since the pensioner accepted the lump sum, his conditions has retrogressed, and the Government, after full consideration, has decided to restore pensions in commuted cases at a rate shown to be justified by medical examination.
A most important clause in the bill gives the commission power to accept the death of a blinded soldier, of a totally and permanently incapacitated soldier drawing a pension under the second schedule of the act, and the death of a double amputation case, from any causes whatsoever, as being due to war service. Dependants of these three classes will then be eligible to receive increased war pension and other benefits as if the death of the soldier had been due to war sei* vice. Honorable senators will agree, ] am sure, that this is a very liberal action on the part of the Government.
A further clause in the amending bill seeks to remedy certain injustices which some soldiers are now suffering. In December, 1921, the Repatriation Act was amended to permit of the payment of war pension in cases where a disability which i originated before enlistment was increased to a material degree us n result of war service. In such cases an applicant had to apply within six months of the amendment. This restriction is operating harshly and it is now proposed to repeal it so that a material aggravation case may apply at any time. The bill also extends the act to permit a material aggravation case to appeal to an entitlement appeal tribunal or to an assessment appeal tribunal. A further clause worthy of special mention limits the time within which the commission may appeal against the decision of an entitlement appeal tribunal. At present the commission may appeal at any time. It is now intended to reduce this period to six months, except in cases where the pension has been obtained by fraud or impersonation.
The Government has authorized the commission to liberalize the basis of pensions payable to aged parents and other dependants who are without adequate means of support. Certain items which are now classed as income, such as friendly society benefits and gifts from children, will be disregarded in arriving at the amount of pension payable. This will result in some pensions being increased. The annual cost of the proposed new pensions and benefits is estimated to be -
The proposals are a distinct step forward in affording benefits to returned soldiers and their dependants. 1 commend the measure to the earnest and sympathetic considerationof all honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
[11.33].– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for increasing, by an amount not exceeding £4,500, the sum payable to the State of Tasmania under section 9 of the Wheat Growers Relief Act 1934-1935. Under that act provision is made for the payment to that State, by way of financial assistance, of £4,100 for each month during which a tax is imposed upon flour under the legislation at present in operation. As Tasmania produces only a small quantity of wheat, and the amount required to finance the relief to the wheat-growers in that State was estimated to be comparatively small, this special payment to the State, was granted as a rebate, partly to offset the flour tax collected in respect of flour consumed in Tasmania. The monthly payment of £4,100 was calculated on a basis estimated to represent the difference between the total flour tax that would be collected on flour consumed in Tasmania and the amount required for the relief of wheatgrowers in that State. Under the terms of an act passed by the Tasmanian Parliament, the government of that State has been utilizing the amounts paid to make refunds to millers and others in respect of the flour tax paid by them. The rate of refund was fixed by the Tasmanian Government to absorb approximately the actual amount received from the Commonwealth. It has now been ascertained that the consumption of flour in Tasmania was under-estimated, and that the payment made to that State under the Wheat Growers Relief Act at the rate of £4,100 a month is proving insufficient to enable refunds at the rate adopted by the Tasmanian Government to be continued during the period in which the present flour tax is operative. The Tasmanian Government has made representations for payment of an additional amount. It is estimated that the amount required by that government will be between £4,000 and £4,500, and Parliament is now asked to appropriate an amount, not exceeding £4,500, as may be approved by the Treasurer. If the bill be approved, it is proposed to authorize the payment to the Tasmanian Government of an amount sufficient to meet the actual payments made under the Tasmanian act to which I have referred ; but the amount is not to exceed £4,500.
Debate (on motion by Senator Col lings) adjourned.
– I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
This measure, which is supplementary to the Meat Export Control Bill recently passed by the Senate, is to provide a fund from which the administrative and other expenses of the Australian Meat Board will be paid.
Other export control boards are financed in the same manner, and the system has been found to operate smoothly and effectively. The bill will enable a levy of one halfpenny per quarter in respect of beef, one halfpenny per carcass in respect of veal, and one penny per carcass, in respect of mutton, lamb and pork, to be collected on meat exported. Corresponding levies are also imposed on piece meat and canned meat. The rates specified are in accord with the maximum. levies. recommended at the Commonwealth Meat Conference held on the 5th of October, 1935, which was attended by Commonwealth and State Ministers, and members of the Commonwealth Meat Advisory Committee. Provision is made whereby, on the recommendation of the board, lower rates may be prescribed by regulation. It is also provided that any meat may be exempted from the charges upon report by the board to the Minister. The actual rates of levy to be imposed, and the classes of meat to which they will apply are therefore matters for determination by the board. On the basis of export during the year ended the 30th June, 1934, the maximum levies that could be collected would provide the board with a fund estimated at £25,000. That sum is much larger than will be required to meet the administrative expenses of the board and the cost of the London representative, but, it is intended that there shall be an adequate surplus to provide for the flurrying out of judicious propaganda or advertising campaigns to promote the sale of Australian meat overseas, and for undertaking any experiments, which in the opinion of the board, are calculated to improve the quality of Australian meat intended for export. Other boards already in existence advertise extensively, and each year utilize the larger portion of their revenue for this purpose. In this they are assisted by the Commonwealth Government, with the result that in no ca.sp has it yet been found necessary to impose flip maximum rate of levy. It is anticipated that the Australian Mont Hoard w’11 be in much the same position as other boards. Nevertheless it is desirable that the rates specified in the hill shall provide a margin for any contingency that might arise. A similar system has been adopted in other instances, and I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Govlings) adjourned.
– I move -
That tho bill be now rend it second time.
The purpose of this bill is, first to include canned pineapples and canned fruit salad in the definition of “ canned fruits “ in the Canned Fruits Export Charges Act, 1926-1929, so that the definition will conform with that already shown in the Canned Fruits Export Control Act, 1926-1935; and, secondly, to validate charges’ levied and collected on canned pineapples since 28th November, 1933, and on canned fruit salad since the 4th April, 1935, being the respective dates on which these products were brought under the supervision of the Canned Fruits Control Board. In response to representations from those engaged in the canned fruits industry, and in view of the fact thatcanned pineapples and canned fruit salad were becoming increasingly popular in overseas markets, the Canned Fruits Export Control Act 1926-1930 was amended in 1933 and 1935, to bring these products within the provisions of that act. Coincident with the passage of the amending acts, a levy of one-twelfth of a penny for each 30 ounces of canned fruit exported was charged and collected on canned pineapples and canned fruit salad under the Canned Fruits Export Charges Act, in the same manner as a similar levy has been collected on canned apricots, peaches and pears exported from the Commonwealth. The whole of this levy is paid to the Canned Fruits Control Board to meet, the administrative expenses of the board in connexion with the orderly marketing of the products Und 21 its supervision, and for publicity and other services to the industry. Advice lias been received from the SolicitorGeneral that the charges levied and collected ou canned pineapples and canned fruit salad should .be validated by ah amendment of the Canned Fruits Export Charges Act. The bill, which is merely of a machinery nature, has been prepared to comply with that advice; and also to bring canned pineapples and canned fruit salad within the meaning of the term “ canned fruits “ in the act. In amending the . Canned Fruits Export Charges Act, provision has been made to enable the Minister to fix different rates of charges on different kinds of fruit should he so desire. A similar provision appears in the Dried Fruits Export Charges Act, and although it is not proposed at present to make use of the provision in regard to canned fruits, it is considered desirable to include it in the act should the necessity for such differentiation arise.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This short amendment to the Financial Relief Act 1934 provides for an increase of the appropriation for the fertilizer subsidy for the year 1934-1935. When the subsidy was introduced in 1932, it was explained that many of our primary producers were not obtaining the best results from their operations because of their inability to make the fullest use of fertilizers. In some districts it was feared that the results of the insufficient application of fertilizers, particularly on pastures and orchards, would extend far beyond the loss in yield for the year concerned, and would affect future production, because of the set-back given to the pastures, trees and vines. The Government, therefore, granted the subsidy of 15s. a ton to encourage primary producers other than wheat-growers to use at least the normal quantities of fertilizers and, if necessary for efficient production, to extend their use. The result of this policy has been a remarkable increase of the use of artificial manures in these classes of production. In the first year of operation a considerable quantity which would not otherwise have been used was applied, and in 1934-35, sales of fertilizers showed an increase of over 90,000 tons, most of which was for use on pastures, and in connexion with the production of fruit, vegetables, and other crops. When the bill providing assistance for 1934-35 was introduced, it was not anticipated, either by the Department of Commerce or by the trade, that there would be such an increase, and provision was not made for it. Even so recently as the middle of October there was no indication that the increase would be so marked, as the number of applications to that date represented a value of only £233,000. In the last ‘fortnight of October, however, applications representing a sum of approximately £90,000 were received, and it is, therefore, necessary to increase the appropriation of £250,000 made for that year to £325,000 in order to provide funds for payment on the increased quantity used. The experience in respect of the year 1934-35 suggests that there is likely to be a considerable further amount required for the year 1935-1936, for which an amount of £275,000 has been provided (including provision for half-ton lots, which were not previously included), but it is as yet too early to make a definite estimate of what the increase is likely to be. The position will, however, be reviewed early next year.
Having in mind the beneficial results accruing to our primary industries from the wider use of fertilizers, I commend this bill to the Senate for favorable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 3rd December (vide page 2354).
Proposed vote, £9,704,000.
– Last night I was endeavouring to show the inconveniences endured by settlers in the far western districts of Queensland through the operation of the existing mail service. During the past few years the Postmaster-General’s Department has been able to effect a saving of many thousands of pounds on these services. and, as an instance of these substantial economies, I shall quote the WintonBoulia contract. Winton is situated at the rail head, and Boulia is 251 miles distant. In 1920 two mail contracts existed, one to serve the district between Winton and Middleton, which is 106 miles along the route, and the other to serve the settlers between Middleton and Boulia. The contract for the WintonMiddleton section was £526, and for the Middleton-Boulia section £330, a total of £856. During the period 1921-23 the Winton-Middleton contract was let for £550, and the Middleton-Boulia contract for £330, a total of £880. The contracts for the years 1924-26 showed a substantial decrease, the Winton-Middleton section .being let for £200 and the MiddletonBoulia section for £324, a total of £524. Further considerable economies were effected in the years 1927-29, when the Winton-Middleton contract was let for £49 and the Middleton-Boulia contract for £49, or a total of £98. In 1931-32 a tender for the transport of mails from Winton to Boulia was let for £286, and the present contract for the combined services, which does not expire until 1937, has been let for £190. This mail service is operated by motor lorry, which covers a distance of 502 miles every week. The wear and tear on the vehicle, plus the cost of benzine and oil, and incidental expenses, make it utterly impossible for the contractor to obtain a profit from the tender of £190. What happens is that he makes up the difference between the present contract price of £190 and the 1921-2.3 contract price of £880 by the revenue he collects from the people in the closer settlement areas of the district which his motor lorry traverses. The settlers must obtain household stores and other requirements from Winton, and these commodities are brought to them by the contractor. These people are entitled to better facilities from the Postal Department than they are receiving. Before the country was subdivided into smaller areas, by which I mean holdings of 60,000 acres, it was held as large stations, and the’ contractor delivered the mails direct to the homesteads. The resumed and subdivided areas are naturally on the outside of the station properties, and some of the settlers are many miles from the. mail route. One selector is obliged to travel 30 miles to Middleton to collect his mail. If there happens to be any urgent matter requiring a prompt reply, he must return to Middleton within the next three days to catch the mail, and thus he may be compelled to travel a total distance of 120 miles a week to deal with his correspondence. Four years ago I submitted to the department a scheme for a subsidiary mail to overcome this difficulty. I suggested the inauguration of a subsidiary service from Middleton, deviating from the main road’ in order to serve eight settlers, and rejoining the ‘ main road about 15 miles further along the mail route. The deviation involved a distance of only 40 miles. Following a report by a departmental inspector, tenders were invited, and one of £70 was submitted. The department would not accept it, intimating that as the 1927-29 contract for a distance of 106 miles was let for only £49, it was not prepared to pay £70 for a 40-miles deviation. The department entirely omitted to consider the fact that the selectors themselves were indirectly paying the difference between the two contracts on the goods and parcels that they ordered from the railhead, thus enabling the contractor to tender for such a low amount. A departmental inspector interviewed the storekeeper and hotelkeeper in Middleton, hut I am given to understand that he did not visit the selectors themselves - the persons vitally interested - and, as his report was unfavorable to my suggestion, the plan for a subsidiary mail was rejected. The Minister should realize that these selectors have been too hard-pressed during the last ten years of drought to make any organized protest; but I contend that, in view of the substantial economies made by the department during the last few years on this route alone, the settlers who have made that saving possible should receive more favorable treatment. I have had brought to my notice details of four other similar cases in this district. Earlier in my remarks I stated that the postal facilities in some of the far western districts of Queensland were not so good as they were 25 years ago. This may be due to the fact that, as the result of closer settlement, and lower contract prices the contractor is forced to depend to a greater extent on his revenue from the carriage of goods to and from the properties on his route. In some instances, a mail contractor finds that he has to delay his lorry in order to pick up or deliver goods. “When Cob*) and Company carried out mail contracts in the far western districts of my State 25 years ago, one of the terms of their contract required the mailman to cross all streams or rivers if the water were not higher than the saddle flaps. Nowadays water so deep as that would cover the radiator of a motor lorry. Thus the mail would be delayed till the water had receded. The contractor is naturally not to blame for this. It is due to the bad condition of the roads which are not under the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department. From the departmental point of view it may be considered good business to save £690 a year on One mail contract, but the settlers who are served by the mail are seriously inconvenienced, and in view of the part which they play in developing our outback ureas they should receive more consideration than they are now getting from the department.
.- The reply of the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to the remarks of Senator Brown yesterday about the dismissal of a large number of returned soldier linesmen and mechanics who were temporarily employed by the department in Victoria was satisfactory up to a point. The replacement since the 1st July of 158 skilled linesmen and 50 mechanics by the engagement of junior apprentices is a disappointment to all of us who look to the Federal Government to ensure continuity of employmentfor those ageing diggers, all of whom are bread winners. . Whilst we all agree as to the necessity for finding employment for the youth of the community, I suggest that these returned soldiers have a major claim on the sympathy and consideration of the Government. They should not always live in fear of the possibility of being dismissed and themselves and their families forced on the dole. The Postmaster-General, in reply to a ques tion which I addressed to him recently, expressed the hope that within the next year or two approximately 50 per cent, of the vacancies occurring for linesmen would be filled by the appointment of returned soldiers who had passed the necessary examination. To some extent that assurance is satisfactory, because, half a. loaf is better than no bread. But I would remind him that although many of these linesmen passed the necessary examination so far back as 1927, they have not yet been placed on the permament staff. If I were Postmaster-General for about a fortnight I would find much to engage my attention in some centres of Victoria, notably Bendigo and Wangaratta. I regret to state that the principle of preference to returned soldiers has not been fully honoured in the Postal Department. With 663 uncompleted applications for the installation of telephones in Victoria, there should be no occasion for the dismissals of any linesmen or mechanics. I am aware that the official reply is that there is no provision on the Estimates of the Postmaster-General to allow of this work being carried out; but as considerable revenue is to be derived from ground rents of telephones, the necessary money should be found temporarily from some other source. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will -give this matter his personal attention, and so avoid further dismissals, otherwise the approaching Christmas season will not be a happy one for many returned soldiers and their families.
– I support the remarks of Senator Cooper, who has directed attention to the unsatisfactory fulfilment of many mail contracts in the far-western districts of Queensland. What the honorable gentleman said applies to many districts in other States, and I was rather surprised at the apparent complacency with which the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) received the complaint from Senator Cooper.
– The PostmasterGeneral is “ the toad beneath the harrow “ !
– I wonder if that is the explanation of the honorable gentleman’s official attitude to the complaints of outback settlers? It should be the concern of the department to make available to pioneer settlers as many as possible of the amenities of civilization, including those inventions which eliminate time and distance and, by enabling settlers in remote areas to get in touch with the larger centres of population, make their lot a little easier. Residents iu the outback areas to which Senator Cooper has referred measure areas in thousands of miles, whereas smaller settlers in the Upper Hunter districts of New South Wales measure their areas in hundreds of miles. But their difficulties are in every respect identical. Settlers who are pioneering outback areas suffer definite disabilities, and are deserving of special consideration. There is too much evidence of a desire on the part of officialdom when inviting tenders for mail services to adopt a cheeseparing policy. In this way some savings may be effected, but not infrequently what at first sight appears to be a good piece of business is not necessarily good business at all.
– The honorable senator and others are always calling out for reduced expenditure; they cannot have it both ways.
– It is false economy to limit unduly expenditure designed to encourage closer settlement. I. have had brought to my notice many such instances of false economy. One in particular concerns a settler engaged in mixed farming, who before the depression had made application for the installation of a telephone in his home distant about 9 miles from the nearest exchange. The department informed him that lie could have the telephone if he entered into a. seven years’ contract at a rental of £11 a year. I should add that for seven miles of the distance there were telephone lines connecting other subscribers, so the department incurred no additional expenditure for the erection of posts for that portion of the new service. Nevertheless, it required the subscribe;1 in cover the co3t of installation for the additional two miles. At the onset of the depression, as we all know. Commonwealth and State Ministers agreed to a plan to effect economies in every direction, and emergency legislation was introduced effecting, among other- things, a reduction of interest on advances, in order to ease the burden on the people generally. It is well known that government departments were extremely reluctant to give relief in respect of interest charges, and in this case the department itf used to make any reduction of the original rental. Even the Lands Department, New South Wales, under the Pastures Protection Act, charged settlers the full rate of 6 per cent, for advances for some considerable time, although it was shown that up till about eighteen months ago the most efficient dairy-farmers had lo be content with a return of 3d. an hour for their labour. I am wondering what Senator Brown would say if the people for whom he so often “ barracks “ in this chamber had to be content with that reward for their labour. I congratulate Senator Cooper upon having brought under the notice of the Senate the attitude of the Postal Department in connexion with mail contracts in outback areas. It is known that the department has been able to secure cheaper contracts largely as the result of closer settlement. The settlers who are rendering such splendid service to this country should receive more sympathetic consideration.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) a subject of much importance in connexion with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra has had Mr. W. J. Grieves as its leader for practically the whole of its existence. Mr. Grieves is a man of high musical attainments, and has occupied a number of important positions in the musical world. During the Blanche Arral season, he conducted the orchestra as leader and deputy leader. He was also deputy leader and, later, lender of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Sydney Amateur Orchestra and the Sydney Philarmonic Society’s Orchestra. He was also leader and first violinist of the orchestra during the Sheffield Choir Festival, and acted in a similar capacity during the Quinlan Opera. Company’s production of the Wagnerian operas in “ The Ring “ and other grand operas. He aipo held a. similar position in the New South Wales State Orchestra, immediately succeeding the Verbruggen regime.
– I rise to a point of order. The subject referred to by the honorable senator is in no way related to item E4 of division No. 127, which has relation to special work done by the Postmaster-General’s Department in connexion with the scientific aspects of radio. The Postal Department has on its staff a number of highly trained experts in radio, whose salaries are covered by this item. I submit that at this stage the honorable senator is not in order.
– In view of the explanation by the Postmaster-General, that this item refers to engineering and technical services, not to broadcasting programmes, I must rule that Senator Arkins would not be in order in continuing.
.- I should like to reply to some of the points raised by individual senators. For instance, Senator Abbott objected to certain people who had made application for telephones being asked to pay a deposit and give certain guarantees. Obviously, if the department is to incur an expense of, say, £200, in the construction of a few miles of telephone line, it does not want the service to be discontinued after a few months, as has happened on many occasions.
I compliment the Minister on what has been done to extend the hours during which about 40 country telephone exchanges remain open. His action will be of great benefit to country residents. As Senator Abbott referred to the difficulty experienced by people living seven or eight miles from an exchange in obtaining telephone connexions, I draw the attention of the Senate to a new system which has been evolved in Great Britain whereby a number of persons may use the same telephone line, and, by making selective calls, engage in conversation which cannot be overheard by the other users of the line. “With such a system in operation, ten separate persons, living 10 miles from a telephone exchange, who would ordinarily require 200 miles of wire to provide them with separate telephone installations, may engage in private conversation by the erection of only 20 miles of line. The committee will readily recognize that such a system would make telephones available to many country resi dents who are now unable to pay the high cost of separate installations. I understand that a measure of success has attended the experiments with his system which have been carried out in Australia by officers of the department, and that in other” parts of the world the new system has proved effective. If the department could erect party lines on that system, the difficulty mentioned by Senators Abbott and Cooper would soon be overcome. I know of many instances of individual country residents paying for the erection of from 20 to 30 miles of line in order to ensure that their conversations would not be overheard. Under the system which I have mentioned, that heavy expenditure would be saved because the cost would bc shared by ten or twelve subscribers.
I have repeatedly referred to the rural automatic system which was inaugurated about 192S. There are 20 or 30 such exchanges in operation to-day, rendering great service to country residents by providing continuous service, instead of a service restricted to a limited number of hours each day. The cost of maintaining a rural automatic exchange is not a great deal more than that of a manual system, and it has the further advantage of giving a continuous service. I know that the Postmaster-General intends to install more of these exchanges during the coming year, but, in my opinion, he could do more than hi? proposes. The extension of this class of exchange would be greatly appreciated by the rural community who are not at home during the hours that most manual exchanges in the country are open for business. The farmers are still at work in the fields when the manual exchanges close at 6 p.m. They wish to be able to use the system later in the evening, and the rural automatic system gives them the opportunity to do so.
I wish now to refer to Item E4 of Division 127 - “ National Broadcasting Services, £9,260 “. Broadcasting in Australia is only twelve years old.
– Does the honorable senator propose to connect his remarks with the land services which the Postmaster-General has indicated are covered by this item ?
– I propose to connect my remarks with the item “ National broadcasting services “ insofar as the linking of A class stations with B class stations is concerned.
– The amount mentioned by the honorable senator refers to research in connexion with engineering.
– There is a special item for research. This item does not cover research. I submit that the linking of A class and B class stations may be dealt with under this item.
– I have no desire to interrupt Senator Gibson, but I do desire a definite ruling on this subject. If the committee is to be allowed to discuss broadcasting generally, a long time will elapse before this bill has been disposed of, because the Opposition has strong views in regard to broadcasting, although perhaps, different from those of Senator Gibson.
– Obviously, there cannot be a general discussion on broadcasting at this stage. The PostmasterGeneral has pointed out that this item covers engineering and technical services in connexion with telephone land lines under the control of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– Item. E4 of Division 129 also deals with “national broadcasting services “. Are we not entitled to discuss broadcasting under either item ?
– Item E4 of Division 129 is really only an elaboration of Division 127, Item E4, by which an adjustment of expenditure is madein Division 129 to Victoria, and inother divisions, to the other States. Item E. Nos. 1 to 6 of Division 127, has nothing to do with B class stations.
– As the B class stations use the lines provided by the Postmaster-General, I submit that I am in order in referring to B class stations.
– The Melbourne University uses telephone lines, but the honorable senator would not be in order in discussing the Melbourne University under this item.
– These lines are used for broadcasting services. May I proceed, Mr. Chairman, to discuss the subject to which I have referred?
– The honorable senator would not be in order in doing so. He may not discuss B class broadcasting stations under this item.
– Surely I would bo in order in discussing the transmission of programmes from one B class station to another B class station?
– I rule that a discussion of B class broadcasting stations, or of broadcasting generally, is not permissible at this stage.
– I accept your ruling. Mr. Chairman.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to indicate exactly where the huge expenditure incurred in the maintenance and operation of national broadcasting stations is provided for in the Estimates. Other senators as well as myself are vitally interested in this matter.
– The item relating to broadcasting appearing in these Estimates covers expenditure incurred in supplying engineering services, information of an advisory character, research into the science of radio, and engineering investigations which are constantly being made in every centre in Australia to ascertain whether channels are functioning rightly for the efficiency of the services as a whole. But this provision has no relation to the work of the B class stations except, as Senator Gibson has pointed out, insofar as those stations hire from the department lines on which to transmit their programmes. That, however, is not an item of expenditure.
– What of the upkeep of those lines?
– These estimates make provision for the department’s telephonic, telegraphic and radio activities. To discuss the whole subject of broadcasting at this juncture would, I suggest, be out of order.
– The PostmasterGeneral has not yet actually answered my question. I agree that the section of the Estimates now under review deals with the engineering side of broadcasting. But there are two sides to this matter, and I again ask the PostmasterGeneral whether in the schedule there is any provision upon which we can review the activities of the Broadcasting Commission itself which controls and regulates A class programmes?
– ‘There is no such provision in these Estimates.
– That seems rather strange to me. If I remember rightly, the revenue . received from radio licences which is applied to the upkeep of A class stations, is approximately £400,000 annually. This matter is of vital interest to hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia, and as it comes directly under the jurisdiction of the Postmaster-General’s Department, there is something radically wrong when we are not permitted to discuss it on the annual Appropriation Bill.
– There is a reference to national broadcasting services in item No. 5, division No. 26, page 276 of the Estimates.
– “We are not dealing with the Estimates; we are dealing with the Appropriation Bill.
– Are not the Estimates covered by this bill?
TheCHAIRMA N. - In any case, the committee has already dealt with division 26 and cannot revert to it.
– The item to which Senator Cooper has referred was covered by the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill which has already been passed.
– Would I. be in order, Mr. Chairman, in discussing the effect of the operations of B class stations on the national broadcasting services? The Postmaster-General apparently thinks that I am antagonistic to him; but I desire to help him. Evidently, however, he does not, want my help.
– I desire to help h onorable senators by allowing the fullest discussion within the scope of the Estimates, but. I cannot allow a general discussion on broadcasting, or a debate on the activities of A and B class stations into which such a discussion would obviously develop. We are discussing the bill, and the remarks of honorable senators must be related to items contained therein.
– Surely, Mr. Chairman, the item, National Broadcasting Services, covers broadcasting as a whole, If that is so, it is competent for me to show how the national broadcasting services are being affected by the operations of B class stations.
– I cannot allow a general discussion on broadcasting.
– Is it competent for me, Mr. Chairman, to move that this Senate is of the opinion that these Estimates are not complete? If so, I shall move to that effect because I hold the view that they are not complete, when a matter such as broadcasting, which is one of the largest activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department, is not mentioned in this bill.
– The honorable senator may only move a request on some item appearing in this bill.
– To clarify the position, I point out that the Broadcasting Commission is governed by a special act. If honorable senators refer to that act, they will see that the revenue and expenditure of the commission are dealt with there. Further, if they also examine a report which I tabled this morning, they will see that the accounts of the commission are kept separate from the general Treasury accounts.
Last evening Senator Allan MacDonaid asked a question concerning the northwest air mail services. I point, out that the provision of air mail services is under the control of the Department of of Civil Aviation, which decides upon the routes to be followed, and deals directly with such matters as ground work and direction finding. However, when services are provided between certain points, the Postmaster-General takes advantage of them for the dispatch of His Majesty’s mails. If the honorable senator refers to page 18 of the memorandum circulated by the Department of Civil Aviation in reference to its estimates, he will find this matter dealt with there. Thus, eager as it is to utilize air services for the carriage of mails, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department does not fix the routes, hut if such services run to a schedule to suit the department, it takes full advantage of them.
– The present hours are, in many cases, not suitable.
– That may be, but the honorable senator, as I pointed out the other day, is aware that certain difficulties exist in this respect. I entirely sympathize with the suggestion for the provision of better communication generally by air. The department’s interest in this matter is evidenced by the establishment during the last three or four months of air mail- services to Tasmania, Mount Gambier and Port Lincoln, from Tennants Creek to Alice Springs, and from Alice Springs to Adelaide. The last-named service carried mails on a poundage basis, and has had a somewhat chequered career. Honorable senators may rest assured that the existing services will be improved and synchronized as soon as possible, and as existing difficulties gradually disappear.
– Australian services could be synchronized immediately if the overseas air mail were speeded up.
– -The overseas air mail is not under the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department. That, department stands very much in the same relation to air services as it does to railway services. We merely load the mails on to the trains and the planes. To a certain extent the time schedules of these services are arranged to suit’ the department’s convenience for the despatch of mail matter; other than that, however, we have no say in regard to routes or time tables.
– The department can use considerable influence in this respect.
– That is so, and it has endeavoured to exercise that influence so far as possible.
The mail services to outlying country districts, to which Senator Cooper re ferred, has given the department considerable worry. I cannot, blame the department or any of my predecessors for getting the mails carried at reduced rates.I understand that the Boulia to Middleton service has been examined, but the honorable senator’s suggestion fora subsidiary service will be investigated immediately, and, if possible, something will be done to afford relief to the settlers.
As to improving conditions in respect of mail services generally the department considers that the present regulations are framed on a very liberal scale, and that the interests and requirements of settlers in outlying country districts have been safeguarded. During the depression, it was found necessary to curtail certain services, but since the return of more prosperous times services which were previously withdrawn have been gradually replaced where the circumstances justified such action. A departmental officer, skilled in the carriage of mails, is reviewing the services which had been curtailed, and to date it has been possible to reestablish no less than SO services. That investigation is still proceeding, and partial provision is made in these Estimates for the establishment of new services, and increasing the frequency of existing services, where and when such improvements become justified.
– Is it not a fact that the mail services in many country districts have been reduced ?
– Yes , but those services are gradually being improved.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Honorable senators may be interested to learn that 80 new postal services have been inaugurated since the financial position became easier. Having in view the vast territory over which the department operates it is impracticable to say which services are deserving of the most consideration ; but it is the endeavour of the department to provide services where the need is greatest. I think that Senator Duncan-Hughes directed attention to the considerable increase of the number of employees in the postal department. If the increase continues in the present ratio, it is expected that by the end of the present financial year the department will have absorbedmost of the adult permanent employees performing the work of juniors, and thereafter when further vacancies are to be filledapplications will be invited. In September last 900 adults were performing the work of juniors, but since that time quite a number have been given other work. The position in Victoria, which is remarkable, was due largely to the rush of postal business during the visit of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester, flood conditions and other unusual circumstances. This necessitated the employment of a larger number of employees than would have otherwise been necessary. I. assure Senator Brand that the policy of preference to returned soldiers is adhered to more strictly in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department than perhaps in any other branch of the service.
I remind Senator Abbott and Senator Cooper, who referred to the necessity for a reduction of the charges by mail contractors in various centres that in all cases tenders are called for the carriage of mails. Those carrying mails under contract are able to carry goods to settlers at a cheaper rate than they would otherwise be able to do because of the subsidy they receive from the department. It would be a mistake to conduct such services on other than a competitive basis. I know of only one instance in which dissatisfaction exists between the contractor and the department. If certain settlers have to pay more for the carriage of their stores than they consider necessary, it is a matter over which the department has no control. I remind Senator Abbott, who referred to a sevenmile limit, that there is a -formula upon which the department always acts. There has been some relaxation in the matter of finance during the last few months, and in consequence the department has been able to construct new telephone lines, the number of which I hope to be able to state to the committee later. The telephone services mentioned by Senator Gibson are a matter to which I have given a good deal of attention. I do not regard a telephone service terminating, as it does in some centres, at 6 p.m., as a real service to country settlers. The department is endeavouring to extend the hours during which exchanges remain open in a number of centres. In some instances those closing at 6 p.m. will now close at 8 p.m. and those which previously closed at 8 p.m. will remain open until 10 p.m. I believe that extended hours of service have been introduced at 500 country exchanges. A month ago 26 auto- matic exchanges had been erected in various centres and five others were in course of erection. In addition to the 31 exchanges mentioned another 44 are to be put in hand this year. Senator Gibson suggested the adoption of the selective ringing system. I believe that Mr. Brown, who is an engineer, does not view the system favorably. I shall, however, ascertain to what extent it has been examined by the department.
– From time to time the unsatisfactory conditions existing at the Brisbane post office and at the post office a t Fortitude Valley, have been brought under the notice of the Government. The latter office which is very old, is some distance from the main shopping centre, which involves those conducting large retail emporiums in a great deal of expense in sending their parcels to the post office, or to a depot in the city.
– This measure does not relate to works expenditure, and, therefore, the subject which the honorable senator has raised cannot be discussed at this juncture.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is a fact that there are no telephone facilities at North Ainslie, Canberra, where the residents numbering several hundreds, have to travel by car or send a messenger when they wish to communicate with a doctor ?
– I have already undertaken to have inquiries made to ascertain whether better facilities than now exist can be provided at North Ainslie.
– I desire to ask your ruling, Mr. Chairman, whether under the item “ payment to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for hire and operation of broadcasting stations, £6,600 “, it is competent for honorable senators to discuss broadcasting in all its aspects? I also ask for a definite ruling in respect of the item “ contribution to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited towards cost of wireless stations £37,000” and ‘/National Broadcasting Services £9,260 “. Upon those items are wc entitled to discuss broadcasting generally ?
– The honorable senator is referring in the first place to amounts paid to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for the rent of broadcasting stations which the Government acquired when it instituted a national broadcasting service.
– The honorable senator may discuss the item relating to the payment to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for the hire and operation of broadcasting stations, but it is not competent for this committee to enter into a general discussion of broadcasting in all its aspects. The opportunity to do so was afforded on the first reading of the bill, when each honorable senator was at liberty, had be wished, to occupy one and a half hours in discussing that or any other subject, with the possibility of obtaining an extension of another half hour, in which further to elaborate his remarks.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £159,404.
– I desire to refer to the matter of a subsidy paid to John Burke Limited, an enterprise which maintains a service in the Northern Territory from the Albert River to the Macarthur and Roper Rivers with the auxiliary ketch Noosa. I have a copy of a letter which this company has addressed to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), asking for the reinstatement of a subsidy of £2,000, which was formerly granted to the company by the Commonwealth to assist it in carrying on shipping services between the river ports of the Northern Territory. This sum of £2,000 was the Commonwealth’s share of a subsidy of £6,000, the balance of which was contributed by the Government of Queensland. The letter states -
At the end of five years the Commonwealth discontinued its portion of the subsidy . . . in spite of this we carried on the service at £4,000 without in any way increasing freight rates. . . . We are submitting for your consideration that your Government again subsidizesour Gulf service, and in return for the first £1,000 subsidy, we will reduce freight 20s. a ton, and for the second, a further 20s. a ton, with the exception in the second case that these present special rates will not be affected beyond the first reduction.
The letter further points out that the development of the Northern Territory depends on transport at a reasonable cost, and if this can be provided, population will be attracted. Will the Minister explain the attitude of the Government towards the request for the reinstatement of this subsidy?
[2.35]. - At present a subsidy of £2,150 is being paid to John Burke Limited, a company operating a fourweekly service from the Albert River to the Roper and McArthur rivers. I am aware that the company has made representations to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) for the reinstatement of the subsidy. The Minister has submitted to Cabinet certain proposals in relation to the cheapening of freights in land transport in the Northern Territory, and he has also under consideration the matter of sea freights. In that connexion I shall see that the honorable senator’s request is brought under the notice of the Minister..
Proposed vote agreed to.
Federal Capital Territory.
Proposed vote, £258,000.
– Will the Minister furnish some information concerning the item, “ Tourist Bureau - publicity, £200 “? I consider that more publicity could with advantage be given to Canberra other than through its parliamentarians. If we had more of the Yankee “ boost “ methods, with which Americans advertise their cities, it would be of great benefit to our national capital. Canberra is worthy of advertisement, both for its splendid climate and its scenic attractions. Hundreds of civil servants have been transferred here, and in the course of time it will be difficult for them to find avenues for employment for their children unless Canberra can be developed. I sincerely believe that this city can also be made an ideal health resort. Suitable publicity of its various attractions could be given through the medium of the Tourist Bureau, hut evidently less money is to be spent this year than last year in this direction.
– The visitors to Canberra are its best advertisement.
– Admittedly tourists are one means of advertising Canberra ; but I consider that it is necessary to have an established, efficient publicity bureau to make known far and wide the beauties of the national capital.
– Before tourists will come the railway service to Canberra will have to be improved.
– Even now, mort tourists are visiting Canberra than can be accommodated. One honorable senator was turned out of his hotel last night owing to lack of accommodation, which demonstrates that even gentlemen who art here regularly cannot always find lodgings. If Canberra is to be developed as a city, apart from its purpose as the seat of government, greater publicity should be given to it. I am making a plea for efficient publicity, and I believe that I have the support of all honorable senators.
[2.40 . - The comparatively small amount contained in this vote is necessary to cover items such as photography and the printing of maps and literature. In some years more matter is printed than in others, but I quite agree with Senator Brown that there is scope for more publicity in regard to Canberra, and I shall see that his remarks are brought, under the notice of the Minister. Furthermore, I shall inform the Minister of the applause with which Senator Brown’s appeal was received by other honorable senators.
– Can the Minister g re an undertaking that better railway facilities will be provided ?
– Unfortunately, the railways do not come under the control of the Commonwealth Government.
– Could not a more regular service be instituted?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Both the responsible Minister and the Government have made repeated requests to the railway authorities of New South Wales for a better service, but apparently with little success.
– Could not a line be constructed from Yass to Canberra?
– That, would not solve the problem, because the provision of rolling-stock would still be controlled by the Railway Department of New South Wales. Such a possibility was examined, I believe, when the honorable senator was a Minister, and he, like others of us, shied at the cost involved. The Government is conscious that the train service to Canberra is anything but. satisfactory. Senator MassyGreene informed me of an experience which befell him last night, and which I intend to bring under the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson). The Minister informed Cabinet that he had obtained a distinct promise from the Railway Department of New South Wales that the carriage generally known as “ the dog box “ would not be put on the train, again.
– But it was.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That was a distinct breach of an honorable understanding. J. assure honorable senators that Ministers suffer the same disability as they do; there is undoubtedly room for considerable improvement.
Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) 2.43]. - I support the remarks of Senator Brown in regard to the Tourist Bureau for Canberra. Not enough publicity is given to the beauties of this city, and, furthermore, not enough attention is paid to the fact that: Canberra is the national capital of Australia. I am reminded that scores of tourists who have journeyed to Canberra have commented on its remarkable beauty and bracing climate This national capital has as many scenic attractions as,- possibly, any “other city in the world. Further, it enjoys a healthgiving climate - a fact which, I believe, is reflected in the appearance of honorable senators themselves. Has the Minister any figures showing the number of tourists who visit Canberra?
– No, but the numbers ave increasing.
– I consider that statistics should be kept. Honorable senators have referred to the inadequate railway facilities. If the tourist traffic be increased, naturally the railway service will be improved.
– Tourist traffic will not increase until the railway service is improved.
– I disagree with the honorable senator. I consider that first we must attract larger numbers of tourists to Canberra before we can hope for a substantial improvement of the railway services. If better facilities were provided for tourists they would have a higher appreciation of the many beauty spots of Canberra and leave it with an added sense of the responsibility of the National Parliament. I hope that more publicity will in future be given to the many attractive features of the Federal Capital Territory area, and thus encourage a greater volume of tourists.
– The expenditure proposed on the Canberra cemetery is in excess of the amount for publicity.
– The public cemetery has been opened recently, and provision is made for its maintenance. The sum of £3,400 provided includes £100 for the maintenance of the cemetery in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist.
Senator J. V. MacDONALD (Queensland) 2.49]. - I agree that more attention should be given to the proper advertising of the Federal Capital area. Having lived here for a large portion of the last three years, I have, perhaps, a more intimate knowledge of its many attractive features than have other honorable senators. The publication -nf an attractive booklet describing the leading scenic features of the capital city, and containing a number of good photographs, would be a splended advertisement for the national capital, but unless the publication were well produced, there would be the possibility that it would be picked up by a tourist and. perhaps, thrown away, as happens in the ease of so many cheaply produced publicity pamphlets. The production would require to be of such a kind as to encourage tourists to keep it and show if to friends upon their return to their homes. Thus it would be a lasting advertisement for the national capital. The cost of such a publication would be money well spent. The people of Canberra, and the business community in particular, arcdisappointed at the comparatively slow transfer of administrative staffs from Melbourne. The provision this year is £6,500 in excess of the sum provided in 1934-35; but the Defence and PostmasterGeneral’s Departments, the largest employing sections of the Administration, have still to come here. It is well known that many people entered into business in Canberra in the expectation that the transfer of public departments would bo carried out without interruption, so the interference with those arrangements during the depression years caused considerable disappointment. Improved facilities for tourists would encourage more people to include Canberra in their itinerary, and the business people here would receive a certain amount of compensation for the delay in transferring* the public departments. Under existing conditions, many visitors arrive in Canberra in the morning, and after driving from the railway station through the city area, taking in Parliament House and the Civic Centre, leave by the evening train. Some, I fear, go away with unfavorable impressions and a little bit dissatisfied. This may be because they have not had a reasonable opportunity to appreciate the many beautiful features of the capital city. Very few of them, for instance, have the time a’t their disposal to climb Mr Ainslie to enjoy from thatelevation of 700 feet a. panoramic view of the many attractive features of the city layout, nor are they encouraged to visit the Cotter dam, to see the junction of tho waters of the Mumimbidgee and Cotter Rivers or admire the beauty of the many picnic areas that have been established there. There is, I understand, a voluntary tourist, organization in Canberra. I feel sure that its activities could be widely extended if it received further assistance from the Government. People come here from all parts of Australia, with a patriotic desire to see a national capital in the making, but, unfortunately, owing to lack of facilities, many of them are allowed to wander about in a more or less aimless fashion, and, as I have said, some probably go away a little disappointed. This should be the show place of Australia. If the proper measures were taken it would be possible to attract a much larger number of tourists. When the remainder of the departments are transferred the population of the city will be almost doubled, and future tourists will then be able to get a better idea of the intentions of the designers of the national capital.
– I notice that provision is made for the expenditure of £3,000 on the vocational training of youths in Canberra. I have been living in Canberra continuously since the beginning of September, and as I have not yet come across the vocational training establishment I should like to know where it is and also the nature of the vocational training given in it. I agree with the other honorable senators, that Canberra has much to show the tourist. This is a city of which Australia might well be proud; but under existing conditions many visitors have not a reasonable opportunity to see all that it offers to the tourist. Travellers arriving by train have rather a hit or miss experience. If the tourist bureau could be situated in the vicinity of the railway station, it would be able to render assistance to visitors that would be much appreciated. Tourists who come by * road have their own means of transport. They are not dependent on a local tourist organization; hut the people who come by train require some guidance. If at the Canberra railway station, the tourist bureau had an officer, like the man in grey on the Spencer-street railway station, Melbourne, who is never non-plussed, and can answer every question, the difficulties of many tourists would be smoothed away.
– Senator Collings would be a suitable officer; he is always in grey, and can answer every question.
– Useful as the honorable senator would, no doubt, be as a tourist agent at the Canberra railway station, his services to the nation are, I feel sure, more valu able in the Senate. I believe that much good would be done if arrangements were made to have a tourist agent at the Canberra railway station. We had a similar difficulty some years ago in Western Australia at the port of Fremantle which, as honorable senators are aware, is the front door of Australia. At that time visitors arriving on overseas ships were often in a quandary as to what to do and what to see in the limited number of hours at their disposal, before the vessel resumed its voyage to the eastern States, so the local tourist agency established a bureau in a convenient location on the wharf for overseas visitors and the facilities now provided enable tourists to see the best features of Perth and its environs without delay. The adoption of a similar course in Canberra would have beneficial results.
, - In reply to the inquiry made by Senator Allan MacDonald with regard to vocational training in Canberra I may state that in December, 1933, a scheme for vocational training was placed before Cabinet by Mr. James Nangle, late superintendent of technical education in New South Wales, and Cabinet decided that the sum of £1,000 should be made available for expenditure during the balance of that year for the training of youths in carpentry, joinery, plumbing and motor mechanics. No expenditure was incurred in t-hat year. The sum of £3,000 has been provided to cover expenditure for this year, pending the adoption of a definite scheme in regard to which certain proposals are under consideration. The proposals are for vocational training in carpentry, motor mechanics, plumbing, and farm mechanics. Negotiations with the various trade unions have had satisfactory results, and it is now proposed to go ahead with the scheme.
I shall bring before the Minister for the Interior the suggestion of Senator Allan MacDonald that the Tourist Bureau should be situated at the railway station and ask him to consider placing it in juxtaposition to “ Big Bertha “, which rests in such picturesque surroundings in the vicinity of the railway station.
.- Item C31 of Division 144 seeks to appropriate £1,000 for “Payment to Government of New South “Wales for improved railway facilities “. The description is incorrect in that the word “improved” has been wrongly used. Only this morning, a number of senators who travelled by train from Goulburn to Canberra had the unenviable experience of spending about six hours on the journey. The train which left Goulburn soon after 7 o’clock did not reach Canberra until after 1 o’clock - more than half an hour late. At. two stations it remained for about half an hour. Surely something can be done to improve such an unsatisfactory service. I do not know whether the fault lies with the Railways Department of New South Wales or with the Commonwealth Government. If the Commonwealth is responsible, I suggest that it would be better to send one or two motor cars to Goulburn to meet members on those days when the early train does not run to Canberra. The speed of the Limited Express is too great for such a light car as the “ dog box “ in which we travelled from Albury and which is attached to the rear of the guard’s van. There was no conductor on board, and one of the passengers was unable to enter his compartment without damaging the door severely. Perhaps that damage may convince the authorities of the unsuitableness of the car. I hope that the money to be provided will be expended in really improving the railway facilities to the Federal Capital.
I should also like some information regarding Item 04 of Division 144 - “ Rabbit and Dingo Extermination - £2,S00”. Last year, the sum of £3,250 was voted for this purpose and £2,742 expended. I assume that, although the money is provided for the extermination of both rabbits and dingoes, most of it is used to destroy rabbits. It is scarcely an advertisement for the Federal Capital that it should be known that dingoes abound there in such numbers as to require a vote for their extermination. I hardly think that the item has reference to political “ dingoes “. I should like to know what proportion of the amount expended last year was devoted to the destruction of dingoes.
– The sum of £2,S00 provided for rabbit and dingo extermination is to cover the salaries of a number of rangers and keep roads and forest plantations in various parts of the Federal Capital Territory free of rabbits. Although the honorable senator has probably not seen any dingoes within the City of Canberra, he would hear them howling if he were to take a trip at night into the nearby mountains.
As to the need for improved railway facilities to which Senator Grant referred, an arrangement was entered into with the Railways Department of New South Wales whereby T.A.M. sleeping cars were to be run cn the Albury-Canberra .and Sydney-Canberra routes for twelve months from the 1st December, 1934, at a cost to the. Commonwealth Government of £1,000 per annum . The item provides for the continuation of that arrangement.
– When Senator Allan MacDonald suggested that the Tourist Bureau should be transferred to the railway station, I thought that he might also have made the alternative suggestion that the railway station should be brought nearer to the centre of the city. It .is a bad advertisement for the Federal Capital Territory that passengers are required to leave the train at a spot two or three miles from nowhere. One of the first improvements which should be made is the erection of a railway station in a more central position.
Senator PAYNE (Tasmania [3.8]. - I wish to supplement the remarks of Senator Allan MacDonald regarding the vocational training of youths in the Federal Capital Territory. I believe in the system of vocational training, but I should like to know the prospects ahead of these lads after their training has been completed.
– They are good. For some time there has been a shortage of skilled labour, particularly in connexion with the building trade, with the result that men have had to be brought here from other parts of the Commonwealth. There will be vacancies for these lads when their training has been completed.
– I mention this subject because I know of instances of large sums of money having been spent on the technical education and vocational training of youths, and after their training had ended, no work was available for them.
– The conditions in the Federal Capital Territory are exceptional, and it is only to that territory that the item applies. There is an excess of unskilled labour in Canberra, but a shortage of trained artisans.
– I welcome any scheme which will absorb the youths who are growing up in this territory, and I hope that what is contemplated under this item will have beneficial results.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Papua, £63,146 ; Norfolk Island, £4,000- agreed to.
Second schedule agreed to.
Postponed clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from page 2412.
Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) [3.15 . - The Opposition gladly supports this bill. However, there are one or two points upon which I should like an explanation from the Minister. The bill gives protection to widows and widowed mothers of soldiers who died since the 1st February, 1935. But there are widows in difficult circumstances whoso soldier husbands had died before that date. We think that such widows should bc given protection similar to that to be extended to the wives of returned soldiers who become widowed after the passing of this measure.
This measure empowers the Minister to decide what a widow can afford to pay when her occupancy of a war service home is being considered. There is a possibility that the Minister will take into account the amount of money coming into a home. To state a hypothetical c;i»e. a widow may have three children of employable age. If each of these three children should be earning, say, £1 a week, can the Minister assure us that in assessing the income of the widow, the income of these children will not be taken into account as actual earnings of the family! That income cannot be considered as an asset. In the first place, the children themselves will require some of that money, and, further, the acceptance of any of this money by the widow would be a liability because she would have to keep and clothe her children, and their earnings would hardly be sufficient to enable her to do that. I raise this point because trouble in this respect has occurred in the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. In assessing the income of applicants, the department has taken into consideration the total income coming into a home with the result that many applicants have been precluded from receiving the full amount, of relief to which under the act they arc entitled. We want to safeguard soldiers’ widows in the circumstances which I have indicated. I should like to add that the Government is proceeding in the right direction in introducing this measure. Promises we’re made to the soldier that he and his dependants would be looked after. Although perhaps some of us may feel that the Government could have been more liberal in honouring this promise, and could have tackled it earlier, that is no argument against a bill of this character being introduced at this stage. The Opposition welcomes the bill.
– It is refreshing to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) support a measure introduced by this Government. I welcome this bill, particularly because it is a very generous recognition by the Government of the fact that its responsibility towards the returned soldier does not end with the death of the soldier, but continues in respect of his widow or his widowed mother. The fact that 36,895 war service homes .have been constructed throughout Australia proves the extent and importance of this legislation, and, assuming that the soldier predeceases his wife, this legislation will cover a still larger group of individuals. It is readily recognized that the earning capacity of the widow is less than that of her husband. Thu*. it is only right that the Minister should have the power, if in his wisdom he so decides, to fix a smaller rate of repayment by widows occupying war service homes. lt stands to the credit of this scheme that out of £18,000,000 due in instalments to extinguish finally these loans only £1,003,000, or 5 per cent, of the total, is overdue. A further proof of the way in which the returned soldiers have stood up to their responsibilities is the fact that since the inception of the scheme £23,000,000 of these loans has already been repaid. Having regard to these points, I urge that the Government should, in the current year, and in future years, be a little more generous in granting loans in respect of war service homes. The 1935 report of the commission points out that last year only 24 new homes were built. The amount paid into the sinking fund in 1932-33 was £560,000, and in 1933-34, £419,000. In view of these liberal repayments, and the fact that only 24 homes were built last year, J suggest that the Government is in a position to extend much more generous treatment to returned soldiers by undertaking a greater building programme in the future. Many applications for new homes, even to my own knowledge, are awaiting consideration by the commission. It is only right and proper that tho Government should extend the greatest possible benefits to returned soldiers under this legislation. I endorse the provision empowering the Minister to fix the rate of repayment on war service homes, because in a scheme of such magnitude covering 36,000 homes, many purchasers have been unable to honour their commitments either owing to general economic causes or, in some cases, because of special causes. According to the commission’s report for 1935, 2,600 of these homes have reverted to the commission, and of these 2,543 have been sublet, on a rental basis. Oan the Minister assure me that, when a home reverts to the commission, every effort is made on the part of the commission to see that preference is given to returned soldiers when it is looking for a new tenant. I believe the Minister can give me this assurance. It might be argued that the commission should not be so restricted in finding tenants for those homes, but I contend that in this matter the ordinary commercial code cannot be applied, because the principle of war service homes legislation should still hold good here; that is, the first consideration of the commission should be to see that every returned soldier is given proper shelter. In all cases generous treatment should be given to these men.
The second main provision of this measure is that which allows the commission to spend more than £40 on repairs to a home that has reverted to it. That is a reasonable provision, because most homes which are repossessed by the commission will naturally be found to be in a state cif disrepair, and, therefore, .will be an unsaleable unit. In the majority of such cases, more than £40 would be required to repair a home effectively. I assume that this is the reason for this particular provision. The commission will thus be enabled to repair many of these 2,600 homes which it has repossessed, and which are now occupied by new tenants, with the idea of making them more attractive and saleable on the open market. I ask the Minister what is the position in respect of reverted homes which are occupied to-day by returned soldiers if the commission has an opportunity of selling such homes? Are the present tenants to be dispossessed in order that the commission may be able to secure a sale or will a returned soldier now renting a home be given an opportunity to buy it ? I presume that in such cases every opportunity will be given to the returned soldiers to purchase the home rather than that he should be forced to secure another home. Generally speaking, I agree with the bill. It is in accordance with the principles embodied in the amending war pensions legislation, which will extend most, generous treatment to returned soldiers I support this bill; it is most humane and practical legislation.
.- I support, the bill. The features of the measure which I intended to deal with have been covered by Senator Hardy, and I endorse his remarks. In regard to the difficulties of occupants of war service homes whose repayments are in arrears, I point out that many of these homes were built between -1921 and 1929, at the peak of the building boom when prices were so high that the occupants, even many who were in constant employment, could not keep up their payments of interest and principal. Eight from the beginning, occupants of war service homes have found it difficult to keep up such payments, but when the depression came even those in permanent employment found it very hard to meet their commitments. Difficulties were also experienced because many purchasers were out of work, working only part time, or suffering from sickness. In cases where the death of a purchaser occurred, the widows were heavily involved. I congratulate the Government upon having introduced the bill, and I commend it for the policy which it proposes to pursue. This policy, however) appears to be entirely opposed to the report of the war service homes Commissioner, in which the State Bank of South Australia was severely criticized for administering the act on the lines now proposed in this bill. The report of the War -Service Homes Commissioner for the year ended the 30th June,, 1935, appears to be devoted largely to an attack upon the South Australian authorities for the manner in which activities were conducted in that State prior to the 1st January, 1935, when the administration was transferred to the War Service Homes Commission. It appears that every effort has been made to show matters in the worst possible light. Some of the comments in the report are not only unfair, but also deliberately misleading. Under the heading of “Arrears of rent” the following statement appears : -
In the case of one district it was discovered that the local agent had collected approximately £.155 in rent dating from December, 1031, which had not been paid to the bank. A sum of £05 was forwarded to the commission in January, 1035, and the balance in the following month.
Any one reading that statement would naturally infer that the War Service Homes Department made the discovery and collected the money, whereas the facts are these: The State Bank had been pressing the local agent for the remittance of rents collected, but owing to protracted illness, he pleaded, he had been unable to attend to his business and that his books were not posted to date. The bank continued pressure for a statement of accounts and a remittance, and finally on the 11th January, 1935, the State Bank received from the local agent a remittance of £95. Actually the State Bank collected the £95 which, with, the amount of £60, was paid to the department. In view of this_ fact the report appears to be deliberately misleading. The bank endeavoured to administer the act from a commonsense point of view, and it kept in close touch with the particular case. It concentrated on collecting the money without inflicting hardship upon the agent or upon .the individual householders. On page 6 of the report, under the heading “ Financial Settlements,” this statement appears -
It was arranged that the State AuditorGeneral, and the chief auditor for the Commonwealth in South Australia should prepare a statement on which adjustment of the financial position could be effected. Previously, however, the items of adjustment had been agreed upon between the parties, South Australia being represented by the Chairman of the State Bank Board of Management, who, as State Under -Treasurer, also acted for the Treasury. This proceeding was somewhat protracted on account of the. further claim submitted on behalf of the State, the complications arising from the use of State funds in connexion with Commonwealth homes and the expenditure of Commonwealth funds on State homes.
It was never arranged that the Auditor should prepare a statement on which adjustment of the financial position could be effected. The arrangement made was that the main principles of the transfer should be included in the agreement to be signed on behalf of the respective governments, and the details of the settlement were to be worked out by the War Service Homes Commissioner and the Under-Treasurer of South Australia. That procedure was actually followed.
– Was the State Bank of South Australia acting as agent for the Commissioner?
– Yes. The War Service Homes Commissioner made certain claims for losses which South Australia was not prepared to concede, and also intimated that he would not take over the advances made on eleven leasehold securities. These unexpected demands naturally delayed . the settle- ment, and it was finally arranged that in consideration of the Commonwealth making an ex gratia payment of £7,000 South Australia would pay the rates owing on reverted war service homes and accept liability for the advances outstanding on the eleven leaseholds referred to. Sections 1 and 2 of the War Service Homes Agreement Act 1934 of South Australia read -
It will be admitted that the delay in the final settlement was caused mainly by the action of the War Service Homes Commissioner, and not by the UnderTreasurer of South Australia. South Australia was effected adversely by the depression, and the proportion of unemployment was greater in South Australia than in any of the other States. Prior to that time drought conditions prevailed between 1926 and 1931 which made the position even more acute. In these circumstances the collection of rents, interest and rates on war service homes was exceedingly difficult. If it could be shown that the State Bank had collected moneys on behalf of the State in respect of advances for homes, and neglected the war services homes business there would be legitimate ground for complaint, but such was not the case. The war service homes business was transferred on the 1st January, 1935 and the latest date at which a comparison can be made is the 30th June, 1934. The comparable figures relating to advances for homes in South Australia and war service homes under the State Bank of South Australia at that date were -
The percentages show that the record in respect of war service homes is better than in respect of advances for homes except as regards reverted properties. In view of the fact that the war service homes business started in 1921 while advances for homes started in 1910 it would naturally be expected that the depression would, more adversely affect the housing activities started in 1921 when property values were on a higher level than they were before the war. In regard to reverted properties, the following figures showing the position as- at the 30th June, 1934, are taken from the War Service Homes Commissioner’s report for that year: -
As regards reverted properties it would appear that the administration of the State Bank bears more than favorable comparison with the record of the War Service Homes Commission itself. The report also shows that the War Service Homes Commission has invested £430,948 in “land purchased for future requirements “ and no similar item appears in connexion with the administration by the State Bank of war service homes in South Australia. The conference in November, 1933, provided for a new agreement for five years in respect of war service home in South Australia on certain conditions. Although the South Australian Ministry agreed thereto and asked the Commonwealth Government to do likewise, the Commonwealth later intimated that the agreement arrived at. in the conference would not be proceeded with - even though this had been agreed upon - but that instead, the Commonwealth would take over the war service homes business from the State. The minutes of the conference of April, 1934, set out the general lines upon which the transfer of the business would be effected.
In regard to the general history of war service homes in South Australia, the following salient points are submitted : -
I” submit that the tone of the report directed against South Australia is not reasonable and is quite uncalled for. We are prepared to admit our mistakes; but we resent, and do not admit a statement of this kind. I do not wish to embarrass the Government, but South Australia has had to suffer the effect of this report, which has been distributed throughout the Commonwealth. I have shown that the South Australian officials have endeavoured to administer the act fairly, and much on the same lines as is pro- posed in this bill. I support the second reading.
– The war service homes scheme was instituted when land was very expensive and homes were very scarce, and the intention was to afford ready facilities to men who were returning from the front to acquire homes. Many of the returned soldiers were newly married. To that extent the scheme was successful. To my knowledge it was administered quite sympathetically until the advent of the depression, when the unforeseen circumstances caused by the slump gave rise to certain complications in regard to the act. I wish to emphasize that the administration of the act generally has been very sympathetic, and, I think, has been carried out on common-sense lines. I forwarded a. copy of the bill to the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League in Western Australia with a request for any comments or criticism. In reply, I have received a telegram stating that the organization considers that the provisions of the measure are quite satisfactory.
– Naturally members of the Opposition support a measure which will relieve the anxiety of the widows of returned soldiers. In my few years of parliamentary experience I have received many requests for assistance from this unfortunate section of the community, and I have taken up the cudgels on their behalf. Undoubtedly, many widows have undergone acute mental suffering through the fear that they might lose their homes. Of course, they are not alone in that regard, because in. civilian life thousands of Australians are experiencing similar mental stress, as a result of the huge interest hill that they are called upon to meet. Instances have been pointed out to me in which more money has been paid in interest than off the principal. In some cases, the purchasers have paid off the total cost of the house in interest; but the dwelling still does not belong to them. The Government is evidently trying to alleviate the situation, but I foresee certain difficulties. With the creation of this trust fund account, will not the purchasers be required to pay two interest bills? First, interest must be paid on the money borrowed from the trust account, and secondly, on money still owing to the commission. I fear that after the lapse of years a widow may be getting further into arrears, despite the instalments that, she has paid. I realize that the Government is faced with financial difficulties and, although it. might not be practicable at present, I favour a scheme for the assistance of these widows by the elimination of interest, thus making it possible for them to pay off the capital cost of the home. Interest is the burden and curse to-day, not only of the widows of returned soldiers, but also of thousands of Australian people who are paying off their homes. However, I do not desire to press that aspect of the matter. I recognize that under the present financial system, it is almost impossible at this juncture for the Government to give effect, to my proposals, but, if such a plan could be put into operation, it would relieve the plight of many people, far more effectively than will the present scheme, which may add to the burdens of the widows.
– I join with other honorable senators in congratulating the Government on having introduced this measure, which is framed to relieve the position of persons, especially the widows of returned soldiers, who are in very straitened circumstances and to whom the preserving of a roof over their heads is a most important consideration. The most favoured clause in this bill is that which deals with the formation of the trust fund referred to by Senator Brown. I think that this is an excellent way of meeting the situation of these unfortunate widows. I hope the Minister, when he replies to the second-reading debate, will give some information with regard to the agreement with the Government of Western Australia concerning the administration of war service homes in that State. I do not know when that agreement will expire, but, in several quarters, the statement has been repeated that the State government department makes a handsome profit annually out of the transaction. That is all very well for the State, but the question arises whether that profit might not be better directed to giving greater facilities to owners or prospective owners of war service homes in Western Australia. The administration of the War Service Homes Act in that State is admirably carried out, but it has been suggested that, as this legislation is purely a federal concern, it might be preferable for a federal department to control the administration. I do not agree with that assertion, but I should like to hear the Minister’s opinion on the suggestion. I am very pleased to support the measure.
– in reply - One is highly gratified with the reception which this measure has had from honorable senators. Dealing with the point raised by Senator Allan MacDonald, I point out that this bill does not refer to arrangements made by the Minister administering war service homes or by the commission in respect of the conduct of affairs in any particular state ; nor does it lay down any directions with regard to the manner in which that business shall be conducted. I shall convey his remarks to the responsible Minister, but I know of no intention to change the present arrangements.
In reply to Senator Uppill, I may state that I always regard as unfortunate criticism levelled by a State department against a department of the Commonwealth, or by an official of a Commonwealth department against a State department. I have come to the conclusion, after very’ careful consideration of the matters raised by the War Service Homes Commissioner in his report, some of which were things that perhaps would have been better left unsaid, that the dispute is between two very efficient and excellent officers, both of whom are inclined to bite the official grass a little too short on occasions. I am confident that the Minister who has personally examined this matter will see that no dispute between State and Commonwealth officials shall occur in connexion with the administration of this department.
The quarrel of Senator Brown is with the gentleman who created interest. All of us have a considerable grievance against him, but this is a factor from which I am afraid we have not yet devised *a sane means of escape. I believe that the originator of the system of interest payments was an Italian, and perhaps the Abyssinians will be able to throw some light on that matter before the present contest is finished.
In regard to Senator Hardy’s inquiry concerning the letting of reverted homes, the department informs me that in every instance where a soldier desires to take over a home and can comply with the conditions, he is given first preference; otherwise the department would be evading the very spirit of the “War Service Homes Act. It is impossible to provide a schedule to cover all cases such as those mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). It is true, as the honorable senator has said, that although there may be three or four children in the home and some of them earning money, the income of the widow may not be so much as it is generally supposed to be. I can, however, assure him that all relevant facts concerning the income are taken into consideration by the Commissioner.
– What is required is sympathetic administration.
– The Minister has stated that it is the intention of the commission to deal sympathetically with each case on its merits, so widows need have no fear on that score. As the intention of the hill is to give relief, the commission will not be wanting in generosity in the bestowal of the benefits of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Reduction of instalments).
– This clause proposes the insertion of a new section 29aa, sub-section 1 of which enacts that where, in the opinion of the Minister, the payment by a widow or widowed mother of an Australian soldier or by the wife of an Australian soldier who is temporarily or permanently insane of the full amount of any instalments would cause hardship, the Minister may, from time to time, reduce the amount of such instalments. What is the position in respect of payments made by the wife of a man who has become insane and is a ward of the Master in Lunacy, who is thereby vested with control of the estate of the insane person? I have in mind the position of the wife of a returned soldier who became insane. She had been in receipt of an aggregate pension of £2 8s. a week, but when the husband was declared insane, he became a ward of the Master in Lunacy in New South Wales, and the wife, instead of receiving £2 8s., gets only £1 a week. We should have a clear legal definition of the position of a wife in such circumstances. Would it be held that payments made by the wife would be in reduction of the amount due on the home, and increase the equity of the purchaser in the property?
– The proposed new section postulates that the widow or the wife, as the case may be, in the circumstances mentioned, has a legal relationship with the War Service Homes Commission; that, by some process of law, she obtains a right to the equity in the home; the equity does not necessarily and in all instances, pass to the Master in Lunacy. I understand that what happens in practice is that by some internal departmental arrangement the title and the agreement to purchase become vested in the wife who is thus enabled to continue the agreement. During the last three or four years several such cases have been brought under the notice of the department and the arrangement I have described is the best that could be devised in the circumstances.
– The point I wish to emphasize is that if a returned soldier is declared to be insane his equity in property automatically becomes part of his estate and passes under the control of the Master in Lunacy and, in some cases, as the Minister will know, being himself a legal practitioner, the attitude of the Master in Lunacy is strictly official, if not somewhat harsh to relatives of the insane person. Quite recently, as I have explained, over 50 per cent, of the pension income payable to the wife of a returned soldier, who was declared to be insane, was retained by the Master in Lunacy with the result that his wife and three children are now in a difficult position.
– A lengthy disquisition concerning the rights of the wife of an insane returned soldier would be out of place in the discussion on this clause, but I may, perhaps, reassure Senator Hardy by stating that the wife in circumstances mentioned by him, would be very foolish to continue the payments and would be so advised by the War Service Homes Commission. If I were asked, I would advise that if the wife pays the money to the commission she has a charge on the land or the home for the amount advanced. Itis a difficult position to explain. Her rights would have to be enforced in equity. It is a legal position against which it is doubtful whether we can legislate because we should be in conflict with the State law. All that the Commissioner can do is to cancel the contract and sell the home to the wife and so bring the case within the provisions of the relief scheme.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (War service homes trust account).
– Under clause 3, sub-section 2 of proposed new section 29aa provides that no reduction of the amount of any instalment shall relieve any widow, widowed mother or wife from liability to pay the full amount of the purchase money or repay the full amount of the advance, as the case may be, together with interest. I had intended to discuss the position of widows under that clause but missed my opportunity and raise it on this clause. Section 49 of the act allows the Commissioner to compound with the purchaser. If the purchaser of a war service home becomes so hopelessly in arrears that, having regard to the decline of the value of. land and buildings, which must have happened if the home had been built in 1922 at the height of the building boom, his equity in the property has practically disappeared, and he may secure a rcassessment of his liability for the purpose of obtaining relief. Will that provision be applied under this bill? It is only reason able that the Minister should have this power. I have been informed of innumerable cases in which the arrears have increased so tremendously that a re-assessment of the amount owing has become necessary.
– Section 49 of the original act reads -
The Commissioner may compound and agree with any person who has entered into any contract in pursuance of or under tho authority of this act, or against whom any action or suit is brought for any penalty contained in the contract, or in any bond or other security for the performance thereof, or for or on account of any breach of performance of the contract, bond or security for such sum of money or other consideration as tho Commissioner thinks proper.
I do not think the provision has been curtailed by any subsequent amending bill. The section quoted gives to the Commissioner exceedingly wide powers which are exercised with discretion. There are cases, as Senator Hardy has pointed out, in respect of which it is advisable that the relationship of the Commissioner and the war service homes purchaser should be terminated. Where the proposal is a reasonable one, section 49 will continue to operate, notwithstanding the provisions of this bill which, as I said before, grants relief, and does not take away anything.
– Does section 49 override sub-section 3 of section 39 ?
– The wider powers as to compounding, &c, contained in section 49 are not affected.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (War service homes relief trust account).
– This clause provides for the establishment of a war . service homes relief trust account. I compliment the Minister on tho fact that the administration of this fund, and of the act generally, in Western Australia will be in the hands of the Workers Homes Board of that State. As that body operates in a State with a limited population it can do this work more efficiently and cheaply than could any federal body which might be set up. Having had a good deal of experience of war service homes in Western Australia, I can assure the Senate that the administration by the Workers Homes Board is entirely satisfactory. The Minister will remember that at one time the War Service Homes Commission set up its own office in Western Australia, but, later, handed over the administration to the State department with entirely satisfactory results. The more the Commonwealth Government uses existing State utilities, the better for the taxpayers of Australia.
– I do not wish Senator Johnston to be under any misapprehension with regard to this trust fund. Trust funds are not new, and although the administration of war service homes in Western Australia by a State department is satisfactory, the trust fund must necessarily be under the control of the Commonwealth Treasurer. The present practice of sending recommendations in relation to trust moneys, and of paying moneys to the Commonwealth Treasury, will be continued.
– The bill empowers the commission to pay arrears of rates, and debit the amount against the total amount owing. Why should not the Government, or the corn mission, endeavour to compromise regarding rates? It may be argued that the local government legislation of a majority of the States does not sanction compromises. But in New South Wales, and possibly in other States also, amendments of the Local Government Act are contemplated. It is proposed to give to. local governing bodies the right to compound rates in some instances as, for example, certain institutions and in cases of hardship. I suggest that the Commonwealth Government should approach the State governments which are contemplating the introduction of amending local government, legislation with a view to authorizing the War Service Homes Commission to arrange a compromise with the local governing bodies in regard to rates. Generally, the owner of a small home who is in financial difficulties allows his rates to fall into arrears almost immediately, and as the local councils do not usually press for payment, the rates sometimes amount to almost as much as the mortgage held by the commission. If it is possible in cases of hardship to arrange for a compromise, it should be possible to do so in other cases also.
– Although I cannot hold out any great hope of the honorable senator’s suggestion being agreed to, I shall transmit it to the Minister in charge of war service homes. One principle of municipal law is that rates are a first charge on the land. In South Australia an attempt was made to arrange a compromise along the lines suggested by the honorable senator, but it failed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion of Senator A. J McLachlan) read a first time.
Debate resumed from page 2416.
– As this is purely a machinery measure the Opposition agrees to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from page 2417.
Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) [4.35 . - This bill is supplementary to an act already in operation, and as it is merely a machinery measure the Opposition agrees to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from page 2418.
– This bill also is a machinery measure. The Opposition agrees to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Application of act).
– By this clause the amendment effected by paragraph b of clause 2 shall be deemed to have commenced on the 4th April last. Why is this provision made retrospective?
– This clause is made retrospective because these collections were actually made in the belief that they were rightly made. However, subsequent inquiry raised a doubt as to whether the collections were rightly made, and it was thought best to regularize them by this measure. This retrospective provision will harm nobody because the collections have been made already, and the money has been applied for the purpose originally intended.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from page 2418.
– The Opposition being in agreement with commercial measures of this nature will support this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Appropriation of £325,000 for relief to primary producers).
– This amending measure is to afford relief to primary producers by the payment of a subsidy on superphosphate as provided in section 19 of the principal act. Section 20 of that act sets out the amount payable to each State and section 21 contains the conditions under which payment shall be made. It has been suggested to me that there is hardship in the conditions under which payment is to be made, in that before the 31st October primary producers have to submit a certificate setting out, the quantity of superphosphate used in the production of primary products other than wheat during the year ended on the 30th June. It is very difficult for a farmer to state exactly what quantity of his crop is likely to be cut for hay as that depends largely upon the quantity of hay he may require. The quantity also is governed by the density of the crop. I have a. letter from a farmer written on the 18th November, a portion of which reads -
To participate in the subsidy, I should have applied for the subsidy on the superphosphate used on that portion of this year’s crop to be cut for hay. As I have not’ yet started hay cutting and cannot say how much I will cut until I have tried the crop to see what I can cut, it is impossible for me to apply for the subsidy.
He then goes on to repeat the old story that the Farmer’s Assistance Board has instructed him to cut as much hay as possible, and that he is therefore likely to lose on both hands. This farmer suggests . that the date should be extended to the 30th December. I am not asking that it be extended to such a late date, but it is reasonable to suggest that applications should be received up to the 30th November. Is it possible for anything to be done in that respect?
– An extension of the date would have to be advertised, necessitating an extension to the 15th December, which would mean that it would be almost’ impossible to ascertain the amount to be appropriated. In the circumstances, the Government considers that it would he inadvisable to include in this bill any amendment which would affect the basis upon which the subsidy is paid. It does not exclude those cases which Senator Duncan-Hughes wishes to include, but the Government does not think that the date should be extended as suggested.
– It would be an advantage to extend the date to the 15th December, because there are many late districts in which hay-cutting has not yet been completed. In such districts, the producers will not be able to claim the subsidy. The date fixed is too early. I do not think that it would make any difference to the Government if the time were extended.
.- A.n extension to the date suggested by Senator Duncan-Hughes and Senator Badman would be insufficient, because, in many districts, hay-cutting is not concluded until late in December. A farmer has to make a sworn declaration that he has used a certain Quantity of superphosphate and if he does not know the proportion of his crop to be cut for hay, he cannot make the necessary declaration. A producer should be permitted to make a sworn declaration covering the quantity which lie expects to cut and have the right to make a further declaration, if necessary, covering a larger proportion.
– Apart from the difficulties mentioned, there is a technical objection to an amendment on the lines suggested. The amount of the appropriation mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s message would be increased and another message would have to be obtained. This subject has been fully discussed before, and all I can say at this juncture is that I shall bring the suggestions of honorable senators under the notice of the Government. At this stage, no extension of time can be granted.
– By far the greater proportion of the hay crop is cut after the 31st October. Similar State acts provide for an extension of the time specified in the legislation. When the State Bank in South Australia was administering the legislation under which the wheat bounty was paid, the date was advertised, but, if necessary, the period was extended by one month and in that way all’ applications were included. Under this legislation, it is practically impossible for primary producers to obtain the benefit to which they are entitled, because they do not know what proportion of their crop is to be cut for hay.
– In order to make my position quite clear and to record my views on this subject, I ask for your ruling, Mr. Chairman, as to whether a special appropriation would be required. To enable you to determine the point, I move -
That at the end of clause 2 the following words be added:- - “ and by adding at the end oi that section the following sub-section: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in section 21 of the principal act, applications for assistance in respect of artificial manure used in the production of wheaten hay which were received by the Secretary of the Department of Commerce cm or before the 30th day of November, 1935, may be taken into account in calculating the amount which may be paid under this part to a State ‘.”
– If the amendment involves an increase of the appropriation, it must be submitted in the form of a request.
– It may have that effect, as it provides for an extension of one month, within which additional applications may be made to the department.
[4.58].- I do not think that there can be any doubt that the amendment moved by Senator Duncan-Hughes would increase the appropriation. The Senate has not the power to amend a money bill, but it can request the House of Representatives to do so. Obviously, if the period over which claims for the subsidy can be made is to be extended, the charge or burden on the people must be increased. Therefore, the suggested amendment should be in the form of a request.
– I agree with the opinion expressed by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce). Section 21 of the principal act prescribes the conditions under which payments shall be made. May I point out that the long title of this measure is “ a bill for an act to amend section 19 of the Financial Relief Act 1934-35.” Senator Duncan-Hughes has moved an amendment which in a roundabout way seeks to amend section 21 of that act. For that reason, I consider his amendment is out of order.
– It is not within the scope of the bill.
– Surely this is a matter of the payment of a subsidy on superphosphate. Section 19 may be the only one referred to in the bill, but that section relates to the general subject of the subsidy.
– The intention of this bill is not to amend the act generally. To enable Senator DuncanHughes to move his amendment, an instruction should have been given to the committee at the second-reading stage.
– It appears to me that clause 2 of the bill refers to a grant of a certain amount of money for purposes of a subsidy on superphosphate, and I consider that it is permissible for the committee to consider the amendment. Does the long title govern every detail of the bill?
– It definitely confines the bill to an amendment of section 19 of the principal act.
– Yes, but it seems to raise the whole question of the subsidy for superphosphate and to bring in other sections which set out the amount payable. Section 20 for instance deals with the amount payable to each State, and section 21 refers to the conditions of payment. In my opinion, sections 19 to 21 are linked indissolubly.
– I direct attention to Standing Order 201 -
Any amendment may be made to any part of the bill, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the bill. . . .
The subject-matter of the bill is to amend section 19 of the Financial Relief Act, and, therefore, the committee has power to deal with that section only. I submit that the amendment is not in order.
– In my opinion the Leader of the Senate has overlooked an important factor. Standing Order 206 states -
If any amendment shall have been made iu the bill, not coming within the original title, such title shall be amended, and a question put “ That this be the title of the bill “, and the amendment thereof shall be specially reported to the Senate.
I think that Standing Order contemplates the possibility of an amendment being moved that is not covered by the title.
– There is a standing order which enables an honorable senator . to move at the second-reading stage an instruction to the committee to take something else into consideration ; but that has not been done.
– That Standing Order refers to a title in general terms. The title of the hill before the committee specifically relates to section 19 of the principal act. The amendment proposed by Senator Duncan-Hughes applies to section 21 of the principal act. I therefore, rule that the proposed amendment is out of order.
.- If a farmer does not make application by the 30th October, in respect of all the superphosphate he has used, may he apply to have the balance included in the next year’s allotment? If that is permissible, the difficulty is overcome.
– I do not think there is any doubt about that.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment-
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from page 2416.
– The Opposition will support this measure. Whatever may be said as to the manner or method of payment or as to the amount of such payment to the repatriated soldier, one fact is outstanding, and that is that Australia promised the soldier that his future and that of his dependants would be secured. While the Opposition agrees with the hill and proposes to support it, we desire to emphasize certain facts. The first is that the bill is very belated. This measure, to provide for increased payments to returned soldiers and for the further protection of their position, should have been brought in immediately the Government, found itself in possession of surpluses, enabling it to make grants to any section of the community. Although the reply to that contention will be “ better late than never “ I feel that one of our duties as Australian legislators in an Australian parliament is to tell the Government on every conceivable occasion that before it distributes what I have previously described as largesse to those sections of the community which, in our opinion, are not, entitled to receive it, because they can afford not to apply for it, it should make restitution, not only to returned soldiers, but also to those other -classes which suffered by reason of the special emergency legislation, the depression, and other difficulties which have been encountered in recent years. I repeat, for the sake of emphasis, that, instead of this being done, such persons have been overlooked. With an expanding revenue in 1932-33, the Government granted property owners relief to the amount of £500,000 - a concession which continues as the years go by. Wealthy land owners benefited by remissions totalling £700,000, and at the end of 1933, despite these concessions and the granting of assistance to wheat-farmers, which, in our opinion, was very proper, there was a surplus of £3,500,000. For the financial year 1933-34, the number of beneficiaries increased, and they received a very handsome measure of relief. These included life-insurance companies, shipping companies, companies of various types dealing in property, and persons who paid land and income tax, the remissions totalling £2,750,000. Of course other benefits also accrued to those sections of the community by reductions of the tariff and in other directions. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in his budget speech for 1933-34, referring to the reduction of the pension of dependants of returned soldiers, admitted that it had pressed onerously in some cases. Hence £248,000 was granted as a partial restora- ti on, hut it was not until the budget of 1934-35 that a full restoration was made. If honorable senators compare these meagre amounts with the sum of £10,000,000 a year involved in remissions of taxes to those sections of the community which I have termed the wealthy sections - or at least, the sections who are better off than many others - they will realize that what we have done for the repatriated soldier is nothing to boast about. It should never be forgotten - and this, I think, is a fitting occasion to emphasize it - that the possessions of the wealthy sections in this country were made secure to them by the sacrifices of Australian soldiers, many of whom laid down their lives, during the disastrous war years 1914-1918.
– The remark also applies to the Labour party.
– We, on this side of the chamber represent the workers who produce all wealth. Senator McLeay speaks for the wealth-takers. I repeat that security for the wealthy sections in this community was made possible by the sacrifices of Australian soldiers, and I contend that before this Government remits the taxes of those who can pay, a full measure of justice should be done to our returned soldiers.
There is another matter to which I desire to refer. It is one which so many people would rather gloss over or not emphasize sufficiently, but it is indi,cated in this bill in language so plain that he who runs may read. I allude to the awful consequences of the Great War. This morning whilst listening to the remarks of the Postmaster-General (Sena.tor A. J. McLachlan) when moving the second reading of the bill, I realized that there could be read into the measure much that was well worth emphasizing. Just imagine ! Already we have paid in war pensions £.130,000,000. This year our expenditure under this head will be £7,500,000: there are 1,600 in-patients and 17,000 out-patients receiving treatment in our hospitals, every one a victim of the disastrous war years. Last year 40,000 cases were treated and more than 146,000 out-patients attended departmental institutions. Then think of this awful commentary on the effects of the war :
Up to the present time there has been manufactured in this country 10,750 artificial legs at a cost of £194,000; 1,090 artificial arms at a cost of £22,000 ; 132 wheeled chairs at a cost of £19,000; 2-8,000 pairs of surgical boots at a cost of £72,000; 77 stump socks at a cost of £12,000; 3,367 pairs of crutches at a cost of £67,000 and 75,000 surgical appliances at a cost of £104,000.
I know that honorable senators and particularly those who served during the Great “War and therefore have a clear recollection of all its horrors, are fully informed of these grim facts. I cite them because I believe a wider knowledge of all that war means will make everyone of us even more determined than we are at the moment, if that be possible, to do everything that lies in our power, by way of legislation, example, and public utterances, to avoid a repetition of the horrors of those disastrous years. In the House of Representatives recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) admitted that 57,000 applications for pensions had been rejected. I suppose it would be quite safe to say that the majority of the applicants had applied over and over again without success. Because of these facts and having in mind the information given to the Senate by the Minister in charge of the bill, which provides for a liberalization and more sympathetic administration of the law relating to war pensions, the Opposition in this chamber will heartily support the measure.
– I fully expected that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) would announce his cordial cooperation with the Government in the passage of the measure, and perhaps I was optimistic enough to believe that he might even congratulate the Government on its introduction or comment favorably on its liberal provisions. But I was amazed that, instead, in the earlier portion of his remarks he indicted the Government because it had not distributed to returned soldiers additional largesse from the surplus which he alleges it has been enjoying in recent years. The honorable gentleman also took advantage of the opportunity to indulge in political propoganda by referring to the Government’s discriminatory - as he alleged - tactics in remitting taxes to certain sections of the people. Every one who studies this bill and thoroughly understands its implications will agree that it is the most generous legislation which has ever been introduced in this Senate.
– I said that itwas a generous measure, but belated.
– If that is the only serious criticism which the honorable gentleman can advance, I need only remind him that our pensions legislation has been steadily evolving since the termination of the war, and that the structure now being completed is the result of many years’ experience.
– The idea of distributing largesse to the wealthy sections of the community was very quickly evolved.
– I do not say that this Government, of which I am a supporter, is entirely responsible for this class of legislation; but I do claim that the Government, realizing that, with the march of time, entirely new problems are being presented, has, by this bill, placed the coping stone on the war pensions structure of the Commonwealth, and I for one give honour where honour is due. The commitments of the Government this year in respect of war pensions, total £7,000,000, and our pensions legislation affects over 250,000 ex-soldiers.
The Leader of the Opposition has emphasized that this legislation is the direct result of participation in a disastrous war. I fully agree with him, and I suggest that recognition of this fact should induce all sections of the community to spare no effort to make the lot of these men easier as the years roll by. I say this, because it is only now that our returned soldiers are really -feeling the full effect of their war services, the majority being between the ages of 40- and 50 years. This is a fact which we should not overlook. There is one aspect which I desire to stress, and it is that this legislation is not the result of pressure in any shape or form from an organized minority. The returned soldiers of this country have never at any stage allowed to obtrude into party politics in their internal administration. They recognize no political class or party and have never attempted at any time to apply pressure on a government to introduce legislation in their particular interests. On this point it is interesting to note that history discloses that returned soldiers have not always been so punctilious in this regard. There have been occasions when, as organized minorities, soldiers who have taken part in wars have exerted pressure on governments of the clay. This will be seen from the following extract from an article in the Encyclopaedia of Social Services: -
In ancient Rome the breakdown of Latin agriculture as a result of the importation of grain from the provinces and the continuous wars of expansion resulted in the creation of a large class of disbanded, soldiers who at the time of the war were thrown into the landless proletariat of the city of Borne. As early as the time of Gracchus the unrest and clamour of this group, ready to give their political loyalty to any military adventurer, who promised them plunder from conquest, were a continuous threat to the established order.
Even in those times, soldiers upon their return from war found it difficult to fit into the economic life of the community, and in despair organized themselves in order to extract from the government certain privileges to which they considered they were entitled. Any such action has been entirely foreign to the policy of returned soldiers throughout the Commonwealth, and that is deserving of general recognition. The position is, however, different in the United States of America. In that country, organized minorities are the rule and not the exception. I take the following extract from an article appearing in the Encyclopaedia Britannica: -
It is estimated, for example, that assuming no further liberalization of the World War Pensions Law. the peak of expenditures will be readied in 1058, two years before the British world war pensions will be totally extinguished. Although the number of sick and wounded in service was far smaller than that of any other large power, the expenditure on United States world war veterans is greater than those of any other belligerent nations. In the year 1931-32 the total expenditure of the United States on world war veterans wa3 greater than the combined total of France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
It is known that the returned soldiers in America are ruthlessly using their organization for political purposes. The number of men of the armies of France, Germany and the United Kingdom who were disabled by wounds or sickness in the “World War totalled 8,124,579, the respective figures being 2,052,984, 4,202,028 and 1,869,567. The United States of America, whose soldiers are an organized minority, had 192,369 men disabled by wounds or sickness in that war. The significance of those figures is evident. In order to show what organized minorities can do, I shall refer to the total expenditure on behalf of the World War pensions for 1931-32. The expenditure by France amounted to 277,015,071 dollars. Germany expended 285,840,000 dollars, and the United Kingdom 240,260,724 dollars. The total expenditure by those three countries on behalf of disabled soldiers was . 803,115,795 dollars. Since only 192,369 of the men of the army of the United States of America suffered from wounds or sickness, it is interesting to note that in 1931-32 the expenditure on their behalf was 860,635,000 dollars- an amount which was greater than the combined totals of the three European countries which I have mentioned. Those figures indicate not . only what an organized minority can do, but also how a ruthless group can extract largesse from a government. The bill before the Senate is a recognition by the Commonwealth that pension laws must keep pace with the march of time, and I repeat that it has not been introduced because of any pressure from an organized minority. I do not say that the application of a reasonable amount of pressure is wrong; but I do pay a. tribute to the returned soldiers’ organizations of Australia which, since the termination of the war, have avoided any political liaison, and have never attempted to hold the pistol to the head of any government. It is the duty of the government of any country to provide pensions for men disabled in its wars. As early as the reign of Queen Elizabeth, military captains complained that the maintenance and care of disabled soldiers “ laid heavily upon them “. It is also interesting to note that the earliest instance of a central government taking action to provide pensions was the passing of a series of acts during the last decade of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) will be interested to know that during the reign of Charles II., the King announced his intention to erect a hospital for disabled soldiers and to endow it from the public revenue. Contributions were invited from the public, the King heading the list. But before long recourse had to be had to other means of financing the hospital, and finally it was kept going by deductions from the pay of the troops. We should be thankful that the legislation before us is on a moro generous foundation.
Among the other provisions of the bill to which attention might be drawn, the most outstanding is that which enables a “ burnt-out “ soldier to receive a pension. It is, of course, a fact that it is much easier to apply for a pension than to receive one. Under the Repatriation Act, a man must be able to show that the disability from which he is suffering has really been incurred in war service, or, at least, that war service contributed to his condition. Following a purely casual examination, it may be easy to say that the infirmity from which a soldier is suffering is due to war service, particularly if he served abroad for three or four years, but it is a most difficult thing to prove. Were the Repatriation Commission too ready f,o assume that all the complaints from which ex-soldiers suffer were, due to their war service, the annual war pensions bill, instead of being £7,000,000, would be far beyond Australia’s capacity to pay. What is the principle governing war pensions to-day? The bestdefinition that I have heard is that of Sir George Chrystal, secretary of the British Minister for Pensions who said -
Bc sure your man is entitled; be sure that his disability is service incurred; and then nothing you can do is too good for him.
First, let us consider the admonition “ Be sure your man is entitled “. What entitles a man to a war pension? It may be said that he is entitled to a war pension when his infirmity is due to his war service. It is not so easy, however, to prove a case before the Repatriation Commission. In cases of gunshot wounds, or wounds caused by high explosive shells, it is relatively easy to say that, the disability is due to war service.
The Repatriation Commission readily recognizes such cases, but it is the border-line case which presents many difficulties. For instance, a returned soldier suffering from acute asthma may claim that his condition is due to war service. What procedure is adopted in his case? First, he is taken to a local doctor who is told that when the man enlisted he was 100 per cent, fit; and as he spent., say, four years in the trenches, it is only reasonable to assume that his acute asthma, which makes him no longer able to work, is the result of his war service. The medical man is asked for a certificate that the ex-soldier’s ailment is due to war service. Should he hesitate, he is quickly told that while in the trenches the exsoldier was subjected to all sorts of exposure, such as being left for long periods in wet clothes, and that his asthma is the natural outcome of his war experience. Notwithstanding the apparent soundness of the argument, any medical practitioner will say that it is impossible, on such evidence, to give a definite certificate that the man’s ailment is due to his war service. He must certify on material evidence alone. That difficulty arises not only with bronchial complaints, but also with organic troubles. But even if the medical man grants a certificate that the ex-soldier’s ailment is due to war service, or that such service has contributed to his infirmity, there is still the necessity to convince the Repatriation Commission. The claimant is then brought before the commission which has access to his medical history while a member of the forces. It must be remembered that at the time of his enlistment every man was supposed to be 100 per cent, fit, and that there may be no mention of any ailment during the period of his war service. The average soldier was about twenty years of age, and man; men went through their service abroad without any record of medical trouble, having been lucky enough not- to enter a hospital. Others, although fit cases for hospital treatment, remained in the trenches from patriotic motives. Such men are immediately confronted with a clean medical sheet covering their war service, and they find it difficult to prove that their infirmity is due to war service.
I propose now to deal with assessment of incapacity in respect of men suffering from chest complaints. If such a man is not able to follow his ordinary occupation, the assessment tribunal will assess his incapacity at about 60 per cent. If he can prove to the tribunal that his complaint is due to war service he will receive 25s. 3d. a week for himself, 10s. 9d. for his wife, and 3s. 7d. for each child, making his rate of pension approximately 40s. a week. Rut if he is a border-line case and cannot prove that his complaint is directly due to war service, he will have to take refuge under the “ burnt-out “ cla.uses. He will then receive 15s. a week for himself, 15s. for his wife, and 2s. 6d. for each child, thus suffering a disadvantage of 8s. a week. He will then come down to a 50 per cent, assessment, in which case, if his disability i3 recognized by the commission as being due to war service, he will receive a weekly rate of 21s. a week, 9s. for his wife, and 3s. for each child, making a total pension of 33s. a week. If such a man cannot prove his case, and I remind honorable senators that chest complaints are very difficult to prove, he will receive 33s. a week. Thus the “ burnt-out “ pension is equivalent to approximately a 50 per cent, rating, that is, if the applicant wins his case before the commission, and is able to prove that his injuries are due to war service. I point out these discrepancies without intending for one moment to move an amendment, but merely to show the discrepancy between applying to the commission and becoming a recognized case, and exercising the alternative of taking refuge under the “ burnt-out “ clauses. 1 shall have further comment to make in committee regarding these clauses. For instance, a good deal is to be said with regard to the term “ permanently unemployable “. A man who is “ permanently unemployable “ is entitled to receive a pension, but in this connexion one immediately asks, “ What is the definition of ‘ permanently unemployable and how is a ‘ digger ‘ to prove to the satisfaction of the commission that he i3 ‘ permanently unemployable ‘ ? “ 1 could detail hundreds of cases that would come under this heading. For instance, there is the man who indulges to excess in alcoholic liquor. He is “ permanently unemployable but is he to be entitled to a pension under the “ burntout “ clauses? It may be said that it is his own fault that he is “ permanently unemployable “. When we remember that this country plucked boys of seventeen and eighteen years of age from all the steadying influences of life and threw them into the chaos of war, it is very debatable indeed whether this country is not liable for the sins those men commit to-day. I ask the Minister to elucidate this matter, and to tell me whether a man who is permanently unemployable owing to excessive indulgence in alcoholic liquor will be entitled to a pension under the “ burnt-out “ provisions of this measure.
Generally speaking, I congratulate the Government on this legislation, which I consider is very fine and generous. I know that it is sincerely appreciated by every organization of returned soldiers throughout the Commonwealth, all of which believe that the Government, in introducing this measure, has done the right thing; they are paying tribute where tribute is due. Again, I say .that this measure has not ‘been introduced as the result of organized pressure on the Government, but is simply a recognition on the part of the Government that the march of time calls for an evolution of pension provisions. It is to the credit of the Government that it has followed Canada’s precedent in proposing what are known as “ burnt-out “ clauses with the object of helping border-line cases.
.- I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this bill. Every request by returned soldiers’ organizations has been met. Australia has no reason to be ashamed of the provision hitherto made for the care of its war veterans and dependants. When the Repatriation Act was passed in 1920 the effects of war strain on ex-service men could not be foreseen As time went on this strain began to undermine the constitution of many men. The depression years also contributed to that result. Now they are prematurely aged, subnormal, or “ burnt-out “, an apt expression which was used in this connexion when a bill similar to this was before the Parliament of Canada in 1930. Such men are no longer fit to stand in the front line of industrial life; they are only industrial camp followers. The benefit provided Wy this bill for this class of ex-soldier is termed a service pension, as distinct from a war pension, which is granted for a direct war injury or a diagnosable war disability. Obviously this service pension is intended for those men whose condition is attributed to the rigour of operations in a theatre of actual war. The new commission, after a searching survey of the soldier’s record of service and medical history, should have no difficulty in deciding who are entitled to this pension. It is impossible to forecast correctly the number who will apply and be granted such a pension. I think the citizens of Australia will approve of any additional expenditure so long as the real front-line soldier benefits. Concessions forecast in this bill cover several other .classes of disabled soldiers. Since the second reading of this measure in the House of Representatives ex-soldier members of this Parliament, by deputation and personal representations, secured several important amendments which will considerably increase the original estimated expenditure of £350,000 per annum. I venture to say that no more humane legislation has been introduced into this chamber for many years. On behalf of the ex-service men generally, I thank the Government and particularly the exMinister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) for the sympathy and generous assistance given to our less fortunate comrades. Every request made by soldiers’ organizations has been met in this hill.
– I support the bill. I agree with my leader that it is somewhat belated and I agree with Senator Brand when he says that returned soldiers’ organizations made representations to the Government with the result that this measure was introduced. Senator Hardy, of course, says that this measure was not introduced as the result of any such pressure.
– Senator Brand did not say that it was.
– I shall make my position clear on this matter. It is perfectly right and just that men should approach any authority and bring pressure to bear on it in order that justice should be done to them. In this case, and rightly so, pressure has been brought to bear upon the Government by returned soldiers. I think Senator Hardy was rather stretching the matter when he tried to make us believe that the Government introduced this measure simply out of the goodness of its heart; it has been introduced as the result of pressure which, for many years, has been brought to bear upon the Government by those interested in the welfare of the soldiers. Past governments should have enacted these provisions long ago. Why Senator Hardy should speak at length in order to make it appear that no effort was made by the returned soldiers to influence the Government to introduce this legislation I do not know. Men, whether they be returned soldiers or otherwise, if they think legislation should be enacted for the benefit of the community, have a right to bring pressure to bear upon the Government to achieve what they desire. In fact, most governments would not act unless constant pressure drove it to action. Most conservative governments are lethargic; they act when they are obliged to and they bring in legislation only when they are forced to do so. My experience of Tory governments particularly is that they meet a situation in an expedient way in order to satisfy certain pressure. This has been the case in respect of many classes of legislation designed to assist the soldiers of industry, the producers and the farmers. Time and time again, instead of getting down to basic causes in order to deal with certain problems, this Government has acted in an expedient way in order to meet pressure brought to bear upon it by people outside. I am convinced that before long governments will be compelled to show greater consideration to our industrial soldiers, many of whom are unemployable because they are physically or mentally incapable of being employed at a remunerative occupation. It is only right that the Government should come to the rescue of these men as well as to the aid of those “ burnt-out “ soldiers who have served their country on the battlefield. Unemployable men come to me seeking assistance because private enterprise, with which they have been associated in their better days, cannot show a profit on the service they are able to render. I remember a man climbing the steps to the federal members’ room in Brisbane who had to stop six times before he reached the top. He said, “I have been to the Pensions Department and cannot receive any help. Don’t you think it only right that I should get a pension “ ? The poor individual could not walk more than ten steps without coughing and spitting, yet an officer of the department asked him if he could not perform some light work while sitting on his verandah. He replied, “ What kind of work can I do?” The officer said, “ You are not totally and permanently incapacitated; I do not know what kind of work you can do”. I trust that it will not be long before these men receive justice. Before the outbreak of the Great War there were many in Australia who said that nothing would be too good for those who offered their services. Although thousands of men made the supreme sacrifice, their dependants have not yet been able to receive the justice to which they are entitled. This belated act of justice will be supported by honorable senators in Opposition, but we trust that it will not be long before those maimed members of the industrial army will be served in the same way as are those who fought for this country.
– I do not propose to deal with claims or cases, because this measure is of such general excellence that it does not need many words of mine to commend it to honorable senators. The bill when enacted means that this Parliament, on behalf of and in the name of the people of Australia, will have made a further attempt to mitigate the natural effects of service in the Great War. In comparison with other countries, Australia has been generous to its sailors and soldiers who fought for it, and I know that that generosity is appreciated. There is, of course, a limit to the resources of this country. The other day I asked for some figures which will be very illuminating, showing the amount expended upon repatriation per capita of enlistments during the last nineteen or twenty years. Unfortunately, the figures have not yet been made available. The principal point I wish to make is that the benefits proposed should he confined to those whose condition is traceable to their war service, and also to the relatives of those who have died as a result of such incapacity. Most ex-service men are sincerely interested in the fate of their one-time comrades. The saddest moments experienced by surviving ex-service men are those in which memory returns, and they think of their comrades who did not survive battle. There is a feeling of great personal loss and a sense of national loss. There is no doubt that during the Great War the best of Australia’s young men gave up their lives for their country, and the nation is the poorer in consequence. Despite the dreadfulness of the last war it was undoubtedly the dawn of a great understanding. Despite differences of creed, education and so-called differences of class, it illustrated worth, bred toleration, and secured co-operation in achieving the objective. Nearly all of those who enlisted in Australia were Australians in the fullest sense of the word, and, I say without hestitation that could those who died be restored to life, we would be further along the road of progress than we are to-day. I say that not merely for sentimental purposes, but to suggest a reason why the benefits which the nation can afford to give, and which are too few, should be .bestowed only in deserving quarters. By all means let us avoid the false generosity and scandal associated with the system of one of our war allies. May I make that point plain? There were, men in Australia who enlisted and who did not serve. There were also men who were allowed to enlist and for whom effective service was barred from the outset. To that extent the medical services at this end were responsible, and in consequence there has been a heavy charge upon the nation ever since. Assistance should be reserved for the deserving and needy. The cumulative physical after effects of the last war are not yet fully understood. Some honorable senators are able to detect their presence and progress. For that reason I am glad that attention is being paid to the burnt-out or unemployable cases. The granting of a pension at 60 years of age is commendable and I heartily endorse the proposal. Nothing could make a greater claim upon our sympathies than the sight of a man with whom we were once proud to serve, growing prematurely old and going down hill rapidly. The provision made m the bill for such cases will afford great satisfaction, not only to the men affected, but also to their comrades who are still fit. I have mentioned the generosity of the terms of this bill, but I think that the Government has had brought before it other types of cases equally deserving, if not needing urgent consideration. Sooner or later rightful pressure will be applied for a recognition of their claims, and I ask that an investigation into the ways and means of assisting them should commence at once, and the way be prepared for future pronouncements. Some mention has been made of the representations made by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. I assure some honorable senators that that body is non-partisan in politics. It was formed to afford help to those who needed it, and to continue to render to the nation service equivalent to that which its members voluntarily rendered during the Great War. So far as I know that organization preserves that attitude, and it should be regarded as free from party political prejudice. It is actuated only. by the best of motives, and its efforts on behalf of ex-service men should be appreciated by all honorable senators. Eor these reasons it is entitled to have its proposals received and treated with every respect. I support the bill.
– Having had considerable experience with ex-service men seeking assistance, I am pleased to find that the Government has introduced this measure which will afford considerable relief and remove many anomalies. If, as has been stated, 200,000 of the 600,000 men who volunteered for service overseas were rejected by the medical authorities it would appear that the examination was fairly severe. In dealing with cases in which there is any doubt as to whether disability is due to war service, I have always felt that the onus should be upon the Government to prove that the condition was not due to war service. It is almost impossible to determine whether the condition of some men is due to war service or whether they are malingerers. One man who came to me had been refused a war pension because at times his condition is normal though on occasions he suffers severely from shock. “When such men have approached me I have suggested that they would probably obtain more satisfaction or better treatment if they interviewed a supporter of the Government.
Sitting suspended from G.15 to S p.m.
– The treatment of returned soldiers is a matter which cannot be mixed up with our political feelings. To a great extent that principle has been appreciated by all parties, and I believe that honorablesenators, when approached by returned soldiers, who have considered that their claims had not been satisfactorily adjusted, have had considerable satisfaction in making every effort to render them genuine assistance. Eor my own part, I always derived the greatest pleasure from interviewing officers of the Repatriation Department on behalf of a returned soldier or his widow, and I have received every courtesy from the officials. Unquestionably, they extend to the returned soldiers the utmost con sideration that the law permits. I do not desire to labour this subject, because it is one on which I am in agreement with the Government. I believe, however, that just as social progress is making lighter the struggle for existence both in Australia and in other countries of the world, so the returned soldiers will be treated more and more considerately, and their plight will be further alleviated as time passes. Experience has already shown that, with the passing of the years, they are enjoying greater advantages than hitherto, and I think that this tendency will continue in the future. Honorable senators will join with me when I express the hope that it may be so. I accord this measure my hearty support, and trust that when the finances of the country enable it to give greater concessions, the returned soldiers will receive better treatment.
. - in reply - I can only express gratification on the part of the Government at the reception accorded to this bill by honorable senators of all political parties. Various subjects have been referred to which can be more appropriately discussed in committee. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) said that this measure is belated. It is all very well to talk about the improved position of the Commonwealth, but we still have a financial skeleton in the cupboard. While this is present, we must proceed warily, lest through reckless generosity the financial equilibrium be disturbed and those who are now receiving the bounty of the Australian people be later placed in a less fortunate position. Prudence is absolutely essential, not only in the interests of the community as a whole, but particularly in the interests of the classes of persons whom the Government is endeavouring to assist. It would, indeed, be painful if anything should occur in the economic structure of Australia which would necessitate any reduction or whittling away of the privileges which this legislation confers on returned soldiers, and which have been so justly earned by them. The bill which has been so well received by the Senate has had the consideration of the Government for a considerable time, especially during the last few weeks in the light of the representations to which Senator Brand referred, and the concessions which it makes represent the utmost limit to which the Government is prepared to go. This is, in fact, the last word that the Government is able to say on this matter, and I ask honorable senators to accept the bill in thai spirit. I endorse the statement made by Senator Brand that the cost may be even greater than that which I estimated in my explanatory speech this morning. The matters raised by Senator Hardy can be best dealt with in committee, but I agree with the honorable senator that the information which has been placed before this chamber, discloses the terrible toll that the Great War is taking of the manhood of the world.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions).
– I draw the attention of the Minister to paragraph a which reads -
From the results of an occurrence happening during the period during which he was a member of the forces.
Does that provision nullify the original *l misconduct “ section under the heading of “incapacity” in the original act?
– In my opinion, the interpretation that the commission may place on the words “ permanently unemployable “ is the axis on which this legislation will revolve. I raise this matter at this stage, because we shall have a further opportunity .to discuss it on a later clause, and in the meantime we shall have on opportunity to consider the Minister’s reply, and perhaps be able to offer further observations on the interpretation of “permanently unemployable”. Tt will be realized that if a returned soldier desires to secure a pension on the ground that he is permanently unemployable, the question that will naturally arise is “ permanently unemployable at what”? If he is unable to obtain employment, will he be unemployable, and will that be the fault of the returned soldier? Will it be due to his character and make-up, war service, or the neglect of the Government? There are returned soldiers who can prove that they are permanently unemployable because it is impossible for them, in view of their depleted reserves, to engage io the competition for work. Let us consider the instance of a man who is indulging in alcoholic excesses, which would undoubtedly make him permanently unemployable;- he would not be able to hold a. responsible position. Would the commis]son regard that man as ‘ permanently unemployable? Although it may be argued that his condition is due to his own conduct, we have to look for the causes of the lack of stability and balance in his character. We must consider that when this man was taken as a youth of eighteen years of age and thrown into the chaos of war, he was deprived of all the steadying influences that build up character. If a skilled advocate were aware of such facts, and knew them to be correct, he could propound an excellent moral case to the commission on behalf of such a claimant. Therefore, the whole of this bill depends upon the interpretation of the words “ permanently unemployable “. I submit that a very delicate matter is raised in this regard. A man must be prepared to sink his pride in order to obtain a pension under this measure. He must confess his inability any longer to pull his weight in the industrial community, and declare that he has no alternative to throwing himself upon the resources of the country. Let us now consider the case of a neurotic man, or one who on account of war experiences has no stability in commercial life. Who shall decide that he is permanently unemployable? If such a man stepped from the street into the consulting room of a medical practitioner, would the doctor be in a position to judge? Would the doctor know enough of his actions and habits to certify that he is permanently unemployable? T could speak on 101 aspects of this provision. The Minister might reply that the interpretation of “ permanently unemployable “ will be left to the discretion of the commission.
– It must be left to the judgment of somebody.
– The more principles that the Minister can be prevailed upon to enunciate in order to serve as a guide to the commission the better it will be. When the claims of applicants have to be argued before the commission, one must be able to enunciate principles, but whether the commission will accept them is debatable. The duty of the Minister is to enunciate what he thinks will be the principle governing the interpretation of this definition.
– I ask Senator Hardy to consider this fact: If the alcoholism to which he has referred were engendered by war experiences, treatment and a pension would be given to the sufferer. But if the alcoholism were merely a bad habit which had been contracted by the man through his own faults, he would not be entitled to receive a pension. The definition of “ permanently unemployable “ is, I think, self-explanatory. I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the language used - “permanently unemployable” means permanently incapable, by reason of physical or mental disablement of being employed in a remunerative occupation.
That definition, is very plain. An application is first made to the State board, and is then forwarded to the commission. The personnel of that body and its grasp of the principles underlying this measure must be the determining factors. This definition is employed in similar legislation in New Zealand, and also, I understand, in Canada and Great Britain. There is no lack of authority for the guidance of the commission, and I can assure honorable senators that the act will be administered with sympathy and common sense.
– May we take it that the scale of pensions provided is intended to recompense a man for his inability to secure “ remunerative “ occupation ? In other words, may we assume that, if a man is in receipt of a fortnightly wage of 36s., he will be deemed to be employed in a “ remunerative “ occupation, or is it to be understood that a man is not in a “ remunerative “ occupation unless he is in receipt of the basic wage?
– A man employed permanently, and receiving the equivalent of the amount of pension provided, will not be deemed to be “ permanently unemployable “ within the meaning of the act.
– I should like some explanation of the definition “ served in a theatre of war.” We are told that it means “served at sea, in the field, or in the air, in naval, military or air operations against the enemy in an area, or on an aircraft or ship of war, at a time when danger from hostile forces of the enemy was incurred, in that area or on that aircraft or ship of war by the person so serving.” What is the reason for any reference to “ hostile “ forces of the enemy ?
– The term, “ served in a. theatre of war,” is not easy of definition. I have a very clear recollection of the difficulty of establishing definitions, because on one occasion I spent about a fortnight in endeavouring to induce a court to define when a man was engaged in active or military services within the meaning of the Defence Act of South Australia. All I can say is that the term “ served in a theatre of war “ received the most careful consideration, and I think the draftsmen have hit upon a very satisfactory definition.
– It may be argued that the definition implies the existence of friendly forces of the enemy.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator is endeavouring to split hairs. “ Hostile forces “ certainly means forces that are engaged in active hostilities. I understand that the definition is modelled, to a large extent, on that in the Canadian act.
– I share Senator Hardy’s doubts about the meaning of the words “permanently unemployable,” especially when linked with the words “ remunerative occupation.” Much will depend upon the view taken by the authorities responsible for the administration of the act. Applications for the invalid pension are refused by the Commissioner if the applicant is only partially incapacitated, the department taking the view that a person able to do light work, and earn 15s. or £1 a week, is not incapacitated within the meaning of the act, and therefore is not eligible for a pension. The meaning of the words “ permanently unemployable “ is not so clear as I would like it to be, and having advocated the claims of applicants for invalid pensions, I fear that injustice may be done to returned soldier applicants unless we can agree upon a more satisfactory definition of the term.
– -When this provision was under discussion in the House of Representatives, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), who was in charge of the bill, gave an assurance that each case would be dealt with on its merits, due regard being paid to the applicant’s previous occupation and general qualifications. He also gave an assurance that the commission would administer the provisions for service pensions with both sympathy and common sense.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Cancellation of pension by board).
– The clause inserts a new section, 29a, which reads -
Whore, prior to the commencement of this section, a board has purported to cancel a pension in circumstances in which the commission is, under section 20 of this act, authorized to cancel a pension, the pension shall be deemed to be, and at all times from and after the date of the purported cancellation, to have been, cancelled by the commission under that section. 1 should like to know the precise meaning of the word “purported”. Section 29 enacts -
Where any assessment or determination in relation to the pension payable to a member of the forces under this part is required to be reviewed, and the member refuses or fails to attend at the time and place fixed by the commission or a board for the review, or by his default renders it impossible to review the pension, the commission may cancel the pension, and any pensions payable to the dependants of the member shall not be continued for more than twelve months from the date fixed for the review.
Are we to understand that this proposed new section is intended to correct an anomaly in the act under which it is possible, owing to a mistake in the notification, for a returned soldier to be deprived of his rights? I wish to know also to what extent the provisions of this bill will be retrospective. Will they go back to 1922, or to the date of the last, amendment of the principal act, 1932?
– The provisions of the bill will cover the period 1920 to 1931. Under section 29 the commission has power to cancel a pension in the circumstances outlined, but instead of doing so, it apparently relied upon the board.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 (Suspension of pension during imprisonment).
– Can the Minister state if at any time the provisions of section 30 of the principal act had been availed of? That section provides for the suspension of a pension in the event of the pensioner being sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Under this bill there is provision for the grant of pension to returned soldiers who, owing to physical or mental disablement, are permanently unemployable. The fact that a man may be 80 per cent, a harmless member of the community and 20 per cent, a menace, may result in his being committed to gaol ; but, under this bill, imprisonment will not disentitle him to a pension. I find it difficult to reconcile the provisions of this clause with section 30 of the principal act. I shall be glad of some information on this point from the Minister.
– I am informed that a pension is not paid during the confinement to prison of a pensioner, but that it is paid to his dependants. Section 30 is quite clear. It enacts that if a pensioner is convicted of an offence and is sentenced to a term of imprisonment, the commission may suspend his pension during the term of imprisonment or forfeit any instalments. If there are dependants, the pension may be paid to them.
– What happens if the man has no dependants?
– In that event, no pension is payable during the term of imprisonment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 (Pensions to dependants of deceased blinded soldiers).
– Paragraph (ii) of proposed new section 39a refers to a member of the forces who, immediately prior to his death -
I ask the Minister to agree to alter that to the first ten items, instead of the first eight items, in the first column of the fifth schedule. The first eight items include double amputations below the knee, but not cases in which one arm or one leg has been amputated and one eye destroyed. The proposed new section differentiates between the loss of an eye and the loss of a leg, whereas, hitherto, an eye has been treated as a limb. The last available report of the RepatriationCommission shows that there are 145 ex-soldiers who come under the first ten items of schedule five of this act, and as the number of double-amputees mentioned in the report is 133, it will be seen that the total number of men affected by my proposal would be twelve. I ask the Minister to give this matter favorable consideration.
– This matter has had the most careful consideration of the Government which, while recognizing that a man who has lost an arm or a leg and also an eye suffers a serious disability, has decided that his plight is not so serious as that of a man whose two legs have been amputated below the knee. The cases referred to by the honorable senator are sad indeed, hut a line must be drawn somewhere. On the advice of the departmental officers, following on examination of the statistics, the Government has decided to provide only for cases covered by the first eight items in the first column of the fifth schedule to the principal act. The honorable senator has suggested that only twelve men would be affected, but the department cannot give an assurance that that is so. I shall bring the honorable senator’s representations before the Minister, but, at this stage, I cannot agree to depart from the decision already arrived at by the Government.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 19 to 21 agreed to.
Clause 22 (Effect of decision of Assessment Appeal Tribunals).
– At present, a soldier whose disability has been assessed may have to appear again before a tribunal after six months to have his case reviewed. In the case of men living in the country, that might involve considerable travelling and the loss of both time and money. It shouldnot be necessary in every instance for a review to take place every six months. I understand that it was the intention of the Government to make the period three years in certain cases. I should like to know whether the commission will have the power to postpone reassessment up to three years in special cases.
– This clause seeks to repeal section 45q of the principal act and to substitute other provisions for it. The existing law provides that the decision of the Assessment Repeal Tribunal shall be binding for six months only, but with a view to reducing the number of appeals, the Government has decided to extend the period to not exceeding three years, as specified by the tribunal when giving its decision. At the same time, sub-section 2 of proposed section 45q gives to the appellant the right to approach the Assessment Appeal Tribunal if, during the currency of its decision, the commission decides that his condition has not retrogressed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 23 agreed to.
Clause 24 -
After Division 4 of Part III. of the principal act, the following division and sections are inserted in Part III.:- -
Division 5. - Service Pensions. 45ad. Subject to this act the commission or a board may grant a service pension not exceeding thirty-six shillings per Fortnight to a member of the forces who served in a theatre of war, and who -
in the case of a man - has reached the age of 60 years;
) in the case of a woman - has reached the age of 55 years;
– Is there any provision to safeguard the widow of a soldier who died before the passing of this act? Will she be able to obtain the benefits provided by this clause?
– Then she is doubly unfortunate in that she has lost her husband and also the advantages which this act confers.
– I desire to supplement in a few words the statement that has just been made regarding the cases of widows of returned men who have died from pulmonary tuberculosis. Several instances of this kind have come under my notice. Some of these unfortunate men have died in sanitoria and during the whole period of their illness have not been able to receive any help from the Repatriation Department because of their inability to produce proof that their illness was due to war service. In some cases, this inability was due to the fact that men who may have been able to give testimony that would have been helpful to the sufferer had predeceased him. I regret that some provision has not been made in the bill to assist the widows of tubercular soldiers. Many of them have children to support. I trust that the Government will give this matter further consideration with a view to making provision for such cases later on.
[8.45 J . - I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and Senator Payne that the most careful consideration has been given to this matter, and, as I told honorable senators earlier, the Government has gone so far as it possibly can to finance this bill. This matter has been debated again and again, in and out of Cabinet,’ between various Ministers appointed to consider it. It has been submitted to officers of the department concerned and examined in all its aspects, and while in a case of this kind one might be inclined to let the heart run away with the head, I can only repeat that the Government can go no further than the terms of the bill itself.
– Section 4 of the principal act defines an army sister as an Australian soldier within the meaning of the act. That definition is perfectly clear, but I point out that it is likely to upset minis terial calculations in respect of other portions of this measure. Suppose that an army sister, as so defined, applies, let us say, for a “burnt-out” pension; if she is unmarried, she will be entitled as an unmarried member of the forces to a pension of 36s. a fortnight; if she is married, apparently, she will be entitled to a pension of 30s. a fortnight as prescribed for a married member of the forces. As wives of members of the forces are also defined will an army sister, defined as a soldier within the meaning of the act, who marries another soldier, receive a pension for herself as a married member of the force, and an additional pension as the wife of a member of the forces?
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN (South Australia - Postmaster-General) [8.48 ~ . - The point raised by the honorable senator has received the consideration of the commission and also of the War Service Homes Commissioner. A returned nurse is a member of the forces, and as such has rights of her own which are not affected by marriage. Even though married it is possible for her to obtain a service pension, and her children may also be eligible. Naturally, the income and property provisions will apply, and, of course, a service pension will not be payable on account of the nurse’s husband. If the husband is a member of the forces he has rights as such.
.- I am sure that honorable senators accept the assurance given by the Minister that the Cabinet has fully considered the extent of its financial commitments arising out of this bill, and that it is impossible for it to undertake further financial liability in respect of this measure. How ever, I would like an assurance from the Minister that when the financial liabilities to which the Government commits itself under this bill have been revealed, say. towards the end of next session, he will be prepared to receive any representations for the granting of a pension to widows of unpensioned tubercular soldiers. I single out these women for special treatment, because the tubercular sufferers are in a category altogether different from any other disabled soldiers. If representatives from every soldiers organization in Australia assembledhere and were offered £10,000 for distribution among their members, I am sure that every one of those representatives would immediately agree that the tubercular sufferers should receive first preference. The widows of these men have nursed their husbands for many years with the result that their health too has been impaired; many of them have contracted the disease. Furthermore, from their slender savings they have had to purchase special foods for their suffering husbands. Unpensioned tubercular soldiers do not receive one penny’s worth of treatment in any repatriation hospital; some people do not seem to realize that fact. Actually there is very little difference between the disabilities suffered by the pensioned and the non-pensioned tubercular soldier. The former often secures his pension simply because something in his war service record, sways the decision in his favour; often he gets the pension merely by chance, whereas on the other hand the unpensioned tubercular sufferer may very often be in a worse plight than the pensioned soldier. From inquiries I have made, I find that, of the estimated 1,100 widows whose unpensioned tubercular husbands have died since the armistice, the number of claimants is likely to be less than 400, involving an annual expenditure of about £17,000. This would be a gradually diminishing liability. Some of the widows have married again, others are old-age pensioners, many have private means, and others are being supported by their children. I have interviewed the Minister and other members of the Ministry on this matter, and all of them have told me that the Government has gone so far as it possibly can in financial commitments under this measure. I make this appeal in the hope that towards the end of next session when the actual financial obligations, arising under this bill, have been revealed, the Government will be prepared to receive representations on behalf of this class of widows.
– While accepting the Minister’s explanation that the Government cannot commit itself to further financial liability under this measure, I still claim that something should be done for the widows of soldiers who already have died from pulmonary tuberculosis. I therefore move -
That at the end of proposed new section 45 ad the following paragraph be added: -
in the case of a widow of a deceased member whose death was due to pulmonary tuberculosis.
The amount involved in meeting these claims would not be so serious that this great and rich country could not afford to pay it. While we are making the splendid gesture, which this bill certainly represents, we could easily make a complete job of it and do as I suggest. As I indicated by interjection it seems very hard that this class of widow is not to be paid a pension under this measure. I can see no reason why the Government should not accept my amendment. I feel sure that it has the sympathy of all honorable senators.
– Honorable senators know that the Government has every sympathy with the class of widows to whom the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has referred, but it has to remember that it owes a duty and responsibility to the returned soldiers in the passage of this measure. Already it has gone far beyond the financial liabilities that were contemplated when the measure was first considered by Cabinet. When it was first proposed to establish the new scheme of pensions set out in this measure the whole field of pensions was surveyed, and the Cabinet had the most complete statistics bearing on the matter placed before it. Even so far back as a year ago Cabinet gave consideration to the various classes of pensioners whom it was sought to assist, and at that time consideration was given to the class of widows mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, but regretfully the Government came to the conclusion that this class would have to be excluded from the provisions of this measure. Additional claims will alwaysarise where cases of hardship are being considered. For instance, I ask honorable senators to think of those soldiers who passed away without having enjoyed the benefit of any assistance of this character. Now that we are endeavouring to do something for their comrades who have survived, the cry is raised that the Government should extend the benefits in this direction and that. “We cannot wisely proceed on such a basis, and at the same time achieve a balanced budget. More recently the matter was re-considered and even during the last few days a series of Cabinet meetings devoted considerable time to the examination of proposals of the nature now submitted by the’ leader of the Opposition. The Government is sympathetic to such proposals as I believe all honorable senators are, but I point out that in this measure the Government has given an earnest of its sympathy for the soldier, and it asks honorable senators to stand by what it has done. Let me briefly review the provisions of this bill. The Government seeks to give a pension at 55 years of age to returned nurses and at 60 years of age to returned soldiers, provided certain income and property limits are not exceeded, and provided also that the recipient served in a theatre of war. Irrespective of age, it is hoped to provide a service pension for former members of the Australian Imperial Forces, who served in a theatre of war, and who are permanently unemployable and whose property and income are less than the amounts prescribed. For the sufferer from pulmonary tuberculosis whose ailment has not been accepted as due to war service, the bill provides a service pension at any age, whether he served in a ‘ theatre of war or not, and whether he is permanently unemployable or not. It intends to give to him an invalid pension in addition to a service pension, and also free medical treatment in repatriation institutions. The bill removes the time limit concerning material aggravation cases and gives the right of appeal to a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal or to a War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal. It is intended to accept as due to war service the death from any causes whatsoever of those who suffered blindness, or total and permanent incapacity under the second schedule of the act, and those who suffer warcaused double amputations, and to give their dependants increased war pension and other benefits. Commuted pensions are to be restored, and some effort has been made to alleviate the conditions of those whose advancing years make life more difficult. There are smaller benefits also, but from what I have said, honorable senators will agree that the Government has made a genuine effort to do as much as its financial resources will permit.
Turning now to the particular matter before the committee, I may state that the Government surveyed the situation. from every angle and regretfully decided that the provisions of the bill could nor. he further extended. When the proposition was first submitted, a survey of the national finances indicated that a. certain sum of money could be provided. On several occasions subsequently, that sum has been increased and with the addition of certain clauses to the bill, the expenditure will far exceed the amount which was originally anticipated. The Government has now reached a limit beyond which it cannot go. During the earnest and sympathetic discussions on this subject, members of the Government found it impossible to discriminate in their own minds between the widow of a man who died from pulmonary tuberculosis and the widow of a man who died from any other cause. To admit one class would inevitably create demands for other admissions and raise false hopes for benefits which certainly could not be conferred. The bill is a step forward in social legislation. The consequences will be far-reaching and the expenditure may, probably will, exceed calculations. A big departure has been made from the generally accepted principles of war pensioning and any additional departures cannot be countenanced. I shall select one complicating feature amongst many others to illustrate the difficulty in which the Government would find itself if the amendment were accepted. A returned soldier who, through war service, suffers incapacity at equivalent to 75 per cent., dies from causes entirely dissociated from his war service. His widow, provided the marriage occurred before the- 1st October, 1931, would be eligible tocontinue receiving the pension she was drawing at the time of her husband’s death, i.e. 13s. 6d. a week. It will thus be seen that if a service pension is made available to the widow of a man who was not suffering at all as a result of war service she would be placed in a relatively better position than the widow of a man whose earning capacity and health had been undermined seriously by war service. Those whose husbands die after having been granted a service pension, present a responsibility which the Government is prepared to accept. in doing so it is acting more liberally than does Canada or New Zealand, where the maximum period of continuance is two years. It is impossible to include every class. The Government, in its selection, has endeavoured to confer benefits where they are most deserved and at the same time retain equitable relationship between the classes. I regret that the circumstances are such that the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– I support the request of Senator Brand that so soon as the finances permit the Government will give immediate consideration to certain tubercular claimants who deserve the most sympathetic consideration. It is admitted that extensive concessions have been conferred upon ex-service men and their dependants and, generally speaking, I believe that the organizations representing different sections are satisfied with the manner in which the Government has responded to their representations. Tubercular patients, however, are in a totally different category from all others as the disease is the most elusive known to medical science. It is difficult to prove that those suffering from tuberculosis contracted it as the result, of war service, and in many instances medical men cannot make a definite pronouncement upon that point. I know an ex-soldier, who, for a number of years was treated for asthma, but who, if brought into this chamber would be said to be in the last stages of consumption. This man, I am perfectly certain from a. knowledge of the facts, contracted the disease as the direct result of war service, but at, the moment I do nor know whether his application for the pension has been granted. Let us consider another and important side of the case. The wives and relatives of tubercular ex-soldiers have nursed them for many years, and having been in close contact with them over a long period, have themselves contracted the disease. Unfortunately, in many cases the disease has been contracted not only by the widows and relatives of tubercular men, but also by their children. I have been informed that the daughter of the secretary of the Tubercular Sailors and Soldiers Association of Australia and the son of the vice-president of that association have contracted the disease. This gives some idea of how widespread is this phase of the disease. Many sufferers who have not obtained any financial assistance from the department have been helped by the Tubercular Sailors anc! Soldiers Association of New South Wales with money derived from charitable sources, and I believe that since that association has been in existence approximately £48,000 has been expended in providing assistance to tubercular exsoldiers and to their wives and children. This is a definite problem which the Government must face in an effort to assist affected soldiers and their dependants. In other countries, and particularly in France, the children of exsoldiers receive greater consideration than do the ex-soldiers themselves. X-ray examinati”“ns have disclosed that 40 per cent, of me tubercular ex-soldiers’ wives in New South Wales - and I suppose the same applies to the whole of Australia - are suffering from the disease.
– From what source does the honorable senator obtain that information?
– I was so informed by the president of the Tubercular Sailors and Soldiers Association, of New South Wales.
– Can the existence of the disease be determined by X-ray?
– An X-ray photograph clearly shows if the lungs are affected, and is, I understand, the most modern and scientific method of ascertaining the existence of the disease. There is also the further fact that every care and attention must be given to prevent its spreading further. I realize that the Government is doing all that it can in the present circumstances, but having come in close contact with tubercular cases I shall continue to agitate until even greater consideration is given to those suffering from this disease. Additional assistance is an essential national service to ex-service men and also to their wives and relatives who have spent many years of their lives in attending to their loved ones.
– Proposed new section 45ad to which SenatorCollings proposes to add another paragraph reads -
Subject to this act. the commission or a board may grant a service pension not exceeding 36s. per fortnight to a member of the forces who served in a theatre of war and who-
in the case of a man - has reached the age of60 years ;
b ) in the case of a woman - has reached the age of 55 years.
The honorable senator proposes to add -
in the case of a widow of a deceased member whose death was due to pulmonary tuberculosis.
Thatproposed new section deals with a member of the forces, and as a widow is not a member of the forces I cannot see how the proposed amendment can be accepted, although it might be inserted in another part of the bill.
-Can the Chairman indicate where the amendment should be inserted?
– That is not my responsibility. The proposed section refers to “ a member of the forces.” What is proposed to be inserted is a provision relating to a widow, who is certainly not a member of the forces. For that reason I cannot accept the amendment.
– Although I oppose this amendment. I consider that an appropriate place for it, if the honorable senator is determined to move it, is in section 45ae, line 35, after the words “ children of members of the forces.” However, I ask the honorable senator not to press the amendment, because the Government cannot possibly accept it. I desire that the bill should be passed in its present form.
SenatorCollings. - I realize that the place indicated by the Minister would be more appropriate for the insertion of my amendment, but, in view of his declaration that the Government is not prepared to accept it, I shall not proceed with it. . However, I and other members of the Labour party will continue our agitation for this amendment with such vigor as will ultimately ensure success.
– The act states that -
In the case of a mentally-afflicted returned soldier, any person approved by an appeal tribunal as a proper representative of the soldier may lodge an appeal on his behalf, and shall for the purpose of the bill have all the rights of a soldier.
Advantage has been taken of this provision. Pensions have been granted to soldiers who received war injuries, and who at some later date become insane. One instance I have in mind is that of a crippled soldier whose disablement was due to war causes. Subsequently he became insane, and his pension of £28s. a fortnight was paid to the Master in Lunacy, who paid £1 a fortnight to the dependants of that crippled soldier, and retained the balance. There is a difference between that principle and the principle contained in proposed section 45ao. and I desire to know why the Minister draws a distinction between the pensioner whose injuries are directly due to the war and one who comes under the “burntout” clause. Section 45ao states -
If a service pensioner becomes an inmate of an asylum for the insane his pension shall, without further or other authority than this act. be deemed to be suspended.
If a man sustained injuries, which the commission recognizes as being definitely due to the war and two or three years after his return to Australia becomes insane and enters an asylum, his pension immediately becomes the property of the Master-in-Lunacy, who in turn may distribute whathe thinks fit to the man’s dependants. There is a tremendous difference between that principle and the principle applied in this bill to a service pension, because any pension that the soldier may receive under this measure is immediately, forfeited in the event of his becoming an inmate of any asylum. What will happen to the dependants of that man?
– It is obvious that proposed section 45ao covers the instance mentioned by Senator Hardy, because it provides for the immediate suspension of any service pension when a pensioner becomes an inmate of an asylum. I refer Senator Hardy to proposed new section 45 ae, subsection 3-
A pension under this section shall not be granted to the wife or child of a member of the forces unless a pension under this division is payable to or in respect of that member :
Provided that for the purposes of this subsection a pension shall be deemed to be payable to a member during any period during which -
the pension is suspended under section 45ao of this act; or
the member is by reason only of his failure to comply with the requirements of section 45ap of this act, ineligible by virtue of that section to receive a pension.
The effect of that provision, I consider, is that the dependants will receive their pensions while the soldier is in the asylum, although the pension of the man himself is held in suspense.
– That is what we want.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 25 agreed to.
After section fifty-seven oF the principal act the following section is inserted: - “ 57a. The Commission may require any person, whom it believes to he in a position to do so, to furnish to the Commission a confidential report as to the circumstances or the financial transactions of any pensioner or applicant for a pension, or for assistance and benefits, under this Act, or of any relatives of any such pensioner or applicant; and any person who, on being required to do so by the Commission, fails, without just cause (proof whereof shall lie upon that person) to furnish a. report within a reasonable time, or furnishes a report containing any statement which is untrue in any particular, shall be guilty of an offence “.
. I move -
That the words, “ or of any relatives of any such pensioner or applicant” be left out.
When the bill was considered in the House of Representatives, the Government decided to accept the suggestion to remove these words, because it was felt that such a request to the relatives might prove embarrassing to them, and the Government is anxious to avoid any inquisitorial examination of them.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 27 and 28 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senator A. J. MCLACHLAN (South
Australia - Postmaster-General) [-9.31] . - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure to approve the sugaragreement made on the 19th July last, between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments whereunder, for five years as from the 1st September, 1936 -
I shall not go into the details of the ramifications of the sugar industry. These, I feel sure, are well known to all honorable senators. Suffice it to say that over 32,000 people are directly engaged in the industry, and it is estimated that about 60,000 additional people are dependent upon it.
The present method of protecting the sugar industry commenced in July, 1915. From 1915 to early in 1921, and again in 1923 and 1924, the Commonwealth Government’s sugar agreement policy saved to the consumers millions of pounds, and was so effective that Australia was one of the very few nations that did not have to endure sugar shortages and severe ration- ing. For part of the time, sugar prices in Australia were much lower than in other countries. This led to phenomenal exports of goods having a high sugar content, such as jam and condensed mills.
Since 1924, however, the world’s freemarket price of sugar has steadily fallen. As a result, it is not surprising that recent sugar agreements have operated to the very substantial benefit of the producers, that is, if one is fair, as well as theoretically correct, in calculating the cost to the community as being the excess of the Australian price over the world’s free-market price. On this basis, the latest authoritative estimate of the excess cost of Australian sugar is that of Professor Giblin who, in January last, fixed it at £5,100,000 per annum. Should the coming international sugar conference in London succeed in restoring the free-market price to a remunerative level for the principal black-labour countries, this excess cost will be considerably reduced.
Eight previous sugar agreements have been concluded by four different governments, representing every political party in the federal arena. The agreement has been renewed by the Lyons Government for the ninth time, because the agreement plan has been proved by Australian experience during the last twenty years to be the most effective arrangement for all interests concerned.World freemarket sugar prices have fluctuated enormously during those years, having gone so high as £137 a ton for raw sugar and so low as £4 a ton. Obviously the customs tariff method of protection, in such circumstances, would result in alternating periods of excessive prices to consumers and insufficient returns to producers, thus destroying any stability in the sugar industry, and in the many industries in which sugar is an important raw material.
I now come to the reasons actuating the Government in continuing the present prices for another five years. The first consideration was the financial position of the producers of sugar cane and raw sugar. In this connexion the last inquiry into the sugar industry - the investigation by the Commonwealth Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1931 - issued two reports. The majority report found that the cost of production, up to 1930, justified no reduction of the then retail price of 41/2d. per lb., and the minority report considered that a reduction equivalent to id. per lb. could be made. These opinions were based upon a cost of efficient production of raw sugar fluctuating between £19 and £22 per ton. Since then, of course, the economic depression has brought about lower wages in the sugar industry, and also lower costs of commodities required by sugar producers for their productive and living purposes.
On the other hand, the Lyons Government secured, by voluntary agreement with the producers themselves, a reduction of the Australian price as from January, 1933, equivalent to1/2d. per1b. retail. I had the honour of representing the Government at the negotiations at which this agreement was made. This reduction represented a yearly loss of £1,250,000 of the revenue of the sugar producers. Furthermore, the net return on the raw sugar exported has fallen appreciably. The result of these two factors is that the average return for all raw sugar last year was only £15 10s. 9d. a ton, which was found, on examination by the Government last February, to be definitely less than the present cost of efficient production, plus a reasonable return to farmers on their capital investment.
The trend of the economic position of sugar producers is revealed by increasing liens on farmers’ crops. Figures definitely prove that the industry is not in a position to stand the only reduction that could be of any practical benefit to consumers, viz., another1/2d. per1b. Such a reduction would be equivalent to a reduction of £1,250,000 per annum of the revenue of the producers. The growers’ share of such a reduction would be £S75,000, which is more than the total net income of £780,251 of the 1,S91 growertaxpayers as revealed in the last annual report of the Queensland Commissioner for Taxes, and much more than their taxable income of £569,194. for the year ended the 30th June, 1934. A reduction of id. per lb. would, therefore, eliminate practically all cane-growers from the income tax field. In the light of these facts, the Government felt that there was no case whatever for a further reduction of the income of the sugar producers.
I turn now to the position of Australian sugar consumers. Is the renewal of the sugar agreement at current prices fair and reasonable from their point of view ? To answer this question it is necessary to consider pTe-war and present prices of sugar and other Australian commodities, and also wages. The pre-war retail price of sugar to the consumers was usually 3d. per lb. It is now 4d. per lb., and will remain at that figure under the new agreement, representing an advance of 33 per cent, on pre-war prices. However, the average retail price of all foods and groceries has increased since 1911 by 46 per cent., or 13 per cent, more than sugar. Indeed, only two important foodstuffs have increased since 1911 to a lesser degree than sugar. They are butter and cheese, in which industries relatively low wages are paid, owing to the substantial absence of wages awards, whereas all sugar employees have to be paid Arbitration Court wages.
Whilst the retail price of sugar has advanced by 33 per cent., the basic wage has increased by 45 per cent, since 19.1.1. Obviously, this means that all citizens of Australia working under wages awards are better able to pay 4d. per lb. for sugar now than they were able in 1911 to pay 3d. per lb. The same contention applies to all sheltered primary and secondary industries - this means most Australian industries’ - and to wholesalers, retailers and the community generally. This is substantially proved by the rise of the average retail price of all commodities, wages and house rents.
Honorable senators will, doubtless, be interested in the sugar retail prices in other countries. The Australian capital city price of 4d. per lb. is less than the average retail price now being charged in the nineteeen principal countries of the world, viz., 5.44d. per lb. expressed in terms of Australian currency. Even with exchange at par, this average price abroad would be approximately 4-£d. per lb., or slightly more than the basic retail price in Australia.
That the present sugar retail price of 4d. per lb. is not out of step with purchasing power and the prices of other goods, is confirmed by the fact that the per capita direct consumption of refined sugar has increased, from 74.3 lb. for 1928-29 to 74.5 lb. for 1934-35, and remains the highest in the world. Such a result could not occur, if sugar were too expensive, relatively to other prices and purchasing power.
The new sugar agreement, and all its conditions as to prices, rebates. &c, will operate for five years. I may state that five years is a usual period for bounty legislation such as the present Wine and Baw Cotton Bounty Acts, and several other bounty acts previously in force. The Papua and New Guinea Bounty Act has a term of ten year3. The Sulphur and Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act3 operate indefinitely.
In the case of the sugar industry, a term of five years represents the normal crop and seasonal cycles for Australian sugar. Correct farm practice for most of the production is one plant crop, followed by three ratoon crops, and one year for fallowing - making a total of five years. The same period is necessary to experience typical or average seasonal conditions.
A five-years’ sugar agreement was recommended by both sections of the Commonwealth Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1931, and there can be little doubt that this -period is warranted from the producers’ standpoint because of the productive circumstances mentioned, and because of the necessity for ensuring a reasonable measure of stability for the industry.
The Government carefully considered the probable position of consumers under a domestic price fixed for five years. In this connexion, I would remind honorable senators of my earlier figures showing that the price of sugar has advanced less since 1911 than the average price of all other foods and groceries, and the basic wage. At present, therefore, the retail price of 4d. per lb. is slightly favorable to consumers.
As to the future, it is necessary to consider the probable trend of food price indexes and wages. Most authorities hold that prosperity and full employment will not be attained unless improved prices, especially for primary products, are secured. A marked tendency in that direction is now in evidence.
In December, 1932, when the 4d. per lb. sugar agreement was approved by this
Parliament, the all items index figure for food, groceries and housing, which the Commonwealth Arbitration Court uses for fixing wages, was 1,363. Three months later it reached its lowest for many years, viz., 1,330. It has since steadily risen to 1,433 points for September, 1935, which is 70 points above the index when the 4d. per lb. for sugar was approved.
Price indexes have at least been stabilized, and there are indications that they will rise during the next five years. Nevertheless, sugar at 4d. per lb. retailwill remain at only 33 per cent, above the usual pre-war price. Such a result will cause the new sugar agreement to be a distinctly favorable proposition to consumers. The present trend towards higher price levels means that sugar wages will probably rise, and also the cost to the sugar producers of the commodities which they require for productive purposes and for personal consumption. Hence, the cost of producing sugar may be expected to increase. Under the new sugar agreement, however, the producers will not be able to claim or secure a higher price for domestic sugar sales: they will be compelled to meet the situation by improved efficiency and a readjustment of their total output.
The Government has also considered the possibility of export values improving during the term of the next agreement. Some improvement of current export prices may, of course, be expected, as a result of international efforts or the natural adjustment of world ‘ production to demand, but progress in that direction is bound to be slow. However, the maximum likely improvement - averaged over the five years - would not be sufficient, of itself, to enable the Australian price to be reduced to consumers generally and, should it develop to a sufficient extent at any stage, it is not unlikely that it would be offset by a partial reduction of the present tariff preferences granted on Empire sugars, in the interests of budgets and consumers in the United Kingdom and Canada. Apart from these considerations, the present average price received by the Australian producers is lower than efficient production costs plus a reasonable return on the ‘ capital invested.
Finally, it appears to be only equitable that, if the variable factor of better export prices is to be applied in favour of a section of consumers - and it will probably be sufficient for only a section - other variable factors, such as higher sugar wages, a shorter working week, increased costs of machinery, implements, &c, should be applied in favour of the sugar producers. For these various reasons, the Government has decided to allow anyimproved returns from raw sugar exports to remain with the sugar industry.
The Government’s announcement regarding the new sugar agreement eighteen months before the expiration of the current agreement has been questioned in certain quarters. The position is that most of the previous agreements were signed from nine to twelve months before they were due to commence, and that the agreement now under discussion was signed in July last, or thirteen months before it will become operative. An early announcement or decision as to the future, even if not essential, is suitable to the general circumstances of the sugar industry, especially at a time when the producers are, as has already been shown, in a somewhat difficult position. In this connexion, much land has had to be prepared and cane planted during the last few months for the crop that will be harvested under the new agreement. The current agreement now covers only the crop at present being harvested and crushed, operations which will end either this month or in January, 1936.
For new planting and attention to existing crops during the next eight to ten months, much expenditure by the growers will be necessary, and a fairly large part of the requisite funds will have to be borrowed, and secured by crop liens and other means. For the purpose of such loans, it is essential to have a reasonably firm value for the next crop. The conclusion of the new agreement gives a definite value to the homeconsumption portion of the crop representing about 55 per cent., and the average value of each ton of sugar cane produced may be computed with sufficient accuracy for loan transactions by adopting a conservative value for the export surplus.
It is significant that the British Government decided some months ago that, in view of the peculiar circumstances of the cane-sugar industry throughout the Empire in regard to the heavy expenses necessary for preparation of land, planting, and attention to growing crops, no future alteration of the tariff preferences of the United Kingdom on Empire sugars would be made without first giving eighteen months’ notice in advance.
The annual contribution by the sugarproducers to the fruit industry is to be increased from £200,000 to £216,000. This fund is administered by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, which committee distributes the money in the following manner : -
An export sugar rebate on the sugar contents of all manufactured fruit products exported from Australia, for the purpose of reducing the cost of those contents to the Australian equivalent of the world’s freemarket price. The rates of this rebate vary from month to month inaccordance with fluctuating world prices, and the annual cost is about £60,000.
Payment of the domestic sugar rebate and special export assistance will, as heretofore, be conditional upon manufacturers paying growers for fresh fruit not less than the prices declared each season by the committee to be reasonable prices.
The operations of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee have been most successful. The committee enjoys the confidence and support of both the primary and secondary phases of the fruit industry, and also of the employees therein, as is evidenced by many letters and resolutions, representative of well over 90 per cent, of all interests affected, which have been received by the Government during the last few months.
The increase of £16,000 per annum in the contribution by the sugar industry is considered necessary in view of Australia’s expanding export trade in canned fruits especially, and also jams - a trade which has been greatly assisted by the committee. For fuller details of this work, I invite the attention of honorable senators to the fourth annual report of the chairman of the committee, Mr. A. R. Townsend, which was recently tabled in the Senate.
The new agreement contains a clause, at page 3, which is designed to promote fairer competition between wholesale merchants, and also between all classes of retail grocers. I shall deal, first, with the position of wholesale merchants.
The sugar discount is intended only for merchants who trade on legitimate wholesale lines and, in particular, carry the important credit responsibilities essential to most country districts and numerous suburban grocers. The wholesale cash sugar discount was reduced many years ago from31/2 per cent, to 2 per cent., which is much the lowest rate for any grocery commodity, since other goods carry discounts ranging from 5 per cent, to 15 per cent., and averaging from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent. It is important to remember that the low sugar discount is in the interests of the ultimate consumers. A discount of 8 per cent, or 10 per cent., for example, would cause the retail price of sugar to rise ii. per lb. Discount cutting or other concessions on sugar by certain wholesalers who refuse to take their fair share, and frequently no share, of the credit trade, is no great achievement, as they are virtually acting as brokers, not wholesalers. Such practices merely have the effect of depriving legitimate wholesalers of the only sound portion of their sugar business, thus reducing their total turnover and weakening their ability to continue their essential credit facilities to retailers at the current charge of 2 per cent, on the list wholesale price,. The credit charge of 2 per cent, is not all profit; it covers selling costs and administration, as well as bad debts which at present average about 1^ per cent.
The normal circumstances of the agricultural community are such that most primary producers require to obtain their supplies on credit for part of the year. This aspect has been accentuated by the low prices of primary products in recent years. The credit requirements of primary producers, in turn, compel country storekeepers to purchase a considerable portion of their goods on credit terms. This credit is often not available from banks or other financial institutions, and must be obtained from wholesale traders. Wholesale merchants are thus an important factor in the credit structure of the grocery trade of Australia. Therefore, any plan to maintain the cash discount intact is a reasonable protection for legitimate wholesalers, and is in the interests of sound trade. It is also beneficial to the people in country districts who might be expected to bear higher credit charges if the whole burden of bad debts were carried by the credit trade only, as it would be if wholesale merchants were deprived of their cash trade in sugar.
Experience has shown that the wholesale merchants’ clause in the present sugar agreement requires strengthening and it is believed that the clause in the new agreement will meet the position satisfactorily. In future therefore, the cash discount on sugar will be available only to wholesale merchants who, in the opinion of the Queensland Sugar Board, engage to a reasonable extent in the credit trade and comply with the prescribed conditions forbidding the sharing of the discount with, or giving cartage or other concessions to their customers.
The wholesale discount has not been, and is not intended to be, reserved to a limited number of merchants. Any merchant who at any time complies with the prescribed terms and conditions is entitled thereupon to be added to the approved list.
The other purpose of the new wholesalediscount clause is to promote ‘ f air competition among all classes of retail grocers. At present, several chain organizations of retail stores are virtually receiving the discount through the agency of wholesale companies operating under a different name. This means, in effect, that the owners of certain chain stores receive 13s. 3d. a ton more profit for retailing sugar than do thousands of individual grocers. Obviously, that constitutes unfair competition. The modern chain-store movement is of. comparatively recent growth, and i3 creating new problems. There are two methods of restoring fair competition in the retailing of sugar. One method is to make the sugar discount available to syndicates of retailers, and this has been formally requested by the Retailers Federation. Seeing that the discount is equivalent to only one-fourteenth of Id. per lb., and, therefore, cannot be passed on to domestic consumers, and that the consequent loss of most of the cash trade to wholesalers - if retail syndicates were allowed to have the discount - would inevitably re-act unfavorably on many country storekeepers, and, in turn, on the farming community, the Government considers that it is not advisable that retail syndicates should be permitted to receive the discount. Moreover, all retailers would not be able to join these syndicates, and completely fair trade would not, therefore, be possible. The only effective means of restoring fair competition between retailers is to exclude from the wholesale discount list those concerns that are directly or indirectly associated with retail stores and, in future, to prevent any chain store or other retailers from receiving or sharing in the discount either directly or indirectly. Accordingly, the Government decided to adopt this method. The new wholesale merchants’ clause means that the sugar discount will not be available to wholesale merchants in respect of any sugar or sugar products which they directly, or indirectly, through any associated person, firm, or corporation, retail to the public. This clause will be interpreted by the Queensland Sugar Board in its widest sense, with a view to promoting fair and equal competition between all classes of retail grocers. Further, as chain store competition in the retail trade is becoming increasingly acute, the following arrangement has been made by the Queensland Sugar Board : -
That the approval by Parliament of the recently-signed new sugar agreement will be regarded by the Sugar Board as indicating the present will of Parliament in respect to the wholesale sugar discount and fair competition for retail grocers. Consequently, although the new sugar agreement will not commence to operate until” the 1st September, 193(i, the Sugar Board, at the earliest convenient opportunity after it becomes law, will give effect to Parliament’s decision by suitably revising the prescribed conditions for the wholesale sugar discount, so that no retailer, or group of retailers (chain stores), shall directly or indirectly receive the discount.
The Retail Grocers Federation has requested that the free delivery areas in the various capital cities be extended to the outermost suburbs. Such a provision could not benefit retail consumers, as even the maximum, cartage charges involved are only 10s. a ton. Moreover, completely free delivery would cost the sugar producers a large sum of money, which they cannot reasonably be called upon to bear at present. Moreover, while grocers in the outer suburbs have to pay cartage on their sugar deliveries, in nearly all cases they pay lower rents than do city grocers, and employ less outside labour. In many cases, no labour at all is employed. In these circumstances, the request for entirely free delivery could not be granted. However, the Government’s investigation of this position disclosed that a somewhat anomalous position existed in Melbourne compared with other capital cities. This position will be rectified shortly after the new sugar agreement has been approved by Parliament, by adopting the city zone as the approximate centre of the free delivery area, and extending that area to include a number of thickly-populated suburbs. At the same time, the cartage rates to grocers in all suburbs outside the extended free delivery area will be slightly reduced.
Before concluding, I desire to say a few words concerning the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. At the outset, it should be stated that that company is not a party to the sugar agreement, and is not consulted regarding its terms and conditions. The company’s receipts, fees and profits for its services in refining and distributing sugar throughout Australia are fixed by separate agreements each year between the Queensland Government and the company.
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company receives payments in respect of four operations in connexion with refining and distribution, all of which are checked each year by the Queensland Government Auditor. Two of the payments - refining costs £2 13s. lid. a ton, and selling costs 7s. 3d. a ton - are merely reimbursements of actual expenses incurred in labour, materials, &c, in doing the essential work of refining and distributing sugar throughout the Commonwealth. The first of the other two payments is the item of 6s. 4d. a ton for interest on money borrowed by the sugar pool so that the sugarmills may be paid cash for raw sugar when placed on board ship. Without this payment, the mills would not be able to pay growers promptly for their sugar cane,, and many growers would thereupon find it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to pay cane-cutters’ wages. The Colonial Sugar_ Refining Company, with its many diverse interests in Australia and overseas, has large liquid cash resources available during the Australian sugar season, which enable it to advance the necessary money, the peak amount each season running up to £6,000,000. The company finds these advances on raw sugar a convenient means of investing its cash resources, and it does so always at les3 than bank rates of interest. The final payment to the company is the 15s. 4d. a ton for administration, taxation and profit. In terms of raw sugar, this payment gives a net profit of 14s. 9d. a ton, and is part of the long-established fee of £1 a ton on raw sugar melted for home consumption.
The remaining5s. 3d. of the £1 represents depreciation on refineries, and is more appropriately included iti the foregoing amount of £2 13s.11d. for refining costs. Ail the foregoing facts were unanimously reported by the Commonwealth Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1931, Apart from the company’s profits on refining and distribution, it earns profits from raw sugar manufactured in its four Queensland and three New South Wales mills. The company’s output of raw sugar ranges from 22 per cent, to 25 per cent, of the total Australian production. In this regard, however, it is on the same footing as all other raw sugarmills.
The Commonwealth Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1931, on which there were separate representatives of housewives, manufacturers and fruitgrowers respectively, unanimously found that the company was then earning from all its Australian sugar activities a profit of 7.1 per cent, (subject to income taxation) on thetotal capital utilized. The 1933 retail price reduction of1/2d. per1b. would reduce the company’s profits by about £75,000 per annum, and there have been smaller compensation reductions of its Australian costs since then. Consequently, the percentage ofthe company’s total profits to capital in regard to its Australian sugar operations should now be slightly less than 7.1 per cent. That the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has made, and is still making, high, rates of profit from its sugar interests outside Australia, and possibly in non-sugar activities also, has nothing whatever to do with the sugar agreement or the Government’s policy. Consumers and the Government can be concerned only with the question as to whether the company’s essential services in respect of Australian sugar are given at no more than a reasonable profit. In this connexion, it is of interest to note that the recent report of the United Kingdom Sugar Industry Inquiry Committee of 1935, in urging an. amalgamation of British refining institutions for the purpose of reducing costs in the United Kingdom, recommended a fee to refineries of £1 10s. a ton to cover depreciation, and a reasonable return on capital. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, however, is paid £1 a ton for these two items and the net profit portion, viz., 14s. 9d. a ton, is equivalent to one-twelfth of a penny per lb.
The Australian sugar industry is extremely efficient. No other primary industry, except wool, has made such progress in increasing its unit output. The production of raw sugar to each acre of sugar cane harvested is double the output of 35 years ago, and is now one of the highest in the world. No Australian industry has been so frequently investigated as sugar. Nearly all the members of the royal commissions and other investigating bodies, have been citizens of the southern States yet, with almost complete unanimity, these members have recorded opinions highly favorable to the economic and national value of the sugar industry to the Commonwealth. No other product has yet been discovered which can replace sugar in the vulnerable and fertile coastal lands of the far north. Tropical populations reveal the national importance of sugar. In Western Australia there are about 6,000 white people in the tropic zone, and in the Northern Territory 5,000, but in North Queensland there are over 170,000 people, most of whom live on the coastal fringe, and are directly or indirectly dependent on the sugar industry. Current international events emphasize the urgent need for developing sparsely-populated regions that are capable of . productive effort. I believe that the Senate fully realizes the general merits of the industry, and the particular circumstances in which the new sugar agreement is made, and that it will accordingly approve of the agreement contained in this bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 28th November, (vide page 2018). on motion by Senator Duncan-Hughes -
That trip third report from theRegulations and Ordinances Committee, presented to the Senate on the 31st October, 1935, be adopted.
[10.7]. - When I asked for leave to continue my remarks on this motion, I promised to secure an opinion from the
Crown Law authorities because it is most important that the legal aspects of the committee’s report should be clearly explained to honorable senators. I have now received that opinion which is as follows : -
The report of Standing Committee on Ordinances and Regulations deals, inter alia, with the following matters, namely: -
1 ) The making of retrospective regulations.
The making of regulations containing provisions in relation to the onus of proof in legal proceedings.
Retrospective regulations. - Most regulations made under Commonwealth acts are subject to section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1904-1932, which provides inter alia that they shall take effect from the date of notification in the Gazette or from a later date specified in the regulations.
For many years it has been the practice in exceptional cases to provide that regulations shall be deemed to have come into operation as from a date prior to the date of notification in the Gazette. For the most part these regulations have conferred benefits upon the persons affected, e.g. the granting of increments or allowances to various classes of officers, and it has not been the practice to insert such a provision where the regulations prejudicially affect existing rights or impose liabilities.
Some time ago, however, a wireless regulation was made which purported to reduce, as from a past date, the payments due to certain broadcasting companies from the revenue received from licence fees. The validity of the regulation was challenged, and the matter was litigated in the High Court. In its judgment the majority of the court decided that the provisions of section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act did not permit the making of retrospective regulations under acts in relation to which that section applied.
It has always been the policy of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department to discourage the making of retrospective regulations. This is borne out by the fact that, in October. 1934, general instructions were issued by that department toall Commonwealth departments, in which the following statement appears: -
As a general rule, it is not advisable to attempt to make regulations having retrospective operation.
Prior to the circulation of the report of the Standing Committee on Ordinances and Regulations, the Attorney-General’s Department issued general instructions to all departments to the effect that, in view of the decision in the broadcasting company’s case, the practice of making retrospective regulations should be discontinued.
The provision which was declared void by the High Court in the broadcasting company’s case read as follows: -
This regulation shall be deemed to have commenced on the 1st November, 1927 (a date prior to the notification of the regulation ) .
The principles of that decision apply only in cases where a statutory rule contains such a provision.
Some of the statutory rules specified in the committee’s list contain such a provision. Others do not. The decision is not applicable to the latter class. It is quite clear that some of them are not retrospective.
Particular attention was drawn by the committee to Statutory Rules 1935, Nos. 54 and 58.
As the Statutory Rules, 1935, No. 54. it is clear that the decision in the broadcasting company’s case does not apply to this Statutory Rule. There are two reasons for this -
1 ) The regulation does not contain a provision corresponding to that declared invalid in the broadcasting company’s case, i.e. that it should be deemed to have come into operation on a date prior to notification in the Gazette; and
Section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act does not apply to that statutory rule, because section 10 applies only where a contrary intention is not expressed in the particular act authorizing the making of regulations. Statutory Rules 1935, No. 54 was made under the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which contains an express provision relating to the date of commencement of regulations made under that act (see section 97 (2.)) and so indicates that Parliament did not intend section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act to apply to such regulations.
The other statutory rule to which particular attention was drawn by the report was Statutory Rules 1935, No. 53. This statutory rule deals with proceedings instituted by the War Service Homes Commissioner for the recovery of a dwelling house in cases where a purchaser or borrower fails to comply with the terms and conditions contained in his contract or mortgage. The regulation provides that in such proceedings a. certificate by the War Service Homes Commissioner, or his delegate, or an authorized person, in respect of certain facts shall be prima facie evidence of those matters. The regulation is made to apply to proceedings whether commenced before or after making of the regulations.
Briefly, the facts to be certified are -
that the person purchased the dwelling house from the Commissioner, or received an advance, as the case may be;
that he subsequently entered into possession of the dwelling house;
that he failed to comply with the prescribed terms and conditions in the respect or respects specified in the certificate; and
that the war service homes Commissioner has determined the tenancy. The committee cited this regulation as one of the most conspicuously retrospective regulations. As a matter of fact, it is not retrospective. It applies only in proceedings which take place after the notification of the regulation in the Gazette. It applies in such proceedings, however, notwithstanding the fact that the action itself may have been commenced before the regulations were made. In this respect, however, the regulations are merely declaratory of the legal position which would have existed even if no express provision had been inserted in the regulation. The position is stated in Crates on Statute Law as follows: - “A statute cannot be said to have a retrospective operation because it applies a new mode of procedure to suits commenced before its passing.” In other words, if a statute deals merely with the procedure in an action, and does not affect the rights of the parties, “ It will be held to apply prima facie to all actions, pending as well as future.”
The committee also stated that this regulation contained an undesirable provision authorizing a new form of evidence. This regulation does not authorize a new form of evidence. The following statement appears in Phipson on Evidence (seventh edition, page 324) as to this class of evidence: - “ The certificates, letters or returns of public officers, intrusted by law with authority for the purpose, arc prima facie, but not generally conclusive, evidence of the facts authorized to be stated, but not of extraneous matters . . . The ground upon which such documents arc admitted is that where the law has appointed a person to act for a specific purpose it will trust him so far as he acts under his authority.”
Many instances could be found of provisions in Commonwealth legislation authorizing the giving of evidence in this way. It should be sufficient, however, . to refer to section 6 of the Evidence Act 1905, which provides for the giving of a certificate by an officer as to the contents of books and documents in his custody, and to regulation 23 of the War Service Homes Regulations, which provides that a certificate by the War Service Homes Commissioner as to the rates, taxes, charges, assessments, or outgoing due on a property shall be prima facie evidence of the fact, stated in the certificate.
The position with regard to two regulations which are referred to in the report as “most conspicuously retrospective” is therefore that one of them is not covered by the decision in the broadcasting company’s case and the other is not retrospective.
Another instance of a statutory rule contained . in the list in paragraph 2 of the report, which is not retrospective is Statutory Rules 1035 No. 0. This is an amendment of the Waterside Workers’ Regulations, and it provides for the payment of a fee of £11s. per sitting to members of the Waterside Employment Committee, and authorizes payment of this fee to be mode in respect of meetings of the committee held after the 12th April, 1934. The regulation authorizes the payment of fees in respect of some meetings held prior to the making of the regulation, because the members of this committee had rendered valuable service in an honorary capacity, and the most difficult part of the committee’s duties was performed by a series of meetings held during the mouths of April, June, July, and August. It was considered reasonable, therefore, that the members of the committee should receive payment for the services rendered by them at these meetings. The total amount payable in respect ofsuch fees wasless than £30.
The main point, however, is that this regulation was not a retrospective regulation in the true sense of the word. The position is stated inCraies Statutory Law, at page 324, as follows: - “A statute is to be deemed to be retrospective which takes away or impairs any vested right acquired under existing laws, or creates a new obligation, or imposes a new duty, or attaches a new disability in respect to transactions or considerations already past.” But a statute “ is not properly called retrospective merely because a part of the requisites for its operation is drawn from a time antecedent to its passing.”
It is quite clear that this regulation comes within the last sentence which I have quoted, namely - “ A statute is not properly called retrospective merely because a part of the requisites for its operation is drawn from a time antecedent to its passing.”
It is also quite clear that this regulation is not affected by the decision in the broadcasting company’s case.
It was submitted in the committee’s report that the Government should withdraw or disallow the statutory rules specified in the list in paragraph 2 of the report. The Government has considered this suggestion, but has decided that it is impracticable. Such a suggestion could not be carried out by regulation because the regulation itself would necessarily have retrospective operation, and would therefore be invalid. I have referred to some of the statutory rules contained in the list set out in the report to which the decision in the broadcasting company’s case is not applicable, and 1 understand that there are others in the list which are not affected by it. It is true, however, that the principles of the decision are applicable to some of the statutory rules in the list, and that there are also other statutory rules, made over a long period of years, which might be affected by those principles.
I venture to say that it will be found upon examination that, whenever regulations have been made to operate retrospectively, there has been good reason for doing so. Asa rule, regulations have been made to operate retrospectively only in cases where they confer a benefit, and not in cases where they prejudicially affect existing rights. It must also be remembered that it is probable that in all oases where retrospective regulations have been made, the retrospective portion of the regulations has ceased to operate. It seems to the Government, therefore, that the cancellation of these provisions at this stage would lead only to chaos and injustice, and it is thought that the better course would be to pass a general validating measure, in which provision would, of course, be made to protect the rights declared by the High’ Court in the broadcasting company’s case. It was hoped that it would be possible to introduce an amendment of the Acts Interpretation Act before the end of this week, in order to deal with this matter; but, as it was found -that a number of other amendments of the act were desirable, it was decided to defer the introduction of such legislation until the Senate re-assembles after the Christmas vacation, and then to introduce a comprehensive bill incorporating in the main Acts Interpretation. Act the provisions of the supplementary Acts Interpretation Act 1904-1934, as well as the other necessary amendments. A full opportunity will be afforded to honorable senators to debate the validation of the statutory rules dealt with by the committee in its report.
In these circumstances I suggest to the Senate that further proceedings on this motion be deferred.
There is, however, one other matter in the report of the committee to which reference should be made. In paragraph 8 of its report the committee draws attention to Statutory Rules 1935, No. 93, and expresses the opinion that there is no authority in the act to make this regulation, which, it contends, trespasses unduly upon personal rights and liberties. This regulation relates to unauthorized connexions with the telephone system. The object of the regulation is to prevent the “ tapping “ of authorized telephone lines. Where the department finds unauthorized equipment for this purpose upon any premises, it is, of course, open to the occupier of the premises to allege that such equipment was placed there without his authority, and, in such a case, it would be difficult for the- department to prove the contrary. The matter is one which is particularly within the knowledge of the defendant, and it seems reasonable,, therefore, to place upon him the onus of satisfying the court that he did not authorize the interference with the telephone line upon his premises. It is quite a recognized principle of the law that a person should have thrown upon him the onus of proving facts within his own knowledge.
With reference to the statement made by the committee, that there is no authority under the act for the making of such a regulation, I am advised by the law officers that, in their opinion, the Post and Telegraph Act provides ample authority to do so.
Debate (on motion by Senator Foll) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir George
Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate at ita rising adjourn till to-morrow at 11 ft. in.
Senate adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 December 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1935/19351204_senate_14_148/>.